Tag Archives: other worlds

Spring Break with the Merry Maidens

FF178 Piya Singh

copyright Piya Singh

The sun sets on twenty drunken college students dancing in the cabin, with bass deep enough to shake the stone circle nearby.

It’s a great success. It’s my cabin after all, an inheritance from my grandmother, the one who gave me this old necklace.

The party spills outside around midnight. Dozens, then scores of men and women gyrate among the stones to the pounding music that is now coming from the ground itself.

The sun rises on me, naked except for Grandma’s old necklace. I’m alone in the stone circle, beer cans mingled with mead cups and carved drinking horns.

 

Read about the real Merry Maidens


First Week at the Nexus

I realize this is two letters home from children in a week, but they’re very different and apparently this is how my mind is thinking at the moment.

copyright Joe Owens

copyright Joe Owens


Dear Mum and Dad,

Greetings from the land of inter-dimensional hospitality! Well, my first week at the Nexus Hotel is over. It didn’t drive me insane but there were several points where I wished I’d never been born. Sorry Mum, you did your best and all.

It’s pretty brutal out here. I had a party of Neanderthals stumble in from some primitive dimension and demand the first floor suites. No credit card, of course, but I got half a gazelle as payment. They trashed the rooms and set fire to two of the beds. They also massacred half a Venusian furry convention that was meeting on the third floor. I comped the survivors their rooms. Hope that’s okay.

On Wednesday, we had a couple dark specters arrive. Didn’t pay, of course, just loitered around haunting the place. I got them exorcised finally. It’s fine now.

Some sort of space princess came two days ago. That’s when things started looking up. She’s pretty. I let her have the top two floors indefinitely. I’m redecorating for her, turning it into a castle.

Don’t worry about the hotel, I’m handling everything.

Your son,

Winky.


Winky’s father put down the letter. “Maybe I should go help him out. Just for a few days.”

“You’re retired,” his wife said. “You promised.”

Her husband noticed the way she was fingering her knife. “Right, right. I’m sure he’ll be fine.”

 


Any Suggestions?

copyright Joe Owen

copyright Joe Owen

Any suggestions?

“Next week is the midterm,” the computer ethics professor Dr. Bevin said. “There is no exam.” He cut off the collective sigh of relief with a sharp gesture. “No, instead you have to break your world.

“All of you have been observing your custom world simulators for eight weeks now, or 20,000 years in-program. Unless you have a world that is already a nuclear wasteland—Jared—I want you to write the inhabitants a message. From you. Ask for suggestions on how to make things better. Write an essay giving the results and what you think the impact of those changes might be.”

There was a stunned silence, then a phalanx of questioning hands. Dr. Bevin dismissed them all. “That’s all. You figure out the rest.”

That night, Ben opened the program and rewound to watch the last four centuries that had progressed during the day. A lot had happened; way more than he could take in. There were 12 billion people now in his little world, spinning through the cosmos that was the class’s shared universe. Some of his classmates wanted to help their people explore and find each other’s planets, except that Dr. Bevin forbade any interference.

Until now.

It took Ben five minutes of coding to set it up. He hated to do it. It would wreck everything, but in the end, this little world was just a Petri dish, a place to play around with issues in the safety of a computer. He sighed and hit Enter.

*        *        *

On the planet of Geral, a man named Hyerai was walking home from work when he looked up at the moon. Slowly, lines of fire appeared on its surface, forming into words. He gaped. They said, “HI, I’M BEN. ANY SUGGESTIONS?”


Out There – Friday Fictioneers

Happy very belated Thanksgiving to everyone! I was traveling for most of last week, visiting relatives in LOLIA (the Land Of Limited Internet Access). However, I did have a lot of driving to do: around 24 hours in a car with no radio or CD player. I made up one great story for this picture, but then needed more than 100 words to tell it properly. So I made up another one, but the same thing happened. So I made up a third, which is below. I’ll write the other ones down soon and post them as well.

This story is so late for the Fictioneers that the next week’s picture is due out in a few hours. But I wanted to do it, so as not to miss any.

copyright Randy Mazie

copyright Randy Mazie

Out There

“I just lose myself in the library!” my brother exclaimed once.

“You mean in the stories?” I asked.

“No, beyond them. In the worlds beyond paper and ink and words. Out there.”

I hugged him and thought: quirky.

*

Until the paranoia set in. He stopped going to the library unarmed and then stopped altogether. He changed his route to school to avoid it. Finally, he broke in and washed the shelves in gasoline. You could see the blaze for miles. The town was about to crucify him.

*

Until they found the partially-burned thing in the ashes of the horror section.


Standing Between Realities – Friday Fictioneers

Copyright Jennifer Pendergast

Copyright Jennifer Pendergast

 

Standing on the Edge of Realities

“I’m such an idiot! I walked through that arch, back to this world, and I find her sleeping with my co-worker. I came back—gave up paradise—all for her! Stupid! I can’t go back now—the magic’s all gone—and I’m stuck forever in this tepid modern world. I just want to belong somewhere: I’m only an outsider now.”

The cop was having a heck of a first day on the job. “That’s terrible, sir. Really. If you’ll just step back from the edge of the bridge, I’ll buy you a coffee and you can tell me more about it.”


Xerxes’ War (Part 1)

After the disastrous dinner with the Hendersons, Xerxes didn’t see them anymore. Even Obsequious Otter didn’t come by anymore, although Xerxes’ Prescient Pigeon said it saw the otter around sometimes. Penelope, Xerxes’ ex-girlfriend and current laundry room wall, didn’t mention if his trip to the Hendersons’ had affected her relationship with their dining room wall Bumble and he didn’t ask. He just wanted to be left alone.

One morning, Xerxes was eating cereal over the kitchen sink and staring blearily out into the eternal, empty grey, when a huge parrot landed on his windowsill.

“Awwk! Can I borrow a cup of sugar?” it asked.

“I don’t have any sugar,” Xerxes said automatically, wondering if he could kill a parrot with one punch.

“Liar! Liar!” the parrot shrieked. “You have at least four cups left.”

“But I’m going to make a cake today and I need it all.”

“Liar! Liar!” the bird yelled again. “You’ve never made a cake in your life.”

“Let me guess, you’re Polygraph Parrot,” Xerxes said. He had dealt with novelty pets enough to know how things worked.

“My owners call me Polygraph Polly,” it said. Xerxes ended up giving it some sugar, just to make it go away.

It wasn’t just Polly either. Over the next few weeks, other animals appeared at the house, sometimes just to say hello and sometimes to ask for things. There was Gregarious Goat, who always wanted to talk for hours; Haranguing Hamster, who squeaked up at him about the lack of hamster representation in politics; and then there was Malicious Marmoset. Xerxes found the marmoset chasing his ShyPhone 4 around his bedroom. It hissed at him, then stole the book he was reading off his table, tore the cover, and threw it in the toilet.

That night, Xerxes pulled out the house manual and figured out how to lock the doors and windows, something he’d never done before. After an hour, he got them all locked, ending with the kitchen window, which was how Prescient Pigeon usually came and went.

“You don’t have a ceiling,” Mr. Pettyevil, Xerxes’ kitchen wall, whispered.

“What?”

“You don’t have a ceiling,” Mr. Pettyevil repeated, and smirked as only a wall can. Xerxes looked up. Dang, he was right. He had forgotten there was no ceiling. It had cost extra and Xerxes had just assumed he wouldn’t need one in an empty dimension where his house was the only thing in the whole universe. Plus, he liked the idea of his walls appearing to go up and up into infinity.

The next day, Prescient Pigeon arrived with a gun, just as Xerxes decided that one might be necessary. He wasn’t sure what kind he wanted, so he was curious what kind the pigeon had brought.

“It shoots gummy worms,” Prescient Pigeon said proudly.

“What?”

“That’s not all,” the pigeon said quickly. “There’s a selector knob here. Let’s see . . . It also shoots gummy bears, gummy spiders, gummy amoeba, and gummy Ten Commandments. See?” The pigeon aimed the gun at the wall and fired with his foot. There was a bang and Mr. Pettyevil shouted in irritation. Xerxes picked up a tiny, gummy copy of the Ten Commandments. It was perfectly readable, or would have been if Xerxes could speak ancient Hebrew.

“Nice,” he said. “I wish I had a porch, so I could sit out there with this and shout, ‘Get off my lawn!’”

“You’d need a lawn too,” Prescient Pigeon said, “but I’m not carrying that here for you.”

That night, Xerxes woke up in darkness to hear something crawling down his wall. It must be that Malicious Marmoset! he thought. Slowly, he reached over and picked up his gummy gun. He flicked on the lights and there was the marmoset, dumping melted lemon sherbet into his sock drawer. Xerxes fired a burst of gummy amoebas at it and it dropped the bucket and darted to the far wall. Xerxes flicked the selector switch and strafed the fleeing marmoset with gummy worms. It screeched as it was hit and finally fled back up into darkness.

Minimalism

The next day, Xerxes coaxed his ShyPhone 4 out from under the bed and called Conrad, his real estate agent.

“Conrad, this is insane. When I moved here, you promised me total isolation. Now I’ve got marmosets dumping lemon sherbet into my sock drawer in the middle of the night.”

“Just wash them. The washing machine still works, right?” Conrad said.

“Well, it turns out the Cereal Python really loves sherbet,” Xerxes said. “He ate it all. Unfortunately, he ate all my socks too.” At that moment, Prescient Pigeon arrived, gasping and clutching a 12-pack of socks. Xerxes took them with a nod.

There was a knock at the door. “And now there’s a knock at my door!” Xerxes shouted over the phone. “In a dimension where I’m the only person, I should not have people knocking on my door.” He hung up and flung the door open.

There was no one there. Instead, there was a note taped to the door. It said:

How dare you attack our cutsey-wootsey marmoset! You, sir, are no gentleman. This means WAR!

For some reason, this cheered Xerxes up. No one had to be polite or make small talk during a war.

house

(to be continued)


The Importance of Legends – Sunday Photo Fiction

copyright Al Forbes

copyright Al Forbes

The Importance of Legends

It was a badly-kept secret among intellectuals that the vaults under the British Museum held a portal to another world. It was a jade gate that had been stolen from China in 1840. When its secret was discovered in 1848, a stream of explorers and archaeologists had entered it, never to reappear. Eventually, the gate was locked up.

Until 2012 . . .

Cameras clicked and flashed as Dr. Forbes stood in front of the jade gate.

“I discovered the map in our archives,” he said. “The corner was torn off, but I managed to decipher the ancient Chinese to see that it is a map of the land beyond. It shows where the dangers are, as well as a magnificent treasure, across this plain and beyond these mountains.” He pointed to a reproduction of the three-foot square map. “I will now enter the gate with my team. We plan to be gone a week.”

The next day, a janitor was cleaning up the archive room and found a scrap of paper under a desk. It said 一寸是一万里*, not even English. He threw it away.

*(1 inch = 3600 miles)

 


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…)


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