Needing to leave Harrval urgently, Valkyr stepped impatiently onto the platform of the Fassendais next to Reedl. She had expected to reunite with her siblings joyfully and send Domire into his isolation with his sword. Then Tido and Mifalla, with axe and hammer. Yes, a unique experience in their lives, but already determined, almost routine.
Valkyr had expected celebration, but she was met instead with the startling news from home.
Reedl spoke: “duoni Prololo.” Valkyr saw the sky hurtle down to meet her as she zoomed up through the clouds. Then the clouds were gone and the sky turned black. The stars turned blue. She looked down and the world nearly vanished instantly, taking a red hue before shrinking into oblivion. Valkyr couldn’t see Reedl. All she could see were stars, bright blue dots ahead of her and rainbow-colored streaks to the sides.
After a moment the stars slowed and shifted back to their normal white, and a blue and green world shot up ahead of her. Valkyr found herself standing on the Thallenrose, the familiar square surrounding her in the heart of Grendhill. As she stepped off the platform, Aton approached and greeted her. He looked tired.
Valkyr shook off the attention of soldiers and attendants and fell into step with Aton. The guards took their places ahead and behind the two of them.
Aton seemed to see her differently, understanding his sister had undergone significant change. She felt different, too. She had held other bows, but when she held Wasp she knew life had new colors and flavors for her.
“Welcome back,” Aton said. “What does it feel like?”
“It was intense. It wore me out and made me feel so…capable at the same time.” Aton seemed to carry himself a little differently also. “How has it been here, without Mother and Father?”
Aton winced. “I’ll admit, I’ve been rather anxious, waiting for word from our scouts and emissaries, hoping to find some clue. I want to talk to you. Without the others,” he added, glancing back at their retinue. “Let’s ditch them.”
Valkyr turned back, glad she and Aton were on the same page. “We’ll meet you at the palace.” Nobody moved, trying to stay with the pair of them and do their jobs. “Go!” she insisted. “We’re at home, in broad daylight, and we’re Valkyr and Aton Farella,” she said, emphasizing their surname. “Who can harm us here?”The group remained put.
“Valkyr,” Aton said, “they’re at a heightened security posture. They won’t leave us. They will stick with us if we take a walk where we please, however.” He took the lead and turned down a side road, leaving those who had been in the advance to scramble to surround the two of them again.
After a couple of turns that led them into a narrow street, the guards were all behind the pair, just trying to catch up.
Aton wasted no time. “Mother and Father were kidnapped the night after you entered isolation, I know you’ve been told. Reedl took me to Harrval to conference with the others. We have nothing to go on. All we can do is wait. We have Guardsmen patrolling the countryside, and agents searching on- and off-world. Nobody has any idea where they went. Well, nobody had any idea.”
“But I thought you saw them depart the Thallenrose,” Valkyr said. They were walking at a good clip. Where was he leading them?
Aton nodded. “Yes, I did. I woke up in the middle of the night—something was different about the night itself. I felt…drawn…to the Thallenrose. I sprinted to the Square. Nothing looked wrong. I ran to Reedl’s house and woke him. He didn’t feel anything amiss. Right then the Guard’s alarm sounded. I ran back home and Captain Bailen told me my parents were missing! I ran on a hunch. I rushed to the square and I was at the edge when a party in strange uniforms vanished.”
“Didn’t you hear what they said, especially with your hearing?” Valkyr asked. Aton may be weaponless, but the teenagers knew who had the best eyes and ears in the family.
“I thought so, but when I told Reedl he said I must be mistaken. Doesn’t exist, he said. I thought it sounded similar to Arryth, you know, fabled origin of humanity, myth only. But I couldn’t let it drop. I did some research. Read a lot in our libraries. I found variations of the name, though none were exactly what I heard. I kept thinking, though. I figured it out, I know it.” Aton was talking fast now, in a low voice to preserve privacy. “I only thought I heard ‘Artcha’ because they had an accent and I overcompensated. When I read variations of the name aloud, it felt…close” He gave her a sidelong glance, as if nervous of what she might think. “It almost felt like waking up in the middle of the night right before our parents were kidnapped.”
Valkyr stopped walking. Realizing Aton was acting with urgency, she started again. “What, like a Sageman? Like Reedl? Only they can operate the Roads and read Impressions. That’s congenital; you can’t do that.”
Aton shook his head. “I don’t know. I just feel that this is where they went…and I think I can get us there.”
Valkyr looked incredulous. “What do you suggest? You want me to help you convince Reedl it exists?”
“No,” Aton said. “I want to go. You and me, right now.” He entered the doorway of a shop, nodded thanks to the shopkeeper, and grabbed two travel packs leaning against the wall. He turned and waited for Valkyr. “We’re going out the back. Come on.” Valkyr followed Aton through the shop and out into an alley.
After They had looped around the other side of the square. “You have your pack, your bow, and nothing urgent here. We got a ransom note a few days ago. I’ll tell you more later, but I don’t want to ransom them. I want to rescue them. Our enemies think we have no way to find them, and we didn’t, but now I do. Let’s go, you and me. If we involve the Guard or talk to Reedl, they will try to stop us. Let’s go now.”
They entered the Square and approached the Thallenrose at the center. Nobody tried to stop them. No need to without a Sageman. Nobody tried to stop them, but several guards saw them and started to approach.
Valkyr nodded. “I’m game. If you can get us out, then let’s do this.”
“Come on, then. We’re going alone!” Aton broke into a run and Valkyr followed.
They mounted the Thallenrose and Aton opened his mouth. “Duoni Aarde!” Astonished guards and the rest of the world vanished into flying stars.