Category Archives: Travelogue

My First Taxi Ride in Mongolia

Ulaanbaatar traffic

I recently spent eight days in Mongolia and traveled all over the capital city of Ulaanbaatar. Most of the time I just walked. Part of the reason is that with how bad the traffic can be there, it can actually be faster to walk than take a taxi, but also taking a taxi where there is no common language can be very frustrating for many reasons. This is why Uber is so convenient, where it exists. However, I did take a taxi twice in Ulaanbaatar. The second time was to the airport to get my boxes of materials out of customs and walking there wasn’t really an option.

The first time I took a taxi was the first day I was in the country. I had a school visit in the afternoon and got the hotel to call one for me. If I had gone there after I’d been in the country for a while, I would have just walked, even though it was about a mile and a half. However, I did not want to get lost and be late that first day.

I thought that the hotel receptionist had told the taxi driver where I wanted to go but apparently not. Finally, after me saying the name and pointing at the map on my phone, he had me type it into Google maps on his phone and away we went.

We immediately went the opposite direction.

I could see that on my own phone but I had also been in the country 14 hours and there are often weird traffic patterns that I might not know about. I once yelled at a taxi driver in Abu Dhabi for taking me way out of the way, only to find out when I got to the hotel that that was the only way to get there. This piece of knowledge competed in my brain with the equally valid knowledge that this taxi driver knew I was new to the country and he could take me anywhere he wanted and I would have to pay him. Mostly I was worried about being late.

After we’d gone a few blocks in the exact opposite direction, I decided to show him my phone to confirm our route, doing my best non-verbal equivalent of “hey, what’s going on, this doesn’t seem to be the right way” (I don’t remember what that was now). He made a little “ah” noise and then turned onto a bigger road. Okay, all good. I could see on my phone that it connected with another highway that led up near the school. We were good.

He went a little way, then turned off the big road onto a small, congested road that led directly through the city center. His general demeanor was one of “don’t worry, I know what’s going on.”

Mine was one of frustration. Part of the problem was that it is a very helpless feeling sitting in the back of a car in a country that you do not know at all being driven by someone with whom you do not share a common language and who may see you as a rich foreigner who can spare the money to be driven around for an hour or two. Mostly though, I was afraid I was going to be late. I hate to be late, especially for work. I had given myself half an hour to go a mile and a half and now it seemed like I was going to need all of that.

It didn’t help that he turned off the meter at this point. The meter is the friend of a taxi passenger in a foreign country since it is an objective number you can point at when they ask for money. If they “forget” to turn it on or just turn it off, they can ask for any amount they want. The hotel said it should cost about 7000 tugriks for the trip (less than $3 USD), so I decided just to pay that when we got there.

We started making better time and at least we were going in the right direction. It was obvious I was following our progress on the map on our phone, so I thought that had convinced him to stop screwing around and just get there. My impatience was probably pretty evident as the time got closer and closer to the meeting time.

He started tapping away at his phone at one stop, which isn’t very uncommon with taxi drivers. Then he turned and showed me the screen. He had pulled up Google Translate and the screen read, “Please forgive me, I was wrong.”

It’s hard to stay mad at someone after that. I told him it was okay and it all turned out in the end. We got to the school exactly on time and I paid him the 7000 tugriks, which he accepted without complaint.

Still, I walked when I could after that.


Home at Last – Fantastic Travelogue #19

Sometimes you have some amazing adventures you just have to tell everyone about. Read the rest of this account here.

Synopsis: I was hiking in the mountains of Korea when I found myself in another world. I met a young woman there named Ain-Mai. We eventually got captured, along with her brother Sing-ga, by a sorceress named Hengfel, who took us to her world. We got away from her and hid in the air tunnels of her fortress. Sing-ga died after being attacked by small spider-like creatures. Ain-Mai and I came in contact with a woman named Klista, who explained to us that she was part of the royal family of a race that used to own the tower where Hengfel was now living, but had been driven into exile by the invaders. She agreed to help us and with her followers, went with us back into the tower to find the key to get back to Ain-Mai’s world, and then to mine. There was a battle with Hengfel’s dragons, but we defeated them and used the stone circle to go back to Ain-Mai’s world.

19 Home at Last

Home at Last

We will standing once more on the stone circle in the forest clearing where I had first met Ain-Mai. It had only been about a week before, but it seemed like months. It was early evening and the clearing was deserted, which was just as well. Anyone who had seen us appear—especially Chirik in his current blood-soaked condition—would have been scared out of their senses.

Is this your world?” Klista asked, and Ain-Mai nodded. “This is the only way for those such as Hengfel to come here, and I will take it with me and destroy it.” She held up the medallion. “When we leave, I would suggest you destroy this stone circle.

There are servants of Hengfel that are still here,” Ain-Mai said. “They will try to stop us.

They are now stranded here with no help from their own world. They will not be too hard to deal with, I think.

I gave Ain-Mai a hug, not knowing the proper etiquette in her world. “I won’t forget you,” I said. “I am sorry for everything you went through.

She kissed my hand. “Thank you again for saving me, in the room with the dragons and the cages,” she said. “I will remember you always.” She took off the bracelet that allowed us to talk and gave it to Klista, Then, with a final bow, she turned and walked away into the trees.

“Now I will bring you home and I can get back to more important matters,” Klista said to me in English. I said good-bye to Chirik and Bruce, and to the weird ghilzhi creature too, since he was there. Then Klista touched me on the shoulder and the world went black.

A moment later, there were trees all around, very much like in Ain-Mai’s world, although there was something familiar in the scent of the plants.

“Where are we?” I asked.

“I don’t know; somewhere in your world,” Klista said. “I just brought you to the area of your world that was closest to that last one. It’s probably near where you left. Will you be okay from here?” I nodded. “So,” she continued, “are you going to tell people about this?”

“I’m not sure,” I said, although I was already mentally planning how I would write the story.

She smiled. “That’s okay; yours is a skeptical time. No one would believe you anyway.” She held up her hand in farewell and then disappeared in a small flash of light.

It’s odd how you can get used to living in fantastic circumstances. Now that I was back, the sheer banality of my life seemed to come crashing down on me and I felt a bit depressed. I had gotten my original clothes before I had left Klista’s mansion and now I changed back into them. All except the boots, one of which was wrecked beyond repair. I was on a path and I limped slowly down it until I came to a Buddhist temple. I was hoping to sit down for a bit and relax before asking where I was, but my appearance caused quite a stir.

“Are you the foreigner that has been missing in the mountains for over a week?” one of the monks asked me. Once they found that I was, they asked all kinds of questions, most of which I could not answer without sounding insane, such as “Where were you this whole time?” Still, they brought me in and gave me food and drink. A while later, the police came and asked me most of the same questions, plus more. It seems that the owner of the lodge where I had left my pack had reported me missing. I put off their questions as best as I could or gave such incoherent answers that they eventually gave up and attributed my condition to shock. They offered to drive me to the nearest city to buy more shoes and catch a bus back home.

Just as I was leaving the temple, I noticed that the base of the stupa in the main courtyard looked familiar. It was an old carved stone circle about a foot high. With a thrill of excitement, I realized it looked very much like the one in Ain-Mai’s world. I pointed it out to the senior monk who was walking with us.

“That is very old,” he said. “It comes from before this temple was built. Why do you ask?”

“I think I have seen one like it before,” I said.

“Ah, then you are fortunate,” he said with a strange smile and bowed deeply. I left not knowing what to make of it.

Three hours later, I was sitting at a bus terminal, wearing new shoes in the biggest size they could find, which were still horribly tight on me, and thinking about my life: my normal, day-to-day life. I missed my wife and wanted to get home to her as soon as I could. She had sobbed when I called to tell her I was okay, something very uncharacteristic for her. I wanted to be there, to be able to put my arms around her and comfort her.

I needed to go home—wanted to too, of course, but still, part of me wanted to be back there. Back where I could flit to another world on a stone circle, where there was uncommon dangers and I had rescued a girl from dragons, even if I had paid for it later with pain and injury. No one might believe my story, but I know the truth of it, and I knew that it had changed me.

The End


The Battle of the Stone Circle Room – Fantastic Travelogue #18

Sometimes you have some amazing adventures you just have to tell everyone about. Read the rest of this account here.

Synopsis: I was hiking in the mountains of Korea when I found myself in another world. I met a young woman there named Ain-Mai. We eventually got captured, along with her brother Sing-ga, by a sorceress named Hengfel, who took us to her world. We got away from her and hid in the air tunnels of her fortress. Sing-ga died after being attacked by small spider-like creatures. Ain-Mai and I found our way to the outside of the huge fortress where we sheltered in a small hollow. I woke up to find a small winged creature looking at me. He brought us up the mountain and through a portal into a beautiful area where we were taken care of. A woman named Klista explained to us that she was part of the royal family of a race that used to own the tower where Hengfel was now living, but had been driven into exile by the invaders. She agreed, with the help of her assistant, Bruce Riansson, and someone named Chirik, to help us get home. Soon after that, Klista transported us back to Hengfel’s fortress.

18 Battle of the Stone Circle Room

The Battle of the Stone Circle Room

When I could see again, I saw that we were in the huge stone circle room in Hengfel’s fortress. Klista was already striding towards the far wall with Bruce Riansson by her side. Chirik was to one side, his warhammer poised and ready.

Ain-Mai was tugging at my hand. “Come on, we have to keep up with them.”

Klista evidently knew where she was going. She was heading straight for a narrow stairway along the side of the room. We were about halfway there when the first dragon noticed us. It flew up from one of the trenches that bordered the room, just to our left, and was about to keep going when it saw us. It curved in midair, coming at Ain-Mai and me with open jaws. Chirik was fifty feet away on the other side of us.

At that moment, I would never have believed that I had even punched one of these in the face if I hadn’t remembered it, and the experience didn’t make me any less afraid. I was about to run when Chirik leapt in front of us and swung the warhammer up and into the head of the dragon. The dragon seemed to evaporate in front of the hammer and a moment later, the headless body fell twitching to the ground.

Stay near me,” Chirik said and jogged to catch up with Klista and Bruce. We did not need any encouragement.

Up here is where the medallions used to be kept,” Klista said. “Let’s hope that they have not changed things.” She began to climb the long, curving stair and Bruce followed her. Chirik climbed next, so Ain-Mai and I followed him.

Do you remember the pattern on the medallion that Hengfel had?” I asked Ain-Mai.

I have never gotten a good look at it,” she replied. “Do you?”

I think so; at least I remember a snaky pattern on it. I didn’t say anything, since I don’t know how similar they all are.

We reached the top of the stair and entered a room. It seemed small after the huge emptiness of the stone circle room, but it was still as big as a large classroom. The walls were covered with medallions, hundreds of them, and while this was rather distressing, what caught my attention immediately was the large lizard-like creature crouched it in the middle of the room. It was bent over and glowed red and spoke with a hissing, sibilant voice.

What are you doing here?” it asked. “Who are you?

You should know who I am, ghilzhi, or at least whom I represent. This is our fortress and our medallions and I am taking back what is mine.

The creature seemed suddenly nervous. “I see that you have returned, my lady, but it is no good. Hengfel owns this fortress now and there is no resistance against her.

We will see,” Klista said. “Right now, in recognition of the ancient harmony between our races, please do not hinder us in finding what we need.”

She will kill me,” the creature, which was apparently called a ghilzhi, said.

Then come with us,” Klista said. “You can be an ambassador to your people, to join in the resistance.

The ghilzhi did not say anything, but stood aside. Klista moved over to the wall and surveyed the medallions.

“I think I remember a little of what the design looked like,” I said, out loud. “It had a snake-like design on it.”

Klista nodded. “Okay, come stand by me and tell me if you see one that looks familiar.”

Although there were probably a thousand medallions on the walls, not all of them looked recently used. Most of them were covered with dust and only several rows near the door looked clean and bright. We started to go through these one by one.

My lady, I hate to tell you that Hengfel has been alerted of your presence,” the ghilzhi said. “She is on her way to the room below.” Klista only nodded and continued to go through the medallions.

When we had gone through them all, there were only two that Klista had not been to before that looked like the pattern I remembered.

This is going to be interesting,” Chirik said, looking out the door. “There is more than one dragon outside.

Klista walked through the door and onto the stairs. I went through and looked down, bracing myself for the sight of five or ten dragons flying around. I almost gasped out loud when I saw that the room was filled with hundreds of dragons; not flying, but standing on the floor or hanging off the walls. In the middle of the floor was Hengfel, sitting on her huge, red dragon.

Should we flee?” Bruce asked.

Not yet,” Klista said. “I will give Chirik a chance to prove himself.” She started to walk down the stair.

How dare you return here?” Hengfel called out. I first thought she was talking to me, but then I realized she was talking to Klista. “You have lost and now you come back with a handful of nothings, including a few of my slaves? Even with an army you could do nothing but die.

She called us slaves,” I said to Ain-Mai. She was radiating hatred towards Hengfel and did not reply.

I don’t need an army; I have him,” Klista said, gesturing to Chirik.

A dragon launched itself off the wall above and plummeted straight towards us. Just before it reached us, Chirik leapt and grabbed it by the neck. He flipped it like a hammer and used its momentum to propel himself far out into the room. The dragons all leaped to the attack. Soon he had disappeared beneath the bodies, but I saw him kill five of them before he hit the floor.

Klista grabbed my hand and in a flash, Klista, Bruce, Ain-Mai, the ghilzhi and I were all standing in the center of the room, with dragons all around us. Klista held up one of the medallions and I felt a power growing around us. It worked faster than when Hengfel had done it, which was good. A nearby dragon had just started to charge us when we disappeared.

*

I almost choked as hot air seared my lungs. We were standing on a stone circle on top of a high peak. In the distance, volcanoes erupted constantly and lava rivers flowed in the valley below us. The air was thick with ash.

Klista concluded fairly quickly that this was not the right world and a moment I felt a vibration of energy go through me and the world went black.

*

We were back in the huge stone circle room, but even though it seemed as only a few seconds had passed, there were much fewer dragons. Then I saw Chirik. The warhammer was spinning so fast I could barely see it. The whole room was a scene of carnage and now most of the dragons that were left alive were up in the air, flying around in confusion or fleeing to the walls. Hengfel’s dragon was high in the air.

Chirik stopped when he saw us and walked over. He was a mess of blood and bits of dragon scales but he was grinning. He barely looked tired. Klista merely nodded and gave him a small smile.

We will go now,” Klista shouted, “but we will return, you can depend on it. In the meantime, here is one world you will never be able to reach again.” Klista held up the medallion to Ain-Mai’s world. The last thing I heard before we disappeared was Hengfel’s scream of rage.

(to be concluded…)


The Invasion Begins – Fantastic Travelogue #17

Sometimes you have some amazing adventures you just have to tell everyone about. Read the rest of this account here.

Synopsis: I was hiking in the mountains of Korea when I found myself in another world. I met a young woman there named Ain-Mai. We eventually got captured, along with her brother Sing-ga, by a sorceress named Hengfel, who took us to her world. We got away from her and hid in the air tunnels of her fortress. Sing-ga died after being attacked by small spider-like creatures. Ain-Mai and I found our way to the outside of the huge fortress where we sheltered in a small hollow. I woke up to find a small winged creature looking at me. He brought us up the mountain and through a portal into a beautiful area where we were taken care of. A woman named Klista explained to us that she was part of the royal family of a race that used to own the tower where Hengfel was now living, but had been driven into exile by the invaders. She agreed, with the help of her assistant, Bruce Riansson, and someone named Chirik, to help us get home.

17 The Invasion Begins

The Invasion Begins

Ever since I had gotten lost while hiking and found myself in another world, there had been a lot of firsts in my life: the first time I had ever traveled between worlds; the first time I had ever seen a dragon; the first time I had ever punched a dragon; the first time I had ever ridden on a giant silky, white spider; and after meeting Chirik, the first time I had ever seen a giant.

Bruce had left the room and returned a moment later, accompanied by a man at least eight feet tall, with long brown hair that hung down to his waist. It took a moment before I realized that his eyes glowed faintly green as well.

Bruce said that the campaign was beginning at last, my lady,” Chirik said. He spoke out loud in an unknown language, but the meaning came through into my mind as well.

Yes, are you ready?” Klista asked.

Chirik pulled a small hammer out of his belt, which grew into a seven-foot-long warhammer as he held it. “There is nothing else I require.”

Good. Uh, get to know each other,” Klista said. She motioned towards us and walked out, followed by Bruce. Chirik sat down on the floor, cross-legged with the warhammer on his knees.

What do you do?” he asked, looking at me.

I’m a teacher,” I said, not sure what he meant. “I teach . . . language.

Do you know the language of our enemy?

No.

Then why are you here?” he asked. I still wasn’t totally used to the mental communication through the bracelets we were all wearing, but I could tell that he was blunt, but not necessarily trying to be rude.

I got lost,” I said, feeling slightly stupid.

We were captured by the enemy and escaped. He rescued me,” Ain-Mai said. She mentally told him the story, and I saw images of myself through her eyes as I jumped from cage to cage to get her and then fought my way back past attacking dragons. I should have been proud, but from her perspective, I thought I looked rather ridiculous and I started to blush.

Chirik chuckled and nodded in satisfaction. “Brave, but there is a better way.” He patted the warhammer. “You took a lot of hurt as well. How are you going to go with us, if you still cannot walk?

I wasn’t sure about that either but I slid off the floating platform where I was sitting and tentatively tried a step. Most of the pain was gone and although I probably couldn’t have run, I found that I could walk around fairly well.

Ain-Mai and I sat with Chirik in the water-room for several hours. After a while, Chirik seemed to get lost in his own thoughts, none of which he shared with us.

I am sorry again for what happened to Sing-ga,” I said, turning to Ain-Mai.

She just nodded and I could tell she was trying to keep her thoughts from me. Finally, she said, “It’s not your fault. None of the other men that Hengfel has captured have come back either. Sing-ga will not be any different so it is okay.” I thought this was odd logic, but I hoped she found comfort in it.

15 Mansion

Several hours later, Klista returned with Bruce Riansson. She sat down and immediately put her feet in the water. “We are about to begin,” she said. “It will just be the five of us, although these two—” she motioned to Ain-Mai and me “—have no purpose but to go home. This is a quick invasion and a test, so if there is any fighting to be done, I am hoping you can handle it, Chirik.” Chirik indicated wordlessly that he would be overjoyed to do all the fighting himself.

I was thinking that we would have to start at the top of the tower, where we had entered this place, and make our way down the side and back through all the tunnels, retracing the path that Ain-Mai and I had taken. My thoughts must have been more transparent than I imagined, because Klista shook her head at me. “I don’t use doors and stone circles when I travel. We will go directly to the large stone circle room, and we will find which world to send you to. The system there uses medallions: one for each world it goes to. I know I have never been to your world before—” Klista motioned to Ain-Mai “—so I just need to eliminate all the ones I have been to and see what is left.

What if there are a lot you haven’t been to?” I asked.

Then we will be there a while,” Klista said. “I have just spent the last few hours memorizing the medallion symbols for all 814 worlds I have been to. There is a good chance there will not be many more there that I have never been to.

I shouldn’t have asked, but the question slipped out before I could stop it. “How many worlds are there in all?

About 48,000 that I know about,” Klista said, “but there will not be more than a hundred medallions there, I would think. Now, let us go. When we get there, you two, stay near me. We may have to leave in a hurry. Now hold hands.

I took Ain-Mai’s hand and then felt Chirik’s huge hand clamp onto my shoulder. Klista touched Ain-Mai and Bruce. There was a flash and the room around us disappeared.

(to be continued…)


Klista’s Story – Fantastic Travelogue #16

Sometimes you have some amazing adventures you just have to tell everyone about. Read the rest of this account here.

Synopsis: I was hiking in the mountains of Korea when I found myself in another world. I met a young woman there named Ain-Mai. We eventually got captured, along with her brother Sing-ga, by a sorceress named Hengfel, who took us to her world. We got away from her and hid in the air tunnels of her fortress. Sing-ga died after being attacked by small spider-like creatures. Ain-Mai and I found our way to the outside of the huge fortress where we sheltered in a small hollow. I woke up to find a small winged creature looking at me. He brought us up the mountain and through a portal into a beautiful area where we were taken care of. A woman named Klista came into my room.

16 Klista story

Klista’s Story

“There is a lot that I want to learn from you, and perhaps some that I can tell you as well,” the regal woman calling herself Klista said. “Right now, let us go meet your friend.” She helped me from the bed onto a square platform that immediately started to float and then moved out the doorway and along the corridor.

“Is this magic?” I asked.

“If by magic you mean it works in ways you wouldn’t understand, then yes,” Klista said. She was striding along next to me.

We came out into the room with the falling water. Ain-Mai was there, sitting by the small waterfall. She had changed clothing and despite the scratches on her face and neck, she looked more beautiful than ever.

It is good to see you again, David,” Ain-Mai said mentally, her thoughts coming directly into my mind. I noticed she had a similar bracelet on as me. I blushed, although I’m not entirely sure why. Perhaps it was the shock of suddenly being able to talk freely after all our time together.

It’s good to see you too. Are you feeling well?

I think I can say that both of you are not perfect, but are doing much better than when we found you,” Klista broke in. “Now, I need to know how you came to be on the side of the Eithelfeen, the tower where Drovoi found you.

I told her everything I knew, from getting lost in the woods in Korea and meeting Ain-Mai and her brother, to getting captured by Hengfel and brought to the huge fortress with the dragons. Then Ain-Mai told her perspective on all that had happened. Klista just listened and nodded.

I am curious how you got to her world in the first place,” Klista said, gesturing to Ain-Mai.“You didn’t mention it. Was there a stone circle, or did you have a certain item?

Nothing like that,” I said. “At least, I don’t think so. I was walking in the woods and I found myself in the other place, Ain-Mai’s country.

There are unstable areas, where world brush against each other briefly,” Klista said. “Likely there was a stone circle or a similar way of traveling between worlds at that spot, long ago.

Please,” Ain-Mai broke in. “Can you tell me who Hengfel is? She has been coming to our world for many years, taking our men and anything else she wants back with her. Can you stop her?

15 Mansion

Klista sat down on the floor and put her feet in the pool of water. Then she took a breath. “Before I tell you who she is, let me tell you who I am. I am the daughter of the rulers of the Zifliels. We have for a long time been ambassadors and diplomats between many worlds. Wherever we go, we establish trading posts and where there is a lot of trade, we set up the stone circles or some such thing to make movement back and forth easier.

In one world, we set up trade with a small nation, not realizing that it was threatened by an even greater threat, the people that we now refer to as the Invaders. They seized the technology of the stone circles and used it to invade our world with their dragons and other terrible creatures. We defended ourselves as well as possible and although we are adept at traveling between worlds, they were the stronger fighters and eventually we were forced to flee our world to hide in exile in others. We destroyed as many of the circles as we could to limit the spread of the Invaders, but some survived, such as the great one in the Eithelfeen.

“The Invaders used it and others to invade more worlds. Some of them, like your Hengfel, are selfish and greedy and only use it to get more things for themselves. Others, however, use our network to continue the conquest. We fight them whenever we can, but they are almost always stronger.

I found this background information interesting, but there was only one question I was interested in. “Do you know how I can get home?” I asked.

I know where your world is and I do not need to use a stone circle to travel,” Klista said. “However, I do not know where you are from.” She indicated Ain-Mai. “In order for you to get home, you will need to go back to the room you came through and find the right medallion to get back to your own world.

What, alone?” I asked.

Obviously not alone,” Klista said. “If it were possible for a single girl to break into the heart of the fortress and use the machine that is most precious to the owner, we would have no trouble taking it back. No, I will go with her; with you too, if you want to come. And not just us. I think I will use this opportunity as a test and if it works, then this Hengfel will never come back to your world again.

Klista closed her eye. “Bruce, come out here, please.” Although I could hear her, the thought seemed to be projected farther away. A moment later, a man came out into the room. He nodded at us and smiled.

Klista stood up and began drying her feet. “Bruce,” she said. “Go call Chirik. Tell him to get ready for war.”

(to be continued…)

You can read more about Klista, Bruce, and Chirik here.


The Mansion in the Summit – Fantastic Travelogue #15

Sometimes you have some amazing adventures you just have to tell everyone about. Read the rest of this account here.

Synopsis: I was hiking in the mountains of Korea when I found myself in another world. I met a young woman there named Ain-Mai. We eventually got captured, along with her brother Sing-ga, by a sorceress named Hengfel, who took us to her world. We got away from her and hid in the air tunnels. Sing-ga died after being attacked by small spider-like creatures. Ain-Mai and I found our way to the outside of the huge fortress where we sheltered in a small hollow. I woke up to find a small winged creature looking at me.

15 Peak Mansion

The Mansion in the Summit

The winged creature perched on the entrance to our hollow put its hands over its eyes and bowed deeply. Then it fluttered forward a few steps and took off one of its bracelets, offering it to me.

Ain-Mai woke up when I tried to stand and she gasped at the sight of the thing. I was nervous as well, but it kept offering me the golden bracelet, so finally, I took it. It mimed for me to put it on, but it was too small to put around my wrist and I had to stick it on four of my fingers.

That is better. Now we can talk, the creature said suddenly. The meaning of the words went straight to my mind, without it moving its mouth at all.

Who are you? I asked. It was strange to speak in my mind and have him answer there. I didn’t like it; it was as if someone was snooping on my thoughts.

My name is Drovoi and I am a diplomat in exile. At one time, we met with peoples from many worlds until we were conquered. I will tell you more later, but right now you are hurt and hungry. I will take you to somewhere where you can rest and get treated and then we can talk a little more.

Ain-Mai put a hand on my arm and gave me a questioning look. I took off the bracelet and handed it to her. I saw her eyes widen and I knew that she was conversing mentally with Drovoi. After a moment, she gave it back to me.

I have a transport coming to take you to our refuge, but we must hurry; the dragons are often about in the morning and I do not want to get drawn into a battle.

Because we were conversing with ideas instead of words, I got a mental picture of the “transport” just before it appeared. Still, it was a shock. A curved, furry leg reached over the edge of the hollow and a creature like a huge tarantula appeared. It was covered in white hair and its legs ended in small hands that gripped at the rocks as it moved.

You want us to get on that thing? I asked.

It is not dangerous and it will travel quickly where we need to go—much quicker than you can alone. Do not worry. See?

Drovoi took off his bracelet and held it against the creature’s head. I did not feel thoughts—only simple emotions coming from it—but I could tell that it was tame and amiable, with the temperament of a St. Bernard rather than a predator.

I let Ain-Mai feel this as well, and then we both hobbled forward and slowly climbed on its back. It was the strangest thing I have ever done in my life, even including my adventures of the previous week. The white fur was as soft as silk and it had a harness and back support attached to it. This turned out to be a very good thing as the creature began to climb up the steep side of the tower. Its leathery tail came around and held us in place so that we did not slip off its back.

We climbed for twenty minutes, the white spider-mount moving upwards steadily, never slowing or speeding up. The air began to get thin and the wind increased. I was freezing and my arms were starting to ache from holding on tightly. Drovoi had flown on ahead, it seemed. I looked down behind us and saw dragons flying around, thousands of feet below us.

Finally, we reached the summit of the tower and I could see that we were in the middle of what had once been a huge city. It stretched away for miles on all sides. There were other huge towers visible in the distance, but those had been broken down, so that only the lower parts were still standing.

Drovoi appeared from behind a rock. Please come in. You must be very tired, he said. The wind was screaming and threatening to blow us all off and we followed him behind the rock. There was a door, camouflaged to look like the rock. It was open, but I could see that the cave beyond it was only a few feet deep. Still, I followed Drovoi inside. He suddenly disappeared, but before I could even react, everything around me changed.

15 Mansion

The wind was gone. The air pressure was normal again. We were standing in a wide room with a pool of water in the middle. The floors were smooth stone and water was falling from above. The air was bursting with the fragrances of flowers and fruit. A moment later, men and women came towards us and escorted Ain-Mai and me to separate rooms.

What came next was like being in a spa, hospital, and restaurant, all rolled into one. The men bandaged my injuries with cloths and medicine. Then they helped me change into clean clothes and served me all sorts of food that I could not even begin to describe accurately. There were meats and fruits and other things I could barely have imagined: foods that were like eating cold, flavored air or others that looked like square diamonds until they melted in my mouth in a burst of sweetness.

After I had been treated and had eaten as much as I could, a woman came into the room. She was tall and wore a red cloak, with long, dark hair hung down the back. She was beautiful, although her face had a timeless look to it. She handed me a golden bracelet that was big enough for me to put on.

How in all the million worlds did you end up on the outside of that tower? she asked and her eyes bored into me as if she was trying to read my mind.

It’s a very long story, I said, mentally. I’m not totally sure myself.

She was still looking at me very hard. Suddenly she said out loud and in English, “Where are you from?”

I had not realized it until then how long it had been since I had heard English spoken and my shocked expression must have shown my comprehension. She only nodded.

“You speak English,” I said, like an idiot.

“I speak many languages,” she said, “and I have been to your world before. My name is Klista.”

 

(to be continued…)


A Night of Loss and Grief – Fantastic Travelogue #14

Sometimes you have some amazing adventures you just have to tell everyone about. Read the rest of this account here.

Synopsis: I was hiking in the mountains of Korea when I got lost at night and came out in a strange valley. I couldn’t understand anyone, but I found out they knew Chinese characters. I met a young woman name Ain-Mai, and later, her brother Sing-ga. While I was there, a creepy woman appeared. Ain-Mai and her brother told me that the creepy woman was named Hengfel and came from another world. Hengfel eventually captured all three of us and brought us back to her world. They separated us, but Sing-ga and I got out and rescued Ain-Mai, although I got quite injured in the process. We took shelter in the air vents. Sing-ga went to find water, while Ain-Mai bandaged me and took care of me. Sing-ga finally came back, bleeding badly and very injured.

Night of Great Loss

I had never seen anyone die before, but I was there, kneeling next to Sing-ga when he died. I heard his breath catch, as if he were choking on something and then it just stopped. I kept waiting for him to breath again, but he didn’t. Ain-Mai, on his other side, was starting to become frantic. She was hyperventilating and shaking him, calling his name. Finally, I reached out and touched her arm and she wilted, her arms falling down to her sides.

In the faint light of the moon and stars that was coming in through the opening, I could see that Sing-ga’s arms and face were covered with circular bites. If he had been attacked, how had he gotten away? And could there be things that were still looking for him? I wanted to get away, but I wasn’t sure where to go and I was in no shape to travel.

A light, skittering sound came from up the tunnel. Ain-Mai didn’t seem to notice. She was smoothing back her brother’s hair and crying softly.

“We should go,” I said. She paid no attention.

Something the size of a dinner plate flew out of the darkness at me. All I saw were thin, clawed legs outstretched towards me before the thing wrapped itself around my arm and I felt the sharp pain of it biting into my flesh. I shouted in terror and ripped it off, hurling it savagely out through the grating and into open space. More came leaping at me and I fought them off desperately, pure adrenaline overcoming the pain of my injuries. From what I could tell, they were like huge spiders, with clawed legs and a sharp-toothed mouth in the middle of their body. Even now, I sometimes have nightmares about those horrors jumping out of the darkness at me.

Mouth spider

One got caught in Ain-Mai’s hair. She screamed, but it roused her to action and she fought back, lashing out at the monsters when they jumped at her.

“We have to go!” I shouted, not caring that she couldn’t understand me. I started to move in the only direction that was open to us, out the opening and onto the sheer outer side of the tower. I hesitated when it came to actually stepping out of the opening and onto the rough plates of the outer wall, and it was Ain-Mai who took the lead and held out her hand for me to come out.

I had just taken her hand when one of leaping spider-mouths latched onto my shoulder and bit in deeply. I writhed to get it off and felt myself slipping. Ain-Mai pulled me back to the wall and reached down to rip the vile creature off my shoulder. It gave a thin cry as it disappeared into the darkness far below us.

I did not wait to see if more were following us but gripped Ain-Mai’s hand and followed her along the ridges of the wall. They stuck out at an angle from the wall and were easy to hold onto, but they were also irregularly shaped. My right foot was bandaged and extremely sore, so I hopped along on my left.

The spider-mouths didn’t follow us out. I thought this was strange until I remembered poor Sing-ga’s body lying just inside the tunnel. I was sick with horror, but it came out as anger. I shuffled along, swearing under my breath, spitting out profanities with every hop. I’m not even sure who I was angry at: at the spider-mouths; at Hengfel for bringing us to that terrible place; at myself for getting Sing-ga and Ain-Mai caught with me and in doing so, causing his death. I was thankful for the calming effect of Ain-Mai’s hand in mine, which kept me from doing anything stupid.

We came to a hollow in the outer wall a minute later, which was fortunate because I could not have gone on much longer in my condition. It was probably a dragon nest at one point, but it was deserted and we collapsed into it. I put my back against the stone wall and tried to regain my strength and calm my mind. Ain-Mai slumped down by my side, sobbing. I put my arm around her and she drew closer.

Night of Great Loss

Ten minutes later, she had quieted and lay still against me. I had my eyes closed when I felt her stir. The next thing I felt were her lips on mine. She was kissing me in a quick, breathless way, not romantically, but as someone desperately needing comfort in the midst of despair.

For a moment, it was as if time stopped and the Choice stood in front of me. We were alone together in an alien world. Ain-Mai had just lost her brother and was overwhelmed with grief. She needed me. As for myself, I was lonely and tired and she felt so good next to me that in that moment, I wanted nothing more than to abandon myself to her kisses and caresses.

But then I thought of my wife–by herself and worlds away from me. I imagined her going about her daily life, wondering where I was, hoping I was safe, and I realized that she was the only one I really wanted. Still, it was one of the hardest things I have ever done to pull away from Ain-Mai’s embrace. “I,” I said, and then took her hand and drew out the character for “married” on her palm. I guess she understood my meaning one way or another; she nodded and then put her head back down on my shoulder. She started crying again, very softly, and I put my arm around her again. I didn’t know what else to do.

The next thing I remember was opening my eyes to see the sun breaking over the far horizon. Ain-Mai was sleeping with her head still on my shoulder. Then I noticed with a start that a large bird-like creature was perched on a wall plate next to the hollow. It had wings folded behind it and small arms in front, each with a large golden bracelet on it. We looked at each other for a moment until it put its hands over its eyes and bowed deeply to me.

(to be continued…)


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