Be Careful What You Look Into...Started by Hannah Davis at 03 Feb, 2020 8:38 AM
1st Moon 10, 2020
[Seattle, WA, 2020]
Hannah stared at the chart for a long minute, something was coalescing, if only she could concentrate. The board had about a dozen photos, linked with string to an array of locations across the Seattle-Tacoma urban area. One photo was quite familiar to her. Quietly, she kissed her fingertips, then touched the photo of her fiance Scott, tacked up next to the others. Her personal ritual complete, she stepped back again and narrowed her eyes with arms crossed at the old-school display. There was a common connection here, she could feel it. If only-
Then she saw it. A building common to most, if not all, known disappearances across the city. It had been cased, much like every other location common to two or more subjects. But it stuck out, now that she had added the latest round of intel. Many more connections now accrued in or near the building. Hannah turned on her heel and grabbed her car keys, determined to find her fiance.
"Where are you going, Hannah?"
"Um," she said as she stopped in her tracks at the voice behind her. She turned around with a fake smile, "To get coffee?"
Her mentor, Detective Hudson crossed his meaty arms. He clearly didn't believe her. "You're not going off half-cocked on some insight into your investigation, are you?" It wasn't the first time, and he knew it wouldn't be the last.
"No, no, no, no, of course not, detective. Just… coffee. One cream, two sugars, right?" she pointed a finger briefly at him.
Hudson sighed deeply, "You remember my order. Yes, fine. That had better be it, Hannah, or you'll be jeopardizing your next assignment. Remember-"
"Yes, careful and deliberate," she finished his sentence, one she heard many times before. "A rushed investigation is a botched investigation. I remember, Detective." She turned back towards the door and waved a hand behind her, "Be back in a jiff with that coffee!"
[Bassilith Island, Aereth, 2020]
A sharp crack of a report made Morgyn look up from his shearing. He clicked his tongue and put the clippers aside and jogged back to his house. He found the armoire quickly; he was used to this by now. Retrieving a neatly folded cloth and a short rope he exited his house and went to where the report came from.
Hannah slowly came to, her head reeling like she had been drinking… or maybe dizzy? It was hard to tell. She groaned as she lifted herself into a kneeling position, looking around the environment she found herself in. "What the hell?" Then a cold breeze brushed her skin and she realized she was naked. "What the HELL?" She said louder, standing up and making an attempt to regain modesty with her hands. Her glancing around became a bit more frantic, looking for some sort of out - the circumstances that brought her here not making it through her mind.
"Uh, hello there," a voice tentatively called. "Don't panic now."
Hannah whirled instantly to the voice and narrowed her eyes, though she didn't see anything but a few trees. Her hand instinctively reached for her sidearm, which made her cringe as she just slapped her thigh. "Who the hell are you and what the hell did you do with my clothes?" She demanded.
"I'm Morgyn," Morgyn said plainly from behind his tree, "and that's a long story." He tossed his parcel in her general direction. "Put that on, it's one size fits most."
Hannah frowned and regarded the parcel, initially unsure. But with a lack of options available she obliged by untying the rope and unrolling the parcel, that she discovered was a sheet, or maybe a toga? Something like that. "What am I supposed to do with this?" she asked.
"Just… wrap it about yourself however you wish, and secure it with the rope belt. It's a simplistic garment, but will be adequate until we can get you proper clothes."
"My clothes were adequate," she grumped even as she fashioned the sheet into a wrap-dress. She tied the belt as suggested and found it to be… well, adequate. "Okay," she said at last, using the backs of her hands to extract her hair from under the garment and arranging it out of the way.
Morgyn came around the tree a bit sheepishly, as if he expected her to have lied. He breathed a bit, then smiled. He was of early middle age, grey just starting to color his temples and beard. His garb was very utilitarian, calling to Hannah's mind the stereotypical peasant wear at a Renaissance Faire. "Not bad. Follow me, I'm sure you have lots of questions. I can answer… well, some of them." He then turned on his heel and started walking away.
Hannah glanced the other way, wondering if she could head off on her own and find her way home. After a moment of chewing her lip she made her decision. There was no guarantee she'd find her way back to Seattle, if this was even Washington. "Wait up," she said as she jogged to catch up with Morgyn.
Hannah fidgeted in the chair, mostly due to the itchiness of the woolen "garment" Morgyn had provided. She looked around the farmhouse; a glorified hovel, random bleating drifting in from outside from time to time. It was a simple affair, built for function rather than comfort. Morgyn worked not far away, fixing some tea he had promised on the short walk over.
He appeared at the other side of the table, pressing a hot cup of tea into her hands. "You'll be hungry and thirsty after your… travel."
Hannah found he was right. From her memory she had lunch only a couple hours ago, but she was starving. Morgyn produced some bread and cheese which, along with the tea, she began to consume. At a break, she spoke through her chewing. "Can you tell me what the hell happened to me?"
"You traveled," Morgyn said, as if it explained everything. From the look on her face he could tell she needed more. "You're from Earth, right? From your accent, North America?"
She nodded, a bit perplexed. Isn't that where they were? "Seattle."
"Most travelers come to Aereth accidentally. They stumble upon a portal and end up here. Very few arrive deliberately. There's a number of portals linking worlds. Some are stable and remain in place. Others change location or come and go over time." He shrugged as if it didn't matter too much. "The nature of the portals only allows things that are alive - or were once alive - to pass through. Anything…" he waved a hand vaguely, "unnatural doesn't make it. Metals, plastics, that sort of thing."
So that's what happened to my clothes, she thought. Polyester. The modern fabric, which is basically plastic. "So… what is an Aereth?"
"Wait," she said, setting her tea down carefully. "This is another planet? How do I get back?" Her heart started accelerating in panic.
He sighed deeply, "You don't. At least, nobody's figured out how. Anyone who arrives here, stays here."
Hannah's heart instantly collapsed. Her entire life, her career, everything she's known, is - was - back in Seattle. She won't see any of that anymore. Emotions started welling and threatening to break her down in the moment. "Excuse me," she said abruptly and stood from the table, her chair howling loudly as it slid across the wood floor.
She almost left, almost ran into the woods. Maybe he was lying and she had been kidnapped and brought to some cabin deep in British Columbia. Maybe if she ran to where she woke up she'd trigger the portal again and return home. Maybe it was all a dream and she'd wake up any moment. Maybe...
But she didn't. If he was telling the truth, just running off in a random direction was suicide. Who knows who or what she'd stumble into. Instead she leaned against the door jamb leading to a small porch and watched the animals graze. It was oddly calming, and her panic began to settle and she wiped the tears from her eyes. She started to methodically calculate the facts as she would as a detective.
"I call them sheep," Morgyn said softly behind her, "since they're almost, but not quite, entirely unlike them. Close enough as makes no real difference."
She turned to him with an odd eye, "You speak as if you were from Earth. In fact, if this is another planet entirely, how is it I can understand you at all?"
Morgyn spread his hands with a wry grin, "Ah, that story is long, but the short version is this. Nearly a hundred and fifty years ago my great-great-grandfather arrived on Aereth from New York City. He had his adventures, but eventually settled down with a family. He found a location that Travelers often arrived in, and built this cabin. He had learned the local language, but kept up his English with the arriving Travelers. He functioned as a sort of welcoming committee. Providing food and lodging until they acclimated and headed out to forge their own lives. He passed on the tradition of helping new arrivals and the English language to his children, and over the generations we have learned a bit on how Earth has progressed." He chuckled briefly with a shake of his head. "I know more about Earth technology than perhaps any non-Traveler. Tell me, do people have flying cars yet, or personal cleaning robots?"
Hannah blinked a moment, instantly thinking of a cartoon from her childhood. "N- no," she stuttered a moment with the odd question, "No, cars are still on the ground, and robots aren't really a thing in that way."
"Ah. It has been almost fifteen years since the last time I met another traveler."
"Well," she said, her own grin forming, "We do have supercomputers so small they fit in your pocket that have instant access, with the swipe of a finger, to the sum total of all human knowledge. We use them to argue with strangers and look at cat pictures."
Morgyn blinked a few times, a frown forming, "You are mocking me."
Hannah laughed, the first genuine laugh since arriving. "No, sorry, that's a gross simplification. It's a cell phone, but with a couple decades of advancement."
"Ah," he said, vaguely recalling someone mentioning a cell phone years ago.
Hannah frowned as she looked off into the distance. "You haven't seen anyone in fifteen years? Yet I know of at least a dozen people who have disappeared near this portal within the last year."
"Well, like I said, some portals move in space or time. Those others probably just arrived… elsewhere."
"Oh," Hannah said, her hopes of finding Scott vanishing as soon as they had bubbled up. The following silence was broken only by occasional bleating. Eventually she asked, "So, what now?"
"Now, I will do my best to prepare you for life on Aereth. You can stay here as long as you like, I have a spare room dedicated to Travelers. Once you are ready, I have a basic pack prepared with a few coins to get you started. The rest is up to you."
"Where do I go then?"
He shrugged, "Wherever you like. But I can point you towards some of the nearest settlements."
[A few months later]
Summerhold was a medium-sized keep surrounded by farms and residences. The keep itself was an imposing structure situated on a small knoll, with the twenty-foot wooden walls enclosing the entire hilltop. The elevation made it look more impressive than it actually was, and gave the walls added defensive height. The farms and town were enclosed by a much smaller and longer palisade, ensuring any attack would be delayed long enough for the populace to evacuate to the keep. Hannah had walked through the initial gate, simply following the various traders and travelers heading for the keep. Hannah had asked someone why. Apparently the main trade faire was within the keep's walls.
Entering the keep's courtyard, Hannah's eyes scanned the place like a tourist. Everything looked like it was straight out of a Renaissance Faire, or a medieval period movie. Guards languishing at the gate, horses and carts clogging up the road, and a variety of peasantry arguing with each other over this or that. She kind of just followed the crowd, still new to this whole "medieval life" thing.
Over the past few months, she had absorbed as much knowledge from Morgyn as she could. He admittedly didn't have a lot to share; his life was spent at his farm, periodically bringing wool to sell in Summerhold, and greeting travelers like herself. Most of that time together was ensuring she had a grasp on the common language of Aereth. When she felt she was ready, she started out on her journey.
Hannah didn't come to Summerhold by chance. It was a purposeful trip, with a purpose in mind. Morgyn had offered to escort her, but she had insisted on going alone. She had to figure things out on her own eventually anyway. Morgyn had given her a few items to start, but it was extremely basic. She needed to find her own style, and her own identity. She needed to find where she belonged in this new world.
Her ears perked at the sounds of haggling, they were approaching the market square. An array of awning-covered stalls offered every conceivable option. From fruits and vegetables to tools and carts. Nearly everything could be found for sale. Hannah peeled off of the caravan and eyed one of the stalls. It had an assortment of dried meats and cheeses, and the smells were intoxicating.
"Please, try one of our smoked hares!"
Hannah eyed the man briefly but held up a hand, "Sorry, not hungry," she said and hurried off to the next stall. It was a common occurrence; each stall's trader offered their wares, some more insistent than others.
But she did end up finding what she was looking for. Proper clothes that she liked, and were relatively comfortable. She purchased a maroon velvet dress and a black leather jerkin to go over it. Additional outfits were purchased for spares. With Morgyn's suggestions in her mind, she also acquired some traveling supplies. A proper backpack, trail rations, and other supplies. Then, there was the most important question. What weapon would she select?
The weaponsmith had quite a few options for sale. Most of which were some kind of blade. Hannah made a face at those; she was used to her pistol. What caught her eye were the ranged weapons. Crossbows and longbows, among other more exotic options. She lifted a longbow that caught her eye and tested the weight of the pull.
"Ah, a nice selection, miss. Carved by Aelfyn of the High Kingdoms."
Hannah looked at him with a side-eye. She knew a sales pitch when she heard one. "Uh huh." What little Morgyn told her of the Aelfyn made this man's claim a touch implausible. Plus, the detailing wasn't that impressive. Still, she did like it. "What are you asking?"
"For this fine specimen? No less than eighty crowns."
Hannah nearly choked. But she kept it cool, "You're joking. This isn't worth more than thirty." She had no idea what it was really worth, but she knew how to haggle. Her father ensured that when he helped her buy her first car.
The merchant scoffed, but she could see the grin behind it. She was a sale, it was just a matter of reaching terms. "You are certainly a woman of refined taste. Surely you can see the craftsmanship here. I must ask for seventy."
It went back and forth for a short time, and Hannah did end up purchasing the bow for sixty crowns. She still had no idea if that was a good or bad deal. She'd find that out when she went to use the thing.
That was something else, she considered as she shouldered her new acquisitions. She'd need archery lessons...