All this time I had been still, hanging in the air. Now I willed myself to the horizon again, and once more. I must have travelled a third of the length of the canyons in an instant, for the river there runs very straight. Then, on the fourth attempt, the Ark only accelerated, and I knew that in one thing at least it had a limit, like the starspears I had used. But it went quite swiftly, as fast as any valkyrie and more, and I knew I would reach the ocean soon. The rock walls flew by in a blur, and the peaks of the mountains overhead. If I slowed down, it was only for my own terror.
The sun climbed. It had been early morning when I had woken in Ariel. By the time the rock walls of the canyons fell away and the river swelled to a brackish bay, not more than three watches could have passed. It was only midmorning now, and still as fine as it had been in Ariel. The banks of the river grew broad and sandy where it met the sea, and I looked up and down those beaches until I saw what I sought: hundreds of Arks like this one, sitting quiescent on the pale brown sand. With them were a number of rafts pulled up above the surf and perhaps a thousand people, standing and sitting in two distinct groups.
I flew toward them, slowing even more as I descended. If my Ark disturbed the sand as it kissed the shore, I did not know it. A woman walked forward from the group nearest the Arks. She wore a crisp white shirt and trousers which did not look like they had been worn before. Her hair was tawny blonde and she was of average height and unremarkable build. But the flare of her hips told me who she was as she approached and I stepped out of the Ark.
“Guardian Cassan Vala,” I said.