Worlds Apart – Chapter 1

When I was whisked away, it had been another ordinary day. Gray sky, college classes, not seeing anyone outside of classes or the Wendy’s I got my dinner from. It was so routine that I could only guess what day, or week, it could have been from the last lecture I remembered.

It was likely a Wednesday. I was the girl that prided herself as ‘one of the guys,’ but it was clear the guys in my group had all gone to another Discord server without me. I could say they were my group, but it was more like they made their own group and I tried to follow. Years ago, they were happy to include me in their adventures and welcomed me warmly when I joined their server calls.

Now? Well… yeah.

I never cried. I pitied myself, all to hell, but I never cried. Emma Howell doesn’t cry. She just… she just. 

The whisking away wasn’t sudden. One moment I was doomscrolling on my phone, preparing for bed. The next, I was asleep. I dreamed. I never dream, and when I do, it’s always simple, like one action. 

Falling. I was falling. Looking back on it, it was such a cliche, but I felt like I was falling forever, except… I didn’t wake up when I landed. I just landed, and felt… alone. Like I did in real life, I guess. Except in the dream, I was alone because nothing was around. In real life, I was alone despite all of the people around me. The dream actually felt more comforting.

Maybe I dreamed the falling while I actually was. Maybe my brain was just trying to rationalize what had happened to me. Maybe it was all a coincidence. The point was… I definitely wished to be thrown into another world, to some extent. Like we all do, from time to time. But I never imagined I’d be the one lucky enough to actually fall out of my own world. 

Of course, it didn’t feel like luck. My first thought when I opened my eyes was that I had been kidnapped. As soon as I saw trees and rocks when I should have seen my bedroom, I got up and started breathing heavily.

“Hey!” I called out, realizing afterwards that I shouldn’t do that. I didn’t sleepwalk or anything, my brain told me – I was brought out here. And worse…

My hands flew to my sides. No one sleeps with their phone in their pajama pocket. I was brought out here without my phone. And annoyingly, I couldn’t figure out where I was.

I lived in a pretty packed city, so my first guess was a public park or something. There were trees all around, but it wasn’t like a dense-dense forest. It was around the time of fall where the leaves, golden-orange, were falling, just enough so that one or two leaves were always falling at a time across my vision. The sight made me give pause, and take it in. I didn’t go outside much. Maybe that would change when I got…

back. I had to get back. I was so thankful that I didn’t actually need glasses yet. If genetics were going to play their part, I would probably need them soon, but waking up in a strange forest without my phone wearing my jimjams was disarming enough. The last thing I needed was to be half-blind while it happened.

Glasses would have completed the super-nerd look, anyway. Kinda frizzy dirty blond hair and a noticeable overbite were two parts of the Holy Triangle of Looking Like a Super Dork. Ooh, wait, braces. I didn’t have braces. Maybe braces would have completed the effect. 

Out of nowhere, I saw a figure disappear behind a tree. I realized it was probably a person, but the way they moved instantly made a chill run up my spine. People look like people. This looked like some kind of silhouette, like it knew exactly what it was doing, and what it was doing was no good for me. Worried, I followed suit, hiding behind a tree myself. It dawned on me that someone kidnapped me and took me to these woods. 

I had to be rational. I had to have a plan. Fuck quaking in my boots… boots I wasn’t wearing. Taking a deep breath, I steeled myself and ran in the opposite direction of where I thought the silhouette was.

I didn’t stop running. Eventually, the woods had to end. A city, a river, a field, anything. I’d take it if it meant progress. And if it meant getting away from whatever weirdo placed me in the woods. Eventually, something that didn’t just look like more trees caught my vision, and I slowed down and stopped.

It looked like… some kind of cottage. But an odd one. Old-styled, like it was where the Seven Dwarves lived or something, only newer. As if it were fashioned recently, out of better materials or something. You always see those buildings held together with rotting wood and mangled stone, but this cottage looked like it was made by a craftsperson content with their work.

There must have been some kind of hobbyist living in these woods. As well, either they were breaking the law or I was not in a public park. That did very little to make me feel better, but I wasn’t exactly feeling great anyways.

The snap of a twig behind me made me snap to attention and whip around. I was staring for too long and forgot the main reason I was being followed, and unfortunately, that reason caught up to me. I turned on my heels, already starting to back away before seeing anything, and stopped again when my eyes realized what they were looking at.

It was a very convincing cosplay of some kind of World of Warcraft character or something. She was very clearly done up to be an elf, and a very convincing one at that. She towered above me at at least six feet and had done up her skin to be a kind of lightish green, with yellows replacing the whites of her eyes, and pupils like a cat. Contrasting her skin was hair as red as fire, cascading down her neck and the beginning of her back, with none spilling across her face despite having clearly just ran. Her nose was the most peculiar – eerily small, practically inhumanly so. Either she was the perfect model for this cosplay or she had committed a little too hard to the character. It was enough to make me second-guess, if just for a moment.

“What the hell?” I mumbled, now only timidly taking a few steps back instead of running away like I had planned.

She clearly had some bow-like contraption affixed to her back and a small knife in her hand, which she appeared to brandish at me as she ran up to me, though she was now sheathing it. Although her left eye twitched, her stern face softened and she stood up straight. “Conniherteg sa graltach?” she appeared to ask me. Some kind of gibberish. 

I could only stare at the cosplayer. “…What?” I finally managed.

“Conniherteg sa graltach?” she asked me again, not losing a now-curious face.

I slowly shook my head and shrugged.

She blinked a few times, waiting patiently and only then figuring out that whatever was going on, I didn’t understand. “…Fannas alta frajarme?” she asked, in the exact same tone as the first time.

It felt like a different dialect of gibberish. I just shrugged and shook my head no again. 

“Sprece þū Englisc?” she asked with the same tone again. 

That made… more sense, at least. “English?” I asked. “Yes, I speak English.”

“Gea?” she asked. “Hwanan cymst þū?”

I stared at her. “I don’t speak… that, though. Just English. Do you know English?”

She seemed to grow bored of the conversation and slowly looked away. She looked out to the trees and rushed out, looking around their stumps. Mesmerized by her speed and apparently interest in the ground, I couldn’t run away. My feet felt like they were made of clay.

She picked something up and rushed back over, holding it out to me in her hand. It looked like some sort of mushroom.

“Oh, very nice,” I quietly told her.

She motioned forwards with her hand, urging me to take it. Timidly, I reached out and took the mushroom from her open hand, and with the same hand, she motioned to my mouth. I gave her a look of confusion, and she pointed to her own mouth and mimed chewing.

I was not ready to do shrooms with a cosplayer from Finland or wherever, so I simply shook my head. In response, her face darkened and she unsheathed her knife, motioning again to her mouth and miming a single chewing motion.

I stared at her for a few seconds. Was she threatening me? It didn’t seem like I had much of a choice. Trying to keep the thoughts of what could happen to me out of my mind, I gently sniffed the mushroom, then slowly worked it into my mouth. It didn’t taste like much apart from dirt, but at least the spongy texture was disgusting, so that was something. 

Upon swallowing it, I retched a little, then looked up to see the cosplayer had gone back to looking at me with curiosity. “Have you poisoned me?” I thought out loud.

“I would never,” she instantly replied, in perfect English, speaking with some kind of melodic tone.

“So you do speak English!” I protested.

She nodded. “And now, so do you. What was the language you were taught? It was most curious. It shares a path with English.”

I stared at her for a few seconds. To anyone looking upon the situation, it may have seemed obvious, but my denial was working overtime. “Where am I?” I asked in a low voice. 

She stared at me, seemingly a little miffed I ignored her question. “On the edge of The Lesser Dell. Look.” She pointed at a part of the forest that looked like two hills meeting, like some kind of a small valley. 

“Right, okay,” I murmured. “And how far is the Lesser Dell from Toronto?”

“Toronto?” she asked.

“Yes, Toronto,” I replied impatiently.

“Perhaps I need to find more of the Loquiroot, I have never heard of the word.”

“I haven’t heard of the Loquiroot before. Or any of the words you were saying before. Or dells.”

She was gazing off towards the trees and gave me a sideways glance. “I had thought you were perhaps a more noble member of The Herd,” she began. “A dell is a valley in the trees. I was trying to communicate with you in Classical, Heralded, and Herd English. The Loquiroot allows one to understand the Common Languages, though its permanence I cannot guarantee. If you do not speak Herd English, of what were you speaking?”

I don’t know what it was, but something about her little speech made it sink in. My denial was weakening. This was… real. The nose, the house, the weird mushroom, the languages. Everything was real.

“Um… human English,” I managed.

She smiled, and started to laugh. “You learned it from Humans, did you?” she asked humorously, giving me this look like she was sharing an inside joke with me. 

“Fellow humans, yes, seeing as I am one…” I mumbled. “What species are you?”

She looked at me strangely. Her catlike eyes focused on mine. “You say the most wondrously strange things,” she said softly. 

“Okay, then let’s start over,” I replied. “What’s your name?”

Strangely, this question got the biggest response from her. Her eyes widened, her mouth dropped open, and she stared at me for a bit before starting to breathe more heavily. “M-my name?” she asked, starting to blush a little.

“Um, yes, if you’re comfortable with that…” I replied sheepishly, not expecting this reaction. 

“I shall have to think about it,” she replied, looking me over. It was like she was scanning me. Her face broke out into a soft, vulnerable smile. “Very well. My name is Kaendeer. Shall I know of your name?”

I knew the tropes. I still was kind of in shock to everything that happened around me, but I knew from watching Avatar that if I said my last name in the introduction, people would just refer to me by my full name all of the time. “My name is Emma,” I introduced myself.

“Emma,” she repeated, her smile not disappearing. “It is an honor to know your name. Perhaps it would be most prudent for me to find you some accommodations firstly?”

“Um, sure, thank you,” I mumbled, piecing things together. “I think I’m from the future or something.” My cheeks burned. It felt so lame to say that, but everything that was happening still felt so surreal.

“From… the future?” she asked, an almost childlike wonder to her tone.

My cheeks were nearly the color of her hair. This just felt cheesy. “Yes, the future. Or you’re just really good at pranking people.”

Kaendeer gave me a strange smile, as if I was speaking in complete nonsense, and proceeded to start down a clear path in the forest. After a few steps, she looked back at me and gestured. “Come,” she ordered. “It’s a short walk to the closest settlement.”

I grimaced at my lack of shoes. Whenever this happened in movies, at least the protagonist was gifted with some kind of insight, some clue of how to get back home. There was something I felt in that moment, like a denial of the crushing weight that this was it. This was my life now. 

Nevertheless, I followed. There was nothing else to do. Kaendeer was good company, and asked me questions about my background. All of my answers had to be tempered to fit the world I was now in, and even then, judging by her reactions, I clearly kept screwing up. Eventually, the forest faded, replaced by a road through some kind of a field, with some kind of outpost in the distance.

“I guess that’s the settlement?” I asked.

Kaendeer nodded. “Great Yield,” she spoke softly. “You’re lucky it’s in such proximity. They say it’s the most successful of the settlements so far.”

“Successful at what?” I asked.

Kaendeer turned to me. “Producing food, of course,” she answered. “That’s why we gave the settlement its name. The fertile soil of the area allows us to produce such an abundance that food costs less than at most other settlements. Which is good, because even though you’re one of the Herd, you don’t look like you’ve done much labor before.”

“Hey! I’ll have you know I’ve been working hard my whole life.” I felt my anger rising. My whole life I worked where I could, even throughout high school, knowing I didn’t want to be saddled with debt all of my life. Even though working at places like Barnes & Noble, Radioshack and Walmart didn’t account for much in this world, I wasn’t just going to accept being lazy just because those things hadn’t been invented yet. 

With lightning speed, Kaendeer was back at my side, even though she had been ten paces ahead of me moments before. She grabbed my hands and stroked her thumbs across them. Unfamiliar with her delicate yet purposeful touch, I started to blush. I was such a “guy’s girl” back at home that this touch was almost new. I didn’t even know if this was unique to her, her species, or just all girls.

“Your hands are soft,” she noted. “Not that of a worker. Certainly few materials were made with these hands. If you had to pay taxes, they were few.” She turned my hands over and looked at them. “Full fingernails, no blemishes. Your diet has never suffered greatly.” 

“You can tell my diet from my fingernails?” I asked quietly. I had to admit, I guess that my diet was an advantage someone from the future had over anyone from these times.

I swallowed hard, realizing that I didn’t have this advantage anymore.

“On the Herd specifically, white marks will often decorate the fingernails. The more white marks, the more their diet suffers. On you, no such marks.” She gave me a polite smile and let go of my hands. “Even if you aren’t noble, you may as well be. Perhaps it would be best just to say that you are. It could excuse the, shall I say, cultural differences.”

“Yeah, speaking of, what is The Herd exactly?” I asked impatiently. “If you’re going to insist on calling me that, I’d like to know what it is.”

Kaendeer looked at me strangely, her cat eyes darkening in misunderstanding. “It is your species,” she told me, her tone reflecting how weird she felt telling me that.

I let the words sink in. “So… but… you knew the word human…” I replied quietly.

She only nodded, so I pressed on. “What does the word human mean to you?”

“What does it mean?” she repeated. “It is… a human. You are all Herdkind, but some of them are humans and some of them are guardians.” I gave her a blank look, so she looked off towards the distance in thought, eventually looking back at me. “Your mother is a guardian, and your father is a human. Your sister is a guardian, but your brother is a human. Does this make sense?”

“Oh, so it’s like gender?” I asked, receiving a confused look and a shrug in return. “It’s like… one’s sex?”

“Sex, yes!” Kaendeer’s eyes cutely lit up, clearly happy we were communicating. “I’m glad you know about sex. I was worried your world had nothing of ours.”

“So you believe me?” I asked gingerly.

She gave me a smile. “There’s clearly a constant sense of confusion to you. The Loquiroot handles differences of language but not differences of upbringing. Whether your world has instilled different values or really does come from another era, there is something genuine to you.”

I guess that was nice to hear. Still, this world was going to insist on using dumb names that I would just have to learn. It was unlikely this world had invented the dictionary, so my guess was I was in for a painful few… weeks, or months. Or however long I was here. Normally the hero was aware of some magic portal or something by now.

“May I ask a dumb question?” I asked as we continued walking.

Kaendeer gave me a look. “I don’t understand why you’d want to ask a question that would not give you anything of value,” she answered.

I guess ‘dumb’ was lost in translation. How was sarcasm in the Middle Ages? If I could even compare this to the Middle Ages. “Oh, okay,” I feigned understanding. “Then I’d like to ask a real question.”

Her look of confusion didn’t wane, but she nodded.

“Does magic exist?”

“Magic?”

I nodded. If this place was going to go full Middle Ages, I wanted to know which tropes I was in for. 

She stared at me for the longest time, then faced the settlement again. “You really ask the strangest of questions,” she lightly commented, pressing on.

“Is that a ‘no?’” I asked.

But I got no such answer.

***

The settlement greeted me through the nose well before I even entered its parameters. Animals. Animals and feces were the first two smells to hit me, and they would stay with me for quite a while.

I don’t know why it really only hit me when I went to the village, but I really only accepted that this was all real when I saw most of its inhabitants – its non-human inhabitants – were elves. Vaguely different colors of elves. I knew before now that it was real, but now, with the elves staring at me, I was feeling it. A lot of them gave pause when they saw me, looking me over and openly staring.

I blushed as I walked with Kaendeer. “They’re staring at me,” I mumbled.

Kaendeer merely looked at me, as if that in itself didn’t deserve comment. We passed by animals pens, farms, barns and little huts galore, until we approached a large building near the edge of the settlement. Apart from the barns, it was the only one to be two stories.

Kaendeer opened the door, greeted by the wood’s creaking. She turned to me, a noticeably serious look on her face, and gestured inside. Blushing but not knowing why, I followed her indoors to see some kind of community center or church or something.

“This is new to me,” I managed as I looked around the room. There was maybe one window in the place, which clearly was a section of the wall that was bashed at some parts of either the day or the year, depending on how easily it could be fixed. The section of wall sat next to the window. Apart from this, there were no sources of light, but that didn’t seem to bother the locals that were gathered at a few tables.

A few of them were people. Humans. Or, I guess, “The Herd.” They seemed more surprised to see me than the elves. All of them were gathered at tables, some with food and some not, but their tone definitely shifted when I entered.

“Do not fret,” Kaendeer seemed to order. “This is a stray.”

“Strays do not wear colored cloth,” one of The Herd barked, her tone dripping with poison. “This be no stray.”

“Is there a problem?” I couldn’t help but ask Kaendeer timidly. “How many guests do you get at Great Yield, anyway?”

Kaendeer held up a hand to quiet me, and addressed the woman – um, guardian. “She has no weapons and I will take full responsibility for her location at all times. She is a foreigner.”

An elf guardian at another table, peeling some kind of vegetable, laughed deeply. She was a bulky, muscley creature, with an intimidating stature yet a face that seemed to know only amusement. “Of course she is a foreigner,” she pointed out. “She barely looks like the Herd at all.”

“I trust The Vassal takes no issue?” Kaendeer asked, her tone unwavering. 

The guardian stabbed another vegetable, still smiling to herself. “The Huntress and her strays,” she commented lightly. “No issue. If she kills you in your sleep I shall bury you in the shit instead of the hills.” She smiled mischievously at me. 

“I require a room for her,” Kaendeer continued. 

“What’s your purpose for staying here?” The Herd-guardian piped up again. “Perhaps she was under the impression Great Yield has an inn.” She was met with obnoxious laughter by a few of the Herd around her.

“I’m lost,” I admitted. “I come from a land that would probably seem strange to you. I woke up near your settlement with no memory of how I got here. I’m sorry if I’m inconveniencing the settlement. My name is-”

I saw a brief flash of Kaendeer’s eyes nearly bugging out before she swiftly hit me in the stomach, causing the wind to get knocked out of me. I keeled over, nothing going through my mind but pain and the need to breathe for the first few seconds.

Was I being betrayed? Were they planning to bring me here to eat me or something? I waited for a follow-up attack and only heard a rabid shouting match instead. It sounded like nearly everyone in the building was yelling.

“Was she about to tell us her name?!” one of them yelled, outraged.

“Degenerate!! She can not stay here!” another shouted.

“A disgraceful and awful practical joke!”

I heard the dry voice of the vegetable peeler mumble, “Perhaps she should be afraid of us killing her in her sleep.” I looked up just in time to see her hit the table, which caused most of the others to quiet down. One remained yelling, so the muscular guardian picked up one of her vegetables and swiftly threw it at their face, causing them to fall down much like I did.

“We are waiting for an explanation,” the muscular guardian said calmly to Kaendeer.

Kaendeer was quiet for a few seconds. “Desperation,” she finally replied. “You must understand that we are the first beings she’s seen for a length of time we don’t know. Perhaps in a way only her culture could understand, she was trying to show gratitude.”

All eyes turned to me. Mine were watering, so I could barely make out people’s faces, though it was clear they wanted me to say something. Still on the ground but now looking up at them, I nodded and said, “Yup, that’s it. I was just trying to show gratitude. Sorry if I offended you.” Maybe it was a blessing in disguise that sarcasm was also foreign to this world, because I was starting to get pissed at the amount of culture shock I had to go through. Accepting that guardians were the word for women here was one thing, but getting sucker-punched and nearly starting a riot over introducing myself was quite the step up. 

No one said anything for a while. Eventually, the bulky guardian, having stood up from throwing the vegetable, sat back down. “She shall take one of the rooms upstairs,” she simply said, the humor noticeably absent from her voice. “I believe the middle room is available. I will spare her a drink if she so requires.”

I stood up and looked at Kaendeer, with her staring blankly back at me. I faced the bulky woman and nodded eagerly. “I would love that. I’m parched. Do you have any water?”

I could feel I made a faux pas again. All eyes in the room were back on me. “Water,” the Herd-guardian repeated dryly. “Hm.”

Kaendeer waved the words away with a stone face. “Cultural difference,” she explained. “What we believe to be ale, she only knows as ‘water.’ She means ale, I assure you.”

I turned back to Kaendeer just in time to see her give me a quick, subtle but clear death glare. If ale was… well, ale, I would have really preferred water, but I was in the shit enough as it was.

The strong guardian got up and fetched me a drink from a barrel behind her, putting it on the edge of the table with a knowing look. It was like she was daring me to approach the table. Timidly, I walked forward and grabbed it, and started sipping politely.

As I sipped, the bulky woman, who was so much taller than me she made Kaendeer look small, lowered her head to my ear and whispered, “You are not fooling anyone here, and you are a bad liar. Here is a tip for the next settlement you enter – a good serf drinks quickly.” I could hear her grin, and sure enough, when she retracted her head from my bubble, she was looking at me not with malice, but with a knowing smirk.

It was ale, alright. Alcoholic ale. Dirty too. It sure wasn’t a Pilsner. Grimacing, I drank it all down as quickly as I could while the guardian just stared me down. When I finished, she took the tankard from my hands and smiled at me one last time, before putting the tankard back where it came from and going back to her vegetables.

Before I could even react, I felt a hand grab my arm and forcefully drag me upstairs. Most of the people there watched me leave, though they clearly went back to doing whatever they were up to before I entered. Kaendeer dragged me upstairs, having grabbed a candle, and brought me to a run-down-looking bedroom with uncomfortable floors. There was a straw pallet in the corner of the room, and a poorly-made wood table and stump in the other.

Kaendeer set the candle down on the table, which made me very aware that the candle smelled truly terrible. Whatever it was burning, it was not smell-free wax. She turned to me with a steely expression and began to speak.

“Who are you, exactly?” she began.

“I told you, I’m from the future,” I replied. “You can’t expect me to know the correct things to say when I come from, not only like a millennium from the future, but from the looks of things, a different future.”

“How can you be so sure? What is different?” she asked.

“If you want me to answer honestly, in my world, only the Herd exist,” I told her honestly. “There are still trees and farm animals, but there are no… I actually don’t know what your species is called, but we say ‘elves.’”

She stared at me. “A world dominated by the Herd…” she murmured. 

“So I’m really sorry if I screw up sometimes, but I will. In my world, water is really easy to get. Well, unless you’re – nah, shouldn’t go there. In my world, giving your name to someone is so common it’s usually the first thing you do to someone you’ve met. In my world, candles don’t smell like absolute shit, can you blow that out or something?!”

She didn’t fixate on that. “The first thing you do is give someone your name?!” she asked incredulously.

I paused, then sighed. “What does giving someone your name mean?” I asked, ready for yet another wave of culture shock. Nothing could take me by surprise at this point. Nothing.

It was Kaendeer’s turn to blush, although she also looked upset. “A name… is the most intimate thing you can ask of someone,” she began. “In older times, a name was only given once, to the supposed ‘one’ person you had sworn to be with. In times where monogamy was more revered, though factions still exist to this day that-”

“Sorry, do you mean sex?!” I asked, feeling flustered.

She stared at me. “No. Of course not.”

I leaned back against the wall and chuckled. “Whew. Okay, that would have been weird.”

“I mean intercourse.”

I froze. No one spoke for a bit. “So… giving someone your name… is a way of consenting… to intercourse?” I asked.

“It’s the way,” she clarified. “And it’s not just consent, it’s a request. So is asking for a name. Asking is considered… more polite, of course, since it is hard to retract that which has been said.”

My breathing quickened. “Um, yeah,” I mumbled sheepishly, blushing. 

“Is this also new to you? It is hard to see what is new and what is not with you,” Kaendeer continued helpfully.

I looked at her again. Kaendeer was in good shape, and I’m sure she was attractive, but… I wasn’t even sure if I was into human girls. Or, fuck, Herd girls. Guardians. Herd guardians. 

She continued obliviously. “You have to understand what Great Yield means to us. The Vassal is a figurative title. We have broken all substantial ties to the Lordship with the exception of a yearly taxation and trade deals. The Lordship’s Hands have a great vested interest in us regaining the Lordship diplomatically.”

I felt hot. This was not the time for the alcohol to kick in. Clumsily, I walked over to the stump and sat down, looking at Kaendeer dumbly as she talked, with my mouth open and everything.

“The Hands can not win by force since the treasure is in our work and not our situation. If they attempt force, they drive away or kill our people, and lose what they wanted. So they need to send in spies. This is what we believe. And suddenly, along comes a guardian who can’t remember where she is, claims she’s from the future, wears colored clothing with seams, appears to only drink water, tries to immediately tempt our people with intercourse…”

I mean, I was curious about girls before. I would be lying if I said I never flicked it to lesbian porn online. I was mainly thinking about boys, but I was also just always around boys. Maybe I could learn to live with something else…

“I said I would take responsibility for you and that means trusting you. Both a spy and a true serf would say they’re a serf, so saying that tells me nothing. But… I trust you. And if what you’re saying is true, then you need to know this information.”

Fuck, and I also had that Rule 34 phase. Oh my god, fuck, I totally fingered myself to an elf-girl like her getting fucked before. It was back in high school, like, early high school, but… I mean, I already gave her my name, so would it be rude to take it back? I wouldn’t want to make things more awkward…

“The Vassal in particular hates the Lordship. Ironic, I know, but she will want to talk to you. And I will warn you, if you did lie to us all, she will find out.”

I snapped back to attention. Fuck, why was ale stronger in older times?! “Is that why she gave me ale? So I would be drunk and easier to interrogate?”

Kaendeer laughed in confusion. “Is water really that easy to obtain in the future? Have the people of your time domesticated the rain?”

“Well, what do you drink that isn’t alcoholic?” I asked impatiently.

“Ale is the backbone of our drink supply. Milk is but for the young, and water comes with rain. As well, Great Yield needs its water for our farms, our animals, and our lives. A serf knows this. A Lordship’s Hand would have been raised in affluence and doesn’t know how important water is to a community. A serf asks for ale. A Hand asks for water.” She gave me a soft smile.

She had a beautiful face. My heartbeat began to quicken. She gave me her name too. Even when explaining things to me, she had such a way of… looking at me. “I… I appreciate that you’re so patient with me,” I managed.

“If your story is true, you are being very patient with us as well,” she answered. “I can not imagine this situation has been easy for you.” She paused. “What will you do?”

I paused, trying to focus my thoughts. I was a lightweight at the best of times, so it wasn’t easy. “Tonight? I don’t think I’ll do anything. I just need to… get used to this.”

Kaendeer nodded. “I understand. Shall I leave you to your thoughts?”

I licked my lips delicately. “Um, so, you gave me your name…” I gently began.

She smiled in understanding. “I do not expect you to do anything. If you gave me your name because it is customary in your-”

“No.”

She paused mid-sentence, looking at me with pure curiosity. She didn’t say anything, so I continued.

“I… it would be a comfort. Are l-lesbians common in… to you? To your people? In this time? I dunno.” I became pink with embarrassment and fluster.

“Not to worry, they’re not,” Kaendeer replied, with a tone that this news would give me relief. “Few exist who express a lack of desire to give a name just because one of the Herd is a human.”

“…Huh?”

“Very few of our people care much about sex. You may find a few lesbians, but they’re mostly cultists who have sworn off those of another sex.”

“Oh, so most of you are pansexual?” I asked, cheeks burning.

A pause met my ears. “I’m afraid the word does not mean much to me, even with the Loquiroot. Perhaps this is a cultural difference,” Kaendeer helpfully offered.

I thought to myself. What a world. I guess there were a lot of cultural differences. No normalized homophobia. Elf people. What in the hell would a civilization like this look like once they’d gotten to my time? 

I didn’t speak for a bit. “I think you are very attractive, Kaendeer,” I softly told her.

She smiled. Her features glowed in the candlelight. “I think you are quite attractive as well, Emma.”

The way she said my name… she treated the word with such passion. She practically purred my name, like it was exotic, like it was… sexual. No guy in my time ever said my name like that. I had chased after boys my entire life just to feel wanted, like someone really wanted me, and here I was, in a barely lit room with a non-human creature that showed me such passion without even knowing me for a few hours. Maybe magic was real in this world after all.

My heart beat loudly in my ears for every second before my lips touched Kaendeer’s. This was so wrong. I was probably breaking laws. I was certainly going against what I would have wanted, what I would have thought was even possible for me, just yesterday. I touched her lips with my own, and instantly melted. I moaned into the kiss as our lips touched over and over, losing their delicate touch and becoming more and more needy. Ravenous. Hungry.

She broke the kiss first. “I trust that is customary in your world,” she said, just above a whisper.

“I’d do anything you want, even if it’s new to me,” I moaned. “I want to make you feel good. I want to feel good.”

“It would be silly to ask if you’d been with any of the Gorigae before, would it not?” she asked with a smile. 

“I assume that’s your species?” I asked.

She nodded. “I would be honored to be your first.”

I wish she’d been my first, period. I gave my virginity up to a guy in my friend group last year. A skinny tall guy in a bucket hat that texted me about how nice my ass looked in jeans one night when we were hanging out in the group together. We thought we were being so sneaky and scandalous going off together, making out, promising to fuck once the other guys had gone to bed. I wasn’t mad that he only lasted a few minutes and was kind of clumsy, but asking me to leave almost right afterwards made me feel angry that I gave it up to him.

But in this world, he didn’t exist. I could be a virgin again. Someone who cared would be my first. Kaendeer would be my first. 

I nodded back. “You will be my first. Please… be gentle with me.” It was all I could think to say.

She didn’t need any more. From the moment she got close again, the smell of her pheromones filled my nostrils. It was intoxicating. Even the foul-smelling candle was overpowered by her scent. She was all I was smelling, and it was more intoxicating than the ale. Hungrily, not even waiting for her to take the initiative, I dove into her neck, kissing and biting it lightly. She was so tall, so fit, I just wanted to do whatever she wanted. I was a puddle for her. I would do anything it took to please her the way I knew she was going to please me. 

Kaendeer grabbed me by the shoulders and led me to the straw pallet, laying me down on the ground and beginning to grab at my pajamas. 

She stopped, looking me in the eyes. “I trust this is okay? Are you happy to proceed?”

Consent. Sexy. I bit my lip and nodded. “Very happy,” I murmured, wiggling out of my bottoms.

Had I known I would have fallen down an interdimensional portal into this world, I would have shaved my pussy beforehand. I blushed a little, my hairy pussy exposed for her to see. Instinctively, I closed my legs, but Kaendeer gently nudged them open again, an intense curiosity painted across her face. 

“Fascinating…” she mumbled. “Your hair appears to be growing in rather late.” Gently, she ran the tips of her fingers up my thigh and around my labia, experimentally running her fingers through my trimmed bush. “I hope it continues growing. I love hair decorating a love instrument.”

“You do?” I asked bashfully.

She nodded, picking up on what I was implying. “Are you… embarrassed by it?” she asked, as if that was silly. “I hope that is a nonsense prejudice of your own, and not your world. What kind of a world could possibly have this…” she parted my legs again, staring transfixed on my pubic hair. Once again, she traced her fingertips along my folds. I shivered. “…and not see it as pure beauty?”

She had such interesting views. I never thought to refer to my pussy as a ‘love instrument,’ but objectively, ‘pussy’ was probably stranger. Maybe without the Loquiroot, the word for “vagina” was really romantic. I was not about to ask her to play dictionary, though, and certainly not while she was busy tracing lines around my pussy while staring at it as if it was the most beautiful flower she’d ever come across.

I shuddered and lightly panted as Kaendeer teasingly ran her fingertips around me. She was clearly having as good a time as I was, her eyes reflecting just how much she enjoyed just watching me. It was like my pussy was the best thing she’d gotten to see in a long time. She clearly savored the moment as much as I was, and was panting just as hard as I when she decided to insert her first finger into me.

Even though I knew it was coming, I couldn’t stop myself from gasping and whimpering when I felt her finger enter me. She broke her fixed gaze from my pussy to look me in the eyes when she heard, the first time in a while her gaze had been diverted. She broke into a gentle smile, easing her finger into me. Not knowing what to do, I parted my legs further and moaned, shifting my butt to get closer to her. It hurt shifting on the straw like that, but I just wanted to be closer to her, to feel her finger go further inside me, at any cost. 

Her smell made me go crazy. I just wanted more of her. I was so grateful to fall into this world. I wanted to be like this forever. Neither one of us was talking, but neither one of us needed to. She was just slowly fingering me, starting to pump her finger in and out slowly. It was so delicate, so deliberately slow, like this was the most sacred thing in the world. It was like we were getting to know each other way better than mere words could ever accomplish.

I didn’t have a lot of experience in my own world, but I could swear that sex in the human world could feel this good. It may have seemed silly since it was just one fully clothed woman slowly finger-fucking another, but something about it just felt downright… magical. Like there really was something sacred about it. Like the entire world was right and she was joined at the soul to me, touching my essence through my love tunnel. Kaendeer exhaled slowly as she pushed more of her finger inside me, reaching the end of her finger. What wonderful fingers she had.

A low moan escaped my lips. I felt like I was in heaven. I’d watched enough lesbian porn to know that this was “tame,” but it felt so right to just do this. Like this was so taboo yet so… what I was meant to do. My entire life was leading up to this. I threw my head back and moaned again. I could hear Kaendeer panting as her speed increased. She was giving me more of herself, and I was giving myself up for her. I was letting Kaendeer enter me, and have me. 

The candlelight was just enough to give away the sheen on my face, and the look of passionate determination on hers. The smell of her pheromones was only growing stronger. I licked her lips and panted louder, letting her know of my vast approval, and couldn’t stop myself from asking. “C-could you… insert a second finger? Please. I need it.”

A smile slowly spread across her lips. “Of course,” she murmured slowly. It was the first thing we’d said to each other since we really got into it.

I didn’t hold back my inhibitions when I felt her second finger enter me. Kaendeer had magic hands, no two ways about it. This felt incomparable, like it was the definitive quintessential way to be fingered. Like Kaendeer had mastered it and knew how to give the perfect experience. I almost felt… strange. Like there was some cosmic feeling deep inside me, like this was always meant to be, and this was where I belonged. I had seen the light, and I was now moving my hips against her hand and whining like a desperate girl. 

And I was desperate for her. I needed her, badly. Sparks were beginning to cloud my vision, and I realized that I was going to explode on her hand. I was going to orgasm on the fingers of my lover, a woman – no, a guardian from another species, a guardian I had just met not hours before. 

“I’m… getting close…” I managed, both gritting my teeth and feeling my tongue travel around in my mouth. “Please… keep going… just like that…”

She never said anything, but never out of disinterest, never out of anything but passion. I preferred my guys talkative, but something about her silence was actually more erotic. I knew every ounce of her focus was silently on my pussy. Looking at it, worshiping it with her eyes, hitting every button and activating every pleasure receptor with her hands. It was like she was giving me the energy of the universe through her hand, and I was just a horny desperate bitch grinding back against that hand, wanting more. 

She never changed pace. She knew that if I liked it, she would keep going, just like that. She wanted me to explode on her. 

And explode I did. I knew from the very beginning that I’d never experienced an orgasm like I did that day. It was like a wave exploded from within me, rippling to every part of me. Like an energy wave that touched every nerve ending, euphoria that spread its warmth of every fiber of my being. I could only moan dumbly and gush on her fingers. I couldn’t hear or see, or sense anything but the pure sexual delight of her fingers in me. I’d never have sex with a boy again if this was what sex with a guardian was like. 

I gushed so hard that I managed to break Kaendeer’s little vow of silence. She moaned, “Oh,” as she saw me gush around her fingers, and squirt onto her wrist. She looked utterly enraptured. It was like she was experiencing her own orgasm, watching me writhe on her fingers. She was gyrating her body with me, empathetically enjoying my pleasure along with her own. She was enjoying what she was doing to me, and it was clear to both of us just how much she was affecting me. I was completely claimed by her, utterly won over, an orgasming obedient bitch to this wonderful creature. She’d made me see the universe with her fingers, and like hell was I going to let that only happen once. She could have my name forever. She had earned her little door into my soul. She’d taken my inner goddess and worshiped it wonderfully. 

It took me more than two full minutes to calm down from my high, and in that time, she’d gently retracted her fingers and yet still, patiently drawn circles around my folds as she intently watched me climb down from the historic high which she’d brought me. I was so won over, I was staring at her with individually blinking eyes, a lust-drunk smile painted across my face.

“You are amazing,” I couldn’t help but purr.

“You are captivating,” she responded, equally breathlessly. “I am so very glad I trusted you with my name. I could practically taste your passion and enjoyment.”

“I want to do this with you every day,” I continued honestly. “As often as you want. I’m yours. Do whatever you want to me. Fuck.” I was still panting. I could feel my pupils dilate just from looking at her now. I had completely fallen for this gorgeous elf. What was her word? Gorigae. What a beautiful word. It became her quite well.

She smiled warmly in response. I couldn’t help but wonder if she was this naturally gifted with everyone, or if what we shared was special. “The honor to do this with someone as beautiful as you was mine, Emma,” she replied quietly. 

I blushed. “You really find me beautiful? All of the… humans back home didn’t like me at all.”

“Perhaps your mistake was hanging about with humans and humans alone,” she quipped, and I smiled in response. It was nice to know ribbing on dudes was still alive and well here. “Of course I find you attractive.” She advanced further, bringing the back of her hand to my face. The same fingers that had been inside of me mere moments ago were now touching the skin of my face. “I had never seen skin so flawless, on one of the Herd no less. Your hair seems heavenly, as if you had come from a story. I simply refuse to believe that the people of your homeland see not the beauty you exude.” She slowly stood up. “Unless, of course, all of the people of your time are as beautiful as you.”

I smiled and stood up, grabbing my pants. “They certainly don’t compare to you,” I replied. “So, uh… God, I can’t believe I’m actually about to be this girl, but, what are we?”

She stared at me. “I didn’t understand any of what you said.”

Oh. Right. “In my time, people have se- intercourse either as lovers or casually, as a favor. A lot of people in my time are monogamous too.”

“Fascinating,” she replied, sitting down at the table and thinking to herself. “Perhaps in your time, the cultists gained in numbers. Perhaps they already are.”

I mean, yes, but the Christians were pillaging for millenia, so no surprise there. “So, what are the bonds we now share? Are we friends or lovers?”

Kaendeer sported a grin I hadn’t seen her wear at all in the short time I’d known her. “Whatever you meant to say, we seem to have hit another cultural barrier. You said the same word twice.”

I furrowed my brow and blinked a couple of times. “Did I stutter or something?”

“You said ‘lovers or lovers,’” she clarified.

“Friends. Friends or lovers,” I repeated.

“Now thrice,” she replied, her smile not diminishing in the slightest.

“…Huh.” This was hard to digest. There were a ton of implications. “Okay. Is there any kind of commitment or exclusivity here? Am I supposed to be your only, like, romantic lover-”

“I’m not a monogamist. I thought I had made such matters clear,” she sharply retorted, clearly upset at the mere suggestion she was monogamous in the slightest.

“So, if I slept with someone else, or became someone else’s lover, or gave someone else my name…” I trailed off.

She waited. When I didn’t add anything on, she pressed. “What is the rest of the sentence?”

“That’s it. If I did that, would it be okay?” I asked.

“Of course. Why would it not be?”

“Huh,” I repeated. “Culture shock. Okay. So – but! I really want to do that again with you. W-whenever you want. Like, really, whenever. And I’d want to do it to you.”

She smiled a warm smile to me, a kind of smile that sent tingles up my spine. It was the kind of warm endearing smile one would lovingly give their girlfriend when she’s acting silly and bashful. “Of course, Emma,” she replied. “It would be my honor.”

That word again. Honor. I really liked when she said it. It made me feel warm inside. I smiled at her, though in the aftermath of my orgasm, I quickly realized that aside from feeling her enter me again, I had no idea what I was going to do here. I didn’t even know whether I was planning to try to find a way back or immediately shrug my shoulders and start building my new life, waiting to get zapped back to my own time or something. It’s not like life-altering ‘now you’re in this fantasy time’ hypotheticals came with a guidebook. 

“Kaendeer,” I started, realizing I needed some help.

She realized something when I referred to her again as her name. “Ah, yes. When we leave this room, perhaps it would be best to refer to me by my work. I am the huntress here. It would do neither of us much good, especially with your reputation, to accidentally speak of my name to the others. It would bring shame to me, and would put you in a difficult position.”

I hadn’t considered that. “Okay…” I replied uneasily. “Do I refer to you as The Huntress now?”

“Perhaps it would be best to start, yes.”

“Okay.” I paused. “Hey, The Huntress?” God, I felt dumb saying that.

“You already have my attention, you may speak.”

“Okay…” I replied awkwardly. “What am I… what should I do, exactly? Is there a wizard or something that specializes in portals or other magic here? Should I just accept this is my life now and build my own career or something? What should I do?”

She stared at me for a bit and broke into a muted, sad smile. Her cat eyes showed sympathy. “I do not know,” she replied quietly. “I’m afraid a few of your words did not translate well. Perhaps accepting this new life will aid you, at least in the near future.”

“Is there a person who could help me go back to my own time?” I asked.

She paused. “I do not have your answer,” she finally admitted. “Other settlements are tied to The Lordship, it is possible that if you gained an audience with some Hands of influence, they might have answers. It is very possible they might not.” 

“Yeah.” It was kind of silly. It would be like a time traveler in my own time getting stuck and asking if we had any time machines to spare. 

“No matter which path you take, it would be wise to speak with The Vassal,” Kaendeer concluded. “My connections run thin compared to the likes of her. At the very least, you need a place to stay.”

“Who is the Vassal?”

“She was the one who spoke with authority,” she answered. “She was peeling vegetables when you saw her.”

“It seemed like she already offered me this room,” I countered.

“Yes,” Kaendeer agreed, nodding with a serious expression. “And she can take that offer away at any time she pleases. If you have any trust in me, speak with The Vassal.” She got her clothes in order and stood up. “I have duties to be getting back to, at any rate.”

“Wait, you’re leaving me here? Alone?” I squeaked.

“I can not always be by your side, and you can not be by mine,” she answered. “This is why I have given you the road to take. It is up to you to take it. If you can not handle the basic responsibilities to ensure your own survival, I am afraid that would only prove to me that I am not the one fit to help guide you through your current predicament.”

“Okay, okay,” I conceded. It was kind of circular logic, but essentially, she was telling me she was my girlfriend, not my mom, probably. I could handle that. I was my own person. I could handle myself. “Just tell me you’ll visit my room when you can. I’ll handle everything I can.”

She smiled. “I have faith in you,” she told me, unsheathing her knife and running its tip along her finger. Embarrassingly, my pussy throbbed seeing it. I blushed.

As if she could smell my surge of arousal, she flashed me a quick smile of disbelief, then up and left, without another word. When she left, her pheromones left with her, and I was just left with the reminder that the candle smelled truly repugnant. 

Figuring there was no time like the present, I smoothed out my clothes, grabbed the candle and went downstairs, finding a slightly different crowd gathered around the tables. Annoyingly, they stared at me just as openly as the last crowd did.

“There are some that say that those close to the Lordship have access to tradesmen who found their own ways to acquire oil,” a dry, knowing voice interrupted my thoughts.

I shook my head, realizing I was staring at these people as much as they stared at me. I turned my head to see The Vassal, leaning against a crude form of front table in the establishment, looking at me with interest. 

“As such,” she continued with a smirk, “they have been able to continue using oil lamps while the serfs and commoners carry on with our less ideal methods we are forced to use.” She stared at me openly.

“I-is that so?” I managed, not knowing what she was getting at. 

She leaned in closer. “As a result, they hold candles as if they do not care if they should set fire to themselves.”

My gaze darted to the candle I was holding. My arm had grown tired and I was holding it closer to myself to compensate, and the smoky flame was dangerously close to my hair. With a slight yelp, I moved the candle away, and The Vassal emitted a low laugh.

“Perhaps I can take the candle from you,” she offered. “Is the room to your liking?”

“Um, yes. Thank you s-so much for being so generous and offering it to me,” I managed to reply, my intimidation at the hands of this muscular tall alien creature completely obvious.

“I will admit, although hesitantly…” she began, blowing out the candle, then storing it away in some kind of shelf, “most Hands and their ilk do a poorer job of acting humble. Many of them truly do not know how to be grateful, because they were taught they never had to be.” She turned to face me. “You are quite full of surprises.”

“If you think I’m a Hand, why haven’t you killed me?” I asked in a low voice.

She stared at me blankly, then furrowed her brow. She didn’t say anything for a bit, then looked away, then looked back. “What am I to make of you?” she asked dismissively.

“Please, answer my questions as if I’m asking you genuinely,” I replied. “Believe me, it would mean a lot. Pretend I’m a complete fool that doesn’t know anything about your culture.”

“Pretending such a thing takes not much of my mental strength,” she quipped. “Killing a Hand sent to investigate a settlement would mark that settlement for death. All of my people, all of my resources, my own autonomy, all of which I had dedicated my whole life to craft, hone and protect…” She trailed off, looking at me intently.

I sighed. “I don’t imagine it would do me much good to tell you I’m not a Hand, would it?”

“Both an innocent and guilty woman would insist to her Lord that she has no guilt,” The Vassal noted. 

“Well, if you’re independent, that’s good enough for me. I’m willing to live by your rules. I like people that go against the grain anyway. Vive la France,” I sarcastically quipped.

“Cheers for what?” The Vassal asked. “What is France?”

I paused. “It’s a saying from my people,” I finally told her.

“Is there any reason you left your people that I should know?” she asked, with just enough of a threatening edge to her voice to run a shiver up my spine. “I will not deny my own feelings that whatever reason you have been brought to us bears nothing but ominous news.”

“It depends on how much you’re willing to believe,” I honestly replied.

Her expression darkened. “If you plan to toy with me, I will retaliate swiftly, I will tell you this,” she warned. “I may not be able to kill a Hand, but I’m able to break her resolve like the shell of a seed.”

I swallowed hard. Tears formed in my eyes. “I don’t know where else to go,” I confessed. “If you don’t want to hear the truth I won’t tell you, but I just – I can’t – I’m not lying. I’m not a Hand. I’m just a lost girl, and I don’t know what to do, and I… I appreciate the room, but I need guidance. If you can’t help me, and you won’t listen, please, at least tell me where to go when you tell me to leave. Okay? Just give me that.”

The Vassal stared at me for a bit, finally eyeing a door leading to some kind of back room. “I will not be able to make a judgment without hearing your tale first,” she grumbled. “With this, I appear to have no choice. You will enter the back room. I will follow after some time. And you will tell me your story, or your lie, and only then will I decide what to do with you. But you are a Hand until I tell you that you are not. Do we understand each other?”

I swallowed hard again, seeing this woman practically flexing in my face. She could tear me apart effortlessly if she wanted to. The last thing I wanted was to be in a room alone with her, but surely, better her than the wilderness. I needed some guidance, some vague direction, and if The Vassal was going to be my only lifeline I had in this world, I had to be prepared to use that lifeline well. 

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