As Aton rolled out of bed in the late morning, something gnawed at him. While he got dressed and planned his impotent waiting for the day, his thoughts kept returning to the night of his parents’ abduction. What had woken him up? A chilly draft? A loud insect? He discarded these easily, but though he could disregard what he knew it not to be, he could not place what it was.
He took his breakfast and spent an hour on the archery range outside the walls before catching some harder exercise. He impatiently loaded weight around his belt and ran harder than usual. He felt that if he couldn’t do anything to find his parents, at least he could control how hard he trained for confronting who took them. When that was discovered, at least.
For now, he wanted to feel the pain in his side and make his legs ache. He hoped the hurt would take his mind off his frustration. He took a longer route, venturing into the woods outside the city ditching the guards assigned to watch him this morning. Even without weights, they couldn’t keep up. He returned after an hour and a half, feeling that he should have gone farther still. He told himself he would have, but for this nagging idea, pulling at his mind. He needed to get back to the library.
So what had woken him up? What were his first thoughts when he woke up? That something was wrong? No, that was not quite it. It was that something was different. But what was different? The humidity in the air? A new lump in his mattress?
No, what had he done? He had run to his parents’ most trusted advisor’s home to look for some illumination on the sensation. Well, almost…
Aton bathed and snacked as quickly as he could to get back to the library. If he could not find anything to match the abductors’ uniforms, that made sense, right? Uniforms changed over time. Not as fast as mainstream fashion, but they did change. Perhaps some insignia would remain hundreds of years, but he did not get a good look at any. So the uniforms he had seen would be too new to appear in any records.
But perhaps there would be something in the library about the Jerllamo family. Or maybe he could talk to the curator, perhaps break down the name to its etymological roots, and decipher its origin that way.
As he numbly turned pages of indexes on various family names from different worlds, he was drawn still to that night. If he was honest with himself, he had not headed towards Sageman Reedl’s house. He had stopped there on the way…east. He was just going east and had stopped at Reedl’s house because it seemed logical. He had a question, so he told himself he was going to somebody who might have answers.
Some of these old family indexes and genealogies claimed to trace lines back centuries. Some referenced other works, while one actually claimed to have compiled the oldest genealogies in existence, though even that one acknowledged it was not complete going all the way back…to the fabled Diaspora from Arryth.
And here we are again, Aton thought to himself. Another mention of the Diaspora. Arryth, Erithi, Telra, whatever it was called. The myth was certainly a strong one, refusing to fade over millennia.
Well, let’s think about this logically. I have ancient stories that agree that there was a Diaspora from a single mother world. I have my life experience and the word from every sage I have met that none of those names lead anywhere. On the other hand, I also have mysterious invaders whom I personally witnessed disappear in front of my eyes. I did not hear them clearly, but I clearly heard that they did not pronounce any of the worlds we know of.
On one hand, I have corroboration but an absence of factual knowledge. On the other hand, I have first-hand, factual but incomplete knowledge and a lack of corroboration of experience or testimony. Could the legend be the corroboration that ties to the lone, incomplete fact? Are these two mysteries one and the same?
Aton looked up from the boring book in his hands and stared at the wall while he thought. What was it he heard them say? It was spoken very softly, and he truly had not heard it distinctly. He thought he had heard “Artcha.” Not one of the names given to the legendary mother world, but not too dissimilar to others that were given.
The other words spoken by the foreign sage that night carried a soft accent, less percussive and more flowing that the speech of Grendhill.
He returned to a shelf he had pulled books from in recent days. He pulled one out and opened it, looking for some clue but knowing it would afford him none.
He had instinctively accounted for that softer accent. But perhaps he had overcorrected. It certainly was not Archa. The word did not function, providing no effect when spoken by Sageman Reedl on the platform of the Thallenrose. No, it was not Artcha. Something softer. Arda? No.
He felt an itch, like he was almost there. What had pulled him out of bed that night? He went east, not towards Reedl’s home, but towards the Thallenrose. He felt that it was different, like it was in a state it had not been in before, at least for a long time.
But he was no Sage. He looked down at the book he had open in his hands. Grendhill’s Founding. Only boring because he almost had it memorized. The Farellas’ gift was pronounced at Gren Farella’s coronation by a great Sagewoman, Thallwren Aguneg. She had managed something nobody else ever had, creating a new kind of gift and transferring it not by inheritance. So perhaps he could have some kind of connection to the ancient platform, just as the sages did.
It was the connection that gave him this itching sensation, he knew. He felt as though he was finally giving it a satisfying scratch. It was the awakening of the long-unused, newly reactivated connection between Tasala and…Aarde.
After eleven frustrating days Aton had a lead. He decided to keep it to himself for a few days more while he considered how to exploit it.