Ariel's Anytime Adventure

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Chapter 1

The capsule starts shaking violently without warning, red lights pulsing and a piercing shriek echoing off the walls.

I've really done it now...

I grip the handles even tighter, anticipating pain and fire and twisted shards of broken walls.

The shaking continues without stopping for what has to be at least a halfhour, though I have no sense of time in this strange prison. All I know is that it can't last forever, it'll reach its capacity and break down with the violence befitting a Beforetime creation. The thought causes my already-slim hopes of survival to fray and finally break, abandoning me in an enclosure racing towards destruction and pulling me with it.

I close my eyes as the turbulence hits its peak. Now only the handles keep me from being thrown to the floor. I can see the dull red glow through my eyelids that would surely blind me were I to look right into it. This is it.

Maybe this is how I was always to end. The dreams of long life and fulfilled purpose were no truedreams.

But no fiery death comes. As abruptly and impossibly as it began, the shaking stops and the lights flicker and die. I don't dare to move a muscle, for death may still come. My eyes stay tightly shut, not daring to snatch another glance of what may be the last thing I ever see.

A sound penetrates the silence, but not an explosion. It's more a sliding sound, the sound of... of a door opening.

Points of dulled light bloom over my eyelids again, but far less harsh and more distant than the red lights covering the inside of the capsule. Stars? Has night already fallen?

As it becomes clearer I am not to die here, I cautiously let my eyes open. But as I catch an unclear glimpse of what lies beyond the sliding door, the world seems to melt around me, indistinct colours and shapes falling apart as I blink away whatever is suddenly clouding my vision...

And a mysterious voice fills the blankness with its commanding tones, its calling seeming to shape itself into my name... Ariel, Ariel...

"Ariel! Wake!"

It takes a moment to collect myself. For a second my overwhelmed mind wonders how I travelled from the odd capsule to my hiding place in the mountains, until it becomes clear the former was a dream. A second of further reflection reveals the dream possessed the vividness and resonance typical to a truedream, but how could something that outlandish come to pass? Perhaps I am still waking and later I will remember it was just an ordinary dream. Strange, but hardly a premonition.

"Ariel? It is not like you to sleep through firstmeal. Are you ill?" Kora watches me with concern, as if she actually cared for my welfare rather than simple worry that I may die and put her out of work again.

"Ariel? Should I call a healer?"

I found Kora wandering the streets of Darthnor several weeks ago, though her lowland accent clearly marked her as originating elsewhere. Whatever led her there, she refuses to talk about it, and I have neither need nor patience to find out. Despite her brisk manner bordering on rude, and her complete inability to mind her own business, she proved herself a capable maid.

"ARIEL." She shouts to get my attention, clearly unimpressed. "What's wrong with you today?"

I sit up, giving her an unimpressed expression of my own. "I'm sure you always wake from truedreams without the slightest disorientation, but not all of us were blessed with such a gift." I keep my tone as cold as possible, intended to deter her from further questioning.

It doesn't work. "A truedream? What about? And how can you tell them from an ordinary dream anyway? I heard that only Misf-"

"I dreamed about having to fire a maid who doesn't know her place, and so far it's looking quite true to me!" I cut her off before she can say the word, before speculation turns to suspicion. But knowing Kora, she won't just let the subject go of her own free will.

I slip into her mind, easily detecting her knowledge and newfound curiosity of Misfits. Summoning my power, I lock it all away. It's not a permanent solution, but it should keep her from asking any tough questions until I can do some more extensive work on her mind.

"Now," I begin, making sure the woman is completely in my thrall. "Why don't you go prepare another firstmeal? You can't have me going hungry." I evoke a hidden memory of her son, amplifying the traces of maternal concern associated with it.

Kora hurries out of the room. I'm glad for the solitude, as it gives me time to ponder my memory of the dream. Could it have been a truedream? The very idea is bizarre, but maybe it was an errant prediction from a future so unlikely it could almost be deemed impossible.

Almost. But not quite. If there's one thing I've learned, it's to never completely discount anything. While some courses of action are more likely than others, the world has a way of surprising people, especially the unsuspecting.

I woke barely ten minutes ago, and already I feel the beginnings of a headache, Lud damn it. If I don't do something to quash the pain now, it'll torment me all day. With a frustrated sigh, I pull on the first clothes I can find and walk out of the room and of the house. All thoughts of firstmeal are forgotten as I seek fresh air to clear my head.
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