The World Walkers

Travelling to Taithmarin

All Einar could do was run. It was all any Alati Felis could do when they realised they’d made a mistake and hope they would live to see another day. There were many that didn’t. He had known some of them, meeting them during his travels only to find out they had made a fatal mistake from someone who had also met them. It didn’t help to think about them, to remember those who were lost when he might end up being one of them, but he couldn’t stop himself, and it almost seemed to help him run faster.
Turning a corner Einar found himself almost running into a much younger Felis, who didn’t look like he should be alone. Of course that was something that happened to many Felis kittens, and all Einar could do was grab it with a wing as he ran. Most of the Felis he had known would probably have left the kitten to stop the hunters from chasing them, but he remembered being a kitten without a parent, so he couldn’t just leave it. Carrying a passenger did cause his energy to fade faster, making it much more likely that they would both be captured, and yet he was still happy that he had given the kitten the same chance he’d once been given.
Feeling the pain in his paws more Einar turned another corner and found himself running into a wall. As he rebounded off it, the kitten yelping, he tried to work out where the wall had come from, where the hunters were, and how he was going to get them both safely away. Then he realised the wall he was staring at wasn’t a wall he recognised, even though he was certain he’d taken enough time to know the whole town just in case he ended up running from hunters. Slowly he stepped backwards, wincing slightly, looking carefully at his surroundings, his mind yelling that he should keep going.
A corridor was not where he thought he would be. Einar took another step backwards, hit his hip on the kitten, and tried not to let his fear get the better of him. He looked to one side and then the other, scented the air, and came to the only conclusion he could. Somehow they must have found a secret way into a building, so they would be safe from the hunters for at least a short time. The only problem was the building he was in didn’t smell like any of the buildings he had explored.
“Where are we?”
Einar looked at it, thought seriously about lying so the kitten wouldn’t feel any more fear, and then decided on telling it the truth. “I don’t know. This isn’t where I thought I would find myself after taking that turning and…” He scented the air again. “Wherever we are doesn’t smell right.”
The kitten also scented the air. “I noticed, but that doesn’t mean much.”
“No, it doesn’t, although I am hoping it means we’re safe for now.” Einar studied the kitten, remembering times when he wouldn’t have shared his name, but he didn’t feel like it was one of them. “I’m Einar.”
“I’m Arvid.”
“What were you doing in the street?”
The tip of Arvid’s tail twitched, betraying his feelings. “I was looking for food. Mother is ill and my sister needs food, so I was going to hunt.”
Sympathy filled Einar’s voice. “I’m sure they’ll be able to survive without you.”
Arvid shook his head. “Mother is…” He trailed off, staring at the wall next to Einar for a few moments. “Mother was close to death, we had already lost three of my litter, and I know my sister isn’t ready to go out hunting.”
“Neither were you.”
“I’m the eldest. It was my job to look after them, and I failed.”
“No, you didn’t. You never had a chance to fail. Under normal circumstances you may well have been a capable hunter, but I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and now we’re here.”
“Where is here?”
Sniffing the air, Einar thought about what his next step should be, because they really did need to find out where they were, why they were there, and how to get back to where they had been. ‘Cats.’ The voice seemed to be in his mind, making it louder than it should have been. ‘Interesting.’
“Alati Felis.” Arvid spoke before Einar could stop him. “That is what we are. Not… cats.”
‘Okay.’ The creature in front of them nodded, not seeming to speak, and yet there was a voice. ‘We weren’t sure what to expect, but we knew a new race was coming through the door.’
Einar stared at it, wondering what the four-legged creature in front of them was, and knew what it meant. “Where are we?” His tail twitched. “I know we aren’t where we were.”
‘You’re on Taithmarin. I don’t know where you came from, I don’t know why the door chose you, but you’re safe here.’ There was a moment of silence. ‘Are you hurt in some way?’
For the first time Einar looked down at his paws, and the floor, so he could see the bloody paw prints he’d left. “I was running, and it appears to have…” He shook his head. “I’m not sure of the damage, but they hurt.”
‘We have healers here who can look at it and I’m pretty certain they can fix it, but…’ The creature lifted one of it’s paws, and looked at it. ‘I think our paws are different, so they’ll be able to tell you more.’
“Who are you?” Arvid looked between Einar, and the creature. “I am Arvid, and this is Einar.”
‘Sorry, I should be more organised with this whole introduction thing. I just…’ It wagged its tail. ‘I’ve never seen anything like you before.’
“We’ve never seen anything like you, either.”
‘I’m a Nox Gadael. My name is Carys, and I’ve been on Taithmarin for nearly seven years now.’
“You mentioned a door.” Einar’s tail twitched again. “I don’t remember a door.”
‘That’s normal. It’s made of magic, and I don’t know of anyone who actually remembers stepping through the door, although they may remember a door.’ The Nox Gadael shrugged. ‘We should get your paws seen to, and then find you somewhere to stay.’
“How do I get home?” Arvid looked at Einar, and it was easy to see the desperation in the kitten’s eyes. “My family needs me.”
‘I’m sorry. There’s no way back to your home world.’
“Why not?”
‘That’s simply the way the magic works.’ The Nox Gadael looked at them both, sympathy obvious in her eyes. ‘We’ve had many new arrivals who just wanted to go home, but this world is safe, and I think right now that’s something you should both be thankful for. I hope that your family finds the door, little Alati Felis.’
“How can I be thankful for my safety when I know that I have family on another world, family that needs me, and I won’t be returning home with the meal I promised them I would find?” Arvid’s tail twitched. “They’re back there, I’m here, and you’re telling me that there’s no way back. Nothing you can say to me is going to ever make me feel thankful that I am here when I know that they’re going to die, because of that magic door dragging me here when I should be there. Mother is ill, she has been since she had us, and my sister is much too small to go hunting.”
‘I do know how you feel, young one.’ The creature sat down, surprisingly calm after Arvid’s outburst, and Einar hoped that was a sign of things to come. ‘When I was brought her I was taken from my pack, all I wanted was to return to them, but in the end I simply had to accept what had happened to me. Getting angry at my fate didn’t help, getting angry with Taithmarin and the magic of the doors was futile, and every time I thought of those I was forced to leave behind I found myself wandering once again, hoping that I would find a way back home. Nothing I did really helped, even now I still think of them as I don’t believe they’ve found a door yet, so I simply made the choice that I would make a life as best I could here in order for them to have something to come to.’
“You’re still looking for them?” The anger seemed to drain out of Arvid. “After seven years?”
‘I will keep waiting for them until I die. The day may come when they step through the door – I know it works strangely, so I will keep hoping that the day will come when they find their way to Taithmarin.’
“What do you mean the doors work strangely?” Einar glanced back at the wall. “I know they appear, and they disappear.”
The Nox Gadael nodded. ‘There is one door on Taithmarin, and it permits the entry of races from a number of different worlds, including yours now. When the first of my race stepped through he was followed by his pack, but that is something that has never happened again. Other times it happens that a child will come through the door, hoping their mother is already here because she’s been missing for over a year, and will find their mother arrives some time after the child. Unfortunately we have no way of knowing what will happen, but you may be lucky enough to see your family again in the future, especially as it seems like the door enjoys reuniting families.’
“I have no family.” Einar didn’t ever think about the family that he’d lost to the hunters, because it hurt too much. “Arvid, I would be happy to be your guardian, if that’s what you need, until your mother and sister arrive.”
Arvid looked at Einar, and then at the Nox Gadael. “Would that help you?”
‘Do what’s best for you. If you wish to live separately then we can make that happen, but if you wish to live together we already have a flat prepared for the two of you.’ The creature looked down, making Einar remember the damage he’d done to his paws. ‘I’ll get in contact with a healer first, because I think that is the most important thing we can do, to give you a little more time to make you decision. As you don’t know each other I will tell you that it is normal for a new arrival to stay in their first home here for at least two full years. You can ask to move sooner than that, but the council do prefer that you try to stay there for the full period of time.’
Einar nodded. “A healer would be appreciated, but I have so many questions, Carys.” It was hard to think of her as Carys, rather than Nox Gadael or creature, but he hoped he would get used to it as time passed. “If we really are on a different world there is going to be much for both of us to learn, and I do wonder how we’re going to survive.”
‘You will have me as your guide for the next two weeks, to give you a chance to learn more about Taithmarin, and you will survive easily because the council gives every new arrival an allowance, payable each Moon, so that you can buy food, other essentials, and even non-essentials if you wish. As they weren’t certain how much you’d need they’ve chosen to give you the same allowance as a Nox Gadael arrival in this town, which is 600 clays. In other towns it may be more or less depending on how much the cost of living is. Other races get more as they need to buy clothes as well, because they often arrive with nothing more than the clothes they were wearing.’
“How many towns are there?”
‘I’m not certain. During my time here I’ve been to three others, wanting to learn more about them and see if maybe my pack ended up there instead of here, because that has happened before. Even though I didn’t find what I was looking for I had a good time while I was there, spent some time with the guides being taught about how things worked, and told if I ever wanted to move I could easily find a job there, which was nice. It’s good to know I have options, but I do have another pack here that I would only leave if my pack from before happened to find themselves in another town, and then it would only be for a short time. I have made myself a life here, and I’m not going to simply walk away from it. That’s just not possible after all this time.’