Dec 02, 2022 2:12 AM
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On a balcony in a two-and-a-half-story building, overlooking a densely planted yard, there is a person with black hair contemplating how to respond to the letter sitting on the little balcony table under a paperweight. It's raining hard but the roof extends out beyond the edge of the balcony, and there are bugs audible everywhere but the sheer curtain around the balcony is at least not totally ineffective at keeping them out.

She's expecting company but she's not expecting company that appears out of nowhere.

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Company that appears out of nowhere wasn't expecting her either.

Said company looks bewildered, at first, and then spots her and is instead abjectly terrified, curling up on themself - it's kind of hard to tell under the circumstances if that vermilion ponytail belongs to a man or a woman - as small as possible.

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"How did you get here?" she asks, taking the gloves from her belt and putting them on. (They're just cloth, not rubber or plastic.)

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"I, I don't know, ma'am," he whimpers, still very curled up. "I'm sorry. I don't know. I'm sorry. Ma'am."

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"Well, where were you before and do you have enemies?"

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"I - I was - in the red district's parking garage - and - not specifically that I know of ma'am."

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"This is my estate in Zorvey in southern Rekk - or you might know Rekk as Echai-a or Aruzon. If I have ever heard of the red district's parking garage, I have not heard of it by that name. Where is it?"

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"It's - the district in Sasun, Anitam." He risks a glance up at her hair but the light isn't good enough for him to be sure it isn't navy.

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"What continent is Anitam on?"

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"...it's... on the east coast?" he says, sounding more bewildered and frightened by the moment.

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"Are you educated enough that you could look at a map of the world and point out Sasun, Anitam?"

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"Yes."

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"I have one in my library. While I go look for that, why don't you come inside and I'll have the cook fix you something."

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"- ma'am?" he asks as though she proposed that he eat her alive for dinner.

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"It's okay. You don't have to. You just don't then get to complain that I'm a terrible host."

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"- I would never, ma'am," he says.

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"I'll be right back with a map." She goes inside.

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He waits, curled up on the ground, shivering and bewildered.

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She comes back with a thick book in a tooled leather cover. There's a fold-out map in the front, showing a sinusoidal map projection of a globe with two large continents and some large islands. The smaller of the two continents is labeled Rekk. It's almost entirely tropical, while the larger continent is mostly north of the tropics.

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He frowns at it.

"I'm sorry ma'am," he said, "this doesn't look like - the continent I know."

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"It seemed like you were surprised that you were on my balconytoday, but did it surprise you that it was possible for someone to suddenly appear somewhere?"

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"Yes ma'am."

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"Okay. That also surprised me. Were you around any experimental spells, or something, at the time?"

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"- no ma'am?" he says. He doesn't have a lot of room to be more confused, but his eyebrows are now straining even more at the limits of their potential altitude.

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"So we both think you suddenly appeared. It'd make more sense if we were both unconscious while someone dragged you here but I didn't notice the sun move and I don't remember being touched right before and I was standing up. But I did have some exposed skin and so did you and we were neither of us on guard, right, I mean neither of us had our gloves on or anything..."

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"- ma'am?" he asks with the desperation of someone who is increasingly terrified that they are not having a nightmare.

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