Blue skies

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The disc defied explanation. It had no evident propulsion or method for remaining suspended in the air. Its very existence changed everything, Kirya realised, as she was forced to recalibrate her appreciation of Lagonia's technological achievement. She had never seen anything like this.

The two figures on the disc lowered their hands to their sides. "I am Akila," one of them said, revealing a feminine voice at odds with her stern, undecorated appearance and short-cropped hair. Kirya ran a hand over her own shorn head. "This is Eris, my partner," she continued. Her accent was noticeable; neither the familiar Lagonian lilt nor Tranton's coastal drawl but something spikier and more staccato. There was a harshness to her words, even though there was no aggression in her demeanour.

The man, Eris, spoke. "You seem lost." His hair was longer and he stood taller than his companion. "This isn't a good place to be. Step aboard and we'll take you up."

"Up where?" asked Galisai, her hand to her sword, though she left it sheathed.

Akila smiled patiently. "It's easier to show you."

"Listen," said Tranton, "I'm as eager to get away from this place as anyone but we don't know you, or where you're from."

"There are seven of you and only two of us. You are all armed. We should be the ones concerned, if at all."

"I'm concerned," Tarn said, his voice always a little louder than the situation called for, while pointing at the disc. "I might fall off the edge of that."

Eris stamped his foot on the surface of the disc. "It's quite stable. It's really very hard to accidentally fall off one of these."

Hatch was edging closer to the disc, crouching down in an attempt to see beneath it. "What is your method? How do you stay in the air?"

"The disc is source-powered, much like valley technology," Eris said. "We are able to harness the field more directly, though, rather than simply igniting it."

"But that's how you release its energy," Hatch said, moving to the side and peering at the disc's smooth edge.

Eris raised a sympathetic eyebrow, but said nothing.

"You don't seem surprised that we're here," Kirya noted. She looked around the grey, smog-covered crater. "I can't imagine you receive many visitors?"

"We've been aware of your progress and were expecting you," Akila said. "We can happily explain more once we're away from here."

Fenris spoke for the first time. "Whom do you serve?"

"Ourselves," Akila said, quickly. "And Aera, of course."

"You are aware of her teachings? Of the great war?"

Akila and Eris glanced at each other and smiled. "You could say that her hand has guided us to where we are now," Eris said.

"If you were being dramatic," Akila said, dryly, rather puncturing the momentous tension in the air.

"Regardless," Eris said, ignoring her, "if you'll just come aboard, we can explain everything far more easily than being stuck down here."

Moving to the edge of the crater, Fenris stood beside the disc. He pointed at a necklace worn about Eris' neck. "That symbol," he said, pointing.

Eris looked down at his chest. "The Alignment? It's her mark."

Kirya took a step forward for a better look. A metal shape of two interlocking circles hung from the necklace, with a silhouette of a grasping hand positioned in the gap where the circles overlapped. She didn't recognise it.

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