I wandered out of this "Hive" as they call it, finally scraping together enough food and courage to wander afield. It is not hard to recognize the city's guards, more by their rigid walks and constant glares at anything. Others are more difficult, especially as there are few commonalities among them. Every citizen is different. Sure, there are humans, dwarves, elves, and other various species I recognize, but then there are the bariaur, tieflings, githzerai, aasimars, and hundreds of others. I can see demons and devils that were used to frighten me as a child, famous by their descriptions and menacing presence, but there are no undead that I have seen.
I make my way to the sounds of merriment, where the streets are crowded with performers and celebrators. I take part when I can, but most of the diversions require money or "jink" as they call it. I spend the few coppers I've gathered for bread and sit and enjoy the performances from afar. The dancing, poetry, and even street theater lighten my heart.
Later still I find the heart of the celebrations, a building known as the Festhall.
"Welcome to the Sensorium," a friendly Bariaur said. "For a few coins you can experience wonders that others have been recorded. I am Annali Webspinner."
"H-How can I experience these wonders?"
"The stones in this place have been enchanted. People come in and record their experiences and feelings. Others can pick up the stones and feel the experience for themselves. It is only by having experiences that we truly understand life's offerings. Try that one."
I picked up the smooth stone, holding it in my hands. After a moment I felt myself looking through someone else's eyes.
I was in a forest, a lively, golden wood filled with sunlight and music. I was dancing around, twirling an elven maiden in my arms as the instruments played. People laughed and clapped when they didn't drink of wine and mead, and I felt happy, so happy.
Abruptly everything vanished as Annali took the stone from my hands.
I blinked, gradually resolving where I was again. "Rain. Do you have any rain?"
"Of course. Many different kinds. You can experience rain on the top of one of Bitopia's mountains, looking up at the other, or the rains of Arborea's fields. If you are more adventurous you can have the rain of Baator, which stings with fiery heat. Perhaps the storms of Ysgard are to your liking."
"Simple rain. A long drizzle, cool, like in a mountain. Here." I passed over every coin I had. "Please. I know it's not enough . . . please."
Annali studied me, then nodded. "Come. This way."
He led us further into the Festhall passing room after room all filled with stones, all catalogued by the type of experience. We passed others along the way, some wide-eyed like me, others seemingly comfortable, and still others looking as if they were a part of this place. I couldn't readily understand why I thought that, but it felt right. I saw a group of what looked like adventurers—reminding me of my own friends who had fallen—who seemed to be negotiating for something with a smiling woman with slightly curved horns and a barbed tail.
Annali brought us into a room and pointed to a stone. "That is the one."
I picked it up and felt myself standing on a mountain underneath a mostly clear sky, but cool rain drizzled on me. Above I saw another landscape, other mountains above the clouds, but I didn't care.
I reveled in the rain.
I remembered Rina.