The Proverbial Tavern – Prologue

Worlds Collide is an eclectic shop that sells things like fantasy novels, many-sided dice, model spaceships, and other cool nerd loot. It also houses special gaming rooms, each decorated with a different theme, where friends can meet and play the games they love.

Turns out it’s also located at a weak point in the fabric of the universe, and people occasionally tumble through.

Who knew?

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The moon filtered delicately through the verdant new leaves of the massive trees, silvering the stately forest giants and dappling the ground. The fresh, wholesome breeze danced playfully through the grass, celebrating the full blush of true spring. The nearby brook bubbled joyfully in agreement, freed of her veil of ice and rushing to embrace the handsome waterfall that awaited her downstream.

And all of it was utterly wasted on the only person still awake beside the dying campfire.

The mage huddled on the ground, shivering in her robes, tears etching a path through the dried sweat and grime on her face. The standard bedroll, which had weighed at least 500 pounds on her back all day, now proved to be too light to actually keep her warm or prevent invisible sticks and rocks from poking into her side. She’d had what (barely) passed for food and water, though not in quantity or quality enough for comfort. After hiking for hours, she itched from a dozen bug bites and shallow scratches, and if she still owned a toothbrush, she certainly couldn’t locate it. Her clothing, which had seemed so beautiful that morning, was covered in mud, snagged in a dozen places, and…best not to speak about the hem in the back, which had fallen victim to her ineptitude at peeing in the bushes.

In short, Raven the Mage was cold, tired, sore, hungry, thirsty, and filthy. But physical discomfort was the least of her concerns, even considering the weird feeling of her changed body…though it was definitely disconcerting to look at her own hands and find them covered in deep burgundy skin. Every movement enhanced the feel of wrongness, with the sensation of lithe muscles in places she didn’t have (and a lot less padding over them), to say nothing of the pointed tail and the delicate horns curling back from her temples, both of which kept either poking her or getting caught on things.

None of that helped matters, of course. But the real source of her misery was that she didn’t know how to get home…or if it was even possible.

It’s not that she was lost. On the contrary, she knew quite well where she was…assuming she wasn’t crazy (a question on which the jury was still out). And she knew where home was, obviously. But yesterday, if someone had asked her how to reach this forest, she would have said with total confidence, “You can’t get there from here.”

In point of fact, you couldn’t get here from anywhere, because here did not exist.

Except here they were.

She had no idea how they’d been transported. One minute she’d been proudly unveiling the newest feature of her gaming store…and the next, she was stranded in this godforsaken slice of nowhere, having either a really impressive hallucination or a really lousy adventure.

Her throat and chest squeezed painfully when she thought about her husband getting back home and searching frantically for her, in a world she no longer inhabited.

Shaking off her tears, she sternly ordered her emotions under control. It was not hopeless. She had to find a way to get back to him. She would find a way to get back to him.

And, as an added bonus, back to indoor plumbing.

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Next Chapter (The Proverbial Tavern – Chapter One: Flavor Text)

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