The bottle was nearly empty. While this made her nervous, Caia felt thankful she had at least enough to make it back in time, maybe with a little to spare.
Tucking the tiny phial back into her pocket, she took in her new surroundings. This world was large, and she felt a bit like that character Alice, the one from the ancient tale, with her “Drink Me” shrinking potion. The grass and mushrooms towered above her like fortresses. There, however, the similarities with the children’s story ended. For instance, this world glowed blue, as if a cool neon current ran throughout the atmosphere. This was a welcome change from the dry world that smelled slightly sulfuric, where she had searched last month.
Assessing the level of danger in her surroundings, she cautiously stepped forward, winding her way through the tall grass. No sign of any predators or possible environmental hazards, but it was almost too early to tell. In a world such as this, a stray ant could obviously pose a potential threat, and she couldn’t carry weapons with her when she migrated.
Plus, one never knew when she would show up.
As she walked, she began to get the feeling that it might be here. Something about the soothing color and the hum in the atmosphere gave her a feeling of tranquility unlike any of the other worlds, fraught with danger and unpleasant landscape as they were. One world had featured angry hominid-like creatures with an extra set of arms and obviously a lesser intelligence quotient. Not all of the worlds had humans, but those that didn’t certainly had their fair share of danger, and none of them held what she sought.
The humming air around her gradually started getting louder. No, wait, that wasn’t right…there was an additional layer to it. Cocking her head to the side, she thought she could hear a far off whirring. She held absolutely still and stretched her ears with her mind, trying to rifle through her memory for a similar sound.
Whiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiir. It was getting louder.
It sounded like an approaching flycraft, only more organic. By degrees it grew to deafening levels, and as a strong wind blew around her, whipping her ponytail and scattering blue dust into mini-tornadoes, she crouched at the base of a nearby blade of grass. Tipping her head back, she looked overhead just in time to see what looked like a giant blue dragonfly pass overhead. Only, the dragonfly-creature had a serpentine tail, swooshing back and forth as it flew.
She laughed nervously. A close call, but nothing at which to be alarmed. Brushing some of the blue dust off her trousers, she continued on her quest, vowing to act more quickly next time.
As she continued, the world around her only grew calmer. The farther she walked, the more peaceful she felt, like the way she used to feel when her mother would play the instrument that put her to sleep. It had to be here. They had trained her to trust her instincts because no one really knew what the chalice was. They didn’t even know if it was a chalice – they only called it that because they knew chalice in the old language meant something of great value.
And this might save her people from her. They had to try.
Walking around the base of an enormous boulder larger than any of the public buildings in her own world, she noticed the light growing…warmer. As she made her way around, she felt the goose-flesh on her arm smooth out, as if bathed in rays of sunlight. She began to see that the light ahead came from a singular source, and she knew in her gut this is it. This is it. Years of searching, finally culminating in this moment.
Even though the light became almost too bright to look at, she pressed on. So focused on the object before her, she didn’t even notice the sound of the approaching footsteps behind her until she heard the voice.
“I see you’ve found it for me.”
Caia turned sharply around, cursing herself for being lulled into carelessness. So entranced with this world, she had neglected to find or make a weapon, the first lesson every seeker learned in training.
The woman before her looked incredibly ordinary, not at all the spectre of doom she had built up in her mind. Clad in peasant garb, she appeared to be somewhere at the beginning of middle age – and she looked very pleased.
Don’t underestimate her, Caia reminded herself.
“I suppose you’re going to fight me for it? You really needn’t bother, I can see you have no weapon,” she said, starting a ball of electricity in her fingers. Rumors of her abilities had never been confirmed by anyone, but they kept the people in continual terror at the mere prospect of one person having so much supernatural power over the cosmos. That meant she could jump worlds without fear, she could control the unprepared.
At this thought, Caia remembered the bottle in her pocket. Knowing there was no way to stealthily reach for it, she instantly grabbed it and in one swift motion uncorked it with her thumb and drank.
After all, now she knew that she only needed to see the chalice. As she migrated worlds, that overwhelming peace traveled with her, assuring her that nothing would ever be the same.