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That Part of Yourself, Which You Brought Along


Likesn

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Part 1:

"While the realms remain apart and do not interact, each of them follows it's own course, like rivers which run uninterrupted.

However, when a journey is made between the realms, the travelers affect the destination realm almost immediately as they enter it.

The duration and magnitude of the effect depends on the travelers and what they bring with them to the destination realm"

The Travelers' Book of the Realms    

 

It was a particularly cold and rainy December Tuesday when Gemma made her way to the public library. When she entered the building, dripping with heavy cold rain, she was relieved to find an empty bucket, which she could place her umbrella in. The fact that the umbrella survived the way to the library was practically a miracle and Gemma felt it was only right to let her umbrella "rest" in the bucket for a while. When she searched for a place to hang her soaked coat she noticed that all the coat hangers were also empty, save for one. She entered the reading hall and found out that, as she suspected, the only person there was a middle aged librarian. He didn't seem to notice her at first, but then Gemma let out a loud "Ha Eshoo!" and the librarian quickly raised his head from an open book placed on the counter in front of him and gave her a surprised look.

"Excuse be" said Gemma as she recovered from her sneeze.

"Gesundheit. How can I help you?" asked the librarian.

"I'b lookig for sobethig to read".

"Well, a public library is a good place to start".

"I'b sorry- I haved't beed feelig well lately. Cad I start over add explaid byself better"?

"Of course" the librarian cleaned his glasses and took a closer look at Gemma. Although she was standing quite far away from him, he could see her red nostrils and how messy her hair, with a color somewhere between brown and red, was.

"So like I said- I'b dot feelig well add with this weather all I wadt to do is crawl idto by bed with a good book".

"If you don't mind me asking- it sounds like you're the reading type, surely you have some books at home which you could have picked from rather than go outside in this ghastly weather. Do I assume correctly"?

"Yes add do- I do like to read, but I odly recedtly boved idto ad apartbedt of by owd. All the books I've read so far were either by paredts' or books I loaded frob public libraries. As buch as I'd liked to have stayed at hobe, I figured this is a good opportudity for be to start a book collectiod of by owd".

"That's quite impressive. If you don't mind me saying- you don't see many young people with such passion for reading. Is there any particular genre you are looking for? Any particular writers you like more than others"?

"Actually, I try to stay oped bidded. Is there adythig you recobbed"?

"The possibilities are endless. Perhaps you'd like to look around for a while and see if you find something you like? Unless you're in a hurry- this library is bigger than it looks and you might be a little overwhelmed and might even get lost".

"Sidce I'b dot really id a hurry, at least dot while the storb is ragig outside, I thidk I will look aroudd for a while, if that's alright".

"By all means. I'll be here. Feel free to come back here and ask for my help if you need any".

"Thadk you. I will".

 

Gemma wondered across the reading hall for a little while and then went up to it's second floor. While the first floor mostly had tables where people could sit and read, with only a few bookshelves across the floor, the second floor was comprised mostly of bookshelves, reaching almost as high as the ceiling. Gemma didn't know how long she wandered around the second floor, but after a while she reached a section which seemed very old. The books on that section were written in languages Gemma couldn't recognize, their pages yellow, indicating they must've been very old, potentially ancient. It appeared no one has been to that section of the library for a while, not even the cleaning staff, for everything was covered in a thick layer of dust. The combination of the dust and Gemma's cold soon made her nose tickle fiercely and eventually- "Het Shoo"! When Gemma recovered from her sneeze her eyes opened wide and her jaw dropped.

TBC

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I've said that before, but I have to say it again. 

YES! Another Likesn story!!! Can't wait for the next part, already into this

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It's so great to see such positive feedback you guys! :):) Well then, I won't keep you waiting:

Part 2:

The first thing Gemma noticed was the bright sunlight, which caused her to sneeze again- "Ha Ei Tshoo"! Once she recovered from that sneeze, she could take the time to take a better look at her surroundings. One thing was certain- she was no longer at the library. In fact, she wasn't inside any building at all. She was standing in the middle of a huge field of green grass, under bright blue sky, with only a few feather clouds in it, so different from the downpour she had experienced on her way to the library, which showed no signs of stopping as she wandered in search of a book. The grass field stretched as far as the eye can see in almost every direction, although Gemma could spot a patch of trees in the distance, maybe a forest.

"He Tshoo, He Itsh, Hei Tshioo! Ohhh!" It seemed that she was allergic to the grass. Between the dust in the library, the sudden bright sunlight and the grass, her poor nose, which was already cold stricken, simply couldn't catch a brake.

"Hie Tshoo, Ei Shoo!" Gemma's sneezes were getting harsher. She didn't want to get too far from where she was standing, seeing as she had no idea where she was, but she knew she couldn't stay in this field for long without completely losing control over her nose. She started to walk in the direction of the trees. Her walk quickly turned into a run, since she could feel the tickle inside her nose intensifies. She barely saw where she was going, her eyes half shut due to the sneezes she was suppressing. Sooner than she had expected, she was close to the patch of trees and when she reached the first of them she leaned her hand on the trunk of one of them and let out all the sneezes that were desperately trying to escape her irritated nose:

"He Hea Hea Tshoo, E Tshoo, He ItShoo, Eishoo, Ha Ish, He Ishoo, He TeShoo"!

"Goodness! Are you alright"?

With her eyes filled with tears, Gemma could barely see who was speaking. She noticed a group of people standing no too far from her. Still leaning against the tree, only just managing to keep herself from falling from the combination of her sneezing fit and her surprise, Gemma wiped her teary eyes with the back of her hand. This resulted in an even bigger surprise- the group of about or five people looking at her weren't exactly people. In fact, they were nothing like Gemma had ever seen before. They looked like women, but there were a few features of their appearances that clearly indicated that they were not human. Their narrow slanted eyes might've given the impression that they were Asian women, but their pointy pear shaped ears were nothing like human ears. Also, there were the furry tales.

"Wh.... What are you?" asked the startled Gemma.

"We could ask you the same question" said one of the creatures.

"Where ab I"?

"She talks funny" said another one of the creatures.

"Please, I have do idea where I ab or how I got here. Cad you help be"?

"She does talk funny Xi Sirth" the creature that spoke after Gemma's first question turned towards the creature that spoke after her second one and then turned toward Gemma herself "Why should we help you if we don't even know who you are? How do we know you don't intend to harm us"?

"Oh come on Xi Ratil- look at her" said one of the creatures who, Gemma noticed by her voice, was the one that asked her if she was alright "She is clearly lost. Poor thing, I don't thing she could harm us even if she wanted to".

"Hhhh He Tshoo!" Gemma made the creatures jump with a sudden loud sneeze.

"What was that?! Do you still think she can't harm us Xi Ayil"?

"I'b sorry, it was just a sdeeze, I did't do it od purpose".

"A what"?

"A sdeeze, because I have a cold. Hep Tshoo! Add apparedtly allergies as well".

"I don't know what are these 'alergins' you're talking about, but there's no way you are cold on a day like this".

"It's called 'allergies', dot 'alergids', add I did't say I'b cold, I said that I have a cold".

"That's impossible- no one can 'have' a cold, especially on a nice day like this" said a creature who hasn't spoken yet.

"Maybe she's from the frozen plain" said another.

"That doesn't seem likely".

"How can you tell? You've never been to the north west, maybe there are ice creatures there that can take the cold with them anywhere".

"Does she look like an ice creature to you"?!

"I'm just saying".

"Look, this is going nowhere. Why don't we take her to see Shaz Vaniriya? Maybe she can tell us more" suggested the creature referred to as Xi Ayil.

"Wait a bidute- you're all talkig about whether or dot you cad trust be, but why should I trust you?" asked Gemma.

"What is your name?" asked the creature referred to as Xi Ayil.

"Gebba".

"Well, Gebba"

"Dot Gebba, by dabe is Gebba".

"That's what I said, isn't it"?

"Do, it's...... ugh, dever bidd. What were you startig to say"?

"You're in our home territory. Basically, this means you need to come with us if we ask you to".

"Because we can also not ask" said the creature referred to as Xi Ratil in a threatening tone.

"Forgive her, she has a tendency to be suspicious towards strangers. Anyway, it would be much more simple, for all of us, if you just come with us to meet Shaz Vaniriya. She knows things that we don't and she may be able to clear this out".

"He Hea Tshoo! Ugh, this grass is killig by dose. I guess I bight as well go with you".

"Would you stop doing that thing?" asked the creature referred to as Xi Ratil, for Gemma's sneeze appeared to have made the creatures uncomfortable.

"*sniff* Stop sdeezig? Believe be- there is albost dothig I'd like bore at the bobedt" said Gemma.

The group of creatures then turned and started walking and Gemma followed them.

TBC

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  • 2 weeks later...

Part 3:

They walked for a couple of hours, the group of creatures leading and Gemma following, trying to keep up while constantly having to sneeze. Even when her allergy induced sneezes, caused by the grass, died down, she still had a lot of "natural" cold sneezes bothering her poor nose. At first, the creatures found Gemma's sneezes almost intimidating, but as time went by the gradually became accustomed to her sneezes and treated it as background noise, at least until a particularly harsh sneeze startled them every now and then. Gemma noticed the scenery has changed after a while- they started by walking across the border of the forest and the field but after some time they turned deeper into the forest. While they walked across the border of the forest, Gemma tried to stay as close to the tree line as possible, fearing that getting too close to the grass would launch her into another fit of allergic sneezes. As they went deeper and deeper into the forest, the top of the trees became more dense and only a little bit of sunlight came through, so it was easy to lose track of time. After some time walking inside the deep forest, Gemma's eyes were struck by a sudden burst of sunlight, which caused her to sneeze:

"He Eshoo, E Tshoo"!

When she opened her eyes again, Gemma noticed that the reason for the sudden burst of sunlight was the fact that they have reached a big clearing in the forest. In the middle of the clearing was a sight that took Gemma's breath away: It was a group of giant trees, larger than any tree Gemma had ever seen or knew existed. The giant trees, standing close to each other, appeared to be connected by a system of bridges and covered by staircases, but what Gemma found truly amazing was the fact that all those bridges and staircases looked like they were natural parts of the trees. The sight was beautiful and Gemma realized they must've reached their destination. It appeared that she was right, for the creatures signalled her to follow them and started climbing one of the many staircases. Considering the long walk she had thus far, as well as the fact that she was sick and generally out of shape, Gemma would normally have been too tired for a climb like this, but it was like the sight of the group of trees gave her some sort of renewed strength to push forward. Gemma couldn't explain this, but the place had a strong feeling of home all around. Finally, Gemma climbed up to a platform, which also seemed to be a natural part of the tree she climbed on, and found the group of creatures waiting for her. They told her that the creature they came to see was busy at the moment and that it would take some time before she could meet her, but they showed her a place where she could sit and rest while she waited and gave her water and some sort of nuts, which Gemma never saw but were quite tasty, for which she was very grateful. They let her rest there for some time and after a while came back to call her. The creature they introduced her to looked like them, but although she didn't look old at all she was clearly older than them.

"Shaz Vaniria, this is the creature we told you about. She says her name is Gebba" said the creature referred to as Xi Ayil. By that time, Gemma has given up on trying to making the creatures understand that she was speaking in a congested voice. She was also not offended by being called "a creature", for that is exactly how she saw the creatures talking about her.

"Well well well, that is a sight I haven't seen in a long time" said the creature referred to as Shaz Vaniria.

"So you have met a creature like this before?" asked one of the creatures.

"Indeed, but as I said- it was a long time ago".

"So...... what is she exactly?" asked the creature referred to as Xi Ratil.

"She is a traveler. No wonder you're all confused. She must be very confused as well. You see- she is not a part of our realm".

"Our realm? Do you mean our home territory?" asked one of the creatures.

"No. She isn't from any territory you know of".

"But how can this be? We know all the territories" said the creature referred to as Xi Ayil.

"Exactly- you know all the territories, but you don't know anywhere else".

"Anywhere else?" asked one of the creatures.

"It's a little complicated to explain, but allow me to try: All the territories you know of are parts of one whole. This whole is the 'realm' in which we live, but it is not the only realm. Beyond boundaries only few can grasp lies countless other realms. The ones that can grasp these boundaries are known as 'travelers', for they are the only one that can travel between the realms".

"Excuse be, I hate to idterrupt....... ahhhhhh Shaz Vadiria, but it soudds like you are talkig about parallel worlds. Is that what you beadt to say? That there are parallel worlds add that I sobehow 'traveled' frob by owd idto yours?" asked Gemma.

"My, I'm finding it hard to understand what you are saying, but it seems like these 'worlds' you are talking about are what realms are called in your realm, am I correct? Oh, and you can call me Vaniria" the other creatures gasped and covered their mouths in disbelieve when they heard that.

"What's the batter? Did I do sobethig wrodg?" asked Gemma as she noticed the response of the creatures around her.

"Not at all dear- they're just not accustomed to someone not using the formal speech".

It was then that Gemma realized that "Xi" and "Shaz" were some sort of titles and that the words after them were the names. She didn't have much time to wonder about her sudden realization though, for she was suddenly overcome by a huge sneeze- "Ha EtsheHoo!" which made the creatures around her jump, all except Vaniria, who tried to stay dignified but couldn't help backing away from Gemma a little, due to her surprise.

"That's another thing we meant to ask you about Shaz Vaniria- what was that thing she just did? Is that some kind of gesture these 'travelers' use?" asked Ratil.

"Truth be told, this is something I never came across either. She also talks in a strange way. All of this strengthen my conclusion- we should take her to the elder Stone".

"*sniff* What's the elder Stode?" asked Gemma.

"Not 'what' dear, but 'who'. The elder Stone is a traveler like yourself and I suspect you two might even come from the same realm. I'm positive he would have some useful insights we could all learn from. Had you come here sooner I would've made the arrangements to take you to him right away, but the sun is starting to set and it would be best not to travel at night. I suggest you spend the night with us and we can be on our way early next morning, unless you object"?

"Dot at all. It is very kidd of you to have be. Thadk you for your hospitality".

"It is no bother at all. In fact, I am very curious myself and would've gladly used the time you stay here to talk with you and maybe learn more about you and the realm from which you came, but I can see you are tired. My curiosity would have to wait for tomorrow".

"Dow that you bedtioded it- I ab quite tired. I thidk I bight go to sleep sood, if you dod't bidd".

"Not at all dear. Rest yourself and we shall speak again in the morning".

The creatures found Gemma a place on the wooden platform where she could sleep and left her be. Gemma was so tired she didn't mind sleeping in that altitude, but there was something else that bothered her- her runny stuffy nose. She couldn't remember when was the last time she gave it a decent blow and started searching in the pockets of her coat and pants for tissues. Sadly, she didn't find any, but she did find a handkerchief her mother gave her some time ago. Normally, she wasn't a handkerchief person, but since she didn't have any other options, aside from blowing her nose into one of the unknown leaves around her, she opened the handkerchief, placed it other her nose and gave a long hearty blow. Satisfied, she went to sleep soon after, not minding that it wasn't even dark yet.

When she woke up the next morning she felt better, but her nose still felt like it was filled with wet cement. She took out her mother's handkerchief and gave a long wet blow into it before looking around. The sun hasn't fully risen yet and most of the creatures appeared to be sleeping in the trees, but some of them were beginning to wake up. Gemma imagined it probably won't be long before someone would come and call her.

"Ji Eshoo!" a loud noise startled Gemma. It sounded like a sneeze, but since it wasn't her own and since the creatures had no idea what a sneeze was she didn't know where it might have come from.

"Jei Shi!" another loud noise was heard, this time from a different direction.

Before too long, Gemma noticed similar noises all around. It seemed that the noises woke most of the other creatures up and soon there was a bustle all around. Gemma noticed one of the creatures she met the previous day walking towards her, but mid- way the creature suddenly stooped and- "Ih Jsh!" sneezed?

"Gebba? What's happedig?" the creatures asked in a stuffed up voice.

"Ai Jesh! It's all her fault! did't I tell you we should't trust her?" an angry looking Ratil appeared, her face red.

"Hi Ji Shi! Wait Xi Ratil! We should't judge her before we fidd out what's goig od" said Ayil, who appeared right after Ratil.

"You! You have sobe serious explaididg to do" said Ratil, pointing at Gemma.

"I..... I thidk you bight have Ae Shoo! caught by cold" said Gemma.

"Dod't lie- this has dever happeded before, what did you do to us?" asked Ratil.

"Gai JeShoo!" they all turned around and saw Vaniria.

"Shaz Vadiria- what is the beadig of this? What did she do to us?" asked Ratil.

"Calb dowd Xi Ratil, I'b sure there's ad expladatiod. Gebba"?

"Well...... I was, I ab, sort of sick. It's called a cobbod cold add I thidk you bight have caught it" said Gemma.

"She's dot bakig ady sedse. She's probably lyig" said Ratil.

"I'b dot lyig. Please, I dod't kdow how else to explaid this to you, but you said there was sobeode like be you wadted be to see, right? Baybe he cad help us udderstadd what's goig od. We should go see hib, like you pladded".

"Iddeed. Byabe the elder Stode will have sobe adswers" said Vaniria.

TBC

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I love this idea of trying to explain the common cold to creatures who have never encountered it! I wonder whether it will present any differently in them than in humans.

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It's great that you have managed to get so many different causes of Gemma's sneezes in to the narrative of the story - I can only guess what's going to get her sneezing next :D 

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StaraiRoalanstjay

Only just found this, and I love it! I love how sneezing is a totally alien concept to these creatures, as is catching a cold :D

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Part 4:

Unlike the previous day, this time Gemma didn't have any trouble keeping up with the rest. If anything, Gemma could have led the way, if she knew the way. While traveling with a cold was not exactly enjoyable for Gemma, it was an entirely new kind of ordeal for the creatures. At first, whenever one of the creatures sneezed, they would stop dead in their tracks, which made the movement of the group very slow, for it happened almost every minute. Finally, Gemma managed to convince her companions that the sneezes were nothing to be so excited about. After that, they didn't stop walking whenever they sneezed, but they still had absolutely no control over their sneezes, so they would just let them out helplessly. It had occurred to Gemma that the way they let their sneezes out was completely unhygienic, but seeing as all of them were already sick, Gemma reassured herself that it didn't matter much. Since Gemma was accompanied only by the first group of creatures she met the previous day, as well as Vaniriya, she was a little worried about all the other creatures they left behind at the camp, for it seemed that they were all sick as well, but Gemma kept telling herself that it was only a cold and moved on.

"GjiYeshShi! Oh, Gebba, by dose is so wet idside add it bakes it hard for be to breath, what shall I do?" asked Ayil.

"Well, whed sobeode has a cold add a stuffed up dose, like us right dow, they usually blow their dose idto a aaahhhh aaaahhhhh A Eshoo! *sniff*" a tissue or sobethig, but udfortudately I odly have a handkerchief by bother gave be add I really deed it for byself" Gemma said as she pulled out the handkerchief and gave her nose hearty blow. She was about to return the handkerchief into her pocket when she found something inside it. "Hey, what's this?" she wondered as she pulled out of her pocket what turned out to be a brand new clean handkerchief. Gemma was even more shocked to find five more clean handkerchiefs in her pocket, just enough for all the creatures traveling with her.

"Hey everyode, stop! I have sobethig for you. I just foudd it add I thidk it cad help you all a lot" said Gemma.

"What is it Gebba? Hen GjeShoo!" sneezed Vaniriya.

"Haddkerchiefs. You cad all blow your doses with theb".

"Ag Jesh! What are you talkig about?" asked Ratil.

"EtshShoo! Ugh, here- I'll show you how it's dode" Gemma said before slowly bringing her handkerchief up to her nose and blowing it.

"Why did you do that? How is bakig that weird soudd supposed to help us?" asked one of the creatures.

"Dow Xi Sashil, dod't be rude. Gebba is tryig to help us. Go od Gebba, explaid to us what you did" said Vaniriya.

"By blowig your dose you relieve sobe of the pressure idside it, caused by the codgestiod you get whed you have a cold. Just bridg the haddkerchief to your face, press it to your dose with your fidgers add let air out through your dose as you press. Try it".

Baffled, the creatures took the handkerchiefs and did as Gemma told them. Before too long they all managed to master the art of nose blowing, producing a variety of wet sounds. "A cold must be a very good teacher when it comes to nose blowing" Gemma thought.

"Hei Gji Ash! What happeded gebba?! I thought that this was supposed to help" said Sashil.

"It's supposed to help you breath easier, but I cad sobetibes bake you sdeeze" said Gemma.

"Ho AgjaEshoo! We should keep goig- we still have sobe way to go before reachig the elder Sotde" said Vaniriya after she let out a huge sneeze.

"Ga Jush!", "He Gjesh!" sneezed two other creatures.

"Cobe alodg Xi Karey, Xi Hecal, we deed to Ha Gjish! bove od" Ayil told the two creatures and thus Gemma learned the names of all the creatures traveling with her.

About two hours after they left the creatures' camp they went out of the forest. When Gemma taught the creatures how to blow their noses they were standing on a patch of bare land. Luckily for Gemma, while she could see fields of grass all around, they weren't walking close enough to them to make the grass tickle her sensitive nose. After about two or three hours from when they started walking again, Gemma saw they were getting close to a hill. On top of the hill was a small wooden house and Gemma guessed that's where elder Stone was living. It turned out that she was right- when they approached the house a man came out to meet them. Although Gemma was sure he was well over 60 years old, he had a spark in his eyes like a 20 year old.

"Welcome Shaz Vaniriya. To what do I owe the honor of meeting you and your lovely entourage?" asked elder Stone.

"Greetigs elder Stode. We cobe to you frob our forest to bridg before you this traveler Hu GjeAsh! We have bet her yesterday, add as you cad see she had sobe sort of stradge codditiod which we dow have as well apparedtly" said Vaniriya.

"Heg Josh!" Ratil sneezed, as if to make a point.

"A traveler you say? I haven't met a traveler in so many years. Seeing as you all have what is known in my home realm as 'a common cold' I suspect the traveler you've met has come from my home realm. I suppose that's another reason you came to see me, is it not"?

"Iddeed. She has also told us about this 'cold' add we hope you cad help us udderstadd it" said Vaniriya.

"Well then, let's see this traveler you've been talking about. There is no need to hide from me dear, I promise no harm will come to you if you come closer and make it easier for an old man to see and hear you".

"I'b dot sure that is a good idea- I'b probably very codtagious, seeig as I got all of theb sick, add I would't wadt to give you by bad cold" said Gemma.

"I have good reason to believe that won't be a problem" said elder Stone.

"How cobe?" asked Gemma.

"I assume that other than anyone here all the other Salkil you have met now have a cold as well"?

"Heh Tshoosh! Who"?

"The Salkil. That is how your friends are called".

"Oh, thed yes- I fear I have idfected theb all".

"Just as I suspected. But look what has become of me! I haven't met a fellow traveler, not to mention someone from earth, in so long it appeared I have completely forgotten my manners. Alexander Stone, at your service".

"Gebba Kdight. I'd shake your hadd, but"

"I told you Miss Knight- I am positive you cannot give me your cold".

"How cad you be so certaid? It seebs I gave it to everyode else here. Oh, add please Bister Stode- call be Gebba".

"Only if you call me Alex. They call me 'elder Stone', but I don't need any more reasons to feel old".

"Very well Alex- how cad you be sure you wod't catch by cold"?

"Ho GeJish!", "Guj Esh!", "Hu Gjush!" Ayil, Hecal and Karey sneezed one after the other.

"Tell me Gemma, have you noticed anything common to all the Salkil you have met?" asked Alexander.

"Do Ha Tshooesh! Should I have"?

"Have you seen any male Salkil"?

"Dow that you bedtiod it- I dod't thidk I have".

"That's because there aren't any. Almost all creatures in Zashir have an entirely female population".

"All the creatures id where"?

"Forgive me- I have treated you like an experienced traveler, when clearly it is the first travel you have ever made".

"Hu Etshoo! *sniff* Is it that obvious"?

"There is no shame about it- most travelers don't know what they are until they make their first travel, almost always accidentally, as I guess you have".

"You guess right".

"Well then, allow me to start again, this time from the beginning. I assume whatever knowledge you have about travelers and the realms was passed to you by dear Vaniriya, am I correct"?

"EshShoo! Excuse be. You are correct".

"Don't feel any need to apologize, you are clearly not feeling well. Now, back to the matter of travelers- by now you have figured out that the world we knew as earth is one of many realms, that only very few can travel between. These few are known as travelers. Travelers are more common in some of the realms than in others. For instance, while there are very little travelers from earth, there are even fewer from this realm, called Zashir. In fact, travelers from Zashir haven't been seen in a long time".

"Does this bead that travelers beet each other? Is that how they leard about who they are add about the realbs"?

"Sometimes, but usually once they manage to cross from one realm to another they come back to their own realm, where they find the travelers' book of the realms, from which they can learn pretty much all they need to know. There are travelers who are guided by other travelers, but they are rare, for they need to know the other travelers and the chances of travelers from the same realm appearing in close proximity to each other are very low".

"What about travelers like be, who dod't cobe back to their owd realb right away"?

"Well, it seems like we travelers have some special kind of 'luck' or 'destiny', call it whatever you want, but travelers like you tend to come across travelers like me. There have been travelers who got lost during their first travel, but that's highly uncommon. A widely accepted assumption among travelers suggests that some of them chose to stay at the realms they traveled to, while a small number might've come across other travelers who were, putting it gently, not very sociable".

"So what happeded to theb"?

"Like I said, it's just an assumption, commonly accepted though it may be".

"Ahhh Ga Ja Shoo! Forgive be for idterruptig elder Stode, but what about this cold?" asked Vaniriya.

"Apologies, Shaz Vaniriya. The common cold is a minor ailment in the realm where Gemma and I come from. The best way to get better is getting plenty of rest. I suggest you and your entourage return to your forest and spread the word that there is no cause for alarm. If you would be so kind as to leave Gemma here with me, we have much more to discuss and I do hope I can help her return to her home realm".

"Very well thed elder Stode. Thadk you for your help" said Vaniriya and she and the rest of the Salkil headed back to their forest.

TBC

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Part 5:

After the Salkil left, Alexander invited Gemma into his small house and offered her a cup of tea, which she gratefully accepted.

"Now then, where were we?" asked Alexander.

"You explaided to be about the realbs add the travelers add I'b statrig to bake sedse of it all, but I still dod't udderstadd how cobe you're so sure you wod't Ha Eshoo! catch by cold" said Gemma.

"Ah yes, that question that has been bothering you seeing as the Salkil, who have never heard of a cold before, somehow managed to catch yours. Well then, as I told you- almost all the creatures here on Zashir have en entirely female population. As for the common cold, it never existed on this realm until the moment you arrived here, carrying it with you. You see, if and when you finally manage to find the travelers' book of the realms, one of things you will be able to read about is a phenomenon called 'The Initial Contact Transfer'. Simply put, a lot of times when travelers make their first travel, they bring something with them from their home realm into the realm into which they traveled. In your case, you seem to have brought the common cold with you into Zashir. That being said, the other part of the initial contact transfer means that things travelers bring with them to other realms will not always be the same as they were in their home realm, for they will be affected by the laws of the new realm. Since you are a female human and you brought the common cold to a realm where almost all of the creatures are female, it stands to reason that only female creatures can be affected by your cold and since I am not one I have every reason to believe I am safe from your cold here, unlike on earth. Does that clarify this matter well enough for you"?

"It does, I thidk. It also explaids soebthig that had odly just occurred to be- I dever questioded the fact that the Salkil spoke Edglish, but dow I assube this is what you brought alodg with you whed your first traveled here".

"A logical assumption, but I'm afraid you're wrong, though through no fault of your own. You are simply not aware of two other phenomenons, called 'Travelers' Hearing 'and 'Travelers' Speech'. Whenever travelers converse with creatures from other realms, they hear the conversation in their own language but the creatures hear it in their own language, so neither of them are aware that they are, in fact, speaking two different languages".

"EpsssshhhhhShoo! *sniff* Excuse be. But what happeds whed there are words or phrases that dod't exist id ode of the ladguages"?

"A very good question Gemma. If there is an equivalent to that word or phrase in the other language, the side hearing it will hear that equivalent, in a way that would make sense in their language. If there is no equivalent, for example- with a name like 'Gemma' or the rank like titles used by the Salkil, the other side would hear them as they are".

"I see" said Gemma before blowing her nose into her handkerchief. "Ode bore thig- how cobe yesterday I odly had ode haddkerchief add today I had edough for the whole group of Salkil travelig with be"?

"I suppose it has something to do with the initial contact transfer as well- the Salkil never had a cold, never sneezed and never needed to blow their noses, so it seems that once you brought the cold to their realm you also brought means to help ease their suffering, like handkerchiefs for blocked noses".

"Oh by god! Heip Tshoo! I odly just realized sobethig- I've beed od this realb for over a day add the people I kdow have do idea where I ab! They bust be worried sick! He Eshoo! Poor choice of words".

"No reason to be alarmed Gamma. You see- time doesn't flow the same way in every realm and time on Zashir passes much slower than on earth. For instance, I have been on Zashir for well over two decades, but I'm not much older than I was when I left earth. If I remember the time differences correctly, if you've been here for about a day that means that on earth you've only been gone for less than half an hour. Unless you were expected somewhere, it is pretty safe to assume no one would have any reason to wonder where you are. That being said, I did promise to help you find your way back to earth, so me may as well get to it".

"Wait, you bead to tell be you've beed here for over twedty years? Is do ode lookig for you? Does adyode kdow where you are"?

"I'm afraid the answer to both of your questions is no. The first time I came to Zashir I was a much younger man. It wasn't the first realm I traveled to, but I found it by far the most fascinated realm I ever came across. I visited here briefly and returned to earth with an intention to return here soon, after I've made all the proper arrangements. I was an only child and my parents passed away before I discovered I was a traveler. By the time I first traveled to Zashir, I lost contact with all of my living family members, but we haven't been close, so it didn't matter much to me. Being a traveler, I didn't have time to maintain close friendship connections with anyone on earth, and to tell you the truth I had very little desire to do so. I'm afraid you might say I have become sort of addicted to traveling, but as I was making the final arrangements for a long travel to Zashir something happened that made me forget about traveling altogether".

"Really? Add what was Ei Shoo! Sorry. What was that"?

"I fell in love. I met a women, her name was Martha, and before I knew it I was head over heals in love with her. Ever since I met her I wanted nothing more to do with traveling and my only desire was to live the rest of my life with her. She had no idea I was a traveler, no clue that there were other realms besides earth and I was not about to tell her. I didn't want her to think she made me give up traveling to be with her, when the truth was as long as I was with her I didn't wanted to go anywhere else. We lived a simple life- she had a strong passion for everything that grew, so she worked at a gardening nursery and I worked as a teacher of subjects like history and literature. We were so happy together and even when we found out we couldn't have children we were happy as long as we had each other. Unfortunately, happiness, like everything else, can never last forever. When Martha passed away I felt lost. Most of our friends were Martha's friends and a few months after she passed away I was as lonely as the day I met her, only I didn't mind being lonely before I met her. I have been retired for several years at that time so I tried to figure out what to do with my life. It wasn't until I went through some of my old stuff that I found my copy of the travelers' book of the realms, along with my plans to travel to Zashir. All of a sudden, it all came back to me- the thrill of traveling and my will to spend a lot of time studying the realm of Zashir. It might have been a few decades later than my original plan (and god only knows how much time has passed on Zashir), but I was finally ready to make the long travel I wanted, which will most likely be my last. Oh my, listen to me going on and on about my life when you must be eager to return to earth and nurs that cold of yours".

"That's alright, I did't bidd. Ae Tshoo! Although, dow that you bedtiod it, I thidk It's a good tibe for be to fidd by way back hobe".

"Very well then. Let me make a few quick arrangements and we should be all set to go. Just wait here for a few moments and I'll be right...... oh my".......

TBC

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Part 6:

"What is it?" Gemma asked as Alexander looked troubled when he looked at something. She then noticed what he was looking at- at a corner of the room stood a small table with what seemed like a bunch of stones. Gemma didn't give it any special attention when she first noticed it, for she though it was merely a decoration of some sort, but now she saw that one of the stones, which appeared to be the smallest one, was glowing in a sort of green- yellow light.

"What does it bead? What are these stodes"?

"It means, Gemma, that I'm in for another visit. Two visits in one day, now that is something that hasn't happened to me in a long time".

Alexander went out to greet his guests and Gemma followed him. At first, she didn't see anyone, but she noticed Alexander was looking at the sky and looked the same way and that's when she saw them. Three creatures were flying in their direction and when they were close enough Gemma could tell they were definitely not Salkil. For one thing, the Slakil had no wings and those creatures had six dragonfly like wings each. Gemma also noticed they were much smaller than the Salkil, a fact that she only noticed when they almost reached them, for when they were far they first looked like little spots in the sky but they didn't grow much larger as they came closer. When they landed, Gemma realized they only reached as high as her knees, and she wasn't a very tall person. She also noticed they all had eyes the same color as the glowing stone back at Alexander's house. She knew exactly what they reminded her of and turned to Alexander.

"Are those"

"Xircif, my dear. I had also mistaken them for fairies the first time I had encountered them and they seemed rather insulted. I forgot to mention that the different creatures here on Zashir have different roles. The Salkil, as you can probably guess, are entrusted with the large forests while the Xircif are entrusted with the small growing things, mainly flowers. Galar Jimiya, please allow me to introduce Gemma. She is a fellow traveler and my guest. And who, may I ask, are your companions?" asked Alexander after he introduced Gemma to his guests.

"Greetigs elder Stode. These are Hesk Shestik add Hesk Rulia, bessedgers of the Zaru add the Yalar tibes".

"Wait, your voice- do all of you" Gemma started to ask but then "Hex Chi!", "Xa uch!", "Yax Ch!" all the Xircif sneezed.

"Oh do! They all have cold! But How cad this be if I dever bet theb E Shoo!" Gemma's sneeze startled the Xircif and caused them to back away from her flying.

"You! What did you just do add what is your coddectiod to our codditiod? Aix Choo!" asked Jimiya as she pointed at Gemma with an accusing finger.

"Cobe dow Galar Jibia, let us dot be hasty. I'b sure elder Stode has the adswers we cabe for Hox Ach!" sneezed Hesk.

"Xich! Cad we go idside? I'b very cold for sobe reasod" asked Rulia.

"Of course. You may all come in and I promise I will do my best to explain everything" said Alexander and led Gemma and the sneezing Xiricf back inside the house.

True to his word, Alexander did the best he could to explain the situation, all while constantly being interrupted by frequent sneezes from the Xircif or by Gemma's little less frequent but much more powerful sneeze, which constantly startled the pink nosed Xircif. Gemma did her best to help Alexander in his efforts to explain the common cold and even showed the Xircif how to blow their noses. Unlike the Salkil, the Xircif didn't need a handkerchief each and the three of them could share one, which Gemma pulled out of what appeared to be a never ending supply of fresh handkerchiefs found in her pocket. Once everything was more or less cleared and Alexander was about to send his guests off, a question popped into Gemma's mind:

"Hold od Alexadder- if they have a cold add they dever edcoudtered be, what about other creatures here od Zashir? He Ashoo"!

"That is an important question Gemma. Galar Jimiya- what is the word from the rumor flowers? Has this phenomenon been spotted anywhere else on the realm"?

"I'b affraid so, but we dod't kdow all the details yet, so the extedt of this phedobedod is still udclear" Jimiya said after wetly blowing her nose.

"I see. Well then Gemma- I'm afraid you will have to spend a little more time here on Zashir. I promised I will help you get back home and I intend to keep my promise as soon as possible, but first we have to figure out exactly how your cold had affected this realm".

TBC

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Part 7:

Alexander went back inside his house and Gemma followed him as he performed a series of strange actions. First, he went to the table with the stones and it seemed like he was using the stones to send some kind of messages. After he was finished, he went to another room and brought back a backpack and a strange looking whistle. He signaled Gemma to follow him back outside where he put the whistle in his mouth and blew it, but no sound came out.

"Don't worry" he told Gemma when she gave him a confused look "only the Vashkan can hear the sound of this whistle" he saw that Gemma was about to ask a question so he explained- "the Vashkan is a rare creature. Zashir is a great realm and one who wishes to study it cannot travel by foot alone. Whenever I wish to make a long travel inside the realm I use this whistle to summon the Vashkan, which can teleport me where I need to go".

"AEshoo! Good, 'cause lodg jourdeys od foot are really dot what I deed right dow. If you dod't bidd be askig- what are we pladdig to do with all those creatures suddedly havig colds? I bead, it's dot like there's sobe kidd of bagical cure for it here, is there"?

"I'm afraid not. It seems like all the creatures now suffering from your cold will just have to heal like the people on earth- by getting plenty of rest. However, it is our responsibility to explain them exactly what is happening to them. Also, it appears that you can provide handkerchiefs to them all, which they will most appreciate".

Suddenly, the Vashkan appeared, as if out of thin air. It looked like a huge parrot, completely white, with three golden feathers on the top of it's head.

"Come along now Gemma. It appears that we will be having a tour throughout Zashir".

In the hours that followed, Gemma became aware of the vast variety of female creatures on Zashir, who had various roles and different types of sneezes. She met giant creatures made entirely of clouds, floating in the sky and controlling the winds. Their drawn out "HhhhhhhhhhupShhhhHooooooooooooo!" sounding sneezes caused massive bursts of wind, which sent Gemma flying backwards until she learned to jump out of the way in time; She met scaly see creatures with tales, gills and fins, with "Pshurff!" sounding sneezes which created bubbles; She met creatures made of boiling lava, with "Rursh!" sounding sneezes strong enough to cause tiny volcanic eruptions; She also met the ice creatures the Salkil mentioned, with "XshChoo!" sounding sneezes that unleashed bursts of ice, one of which almost froze poor Gemma solid. They traveled all over Zashir, explaining the affects of the common cold to the various creatures, teaching them how to deal with it and bringing them handkerchiefs. Gemma was so overwhelmed by everything she saw that she didn't even think about how weird it was that creatures made entirely out of lava or clouds, creatures living underwater and other kinds of creatures managed to use her handkerchiefs without destroying them. Had she asked Alexnader about it, he probably would have told her that it was all part of the initial contact transfer.

"He Pshoo!" Gemma sneezed into her handkerchief and groaned. Night has fallen by the time they finished their tour around Zashir and she was exhausted.

"Bless you dear Gemma. I do apologize for all the trouble you went through today. You can rest here for as long as you want" said Alexander.

"Actually, what I really wadt is to go back hobe" Gemma said after she blew her nose.

"Well then, in that case- I guess the Vashkan would do me the favor of taking us on one last journey today".

"Where are we goig"?

"To the place where you first arrived when you got to this realm".

"But I dod't kdow where it was. Well, dot exactly- I do kdow that it was od a big greed field, close to the forest where the Salkil live".

"Worry not Gemma- I have a device can trace this place. You see, when travelers enter another realm they leave a mark, like an energy signature. This mark is especially strong when it's their first travel".

Although it was dark, Gemma could feel that the Vashkan took them to the right place. She could already feel the grass around her tickling her poor nose along with the feathers on the head of the Vashkan flying near her, that the wind brought closer to her nose.

"Farewell, Gemma Knight. It was a pleasure meeting you. I'm fairly certain that once you get back to earth you will find the travelers' book of the realms. Read it and use it wisely. If you ever choose to visit Zashir again, rest assured that you have a friend here".

"Thadk you Alexadder, for everythig" said Gemma. The tickle in her nose grew stronger and brought tears to her eyes, but through the tears she saw Alexander and the Vashkan disappearing. She didn't know what she was supposed to do next, but all she could think about at that moment was how badly she needed to sneeze.

"Hea Tshoo, Eshoo, He Ashoo, Ptshoo, Etshoo, He Ishoo, Ha E Shoo"!

When she opened her eyes again, she could see through the tears that she was back in the library, but the dust on the bookshelves caused her to launch into another fit of violent sneezes:

"Hie Pshoo, Aaat ShiHoo, E Ashoo, Heh He Ish, EtSheHoo"!

Finally, it appeared that the tickle inside her nose calmed down for a while and she was able to catch her breath again. When she did, she saw it on the shelf right in front of her- the travelers' book of the realms. She also noticed that there was light coming from the windows- indeed, it seemed like she hasn't been gone for a long time. She returned to the librarian and gave him the book, so that he could scan it and register that she was loaning it.

"The travelers' book of the realms? Hmmm.... I don't think I ever heard of this book. Is it science fiction? Fantasy? History perhaps"?

"It has a bit of everythig, I suppose".

"Well, I do hope you find this book suitable for..... how did you put it? Crawling into bed with"?

"Thadk you. I thidk this bight be just the book I deed right dow".

Gemma was relieved to find that the rain has stopped, at least for the time being. She hurried back to her house before it would start again. She couldn't wait to read about traveling and about the realms. She wasn't sure if she would ever travel again, but she did know that if she did she would be happy to visit Alexander on Zashir again, if only to ask him a question she only thought about after returning to earth- what did he bring along with him to the first realm he traveled to"?

The End

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