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Feb 23, 2020 6:26 PM
The Fallen One crashes down near the capital of Azan, and is grumpy in the general direction of Dira
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Falling stars aren't an unknown phenomenon in Azan. This one was observed with ordinary curiosity, recorded in the astrological archives, and, initially, left to whoever would find it. It landed not especially far from the capital, in a nearby farm by a river. It did surprisingly little damage, burying itself in a deep, narrow tunnel rather than leaving a large crater. The farmer in charge of the land, Agan, decided to dig the thing up, more out of curiosity than anything else, at which point the meteorite suddenly became much less ordinary. It was a perfect, smooth sphere, as far as Agan could tell anyway, once he'd cleaned off the dirt and scorch marks, it was a disturbingly bloody red. He had already decided to take the thing with him when he next went to the city market, but when it started cracking open, revealing pink, squirming, pulsating flesh beneath its hard outer surface, he put it in his cart and went immediately.

Agan took it to a friend of his, Peri, who was a bit of a collector of oddities, to see if he knew anything about it. He did not, but seeing the thing continue to expand, the red shell pulling apart and being absorbed by the fleshy blob inside, they collectively decided that they should take this to the highest authority they could get the ear of.

That turned out to be a functionary at the palace of the king, Kani, who had the thing put in storage, to be examined by the doctors, veterinarians, and natural philosophers on staff at their next opportunity.

The first one to arrive, a doctor named Ragi, does so about a day and a half later, and found, rather than a seemingly shapeless mass of flesh, something looking eerily akin to a human body encased in a bag of skin, not unlike a newborn trapped in its amniotic sack. Spurred by the sudden analogy, Ragi did her best to try and open up the skin and help whoever had somehow gotten trapped inside out and clean, but the person inside quickly began to struggle when a scalpel was put to the skin, battering it out of Ragi's hand. After that, she let it sit on its own, and warned the others who arrived that it seemed to be responsive to the environment.

They waited for hours more, and most left for the night after a terrifying day of watching the body beneath the skin slowly grow and shift around, the bag tightening taught around the man-ish body inside.

It was the early morning when Ragi (who had stayed the whole night out of worry and fascination) saw the skin burst open and a well-formed, handsome even, man emerge, stark naked and dripping with sweat. Dark eyes and hair, gentle face and tawny skin made him look Azani, and if the farmer Agan had been there he might have thought he was looking at some unknown brother of his.

The man asked her, in halting but understandable Azani, "Could I have some clothes, and a bath?"

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Aaaaaaaa?

"Um!" she says eloquently.

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The man looks expectantly at her for a moment longer, before shrugging, righting himself atop the table where he and the skin had been laid, then hopping off and walking past the doctor, skin-husk dangling from his shoulders like some kind of absurd cape. Once he’s out into the halls of the palace, he proceeds to wander, looking for an exit but with no particular hurry, and asks whoever he next encounters for directions to the nearest bath.

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...Cautious pointing.

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The man follows the wordless directions, returning no particular courtesy to those giving him directions. He gets sent on quite the journey around the palace, but it's no worse than the labyrinth that was the Champion's fortress, so he doesn't suspect that he is being sent around the building more than once. He does notice that the people he passes by are giving him increasingly scrutinizing glances, but he figures that word has simply gotten out that he is now present, and so people are moving on from shock to curiosity.

Finally, after a long while, he finds the curtained entryway to the baths and barges in. They are almost conspicuously empty given their relatively open construction, but he pays that no heed as he strides down into the gently warm pool. The water is natural, but almost sterile, he can feel the relative lifelessness of it. He couldn't guess whether it comes from a naturally clean hotspring or if has been sterilized, but it's certainly not just sun-warmed river water or something. It's pleasant bathing, until the first really distinct person he's encountered so far parts the curtain and enters.

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"Are you the mysterious stranger everyone's so excited about?"

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“I would guess so, though I suppose it’s technically possible there’s someone else I simply haven’t noticed. I’ve been rather busy trying to find and take a bath, which you have interrupted.”

The man turns to face Dama, grimacing annoyedly.

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"Yes. Let's talk after you're done with that."

If he doesn't object she'll just duck out of there to wait.

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He returns to the laborious, intentionally lengthened process of cleaning himself, before finally toweling himself off and striding confidently through the curtain.

”So, who’s your leader around here? I have important news to share with whoever they are regarding the fate of the world at large.”

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"I'm here to take you to him. Here, you should get dressed before we go anywhere." She holds out a bundle of clothes in the local style.

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He snatches the clothes and scrutinizes them for a while, puzzling out how to wear them before settling on just tying it around his waist, careful to avoid tying down his skin-cape. That done, he gestures dramatically. “Lead the way.”

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Well, this is just what things are going to be like today, huh.

"This way."

Anything they talk about on the way will probably have to be retold to Azan he, so she doesn't ask any questions as they walk.

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The man isn’t especially interested in making small talk, and fails to intuit that making some would slightly inconvenience his guide, and thus is equally quiet as he follows to...wherever they’re going. It isn’t to the top of the palace. He becomes a bit suspicious that he is being lead to some kind of holding cell or something, but speaks no words about it.

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She eventually leads him into a room with a throne and a person sitting in it.

"My king," she says. "I've brought our visitor."

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"Aha. It's nice to finally meet the man everyone's making such a fuss over."

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No point beating around the bush.

”Your world is doomed. Grey Wanderers will come, and nothing and no one will be spared. I am here to prolong your suffering by attempting and failing to teach you how to defend yourselves, or else how to flee.”

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"Is that so? What are Grey Wanderers?"

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He searches for an analogy, but finds none. Just have to work up from the basics then.

”Grey Wanderers are...warlike pillagers. They exist without a world, they reject the idea of place in general. They arrive at worlds which offend their sensibility or which are simply convenient, and disassemble them, taking anything rare or useful and destroying everything else. They are ancient beyond reckoning, and the plunder of their conquests gives them strength which I do not know exactly how to describe. They touch without reaching, see without looking. I haven’t seen much of you and your people but so far I have not seen anything which they would not utterly crush.”

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“I have no idea. The form I must take to survive traveling between worlds leaves me unconscious, and the time it has been since I left my home is uncounted. That I arrived here rather than elsewhere would indicate that this world is...nearby, in some way, to the one I fled from, but I can’t know whether the same would be true of the Grey Wanderers.”

As he speaks, the man takes a seat cross-legged on the floor in front of the throne.

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