The last part of the journey he had to make on foot.
He'd come a long way, beginning in the Eraasi Sector and finishing with a suborbital hop to the
long-range hoverbus that ran upcountry from Ernalghan-or South Landing, as the speakers of Galcenian
Standard would have it. Not even the locals bothered to call the loose collection of warehouses and
transport terminals a city, even though it was the second-largest built-up area on Maraghai. As far as
Mael could determine, nobody actually lived in Ernalghan. They lived outside of it, strung out along the
dozens of obscure roads and narrow footpaths that led away from the hoverbus route into the deep
wilderness that covered so much of this planet. The house he was looking for was a half-day of steady
walking beyond the last stop on the route.
He could have hired an aircar at South Landing-most people did-but he lacked the skill to fly
one. The Eraasi of his childhood had lost the means of making such vehicles in the aftermath of the First
Magewar. Mael could drive a ground-hugging flivver, and he could take a combat-equipped scoutship
into hyperspace and out again, but he'd never picked up the knack of handling the nullgrav-assisted
atmospheric craft that were commonplace on this side of the Gap Between.
He'd come to the opportunity too late, he supposed. He'd been a man full-grown when the
Second War ended and the barriers between the homeworlds and the rest of the galaxy came down at
last. He was more than happy to let the young people-the ones who remembered neither war nor
deprivation-enjoy the new technologies without him.
The walk was long, but not difficult for anyone who had grown up on Eraasi in the days of the
Republic's occupation. Mael wasn't young-his straight black hair had long since gone mostly to iron
grey-but he came of hardy stock, and kept a steady pace on the uphill path. This wasn't the first time he'd
made the journey from Eraasi to the house in the high reaches of Maraghai's southern continent, but it
was the first time in al