Chapter 2:

A Walk

A Tour of the World Between Worlds

The woods were dark and quiet. I kept a hand resting close to one of the daggers at my side as I walked. It was eerie in its own unique way, and nothing like I had ever experienced. Or so I would like to say if I recalled any of my past. Try as I might, I could not fully recover any lost thoughts. I may have had a brother, or perhaps a sister. I had the feeling I could have served under someone as well, but nothing was concrete enough for me to be certain.

The trees I walked by were still and grey. Under them was an array of grey foliage—grasses, flowers, and other plants made up much of the scene. I still appeared as colorful as ever, with my pink clothing. It was like I had been dropped within a black and white painting. In fact, other than myself, the only color I had seen in this odd world was the sparkling blue from the faux-water I had encountered prior. What could that mean? I shook my head and pressed forward.

In no time at all, I reached my destination. Or at least I believe I did. It was another large body of the strange water. I stared out from the shore that stretched into the distance. The shape may have been slightly different, but it was hard to tell.

I couldn’t be entirely sure it was a new body of water either. Perhaps I had walked in an elaborate circle. Unfortunately, there was a way to be sure, and it required doing something unpleasant. I kneeled down and cautiously put my hand in the misty energy.

Once again, I felt myself get pulled from my body. I soared over the sky, except the scene was different this time.

Now I overlooked an arena within a city. There was a fight within it, but neither was dressed like a warrior. The first wore an apron dress like one might expect a housekeeper to wear. The second wore an outfit of shiny material that served no defensive or stealth purpose. A crowd vigorously cheered as the two combatants traded blows.

Taller buildings than I could have imagined made up the scene, and what I could only describe as horseless carriages carried citizens through the streets. Was this some sort of magic? I could see people dressed in odd wear throughout the city moving about and using strange abilities. They carried even weirder devices and tools that illuminated when they stared at them.

I pulled my hand out and shook my head. I must have been looking at a different place. While the last had been a scene of despair, this place was just off. They had strange technology and even more bizarre denizens. It would be unwise to interact with any more of these bodies of water. The last thing I would want to do is fall into any of these strange or disturbing places.

I looked from the shore out in the distance. The ground was raised above the water in one spot, and from the higher point, I could see a small waterfall emptying into the faux-water where I had seen the arena.

I quickly climbed to the higher ground and viewed a river that seemed to flow out from deeper in the woods. I had nothing better to do and followed after.

Nothing changed in the scene for a while as I made my way up the river. I had to stop several times to get bearings on my surroundings, as it was hard to determine if I was even moving or not. Fortunately, a close inspection showed enough change in the scene that I could be confident of my progress.

Eventually, I could see something new in the distance.

I suppose the best thing to call it would be a mountain. Its rock face towered above the trees so imposingly that I couldn’t believe I had only just noticed it. From the top, the river's source was flowing out as a long waterfall. The sides of it were steep and unscalable. I opted to walk away from the waterfall and around the mountain.

It didn’t take long until I came across a staircase. It had been carved from the steep mountain and ascended to the top. Based on the sounds, there was a waterfall flowing down on either side of the stairs. The rushing sound of the faux-water echoed on all sides and in the distance. Were there two waterfalls? Were there more? I shook the thought away; it wasn’t important at the moment.

I began to climb the stairs. If I could get to higher ground, I would be able to get a good view of where I was.

The walk through the woods had felt like I wasn’t moving but going up the stairs felt even worse. On either side of me, there was solid, grey stone. Every step had been carved precisely the same, and the walls were smooth in all the same ways. I could only tell I made progress when I looked back to see how far the ground was.

After checking to make sure I was moving for quite possibly the seventh time, I finally shook my head and turned away from the ground below. The sight that greeted me had something new appear.

On the stony staircase a good way above, there was something that had the form of a person. It was not human; instead, it was made entirely of fire. The flames seemed to bend into recognizable arms, legs, and a head. They contrasted against the grey world with familiar hues of red and orange. I couldn’t tell if the creature was a person covered in flames or flames wrapped in the shape of a person.

Either way, I took cautious steps back down. My eyes stayed trained on the flames. In front of the thing sat a beautiful and terrifying-looking sword. Two fiery hands rested on the hilt as the tip was planted on the step below. I found my daggers firmly in my palms as I continued to move away. I hadn’t even noticed pulling them out. I suppose it was some sort of instinct, though where I had developed, it could be anyone’s guess.

In no time, I reached the ground once again. The fiery creature didn’t move from its spot, but the head was turned in my direction. It was as if it looked at me. I shuddered.

We stared at each other for a long moment. I did not lower my blades as I continued to back up. Should I run? Would it follow? Could I win in a fight?

The thoughts danced around my mind to an anxious tune as I moved back. I didn’t look away from the creature until a snapping twig echoed behind me. Something else was approaching.