"But what if he's a thief?"
"Then he is a very bad one. See? The man is unaccompanied, unarmed, and poorly dressed, not to mention quite outside the usual routes." This second voice was much deeper than the first.
"Not to mention unconscious, rather. We aren't leaving him like this, thief or not." A third speaker, sharp and impatient. "Besides, we could use someone indebted to us for a change."
"Well, I still don't like it." The first voice again. "What if--"
"Too late! He wakes."
Tyrone blinked at six dark eyes hovering above him. The eyes were a bit much to take in just then, so he closed his own again to make them go away. Something kept tapping him on the shoulder, though, and Tyrone felt he might have to look at the thing to make it stop. When he made a second try at blinking, the eyes had resolved themselves into three faces. A better start. One of the faces seemed to be speaking.
"All you alright? Have you been injured?" The low voice spoke calmly. "Can you understand me?"
Tyrone opened his mouth to reply, thought better of it, and gave a weak nod instead.
"Ah, very good. Now, let's get you up. Drink this; it will revive you." The face that had been speaking turned out to be connected to a man's hand, which reached into a pouch and produced a small container of clear liquid. Tyrone accepted the drink as he was told, and sat up sputtering and coughing after barely a sip.
"Ack! What? Wh--? Um." Sentences were still somewhat ambitious.
"Yes it's a might strong to be sure, but it does do the trick." The man extended his hand to Tyrone. "Come on, young man. We can't have you sitting in the road all day."
Tyrone rose shakily to his feet and stared at the three men in turn. Though not a small man himself, the one who'd given the drink made Tyrone feel like the last kid picked for the kickball game. He was probably twice Tyrone's age, but his large frame looked more than sturdy and the unkempt mane of hair encircling his face did nothing to lessen his gruff appearance. The other two were less intimidating, but only slightly so. All three were dressed in tattered clothing that appeared several centuries out of date. But most startling of all--
"Swords?" Tyrone managed.
"Only daggers." When the expression on Tyrone's face didn't change, the big one added, "Worry not, my boy. We mean you no harm."
Harm, as it happened, had not been Tyrone's main concern. Swords, daggers: these were children's toys or collectors' items, at best. They were only weapons in movies and video games and those epic trilogies he'd read as a teen.
"What's going on? Who are you?" Confusion had finally translated into speech.
"I can answer at least one of those questions." Again, the deep voice. "I am called Garamon, and these are my traveling companions." Apparently, the man held some kind of leadership status.
"Zeph the Vagabond," added the man to his right. He gave a quick nod with a sideways smile. "Glad to see you on your feet."
The third man eyed Tyrone suspiciously, but said nothing.
"And this," sighed Garamon, "is Nate. Don't mind him; he's a crossover. Still a bit jumpy."
"I'm not jumpy," whined Nate. "I'm cautious. What's he doing this far out-of-genre anyway?" The quest meant nothing to Tyrone, wasn't even addressed to him, but all three strangers looked to him for a response.
The men stared. Tyrone blinked. Zeph broke the silence.
"A fresh one! Well. That explains all."
"Explains all what?"
"Oh my," Garamon chuckled. "Perhaps we had all better take a walk."
"Wait." Tyrone perked up. He peaked into his shoulder bag and pulled out an intact turkey and tomato sandwich.
. . .
Garmond led Tyrone and his little band towards a hill some ways off through the field. As they walked, Garmond spoke:
"First, my boy, you are welcome. I know this particular field doesn't look like much, but you're not nowhere and you can get anywhere soon enough. I'm sure you'll find someplace to your liking. Second, don't think too hard about any of this. Not for a while, at least."
"Now, you look like a learned man. I assume you are familiar with stories--authors, writing, manuscripts, and such--yes?"
"Very good. Then you know writers are always thinking up many more stories than they are actually writing. That is their way. Did you ever wonder what happens to all those stories that get dreamt up and never written?"
Tyrone fidgeted, stuffed his hands in his pockets, and shrugged.
"Storage happens. Usually by genre. That way, settings and plot-lines and characters are always in stock when a writer gets a creative burst." As they reached the top of the hill, Garamon pointed into the distance. "Some characters are always in surplus."
What lay before Tyrone was no longer and empty field. A rolling moorland stretched into the distance, moist with an evening dew and dotted with craggy boulders. Atop a nearby hill stood a woman more beautiful than any Tyrone had ever seen. A light breeze lifted her chestnut hair and pulled the already gauzelike gown tight against her chest and hips. All four men groaned.
The sound of hoofbeats approached. Though horse and rider moved quickly, Tyrone could not fail to notice the man's perfect musculature or his bronzed skin gleaming with sweat. He rode bare-chested and wore a kilt. It was not until the man was already on the same hill as the beautiful woman that Tyrone realized what was happening. The highlander lifted his lover onto the horse and galloped away into the brilliant sunset that had suddenly descended upon the horizon.
All four men groaned again, this time with a different tone.
"That sight is the best and worst thing about this place," muttered Zeph.
Tyrone tried his best not to think.