The Deadlands

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Legend says that the Deadlands are the remnants of the jewel of Theos, that people traveled from all over to partake in the markets and entertainment in the city. Legend also says that it was hit the hardest by the Breaking and no one in the city survived. Or, if they did, they became hideous monstrosities that snuff out even the tiniest of lights.

"Are you sure we're going the right direction?"

Ahvora fought the urge to smack her brother as he asked the same question for the third time since departing the cavern where they'd reunited along with their sister Elavee. Ahvora cast a sidelong glance at Iorell, whose unkempt hair was swept back like a wave breaking on a beach. 

"The bird led me to you, didn't it?"

"True, but that could have just been coincidence," Iorell countered. "How do we know it's not just leading us off a cliff?"

"First of all, we're heading down the mountain, genius." Despite her annoyance, Ahvora was secretly thrilled to be arguing with Iorell again. For a short time, she could pretend the past few cycles hadn't happened, that everything was normal and they were on the way south.

Elavee once again rose to her station as the middle sibling and tried to mediate between her older sister and younger brother. "It's the right way. I can feel it." She caught Ahvora staring at her and tried not to squirm. "What?" A defensive note crept into her tone.

Ahvora shook her head. "Nothing." Elavee's comment had given Ahvora pause. Once mentioned, she noticed that the pounding sensation in her head had lightened considerably. The headache had plagued her since the aftermath of what was quickly becoming known as the Breaking - the cataclysmic event that destroyed or mutated everything in its wake.

She pushed aside the memories of desperately searching through rubble after the earthquake in Heretta's artisan district and refocused on the present. Her siblings were safe and together, and that was all that mattered.

The snow thinned with each turn of the path winding down the mountain until patches of earth began to peek out from under the white blanket. Evergreens towered around the small group as they traversed. The path disappeared from view completely in places, and the siblings had to rely on the skills of a companion named Akasi. He was able to detect a path through the dense brush, and his strangely bright blue hair was easy to follow.

A large black bird with intelligent eyes always waited for them where the path reappeared.

When the ground had all but leveled out just after a particularly troublesome detour, the raven perched on a rock. Its head tilted to one side then the other, and it beat its wings a couple of times as the group came into view.

"I miss the lightrails," Iorell bemoaned. He paused by a pair of large metal beams that had once proudly bore the railings which served as conductors for the magic that levitated carriages across Theos. "We'd already be in Labena if they still worked."

"Soryn." Akasi turned to look back at Elavee. "We are going to Soryn still, yes?" There was a strange intensity to his gaze, an additional unspoken question in his hazel eyes.

A strange thought occurred to Ahvora that she was reluctant to voice. She glanced between her sister and the stranger and decided to throw caution to the wind. Her hand grazed Elavee's arm to get her attention. "El, do you feel it too? That pull?"

Elavee's eyes, pale like raindrops, widened. It was all the confirmation Ahvora needed.

She rounded on Akasi. "And you?"

Akasi took an involuntary step backwards but nearly slipped on a patch of ice. The clumps of hair jutting out from behind his ears shifted into a bright shade of purple, and he nodded.

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