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Two People, Two Worlds [Story Contest Submission]

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avatar Devons_Desk
Level 31 : Artisan Architect
35
You get used to the screams after a while. A bit of blue fungus in the ear does the trick. Helps keep the locals away too. But I would die for a cool glass of water.

  I crouched over the heat emanating from my cooking spit, nibbling on some charred pork. Shrieks pierced the air, but I paid them no mind. I was safe here. For now at least.

  Embers popped into the air, illuminating my cozy, blistering home. The heated stones of this desolate wasteland were surprisingly easy to carve. For cooking, I had shaped a small ditch in the scarlet floor. I diverted a small stream of lava from outside into a makeshift basin. Using a chunk of crimson stem, I was able to block off the main flow once I had enough to cook. Unlike the plants from back home, the ones here seemed to be heat resistant.

  I continued tearing through my skewered meat, with ravenous patience. But eventually, the heat grew too much for my rocky hut. I gulped down the last of my meal and pulled out a flat of crimson wood that kept the lava in my cooking spit. The molten rock lurched forward, rejoining the main river a ways outside.

  For the first time in what felt like years, my stomach was nearly full. For just a moment, I laid my back against the jagged wall and exhaled with satisfaction. But I knew I couldn’t stay still for long.

  I glanced to the side and grimaced. My wooden sword was decrepit. The handle was splintered and the blade was no more than a pointy tree branch. I kept it more as a souvenir, signifying my survival. But I had a plan to replace it. It would work. Probably.

  I grabbed my tree branch of a sword and slung a handmade leather pouch over my shoulder. I parted a set of thorny red vines that hid my entrance and stepped into the wasteland.

  A wave of heat enveloped my body and immediately I began to sweat. A haze blanketed my vision, twisting through the bloody undergrowth. I was exposed. I cast my vision quickly to either side. A crimson forest continued into the horizon, with an ocean of lava collecting at its feet. Then I checked the skies. Nothing threatened me from above, but it wouldn’t stay that way. I quickened my pace and headed deeper into the forest.



We don’t get visitors that often. The occasional long-legged interdimensional traveler will pop in for a tune, but they mostly stick to themselves. So when a smooth-faced visitor materialized from an obsidian portal, I made sure to give them a warm welcome.

  I returned to the bastion after a long Hunt, stained in sweat and blood. The beast proved to be a formidable foe, but in the end we were the ones to prevail. I raised my glass to my comrades, giving a jovial speech in the name of our victory. “Oink.”

My brothers and sisters roared in unison. They raised their bottles of fire and emptied it into their gullets. I chuckled heartily, downing my own. They roared once again and fired their crossbows into the air. Bolts and rockets alike bounced off the crimson walls of the bastion, ending in a good-humored explosion.

  I brushed off the ashes piled on my tunic, and stepped outdoors. I grinned to myself as I greeted the cool air of winter. I was never one for the festivities that followed the Hunt, but I don’t mind a quick drink with my siblings.

What I didn’t expect to see was The Visitor. He had come prior to the Hunt, equipped with nothing but a wooden sword. When I first met him, I decided to greet the stranger as most do in our bastion: with my crossbow. But I was disappointed as I noticed he carried the blue plague in his ears. Fearing for the health of my people, I decided to keep my distance. It was unfortunate, but I knew better than to toy with pestilence.
  I peered into the forest, and was elated to see that the fungus had deserted him. But this time, he carried a bar of gleaming metal in his outstretched hand. I recognized it immediately as death’s bane. We decorate our elderly and strongest warriors with its shine. I stood there, dumbfounded, as a strange being came seemingly offering me our peoples’ greatest treasure.

  He approached with a gaunt look in his eyes. Sweat covered the rim of his brow and his arms seemed thin. He seemed wary as he shuffled towards me, shakily holding his prize. What could I offer a person as needy as he? What could I offer as payment worthy of his offering? I patted my tunic, realizing I was under-prepared. I reached into my pack, pulling out the only thing my hand could find. I cringed at what it retrieved, throwing it to the side. But as it left my hand, he quickly scooped up the garbage I tossed to the ground. It was a dull tool I found while hunting, blackened with age. It was light, but it had no edge to be useful for hunting. I had planned to give it to my daughter as a toy.

  The Visitor, however, seemed delighted. He raised it into the air, waving it in a frenzy. I breathed a sigh of relief. Our peoples likely hold different values, I thought to myself.

  He began to walk away, and I did the same. My siblings would notice if I left for too long. But as I headed towards the Bastion, I heard a familiar screech pierce the air. Our land is populated with the spirits of the dead. They usually paid us no mind, but react violently when provoked. One of those spirits hovered over the Visitor, staring with blood red eyes. He remained completely still, brandishing the dusty tool I handed over moments earlier. The spirit launched a molten ball of fire towards him, and I frowned at the result I imagined would follow. But what happened next would become a tale I’d recount to my grandchildren. This strange Visitor, with arms thinner than the bones they contained, swung his tool. The darkened metal clashed with the fireball, sending reverberations throughout the air. The fireball reversed trajectory, shooting back towards the spirit and exploded into its phantasmal body. The spirit evaporated, destroyed by its own attack, and I watched in awe as the Visitor receded into the forest.
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