Some things in life are simply too horrific to speak of. Things that lie in wait in the back of the mind, waiting for sleep, for an unguarded moment to strike. Such a moment occurred when Xander emerged into this new world, finding himself standing in, of all things, a bathtub. A bathtub that was being approached by a very wrinkly, very NAKED, little old lady. With warts all over her face, and only one tooth in her mouth, she would have appeared to be the stereotypical wicked witch, if not for the merry twinkle in her eye and suggestive leer as she looked him over. And over. And once more for good measure.
Deciding that discretion was DEFINITELY the better part of valor, Xander beat a hasty retreat. “Sorry for interrupting your bath ma'am. I'll just be on my way.” As his feet sped him out of sight, his last glimpse of the woman highlighted a disappointed pout.
“Well, damn. First young man I have in my tub in a long time and he only lasts a few seconds...still, I bet Esme would LOVE to hear about THIS,” the old woman's voice faded into the distance.
Xander shook his head as he continued to put some distance between him and the overly-friendly old lady. So far, he hadn't seen enough to tell whether or not he'd gotten home. After all, since his original pool had been destroyed, there was no telling where he might end up. Hmmm...since he could understand the woman, that meant he should be somewhere they spoke English, unless dimension hopping included a Universal Translator. The fact that she had been bathing outside near an outhouse could mean that he was in some poor rural community, judging by the terrain, perhaps somewhere in the Appalachian Mountains? Somewhere kind of like where the Beverly Hillbillies came from? It could possibly be true, but he wasn't going to hold out too much hope on that.
Suddenly, he came to a break in the trees. Having been completely lost in thought, he hadn't been paying as much attention to his surroundings as he should have been, and so had only half a second to stop himself from plummeting into an immense chasm. Peering down, totally out of breath, he could see a river in the depths. He shook his head at the close call. That'd teach him to keep an eye on what was going on around him.
With no other option, he decided to follow the edge of the crevasse. Hopefully, it would lead him to some clothes-wearing people who could tell him where he was. Not to mention how to get AWAY from here. So far, the place had not been promising. After about a half-hour's walk, he came upon a road, well...more of a glorified path. Looking up the road, he could see a few tiny houses in the distance. Looking down, he saw a bridge. For all that it was a bit crude and primitively-made, the bridge across the chasm looked fairly secure. He paused for a moment, indecisive about which way to go. On the one hand, he wanted more information, but on the other, he didn't have a very good feeling about this place. The houses he could see looked like primitive things, and he didn't know what kind of reception they'd give to strangers.
He had only paused a moment when his thoughts were rudely interrupted. There was a gravely sound, like rocks rubbing together, and a...creature emerged from a small hut near the bridge. The thing looked like all the fairy tales he'd read about trolls as a kid, a creature seemingly made out of rocks and boulders, dotted here and there with lichen. The effect was rather...startling.
As Xander looked on in surprise, the troll reached behind a tree and pulled out an old helmet on a string, and a striped pole. The creature then proceeded to tie the helmet on top of his head, looking rather like an adult trying on a child's hat. He wasn't about to criticize, though, as he wanted to keep breathing. The troll approached him, hauling his pole.
“'Ere now, you 'aven't been through customs. Are you coming or going?” the troll asked, tapping the pole.
“Um,” Xander replied, somewhat shocked at the sight of a troll border patrolman. “I guess I'm going, but can you tell me where I am?”
The troll smiled, showing off two rows of sparkling diamond teeth. “Why, you's in de town of Bad Ass, in de Kingdom of Lancre,” he replied, placing the pole on the ground between Xander and the bridge. “We's famous for our cheese and our witches here.” The troll glanced down, a somewhat confused look on his face, then brightened. “'Scuse me for a bit.”
To Xander's confusion, the friendly troll disappeared behind a tree, returning with a round object in his hand. “What's that?” he asked, certain he would regret his curiosity.
“Dis is de immi...imiga...imation....de place where de folks go in and out de Kingdom. Now, our king is a MODERN king, so's ever'body gots to get a stamp at de border.” He held up his stamp. “I did it myself, out of a potato. It's a duck. Do you like it?”
The troll looked so much like an eager puppy that Xander found himself nodding enthusiastically. “It's really good, looks just like a duck,” he replied.
“Thanks. Now do you have a paper? I needs to give you de stamp before you go.”
Rummaging in his pocket, Xander managed to produce an old sandwich wrapper. He held it up. “Will this do?”
“Dat's fine.” He stamped the paper. “Now, have a good trip! Come again!” The troll picked up his pole and waved Xander through to the bridge.
As he crossed over to the troll's enthusiastic well-wishes, Xander couldn't help but smile. No, this was definitely not his home, but it might make an interesting place to visit.
Author's Note: thanks to all who reviewed and voted! This will be a long visit.