Other Realms

A Strange New World

My mind was a morass, fragments, memories not mine. My last clear recollection was the ziggurat of skulls before the Rift took me. My only coherent thought was grim satisfaction that my subjects were spared this chaotic dissolution.

And then suddenly I was myself again, naked, manacled, chained to the rough wall of a cave in a makeshift prison cell, my accursed blade in my hands and a small, scaled creature hitting invocations at a wall of unnatural black ice festooned with a mandala of mangled limbs and blood. I had a sudden flash of memory of being butchered. I wondered if any of the hacked limbs were mine before the hissing invocation's words became clear.

Like countless fools before it, this creature was offering itself to some power locked in the ice, swearing eternal fealty, sacrificing its potential for a scrap of power in the now. I felt a great loathing for it that was not diminished in any way by the knowledge I was likely to become its next victim.

And then there was another. Some sort of human, bald, with a faintly glowing violet tattoo upon his neck and head, shrouded, by his furtive movements not an ally of the scaled ritualist. For a brief moment I knew that of course my servants had come to rescue me, but that thought was swiftly banished by cold memory. I had no servants. The fact that this man, and the ritualist, were alive was proof-positive that I was no longer in my world, my Curse having somehow succeeded where the fools who first tore the Rift had failed.

So. Somewhere else. Some other world. 

By his gestures, the man made known to me his intention to free me. He soon returned with another man clad in black mithral, his soul tied a black power that seemed to recognize me and accord me the respect due an equal. Curious. A riddle to consider on another day. These two men were competent enough to free me from my prison without alerting the ritualist, but not competent enough to do so without triggering a trap of fungal spores that tore into our lungs. Despite the pain, freedom was sweet.

We three advanced upon the ritualist, more allies streaming in from another part of the cave. We made short work of it, but its blood awakened the power in the ice. Dismembered bodies stitched themselves together in shambling mockeries of life while from the ice emerged a being I recognized as a memory vampire, a spirit that consumes the very thoughts of its prey.

Although my captor lay dead, these abominations should not walk free. I slaked my wrath upon them, notwithstanding my nakedness. Fortunately my sudden allies of convenience were up to the task of assisting me, and eventually the undead were truly dead once more.

They then turned to me, asking me my name. I was surprised to realize that, after a moment of adjustment, I understood their crude language and was able to speak it. I was momentarily surprised that they did not immediately recognize me, but again, that wash of cold memory. Of course they wouldn't. This moment allowed me to recollect that my full name and titles would be meaningless here, and so I gave them my old, original name. It was… strange, but oddly freeing to refer to myself in the singular again.

I asked some basic questions about the nature of the world in which I found myself, but mostly stayed silent, observing, as they freed other captives and fell upon the tawdry business of scavenging material possessions. I contented myself with a set of old chainmail that may, very well, have been actually been mine, and some basic traveling and survival supplies.

I proposed, then, a bargain. They would educate me about this world of "Crucible" and in exchange I would lend them my martial prowess. One among their number, a half-blooded creature oozing the power of the fae, was the only one who dared to haggle, asking that I educate her about my world. I saw no harm in teaching her of a world long dead and gone and ultimately irrelevant. An agreement was reached.

We traveled to a town called "Whitesparrow" where the peasant captives they had freed were given a chest of copper coinage to help them recover. Such altruism. Very practical in a world trying to build the essential structures of civilization. Many rulers underestimate the power of social bonds of generosity and reciprocation. Hopefully this would-be queen can make a good show of herself. Time will tell.

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TheWilliams ardhanari

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