Aton stood, waiting in line at the travelers’ queue at the base of the hill. The Fassendais sat atop the hill, overlooking the business being conducted on all sides. No Sageman manned the platform, which seemed odd to Aton. They had nobody on duty per se, but three or four always lived at the edge of Fassendais Hill and charged a regular rate for their assistance to travelers.
Aton wondered why Hevvlar had adopted this method for controlling off-world travel and Grendhill had not. Perhaps Harrval’s lack of a single moon influenced peoples’ attitudes somehow. Never mind that, it was probably simply a different idea that had occurred to somebody, years ago. Aton had to remind himself that Grendhill’s system was similar enough. The crown maintained a Sageman on duty at the Thallenrose, and paid him a generous salary. There were two regulars—one worked an early shift, the other worked from midday to the evening. Reedl took some time on weekends, besides living nearby the Thallenrose to be called upon in case there were some emergency. Reedl was always available to the Farella house, having served for years as the royal Sageman. Maybe Hevvlar had a different system because it was a larger city, with greater transportation needs.
“Next!” Aton snapped from his reverie and stepped up to the desk. The woman behind the desk looked at him expectantly. For a moment Aton wondered why. “Your pass, please?”
“Oh, sorry madam,” Aton apologized for his forgetfulness. Blinking, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a leather ticket, stamped with an intricate design showing an image of the city of Hevvlar beneath Harvval’s many moons. He handed it to the woman, who took it and inspected it.
“Right, then,” she said, “a free ride for you today.” She smiled, handing him a wooden token, carved with a business insignia representing the outfit of the Sage she worked for. Most people would pay her directly for a token, but Aton’s diplomatic connections paid through other channels. She pulled a ledger out from under her desk to record the transaction so her government would pay her later, and excuse her from collecting no more information from Aton. She quickly rubbed an impression from his ticket onto her ledger with a pencil, then handed his ticket back to him. “Go to the one in the yellow vest, just like mine,” she said, pointing. “Her name’s Repary. Have a good evening. Next!”
Aton stepped away from the booth, turning to walk up the hill. He glanced to his right and nodded at Kascho and Misolfa. Tido and Domire were elsewhere around the square, trying to avoid notice but standing by to provide security if anyone suspected who he was and tried to interfere. Aton wasn’t too worried, though. After all, nobody was supposed to know where the Farellas went to train, so nobody was supposed to know he was here. He had approached the Sagewoman’s clerk booth alone to avoid anyone who might recognize a Farella face, making a connection between the Kascho and the Farellas.
Aton ascended the hill, watching as one traveler after another stepped onto the Fassendais with a Sage, holding his or her belongings, then vanishing as a Sage spoke the words to send them on their way. He found it interesting that only the Sages could use these platforms. For better or worse, that was the way of things.
Aton approached a dark-haired, tall woman in a yellow vest. “Ms. Repary?”
“Yes, of course, how may I help you? Token?”
Aton handed her his token, proof that he had seen her clerk.
“Thank you, and where can I send you?” she asked.
“Ooh, just going to be aloof and say the name of the world, not the country, eh?” Repary prodded.
“Uh, I’m sorry, I guess I’m going to G—.”
“No, it’s fine,” Repary interrupted, “I was only teasing you. You’re a customer, entitled to your privacy, of course. Step up, then.”
Aton stepped up to the Fassendais, pulling himself atop the platform. Repary followed. “Are you ready?” she asked.
Aton nodded, holding the strap of his back against his shoulder.
“Alright then, here you go! Andi miti Tesala niti pondere!”
Aton found himself still trying to thank her for her help as the square disappeared before his eyes and he watched a continent shrinking beneath him.