From The Kinfire Tree:
DESPITE HIGH SUMMER elsewhere, it was bitterly cold in the far north.
Icy winds came off the towering Legend Mountains in the distance. The giant slopes were covered in snow almost to the point where rock met land, capped with dark, threatening clouds. A storm brewed there and it boded ill for the two travellers. They were not dressed for it.
In sharp contrast to the whiteness, the wasteland they crossed was ochre in colour. Loose dust puffed up with every step as if they walked in low gravity and it blew up into their faces with every gust of icy wind. Already they were barely distinguishable from their surroundings.
It was an empty land, abandoned, lonely, and frighteningly different. There were no trees. There was no water. The only tangible objects on that vast plain were edged, black pebbles hidden in powdery dust that served to trip.
Averroes could not believe she was born here, that someone took her across this to the south.
They had been walking for hours. Vannis said she would instinctively know where to go, but she felt nothing other than burning thirst. They had not brought enough water; she had one swallow left, as did Kylan.
Would this never end? The barren ochre plain stretched in every direction. Only the mountains to the north relieved the disheartening vista. Now that stirred something within her. Did it mean they needed to walk all that way?
She groaned aloud.
“Averroes?” Kylan said hoarsely behind her. He was a wonderful companion, ever uncomplaining.
“I’m fine; just wishing I knew where to go.” Her voice, she found, was equally gruff.
“Wait, Averroes, I see … what is that?”
Kylan, when she turned, pointed at a patch of black growing in size as they walked. It was on the ground directly ahead, and she had not even seen it.
“I don’t know.” Her heart commenced an uneven rhythm.
As they drew closer, the black patch materialised into a perfect circle, recessed, about three feet in diameter.
“It’s not natural. Do you recognise it?” Kylan queried as they halted at the edge of the sphere. It was smooth like stone eroded by the ceaseless movement of water.
She shook her head and knelt to touch. It was warm and there was a minor vibration under her fingers. She placed her hand flat on the surface, and it moved. Snatching her hand back, she stumbled away from the edge and pulled Kylan with her.
A circular tube rose perpendicular to the ground and halted at about seven feet, still attached to the earth.
“What is that?” Kylan asked, passing a hand before his eyes to check his sight.
They heard a whooshing sound. What appeared to be doors retracted into the sides of the cylinder.
“I have read something about this. I don’t know what you call it, but I think one travels in it, up and down. I think we’re supposed to get in.” Kylan was clearly uncertain.
“This is technology, then? Can we trust it?”
“Unless we want to walk to nowhere without water, we have no choice. Vannis did say the half-Valleur were underground. Come, take my hand, we will do it together.”
They linked hands and approached.