Smoke billows across the sky, covering the treetops and the once clear sky in murky grey. Yangcha coughs against the burning in his throat and the pain in his chest, his eyes blurring from the tears that try to combat the sting. He walks past dozens of fallen bodies. Angry, red blisters cover their bodies and their stiff faces are frozen in fear, their glassy eyes unseeing. His chest aches for a reason other than the smoke as he forces himself to move past them, to not look for familiar faces.
Tanya. Where is Tanya? He thinks as he makes it to the boundary of their village, the wood turned to a pile of smoky grey ash.
Someone darts past him, screaming and sobbing, stumbling over themselves as they try to run. Yangcha closes his eyes tightly against the horrid sound. When he opens them again the person is gone. He says a quick prayer for their safety.
Yangcha takes another step and suddenly his body feels a lot lighter. He looks down at the ground quickly to make sure there’s nothing he can trip over and when he looks up again the smoke is gone. His lungs clear and his throat soothes. He’s no longer looking at small, smoking houses, some entirely destroyed while others cling on for dear life. Now he’s looking at… well, nothing.
The sky is dark and covered with stars but he sees no moon. The ground is barren and appears to be covered in a thin layer of fog. He looks around, trying to figure out where he is, but all he sees is the same thing for miles all around him.
“Tch. You mortals, such fickle little things you are.”
Yangcha spins around at the sudden voice. A lilted voice that somehow manages to sound gentle and hostile at the same time.
Where there was nothing but fog before now stood a lean woman. She wore flowing robes of dark purple that seemed to flutter in a wind that Yangcha could not feel. Her hair fell in a sheet of silken silver down her back and over her shoulders. Her skin was darker than anyone’s he’s seen before and she watched him with icy blue eyes. She might have been the most beautiful person he’d ever seen were there not something malicious in her clear gaze.
“Who are you?” Yangcha asks her, his hand straying to the weapon that hands from his waist only to find it’s no longer there.
The woman watches him with an amused smile. “Poor thing. Your two realities are beginning to blend together, you must be awfully confused.” She lets out a small laugh but there’s nothing kind in the action.
Yangcha studies her, his body stiff with a warrior’s stillness. He didn’t need a weapon to take down this woman. He could fell men twice her size with nothing but his bare hands.
As if reading his thoughts, the woman makes a tutting sound again. “I wouldn’t waste your time, mortal. But, if it eases your restless thoughts, if I wanted to kill you, I would have done it long ago.”
“Is this a dream?”
The woman laughs again. “Hmm, well, I suppose you could call it that. Although, it’s not quite accurate.”
“If this isn’t a dream, what is this? Who are you?”
“Mortal, you ask all the wrong questions. Although I won’t hold it against you. You mortals are always the same. But, I will answer you nonetheless.” The woman moves forward with fluid grace, almost like water flowing over a smooth rock. Yangcha tenses but she stops a few feet away from him, taking a seat on a large rock he had not seen there before. The woman gestures around them, “this is what we call Lino.
“It is an infinite space that exists between the worlds. Mortals cannot be brought here of their own free will because they lack the skill, which means something else has brought you here today. I believe it’s not the first time you’ve been brought into Lino, though.”
Yangcha remembers the last dream he had, of running free in a world of green. “The dream I had before. Was that because I was brought into this place?”
The woman cocks her head as if in thought. “I’m not sure, but I’d imagine you would have to pass through here to get to where you went.”
This just keeps confusing him more. “Where I went? Where did I go?”
The woman lets out an annoyed sigh. “As I said, this is a place that exists between worlds. If you crossed through here it obviously means you went to another world. Probably one where a different version of you already exists otherwise it would’ve been awfully complicated for whoever seems set on dragging you through here.”
“Who brought me here?” Yangcha got the sense that his questions were irritating the woman, but he was too confused to care. None of this made any sense to him.
“Are you even listening to me, mortal? I do not know. All I know is that you passed through here when no mortal should be able to.”
Yangcha shakes his head as dizziness creeps in, a dull throbbing pain threading itself through his temples. “This doesn’t make sense,” he mutters to himself, clutching his head in his hands. He feels the strange woman watching him and his every instinct is telling him not to take his eyes off of the woman but he just can’t force himself to look up.
“Well, I suppose this is goodbye for now, mortal. Your consciousness appears to be pulling you back to your body.” The woman stands and Yangcha peers up at her. She smiles down at him, a horribly wicked thing that seems so out of place on her face. “Farewell.”
She shakes her hand in a sharp wave before she blurs and fades completely. Yangcha would’ve moved to investigate her sudden disappearance further had a wave of nausea not hit him before everything goes black.