Dec 02, 2022 12:05 PM
A VN contact team stranded in Loop Hero
Permalink

Somewhere, there is a village.

It's small and dim and ramshackle, built on hard grey ground without much to recommend it. A cluster of crude huts surrounds a small campfire, which is somehow warmer and brighter than all the lights in all the rest of the village combined. Beyond the huts, a patch of grain fields is faintly visible in one direction, and a long row of trees in another, and here or there a watchtower looms above the thatched roofs; above all that, there is only darkness, without sun or moon or star to light it.

Total: 271
Posts Per Page:
Permalink

Nelen Utopia and his team were not supposed to land here.

Not that it doesn't look like it could kind of use it, but they were aiming for somewhere else.

"- everybody okay?" he says.

"Check," says Cassiel, and "Yes," says Natsuko, and "Fine," says Zanro, and "I seem fine" says Tarwë.

"Tarwë, write it up. Nobody light anything up, I want to let our eyes adjust and avoid startling people. Stick together," Nelen says.

He gets affirmative murmurs. Tarwë writes and unlocks a status report without looking at his computer.

Permalink

 

A grubby little face, of indeterminate age and gender, peeps around a half-open door at them.

"You've all got names?" the kid says suspiciously. "Where'd you dig those up?"

Permalink

"- I'm not sure I understand the question," says Nelen.

Permalink

The kid frowns at Nelen in mutual confusion for a few seconds.

"...like, you're new here," they attempt to explain, "but you have names, and you act like you know each other, and stuff. And you look—I dunno. You look different."

It's true that the team are, collectively, much less dim than their surroundings. It's sort of subtle and hard to spot, because the light here is very low; but the five of them do seem to catch the glow of the campfire a little more firmly than even the stones that encircle it, or the dead tree a few feet away.

The kid, leaning out a little farther around their door, asks with increasing suspicion, "Are you... real?"

Permalink

"Are... a lot of people you meet not real?"

Permalink

The kid's frown deepens severely, and they pull back behind their door and shut it with a muffled thud.

Distantly, their voice can be heard yelling: "GET THE HERO, GET THE HERO! THERE'S REAL PEOPLE BY THE CAMPFIRE, WITH NAMES!"

At this, a general bustle begins to stir. For a minute or so, though, nobody shows up to confront the team directly.

Permalink

They stick close together, forming a sort of circle facing nervously outward.

Permalink

 

Before they can even hear her footsteps, the Hero's arrival is visible in the way the scenery brightens up ahead of her. She doesn't glow, but the light is brighter when it's near her. Sounds are clearer, and there are hints of scent in the world that it didn't have before. The edges of objects are sharper, crisper, less vague and dim and blurry, in a way that doesn't entirely have to do with the amount of light shining on them.

She rounds the corner and strides into view, wearing a red-orange cloak and a mask that looks like it belongs at a masquerade, blonde hair escaping the hood of the cloak in untidy strands. And she, more than anything else in this place, even more than the newcomers themselves, is real. The whole world seems somehow to orient itself around her. Realness radiates from her, and the huts and the campfire and the stones and the dead tree all bask in it.

"First things first, safety rules," she says. "Don't leave the village. Don't even walk where you can see the edge, if you can help it. Stay where you can see and hear the fire, until somebody has the time to show you around. Latrine's that way," she gestures, "if you're real enough to need it." She squints dubiously up at the team; she's a little on the short side, for a human of her age and gender. "I'm not sure the rest is going to apply, but just in case: don't put anything down for now if you ever want to pick it back up again. If there's stuff in your pockets you're keen to keep, double-check that you've got it every time you remember. Every time, not 'oh, I just looked a second ago, it's fine'. If you're not touching it and it's not in your sight, it might not be there next time you look. With me so far?"

Permalink

"I think so," says Nelen, as they all take various items out of their pockets and redistribute them more visibly. "Thank you."

Permalink

"Good. That'll do for now even if I'm called away. Now I would like you to explain how you came to be here with your names and your stuff and your memories and all."

Permalink

"We're not sure. We were trying to visit a different place, and either it reacted to our approach, or this place intercepted us somehow, or some third event occurred which diverted us. If people normally arrive here missing their names and stuff and memories I don't know what excepted us."

Permalink

"...so you came here from... somewhere else? Somewhere far enough away that this," she gestures vaguely at the sky, "hasn't happened to it yet?"

Permalink

"- yes. This, uh, happens to a lot of places?"

Permalink

"All of them that I know of, but maybe you know more than I do. I didn't have my memories when I showed up here. I just remembered... bits and pieces of reality being swallowed by the dark, and me not wanting them to. And sort of a vague smudge of a life, before that."

Permalink

"How big is the area known to be affected by the unreality?"

Permalink

"...well, it's sort of hard to tell, what with nobody remembering much. We know there's a lot that's been lost, but we don't know how much there was of it before that happened. How big is a world supposed to be? Because this one's down to," she makes an encompassing gesture, "pretty much what you see."

Permalink

"- ah.

They're supposed to be pretty big."

Permalink

"Well. Welcome to the camp," she says wryly. "...how did you come here, and in the place where you were before, was there a dark spot in the sky that shouldn't be there? I... couldn't fairly ask you to try going back, in case you land in that," she gestures upward, "and are never heard from again. But if you can somehow move through it without getting even a little bit dinged, then it's possible you could bring people here before it ever touches them..." She chews her lip thoughtfully. "Feeding and housing them all would start to be a problem fairly shortly. I'm the only one who can expand the camp, or add to our supplies. I don't know, it's just a thought."

Permalink

"There are many hundreds of worlds," says Nelen. "Most of them have many planets in them - a planet is a sphere of earth and rock and metal in various proportions, so big that you can't tell it's round when you stand on it - and most people live on planets. We're from an organization that governs a lot of peoples in a lot of worlds. We were about to contact a new one. This isn't it. We were teleporting, and if we were even near where we were supposed to be, we'd have been extracted by now."

Permalink

"...hm," she says. "So—if there are still planets, that's the word, somewhere in this world, that haven't been swallowed yet, you've never been there and wouldn't know where to find them? Is that about the size of it?"

Permalink

"Yes. It's - not impossible we could figure something out? - mostly Natsuko could figure something out."

"Augh," says Natsuko solemnly.

Permalink

The Hero blinks inquisitively at Natsuko.

Permalink

"Nelen and Cassiel and Tarwë and I all have different magic," says Natsuko, "and my kind is the kind that is most likely to be possible, with just the five of us, to turn into a way to get to any uneaten planets that might be in this world. Or adjacent ones. I don't think it's actually a good idea to do that unless Vanda Nossëo hasn't grabbed us in a few days, because my mana most likely won't recharge here - if it does that would be a lot of information about where we are all by itself, though not very useful information - and I'd have to get all of it from other people, who also won't recharge here. Not good development conditions even if I were a research wizard, which I'm not!"

Permalink

"...what's 'mana', more specifically? What magic do you all have?"

Permalink

"Mana's the energy I use to cast spells," says Natsuko. "It only regenerates when you're adjacent to a particular set of worlds and this most likely isn't one of them, and even if it is, that isn't helpful, because those worlds aren't safe to travel through. I'm a wizard - I can make buildings and heal and fly and stuff - but I shouldn't do any of it if I can avoid it, since the mana I've got is probably all there is while we're here."

"I can sing magic songs," says Tarwë. "Though they work recorded as well, and there are recordings on everyone's computers."

"I can change stuff into other stuff," Cassiel says.

"I can teleport, heal, turn people into birds, and make illusions," says Nelen.

Total: 271
Posts Per Page: