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Nov 28, 2021 12:23 AM
Yvette in Swansong
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"Well, that depends," she says, lightly. "Does my answer actually matter at all?"

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"Of course!" he says, sitting down companionably next to her. "I've been looking all evening for someone whose company is half as entertaining as yours. No luck so far, I'm afraid, but I did try. It gets lonely up there, you know. My daughter's been known to sulk for centuries. On the dot. She marks it on her calendar and then doesn't speak to me for precisely a hundred years."

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"How very exacting of her." She considers, and takes another swig of her very necessary alcohol. "Have you considered acquiring a pen pal?"

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"Ah, right, the southern coast. A local girl would know just how difficult it is to get mail delivered to my castle."

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"You can't do that smoke trick with mail? Maybe put a mailbox at the bottom of the mountain, check on it every now and then for letters from curious children or fans or very brave tax collectors? Because really, if you're half as powerful as you imply, mail should quiver in terror at your presence."

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He snorts. "Last I heard - and this was, oh, sixty years ago, maybe things have changed - they held a city-wide lottery to decide who had to deliver my invitation to the queen's first birthday. The unluckiest person in Oroshe went to the base of the mountain and left a letter in the mailbox - I've had three thousand years, my dear, I did think of putting in a mailbox eventually - and came back perfectly unharmed but terrified out of his wits by all the things he imagined I might have done."

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"Sounds like a reputation problem," she decides, sagely. "You should probably get out more, let people get to know the real you. Without causing any creepy disappearances. Be the friendly neighborhood mountain sorcerer instead of the incredibly intimidating one with screams echoing from his mountain." Considering swig of necessary alcohol. "Or, you know, copious bribes. People respond to those, I hear."

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"Something to think about," he says agreeably. "How's the wine?"

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"Absolutely awful, I have no idea what the poor grapes did to deserve this treatment, but I am definitely putting them out of their misery."

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"I promise there's much better wine at my castle," he says, grinning.

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"You know, funny thing, I'm not actually a heavy drinker!"

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"No? What's the occasion?" he asks innocently.

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"Oh, I decided life's too short. Not all of us live for millennia, you know."

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"My girls get about a hundred and fifty years each," he mentions, "though by the end most of them are in no condition to appreciate it."

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"Is that supposed to be a selling point? I think I'd rather have sixty years of stuff I'm pretty happy with, every moment wishing for more time, over having a hundred and fifty years where I get to watch myself slowly devolve into uninteresting paste." Sip. Yes she really did just say that, yes they are really talking about this, and wow this alcohol is looking like the best call she's made all night.

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He smiles. "Would you believe me if I said I don't want to torture you? I really am starved for company."

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She stares at him, blinking, wine bottle briefly forgotten.

"So. You. Sincerely want to invite me to your castle, to be your friend? And what happens at the end of that, when I run out of funny things to say?"

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He shrugs.

"Maybe I'll let you go. That would be interesting. You could come out here and correct all those silly rumours."

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She raises her eyebrows, slightly.

"'Maybe' is not particularly persuasive, you know. And what happens if I decline entirely, decide that I would much rather stay down here, with the shitty wine and the terrible poets?"

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"I haven't decided," he says cheerfully.

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"Wonderful. Well. I don't precisely have any experience, but I suspect that being tortured doesn't improve my charming company in the slightest, so. Do please keep that in mind."

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"I'd guessed that," he assures her. "And you are very charming."

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"Thank you." ... She considers, then snorts. And then starts laughing. "You realize that I'd been beating myself up over my clear inability to manage to be stealthy."

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"Congratulations," he says with a soft, brief laugh. "Success from failure is a difficult transmutation indeed."

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"Is this success? I don't actually know yet. I'm pretty glad about the whole, 'maybe kinda not going to be imminently tortured' part, definitely, just. If my greatest tactical decision tonight was to get drunk I am going to be." She waves a hand. "Bemused! Bemused at the state of the world. How."

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