Valkyr and Aton rushed in on a world with ice caps at the poles and large oceans and continents much like Tasala, then landed on a platform styled with the irregular, small thorns and prickly leaves of a thistle.
Valkyr gazed in awe at the landscape around her, widening her eyes to see better in the pre-dawn light. Green hills, like Grendhill had, but these were larger, perhaps more appropriately called mountains. There were plenty of trees, though of different varieties than were found in Grendhill. The air was cooler, but more humid than back home. But the thing that struck her the most was—
“It’s here. I mean, it exists. And we are here.” Valkyr turned to Aton. “And you brought us here! How is this—”
Aton pulled her off the platform. “Come on, we need to get some cover. We don’t know who might be watching us here.”
“If this is Arryth—”
“Then that is the Terrathis.”
“Close enough.” Aton said, pulling her into a stand of trees. “I did some reading while you trained. I was the one who saw the aggressors disappear from the Thallenrose. I did not hear them clearly. I told Reedl what I thought I heard but of course he could not follow with a nonsense name. Let’s shadow this footpath.”
The two followed a parallel course to a path leading away from the platform, staying hidden among the trees. Aton continued. “I finally figured that our language has changed over time. You know how Sages’ pronunciation is different when they call instructions to the Thallenrose—well, to any platform. So yes, this is Arryth, but our pronunciation of the name is too far changed to be functional. If you want to be precise, this is Aarde.”
“And that’s the Terrathis—”
“Well, as far as we would call it. Have you ever thought about the names of the platforms? Thallenrose, Fassendais, Terrathis, Dogfoot: They all have something indicating a platform, and the flower they imitate. I’m not sure where ‘Thallen’ and ‘Fassen’ come from, though. Anyway—”
“So this is the beginning? The starting point of the Diaspora?”
“Well, uh, I suppose.”
“And Father and Mother got carried off here, of all places?” Valkyr’s voice rose in disbelief.
“I saw the last of their party vanish with my own eyes,” Aton answered. “I did not hear them clearly at first, but this is where they came.”
“And why here?”
Aton shook his head. “Two weeks and I forgot how intense you can be, Val.”
“And why is this path so small?” Valkyr continued trying to make sense of this new environment. “Wouldn’t you expect more traffic? Not every waypoint on the Thallenroads is in a city, but if not then they always have open, clear lanes, and usually in multiple directions. But this tiny path is barely worn at all.”
Aton stopped abruptly. “You’re right, Val, that is odd.”
“Thank you. Let’s keep going. Mother and Father are not going to rescue themselves, I suspect.”
They resumed walking. Aton continued the thought. “Why would there not be a wide road? How do they tr… I suppose they don’t trade, at least not off-world. They have remained isolated. Or perhaps nobody really lives here. At least…” He trailed off again.
“What?” Valkyr asked, not following his thought.
“I feel like what woke me up two weeks ago was the connection reactivated, between here and the Thallenrose. I have no way to know it truly, but I had the impression that no travel had happened from here to there in a long, long time.”
“I have no way to know,” Aton shrugged. “It just felt completely new. Anyway, I don’t believe they had traveled from here before.”
“If it had been so long, how did they know when we would all be starting our training? Without any traveling off this world, there would be no way to know what’s going on in other worlds.”
After thinking a moment, he revised. “I don’t think anyone traveled from here to there. Directly, that is. They could have routed themselves through other worlds. I don’t know why, though.”
“I do,” Valkyr responded. “The Thallenrose is in our town square. Any travel directly from Grendhill to here would have risked being overheard and being found out.” She grinned at her brother proudly. “But they got found out on the one time they did!” The glee drained from her face. “Let’s just hope things continue to go our way.”
Aton shushed her. “People coming this way,” he whispered. “Get down.”
Aton and Valkyr assumed a prone position, lowering their profiles to the ground to avoid discovery. Valkyr pulled Wasp from her back and nocked an arrow from her quiver as she got down. Aton glanced at the bow with the briefest look of envy, then focused on the oncoming party.