“I don’t want to wear this, I look dumb.” Ellie picked at the corset’s string, once more eyeing the elaborate outfit. The skirt was so frilly and the cincher too tight. She winced as Penny whapped her on the head with a comb. “Stop wiggling, you’ll mess up your braid,” she admonished. Penny pulled Ellie’s hair tight and moved sections into plaits as she said, “You don’t look dumb, you look great. Wearing jeans and a t-shirt to a Ren Faire would look dumb.” Ellie sat in silence for a minute and let Penny finish braiding her hair as she took in the scenery. It was a lot more crowded than she thought it would be. They were only in the parking lot, sitting in the back of Ellie’s beat-up old pickup truck, but Ellie could hear the clamor of swords in the distance, the steady hum of happy chatter, and the occasional clamor of some guy peddling… pickles? In a cart? She laughed despite herself as the distinct yell of, “Pickle Cart! Get your pickles here! Spicy pickles, sweet pickles!” reached the parking lot. “There,” Penny declared, tying off Ellie’s long auburn braid and sitting back to admire her work. “You look fab. Let’s go!” She hopped out of the truck, and Ellie followed, feeling nervous for some reason. She and Penny had met three years ago and it seemed Penny was always talking Ellie into some weird activity or another since. Earlier this year, she had convinced Ellie to drive them halfway across the country to get cheesecake from a little shop she had read about. The cheesecake was good, at least. Everyone was dressed neatly; everywhere Ellie looked she saw pirates and noblewomen and wenches galore. It was a little intimidating, but at least Ellie didn’t feel so silly in her outfit anymore. As per their agreement, Penny paid for their tickets and they were through the gates. Overwhelmed, Ellie could barely take in everything going on around them. The sights, sounds, and smells. She sidestepped as a knight on horseback passed by her, nodding gravely in greeting. She found herself mimicking the gesture without really knowing why, whereas Penny wholeheartedly yelled up at him, “Huzzah!” before playfully smacking Ellie in the arm. “Don’t be so boring!” And then she was pulling Ellie along, meek as ever, to shops and shows and everything they could take in. - - - - - - - - - - The day was winding down. Penny was losing some of her enthusiasm, fanning herself on a tree stump. Ellie, however, was finally finding her footing at the fair, amazed by all the creative things she had seen, all the work put into the jousting, archery, magic shows. “I think I’m ready to go, El,” Penny sighed, her cheeks flushed from the sun. She shielded her eyes as she looked up at Ellie. “Did you even put on sunscreen? You’re burnt up.” Ellie pressed her hands to her freckled cheeks. “One more shop, Penny!” Ellie begged, her eye having been caught by the glimmer of shiny, pretty metalwork in the distance. Penny waved her off and Ellie walked the pathway with a skip in her step. She was surprised by how at home she felt among these characters in garb, almost as if she had been accepted into an alternate universe where everything was a little simpler but somehow sweeter. Of course, it was all pretend but Ellie found herself wishing she could forever live in this place or, more realistically, forsake her office job to become an actress at a Faire. The little tent was a shimmering purple, scarves and paintings at the opening. Ellie brushed her fingers against the soft-as-sin silk and perused the artwork, but the pretties that had caught her eye lay a little further in. Tables of jewelry beguiled Ellie, every piece intricate and ethereal in a way she couldn’t quite put her finger on. “See something you like, dear?” Ellie jumped, her hand flying to her heart. Had she been so enticed as to not even notice the smiling woman seating in the back? “Everything,” Ellie replied quickly with a little nervous laugh, returning her gaze to a set of rings carved with runes. She felt a little odd and out of place without the vibrant presence of her best friend. Not wanting to come off as rude, though, she quickly added, “Metalwork used to be a hobby of mine.” “I see,” the woman hummed politely, still smiling. They lapsed into silence and Ellie’s cheeks flushed red as she berated herself; the woman hadn’t asked about her hobbies, didn’t care. She probably just wanted to sell her things, not hear the life story of every customer who laid their hands on her merchandise. Still feeling embarrassed, Ellie walked around the cases, studying the artistry of the pieces before her. It was only when she glanced up towards the old woman that she noticed the pendant. It was all the girl could do to suppress a gasp of delight. “Wha--,” she stuttered stupidly, taking in the braided chain, the unearthly green gem, the arcane carvings around its delicate base. If she was prone to fancy, Ellie might say it called to her. She cleared her throat. “Is that for sale?” The woman followed her gaze, her smile faltering only for a moment. “It’s my personal treasure.” Ellie’s heart dropped as she mumbled, “Oh, s—” Her apology was interrupted with a raised hand. “It seems to need a new home now, though,” she said, her voice sounding sad and far away to Ellie’s ears. “I’ll gift it to you.” Ellie tried to protest, to bargain, but the elderly woman would hear none of it. She took Ellie’s hand and pressed the chain into her palm where it clinked like little bells when she closed her fingers around it. Thanking the woman profusely, Ellie turned and started back towards Penny, eager to show off her find. She was so engrossed in her thoughts that Ellie didn’t pay any attention to the rogue tree root in the pathway. Down she tumbled, gracelessly, and fell hard. The last thing she felt was the crack of her head against the ground, then everything went black. Ellie regained consciousness slowly, blinking away the fuzziness in her brain. She groaned, her head aching terribly. Slowly, she raised her head, expecting to see Penny, maybe some concerned patrons of the Faire, but instead... saw nothing familiar. Strangeness surrounded her. "Where... am I?"