The Inn Between: Ditto Story 8

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Re: The Inn of the Prancing Pony: Ditto Story 8

Postby stargazer » Apr 01, 2012 5:15 pm

Abby hummed to herself as she prepared a platter of treats and the water heated for tea. She loved entertaining guests; her happy daughter and the lovely weather outside only made things better.

Even now she could hear Molly giggling – she was probably trying to catch the fairy dragons again – as well as the soft tones of Erica and Alex’s conversation.

But then came a cacophony of sound the young mother would never forget.

The loud squawking of the fairy dragons was immediately followed by a pair of loud screams and Erica calling “Abby!”

She dropped what she was doing and ran. As she rounded the corner into the great room, she was met with the sight of the fairy dragons fluttering overhead and terrified expressions on the faces of her human guests. Molly wailed. Abby wanted to hold her child close, comfort her.

Then Abby’s mind registered that she’d heard another sound, one her race had long dreaded – a sudden, staccato hammering that had lasted just seconds. She turned from the still-crying hatchling and raced toward the Emporium’s foyer.

Somehow, the building’s front door was open – she was sure she’d secured it when they’d come in earlier – and the cheery sunshine fell upon a sight that filled her with terror. Despite her heart’s ache, she bypassed this and charged out into the front yard. Maybe she'd catch those responsible for this atrocity.

But there was nothing out of the ordinary – a few clouds and birds overhead; in the distance a doe and her fawn peered out of the forest.

She returned to the foyer and knelt among the stone shards that littered its floor. She lifted her head and howled in agony. In an instant, life had unimaginably changed.

She gradually became aware of little things: fairy dragons hovering about her, even resting on her shoulders and cooing soft sounds in her ears. Erica and Alex watching from the door, horrified yet silent, not sure what to say. And her precious Molly, crying yet safe.

She would never forgive herself for somehow leaving that door open and allowing this attack on her helpless mate. She gingerly reached out and gathered a few bits of the shattered stone that had just hours ago been her beloved, alive and healthy. She managed to whisper through her sobs. "Forgive me, my love, for failing you. I’m so sorry."

The joy of the morning, of watching Molly play with the fairy dragons, seemed like another world now - one forever lost to her. How could she go on? She had to, if only for her daughter's sake. Abby vowed then and there that her child would grow up hearing about her father's kindness, courage, and love.

An unexpected cramp seized her; she grimaced and thought, And there's another reason to go on.

Unwilling to take consolation from anyone or anything, she wept and made a silent confession. I never got a chance to tell you the good news, my beloved.

The pain repeated, joining that of her aching heart. She gently touched her belly and whispered, "I'm sorry you'll never know your father. But you'll learn all about him."
But all night, Aslan and the Moon gazed upon each other with joyful and unblinking eyes.
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Re: The Inn Between: Ditto Story 8

Postby Aravis_Tarkheena011 » Apr 04, 2012 2:53 pm

Lady Ainne Ylenne Amir (or "Nia" for short) rose at long last from her meditative position in the centre of her garden. She sighed as she stretched her legs after sitting for so many hours in one spot. Well, it had only been two hours… but her legs were stiff and she had things that needed to be done. It was that time of year that required the airing out of sheets and blankets, the shaking off of mats and rugs, and the mixing of fresh salves because the ones from last year were beginning to set and before too long the setting jars would be ready for a new batch. Which should she do first? She stretched her slender arms up and reached towards a cloud that was floating by at an altogether lazy pace while she decided. Well, first she would make herself some breakfast. You couldn’t do anything on an empty stomach well… Nothing productive at any rate. Lifting the edge of her lavender robe ever so slightly, she traipsed off towards the entrance of her abode, stopping only once to snatch up a handful of goldenrod from a corner in her garden.

Once inside, Nia set about making a substance that looked and smelled not altogether unpalatable. As a matter of fact, the aroma that it emitted was positively divine, and Nia didn’t dare open her window (which, though it was the size of a bay window on the inside, consisted of a knothole from the outside of the warped willow) for fear that every crawling critter and flying bird for miles around would come flying in through it with no respect for a body’s personal property. It took no longer than a half hour for the delectable food-stuffs to be prepared (Nia had somehow managed to have everything on hand) and once it was all ready it was everything the young lady could do to wait to eat it until she ladled it onto a plate and laid the table with a single setting.

I will omit a description of exactly how good Nia’s breakfast was, nor will I tell you presicely what it consisted of, because, beloved, it would make your own next meal entirely bland in comparison. All I can say is that she ate it, and very good it was. And after she had eaten it she decided that it would be a good idea to take a trip into town, to see what she could find in the way of lace curtains, that way she could do her spring cleaning with a true sense of dignity (our Magielle maiden was ever so fond of lace curtains). Go into town she did, and she brought Milo (her Reine) with her, because the day was so very fine, and she felt just dreadful leaving him here all alone on such a walkable sort of day.

The rode wend sweetly this way and that, and Nia found that she could have almost believed that it would go on so forever – a prospect that was not entirely displeasing. There were daffodils to the right, and morning glories to the left, and the sun shone above her in such mellow warmness as to lull her half into a delectably purple sort of trance. More than once she got off of Milo’s back so that she could feel the soft soil scrunch beneath her tiny feet. And several times she bent over to the side of the road to gather up this or that wild flower that exposed itself between the tall blades of springtime grasses.

Ditto Town came upon her gradually at first: a low stone fence here, a white-washed cottage there, until quite suddenly, there she was, no longer in the open country-side but in the realm of a gaily bustling villiage – with a lovely, clambering square at its heart, and in the center of that stood the cheeriest fountain that any forest dweller such as herself ever saw.

“Well, now.” She said aloud to Milo “Isn’t this just splendid.” It wasn’t a question, It was a fact, and even if an angel himself disputed it she would hold as fast to it as though it were a doctrine.


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Re: The Inn Between: Ditto Story 8

Postby Aravanna » Apr 05, 2012 10:25 pm

The two siblings heard the strange noise, but didn't understand what it meant. Erica and Alex were enjoying the hospitality of Abby, everything was normal.... no, perfect, until the fairy dragons jumped into the air simultaneously with shrill cries. Val's talons dug into Erica's shoulder and Erica cried out in surprise.

Little Molly added the helpless cries of a baby a moment later. "Abby!" Erica screamed, because she didn't know what to do with the baby and her brother was running in circles after Ember and Val, who careening about the room so violently that it was clear they could hurt themselves.

Abby came running, collected her little one, and without another word, ran for the foyer. Erica followed automatically, her shoulder was pounding. In the confusion, it took a moment for her to remember that Val had actually scratched her. Funny thing to forget.

Erica entered the foyer and stopped so suddenly that Alex ran into her. The fairy dragons were right behind. They had followed the humans, not wanting to be left alone.

Since she had only been in this room once before, it took a moment for Erica to realize what was shattered across the floor. Then she looked closer at the rubble and recognized a piece of... no. NO!

"I'm dreaming. I'm dreaming. I'm dreaming," Erica chanted quietly, frozen in the spot where she'd first understood.

"Wait, everything's fine right? I mean, there's no blood, it's just stone..." Alex trailed off, the reality that nothing alive can be broken into a thousand pieces be put back together, not with all the money and science in the world. All the king's horses and all the king's men were as useless as he was.

"I'll go get help," said Alex helplessly.

Erica's mind spun aimlessly, resting for a moment on her sticky shoulder, on how sunny it was outside, on how Alex and slipped past her to get a better view, then fixed on her first memory of Ditto Town when she had quite literally dropped into the Cup and Patter thanks to Val. Eric had been the first person to greet them...

Abby came back into the room from outside, and dropped to the floor, also broken, clutching her stomach and her baby. The fairy dragons were the first to come arrive and comfort her. The humans followed, avoiding stepping on even the smallest shards as they crossed the vast room.

Not knowing what to say, Erica stood near, still waiting to wake up. Hoping with all her might to wake up. After a moment that seemed wrongfully long, Abby looked up and everyone.

"I'll go get help," Alex repeated, and fled. Erica wanted to follow him, but she couldn't leave her friend alone.
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Re: The Inn Between: Ditto Story 8

Postby Ryadian » Apr 06, 2012 7:49 pm

Kirane and Ryana walked inside the Cup & Platter. Kirane looked inside and saw all the unfamiliar faces, not all of them looking… quite human…. It was a strange experience, and for a moment she had to admit she was staring, but… in an odd way, it was refreshing as well. She was accepted on her old home despite not being human, but it was nice to not be alone anymore.

Ryana, naturally, was wholly unfazed, and walked up to the counter. Cheerfully, she greeted the bartender, “Hi, Hugh. My friend Kir—”

Suddenly, she was interrupted by a loud, almost constant beeping. She started, and admitted aloud, “It’s… never done that before,” before pulling out what looked rather like a pair of headphones with a microphone—Ryana’s PATROL communicator. She put it on, pressed a button, and asked, “Hello?”

“Hello? Ph… Phoenix Archer?” Ryana knew Abby’s voice, even over a microphone, but it still took her a few seconds to realize who it was. Her voice barely crackled through, wracked with sobs threatening to break, familiar gargoyle fury, and… something else… guilt?

Ryana forgot Hugh, forgot Kirane, and immediately demanded, “Abby, what’s going on? Where are you?”

“At the Emporium… someone attacked… Erik….” Ryana’s eyes widened, instantly drawn to the sun. It was the middle of the day; if… Erik wasn’t using his pendant….

“Who did this?!” Ryana demanded. The fury in her voice was enough to quiet the entire Pub. She shook it off, knowing this wouldn’t help. “Abby, help is on its way. I’ll be there as soon as possible.” Abby stayed on the line, but someone else had just come on; they could help her. Ryana turned to Kirane and said, “Change of plans; we need to go to the Emporium, now.”

“Wait, wha—“ Ryana grabbed Kirane’s arm and virtually pulled her out the door. Once they were outside, she extended her wings, so quickly they almost hit the Pub’s front windows. She grabbed Kirane under the shoulders, flapped her wings, and took off. Finally, Kirane got more words in: “Ryana, what happened?”

“That was Abby Silvermoon. Someone attacked her husband at the Emporium.”

“Who?”

“Abby and Erik Silvermoon are gargoyles. They’re good, very good people; they run an observation emporium on the outskirts of town. And when I catch the man who did this to him—”

“So, is… Erik all right?”

Ryana shook her head. “No. I don’t know if you have gargoyles in your world, but… they turn to stone during the day.” The implications suddenly washed over Kirane; her horror almost matched Ryana’s fury. “Abby seems to be using her pendant, the one that keeps her flesh during the day, but….”

Kirane nodded understandingly. “What can we do?”

Her flyer shook her head. “No physician in the world can help him if that’s what happened. But… maybe….” She glanced at Kirane, truly looking at her for the first time since this happened. “With a miracle, you might be able to help him—and you’re probably the only person in Ditto Town who can.”

A few minutes later, they were flying over the Emporium. Ryana started coming in for a landing, when she happened to glance up, and saw…. “HIM!” A dark figure, a man Ryana didn’t recognize, was running full-speed away from the Emporium, though a back door. Only one reason for that. “Kirane, how low do you need me to get before you can get off?”

Kirane glanced at the quickly-approaching building and ground. “Just go a few more feet… now!” Ryana, only slightly reluctantly, let go. Kirane fell for a few feet, before grabbing on to the side of the building. She set both hands and feet against it, turning the wall into a semi-liquid material that slowed her fall without causing much friction. It wasn’t the best way to fall, but… she had to hurry. She quickly ran to the front door, saying to the unfamiliar girl near the door, “I’m a friend of Ryana’s; she thinks I can help.”

Meanwhile, the Phoenix Archer shot straight up over the Emporium, did some quick trajectories in her head, and dove down towards the fleeing figure. She’d left her bow at home, but had both of her daggers. She pulled out her left one, pointing it at the figures’ feet; a blue ray emanated, and once it reached the ground, it froze into ice. The man slid on the ice, crashing to the ground with a cry.

Ryana landed mere feet away from him, a stream of avian sounds coming from her mouth. The man probably should’ve been glad that he didn’t understand the words, though the tone was keenly obvious. He started trying to stand; she threw her dagger at him. Out of sheer luck, it caught his leg. She unsheathed her other dagger, and held it to his throat. “This one creates fire.” She told him in venomous English.

The man did his best to hide his pain, and defiantly stared her in the eye. “And the Organization would be very interested to learn how.”

She grabbed him by the collar, lifted him, and slammed him into a tree. “Why the Emporium? Why Erik? He’s more valuable to you alive.” She pushed her dagger a little closer and added, “And killing him was just a plainly stupid move.”

The man let out a pained, but triumphant cackle. “I needed the distraction. With his ‘mate’ distracted, no one noticed me accessing the Emporium’s main security system. And now, the timer has been set.” Ryana’s eyes widened in horror, her grip on the man lessened, as he sadistically added, “You’re going to need to say goodbye to more than just him.”

A few seconds later, the sky exploded in an array of fire and heat, accompanied by a world-shattering BOOM.
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Re: The Inn Between: Ditto Story 8

Postby Aravanna » Apr 07, 2012 10:04 pm

Right outside the Emporium, Alex was at a loss. He didn't know where to go for help. He was unfamiliar with the town and his mind was foggy with panic and horror. Ember had come with him, but wasn't any help, circling overhead frantically and occasionally flying inches from Alex's face, or into his face. Then he remembered. During his tour yesterday (could that have possibly only been a day ago?) Erica had showed him the Town Square. If he could find it again, people would be around this time of day. He fixed on the idea and started running.

Alex was halfway there when he realized how stupid it was leave Erica behind. One person was dead (being?) What if the murder was still around and he’d just abandoned his sister?

Turning around so fast his hand went to the ground to steady himself, Alex righted his body and sprinted back faster than he thought he could run. Then the world was suddenly unbearably bright and loud. Alex was thrown backwards as the force hit him. He landed on his back and knocked his head against the ground. He lay there for a moment while the world spun above him, his lungs remembered how the breath again, and his heart pounded too much blood through his too-small veins. His ears couldn't remember how to hear after the bang and were serenading him with muffled ringing.

Alex sat up and looked. The Emporium was a fireball. At least half the building had been blown out and rubble was scattered away in all directions. Steel support beams that had held up walls and the dome were twisted outward like broken ribs and bent in impossible shapes, while behind them the raging fire leapt eagerly towards the sky and billowed smoke.

"Erica! ERICA, ERICA!" Alex screamed, running towards the ruined corpses of the building. He threw one arm in front of his face as an inadequate shield against the heat.

The young man more or less tripped over the two figures lying prostrate on the ground. Just before he hit the charred earth with his face, his mind had enough time to wonder why the girl had wings.
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Re: The Inn Between: Ditto Story 8

Postby stargazer » Apr 08, 2012 8:08 pm

The young woman groaned; her body felt as if pierced by hundreds of tiny shards of glass. This actually wasn’t far off, as she’d been standing less than a block from the Emporium when the explosion had destroyed the structure.

Her head pounded and her ears rang; every sound seemed muffled. She lay quietly a moment as the pain gradually subsided and she felt brave enough to stand.

She couldn’t believe her eyes. The grand building lay in ruins and the street was littered with glass and brick. Only the fact that she’d happened to be standing behind another building had kept her from an even worse fate. As it was, her injuries were mostly limited to lacerations from flying glass.

She stumbled around, lost; this wasn’t her home town and now everything was chaos. She’d somehow wandered into town, and wanted nothing more than to find her way back home.

But what was that? A tiny cry seemed to be coming from the rubble. She turned back to the twisted wreckage of the Emporium. Surely nothing could have survived that blast!

But there it was again! She had no choice; she gingerly made her way through the ruined steel beams and stone that had once formed the huge observatory.

“I’m coming!” she called repeatedly; “Keep calling out to me.” In this way she hoped not only to encourage this lone survivor but also to zero in on his or her location.

There! Below that table! Apparently the victim had been trapped under the furniture, or had sought protection there.

The young woman managed to push it out of the way, but she was not prepared for what she saw. A body, burned and broken almost beyond recognition as human, lay there, unmoving. The cries, softer now, came from underneath it.

Urgently, yet with as much respect for the dead as she could muster, the woman moved the body. Her heart leapt to see the source of the cries, alive, yet broke as she realized what must have happened. This tiny child lived because her mother had covered her, shielded her with her own body. Indeed, she’d held her child close to the end. What love, what sacrifice!

“Shh, shh, I’m here now,” she cooed as she picked up the infant. “Auntie Shannon is here now, and I won’t let anything else happen to you.” She talked, primarily to calm the shivering baby with a soothing voice. “Now, how badly are you hurt?” She carefully inspected the girl’s body, glad to see that she seemed to have only superficial wounds. Her mother had indeed saved her, sheltered her from the worst. “Hmmm…What’s this? Not quite human, are you, baby?”

It was true; the tiny child had green skin, along with wings and a tail. But to Shannon’s credit this made no difference. This little one was apparently alone in the world and certainly needed care to survive – care she would be honored to give.

Glancing again at the mother’s prone form, she saw similar features, though the wings had been almost burned off in the blast. A tear made its way down Shannon’s face. “Who could do such a thing?” she asked the little girl, who by now had snuggled up to her.

“Well, honey, let’s get you out of here, maybe clean you up and find you something to eat. I hope you eat people food.” She grinned at this last.
Shannon turned back the way she’d come, and in moments the pair was back in the forest outside of town. She stopped at a stream and scooped up some water, which the little girl eagerly drank.

Shannon had already fallen in love with her new charge; not only did the baby need her, but she seemed to fill some empty longing in the older woman’s own life. “You have such pretty green skin,” she mused as the baby drank. “How about if I call you Jade? It’s a pretty name, just like you.”

The newly-christened Jade cooed and gurgled. “Jade it is then.”

And so it happened that the last Silvermoon came to be adopted by a human woman who knew nothing of her birth name, her gargoyle past or heritage – yet longed to provide the love and nurture she would need.

(And the death of Erik and Abby remained unknown in their home world – at least until several curious young pairs emerged through the portal, eager to find out why they’d heard nothing from the couple. But that’s another story.)
But all night, Aslan and the Moon gazed upon each other with joyful and unblinking eyes.
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Re: The Inn Between: Ditto Story 8

Postby Aravanna » Apr 10, 2012 9:59 pm

It began. It ended. It only took a hundredth of a second, but the imprint left was sharper than any lightening can leave. Erica’s world had tried to end, then space had folded up at the corners

It took a long time for the ringing to pierce Erica’s consciousness, and then Erica realized Val was wrapped so tightly around her neck that she was getting a choking sensation. Erica's hand's went to her neck and to her relief, Val, relaxed slightly and came unwound, her tail wrapping back around Erica's wrist instead. The fairy dragon was shaking so hard.

That was when Erica realized she and Val were no longer with Abby in the Emporium. Of course they weren't. The two of them, teenager and fairy dragon had teleported like always, except it was nothing like before.

Before, the act had always been instantaneous to Erica. They were in one place, then they were in another. This time she was in one place, in shock at the murder. She'd heard another loud sound, different from breaking stone. She had thrown her arms up and felt the heat. Then she'd felt the corners reality rippling impossibly as Val reached her. Time seemed to have stopped for a second and Erica wasn't anywhere. She could breath, or move, or scream. She was in the infantesamally thin Nowhere that kept the two points for spilling into each other. And she was Somewhere again. "Is that what you always feel when you teleport?” Erica asked aloud. “The universe folding to let you skip over the impossible distance? That's what it felt like just now. I always thought it would be like traveling down a black tunnel really fast or something. Not staying still and twisting dimensions around.

Val didn't answer, only nestled down harder into Erica's cupped hand, looking slightly glassy eyed.

For some reason Erica had now experienced two points in the cosmos touch. Was that because something worse than Eric’s death had followed in the same room of the Emporium? And now she was... oh yes, in her brother's apartment, lying on his bed.

It took her a moment to recognize it, but she had been her twice before. He must have just left two days ago? That the time so brief? Also, the ringing that had first centered her on reality was still constant and urgent. It was a land line phone. Erica felt across the dark room to answer it, if only to make the noise stop. The shades were drawn very tightly to keep anyone from noticing that there had been three magical creatures in the apartment with her brother. Finally she found the phone and lifted it to her ear, all the while wondering why her brother still had a land line.

"Alex? This is Sarah Johnson. Why haven't you answered my calls? Do you know how serious ignoring me? Things have escalated and you choose now to become unreachable! Alex? Are you there?" The woman on the line sounded fairly young and very English.

Erica didn't understand what she was hearing. What was escalating? And why was this random lady angry at her brother? Things had already escalated, and a good man, or gargoyle, was dead. Erica felt a tight wad of emotion rise in her throat.

"Don't say that about my brother." She stammered, her voice breaking even as she tried to keep it level, then without knowing why, she added. "He's dead," and slammed the phone down.

Why had she said that? It was a terrible thing to say, and an outright lie. The phone started ringing again. Erica thought about answering, but instead pulled the cord from the wall and used a word she'd never used before. What was wrong with her? Was she angry because Eric was dead? Maybe she was just enraged that she lived in a universe where a day could start out so perfect and turn into a nightmare. Eric was dead, and something else had happened they had barely escaped. An explosion? Was Abby still back there? Erica collapsed on her brother's bed with a sob, then it was followed by another, and another. It took a long time before Erica could get control of herself and stop crying.

She couldn't just lay here. What if something had happened to Alex too? Abby might be fine after all. Well, as fine as you can be when your husband has died. "Come on Val, let's go." Val had crawled off onto the corner of the bed and wasn't moving. Erica reached out and was reminded sharply that her shoulder had been clawed. She winced and ran a finger down her friend's spine. The little dragon shuttered and curled into a tighter ball. "You're really sick, aren't you? All right. We'll spend the night."

Sitting up in bed, Erica thought about getting something to eat, but she just sat there, feeling the minutes slip away, until she finally gave up and crawled under the blankets to a night filled with dreams of shattered statues and fire.

*********

Alex wasn't even up on his knees before someone strong and heavy landed on top of him, pushing him back into the ground. Alex yelled in surprise and tried to twist free when he felt a knife against his throat. It was surprisingly cold and terribly unexpected. Deciding very quickly that he didn't want to die, Alex stopped thrashing and let the larger man pull him up.

"Don't try anything heroic Phoenix Archer, or I'll slit his throat open. I'm sure we'll get a good idea of how much blood can come out of someone before you have time to take revenge. OH, or should I call you Ryana now since you're being perfectly transparent?"

Ryana, or whatever she went by, didn't exactly look like someone Alex would want to tick off, crouching with two daggers in her hands and two more coming from her eyes. Not that her imposing figure meant good things for him. If she attacked, he was done for. "Please don't do anything stupid," he gasped, wondering why he was so afraid to die when his little sister was probably gone... It made him feel like a coward.

"Right, listened to the boy. He’s a sharp one. Say, while I have a hostage, why don't you give me a little information in exchange for his life. No, not your origin or where your three little companions went. We aren't interested in trivia. But we both know you have another secret you've been keeping from this town. Or do I need to be more specific?"
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Re: The Inn Between: Ditto Story 8

Postby Ryadian » Apr 14, 2012 11:38 pm

Ryana gritted her teeth and let out a solitary click. In the phoenix language, that had no more meaning than if she had said the letter "b", but it was surely the most angry b the man had ever heard. Unfortunately, her usual scare tactics would not work on him, not now. There was no way that kid could break out of a hold like that, even if he wasn't clearly an untrained innocent. In a cold, even tone, she demanded, "What, exactly, do you mean? You apparently already know my greatest secrets." Despite the circumstances, she didn't hold back on the sarcasm.

"Well, I would like to know where Kirane is, but I have a feeling I already know." He shrugged nonchalantly; meanwhile, Ryana spent a brief moment wondering, frantically, how he could possibly know about her. However, they both moved on: "But I was talking about some small, green artifacts you know something about...."

Phoenix Archer stared at him for a full ten seconds, not so much in horror, or even fury, but in dumbfounded shock. Eventually, though, she blurted out the last thing any of them expected to hear: "Those stupid crystals?! Seriously, them again?!" If she didn't have her fists clenched around her blades, her hands would've been running through her hair in inexpressible frustration.

The man didn't quite know what to say at first, but eventually, he seemed to remember that backup would be here any time now. He pushed the knife just slightly closer to the boy's neck. "Well, then I imagine you won't mind me taking them off your hands. Now, drop your weapons and let's talk." Ryana hesitated, but looked in the terrified young man's eyes, and let her daggers fall to the ground. "And wrap up your wings, too; I've seen you use 'em."

She folded her arms and, instead, retracted them completely. "Better?"

He didn't really answer; instead, he gestured with his head away from the Emporium's ruins. They slowly stepped away, and he continued, "Now, where are they?"

"I know, I know, you need all of them," she barely restrained a "blah, blah, blah". "Well, lucky for you, I can tell you where they are. I sent them back to my homeland, with the woman who stole them. I have it on good authority that they've already gotten rid of the crystals." Well... that wasn't entirely true. For one thing, her phoenix companions had just promised to keep them safely out of Hasaré, or anyone else's, hands--they had no idea the Organization was even interested. Also, Ryana failed to mention that there were two of them still in town....

"And just where is your homeland?"

Ryana shrugged. "We get there and back via portal; I have no idea where it is on a map." More accurately, she'd gotten to Ditto Town the old fashioned way in the first place, and she could probably point it out--if she wanted to remember, anyways.

The man looked irritated with this news, but not entirely. She had a feeling he saw through her bluff, at least partly. But he had one last opportunity, before he had to press his advantage: "Well, then why don't you take me to this portal?"

Phoenix Archer raised an eyebrow. "And when will you let him go?"

"After I'm sure you're not yanking my chain." His look clearly read, "I'm waiting; let's go."

Ryana started to turn, to lead him to the portal--but as she did, she glanced over her shoulder and pointed out, "Just one more drop of Dittopian blood, one scratch on him when this is over, and you'll wish you'd been in the Emporium when the bomb went off."

"Strong words from a do-gooder. Move."
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Re: The Inn Between: Ditto Story 8

Postby starkat » Apr 16, 2012 1:58 pm

As she swung down from Rochir’s back, she felt a pair of hands encircle her waist. Katherine turned to great her husband with a smile. “Greetings my love. I’ve missed you.”

“Not as much as I have missed you,” Gwanuig wrapped her in a hug.

A discrete cough caused Katherine’s cheeks to tinge pink, but it was not until Guin-nor snorted. “Come on you two! Father’s waiting!”

Gwanuig stuck his tongue out at his older brother. “Like you two are any less affectionate with each other.”

Guin-nor smirked as he greeted his own bride with a kiss. Katherine and Gwanuig looked at each other and stifled a giggle. After a few more moments, the elves and women took the horses to the stables. Rochir normally did not reside in a stable, but he had been given an open stall with no door so he could come and go as he pleased. Katherine felt Gwanuig’s arms wrap around her as she groomed and she leaned backwards into his strength.

“That bad?”

He chuckled softly. “I’m not certain actually. Father is being very difficult to read at the moment. He just asked me to send for you after I told him about our marriage and was very quiet afterwards.”

“Love, your father may have just been realizing that both of his boys have grown up.” Katherine turned to face her husband and laughed at his expression. “Just because you are elves, doesn’t mean you aren’t your father’s little boys. No matter my age, my foster family always saw me as that little girl who first walked in their door. We’ll take it as it comes. Whatever happens, we’re together.”

Gwanuig smiled and whispered into her ear, “What did I do to get such a wise wife?”

Katherine smiled back and turned to finish grooming her horse without answering. It was the kind of thing that needed no answer anyways. Her happiness filled her heart and she began to sing softly.

Outside the stable, just on the other side of Rochir’s stall stood the King of the elves. He kept a stoic expression, but if his wife had still been with him, she would have seen the fatherly pride and amusement in his eyes. He ducked under a nearby tree as the two young married couples exited the stables and watched them as they went to their rooms to clean the dust of travel off.

There was an odd hiccup in the atmosphere and Katherine flinched slightly. She was not sure what had just happened or why she had picked up on it and no one else around seemed to have noticed. Her abilities may have been gone, but for some reason she just knew that something weird was going on back in Ditto Town. Her thoughts along this line were interrupted when Salabis swept in to make sure she was ready for her audience with her father-in-law.
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Re: The Inn Between: Ditto Story 8

Postby starkat » Apr 19, 2012 4:36 am

“The King will see you now.”

Gwanuig acknowledged the elf that was serving as his father’s herald and turned to his wife. She was a vision of loveliness. Rochil had chosen her attire with Nestril’s help. Her dress was elvish made and her hair was done up. If it had not been for her rounded ears and eye coloring, he was certain that she would be mistaken for an elvish princess.

Katherine guessed her husband’s thoughts and made herself smile. She was incredibly nervous. It was not every day that one met their father-in-law knowing that she was likely to get a poor reception. “We’d best not keep him waiting beloved.”

“Courage dear heart. We will do this together.”

Rochil drew her strength from her husband and side by side they stepped through the doors into the King’s audience chamber. Neither of them understood why the King had insisted on a formal audience.

They stopped at the bottom of the dais and bowed. “Greetings Father.” Gwanuig greeted his father formally.

Rochil swallowed and managed, “Greetings Your Majesty,” without sounding like she was about to pass out.

The King did not day anything. He merely looked at them. Katherine kept her head bowed out of respect while Gwanuig met his father’s gaze with a touch of defiance. After several minutes, the King spoke. “Welcome Gwanuig and Rochil. I presume you have news to share?”

Husband and wife had discussed this meeting for many hours. Rochil stepped forward. “We were informed that you learned of our departure from this dimension and you are aware of the love we share. Your majesty, we have come to ask your blessing on our union as Gwanuig’s father and our King.”

Katherine’s humble approach took the King off his guard. He had been prepared to maintain his hard line when they walked into his audience chamber, but this human had obviously taken the time to school herself deeper in their traditions than before. He reached down and offered her his hand. “You speak the truth in that I was aware of what has transpired. You also know that I do not approve of your dittoist stand point.”

Katherine nodded. “But we also spoke on this topic some time ago,” she said surprising her husband.

The King smiled. “Yes, child. I have but one more question for you. Why did you choose to wed my son when you will grow old and he will not?”

This was a question that Rochil had long been prepared to answer. “Your majesty, I was not like normal humans for the majority of my lifetime. The abilities I developed not only allowed me to jump from place to place, but I did not age. Now that has been taken from me and your son and I have talked about this development. No matter what happens, even if my abilities are never restored, we would rather live what time we have together than apart.” Her love shown in her eyes.

He looked from his son to his son’s bride and gave his assent. “My objection before was that the time was not right. Your bride is correct my son. We did speak on the topic of her ditto point of view and came to an agreement that we could both live with.” Then he said the words that both were waiting to here. “I give my blessing and offer your bride a place among us. Welcome home my son and daughter.”

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Re: The Inn Between: Ditto Story 8

Postby stargazer » Apr 22, 2012 10:20 am

What am I going to do now?

Shannon Lewis looked down at the little green-skinned girl in her lap. She was asleep now, content – but only after devouring all the trail mix, granola bars, and the apple Shannon had packed for her hike. Now Shannon’s own stomach rumbled in disappointment. At least she had plenty of water.

The pair was sitting atop what Erik had, in happier times, called his star-watching hill; from here Ditto Town was little more than a smudge on the horizon. But now that the adrenaline from what Shannon had seen had worn off, she was fighting back tears. This girl’s mother had died, heroically, trying to save her daughter. Perhaps her father had suffered a similar fate. How many others had perished in that explosion?

Shannon’s desire to care for the orphan in her lap was undiminished – but her confidence in her ability to do so had waned. Jade had eaten all the food in Shannon’s pack – but there was no telling yet if it was good for her or not. I have no idea what she’s supposed to eat. She seems fine, but what if she gets sick?

And she had no idea what special care the child might need – something her own kind would take for granted but that a human wouldn’t know about. Have I gone too far? I just don’t know what I’m doing here.

For the first time, Shannon noticed the little pendant around Jade’s neck; until now it had been hidden under her clothing. “What’s this?” she whispered as she handled the amethyst crystal. “A gift from your parents? See, there’s so much about you I just don’t know.”

She glanced up at the sun. “My friends must be worried. And once I get home they’re not going to let me live this down.”

Shannon had left the town of Jackson – had it just been a few hours ago? So much had changed; it seemed like a lifetime ago – for a hike near the Teton Mountains she loved. Her friends had tried to discourage her from going alone, but she knew Jackson Hole like the back of her hand, and assured them she’d be back by dusk.

But that was before she’d caught a glimpse of something shimmering in a small grove of trees; upon investigating it she felt a strange sense of nothing – or as if she was endlessly falling – until she emerged here, in this strange world with green-skinned babies and exploding buildings.

“I’ve got to get home,” she whispered, and Jade stirred in her lap, as if on cue.

“I wonder what the people at home are going to think of you.” She smiled and touched the girl’s nose as she made her way back to the portal which led to her – and, as it happened, to Erik and Abby’s – home world.
But all night, Aslan and the Moon gazed upon each other with joyful and unblinking eyes.
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Re: The Inn Between: Ditto Story 8

Postby stargazer » Apr 26, 2012 11:11 am

This is surprisingly comfortable for a hotel bed, Shannon mused to herself, but there was no way she was going to get much sleep this night. She decided to step outside and think for a while, tiptoeing so she wouldn’t wake her friends in the rooms on either side of hers.

The night was clear with just a hint of chilly mountain air; the full moon lit up the surroundings so brightly she had no trouble making her way to a small park across the street from her hotel. She found a park bench and sat on it, staring silently up at the sky.

She’d made her way back to Jackson just fine, and her friends had teased her, just as she’d expected, for being later than expected. But the joking had lasted only a short time before the others realized something was really bothering their friend. But she could not say what it was.

She sighed. Tomorrow they’d be up bright and early for the drive back to Boise; their vacation was almost over and it was time to get back to work. Yet this trip was one she’d never forget. Even now she wasn’t sure whether that was good news or not.

Once again the day’s events replayed in her mind…


She’d reconfigured the contents of her backpack so it could double as a baby carrier; it was apparent from Jade’s reaction that she was familiar with such an arrangement. “I bet your mom or dad carried you in a pack just like this, huh?” Shannon wasn’t sure how much her young charge understood, but Jade clearly responded to the sound of her voice.

“One last short walk to the portal home,” Shannon said, laying the pack on the ground so she could position Jade into it. Cooing and giggling, the girl almost immediately managed to wiggle her way down to the bottom of the pack. Just like my old cat, Shannon thought. She loves curling up in tight spaces. Before long, the child became silent and still; Shannon realized the rhythm of her walking had put Jade to sleep.

There! That shimmering patch ahead. That’s the gateway home.

Shannon wasn’t quite sure how Jade might react to the strange sensory deprivation that accompanied a trip through the portal, entirely unaware that the gargoyle hatchling had been through it a number of times already. Just as well she’s asleep.

An instant later the pair was back in Wyoming; the Tetons seemed to glow under a sky painted with the oranges and purples of sunset. The beauty took Shannon’s breath away.

My friends must be panicking. She pulled her cell phone out of her pocket and flipped it open. No service. Not too surprising out here.

She could admire these mountains for hours, but she’d have to rush to get back before midnight. At least the moon was full tonight and would give some light.

Shannon had not gone far, however, when she heard the sound of rustling wings above. Something big, an eagle perhaps. She was totally unprepared for what happened next.

A pair of large winged creatures landed in front of her. She had to fight down the urge to scream or run away; how could she escape from these things anyway?

“Hello,” the larger one said.

“Hi,” Shannon managed to squeak out. Now that she had a moment to inspect them, she realized they were like much larger versions of Jade, just colored differently. The one that had spoken was brick-red in color while the other was orange.

“I’m Alexander, and this Alaric.”

“I’m Shannon.”

“Nice to meet you. Are you lost, or need any assistance this evening?”

Before Shannon could answer, Jade, awakened perhaps by the sudden lack of motion or the sounds of conversation, stretched and tried to climb out of the backpack.

The appearance of the little girl’s head over Shannon’s shoulder prompted an immediate – and to the human, unexpected – response in the creatures. Their eyes glowed eerily white, their wings flared open, and their tails lashed back and forth.

“Why do you have a gargoyle hatchling hidden in that bag?” Alexander’s voice was a low, menacing growl. “How dare you kidnap one of us?”

The pair of creatures, huge and menacing, advanced on the much smaller human woman…
But all night, Aslan and the Moon gazed upon each other with joyful and unblinking eyes.
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Re: The Inn Between: Ditto Story 8

Postby stargazer » May 01, 2012 2:57 pm

Shannon, terrified, took a couple steps back. These big monsters were nothing like her cuddly little Jade. Sure they are, she realized. They think you kidnapped one of their kids. How else would they react?

Her voice came out in a little squeak. “No! No, wait! I didn’t kidnap her. I…just found her, rescued her today, from a terrible explosion.”

“Likely story,” Alexander snorted.

Shannon held out her arms. “See, I got hit by some of the glass.”

The gargoyles, aided by the bright moonlight, could see the lacerations. “Please, slowly take the pack off and take out the hatchling.”

“What? Don’t you want me to hand it all over?”

“It’s your pack.” Alaric almost seemed to grin. “All we want is to see who’s in it.”

Shannon’s mind raced as she complied. Now that she thought about it, she had heard something, years before, about weird creatures in New York. She’d immediately dismissed it as some crazy urban legend. Gently, she pulled Jade out of her backpack.

“That’s Molly Silvermoon!” Alexander’s roar echoed off into the night.

Jade – Molly – shrieked and clutched tightly to Shannon, trying to hide in her arms. This convinced the gargoyle pair of Shannon’s sincerity better than any words could have. To their surprise, the human – while keeping a nervous eye on them – tried to soothe her fear.

Alexander immediately relaxed, touched by the scene. “You’re one remarkable woman.”

Shannon saw only sincerity in his expression.

“You care for her even while your own life is in danger.”

Guess I never really thought of it that way. It all happened so fast.

“Just maternal instinct, I guess.”

“It does you a great deal of credit. Molly seems to like you, and I apologize for jumping to conclusions. We’re very interested in hearing your story.”

Tearfully, Shannon once again relived the nightmare of the past day.

“Erik and Abby are – gone?” Alaric’s voice was almost inaudible.

Having names to attach to the victims made the tragedy seem even worse to Shannon.

Alexander turned to his companion. “We will send someone to confirm this tale.”

“I’ll go. I must know if this has truly happened to my sister and her mate.”

That makes this orange one Jade’s uncle…

Alexander watched Alaric disappear through the portal, then with a deep sigh he sat down on the ground. “And now we wait. It shouldn’t be long.”

Shannon, still holding her charge, was far too nervous to follow his lead. He sensed this, and smiled at her. “You need not fear me now. I believe we owe you a great debt. You’ve saved Molly’s life, and you’ll ever have our thanks.”

“It was…my honor to help. I couldn’t leave such a tiny child alone.”

There were a few moments of uneasy small talk while they waited. Shannon wished this Alaric would return soon, but knew he’d need some time to absorb what had happened.

She’d just worked up enough courage to sit across from the large reddish gargoyle when an anguished roar echoed into the night. They looked to see Alaric returning, shoulders hunched, feet dragging. No words were needed.

“Can I hold her?” Sorrow filled Alaric’s voice, and Shannon quickly handed the infant over to him. Her heart ached as she watched the gargoyle gently stroke the hatchling’s long red hair. With a kiss to the top of her head he looked back at them. “Thank you for saving Molly’s life. We will take her home and raise her among her own kind.”

“Of course, that’s for the best.” Though Shannon knew she’d miss the little girl, part of her was relieved that Molly would be raised by those who knew her best.

Shannon leaned over and looked into Jade’s eyes. “Be good, okay? I’ll miss you.” She kissed her soft cheek and reluctantly stepped back.

The gargoyles were deeply touched by this affection, especially since the woman had known Molly but a few hours. They exchanged glances and nods, and Alexander indicated the lights of Jackson. “We would be honored to escort you partway back to town,” he said.

“Would you like to carry Molly a while longer?” Alaric’s eyes twinkled at this opportunity to offer Shannon a little happiness.

“I’d love to,” she whispered, gently taking the hatchling into her arms. “Thanks.”

The short walk toward town was taken mostly in silence; while Shannon was dying to ask lots of questions she sensed this was neither the time nor the place.

All too soon Alexander called a stop. “We can go no farther.”

“I understand. Thanks for letting me have this extra time with her.” Shannon reluctantly handed Jade back to her uncle. “Will I ever see her again?”

“Perhaps that could be arranged. You will always be welcome among us, a friend to the clans; she will grow up learning of the courageous woman who saved her. But we ask two things in return: that you never reveal the location of this gate or our existence to others. There are those who would use this information against us.”

“You have my word.” An idea came to her, and she fished around in her purse until she drew out a small card. “Here, take this. It’s my business card.”

Alexander took it. “We will be in touch.” Then he unexpectedly put a hand on her shoulder. “We know this isn’t easy. You’ve done a wonderful thing today. Please take comfort in the assurance that all the clans will know what you have done, and your name will be honored among us.”

To her surprise, the gargoyles hugged Shannon and thanked her again. Then with a flurry of wings they disappeared into the night.

“Bye, Jade – Molly,” Shannon whispered. Then, wiping away tears, she turned back toward town.
But all night, Aslan and the Moon gazed upon each other with joyful and unblinking eyes.
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Re: The Inn Between: Ditto Story 8

Postby leuthilalda » May 06, 2012 2:26 pm

The excited, disturbed twittering of the bird flock was more than Toby could ignore. He got up from his nap, and stood in the front door. Most of his friends were perched on the bush; a couple had taken rest on the perches he had put by the front door for them.
"So what is all the noise about?" Toby asked pleasantly. The looks he got back told him that the answer was probably not going to be a happy one.
"We were flying over the Emporium a few minutes ago" said Skra. "We saw Miss Abby come stumbling out the door. She looked like something was horribly wrong. She looked up at us, but I don't think that she recognized who we were."
"I hope everything's ok over there." Toby worried. Maybe we had better go..."
The initial blast wave hit him, knocking him back into the doorframe, and causing several of the birds to lose their grip. The red and orange flames followed close behind, only to be met with a green cloud, as the young Leuthilalda bush rose to the defence of its friends. They could see the fire being absorbed by the cloud, and as the energy pulsed into its branches, the red, green and blue berries glowed brighter and brighter. Then some of them suddenly blazed out white, and after a minute or so, went dark. The branches they had been on were also blackened and dead, as the bush absorbed much more energy than one so young could ever be expected to handle. Along with the light came a wild melody of chords, as the normal humming turned into a virtual orchestra. Finally, the bush settled back, the flames all absorbed, its friends safe. Thankfully, there was a good portion of its branches and berries which had not been killed. Its humming settled back to normal.
At least almost to normal. Koolarin, the young dove, was the only bird who had not flown off in fright when the bush suddenly sprang into action. Now she lay limp on the intersection of two or three branches. Toby reached in, concerned, and gently lifted her out. She seemed in shock, half dazed and shivering.
"There is a heat and an anger in the bush" she said. I wasn't getting burned, but it felt like I was in an oven.
Toby nodded. "I could also feel the heat. I think that there's still a lot of energy from that blast in there" he said. "But I think also that there is an anger at whoever did this. An anger I could easily match." He shook his head in sorrow. "I am afraid of what we are going to find at the Emporium when we go there." He signaled to Bob, Skra, and Koo, and the four of them started off in the direction from which the blast had so recently come.
Hail, Cameron Rhodes. May you always have the best mushrooms in the Shire, and keep a sharp watch out in service to King Peter.
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Re: The Inn Between: Ditto Story 8

Postby leuthilalda » May 07, 2012 6:15 pm

Editor's note: In the previous and the next few segments, text color is significant. 'Nuff said.
Toby awoke to find Rose softly crying. "What's wrong?" he asked.
"It's hard enough to have lost our friends, without having this dream" she answered.
"Tell it to me."
"Well, I was standing a little ways away from the door of the center, and the birds came twittering down just like they did today, and you came out. But instead of being anxious about Abby, they were laughing and chattering about the Dittos/Originals skirmish that had just gone on in the town earlier. After laughing and joking with them a little, I came to the door..."
"Wait, you walked up to us?"
"No, in my dream, I could see myself as if I were out of my own body. I came out from behind you, just like I did today, but it was just a normal, relaxed time. Then you went out to look at the tomato bushes in the back, and the dream ended. It is just so hard knowing that something horrible happened instead."
"I'm so sorry, Rose." Toby put his arm around her, and in a couple of minutes, they drifted back to sleep.
___________

Toby awoke to find Rose softly crying. "What's wrong?" he asked.
"I've just had this horrible dream" she answered.
"Tell it to me."
"Well, I was standing a little ways away from the door of the center, and the birds came twittering down just like they did today, and you came out. But instead of laughing and chattering about the Dittos/Originals skirmish, they were saying that they were anxious about Abby or something. You started to talk, but then suddenly there was a massive explosion from the direction of the Emporium. You were hit by the blast, but the fireball that followed was absorbed by the bush, just like that time the one in the town square absorbed a bullet. But this was a lot worse, and I think it injured the young thing somewhat. And also the young dove was left in shock. I came to the door..."
"Wait, you walked up to us?"
"No, in my dream, I could see myself as if I was out of my body. I came out from behind you, just like I did today, but you handed me the dove to take back into the center to treat and watch. Then you, a couple of the birds, and Bob started off to the Emporium to see what had happened. It was a horrible dream!"
"I wonder if it was a warning of some type?"
"No, this dream seemed so different from the ones I usually have. I don't know what it means." Rose shivered.
"I'm so sorry, Rose." Toby put his arm around her, and in a couple of minutes, they drifted back to sleep.
Hail, Cameron Rhodes. May you always have the best mushrooms in the Shire, and keep a sharp watch out in service to King Peter.
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Re: The Inn Between: Ditto Story 8

Postby stargazer » May 12, 2012 10:24 pm

Abby hummed to herself as she prepared a platter of treats and the water heated for tea. She loved entertaining guests; her happy child and the lovely weather outside only made things better.

Even now she could hear her hatchling laughing – probably trying to catch the fairy dragons again – as well as the soft tones of Erica and Alex’s conversation.

All seemed well – but for some reason she felt compelled to check things out for herself.

An unexpected urgency in her step, she barged into the great room. Alex and Erica looked up at her in surprise. Max happily reached for a fairy dragon hovering just out of reach.

Still feeling strangely uneasy, Abby rushed to the foyer. For reasons she couldn’t explain, she felt overwhelming relief upon seeing Erik’s statue there, undamaged, standing silent guard. She just had to run a talon along his stone face, as if to reassure herself things were all right. Lastly, she checked the front door. Securely locked, just as she’d expected.

Still, she opened it to look outside. But there was nothing out of the ordinary – a few clouds and birds overhead; in the distance a doe and her fawn peered out of the forest. She enjoyed the sight a moment – but then came a vision of shattered gargoyle stone littering the floor, then a fireball and the Emporium, if not the entire town, in ruins, twisted and destroyed.

She fought down rising terror as she closed and secured the door. Erik’s statue was still intact; she knew her hatchling was all right. Yet somehow, it was as if she’d stared into the face of an unthinkable horror – a glimpse into some kind of terrible alternate reality that might have been hers had things been just a tiny bit different.

She couldn’t stop shivering – it was one thing to die in battle or in protecting one’s clan and family, but here was only an overwhelming sense of pointless death for her family. How could this be? She didn’t know, but for now she’d cherish every moment with them.

Abby returned to the great room and gathered her son into her arms, fighting back tears as she held him close. Only when her baby squawked did she realize she was squeezing too tightly. She shook her head again, unable to ignore the notion that somehow she'd seen a glimpse of a much darker, tragic life. She was so relieved to be back in this real, normal life, if it wouldn’t be awkward, she thought, she'd even hug Erica and Alex.

She turned to her guests, who were watching with expressions of surprise and concern. “Sorry about that,” Abby said, blushing. “It was just the weirdest sense of déjà vu, and I had to check it out.”

This was no dream – I’m sure of it. More like a parallel reality, like this one but horribly different. She glanced back at her mate. He’s the expert on this stuff, not me. When he wakes up tonight, I’m going to grill him about alternate universes and realities.

“Are you sure you’re all right?” Erica asked.

“Thanks for asking. It was rather upsetting, but I think I’m okay now. Let me get those treats for you.”

Abby stood, still holding Max. During that vision of the other reality, she’d somehow sensed they’d had a daughter instead of a son. What would that be like, having a baby girl? She grinned down at him. But then I wouldn’t have you. She lovingly kissed the top of his head and put him down on the floor.
But all night, Aslan and the Moon gazed upon each other with joyful and unblinking eyes.
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