The waning moon shone its cold light on the gray desert sands below. Exhausted and quite parched, Nua crept along the valley between two rising dunes. Her enemies had long since abandoned pursuit, yet she pressed on, driving herself far into the empty desert.
A few dots of orange flame glimmered amidst the distant moonlit ruin. Nua dragged herself sluggishly across the wilderness, willing her weary body onward, hoping to find shelter at the isolated settlement.
Catching her foot on some desert scrub, she stumbled and crashed sidelong onto the hard, icy ground. All her momentum evaporated, leaving a roaring stillness within. She lay motionless for some time.
With great difficulty, she pulled herself up to sit. Frustrated, she cast off a few of the items she carried to lighten her load. At last, she stood, eyeing the ruins while she readjusted the plain leather baldric that carried a sword and pouch at her side. She was determined to reach her destination.
Moving along at last, she stepped forward into what appeared to be a tavern. A cheerful din replaced the silent expanse that lay before her just a moment prior. Nua turned around quickly and found, not a desolate landscape, but the warm glow of a stone hearth.
Startled, she looked around at the patrons of the establishment, who hardly noticed her abrupt arrival. “Where am I?” she stammered.
“This be the Red Dragon Inn.” replied the barkeep as he wiped down a freshly washed tankard. "Fancy a flagon o’ mulled perry, lass? Hot drink‘ll warm yer bones.”
Nua stared back, suddenly aware of her thirst. “Water, please. Thank you.” Fumbling through her pouch, she found a few copper coins and placed them on the countertop.
The barkeep set a tall glass of water before Nua, which she drank quickly. “Plenty more water fer ye, if ye be needin’ it.” He eyed the alien currency she offered. “Oy, lass. Ye must 'ave just come by way o’ the Nexus!”
Nua was distracted by what was, to her, a delicately crafted glass vessel. “The Nexus?...” Noticing him inspecting the money dubiously, she put down the empty glass and opened her pouch once more in search of some other form of tender. “I’m sorry, I assumed imperial coin would suffice. I have some cowries if you prefer…”
The barkeep waved her off and returned her coppers. “No need, lass. Water flows aplenty ‘ere in Rhydin.”
Feeling further confused, Nua began slowly. "I was in the desert traveling towards Kha'an." She explained. "If I return to this... Nexus... will I find myself back where I came from?"
"Nobody knows, lass. An' once ye enter, ye might never return," he answered with a softened expression. "But if ye be interested, ye can try goin' back the way ye came," he continued, pointing down the short hallway Nua entered from. "Be warned, lass. Ye never know where the Nexus'll take ye."
Seeing this, Nua finished a second and third glass of water offered to her, thanking the barkeep one last time. She examined her surroundings again and entered the hallway leading to the Nexus.
Passing through the threshold, she found herself reentering the Inn. She attempted this multiple times and each time, the Nexus returned her back to the same short hallway.
Finally trying a different exit, Nua stepped out to a quiet cobblestone street just outside the inn. There was no desert to be found, nor the ruins she hoped to reach before she ended up at the inn. Passersby went along their way in the early evening twilight. In that brief time, she could make out no fewer than four distinct languages and saw several forms of dress, all unknown to her.
Nua sighed. Alone, she stood, looking up at an unfamiliar sky.