We all know the drill: you cast your teleport or greater teleport spell and then: poof! You appear in your destination. Only what if that isn’t exactly how it goes? What if there is a stop on the way? A stop no one wants to, no one can, talk about?
“Please exit the circle to your left,” said a bored voice.
She blinked. She had been expecting to see bustling streets and colourful garments, to have her senses bombarded with the strong smells of spices, the murmur of thousands of people speaking in a language she couldn’t understand, and the heat of a warm sun.
Instead, she was standing in a strange room. Rows and rows of seats lined this endless expanse and she seemed to be standing in some sort of circle.
“Please exit the circle to your left,” repeated the voice. “You need to take a seat.”
Lunata blinked again and cast her eyes about for an explanation, but her feet remained firmly planted. Suddenly she realized her companions weren’t at her side. Panic began to well up inside her as she contemplated how she may have flubbed the spell. She was sure she had read the scroll verbatim, and she was sure she was capable enough to manipulate such magics now, even after that slight setback last month. Gregor would never let her live this down, assuming he was okay.
There were a mix characters sitting in the chairs: assorted races, heights, clothing. All of them seemed bored, though a handful of them were looking at her, some with amusement, some with sympathy.
“You need to step out of the circle. Move to your left. Now.”
The voice had become impatient and she noticed a pair of strange beings made of light moving in her direction.
She looked around frantically and exited the circle, stepping to the left as the voice told her. The people made of light were almost on her now.
“Lunata Yarimania, step this way please,” said one voice. It was impossible to tell if it was male or female. It didn’t sound hostile, but it wasn’t friendly either.
“Where am I? What is this place?” She cast about once more, noting the seamless grey floor stretching as far as she could see. Circles, like the one she had arrived in, appeared intermittently in the endless expanse and rows of hard chairs, hundreds, perhaps thousands of them, filled the space between the circles. Many were empty, but it was hard to tell just how many were occupied.
“Newbies, am I right?” said the second being to the first.
Lunata thought for a moment it rolled its eyes, but neither being said anything else; they simple turned and began leading her off.
She glanced at an old man sitting in a chair. He had a long grey beard and he was intently reading an old looking tome while a small black bird sat upon his shoulder, staring intently at Lunata. A glass ball lay in the seat next to the old man, glowing with the small pale white light of the stars decorating the man’s deep blue robes.
Everyone here seemed to be sitting alone and almost no one was speaking to anyone else. The silence was broken by the occasional zing of an electrical surge or a cough.
“My friends, where are they?” she tried again, hurriedly following the creatures made of light.
The first being, she thought it was the first one, heaved a sigh.
“In your hands.”
For a moment Lunata thought it was some sort of metaphor. Zanthu was always going on about the bond they all shared, about how their fates were intertwined, about how there were few people he trusted to hold his life in their hands. It always made Gregor roll his eyes. Then she looked down.
She was so surprised she almost dropped the ball she was holding. It was like the one that had been sitting in the seat next to the old man, and she fumbled to hold onto the luminescent sphere.
“Careful there,” said the second figure, and she knew it was the second figure because she could hear its amusement.
Again, Lunata cast about. Most beings seemed to have a ball like this.
A dark skinned human man with tribal tattoos, simple clothing and a staff resting at his side was holding the ball casually in one hand while absentmindedly stroking the space between the eyes of a green lizard.
An elf with long blonde hair, a rapier tucked into his belt, sat spinning the ball on his finger. His clothing looked piratical and as she walked past him he looked right at her and winked.
Lunata looked down at her own glowing orb, squinting as she did so, and gasped. There they were, both of her companions in a miniature version of exactly how they looked just before they had departed the alley behind the tavern. Zanthu looked calm, as he always did. Gregor had his eyes shut and his muscles, tiny as they were just now, seemed to be tense, as if something bad were about to happen.
They walked past several more rows of seats, many of which were empty. Lunata started as a being appeared in a circle they were passing by.
A half-orc female stepped out of the circle, holding her own glowing ball in one hand. She was dressed in leather armor, not unlike Lunata. A shortsword and a hand crossbow were affixed to her belt. She nodded at Lunata and moved toward a chair, glancing up as she did so.
Lunata looked up for the first time. She wasn’t sure how she hadn’t noticed them before, but coloured lights made a map on the ceiling high above. They were almost like stars, but in various colours. She could see some yellow lights moving about while others remained in one spot. One of the yellow lights, which was right above her, was moving at the same speed as two bright white lights. A few other white lights were scattered about the ceiling star map, but they were off some distance away. Blue lights created circles that seemed, best as Lunata could tell, to correspond to the circles in the floor. There was a red area far off to the right, in the direction her guides seemed to be moving, and all of the yellow lights there were stagnant.
The yellow light and two white ones were approaching a blue circle. Lunata looked back ahead of her just in time. The figures had stopped and she just about run into them. The second figure sighed, as if he or she knew Lunata nearly ran them them down.
Lunata clutched her glowing orb and looked around as the two figures turned. The lights above circle spelled out a destination Lunata could not read. Suddenly the blue lights rearranged themselves into a new word, one she vaguely recalled as a place name Gregor had mentioned once.
“Well, here you are,” said the first figure. “Just a bit of paperwork to finalize first.”
“Paperwork?” Lunata almost stuttered.
The second figure smirked. She was sure of it.
“Yes, of course. Just sign here, and here,” the second figure presented Lunata with a hard board stacked with crisp white parchment unlike any the girl had ever seen.
She tried to make out the words, but there was a lot of complicated wording and very small print.
“It’s all quite standard,” said the first voice, as if that was reassuring.
“You won’t hold us responsible for any malfunctions in the circles, you understand precise destinations cannot be achieved, the level of safety, or lack of, at your destination is in no way our fault, and so on and so forth.” The second figure raised its eyebrows at her, as if challenging her, before handing her a strange hard tube she guessed she was meant to sign with.
“What is this place?” asked Lunata, still confused. She was juggling the board of paper and the glowing sphere, leaving her no hands to turn the pages on the board.
“The tele-port,” answered the first voice simply.
“There are others to tend to, so if you need more time, we can take you to the red zone. I don’t recommend that, mind you, some have been there for, I’m not even sure how long now.”
Lunata could tell this was a threat and whatever the red zone was with its stagnant yellow dots, she was sure she did not want to find out.
“I, uh, so this is standard teleportation process?” she asked dumbly, trying to flip the page.
“Indeed,” answered the first voice.
A kind-eyed halfing woman dressed in a plethora of skirts smiled warmly at Lunata. She was sitting in one of the chairs, waiting patiently by the circle Lunata had just arrived at, her own glowing orb set upon her lap with one hand gently cradling it. She nodded encouragingly at Lunata, who took a deep breath, and signed.
“Excellent. Then there, and there,” the second figure said gesturing at two additional lines on other pages. “And we’re all set.”
He snatched the board back from her and it seemed to disappear the moment it was back in his hands.
“Watch for your destination and then step into the circle,” said the first figure, turning to leave.
She glanced once more at the changing letters. She’d been there before, it wasn’t a week’s travel from her hometown.
The letters changed once more, denoting a place Lunata had never heard of and someone stepped into the circle. She wasn’t even sure where he’d come from, but suddenly he was gone.
“Don’t miss it,” said the second. “Who knows how long you’ll wait if you do.”
She glanced back hurridely at the lights by the circle which were changing once again and then, not taking her eyes off of them, for they seemed to change on a whim, she backed into a nearby chair, not far from the halfling.
“Don’t worry,” said the halfling cheerfully, “you’ll have the hang of it before you know it.”
“So, you do this all the time?” asked Lunata dumbly, still confused by what was happening.
“Oh sure, it’s how it’s done!”
“But I’ve never heard of it.”
“You wouldn’t have,” answered the halfling cheerfully.
“I can’t wait to tell the others,” Lanata said, partly to the halfling and partly to herself. She looked down at the orb she cradled in her own hands, the glass ball that contatined her friends and companions.
“Oh, you can’t do that,” said the halfling, rising. “You’ll see. Well, this is me. Take care and good luck!”
Lunata frowned as she watched the halfling in the skirts carry her orb into the circle and disappear. The writing around the circle shifted again then and it was her own destination she saw.
She jumped up, clutching the ball in a death grip as she scurried toward the circle.
What did the halfling mean she couldn’t tell the others? How could she not?
There was a brief flash of light as she entered the circle and suddenly she was standing on a cobbled street, the warm sun beating down on her. Her nostrils were bombarded by the smell of sweat and spices and cooking meat. Her companions were beside her.
“Great job, Lunata,” said Gregor clapping her on the back. “Knew you could do it.”
There was something she wanted to say to him, to both of them, but she couldn’t remember exactly what it was. She was trying to put her finger on it but the more she thought about it, the further away whatever it was became.
”You think you can get us back when we are done here, Lunata?” asked Gregor. “Assuming we find you another scroll anyway?”
She nodded, absentmindedly.
“I think so.”
”Let’s do this then,” he said, fingering the large blade at his waist.