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Jul 03, 2020 12:32 PM
ai mica and beauty and the beast cat
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Forests are good.

Forests with earth trees are especially good, with the best and deepest greens. He can just curl up and be surrounded and safe and alone, and stare up at the leaves.

He doesn't notice anything is wrong until it's about time he should let someone know he's okay--he can't get through to anyone.

It's okay. It's not time to panic yet. Maybe something nearby is blocking the network? Maybe there's someone around he can ask. He can go exploring for a little bit.

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The forest is lovely and green, and it doesn't seem like it's about to run out of paths for him to explore down. 

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If the lack of network wasn't making him so nervous, he'd be happy to stay here forever, but it is and he isn't. If he can't find someone to talk to in here then he has to leave, but he's not sure anymore which way he came in. Nothing looks quite the same as it did before.

He keeps looking.

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At some point the path he's following ends in a clearing. The ground is carpeted with a thick layer of dead leaves, old and soft rather than crunchy and new-fallen. 

The air is still and quiet. The only sound is Maika's footsteps. 

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Well, that's different.

He keeps watch for any sign that the network is back, and he walks forward.

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Forest: still quiet and green and pleasant, now with fewer paths! (For 'fewer', read 'none'.) In fact, there's nothing to suggest that anyone other than Maika has walked this way in centuries. 

After a while, the infrequent beams of sunlight peeking through the trees start to do so at a lower angle. 

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He sits down and leans his cheek against a tree to reassure himself that it's real.

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It's a tree, just like all the others around it. A fairly old one, tall and solid, with bark that's authentically rough against his skin. 

Now that he's stopped moving for a moment, the sounds of the forest are easier to hear. Leaves rustle, the wind ruffles the branches of the taller trees, and faintly, on the edge of hearing, birds sing their evening calls. 

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That helps a little. Eventually he stands up and keeps going.

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No path materialises, but there are directions it's easier and harder to walk. As it starts to get dark, the forest seems to thin out slightly in one particular direction. 

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...He doesn't like it but he's probably just making up reasons to be scared at this point. He might as well keep going.

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And then there is a path, leading through a crumbling stone archway that might once have been part of a wall. The rest of the structure, whatever it may have been, is gone without a trace, but the arch itself is intact. 

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He touches that, too, and moves on through the arch once he's satisfied that it's really there.

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The stone is cold and rough under his hands. 

Night is falling in earnest by the time the path turns into a series of shallow stone steps, half-covered in leaves. At some point, without there ever being a sharp transition, the forest around him has become a garden of rose trees, wild and overgrown. They're in full bloom, branches heavy with white roses that almost seem to glow in the dim light. 

One branch hangs right over the steps, bearing a single perfect flower at just the right height for Maika to reach up and take it. 

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It's pretty, and there are a lot of them so he won't be ruining anything by taking one. He does so and takes a moment to secure it in his hair.

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The path, now flagstones rather than dirt, winds around past an ivy-covered wall and round a corner, where it becomes obvious that the wall is part of a fairly large castle.

Double doors more than twice Maika's height swing open at his approach, hinges squealing in protest. 

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He winces in surprise and turns his ears back off, rocks back and forth on his heels for a moment.

 

Okay. If there's a building there might be a person. There's at least something operating the doors.

He enters cautiously.

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Torches—which look like real sticks with fire on the end—burst into flame all along the walls, lighting up the entrance hall. It's a bare stone room, with doors off to either side and a wide staircase sweeping up to a higher floor.

There's no-one in sight and no discernible mechanism by which the doors are moving. Nevertheless, they close behind him in exactly the same manner. 

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He's pretty sure he definitely doesn't like that. And there's still no network--maybe there's a private one here but there's no way to tell yet.

He holds a hand above his head and feeds a couple sentences through text-to-speech. "Hello, I seem to be lost. I can't hear you directly but I'm willing to communicate."

He hesitates when he adds 'directly' but if whoever's here insists on speaking out loud he has options for that, even if they're hard and frustrating, and he doesn't expect to get a choice of who to talk to.

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There's no immediate response, other than one of the side doors opening. Warm light spills through from the other side. 

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Okay. That door it is.

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Through the door is a cosy sitting room with cushioned chairs and a roaring fire in the hearth. It's pleasantly warm; the air outside was starting to get chilly. Another door, on the far wall, is closed for now. 

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If there's somewhere he can sit where he can watch both doors, he'll do that. If not, he'll pace.

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There's a chair positioned where he can see both doors, but it's further from the fire. 

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That's okay, he doesn't need to be close to it.

He watches and he waits.

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Nothing happens immediately. The fire flickers and crackles. 

After a bit, there's a knock at the closed door, which Maika won't hear, followed after a pause by the door opening. A wrought-iron trolley table wheels itself into the room, carrying a steaming teapot, a cup and saucer patterned with yellow roses, and other elements of a tea service. 

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