First Strike Gaming Society
The Chaos Lands
Kat-Ri found herself to be in a realm of shadow and gray mist, a formless land that changed shape as soon as something appeared. Everything was confusion, disorder, chaos. The last thing that she remembered was traveling with her friends, and then she suddenly was here. This was not the land of the Lady, and it was not the land of the living, of that she was sure. This was the Chaos lands, something that she had heard only whispers of. This was where everyone and everything started, and where they would eventually end up. Supposedly once someone ended up here they were never seen again, simply melding back into the uncertainty that was everything. But no one had ever returned, so who was to say? She and her friends might be the first. She needed to find the rest of her companions, so that they could continue toward their goals. One way being as good as another, she simply started walking in the direction that she was facing, hoping for some signpost that would give her an idea of where she was.
Kat-Ri had been walking for a good long time before she suddenly found herself to be in a city. But it was a strange city, a city that was wrong. It was night where she was, and the buildings had signs that glowed with an unnatural light, blazing forth from no source that she could see. A mage might have created something similar, but what mage would be able to make so much light? The buildings were far too tall, crafted out of brick and stone. Some of them stretched high into the sky, far above the light cast by the signs. Metal carriages rushed by, moving without being pulled by horses or any other beast. The people were as odd looking as the city, walking by in outfits that ranged from ragged soft fabrics to what looked like shiny leather. She saw some people that she thought might be Shadar-kai, covered with piercing and tattoos, but they didn’t have the look of people that hailed from the land of the Lady. She stayed where she was, sheltered in the darkness of an alley between two buildings. Suddenly there was a sound behind her. She spun, seeing nothing. The sound came again, from above her this time. She looked up, to see a young woman sitting on a metal walkway that was suspended from the side of the building. The woman was dressed in blue leggings, and a formfitting top, with a leather looking jacket that looked as though it had be cut and clawed sometime in the recent past. She had long lavender hair that was pulled back into a braid. She leaned forward with seeming no fear that she might fall, perfectly at balance.
“Are you Lost?”
“I have no idea where I am, so yes, I most definitely am lost.”
The woman shook her head, frowning slightly, and kicking one leg back and forth idly.
“Not lost, as in confused about your location. Are you one of the Lost?”
Kat-Ri’s head started to ache slightly.
“There is a difference?”
The woman leaned forward suddenly, falling forward and making no effort to catch herself. She flipped in midair, suddenly hanging by her arms from the bottom of the metal walkway. She hung there motionless for a moment, then let go and flipped again before she hit the ground. She flicked her braid back over her shoulder as she walked toward Kat-Ri with an easy grace. She looked her up and down for a moment before she offered her hand along with a wry grin.
“The name’s Kat. You might not be one of the Lost, but you sure aren’t from around here, are you.”
“My name is Kat-Ri. And I am not from around here, as you say. Why do you keep asking if I am lost?”
Kat shook her head. “Wrong emphasis. The Lost is a group, those who were taking by the Fey lords and changed.”
“You appear to be normal.”
“That’s rich coming from you. And I only look this way because of the mask. If you were Lost, or we were in the Hedge, then you would see what I really look like. Let’s go this way. I can at least show you around some.”
Kat lead the way toward the back of the alley, not bothering to look back to see if Kat-Ri followed. But what choice did she have? At least this person seemed to be friendly enough. As they walked, Kat suddenly started juggling, pulling balls from nowhere to form into a graceful blur that she wove around skillfully. As they walked they shared the story of what had brought them to this place, and the companions that they traveled with. Finally Kat shook her head.
“ The Chaos Lands? That’s a story, a myth. We would know if we ended up there. But the rest of it? I got to tell you, I’ve never heard of most of that stuff, outside of the fantasy that some of the norms come up with.” Seeming to be bored with the balls that she was juggling, she started replacing them with knives one at a time, once again pulling them from nowhere.
“Maybe we can find someone in the Hedge that can help you.”
“Yeah, its kinda the buffer between the Fey and the world of the norms. You look like you can take care of yourself, which is good, ‘cause the Hedge isn’t kind to the helpless.” She reached out and knocked on a door that they were passing. Kat-Ri shook her head, once again confused.
“This Hedge is in a building?”
“Nope, the entrance is just where we need it to be.”
She opened the door, and stepped through into a densely forested area. Kat-Ri looked back down the alley. One side of the door, a grimly garish city, on the other side, a nearly impenetrable forest. One more thing to add to the list of the seemingly impossible. By the time she got back, not even the bards would listen to her. She shook her head and followed her guide. They had been walking along a path for a while when an explosive shock blew the leaves from the trees around them. Kat staggered for a moment then sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose.
“That bloody hide-behind again.” She shook her head and groaned, then started down a new branch of the path that they were on. Kat-Ri hurried to keep up.
“What was that?”
“That was a headache, I mean a friend of mine. He keeps trying to kill this imaginary thing that he calls a hide-behind.”
“If it is imaginary, then he can’t kill it, right?”
“Hasn’t stopped him yet.”
They came upon a clearing that contained a large man who looked rather like a wolf, holding a very large gun. He laughed madly, then spun toward them and fired his gun once more. Kat-Ri dove to the side and everything seemed to slow down. She could see Kat running up the trunk of a tree before climbing higher into the branches. She could see the bullet that the wolf man had fired. She could see a small stone that Kat flung at the wolf man, hitting him squarely in the head. All of this she saw in a moment before the gray formless fog replaced everything that she could see. Formless or not, the ground still hurt when one hit it. Kat-Ri simply lay there for a moment as she considered what had happened. She wasn’t sure if the people that she had met were a part of the Chaos lands or not. Still, she needed to keep going. Once again she picked a direction and started walking.
She had been walking for a time when she saw a group of people appear out of the mist before her. They seemed to be dressed as the people that had been in Kat’s world, and they also looked as if they had been through a fight. There were four young men, two young women, and an older man that was being carried over the shoulder of one of the young men. They passed Kat-Ri without seeming to see her, walking as if they had somewhere to get too. Before they were swallowed up in the mist, a bit of conversation drifted back.
“How’s he doing?”
“Well, he’s still holding on to his sword, so . . . “
After that things got even more confusing. There was a large man who looked like he might be part dromite, accompanied by a small girl who appeared to be disguised as a rabbit, only pink. They were standing in the midst of rubble, arguing about whether or not she needed something called a ‘morality chip.’ She said that she had more fun without it. He said that was part of the problem.
A masked man dressed all in black with a curved piece of wood in his belt and riding a metal . . . something, went past. A hoard of goblins ran past her screaming in fear, chased by another who was waving a towel, yelling something about “Touch it and die.” She wondered how that worked and how he was able to touch it and not die. Another goblin ran after them all, waving what appeared to be a block of soap with a rope embedded in it. She decided that she really didn’t want to know.
A rent appeared in the landscape before her, and two humans fell through it, fighting and grappling. The younger one punched the older one a few times before knocking him out. The young man stood up looking down at his foe, kicked him once in the ribs, and then stalked off, muttering something along the lines of, “She is never going to believe this.”
More and more people, some of them alive, some clearly dead and yet walking around, people that looked like she should know them, some of them who looked like they hailed from ages past, and some that looked like nothing that she had ever seen. Kat-Ri felt a moment of despair. With all of these warriors and travelers if they could not find a way out, how could she expect too? Then suddenly out of the Chaos swooped a raven, circling around her before flapping off into the mist. Surely this was a sign from the Lady! She ran after the bird, not even paying attention to the ground, stumbling and almost falling in her haste. Suddenly there was a light in the clouds before her.
Was this the way home?