The Other World wasn’t named like that at first, because to all its inhabitants it was the only one known. They didn’t even really name it, much like most people don’t name their houses except that one oddball down the street with all the pink flamingos in his front yard. Nymphs, Fauns, Dwarves, Elves, they didn’t care about naming all that much. The Forest was over there, with the Inn at its edge, the Mountains in the far distance and behind them were the Plains spreading out until it reached the Ocean. What other names did they need, really? Until one day, a strange creature walked into the inn. It was taller than a Dwarf and less smelly, but not as graceful as your standard Elf. It also had this expression of extreme surprise on its face when it came in. A small yelp and it ran off. Intrigued, a few of the patrons followed the stranger who was fleeing down the road as far as its two legs could carry it.
“Hey sir, are you alright?” yelled a Faun after the disappearing figure.
“If I had to make a guess, I’d say it isn’t.” answered a Dwarf. “It looked like it never saw a Goblin before.”
“Maybe he didn’t, they do have a rather revolting look to them if you don’t know them yet,” spoke another Faun. “Didn’t seem like he was an Elf, right? I wonder what it was.”
“Should we chase after it?” asked the first Faun.
“I think you should,” said a Dryad “he looked kinda cute.”
An Elf standing next to her glared at the Dryad who quickly added “For not being an Elf of course, dear. It seemed lost too. Maybe we should help.”
“Alright, who will saddle up?” said the Dwarf. A few hands went up, including the Dryad whose partner tried to lower her arm, in vain.
“No Goblins though, I’d say,” continued the Dwarf, “it didn’t seem particularly fond of you guys.”
The Goblins, muttering under their breath went back inside and soon forgot their damaged pride with a good mug of mead. So it was the Dwarf and the Dryad (under much protest from the Elf) mounting on horses and the first Faun would keep up with his own set of hooves.
The thing didn’t get quite as far as he had hoped before the little chase party caught up. He was out of breath, sitting with his back against a lonely tree. When he saw the horses coming up, he thought “oh no, I’m screwed” and tried to climb up the tree as quickly as he could. The Dwarf, seeing the bumbling attempt, said
“Hey there, if you want to hurt yourself, we won’t stop ya, but it seems kinda pointless, no?”
“W… Who are you?” asked the stranger.
“Well, the name’s Skjor, pleased to meet ya” answered the Dwarf, “and these are James and the Lady Elaine” point to the Faun and Dryad respectively. “Can we ask what or who you are, sir?”
“I… You… You have hooves.” The odd creature said to the Faun. James frowned back at it and said,
“Good observation, we at least now know you’re not as blind as a mole and maybe just as stupid as a Goblin.”
“G… Goblin? Those things at the inn with the ugly faces?”
“Well, not very tasteful to mention, but yes.”
Elaine sat next to the creature, her face inching closer to the stranger, a curious look on it.
“My, my, you are quite interesting, aren’t you? Another kind of Elf maybe? Where did you come from? What’s your name?”
“Euhm… I live in Copenhagen, I’m c… called Hans.” The stranger said nervously, looking at the twigs in Elaine’s hair.
“Cop what now?” asked Skjor
“Maybe he means the Coop, you know, the one with the chickens? Not sure what the ‘hagen’ is about though.” Said the Faun.
“Copenhagen, dear,” said Elaine, letting Hans’ attention focus on her, “tell me more about it.”
“You don’t know about Copenhagen?” Hans muttered, “It’s the capital of Denmark, of course.”
“Denmark?” scoffed Skjor, “Now he’s just making up names! And since when does a den have capital? What are you, a fox or a bear, hah!”
“Skjor, please,” said Elaine with a fierce look at the Dwarf “he’s obviously confused and not from around here. Who knows what else is out there behind the Mountains and Plains.”
“We better get him to the inn them, if he travelled that far, he must be exhausted.” suggested James. “I mean, it doesn’t even look like he has any supplies on him, did you get robbed or something?”
“Robbed? No, I… euh… I just got… lost, when I was going for a walk in the forest.”
“Oh yeah, the Forest can do that with ya, no shame in that.” told Skjor, helping the stranger to his feet.
“You’re riding with me, Hans” said Elaine “Hold on as tight as you want.”
“Now you’re just trying to provoke Gillion aren’t you, Elaine?” said James with a grin.
Elaine ignored the Faun, but she had a grin of her own.
Back at the inn, the newcomer was the center of attention, much to his discomfort. The Goblins were held to the back, but it didn’t make any of the other prying faces less prominent. Some mead had helped to calm his nerves and the excitement had toned down enough so that not everyone spoke to Hans at the same time. Elaine, after she had her fight with Gillion and the Elf had stormed out of the inn, took the lead and Hans seemed a little more at ease when she asked the first question.
“What are you?”
“Well, euhm. Now that I see all of you, I guess that question makes more sense. Human, I guess?”
The crowd echoed the word, mumbling over and over.
“Human? What’s a human?” asked a Faun to his companion who just shrugged.
“Never heard of a human before.” spoke a Naiad “and I’ve been pretty much everywhere.”
“Humans look weird.” said a Goblin.
“I think it’s fair to tell you what we call ourselves then,” continued Elaine after she had hushed the people of the inn. And she told Hans about Dryads, Naiads, Elves, Dwarves, Fauns, Goblins and the one Leprechaun and Wisp present. Hans took it up pretty well, but mostly because he had no more willpower left in him to be completely baffled. Questions washed over him continuously, each answer being received with strange looks and more questions. Where is Copenhagen, where is Denmark, were there more humans around, what did he eat, did he ever seen a unicorn, …
It was when James who stopped the flood when he asked
“How did you get here?”
Hans stammered, but was stuck in confusion.
“You had no supplies, not even a single drop of water on you. How could you travel this far without supplies, as you said you weren’t robbed. You say you’re from a place none of us ever heard of, so you have to be from far away, but that’s impossible without any kind of rations.”
“I…” Hans started, the strain of thought on his face. “I was just walking in a forest near Copenhagen, and I got lost. Then I saw a light in the distance, and I arrived here.”
“But there is nothing like a Copenhagen nearby.” rebutted James.
“We don’t know that. The Forest is a strange place, maybe it is a real place.” Skjor said.
“Wouldn’t we see more humans then? From what he said, it’s a city full of them.”
It was then that the Wisp spoke.
“I think I know. He got lost.”
“We all do from time to time, especially in the Forest.” said James, skeptically.
“I’m not talking about that kind of lost.” said the Wisp. “I mean truly getting lost. Not just not knowing where you are, but also where you came from, and especially where you’re going. That’s when the two worlds are closest, and you wind up in the other.”
“Two worlds? What are you talking about?” asked Elaine, even her attention no longer on Hans who felt grateful for the diversion, his attention focused on the Wisp as well.
“I’ve been there, the other side. We Wisps have a penchant for getting lost, it’s why there aren’t many of us, we kind of blink back and forth. There’s another world out there, a world with only Humans. No Elves, Dwarves or even Fauns. I think Humans actually have stories about us Wisps because we wind up over there quite often. Sometimes, we get back if we get lost again. I guess somehow the same happened to Hans here.”
The Inn got very quiet. Everyone looked from the Wisp to the Human and back. No one understood.
“So, you’re saying that…” James shook his head in disbelief. “There’s a completely other world out there?”
“No, not exactly” said the Wisp. “We are the other world.”
“But, wouldn’t we have seen more Humans then?”
“I’m not exactly sure how it works either, maybe the conditions haven’t been exactly like they should’ve been for them. Maybe us Wisps have another way of getting around. Maybe it’s only a recent event that can happen, when the first dragon died, not every piece of magic the Forest possesses just snapped into existence. Maybe it needed more time for that link to be established. Maybe we’ll see more of their kind pour in.”
“Can we go there?” asked Elaine “Can we go to the Human world?”
The Wisp answered, “No, I don’t think so. In order to be truly lost, you have can’t wind up somewhere where you wanted to be, the world of the Humans in this case. So if you actually want to reach the other side, you can’t get there by getting lost on purpose. You’ll just wind up somewhere else, somewhere you didn’t want to go to. Right back at where you started, usually.”
“Which means…” whispered Hans “That I can’t go back either, right?”
The whole inn looked at him again.
“I mean, I want to go back, so I…” he swallowed “I can’t. Because of what you said.”
“Sorry, bud, I didn’t make the rules” said the Wisp apologetic.
Elaine took Hans’ hand. He looked at her and she put on a sad smile.
Skjor slammed another drink in front of Hans.
“I guess you can use another one right now, huh.”
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