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Dec 14, 2019 3:42 AM
a may in the moon kingdom
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May is rolling her way to the library. It's not icy - in point of fact it's summer - but she's got an unhappy ankle from tripping yesterday and it's an accessible library and it's downhill on the way there and Ren will pick her up after. So, rolling.

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The sidewalk in front of her opens up suddenly into a dark whirling void that swallows her whole, wheelchair and all.

She falls for - an amount of time; it's almost impossible to tell how long. The darkness is so complete her eyes don't even try to trick her into seeing nonsense shapes in it. It's chilly and airless but her lungs don't protest the shortage. She can hardly even tell which way is down. Formless limbs tug at her hair and clothes.

 

And then she lands on a soft bed of thick springy moss. It's dark out, but a regular, theoretically-penetrable dark. There's a large half moon in the sky, and a number of stars indicating that light pollution is not a concern in this environment. Her wheelchair crashes to the ground several feet away; it makes a loud noise but not particularly a breaking-important-wheelchair-bits sort of noise.

The moss is very pale, and glitters with tiny silver lights.

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She and her moss - which is actually glowing, as though dusted with tiny pinprick stars - are in a shallow dip in the ground at the base of a round and gently-sloping hill; its silhouette blocks part of the sky in that direction. It's very quiet here. Other details about her environment will have to wait until her eyes adjust.

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She cups her hands over some moss to make sure it's glowing and not just reflecting somehow.

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Yep. Glowing. That sure is some luminous moss. Very pretty, too.

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She pats herself down, hair and outfit, to see if the limbs that grabbed at her did anything.

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Nope, all parts present and accounted for. Apparently the mysterious void was just being creepy.

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She looks at her nonglowing sleeve to speed up eye adjustment.

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A voice from behind her says, "Hey! You look like a southerner! What's your business?"

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"Um - sorry, I'm lost."

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A silent shadow passes overhead, and a one-eyed barn owl perches on one of her wheelchair's handles to peer down at her.

"I'll bet you are!" says the owl, in perfectly comprehensible English. "It's a week's flight to the border! Are you some kind of spy, or - oh!" He flaps his wings excitedly. "Maybe you're an outworlder! There hasn't been one of those in centuries, and they always end up in the blighted south! I'm Starlight, what's your name?"

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"Are you an outworlder, though?" he asks. "If you don't know the answer's probably yes - what sort of creature are you, anyway, you look like one of those southern fey but not any southern fey I've ever seen, and I've seen a few - I'm an owl, of course - or aren't there owls where you're from?"

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"I'm a human and given the givens it seems very likely I am an outworlder. We have things that look like you and are called owls but they never talk."

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"Oh, weird," he says. "Owls are all people here. All the bird-folk are either people or they aren't, it's all the same by species, very simple. But girl spiders are people and boy spiders aren't, and there's all sorts of other complicated ones like that. I thought I was safe but I guess not! I'd find it really weird to be from a species only some of which was people, wouldn't you?"

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"Yes, that seems like it would be strange. Poor spiders."

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"They seem to do all right with it. There's a spider in my squad and she's lovely. Anyway if you're an outworlder I guess you should meet the Queen, d'you wanna meet the Queen?"

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"Is that... customary?"

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"Any outworlders in the Kingdom of Night are supposed to meet the Queen at their earliest convenience," he says. "The kind of earliest convenience that means when you're good and ready, mind, not the kind that means get there yesterday or you're in trouble."

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"I'm not sure what the criteria for being good and ready to meet a queen might be."

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"Up to you. But you can go anytime you like, ask anybody who's not busy with something and they'll be your escort, just say 'I'm an outworlder and I'm going to meet the Queen' and you're set," he says. "Probably she wants to do diplomacy or something, I wouldn't know."

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"I'm not actually a diplomacy-designated individual of my world."

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Starlight shrugs. A shrugging owl is a mildly impressive sight. "I'm sure she's thought of that, she's the Queen, she thinks of everything."

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"Everything, really?"

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"More things than I've ever thought of, definitely, but then I guess I shouldn't be surprised, she's been around forever."

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