To his left, several Gnomes clustered around a sputtering piece of equipment. They were alternatively kicking it and cursing at it, taking turns when their companions stepped back to rub mustache or beard. The Warlock realized he was sitting, partially reclined, in a seat that seemed to be attached to the mechanism by a number of long cables.
"What is this?" he asked.
A rather cute Gnome with pink pigtails came around daubed his forehead with a damp cloth. Fulguralis squinted at her. She garbed all in white, with a name tag that read: Larisa.
"Do you not recall?" she said sweetly. "You did, after all, sign the release forms."
Fulguralis blinked, "I did?"
Larisa giggled. "Give it a moment, it will come back to you. Spend too much time in the simulator and you're memories are liable to be a mess."
"A simulation?" the Warlock clarified. His breathing began to slow. "You mean that was all just a simulation?"
"Silly Warlock," the Gnome chuckled. "How else to show you the dangers of consorting with demons? We're Mages, not... well.... Warlocks. We wouldn't just throw you to the hounds, figuratively speaking of course."
"Mages?" Fulguralis replied. His eyes narrowed. "What sort of game are you playing? What is this really? Why would I have come to you to learn about demons? Just what do you think you're trying to pull here."
Larisa smiled sweetly. "We're just trying to show you the error of your ways, dear. Here, have a beverage. I promise it will ease your mind."
Fulguralis cast a dubious glance at the mug she was holding. She stood on her tip toes to offer it, her face awash in innocence. The smell of ale wafted to his nostrils. She's offering me an ale? Never one to turn down a drink, the Warlock accepted.
He brought the mug to his nose and smelled it cautiously. All the while he watched the pink pigtailed Gnome for signs of malevolence. Fulguralis prided himself on being an expert at reading faces, and this one seemed to hold nothing but sincerity. Surely if the the beverage were poisoned, he would catch some hint of it in her eyes. Besides, that was a Rogue thing to do, and these were Mages.
He took a swig.
"There's a good lad," she cooed. "Now, hand that back to me and lay back. We'll start up again in just a moment."
"Wait," Fulguralis started, but then everything seemed to slow down. "Wait," he continued.
He laughed. His voice sounded so deep. What was this? The colors all around him were beginning to slide into one another, and they all centered around the face of the sweet Gnome who was smiling warmly.
"Wait," he tried again. "I'm not sure... I just... You're cute. I like you, but... you're a Mage."
Darkness was seeping into the colors now.
"There there, dear one, just relax."
* * *
Fulguralis woke up. He labored for breath even as his eyes squinted against the bright lights. Except there were no bright lights. It was dark. Crickets played a melody nearby. He could barely make out the canvas walls of the tent in the still night. A gentle breeze brushed the home away from home, pressing in gently at the material.
Sitting up, the Warlock rubbed his head and looked around. A lump of hair protruded from the blankets next to him. Another lump was curled up at the foot of the bed. The familiar presence of felpup and wife reassured him. It seemed like he was back to reality now. Fuubaar stirred, turning over and blinking a bit.
"Is everything all right, hun?" she asked.
"Yeah," he replied. "Just had a crazy dream."
She cocked her head. "A dream? From the way you're breathing it sounds like you just got done running from something. Must have been a helluva dream."
Fulguralis nodded. "It was. It was like two dreams too. Like I dreamed of having a dream."
"A dream within a dream?" Fuubaar asked, rising a bit in her bed.
"Well, actually, it was a simulation within a dream," Fulguralis clarified.
"Is that even possible? Has anyone even done that before?"
"I don't know," the Warlock admitted.
"Man, that's messed up," Fuubaar observed. Then she turned over and went back to sleep.