They arrived at Llynar just as the sun was setting. The terrain they had crossed had been so empty that Dan had been expecting a small village with only a few houses. However, Llynar was anything but that. It might have been a small village once, but the first thing Dan noticed was that it had thick stone walls surrounding it, complete with guard towers and a metal gate. Several long, low gray buildings were pushed up against one interior side of the wall, and Dan guessed they must be bunkers for soldiers. Pinpricks of light were scattered throughout the village, some flickering like torches, some steady, more akin to the soulborg lights Dan was used to.
Llynar was situated in a deep valley, and Dan was able to look down into it as they crested the top of a hill and proceeded down the slope towards the metal gate. So this was it then. This was where he would be ‘trained’.
The gate opened and the carts rolled under the wall. The hills on all sides cut off the sunlight, and the high walls of the village lent extra darkness to the long shadows. Everything was dark, lit only by blazing torches on the walls and the lights held by kyrie guards. At first, Dan felt as though he was descending into a deep, dark hole, and that he had seen his last of Valhalla’s open sky.
But then they passed through the gate and into the village, and the atmosphere changed. Houses were crowded right up to the wall, and each had windows full of warming light, spilling onto the dirt road winding between them. A cool night breeze played between the houses and down the streets, causing the torches on the wall surrounding the village to dance and jump, casting flickering shadows.
They continued down the dirt road, the carts rumbling between the houses, heading for the barracks Dan had spotted earlier. A smell met Dan, one he had only smelled in the SR Unit. It was the smell of freshly baked bread, and it was fuller and more varied than the SR Unit had ever made it. Dan could practically taste the bread on the air.
As they moved past more houses, Dan saw other carts, not unlike the one he sat in, parked motionless beside houses. As he watched, kyrie and humans unloaded the carts, bringing boxes and sacks into the houses.
“Moving back in,” one of the recruits next to Dan said, seeing what he was watching. “Now that the war is near over and Llynar is safe, those who evacuated are returning.”
As Dan watched, a young girl, barely more than three, ran out of the house, laughing as her mother tried to catch her. He smiled despite himself. Maybe waiting for Heleer wouldn’t be so bad after all.
“I don’t know.”
The kyrie glanced at him. “How can you not know?”
Dan shrugged. “The soulborgs never told me.”
“Have a soulborg check his age,” the kyrie said to a human seated behind a desk. The man made a note on his paper.
The kyrie looked back at Dan. “Do you possess any abilities out of the ordinary relevant to the war?”
Dan immediately thought of his gloves, but he remembered what NT9 had said. “No,” he said firmly.
The man consulted his paper. “R Flight,” he said. “Bunker 4.”
The kyrie pointed to a group of recruits standing a distance away. “That’s your flight,” he said. “Join them. Your commander will escort you to the proper bunker shortly.”
Dan went where the kyrie had directed, and joined the others assigned to R Flight. The spot he had left was immediately taken by the next recruit in line.
After arriving at the bunkers, several kyrie soldiers had come out and hustled them out of the carts and into the first bunker. It seemed to be a headquarters. They had all lined up in front of a desk, and were now in the process of being sorted into ‘Flights’. The Flight Dan had been assigned already had almost twenty other recruits in it, all of them humans.
Dan watched a few of them. Some were silent, but most were talking with each other, asking where they were from or what had happened before they had been summoned.
“I’m from Earth,” one man directly in front of Dan was saying. “2256. Great year, aside from the war. The East coast is finally clear of the virus. I was able to buy up a lot of land when it was cheap and contaminated, and now that it’s clear, I’m going to start building. I have a great plot, huge, just waiting for the—”
“I’m not a traitor!”
The bunker fell silent, and most everyone, including Dan, turned. At the desk where Dan had been questioned, a kyrie was struggling with two guards, who had his arms pinned behind his back.
“Let go!” the kyrie said.
“Maren Ivenl,” said the same kyrie who had questioned Dan. He was sitting calmly behind his desk as the three kyrie struggled before him. “Vydar may have seen fit to let you roam free – gods know why – but that does not mean your name is cleared. Everyone knows who you are. You are a traitor to Vydar and an instigator of his enemies.” He nodded to the two guards. “Take him away.”
“I have papers,” Maren gasped, pulling one arm free. He plunged them inside his vest before he could be stopped and pulled out a tightly rolled piece of paper. “Papers from Vydar himself. I’m to join his army.” He threw the small roll onto the desk.
No one spoke. The kyrie at the desk quickly unrolled the paper and scanned it.
“Release him,” he said a moment later.
The guards let go of Maren and stepped away.
The kyrie re-rolled the paper silently, considering Maren through narrowed eyes. “Why Vydar would want a traitor in his army is beyond me, but neither is it for me to question.” He glared at Maren a moment longer. “B Flight,” he said evenly.
Maren ruffled his wings – the feathers had gotten bent as the guards held him – and moved quickly towards B Flight, which was composed entirely of kyrie. Dan couldn’t help but notice that they drew away as he approached, and many turned their backs on him.
Maren stood by himself, his eyes downcast, his dark wings drooping slightly. As Dan watched, he glanced at the door briefly, before returning his eyes to the ground.
‘At least I’m not the only one who isn’t in this war by choice,’ Dan thought to himself.