part III

By the time Roe managed to cut through the teeming lunch-time crowds packing the blocks between Ilona’s cart and Zhan Station, Ari was already frantically selecting their tickets at an automated kiosk lining the station’s bustling entrance hall.

Chest heaving, Roe glared at Ari who’s eyes darted across the kiosk screen between breaths, “I thought...we were a cave...”

“We are,” Ari said, snatching the freshly printed plastic tickets from the machine before taking off again, “Now come on!”

Roe cursed under her breath and yelled at the gliding W0RM trailing Ari, telling him to get on her shoulder, before sprinting after the sorcerer once more.

Mere minutes and many pardoned shoulder slams later, they just managed to squeeze through the closing sliding doors onto the train.

“Whew,” Ari laughed as she sat down in the back of a nearly empty compartment toward the rear of the train, “That was close.”

Roe huffed, shoving her bag under the seat opposite Ari’s, “How exactly are we getting to this cave riding the...“ She looked across the compartment at the info board above the door, “Marineris Line?”

Ari’s face lit up, eagerly, “Exciting right? I’ve always wanted to see the Valles.”

“That doesn’t answer my--” Roe started.

“We’ll get off in Supai, and someone will be there to pick us up and take us to the cave,” Ari cut in.

“And how far is it to Supai?”

“You’ve never been to see the Valles?”



How far is it--”

“About five hours, I think.”

Roe sighed and sat back in her chair. She stared out at the outskirts of the city whipping past them, as the gentle whir of the maglev train filled the compartment. “You couldn’t just--teleport us there or something?”

Ari nearly spit up the water she was drinking from a sleek canteen. “Ha--yeah, no.” She glanced over their few fellow passengers to be sure they weren’t listening before she continued, "I’m years away from learning anything like that. That’s--highly advanced magic.”

“But it’s real?” Roe asked, trying not to seem impressed.

“Oh yeah, but I don’t know how much I’d actually use it. I mean, most of the fun of going on a journey is the getting there, right?”

The little bit of excitement in Roe's expression faded, and she looked back out of the window, as the city began to shrink in the distance, “Sure.”

Ari stared at her sympathetically for a moment. “Thank you--for coming with me, really, I know it wasn’t an easy--”

“Don’t thank me yet,” Roe interrupted, her eyes still on the distant skyline, “I’m just here to show your people and my grandfather that they’ve got the wrong person. Then it’s back to reality. That’s all.”

A quiet sadness crept into Ari’s eyes.

Roe yawned and shifted in her seat, laying her head on the window and closing her eyes, “Wake me when we get there, yeah?”

Ari said nothing. Just turned her eyes to the window, staring blankly into the rushing red expanse.