May 26, 2019 9:44 PM
Jaime discovers a masquerade.
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Jaime has always admired storms. 

The drops of rain, pounding delicately on glass. The darkness and silence, punctuated by sharp crackles of light and growling  songs of thunder. The leaves, liberated, dancing free from their masters. The water, running, always running, for days and days later - running from what, she doesn’t know. What could frighten water?

She’d imagined lions, made of strange electricity, plummeting to earth in snaps of lightning and roaring with their frustration. She’d imagined great eels, writhing and sizzling, and invisible elephants, and creatures made entirely of teeth and eyes and bone. She’d imagined something that could make water tremble, and quake, and pound on windows, begging for entrance into inhospitable homes.

She’d imagined something that could make water afraid.

She had admired it. She had imagined it dancing, wildly, strangely, and danced alongside it. 

But she is, at this point, thoroughly annoyed by the weather, abstract admiration or no.

It had started out as a drizzle, and, as drizzles do, it had progressed to a downpour. The downpour had sniffled, wheezed, drawn in breath, and eventually started sneezing out lightning. The trees, annoyed, had started wildly thrashing around, like toddlers flailing toys; the wind, offended, had begun howling and blowing her around like it thought she was a candle on its birthday cake.

She’s hoping to find shelter for the night, but at this point she isn’t holding out much hope.

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Well, she might see a light in the distance if she looks in the right direction. It's not terribly bright, but it's definitely too constant to be lightning or her imagination.

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How considerate of it.

She starts walking in its direction, as briskly as she can manage, suitcase rolling bumpily behind her.

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As she approaches, the light turns into several, and a building comes into view.  It looks like someone took a castle and tried to turn parts of it into something more sleek and modern; the perceived tastefulness of the result probably varies pretty wildly person-to-person.  There's a low wall marking out a wide distance around the building itself; she could almost certainly jump it if she wanted to.  Or, there's a gate near what she might assume is the main entrance, but it's on the opposite side from where she's approaching.

The most visible lights are at the two entrances, but it looks like there might be some on behind some of the curtains on the ground floor, too.

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Jaime doesn’t normally approve of mixed architectural styles, or trespassing, but this is a special occasion.

She throws her luggage over the wall, jumps it, resumes towing her luggage, and knocks on the nearest door.

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It takes quite a while for someone to come to the door; it's a big house, and with the rain pelting outside it's not clear that her knocking would even be audible from anywhere but the closest few rooms.  But eventually, the door unlocks and opens.  The person who opens it looks deeply concerned for just a moment but relaxes visibly when she gets a look at Jaime.  She's wearing something that's definitely too fancy to be pajamas.

".....Hello?"

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“Hello,” says the incredibly damp woman on her doorstep. “I’m having a bad night - got caught up in the storm, saw your whatever-this-is, decided to try my luck. May I come in?”

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"Oh, of course - come on in," she says, stepping aside to let her into the foyer.

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She steps inside.

“Thanks.”

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"It isn't any trouble!"  She reaches into the upper shelf of a closet and pulls out some towels, hands them over.  "Would you like something to drink?  You must be freezing; I can get something warm for you.  Or, if you're hungry I'm sure we could whip something up, or if you just want to go to bed, we've got guest rooms; those are definitely available."

She gives the impression of someone who is normally a perfectly charming hostess, but is too thrown off by the situation to succeed at that right now.

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Jaime accepts the towels, and starts gracefully using them to become slightly less ridiculously damp.

“I’d appreciate a guest room and a drink.”

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Oh, good, a script she can follow.  "Sure!  We've got hot chocolate, tea, apple cider, coffee, and water and milk, of course."

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”Cider. Thank you for your hospitality.”

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"Again, it's really no trouble.  I'm just glad you stumbled across us!  You can just hang your coat up right here, and then the kitchen is this way."  One of the rooms they pass by on the way there has someone in it, sitting on a couch and looking contemplative.  If she notices them go by, she doesn't react.

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Neither does Jaime. Visibly, at least.

She devotes some attention to scrutinizing the decor.

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It's just as anachronistic as the outside - maybe moreso.  There's pretty clearly two distinct themes, which work together better in some places than in others.  Most of the rooms are devoted to one aesthetic or the other, but there's a few where they're mixed: a sitting room with burgundy velvet furniture and heavy black curtains but also a big, glossy tv and an abstract geometric glass sculpture; a bathroom that would be completely normal, if very fancy, but for the ornate and clearly very old silver-framed mirror above the sink.  On the whole, there are definitely more of the castle-themed rooms than modern ones.

The kitchen, when they get there, is one of the more thoroughly-mixed rooms; everything that's purely decorative is in the older style, but all the appliances and countertops are sleek chrome and polished granite.  Still, it's by far the most cohesive of the rooms that don't just stick to a theme.  The counters are a charcoal grey, and the patterns in the curtains are more boldly geometric than the intricate, lacy designs she's seen in other rooms.

There are (cushioned, iron-wrought) stools around the island that Hana gestures to before grabbing the cider out of the fridge, pouring it into a pot, and heating it up on the stovetop.  "So, I didn't catch your name," she says, dropping a mesh bag containing some spices and a stick of cinnamon in the pot.

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“Jaime,” she says, pronouncing it something more like ‘Zhame’. 

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"Oh, pretty!  I'm Hana.  Will you be okay here if I go check on my girlfriend for a moment?"

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“I won’t dissolve into a puddle from the lack of company. Go ahead.”

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"Oh, good."

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When Hana comes back, the person who they passed on the couch earlier is with her.  Jaime probably won't notice that she has a flannel on now, when before she only had a t-shirt, but she is definitely dressed way less fancily than the other resident of this...house?  Castle?  Mansion?

"Hey, I'm Ari.  Nice to meet you."

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“I’m not a fan of the surrounding circumstance of our meeting, honestly, but you seem like pleasant people. Have you been together long?”

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Oh good, she likes them.  Ari didn't have the importance of the art of hospitality drilled into her to the probably-excessive degree that Hana has, but she's willing to acknowledge that, even if she doesn't actually consider it likely that they're hosting a disguised enchantress here to test their moral character, it seems prudent to stay on the good side of any mysterious stranger who shows up on your doorstep in the middle of a dark and stormy night.

"Not really, just two months.  Although we were friends for a while before that."

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"We actually went to the same school for a year in middle school, but we didn't keep in touch or anything after."

"Yeah, she was a super annoying sixth grader, and I was an edgy, misanthropic one.  We get along much better nowadays."

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“I remember middle school as a vividly dull, unaccountably long dream. I dance, now, and it’s much less tedious. What do you do?”

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"Wow, professionally or as a hobby?  That's really cool either way.  What style do you do?"

Is she avoiding the question? Maybe.  Is she very genuinely interested in the subject separately from that?  Definitely.

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