(Just a little 1900 word short story I finally typed up. This is essentially a first draft, so feedback is very welcome. I’ll post in three segments, but will also include a PDF version for those who’d like the whole thing in one sitting.)
“What’s the strangest thing I ever saw in the Between? Well, that’s a tough one. I’ve been exploring the Between for a long time now, and I’m not talking about the safe places like the Goblin Market or the Mirror Roads and Shadow Paths,” the man said, leaning back in his chair, feet resting on the fieldstone hearth.
He nodded at the back of the room when someone muttered.
“I know, people disappear on the roads and paths, but only the dumb ones who don’t stay on the trail,” he shook his head, salt and pepper strands flicking across his shoulders. “Anyway. The strangest thing in the Between . . . mind, I haven’t seen all that much of that place, even after more years than I want to count.”
His fingers danced absently along a staff, once white but now greyed and smooth with age and use. It had been polished by decades of oil and sweat such that it gleamed in the lights of the fire and the globes set in the ceiling. The man, the wizard, stared up at the plastered ceiling, seeming to forget the dozen young wizards who sat around him.
He glanced out the window, over the sun setting behind the skyscrapers that formed the city skyline. An airplane drifted lazily by, leaving a trail of vapor behind.
Finally, he nodded, just as the youngest in his audience, a teenager, shifted to leave.
“Years ago, maybe ten, twelve. That’s when I saw it. I was on loan to the Shan Tzu Institute, in Hong Kong, at the time. They’d been . . . well, it doesn’t matter why. The important thing is that they’d called for aid from other schools around the world to confirm and explore part of the Between they’d discovered. So, I went and met up with about half a dozen others, all masters of wizardry and the Between, probably four centuries of experience on that plane between all of us.”
. . . . . . . . . .
We were gathered in the Institute’s largest training room. A couple of the locals explained the process they’d used and described the realm they believed they had discovered.
Of course, getting to the same place in the Between, even if you start in the exact same spot on Earth, is a problem and not guaranteed. But, the local experts had some success by tweaking the usual spells. Really not my area, too theoretical.
Anyway, they described the place to us . . .
. . . I should probably explain that, huh?
There was me, obviously. Oifa McLean from Glasgow, she had a few decades exploring back then. Fuaad Osman from Cairo, he had the theory background to check the locals. Emiko, she never gave a family name I think, from Sapporo, she’s got a couple decades on me, easily the most experienced of the group. And Carl Trinh out of Adelaide, young kid, but hell of a reputation.
So, where was I?
They described the place as a sort of idyllic wilderness. Moderate climate, meadows, streams, and woods, that sort of thing.
I figured it could’ve been some remote part of the Werwood or maybe Shangri-La. There’s parts of the valley that haven’t been fully explored yet, they say.
But, Paul, our liaison Paul Zhou, swore they’d checked for signs of settlement and magic, ruling out Shangri-La. And no one’s reported an open space of meadow as large as he claimed in the Werwood.