The night had been restless for Liam, filled with an overwhelming sense of anticipation and excitement that had kept him tossing and turning in bed. Every time he closed his eyes, his mind raced with possibilities, making it impossible for him to slip into slumber. But finally, after what felt like hours, Liam drifted off into a deep sleep, the excitement still coursing through his veins. And just as quickly as he had fallen asleep, Liam was awake again, the early morning light filtering through his window and beckoning him to start his day. Despite the lack of sleep, Liam felt invigorated and full of energy, eager to make the most of the day ahead. He bounded out of bed, feeling well-rested and ready to take on the world.
As Liam left his room, he was surprised to find Karina waiting for him outside, a cup of coffee in her hand. Liam couldn’t help but smile, their friendship had grown strong during the month they spent together in the program.
“Good morning,” Karina said, holding out the coffee to him. “I thought you could use this.”
“Thanks,” Liam replied, taking the cup gratefully. The aroma of fresh coffee was invigorating, and he took a sip, relishing the warmth spreading through his body.
As they entered the bustling cafeteria, Liam and Karina weaved their way through the crowds, filling their plates with food and drinks, the last meal they would have on Earth for at least a year.
“I wonder what the food will be like on Thalassar,” Karina mused, scanning the selection.
“Dragon hams and eggs for breakfast,” Liam said with a grin, slurping his soup. “I can’t wait to try it.”
“Phoenix eggs for me,” she said, smiling in response. “How are you feeling now, Liam?”
“Honestly, I can’t wait to finally get there,” Liam said, placing his empty bowl to the side. The anticipation of the adventure ahead was almost too much to bear.
“I feel the same way,” Karina replied. “Hopefully we get assigned to the same group.”
A few days prior, Dr. Garcia had informed them that the latest information from Thalassar indicated they would be split into several groups upon arrival and integrated into different vital parts of their community, from the royal court to the magic academy, military training, farming, and more.
With their stomachs full of food and a mix of various feelings they made their way back to their rooms. They were instructed to take only a few necessities with them and that the Thalassarians would provide them with everything once they pass the portal.
Dr. Garcia and her team led them one last time to the portal with only their backpacks on their shoulders and the thrill of the adventure ahead looming in the air. The military presence on the island today was at an all-time high, which provided Liam with a slight feeling of unease. What if this was all some kind of a ruse made by Thalassarians, and they were just expendable pawns in the larger game? That and other questions have crossed his mind million times ever since he got accepted, but meeting Karina and spending time with her helped him overcome most of his doubts and walk proudly toward the rift today.
Dr. Garcia led the group to stand in front of the massive rift, its colors ever-changing and shifting. She turned to face them, her eyes filled with determination and hope.
“Listen up, everyone,” she said, her voice ringing out loud and clear. “This is it. The moment you’ve all been waiting for. You are standing in front of the very thing that will take you to Thalassar, the place you’ve dreamed of for years. And now, it’s time to take that leap of faith and make history.”
She paused, letting her words sink in before continuing. “I won’t sugarcoat it, there will be challenges, and there will be moments of doubt and fear as you enter the foreign civilization. But remember, you were chosen for a reason. You have the skills, the determination, and the bravery to be a part of the first human expedition to an alien planet. Use them to the fullest.”
Dr. Garcia’s eyes sparkled with excitement as she gestured toward the rift. “Beyond this rift lies a new world, a new adventure, and the opportunity to make connections with beings beyond our wildest imaginations. But remember, you are not just representing yourselves, you are representing all of humanity. So be respectful, be curious, and most importantly, be kind.”
She took a deep breath, looking at each of them in turn. “You are the ones who will lay the foundation for future generations. So go forth and make us proud. And always remember, no matter what happens, you are a part of something bigger than yourselves.”
With that, Dr. Garcia gave them all a final nod before stepping back, allowing the group to take their first steps through the rift and onto Thalassar.
As the group slowly approached the rift, they could feel the energy emanating from it, crackling with otherworldly power. One by one, people began to walk through, disappearing into the rift and emerging as blurry silhouettes on the other side.
Liam could feel his heart pounding in his chest as he approached the rift. He took a deep breath, trying to calm his nerves, before stepping forward and entering the swirling vortex. The sensation was disorienting like he was being pulled in a million different directions at once. He closed his eyes, gripping his backpack tightly, and focused on the thought of stepping onto the alien soil of Thalassar.
Suddenly, the feeling of being pulled in different directions ceased, and Liam opened his eyes to find himself standing on a vast plain, surrounded by fields of strange vegetation.
The sky above was a deep shade of blue, but something about it seemed off. Liam couldn’t quite put his finger on it at first, but as he looked up and concentrated, he realized that the color was just a bit too intense, a bit too electric. It was as if the very air was charged with some sort of energy, making the sky seem almost alive. Liam felt a twinge of unease as he looked up at the vibrant, pulsing expanse above him. The sun was just starting to rise over the horizon, casting a warm glow over everything.
With a smile on his face, Liam took his first step onto the soil of Thalassar, ready to explore this new world and make history. As he walked a few steps forward he looked back at the rift searching for Karina as she emerged on Thalassar. He let her have her own reaction to the alien planet before approaching her.
“Beautiful,” She said her gaze wandering in all directions.
Liam just nodded and continued forward and as the first members of the group moved to the sides making the way for others, Liam started noticing all the Thalassarians standing around them.
Liam remained so focused on passing the rift and finding Karina later that he completely missed the imposing presence of the Thalassarian army. It was only when he scanned the perimeter that he noticed their massive numbers. Their armor was imposing and reflected the sun’s rays, casting a dazzling glow across the field. The distinctive black and yellow crest on their chest was embroidered with precision and care, adding to the mystique and ferocity of the standing army.
The soldiers’ helmets concealed their faces, leaving only their eyes visible. Their eyes glimmered with an intense and unwavering focus as they watched the humans enter their planet. The soldiers’ weapons were massive and appeared to be forged from strange materials, emitting unearthly energy and light that crackled in the air around them.
Liam couldn’t help but feel a shiver run down his spine as he realized the sheer number of soldiers surrounding them. It seemed as though the Thalassarian army stretched out infinitely, encompassing them entirely.
As he shifted his gaze, Liam’s eyes fell upon a group of Thalassarians standing near them, watching as the humans passed through the portal. These figures exuded an aura of power and authority that was unmistakable, despite their apparent lack of armor or weapons. Liam noticed their attire was different, with beautiful dark gray and black coats embroidered with intricate golden patterns along the sleeves and chest.
Upon closer observation, Liam noticed that the Thalassarians looked almost exactly like humans, with only slight differences noticeable upon a closer look. Their skin was a shade paler than that of a human, and their eyes were a deep, vibrant shade of purple that almost seemed to glow. As the Thalassarian turned his head, Liam noticed that the white of their eyes was tinted with a faint pink color, which seemed to bleed into the iris. It was a small detail, but it made the Thalassarians’ eyes all the more mesmerizing.
“This is so cool,” Karina muttered excitingly. “Can’t believe we are finally here.”
“It’s a sight to behold, for sure,” Liam said continuing to scan their surroundings.
As the last of the humans strode through the rift, a figure walked in front of them in a full set of armor, sword at his back, the heft of the sword peeking behind his helmet. Liam was tall himself, but this figure easily towered above him and the rest of the humans. The figure slowly removed his helmet, revealing medium-long black hair tied in a bun. He radiated confidence with his chiseled jawline and defined cheekbones, and his full lips curved upwards into a confident smile, revealing a set of perfectly white teeth. He had yellow eyes with a faint orange glow that bleed out of his irises.
“Humans, welcome to Thalassar and our kingdom of Aranthia,” the figure said in English with a distinct accent Liam couldn’t place. “I am Prince Kaelen.” The man said pronouncing his name with a different accent.
He paused for a moment as he noticed humans gazing at him in awe. “You may notice a strong military presence, but don’t worry about it. It’s just a precaution because of our previous encounters. I’m sure there is an equally large army on your side as well,” he said, pointing in the direction of the rift in the distance.
“He looks handsome,” Karina whispered to Liam.
Liam nodded. “I can’t deny it.” He answered truthfully.
“We will separate you into groups and incorporate you into the everyday lives in different spheres of our kingdom. Some of you will go back with me to our capital city, some of you will go to the military camps, and some of you will end up at the prestigious magic academies. While others will stay with the prestigious gentleman of the Riftwalker guild.” Kaelen gestured towards the group of people Liam had observed earlier.
“I see a lot of you are nervous, and I want to applaud your courage in coming here after a brief and bloody history between the two of our planets. But you don’t have any reason to be scared or nervous. No one will harm or do anything bad to you as long as you are in our kingdom,” he said, trying to give a reassuring smile.
“Come, let’s not stand here in the sun,” Kaelen said, gesturing for the humans to follow him with both hands. “We have prepared music, food, and drinks in the Riftwalker Guildhall, and you will meet your Viluna companions there.”
“What do you think these creatures are?” Liam asked Karina as they started following Kaelen slowly. Walking was slightly different it required more effort for each step due to Thalassar’s higher gravity.
“Maybe we get our own Pokemon or something,” she said, laughing. It was evident she was beyond excited and thrilled to finally be here, taking each step and breath with a big smile on her face.
“Maybe,” Liam mumbled looking over the imposing soldiers once again.
As Liam and Karina trailed behind Kaelen, Liam couldn’t help but notice the subtle distinctions between the two worlds. At first glance, they appeared almost identical, but upon closer inspection, Liam could see that there was something off at each glance. The grass was a shade brighter than what he was accustomed to, and the leaves of the trees had a slightly different shape to them. The air was redolent with an unfamiliar aroma that tickled his nostrils.
It was as if he had stepped into a dream world, one that was like his own but not quite. The differences were subtle, almost imperceptible, but they were there. Liam wondered how many bigger differences there were, what kind of creatures and animals lived on this planet, the same excitement he saw on Kateriana earlier engulfed him as well.
As they walked further, Liam’s eyes were drawn to the grandeur of the Riftwalker Guildhall. The two-story building was constructed entirely of pristine white limestone, its walls adorned with intricate golden embellishments that sparkled in the sunlight. The path leading up to the guildhall was lined with an array of vibrant purplish sunflowers, their petals curling and twisting in the gentle breeze. The path was flanked by towering white pillars that appeared to stretch up into the sky.
In the distance, Liam noticed two smaller rifts being guarded by a group of soldiers. They were equipped with large shields that were almost as tall as they were, emblazoned with a half-moon emblem that glinted in the sun. Their armor was different from the soldiers in the field; it was a matte gray color, lacking the shine and glamour of the soldiers in the field, but looked more menacing. The Guard’s helmets showed their faces, and Liam could see their eyes watching him and the other humans with an unwavering focus.
They were led into a big hall that had a large table on both sides with a plethora of food and drinks. At the far wall, there was a set of musicians playing an unfamiliar tune on strange instruments. The hall was simplistic and grand at the same time.
“Please, make yourselves at home,” Kaelen said warmly, gesturing towards the tables of food. “Our friends from the Riftwalker Guild don’t often host lavish parties as we do in our kingdom, but I hope you enjoy the fare nonetheless. These dishes were brought straight from the capital, so they should be quite special.”
Liam and Karina approached the table and began perusing the offerings. Karina’s eyes lit up when she spotted a greenish piece of meat. “Oh, look, dragon ham!” she exclaimed.
“Oh, wow, point for me,” Liam said smiling, and poked a piece of the green meat with one of the utensils. “I don’t think I am going to try anything on my first day here, I don’t want stomach problems right away.”
“Something smart out of your mouth,” Karina playfully nudged him. “Who would have thought.”
“Oh, shut up.” He smiled back and they continued to browse the spread, the other humans began sampling the various dishes. Liam observed their reactions and noted that the food seemed to be a hit.
“Alright, I’ll take the plunge,” Liam said, feeling emboldened by his companions’ positive reactions. He selected a piece of green meat he poke earlier and paired it with some yellowish vegetables that looked similar to tomatoes.
“Good, go ahead. If you live I’ll try it as well.” She said.
The moment the meat touched his tongue, Liam was overcome with a wave of culinary ecstasy. It was as if the best steak he’d ever had was a love child with the softest cotton candy. The flavors were so unusual and out of this world that he couldn’t resist taking a second bite almost immediately.
“Oh, wow.” He said with his mouth stuffed. “You gotta try this right away.” He cut a piece and almost stuffed it into her mouth.
Karina raised an eyebrow but took a small bite nonetheless. Her eyes widened as she experienced the same rush of flavors.
Fifteen minutes and countless servings later, they were both feeling stuffed and groggy. “If every day is going to be like this, we might need to invest in some larger clothes,” Liam joked, patting his bloated stomach.
Karina giggled. “Let’s hope not. We’d end up needing a whole new wardrobe by the time we leave.”
Liam observed the humans and Thalassarians still keeping to their own groups, which reminded him of a childhood birthday party where the boys and girls separated themselves. The atmosphere was tense and uncomfortable until Prince Kaelen entered the hall, now adorned in a magnificent coat that complemented his tall stature.
“Hope you enjoyed the meal,” he greeted them with a smile. “I must ask you to pay attention now as your companions will arrive shortly. Late as always, being ancient and immortal apparently makes them forget the importance of time.”
Liam started looking towards the entrance but moments later a swarm of small beings entered the hall emerging from the walls. They were like wisps of light, flickering and floating around the room. Liam felt a sense of wonder and curiosity wash over him as he watched the Viluna creatures move with effortless grace, their bioluminescent bodies illuminating the space around them.
Karina leaned in closer, mesmerized by the sight. “What are they?” she whispered.
“I don’t know,” Liam replied, still transfixed by the small creatures. “But they’re beautiful.”
The Vilunas floated closer, their shapes shifting and changing like flickering flames. Liam felt a strange sensation wash over him as if the creatures were reading his thoughts and memories. It was an eerie feeling, but oddly comforting.
“These will be your companions, guides, friend, and encyclopedia, however, you want to call them for the next year,” Princ Kaelen said pointing toward the small creatures.
One of the larger Viluna’s approached him and they appeared to exchange few words and the creature broke away from him. Moments later rest of the swarm of creatures spread around the room and each of them floated toward one of the humans.
Liam watched in amazement as one of the Vilunas its shape-changing and flickering with the graceful movement approached him. He instinctively opened the palm of his hand and the little creature landed there. He could not feel the creature’s weight as if it was light as a feather but felt an odd presence around his palm.
“Hello human,” a soft voice, Liam couldn’t place whether it would be male or female, said. “Welcome to Thalassar.”
Liam stared at the wispy creature in his palm, feeling a sense of awe and wonder. He couldn’t believe he was actually holding an alien being in his hand, let alone communicating with it. “Hello,” he replied, a little hesitant at first. “What are you?” He asked right away.
The Viluna flickered and shifted, almost as if it was expressing excitement. “There will be times for questions later and I will be glad to answer them all.“ The soft voice spoke again. ”I just want to say that we are honored to guide you and share our knowledge with you. We have much to learn from you as well.” The creature said and floated at eye level with him.
“Excuse me,” Prince Kaelen raised his voice and all eyes turned towards him. “You will have plenty of time to get to know your wonderful companions, but we are on a tight schedule today.”
“Your companions will now take the colors of your assigned groups.” As Kaelen spoke, the little creatures started changing their glow. Liam’s Viluna had a bright green glow. He looked over at Karina, her little companion hovering above her shoulder had a faint red glow. Liam felt a little disappointed with the realization that the two of them were in separate groups. He inspected the rest of the humans and their companions and noticed there were well over a dozen different colors.
“You will follow your companions towards your destinations, but don’t worry, we will all meet in a month in the capital,” Prince Kaelen continued giving instructions. “Some of you will take the portal with me to the capital, the ones with the red glow. Yellow will stay here with the Riftwalker Guild, and green will take a boat towards the military camps in the south of our kingdom.” The prince continued assigning colors to the destinations and their goals as Liam approached Karina.
“Looks like you’re going to the capital with the good-looking prince,” Liam said with a smile.
“I am a lucky gal,” Karina answered, smiling back. “I will miss you, though.”
“Ah, my luck. I will spend a month with the military, while you spend a month in the royal court of the capital city,” he said, teasing her. “I will miss you too.”
“One more important thing for you to know. Everything you say will be translated by your companions to your speaker. It’s hard to explain, I’ve been told it’s not one of my strong suits. So I will leave that to your companions. Ask them whatever you wish to know.” The prince said. “Now please say your goodbyes we have to leave almost right away.”
Liam and Karina embraced in a soft hug. “Please take care of yourself.” She said to him softly.
“You too,” He said as he slowly let her go. “See you in a month, don’t get fat on all this delicious food.” He said with a wide grin and left towards the group of humans with their green Vilunas.
He counted twenty of them and knew most of them by their names. Eleven male and nine female members were assigned to this group, good for Thalassarians to take gender equality even in the military, Liam thought to himself.
Their glowing companions led them outside and the opposite side they came from earlier today. After a short walk, they reached a port with eight large wooden ships docked. Their Vilunas led them towards the second last ship where an imposing figure in a dark green coat stood. The man was shorter than Liam but was almost double as wide as him. Even thru the coat, Liam could see that the man was all muscles. His face was decorated with a thick graying beard that matched his hair.
“Welcome humans,” he said, his voice cheerful, not matching his rough look. “I am Captain Thornael and welcome to my ship. Please follow me.” He said and slowly climbed the wooden stairs towards the ship.
“I don’t know if you have been told, but we are located on a small island,” He continued as they reached the deck. “There are numerous portals open almost every day that connect to the biggest cities in our kingdom, but due to logistic and strategic reasons, there is not one towards the military training ground. So we have to take the see.”
“It will be a long ride as it’s located at the southern border of our kingdom, we will travel overnight and reach our destination early next morning.” The Captain continued. “There are plenty of rooms on the ship, my crew will guide you there, feel free to sleep and enjoy our wonderful planet.” The rough-looking Captain said and did a gesture that Liam could only understand as some form of a salute.
Liam shared a room with Ady and Park and as soon as the night fell his new roommates were asleep. Liam was struggling to fall asleep once again and wondered where and what Karina was doing. As he almost drifted into sleep he heard shouts and commotion coming from above.
He left his room as the yelling grew louder and made his way toward the deck. Once he reached the top he saw crew members running around and shouting at each other. Looking around in the dead of the night he noticed several other ships near them. Before he could process what was going on, the ship was hit by a shining golden light and Liam has knocked away. He barely managed to regain his consciousness before another blast hit them and he fell into the dark and cold water.