The Between (pt. 2; 2017)

(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.)

Long story short, kids, the locals eventually convinced Osman that they’d covered everything and their plans worked.  Or Osman was sure they wouldn’t get us blown up, lost, or strewn across the realms with their changes to the normal spells.

They got us all into a protective circle and, well, you all know how crossing works without a natural gate.  You’ve all done it at least once.  It’s enough to say their tweaks were minor, you’ll probably learn ‘em in another year, when the teaching masters think you’re ready.

So, everything worked like the Hong Kong guys said.

The wood paneled training room with its polished tile floor vanished.  Instead, we stood in a meadow, quiet except for the birdsong, the breeze, and the trickling sound of running water.

We’d never worked together before, but the team was veteran of scores of confirmation trips.

Osman and McLean swung down to set up for our return without a word.  I spread out with the other two to be sure there weren’t any hostile residents, critters, or plants around.  All normal procedure and practices.

We had a mostly flat meadow with knee high grasses, with some woods off in the distance all around.  I guess it was maybe two, three hundred yards across.  Trinh found the water on his sweep, too big to be a stream, too small to really be a river.  We decided to call it a river anyway.  It wound through the meadow, about a third of the way from the trees.

I know, kids, everything was normal.  Patience, we’ll get to the strangeness soon, just gotta set the scene.

We didn’t do much exploring that day, just secured the meadow.  We set up a camp near the exit Osman and McLean made, since we didn’t know where the natural gates were.  Around the fire, after a camp dinner, as the sun set and the shadows lengthened, the stories flowed, along with a little drink.  We caught up on old friends and companions, found shared acquaintances, compared notes on different Between realms and guides, that sort of thing that you kids don’t want to hear right now.  Stick around explorers long enough and you’ll know the kinda thing.

No matter how old we get, explorers’re terrible gossips, and love spinning more outrageous tales of their adventures.

By unspoken agreement, we let Emiko tell the most.  She had to be pushing 200 then, we all sorta knew that trip would be her last.  Heard she stayed in the Between, on some island in the Aspi Sea, for a few years before old age caught up with her.

But, I’m getting off track.

Anyway, stories told, everyone turned in, took turns with night watch, uneventful night.  Didn’t meet any local fauna or civilizations during the night.  I could bore you with a few hours in my head, looking into the dark beyond our fire, but I won’t.  You don’t need to know what I was thinking, we’re not that close.

Quick breakfast was made, eaten, and cleared up.  Osman volunteered to watch camp, gave him time to refine the return spell.  He was always better at the transportation side of things anyway, from what I hear.

So, Emiko led off with me, McLean, and Trinh.

We crossed a low rise in the meadow to find the river.  Emiko stopped at the crest, to look at the sky.  Probably looking at birds and the weather.  I went to the water, to search for spoor.  Figured it would be a good watering place for local critters, so long as the others stayed far enough back.  Didn’t have to worry, though.  McLean and Trinh went off the direction we were calling west, following the river toward the trees.


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