She didn't have any idea where she was but she wasn't on Earth. That was obvious from the large, pink-orange sun and its small yellow companion. Even without that, the sight of the delicate winged-lizards leaping from branch to branch would have convinced her. If she hadn't been attacked by a mutant and kidnapped by an alien, she would have been gawking like a Tokyo tourist.
The trees grew in an odd triad formation, three boles rooted companionably together. The color of burnt cork, they were festooned with long, narrow leaves that glistened with a silvery aqua color and rustled in the light breeze. The central bole of each tree cluster hosted branches laden with tiny green berries.
As she trudged onward, she realized the small lizard-birds favored those berries both on the branches and where they had fallen on the forest floor. Keriam thought the little creatures resembled nothing less than wildly colored blossoms. And while they fluttered like busy little bees, they didn't appear to nest or roost in the trees. She watched, curious in spite of herself, as one ruby-colored creature waddled to a slightly raised patch of earth then flipped head over heels into its burrow.
The berry-laden triad trees weren't alone. Others stood, tall and majestic, with showy blue-green crowns that rippled in the sky. Still more were squat, troll-like trees with curling branches and finger-sized, pea soup-colored leaves. Lichen and moss and toadstools the size of her hand grew near the bases and around fallen branches. Under the leafy canopy, the light shone emerald and gold, dappled with diamond patches of light. Scattered among the shadows and brilliantly lighted patches were flowers shaded from not-quite-red to metallic indigo.
Neraldi orbits a binary star system which makes for interesting ecological and sociological differences from our own world. While Keriam doesn't get a chance to investigate all those differences, she does wonder about such things as telling time using the sun(s) positions in the sky.
Later, she and Eric meet some of the natives in their city of Jeardi. Here are her perceptions.
Keriam wasn't sure what she had expected of Jeardi. Something more exotic, more otherworldly perhaps. Instead, the outskirts of Jeardi were similar to Keriam's small hometown with isolated farms and homesteads. Of course, Roseberg didn't have crops being harvested by small robotic machines or herds of a peculiar herbivore that resembled tumbleweeds with legs. And it certainly didn't have sky-scraper-tall towers looming overhead.
The town buildings were squat, single-story structures that appeared almost organic, as if they'd been grown rather than built. The air, redolent with the reek of salt and fish, seemed to thicken with moisture and around her she heard the bubbling, gurgling language native to the Mer as mothers called to their children and vendors tempted passersby with their wares. She hoped they could stay awhile in the city. She wanted to see more, learn more, while she had the opportunity. Keriam gaped, twisting her head from side to side, as they followed the winding reed-covered roadway toward the glowing Portal spires.
Once they manage to get to Antiari, Eric's homeworld, Keriam finds herself in a very civilized, very sophistcated setting. And that provides a huge contrast to Purlea, which is where she was born. Purlea was a lovely planet when it was under the control of her family but after the Gawan took over the terraformed world began reverting to its natural state.
She fumbled with the latches, then stopped as Eric's large hands ripped them loose. He hauled her to her feet and pushed her toward the already descending ramp. Seizing the packs, he threw them outside and herded her down the ramp. She grabbed her pack, pushing her arms through the straps, and stumbled away from the ship as the ramp slid up. The engines changed their pitch. A blast of hot, fetid air pushed at her and only Eric's grip kept her from falling. Shielding her eyes from blowing grit, she looked back in time to see Gavin's ship leap into the sky. Then it was gone.
They were alone, three humans and one linlie.
The landscape was just as barren, bleak and desolate as it had looked on the holo-image. The wind moaned across the rocky plains like a tortured demon. Keriam pulled her cap down and her collar up to protect her face from the blowing dust and grit. The only signs of life were low, sulky bushes and a sooty yellow grass that hugged the ground stubbornly. Keriam thought it would be better off if it let go and flew into space. Eric resettled the pack on his shoulders after Froggie took wing. "Let's go."
With his long-legged stride, he set a brisk pace aiming for the red splotch on the horizon that had to be the singular mountain she'd seen in the holo-image.
In single file, with Keriam in the middle and Eric in the lead, they set off toward the rising sun. Froggie quickly resumed his perch on Eric's shoulder, tucking his head under a leathery wing. The plains weren't flat, she discovered. The land actually dipped and swelled like a vast, frozen sea. Small, bloated plants with waving filaments broke the surface like fishermen in solitary clumps. Whatever those filaments meant to attract, Keriam hoped not to see.
Here and there, when the wind died, puffs of bilious yellow gas burst out of the ground like tiny stinking farts. Obviously, Purlea would never draw tourists in its present condition.
The marvelous thing about writing science fiction/fantasy action-romance is the ability to go to different worlds and meet different people, different animals. To be able to answer 'What If?'
I hope all of you have enjoyed your 'field trips' to the various worlds created by the authors of Star-Crossed as much as I have.