There is fog all around, thick and white, swirling. The ground is dark, hard stone, rough and uneven, with a gradual but perceptible slope; the fog is thinnest upslope, and in that direction a faint shadow is visible in the distance, the only landmark available in an otherwise featureless world.
"You're at the gateway," says Morning. "It's like a dream only it's also a real location where you're really interacting with us and each other. If you walk through it you'll end up in another world - the same world for both of you, at the same time, even if you go through separately."
"But don't go just yet," Embers chimes in, "because you also get cool magic powers, depending on who's at the top of the ring when you step through, and you probably want to decide which ones instead of just both running off with four of Isa!"
"Okay I'm going to want to get back to the topic of cool magic powers in a second but -- are we dead?"
"The last time I heard, he was dead! Did you resurrect us to bring us here?"
"I was dead?" Jean objects. "You were the one who..." (He fails to bring himself to say it.)
"Can you get the version of her from my world? -- too, the version of her from my world too, not instead."
"We're not really the people doing this," says Embers. "The place is us, we didn't make it and we don't run it."
"The one from your world might come through later," Morning says helpfully. "But not necessarily to the same time or place."
"You could take one of the sets of powers that makes you immortal and then you'd have forever to look for her in!" says Embers. "Forever can get awfully boring, though, I should know."
"I don't have forever unless there are powers which will raise the dead."
"Oh, we do sometimes get dead people through here, it's just that you two specifically aren't," says Morning. "I'm not sure about raising the dead, at least with our powers—that's Winter's lookout, and she's gone back to sleep, or Ashes', and she's Embers right now. But there's lots of worlds where that's the sort of thing that happens, at least. Unfortunately I can't tell you if you'll be going to one—we never know where people are going to end up exactly, just that if you're here together you stay together when you leave."
"Is there some way to influence -- where we end up, or what other people come here?"
"Do we -- have to -- go through -- or can we stay where we are? Where we came from, I mean?"
"...what do you mean by 'bigger than a world'?"
"I mean—Tika, you explain it, you're better at that sort of thing."
"None of the powers you can get from passing through this gateway can directly affect anything outside whatever world you happen to be in when you're using them," says Morning, "not by default, anyway. But Iserith's power is metamagic, so if you take that and then you find magic that reaches between worlds, you can use Iserith's power to manipulate it just fine."
"Or you might end up in a world with no magic at all and then Iserith's power won't do you a bit of good," Embers contributes. "Isa's sort of a gamble that way."
"...could Iserith's power not be used on, say, whatever magic my brother here acquired?"
"Gosh I have a lot of questions. Okay. Um. How many of you are there?"
"--first unpack 'aspect' for me?"
"Different... phases, facets, perspectives," she says. "Like for example, I'm in my Youth aspect right now, and Embers is Aka's Child aspect, and you've heard from Winter who is Nida's Elder aspect, and I wasn't looking so I'm not sure which one of Isa that was—"
"Rain," says Embers.
"—in which case, tidily enough, that's her Adult aspect. But all of us have all four, it's just that we only express one of them at a time."
"Huh. Are the different aspects the same -- person? If that's a meaningful question?"
"...are you literally a different age, did some of you exist before others?"