Ender had always gone over the bridge to the castle of the Queen of Hearts, where there
were games enough for him; but none of those appealed to him now. He went around the
giant's corpse and followed the brook upstream, to where it emerged from the forest.
There was a playground there, slides and monkeybars, teeter-totters and merry-go-
rounds, with a dozen children laughing as they played. Ender came and found that in the
game he had become a child, though usually his figure in the games was adult. In fact, he
was smaller than the other children.
He got in line for the slide. The other children ignored him. He climbed up to the top,
watched the boy before him whirl down the long spiral to the ground. Then he sat and
began to slide.
He had not slid for a moment when he fell right through the slide and landed on the
ground under the ladder. The slide would not hold him.
Neither would the monkey bars. He could climb a ways, but then at random a bar
seemed to be insubstantial and he fell. He could sit on the see-saw until he rose to the
apex; then he fell. When the merry-go-round went fast, he could not hold onto any of the
bars, and centrifugal force hurled him off.
And the other children: their laughter was raucous, offensive. They circled around him
and pointed and laughed for many seconds before they went back to their play.
Ender wanted to hit them, to throw them in the brook. Instead he walked into the forest.
He found a path, which soon became an ancient brick road, much overgrown with weeds
but still usable. There were hints of possible games off to either side, but Ender followed
none of them. He wanted to see where the path led.
It led to a clearing, with a well in the middle, and a sign that said, "Drink, traveler."
Ender went forward and looked at the well. Almost at once, he heard a snarl. Out of the
woods emerged a dozen slavering wolves with human faces. Ender recognized them--
they were the children from the playground. Only now their teeth could tear; Ender,
weaponless, was quickly devoured.
His next figure appeared, as usual, in the same spot, and was eaten again, though Ender
tried to climb down into the well.
The next appearance, though, was at the playground. Again the children laughed at him.
Laugh all you like, Ender thought. I know what you are. He pushed one of them. She
followed him, angry. Ender led her up the slide. Of course he fell through; but this time,
following so closely behind him, she also fell through. When she hit the ground, she
turned into a wolf and lay there, dead or stunned.
One by one Ender led each of the others into a trap. But before he had finished off the
last of them, the wolves began reviving, and were no longer children. Ender was torn
This time, shaking and sweating, Ender found his figure revived on the Giant's table. I
should quit, he told himself. I should go to my new army.
But instead he made his figure drop down from the table and walk around the Giant's
body to the playground.
This time, as soon as the child hit the ground and turned into a wolf, Ender dragged the
body to the brook and pulled it in. Each time, the body sizzled as though the water were
acid; the wolf was consumed, and a dark cloud of smoke arose and drifted away. The
children were easily dispatched, though they began following him in twos and threes at
the end. Ender found no wolves waiting for him in the clearing, and he lowered himself
into the well on the bucket rope.
The light in the cavern was dim, but he could see piles of jewels. He passed them by,
noting that, behind him, eyes glinted among the gems. A table covered with food did not
interest him. He passed through a group of cages hanging from the ceiling of the cave,
each containing some exotic, friendly-looking creature. I'll play with you later, Ender
thought. At last he came to a door, with these words in glowing emeralds:
THE END OF THE WORLD
He did not hesitate. He opened the door and stepped through.
He stood on a small ledge, high on a cliff overlooking a terrain of bright and deep green
forest with dashes of autumn color and patches here and there of cleared land, with
oxdrawn plows and small villages, a castle on a rise in the distance, and clouds riding
currents of air below him. Above him, the sky was the ceiling of a vast cavern, with
crystals dangling in bright stalactites.
The door closed behind him. Ender studied the scene intently. With the beauty of it, he
cared less for survival than usual. He cared little, at the moment, what the game of this
place might be. He had found it, and seeing it was its own reward. And so, with no
thought of consequences, he jumped from the ledge.
Now he plummeted downward toward a roiling river and savage rocks; but a cloud
came between him and the ground as he fell, and caught him, and carried him away.
It took him to the tower of the castle, and through the open window, bearing him in.
There it left him, in a room with no apparent door in floor or ceiling, and windows
looking out over a certainly fatal fall.
A moment ago he had thrown himself from a ledge carelessly; this time he hesitated.
The small rug before the fire unraxeled itself into a long, slender serpent with wicked
"I am your only escape," it said. "Death is your only escape.
Ender looked around the room for a weapon, when suddenly the screen went dark.
Words flashed around the rim of the desk.
REPORT TO COMMANDER IMMEDIATELY. YOU ARE LATE. -- GREEN
Furious, Ender snapped off the desk and went to the color wall, where he found the
ribbon of green green brown, touched it, and followed it as it lit up before him. The dark
green, light green, and brown of the ribbon reminded him of the early autumn kingdom
he had found in the game. I must go back there, he told himself. The serpent is a long
thread; I can let myself down from the tower and find my way through that place.
Perhaps it's called the end of the world because it's the end of the games, because I can go
to one of the villages and become one of the little boys working and playing there, with
nothing to kill and nothing to kill me, just living there.
As he thought of it, though, he could not imagine what "just living" might actually be.
He had never done it in his life. But he wanted to do it anyway.
Armies were larger than launch groups, and the army barracks room was larger, too. It
was long and narrow, with bunks on both sides; so long, in fact, that you could see the
curvature of the floor as the far end bent upward, part of the wheel of the Battle School.
Ender stood at the door. A few boys near the door glanced at him, but they were older,
and it seemed as though they hadn't even seen him. They went on with their
conversations, lying and leaning on bunks. They were discussing battles, of course; the
older boys always did. They were all much larger than Ender. The ten- and eleven-year-
olds towered over him; even the youngest were eight, and Ender was not large for his
He tried to see which of the boys was the commander, but most were somewhere
between battle dress and what the soldiers always called their sleep uniform-- skin from
head to toe. Many of them had desks out, but few were studying.
Ender stepped into the room. The moment he did, he was noticed.
"What do you want?" demanded the boy who had the upper bunk by the door. He was
the largest of them. Ender had noticed him before, a young giant who had whiskers
growing raggedly on his chin. "You're not a Salamander."
"I'm supposed to be, I think," Ender said. "Green green brown, right? I was transferred."
He showed the boy, obviously the doorguard, his paper.
The doorguard reached for it. Ender withdrew it just out of reach. "I'm supposed to give
it to Bonzo Madrid."
Now another boy joined the conversation, a smaller boy, but still larger than Ender,
"Not bahn-zoe, pisshead. Bone-So. The name's Spanish. Bonzo Madrid. Aqui nosotros
hablamos espa¤ol, Se¤or Gran Fedor."
"You must be Bonzo, then?" Ender asked, pronouncing the name correctly.
"No, just a brilliant and talented polyglot. Petra Arkanian. The only girl in Salamander
Army. With more balls than anybody else in the room."
"Mother Petra she talking?" said one of the boys. "She talking, she talking."
Another one chimed in. "Shit talking ... shit talking, shit talking!"
Quite a few laughed.
"Just between you and me," Petra said, "if they gave the Battle School an enema, they'd
stick it in at green green brown."
Ender despaired. He already had nothing going for him: grossly undertrained, small,
inexperienced, doomed to be resented for early advancement. And now, by chance, he
had made exactly the wrong friend. An outcast in Salamander Army, and she had just
linked him with her in the minds of the rest of the army. A good day's work. For a
moment, as Ender looked around at the laughing, jeering faces, he imagined their bodies
covered with hair, their teeth pointed for tearing. Am I the only human being in this
place? Are all the others animals, waiting only to devour?
Then he remembered Alai. In every army, surely, there was at least one worth knowing.
Studdenly, though no one said to be quiet, the laughter stopped and the group fell silent.
Ender turned to the door. A boy stood there, tall and dark and slender, with beautiful
black eyes and slender lips that hinted at refinement. I would follow such beauty, said
something inside Ender. I would see as those eyes see.
"Who are you?" asked the boy quietly.
"Ender Wiggin, sir," Ender said. "Reassigned from launch to Salamander Army." He
held out the orders.
The boy took the paper in a swift, sure movement, without touching Ender's hand. "How
old are you, Wiggin?" he asked.
Still quietly, he said, "I asked how old you are, not how old you almost are."
"I am six years, nine months, and twelve days old."
"How long have you been working in the batle room?"
"A few months, now. My aim is better."
"Any training in battle maneuvers? Have you ever been part of a toon? Have you ever
carried out a joint exercise?"
Ender had never heard of such things. He shook his head.
Madrid looked at him steadily. "I see. As you will quickly learn, the officers in
command of this school, most notably Major Anderson, who runs the game, are fond of
playing tricks. Salamander Army is just beginning to emerge from indecent obscurity.
We have won twelve of our last twenty games. We have surprised Rat and Scorpion and
Hound, and we are ready to play for leadership in the game. So of course, of course I am
given such a useless, untrained, hopeless specimen of of underdevelopment as yourself."
Petra said, quietly, "He isn't glad to meet you."
"Shut up, Arkanian," Madrid said. "To one trial we now add another. But whatever
obstacles our officers choose to fling in our path, we are still--"
"Salamander!" cried the soldiers, in one voice. Instinctively, Ender's perception of these
events changed. It was a pattern, a ritual. Madrid was not trying to hurt him, merely
taking control of a surprising event and using it to strengthen his control of his army.
"We are the fire that will consume them, belly and bowel, head and heart, many flames
of us, but one fire."
"Salamander!" they cried again.
"Even this one will not weaken us."
For a moment, Ender allowed himself to hope. "I'll work hard and learn quickly," he
"I didn't give you permission to speak," Madrid answered. "I intend to trade you away as
quickly as I can. I'll probably huve to give up someone valuable along with you, but as
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