This is Not Kansas, Is It?
The Thinning Veil
Location: Stormholm Caer, Harkania March, Cymeria
Timeline: October 3550
While Richard had slept, he had not slept peacefully. He tossed in his sleep, his expressions contorted by nightmares and occasionally mumbling or even crying out in his sleep. When at last he woke the sunlight was slanting through the window as dusk was just a few hours away. Looking around him he saw that the younger of the two women was still there. Forcing himself he managed to sit up, though he grimaced in pain. It was not as bad as it had been though, and he determined not to ask for more pain killers since he wanted to keep his wits. Smiling at the young woman he spoke. "Laryn, isn’t it?” he asked, doing his best to pronounce the unfamiliar name. “I’m Richard. I guess you're here to keep me out of trouble?” he asked with a slightly mischievous look.
Over the few hours that had passed since the Seneschal had taken her leave and left her to watch over the unknown young man, Laryn had kept watch. She had taken to a chair with a book to occupy herself during her vigil. She had also taken care to keep quiet while he slept, trying not to wake him. His body needed rest after his encounter with the wyvern.
She looked up from her book when he woke and sat up. “Yes, I’m Laryn and you need to lay back down.” She informed him. “And yes, I’ve been tasked with watching over you for the time being.”
“I’m feeling much better.” Was Richard’s rather feeble protest at being told to lay back down. While it was technically true, he still was far from feeling well. Taking an extra moment he studied the young woman sitting there, a slight smile playing on his lips before slumping back down in the bed. “I’m not really in much shape to cause trouble, but I think your company will be more enjoyable than that doctor.”
“I am no healer.” Laryn stated as she looked over at the young man. “And Healer Macreada is the most accomplished and skilled of our physicians. You could be in no better hands than his.”
Staring up at the ceiling, Richard's expression became far more serious. “So is it true? What the… the… Seneschal?... said. I was pulled here by some… ancient… magic… thing?” his tone, particularly when he said the word ‘magic’ was one of deep skepticism. “I didn’t think magic existed. Then again I didn't believe in dragons, tiny or otherwise and one of them friggin bit me.” Sighing and shaking his head he looked back at Laryn. “Do these sorts of things happen a lot around here? People getting pulled in from other worlds and attacked by dragons?”
“I believe that what she spoke is true.” Laryn replied, leaning forward and setting her book on the arm of the chair. She did not miss the disbelief that laced his voice over magic and tiny dragons, or wyverns as they were truly known as.
She could not resist a soft chuckle at his questions. “Wyvern attacks are common enough and you are quite fortunate that you were not harmed worse. If left to its prey, a wyvern will often kill and eat it.” She shook her head in response to the other part of his question. “Travelers like yourself are rare, so rare that I have never actually met another.” She explained. “Most here believe that Travelers are nothing but myth, but that is clearly not the case.”
Richard continued to study the ceiling as if the solution to his problem were engraved there. “What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.” he muttered shaking his head slightly. “Or leaves you bedridden, one of the two.”
Turning to look at the young woman his expression was grave. “I’m guessing, since almost no one has ever seen a… traveler?... that you don’t know how I get home from here?” Huffing slightly he shook his head. “Here… I don’t even know where here is… I mean I saw the map but… this country is Cymeria right? What is it like here?” Though the question was vague, the answer he thought might prove informative.
There was a shake of dark hair. “I’m sorry, Richard, but the portals only work one way. They can only bring a person here. There is no way to return to from where you came.” Her tone was gentle, sympathetic. “Yes, Cymeria is correct.” She told him, glad that he retained some of what her sister had told him earlier, even through the haze of the sedative tea. “I’m afraid that I’m not quite sure how to answer that, if you were more specific maybe?”
Richard gave her a skeptical look, trying not to be distracted by the way her hair moved around her face. Just a moment ago she had been telling him that she had thought travelers were just a myth, now suddenly she was an expert on whatever weirdness caused them to be here. Shaking his head he sat up and frowned at her. “I can’t just accept that. I have a duty to try to rejoin my unit. There must be something that can be tried. I’m not going to just give up.”
Slumping back into bed he tried to think of questions. “So Cymeria is what? A kingdom or an empire or something?” He asked with a shrug. “Do you have people that actually use this… magic… or is it just something that sort of existed in ancient times or something?”
“I’m sorry Richard,” Again, Laryn was quite sympathetic, her words sincere. “But according to the stories and all I’ve personally read, there is truly no way to return to your former home. You will have to accept that as truth but in time.” The Traveler would have to come into things on his own, no one could or at least had the right to force such a change unto his own mind.
“Cymeria is our country and the province is Harkania March.” She explained. “The Arcane, or what you would call magic, has been around since the beginning of time. There are some that are able to actually wield the power that lies within them but it requires intense training.”
Richard shook his head again. She seemed to be certain that there was no way home and sincere in her sympathies for his predicament. That was comforting, at least a little bit. Still, he wasn’t ready to give up just yet. Just because she was sure didn’t mean she was right. For now though he decided to let the matter drop. He had a policy not to argue with beautiful women and since his argument was nothing more than an unwillingness to believe her, no good could come of it.
He was also not sure how much useful information about Cymeria he was going to be able to get from Laryn. Not because she seemed to be unwilling to provide it, but as Richard was beginning to realize, there was a big gulf between the way he understood things and she did. And honestly just getting to know her a bit might prove a useful introduction to Cymeria as a whole. Trying to put on a friendly smile he looked over at her. “So do you practice the… arcane? From the way your dressed I’d guess you’re a soldier of some kind?”
It must have been so hard, being ripped from his home with no idea where he was or how he had really gotten there. Laryn couldn’t imagine being taken from Cymeria, but she did know she’d be just as confused and distraught over losing the country she loved.
She returned his smile, nodding slightly. “While I am a member of the Guard, I prefer not to fight unless forced. I’m a Courier however, a messenger if you will. I’m currently assigned to the High Lord’s house.” Laryn made no mention that the High Lord was her own brother as, to her at least, it mattered little. Mikhael had her respect and loyalty even without being her blood. “But make no mistake, I can, and will, defend myself and others should the need arise..”
“Courier…” Richard repeated slowly. While he understood the word and the concept, he found it a bit strange. He was so used to a world of radios, phones, and emails that the idea of having to run military messages pony-express style seemed almost bizarre. He tried to imagine coordinating an army without the advantages of instant communication and the logistical nightmare that presented to him was massive. “I don’t doubt that you would, it must be a dangerous job.” Richard said, his tone making it clear that he meant that. “I would guess you have to be pretty good at it to work for the high lord. So you deliver messages on horseback…? I’ve never ridden a horse.” he commented somewhat idly. “We saw some up close at Fort Polk once. They run wild there, not scared of people in the slightest. Heh… Private Johnson got his hand bit when he tried to feed one potato chips…” Richard couldn’t help but smile at the memory.
“It can be dangerous, but that can be said of any job.” Laryn replied. “I have been fortunate as of late and have not come across any troubles during my travels.” She tucked a strand of hair that had come loose of its braid back behind her ear. “If the message or parcel is intended for someone within the Keep, I walk, or run depending on the urgency.” She explained. “You’ve never ridden a horse? How do your people travel long distances?” She asked, tilting her head slightly to the side curiously. “And potato chips? What are those?”
Richard stared at Laryn for a moment when she asked him what potato chips were. After a moment he chuckled. “Potato chips are only the best snack food ever. You take potatoes and slice them very thin, then fry them in oil until they’re nice and crispy. Add a dash of salt and boom, best snack ever.” He said with a laugh. Though the laughter made him wince as he moved his shoulder the wrong way. “Ow… Stupid baby dragons…”
Pausing he looked at Laryn as he tried to sort out how to answer the more important of her questions. If he had to explain potato chips how was he supposed to explain cars or even airplanes. “Horses haven’t been a major mode of transportation for over a hundred years… not since they invented motor vehicles. Motor vehicles, cars, trucks and so on they’re… well imagine a wagon… but instead of horses they have a machine inside that burns fuel to make the wheels turn. Though for longer distances we fly.” though on seeing the look on her face he smiled slightly. “Not on our own we have airplanes… they’re like large mechanical birds… I guess…”
Shrugging he looked back at her. “I’m guessing though none of that does me any good here. Is it hard to ride a horse?”
“Oh, alright.” Laryn replied after Richard had explained what potato chips were. She supposed there were a lot of things about his former home that would seem odd to her, just as there were many things that would seem strange to the Traveler. She tilted her head curiously when he went on to explain modes of travel on his world. Flying on large mechanical birds? How bizarre! The tilt became a shake of her head. “No, I am afraid it probably does not, and no, learning to ride shouldn’t be too difficult at least for most people. As long as you treat the horse with respect, they will offer the same to you.”
“Maybe I can teach your cook to make some.” Richard replied with smile. “Potato chips, not flying machines.” he said and chuckled. “I will keep, that in mind about the horses. Maybe you could teach me to ride? Since you’re one of the best riders here from what I gather.” He said with a friendly smile. “That is if you don’t mind and aren’t too busy?”
The thought of anyone trying to teach Cook anything in her own kitchen was amusing, and Laryn laughed quickly, shaking her head gently. “Cook is in charge of the kitchens, but you never know. She might be willing to be taught. I must warn you however, she is quite renowned for her cooking.” She smiled a little, the corners of her mouth curling upward. “I might be able to take that on, time permitting of course.” Teaching Richard would not be a problem for Laryn, she loved to ride herself and knowing how to properly ride was a necessity here.
“I would like that.” Richard replied with a smile that soon turned to a grimace as he shifted and aggravated his wounds. “Just as soon as I feel a bit better.” He added with a note of annoyance. Leaning back he closed his eyes for a long moment as he fought the pain. Opening his eyes again he managed a smile as he looked at Laryn. “Thank you for staying with me. It's nice to see a friendly face.”
While he would have liked to talk more, he was tired and the pain was getting bad again. “Can I get some more of that tea?” he asked wearily “The pain is getting bad again.”
“It may be a few days before you begin to feel completely healed and are released from Kiernan’s care.” Laryn told him. “There is no rush on learning to ride. The more important thing is for you to heal properly.” She smiled, giving him a nod. His gratitude regarding her staying to keep him company was nice, however, she’d been ordered to watch him for the time being.
“I will have one of the healing attendants prepare another dosing for you. It is not something I know how to do myself.” With her reply, Laryn stood. “I will return in a moment.” She stated as she walked to the door and disappeared through it, though she kept it open a crack so that she could hear any movement within the room should Richard leave his bed.
Richard waited and after some time one of the younger medics came in carrying a steaming cup of the Mersha tea. Taking the cup a bit unsteadily he drank slowly from it, enjoying the calming effects. Looking groggily at Laryn he smiled. “This stuff makes me really sleepy, but I hope we’ll talk again.” Taking another long drink he drained the cup and set it aside. He closed his eyes as the effects of the sedative really started to kick in. “It’s always nice to have the company of a beautiful lady.” he added softly before dropping off to sleep.
Laryn had retaken her seat and picked up her book once more. She looked over at Richard when he spoke, the effects of the tea quite prevalent in his voice. “Rest.” She said, giving him a light smile and when his eyes slipped closed, she returned to her book.