Journey Through the Shadow Realms


The stranger waited until the light that enveloped him faded, replaced by a rustic scene of bamboo and wooden houses surrounding a public square. He looked closely at his hands and the ordinary peasant clothes that he was wearing. Running his hands over his body, he felt the rough texture of the woven fibers that made up the cloth. He then lifted the hem of his shirt and examined the individual colored threads. Impressed by what he saw, the stranger glanced all around him and observed that he was in what seemed to be a deserted market square.
The stranger breathed in and felt the cool air fill his lungs.
Then, he looked up to see the sprinkling of stars and a lone moon in its gibbous phase. The eastern sky was already starting to lighten and the stranger knew that it would not be long before the sun showed up.
In the middle of the square, where the stranger stood, was what appeared to be an ancient fountain.
The stranger stepped closer to it and examined the stone and wooden structure. He felt the texture of the stone basin and ran his hand on the surface of the water. The stone basin, visibly worn out by time, felt smooth and the water felt cool to the touch. The stranger made ripples on the water and watched his own silhouette get distorted along with his background of the brightening sky. Next, he scooped up water from the basin using his hands and splashed it all around him. He watched the water droplets as they fell on the ground and felt some of it spray on his face.
Standing up straight next to the fountain, the stranger jumped up and down, feeling the weight of his body on his legs.
He heard the sound of his shoes hitting the stone and the soft echoes that bounced around him. He stopped and listened as the echoes faded. He then looked at the ground and found a fallen branch from a tree nearby. He picked up the branch and hit the ground hard. The sound reverberated all around the square. The stranger chuckled and dropped the branch to the ground. Then,  cupping his hands over his mouth, he shouted at the top of his lungs.
"Hello, world!
" the stranger shouted.
Hearing the echoes of his own voice, the stranger appeared to be very pleased.
Suddenly, he heard voices coming from behind him along with the patter of feet on the ground.
"Hey, you!
" the stranger heard a voice call to him. He turned around and saw two men in what appeared to be soldier uniforms. They approached the stranger with caution.
"Who are you?
What are you doing here?" asked one of the soldiers, his hand drawing his sword from its sheath.
"Just trying things out," said the stranger.

"Is he the one you saw?
" asked the first soldier to his companion.
I saw a ball of light. When the light faded, he was already standing there," replied the second soldier.
"You will come with us," said the first soldier.

"Okay," said the stranger.
"How does this go? Do I walk in front of you? Do you tie me up?" The stranger chuckled.
"Tie his hands," the first soldier told his companion.
"Make sure the knots are tight."
The second soldier took the strangers hands and tied them tightly behind him.

"I don't think that's tight enough," said the stranger.
The second soldier pulled the rope tighter.
That's tight enough," said the stranger with a grunt.
"You will come with us," said the first soldier.

"You already said that," said the stranger.

The two soldiers flanked the stranger and took him along the still deserted streets.
The stranger whistled in amazement when upon crossing the street, he viewed an imposing fortress on top of the hill where the soldiers seemed to be taking him.
"Everything looks good in this world!
" the stranger said.

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