It took her a long time to clean up all the broken wood. It was just as well she needed fuel for the fire in the kitchen, but it was still a pain to pick up all the splinters. Especially when one got stuck in her hands. But she’d done it, and now it is late.
The night is cool. In her inn, Erin Solstice sleeps.
It’s been a rough day. She dreams about disappearing skeletons and obnoxious mages. She dreams about dragons that breathe fire and Goblins, and about giant lizards eating pasta. She sleeps.
However, countless miles away something else is happening.
It is at the brink of dawn in this part of the world. Still, many remain awake. They have not slept for hours. And some remain standing despite their exhaustion. Their places are set. Their energies are necessary for the countless glowing diagrams burning bright on the floor.
The onlookers wait in silence as the man in the center continues to chant. His voice is wavering; cracked from the strain of talking for so long. But his faltering words are imbued with a deeper echo that speaks of magic and power beyond mortality. He is exhausted, but his task is nearly done.
The spell is completed.
It’s not a clap of thunder. It’s not the boom of space time being rent. Rather, it is a whisper. And in the same way, light does not flash, but an invisible breeze blows and they are suddenly there.
Young men and women. They appear in mid-motion, some sitting, some lying down. Many more appear mid-step or looking up from their smartphones in bewilderment. And as bewilderment fades, surprise remains.
“Where am I?”
Some of the summoned humans cry out in fear. Others try to run in their panic, but find their legs won’t cooperate with them. A few stare around the room, noting the magic runes by their feet, the robed men and mages clustered together, and the watching aristocracy. They observe in silence.
The leader in robes raised his arms and fell upon his knees. He raised his tear-stained face to the heavens as he cried out.
“The Great Heroes of Prophecy are here! We are saved!”
The other robed men around him raise their voices in cries of relief as the mages sag, exhausted, to the floor. Meanwhile the nobility murmur and regard the summoned with calculating eyes.
The humans draw together in fear. But there is no escape for them, and no threat towards them. For now, anyways. They are confused, chosen, summoned, trapped. And they are not the only ones.
The night is old, and dawn is only an hour away. The countryside is full of chirping crickets, owls, the sounds of insects buzzing, and so on. Or at least, on a normal night it would be. Right now all is silent. Unnaturally silent.
An old man stands outside his home, sword drawn. The night is dark, and by all rights he should be in his home enjoying his dinner. But he’s heard something outside, and he’s gone to investigate. This far out in the countryside he can’t rely on militia patrols to keep him safe.
If it’s a monster of course he’ll run. On the other hand, if it’s a lone Goblin or a sneak thief trying to steal from him he’ll run them off. The old man’s levels in the [Swordsman] class aren’t high, but he’s more than strong enough to defend himself. Still, he’s no fool. If there’s any real danger he’ll hide in his sturdy home and report it to the adventurer’s guild the next day.
He calls into the night and hopes for no reply. But he can sense it…them. Something is standing just out of his sight. His hand is tight on his sword.
And slowly, they approach.
Children. That’s the first thing the old man thinks. They are children.
But then, he is old. They are young, true, but still grown. Still, he cannot help but think they are children because of how they look. Lost, afraid, and terribly alone despite their numbers.
Still, they are human and clearly no threat, so he relaxes and calls out to them.
“Oh, are you young’uns lost? Come in, come in. The weather’s far too terrible to be out at a time like this.”
The old man sheathes his sword and opens his door invitingly. But none of the children move. They just stare at him. And slowly, he realizes something is wrong as well.
Their clothes are strange. In all his years the old man has never seen such odd attire. But more than that, they seem…different. He regrets sheathing his sword. Are they some unnatural creatures masquerading as humans? But no, they are human. He senses that instinctively. But why don’t they move?
Their expressions are so terrified the old man knows something is wrong. The hair on his neck tries to stand up. Is it demons? Monsters? But they are staring at him. Is there something wrong with him?
One points a trembling finger at the old man. No; at his belt.
“Is that a sword?”
And a few, a few simply wander in carelessly.
A young woman pauses mid-step. Her hair is matted with sweat, and bound in a ponytail. An ipod is in her hand, but she pauses the blasting music and stares around. Fifteen armed men and a demon wreathed in fire stop their battle and stare back.
Two twins laugh and turn the corner. The boy tosses his smartphone up as his twin sister scolds him in case he drops it. His hand freezes. The phone shatters on the smooth marble floor of the throne room. A king looks up. Frowns. The royal guards stationed around the room draw their swords at once and charge at the bewildered duo.
A girl laughs as they drag her from her cell. She is shoved forwards, and trips into something hard and flat. She looks up and sees the adventurer staring down at her. He moves his armor-covered body and helps her up. A woman leans over the counter in the adventurer’s guild and others look around. Some are heroes, some are those who seek heroes. Her wardens are gone. She is free.
Rain falls upon the world. Just for a brief moment. A passing shower of souls. But where they land ripples spread. They are not legends, and nor do they have any special powers save for those all humans have. But they are living. They are alive. And with their arrival, the world shifts.
The night is late. Erin sleeps. She rests her head on a smooth wooden table in an inn sitting on a hill in a plain full of grass. Around her is silence. In her dreams she drools a bit and mumbles about pasta.
She is lonely. But she is no longer alone.