Steps Between Worlds

The village of Shattercliff would have been unremarkable to all visitants and travelers, save for a peculiar landmark along the nearby coast. A stone bridge, consisting of descending and ascending stairs, connected opposing sea-cliffs above a white-foam flecked cove of jagged rocks and drowned ships. At its nadir, foam from the unceasing surf would spray into the face of any upon the bridge like the spittle of a rabid dog.

As such, few from the village had ever crossed the stairs. The founders of Shattercliff had found the structure, and were content to avail themselves in the false security of collective ignorance. The eldest among the residents recalled a time in which the bravest sons and daughters of the village dared themselves to cross the stone bridge, which ceased upon the untimely death of a shop-owner's son. From that point onwards, the de facto rite of passage faded into the mists of time. However, younger generations grew curious once more.

It was a chilly autumnal night when a woman ran screaming into the village square. Behind her was a writhing mass of amorphous darkness, a shapeless body that absorbed all light. A call went out amongst the folk of the settlement, and a handful of the bravest and foolish rushed to greet the beast with booms, sheers, and kitchen knives pressed into service as arms. They raised torches and lit lanterns, which were abhorrent to the beast in shadow. By the time they came to meet the creature, it had slunk back into the darkness that spawned it.

After coming to her senses, the young woman explained that her brother and herself had explored the stone bridge as the sun set over the water. Her brother had descended closed to the nadir of the bridge when something through itself up from underneath the causeway. Her brother's body had vanished in the surf, but the beast had immediately chased her back towards town. Rumors began to spread amongst the insular community, but eventually reached the wider world through travelers and traders.

In the following weeks, the villagers were haunted by peculiar sounds and long, sleepless nights. Otherworldly bellowing came from the cliffside cove, and none dared stride upon the stair bridge. The thing in the shadows would silence itself when torches were brought to the village square, but none placed on or near the bridge stayed lit. The stair bridge was feared to be steps between worlds, a wellspring of abominations between the fabrics of reality.

An iterant stargazer came to Shattercliff village and became immediately interested in the stone bridge. The swarthy stranger asked questions that the locals had no answers for, such as the identity of the bridge's original builders or how the bridge stood without maintenance. He concluded that the bridge itself was made of stone he had never seen before, which was immune to the erosion and structural forces that would have succumbed to long ago. The young woman from earlier, Sasha, listened with rapt attention.

It was with some controversy that the traveler, Sanjay the Stargazer, proclaimed the bridge to be an otherworldly artifact, stating no stone nor material he was aware of could withstand the corrosive forces upon it. To drive the point home, the traveler placed a polished piece of metal on either side of the bridge, and walked towards the center of the bridge with battleaxe polished to a mirror sheen. He put special tinted glass in front of each, such that only reflected light would pass through. He descended the strait of stairs, reflecting sunlight betwixt both with each few steps upon the flat of his axe. Having Sasha measure the angles when each flashed, he emerged upon the other side with a grin across his face.

Sanjay explained that by the laws of optics, the angles of reflection between himself on the bridge and the mirrors on either side were not what nature allowed. Therefore, the very dimensions of the bridge did not represent a physical structure using the laws of reality. Only a trio of villagers, including a teenager that had been Sanjay's assistant, listened to his garrulous explanation in its entirety, but the locals had no urge to think of the incomprehensible anomaly before them. Thus, he reasoned, the creatures may emerge from another reality, bound by different rules. The people said nothing to the theory, having no possible origin for the super-terrene aberration vomited forth from another plane.

Disheartened by the boorish minds of Shattercliff, Sanjay made preparations to depart. Noticing his packed bags and provisions, Sasha stopped him with a proposal. While the townsfolk could not muster the courage to confront the creature, the honey-haired young woman had both bravery and brilliance in equal measure. Moved by her cleverness, he set off for the stair bridge.

Sasha had Sanjay set up his mirrors on either side of the bridge, only with different angles than his prior experiment. He set up posts on other side of the bridge, with a slow-burning lantern reflected in either. As he recalled the impossible optics of the bridge, he realized the true genius of Sasha's plan. The creature had emerged from the lowest point of the stair bridge, from the lowest point of the inverted arch. Its repugnance towards light would be utilized to keep it from emerging, and the covered mirrors and lanterns would ensure a constant amount of reflected light upon the bridge.

Sanjay was content the light would be enough to dissuade the creature from emerging once more. However, Sasha explained her project to the townsfolk, which reinforced the traditional fears that Shattercliff held for the ravine. The superstitious among the villages were sated by Sasha's solution, and Sanjay left the village with a new companion in tow behind him. The village of Shattercliff never again had problems with the stair bridge.