The candle gently illuminated the hall as Catherine sleepily made her way to the study. The door was cracked; a sure sign that her beloved Emmanuel was, once again, awake far later than he promised he would be. Sure enough, when she poked her head in, he was knelt in front of the window, peering out from behind the curtain with his theater glass as he had been doing the past two weeks.
“Darling, what are you-?”
Catherine was quickly shushed. “The light, Catherine!” he hissed.
With a sigh, she snuffed out the candle and left it upon the desk as she approached. “Emmanuel,” she tried again, “come to bed. Please.”
He completely ignored her, squinting as he peered closer at the neighboring estate. “More have come through the gateway,” he stated. “Two, three… no, five more.”
Catherine frowned. “That’s five more lost souls, then. They can’t go back the way they came. You know that.”
“Perhaps they might,” Emmanuel replied thoughtfully.
Feeling his beloved’s concerned gaze upon him, Emmanuel finally slipped aside, offering her the theater glass. “This group is not like the other wanderers. The others were lost. Bewildered this world exists. But them? They are unfazed to this world’s magic. They arrive with purpose. Look.”
Catherine hesitated, but took the glass. She knelt beside her dearest, trying her best to keep out of sight as she, too, peered out toward the neighboring estate.
For the past two weeks, new strangers had been appearing out of the building, ones who were not created in this world. Ones who had accidentally slipped through a portal to this world with little idea of how to escape. But these men and women were far different. They looked more like soldiers or mercenaries, armed and geared for battle rather than to explore the gallery that comprised this realm. Unlike the other visitors who wandered in with a sense of wonder and curiosity, this group was comprised of hardened individuals who were clearly on edge.
“Do you think they are here to find the lost ones?” Catherine asked in a hushed voice.
“It doesn’t matter if they are or not,” Emmanuel grinned. “What matters is if they know how to get in here, they may very well know a way back out of it.”
The theater glass dropped slowly as realization trickled in. Catherine’s wide-eyed gaze turned to her beloved.
“Do you mean-?”
“Yes, my dearest. At last, we have a way to escape this maddening world.”