I stepped off the curb, absorbed in my music, and was carried to another dimension. The vertigo of planeshift passed in a heartbeat, and I swore violently. "I'm on vacation," I growled at my unseen bosses, knowing at least one of the Grey Lords had to be watching me still. "I'm not supposed to be on call." No one answered, and I gave a heavy sigh. So much for rest and relaxation. Putting my earbuds in my pocket, I took in my new surroundings.
It was dark, chilly, and a low mist covered the ground. The sky above held neither moon nor stars, and a single lamp a hundred yards to my left glowed brighter for having no competition. Gravel crunched beneath my feet as I approached the lamp, achingly loud even to my recently music-polluted ears. A wall of trees loomed on either side, the loam around their roots smelling of decay and dampness.
I shivered, getting a bad feeling.
Stepping into the creamy light of the lamp, I heard the soft hiss of gas. I groaned, hoping I wasn't in another pre-industrial realm. I hated trying to conform to odd taboos; I'd yet to meet a realm like that without something being uptight about religion or sexual roles. But I went where my masters told me.
However, they didn't always tell me what I was supposed to do when I got there. I'd gotten good at figuring things out.
"Ain't she beautiful?" whispered a rough voice behind me. I whirled, fists coming up in defense. My heart raced, and I wondered why I hadn't heard the guy approach. Two men stepped into the circle of light, and I took several steps back.
"Very," the second guy said with a leer. His eyes rolled closed, and I watched his nostrils flare. "She's clean, and warm."
"Mistress'll want her," the first said. They stared with hungry eyes, and I felt my senses working on figuring them out.
The second guy took a shifting step forward. He wasn't scared of me; the gleam in his eyes and set of his shoulders said he was used to people being scared of him. Taking another step backward, I understood.
It came to me out of the depths of my mind, like dredging up a fact for a test. I didn't understand how the Gray Lords had given me this ability, but I was able to remember anything about a dimension once I started interacting with it.
What I remembered now was that I was in a Gothic wet-dream: vampires ruled the world; the sun hid behind massive clouds most of the time; humans lived in colonies like cattle. Every tid-bit let me know I was in trouble if I let these two touch me.
"Mistress won't mind if we try her first." Second's voice lowered to a rasp, his fangs bright against flushed lips. First followed him, eyes glittering, licking his lips sloppily.
I drew in a deep breath, let it out slowly as I prepared to fight. There was no fear about these two hurting me; as an agent of Balance, I had been given the skills and strength to survive nearly anything. I'd never tested my limits, but fist fights with vampires fell well within them. After I defended myself, I'd find out what was going on.
They charged clumsily, and I easily dodged them. First rounded on me, and I shoved him into Second. They fell in a tangle of limbs, and I spent a heartbeat staring in disbelief, then I dashed off into the night.
The darkness quickly swallowed me, thick enough to cut. I ran for several minutes, listening for sounds of pursuit, trying to move lightly on the gravel. My attackers were either flying or weren't following, so I stopped, and moved to the treeline. I couldn't see anything except the vaguest shapes, but I could feel the looming trees. Grateful for a heightened sense of equilibrium and spatial awareness, I made headway into the forest without stumbling. I could feel the trees disrupting the flow of air, and let it guide me.
A change in air flow caught my attention. Stopping, I raised my fists, going on the defensive. I spun slowly, trying to find the vamp I knew was there. Wherever they were, they were holding still, hiding from me.
As I started to move on, something moved. I turned just as something struck the back of my head. Groaning, I fell.