The first thing Falcon noticed was the smell. Ever since they'd first entered the tunnels his nostrils had been clogged with the stench of mouldy and damp rock, mixed in with the sweat of his companions. However, as they rounded a corner in the seemingly never-ending labyrinth of tunnels, something new touched the air.
"Is it just me," says Falcon slowly. "Or can you smell wet grass?"
"I can too," says Life, sniffing the air again.
"Come up here and you'll see why!" calls Thunder from further up the tunnel. Obediently, Life, Eternal, Chocolate and Falcon scamper up beside him. The sight that meets their eyes almost makes Falcon want to cry with happiness.
Ahead of them stretches a long expanse of grassy plain, a low shrub dotted about here and there amidst the long grass. The sun is high in the sky, it can't be much past midday by Falcon's reckoning. He steps out and takes a deep breath, filling his lungs with clean, crips air. At last, he thinks, at long last we're out of these damned tunnels!
Thunder sees the look on his face and smiles. "The Titan Islands are about two days' walk to the east." He points in the direction. "Head for the ridge you see in the distance, then follow it until you reach the coast."
"We're that close?" says Eternal, smiling despite her apparent exhaustion. Falcon can see the dark rings under her eyes. The twins must be getting heavier, he thinks, looking down at the children, both almost as large as three-year-olds now. He turns back to Thunder,
"Thank you," he says. "Thank you for everything. Send our regards to your people, tell them we are very grateful for their hospitality."
"I will indeed," says Thunder, grasping Falcon's arm. "And good luck to you all, I hope you find what you are looking for."
Falcon nods, watching Thunder retreat back into the underground, humming merrily to himself as he goes. He turns to Helena, thinking to say goodbye to her as well, but is surprised to find her standing beside Eternal, looking expectant.
"Well," she says. "Are we heading off then?"
"You're staying with us?" Life asks, bouncing excitedly in the long grass. Helena smiles,
"I can hardly leave you now. Besides, although you two may not know it, these babies are a handful. I'm sticking around to help out. Don't worry about me slowing you down, I'll keep up."
Falcon nods, "Very well, good to have you with us. Now come on, let's make the most of the sun while it lasts. We'll look for a shrub of some description to sleep under - and hope it doesn't start raining again."
Laughing, the group set off, their feat leaving prints in the wet grass behind them.