A sleepy woman pushes off from her desk, gliding over in her rolling desk chair to the screen with the flashing icon. “! NEO detected. Preliminary analysis rating at 10 on the Torino scale. Verification required.” Half-asleep she reads the message without understanding, once, twice, but by the third time she wakes up. A lot of people will be woken up, soon, for what the message means.
The apsara, or nymph, knelt at the water’s edge. This was her home, a clean pool fed by the great river, which eventually flowed out of the wooded wetlands and beyond to the floodplains and seas. The pool was but a few feet deep, like a wide natural bathtub, part of a large collection of pools in the hilly landscape. The forest and its creatures loosely surrounded the apsara’s abode like the walls of an open house, branches as the roof chattering with birds and monkeys.
It turned its head towards them, and they met a gaze like the colorless face of a barn owl, sharp beak and terrible eyes black as night staring back at them.
How things could be … * * * Chip walked through the door beneath the sign that read “Hull’s Shop”. It was a normal rectangular door, and looked mismatched against the architecture of the building: Some newfangled biomimicry nonsense you see more nowadays, Chip had thought when he first saw them being built, nearly …
Another branch crashes loudly through the canopy to the earth, a wake of birds already fleeing startled. The runner makes no pretense of stealth, which Asoka has given up on as well. The half-elf, running at top speed, fires another arrow up into the trees, and again misses his quarry. That damn protection from arrows spell! He curses in his head, not wasting the breath as he maintains pursuit. The other half-elf, running, jumps from branch to branch, satchel swinging from his body as he darts overhead.