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November 20, 2019; 3pm

 

Forearms rested on exhausted knees as she panted softly in her tree perch. This was the fourth rest stop she had to make as she returned from her investigation of the northern lands.  It had taken her three days to make what had once been northern Venezuela. It was taking her three days to get back.  A vehicle might have seemed more practical to cover the nearly 700 miles, but not in this terrain. The jungle and mountain landscapes that covered the majority of the trip were impassable by anything but a plane which Narwa did not have to spare, nor did the bastet care for air travel. Land creatures were meant to keep their feet on the ground.

 

Bright amber lifted to check the sun. She would make Megildur before dark; a good thing as she had just eaten the last of her meat reserves. Coarse tongue curled and flattened with each soft pull of air as she crouched in the middle branches of the Barriguda. Eyes dropped at the sound of the capuchin family moving through the trees, heading further south. It was a behavior she had seen again and again over the last six days. The wildlife was heading south, they instinctively knew what she now had confirmed…. cold was coming. The rumors had been true.

 

Leather sack was slid back over her head to drape down her back, flaccid now as its contents had been consumed. Crouched legs exploded, hands catching a branch, swinging out before releasing in a somersault that dropped her the thirty feet to the ground, padded feet easily catching her weight.

 

She held back her speed on the last leg, conserving energy for the report she was sure the head of Narwa would demand upon her return. The slower pace also aided in navigating the heavier overgrowth of the dense jungles of Megildur. Hands planted on low branches as deft feet leapt over fallen trees. The migration of wildlife was becoming more and more apparent as she neared the compound. The animals seemed to instinctively know there was safety in the arms of the outworlder sanctuary. They were right. Enough fae with powers could stave off the cold, at least for a time.

 

Padded feet slowed their sprint as the formidable compound came into view.  There was much to talk about.

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Bare feet padded through the stone halls of his home despite the chill they were emanating. The elf had a lavender cashmere turtleneck over a pair of black slacks that kept him warm enough in the home.

 

There had been rumors... stories... about the cold and that it was spreading from the north. He would have ignored it if not for the fact that this was the coolest his lands had been since he came to this world nearly a decade ago. Frown wrinkled the timeless brow. He had enough to worry about. The outworlders had started showing up in his territory in droves. Word had gotten out that he was offering them sanctuary and they were taking it. Problem was he only had so much security and just like with the humans, there were good and there were bad outworlders. It took time to sift out the "bad seeds" and while they were being sifted, he needed security to keep the others safe.

 

He really didn't need an ice age to contend with now.

 

The flutter of wings caught his attention. Ipsin was going nuts near the windows facing the north. Ay'sha must be returning. Ipsin only got that excited for the feline woman. Had to be a cat thing.

 

Plush slippers were slid on as he trotted down the steps to the large terrace on the eastern side of his home. He detoured through the kitchen to let his den mother know to bring lunch out to the terrace and to include some barely cooked meat. Not his preference but the feline woman would be needing to refuel after her trip and he didn't want to wait for the report.

 

If an ice age was coming, he had some outworlders that he was going to insist "repaid" some of his kindness with their abilities.

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Thickly padded feet slowed as she caught site of the elf out on his large veranda. Thumb ran along the strap of her bag as she leapt over the rail with a feline's ease, dropping silently onto the deck near him.

 

Rumors aren't rumors.....

 

The quiet words rolled off the tongue with a rich accent not found on this world. She had learned the neutral language that  outworlders had come to accept as a common language but it still didn't come with a natural ease. Blanched chin extended towards the north.

 

Farthest shore already very cold.... the um...... animals..... they come this way to escape.

 

Bag slid from her shoulder to drop onto one of the carved wood chairs, her staff leaning against its back as she watched the woman bring out a large tray of food, the meat catching the feline's amber gaze.

 

White is falling from sky there..... white......cold pieces....

 

Her world was a warm one and she had only lived in the southern continents tropical climate since coming to this world. The snow had been disconcerting. Fingers reached for the near raw cut of beef, the cube popped between her lips, extended canines eposed for the briefest moment before she licked the white tips of her fingers.

 

.... coming closer too....

 

Legs folded up under her on a second chair waiting for the questions she was sure he had.

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He sat in the pilot house... cold towel on the back of his neck, literally half naked; no shoes, no shirt, boat shorts barely on his hips, hair in Mohawk twist and off his neck.  This heat, was killing him.  He would have been below deck, but it was worse there.  Stifling.  Humid.  He could barely breathe, questioning his entire decision to do this.  The sun though... the sun was the bastard that needed to die.

 

They were early.  Really early.  The storm that had been predicted to batter what was once Florida and threaten to halt them in Georgia for a week minimum had taken a sharp turn into the gulf, enabling him to ride right behind it.  Daring, but that's what he did.  It was odd for a storm to take such a drastic turn, something was up with the weather, he could feel a cold nipping at their heels- but for now he was in tropical hell, still unaware the same storm that let them arrive quicker had burst into snow in the gulf and was battering the entire central land mass with flurries and white-outs.

 

There was also talk of someone on his tail, and he wanted to lose their asses.  He would deal with them on the return when he didn't have a boatload of terrified Outworlders.  Word traveled fast, and not in a good way sometimes; he'd almost had to leave a few behind.  They were restless, his insistence on them staying below deck and out of sight was a firm one.  It was uncomfortable, not ideal, but it kept them safe from whatever they may still encounter.  They were on the coast and coast meant they could be seen unlike on open water.  He didn't come this far to lose them now.

 

He also didn't come this far to die of heat exhaustion either.

 

This would be the make or break moment, learning as much about where and who he was dropping them off to as the fae seemed to know about him.

 

It still reeked of servitude.

 

Hopefully, it wasn't.

 

Head perked up slightly, watching the mouth of the river.  Bare feet on the bridge, he stood quietly from his chair and put the boat at full stop to kill the engines, coasting quietly into the mouth of the river.  High trees and a few ridges on either side as far as the eye could see.  He didn't like the vulnerable position, but they really had no choice.  The dock was less than a half mile in- at the point where his boat could go no further.  They would be trapped, and alone.  His crew were stationed at key points, armed, and waiting for a hint of something to shoot.  He hated guns, but they were necessary in certain situations.  This was one of them.

 

Boat was completely silent save for the lap of the water on the hull.  An occasional screech from an exotic bird that didn't heed the instinctual silence from the rest at the strangers' trespassing brought muzzles up and his eyes toward the fluttering green foliage.  Barely anyone breathed as he steered to a coast with precision, looking for someone on the dock ready to throw a line.  Do or die time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rumors aren't rumors.....

 

Deep blue orbs flashed at her. That was not the answer he had wanted to hear.  Lips pressed into a thin line as he continued to listen the tale of the cold that was creeping for his lands.

 

White is falling from sky there..... white......cold pieces....

 

Snow…..

 

It was said absently as arms crossed, finger gliding back and forth over his lower lip. His lands had been a safe haven from even the wild weather of this world. He had been in New York in the winter, it was not pleasant, it had a beauty of its own, but still was not pleasant. He didn’t like how the outside world was starting to creep up on them. It had no place here in his borders.

 

 .... coming closer too....

 

Nostrils huffed softly as she plucked the raw cubes of beef from the platter. Letting her chew her food as he pondered the questions he wanted answers to. As she reached for water he finally spoke.

 

How soon for the cold to reach the northland structures?

 

He watched her pause, impatient for the answer but not willing to snap. The bastet was loyal and kept the outlanders he brought in safe. In return he held a respect for the woman.

 

Days….. not much more….

 

Scowl etched over his ageless brow just as the flicker of light caught his attention. The gem at the front of the compound pulsing softly. Unlike the outside world where humans still sought a life without magic, here they let it thrive. The gem was reacting to another some five miles away which reacted to another at the docks where his watcher must have signaled another ship coming in.

 

More refugees coming for safety… they were early…..and now he worried how safe they really were. Frown lingered as he lifted a hand to let her know the conversation would need to wait as he padded inside to get some shoes on. He was going to head down and meet the boat. He hoped his "ferryman" had some answers about the weather.

 

…………

 

Eyes peered through the spyglasses from the small house near the dock. They were not expecting another shipment of outworlders this soon. Caranthir would want to know. Taloned hand lay on the crystal to ignite the magic and signal the warning before he walked out to greet the boat. Massive brown wings barely able to fit through the door as the raptor legs moved up the wooden dock, talons ticking as he moved. The avian dockmaster didn’t pass for "human", not even as one of the "pretty" winged humans. The raptor's beak punctuating the proud feathered head above the muscular torso as he waited for the rope to help guide the boat in.   

 

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The avian was unexpected, but logically expected just the same.  He nodded to Jerry and Avi, and they tossed the ropes to the dock. The captain ducked below deck to find the restless passengers trying to peer out.

 

“You’re going to stay below deck until I speak with who’s in charge.  I didn’t bring you halfway across the world not to make sure you’re all safe first.”

 

There were nods, but eyes were still on the light that filtered from the stairs.  He trotted back up the steps. Still barefoot, he slipped below the bridge and laced an elegant, exotic scabbard across his back.  Long strides brought him to the edge and he hopped off his boat to wordlessly greet the dockmaster, black corded necklace with sea-glass pendants twinkling as he landed.

 

Eyes scanned their surroundings from the new vantage point and he nodded to those of his crew that were still guarding the corners of the small vessel.  They had orders to shoot in the the face and ask questions later if they were threatened before he spoke to the elf.  Well… with only being threatened.  Shoot first, ask questions later.  This was the way he always had worked.  Bargains were struck, you broke the bargain or tried to play him, the consequences were immediate.

 

“They don’t go anywhere until I talk to your boss.”

 

Voice was quiet, arms crossing, a defiant guardian as he stood between the greener pastures and his boat.  If something was going to happen, they had to get through him first.

 

“…and I will stay docked here until they’ve all gotten to see whether or not they want to stay or go.”

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There had been time for the head of Megildur to near the docks by the time the boat was being tied off at the dock by Kahird. The military grade off roader approached silently, the blue gem on the hood creating a vacuum around the engine that devoured the sound allowing travel within the jungle terrain to be lethally silent. He dominated these lands, but he also was no fool, there would come a day the fight snuck into his territory and he wasn’t sending people out advertising their presence.

 

The Avian watched the captain with what could almost be called a smirk on his beak as feathers over the right eye quirked upward at the reference to his "boss". Durion didn’t exactly spend his time coming down to the dock for every "stray" that sought sanctuary. The man was running the biggest corporation in the world, impressive for anyone, even more so considering it was entirely owned by outworlders.

 

“…and I will stay docked here until they’ve all gotten to see whether or not they want to stay or go.”

 

The elf had been just in time for the last comment. Head tilted at the familiar voice, brow quirking at the captain. Now that was a surprise. He hadn't been sure he would ever see the outworlder grace his docks. Their last encounter had been…..interesting.

 

Muireadach….

 

The name lilted off the tongue that could wrap far more eloquently around language than those of this world, the head of the avian snapping around clearly surprised at his bosses presence. Foot hopped up onto the dock as he nodded faintly to Kahird who had already recovered his surprise and was securing all the lines. Hands slid into the pockets of the black slacks, the lavender turtleneck and loose billow of raven hair far more casual than he had been in New York.

 

Walking along the dock, cerulean orbs kept their watch on the captain.

 

I was not sure I would see you down this way.

 

NPC: Vehicles are on their way Durion…

 

Glance over his shoulder gave a nod to the avian.

 

Thanks Kahird.

 

Attention went back up to the seafarer.

 

Have food and drink for you and your crew as well as those you carry. I have a few questions about the northern territories I would like to ask you.

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The outworlder was stoic, long after he’d spoken his last words.  He knew those in the rooms of his larger ship were hot, and tired, anxious… scared, but there was no way in hell he would just dump them off and leave them to wolves that may be in sheep's clothing. Words were spoken in New York that were all bright and shiny, full of hope.  Reality was rarely so.

 

Muireadach….

 

Eyes left the Avian to blink and refocus on the elf.  Pants and a turtleneck. Cripes on a crutch, did people really deal with this heat that well?

 

I was not sure I would see you down this way.

 

He left it unanswered for a moment.

 

NPC: Vehicles are on their way Durion…

 

Thanks Kahird.

 

Vehicles to…. of course, take “possession” of his charges.

 

Have food and drink for you and your crew as well as those you carry. I have a few questions about the northern territories I would like to ask you.

 

My crew is fine, you need to explain exactly what is going to happen here and I will transfer that information to my passengers before one person steps off my ship.  After they’ve settled in, I will check in with each and make sure they want to stay or return with me.

 

It was business, and he didn’t budge from his position. One businessman an elegantly dressed host, the other half naked, barefoot and strapped with a deadly elegant weapon. Arms remained crossed, and he waited for a run down.

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The seafarer stood like a rock above his ship and yet flowed with its every move. Very elven actually. Rustle of wings told him that the caravans were on their way before the avian even mentioned it. The land quickly whispering to him the same.

 

My crew is fine, you need to explain exactly what is going to happen here and I will transfer that information to my passengers before one person steps off my ship.  After they’ve settled in, I will check in with each and make sure they want to stay or return with me.

 

He highly doubted the crew were "fine". The journey down from the northern lands was rough going and not exactly many ports between to restock on supplies. Smirk tickled at the ageless expression. The seafarer was mistrustful still. The faint shrug clearly gave up any desire to fight with the man.

 

Two miles inland is the halfway house. A stop over for a big meal and to learn of their options, which are two from there.

 

Hands folded behind his back as he walked up the dock a ways, eyes peering a moment through the trees in the direction of the house before glancing back at the man perched along the rail.

 

Well fed they may take the bus down to Rio. The city is dominated by outworlders. A bit noisy and too much….concrete…. for my taste….

 

Nose wrinkled a bit in his distaste before he continued with another faint shrug.

 

…. but they can look for work there and set up a life there if that is how they want to go. No guarantee of an easy transition but at least a guarantee that they are not hunted there… not reviled.  The other option is they take the truck the rest of the way into my lands deep in the jungle. There they are guaranteed a home for each family and a job to get them on their feet. It is community living… they find a role to provide to the community in addition to working for the company.

 

Hand waved absently…

 

Tending the garden….the animals… something of that nature. In this manner their home and food is without cost and the salary from their job they can retain for a future. Some choose to save and then move on, find a place out in the world less secluded than my lands…. some… never use the money and instead choose to remain.

 

Ebony silk whipped sideways on the ocean breeze, a hint of a frown as there was a distinct chill in the wind. Eyes watched the northern horizon as he added..

 

Stay a week…. a year… a lifetime…. choice is theirs.  

 

Murmur was a bit distracted as his questions were bubbling up once more. Cerulean slid back to the man above.

 

I get help that can be trusted not to blow up my home…. they get a chance to get on their feet in a place where they are safe from the outside world….

 

A bit of mirth returned to the bright eyes as the lips quirked upward on one side, head tilting slightly.

 

Satisfied?

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Two miles inland is the halfway house. A stop over for a big meal and to learn of their options, which are two from there.

 

He simply watched; expression uninviting.  It never really was anything but, he rarely smiled before this world and even less so now. 

 

Well fed they may take the bus down to Rio. The city is dominated by outworlders. A bit noisy and too much….concrete…. for my taste….

 

One New York for another, only filled with those of their kind or those at least sympathetic to their kind.  It might be a good place for some.  Then again, the elf could be lying his ass off.

 

…. but they can look for work there and set up a life there if that is how they want to go. No guarantee of an easy transition but at least a guarantee that they are not hunted there… not reviled.  The other option is they take the truck the rest of the way into my lands deep in the jungle. There they are guaranteed a home for each family and a job to get them on their feet. It is community living… they find a role to provide to the community in addition to working for the company.

 

There it was, gaze sliding to the verge beyond and back to him.

 

Tending the garden….the animals… something of that nature.

 

Mind wandered off for a moment.  Best intentions, for a cost.

 

Stay a week…. a year… a lifetime…. choice is theirs.  

 

“Is it really?” question was quiet, deeply mistrustful.  He’d used people, because that’s what royalty did.  Everyone lived for the rulers’ right to live comfortably, and in turn they provided protection with the expectation they would lay down their lives if they asked them to.  This was the best of situations, but deep down he knew he was delivering them to something that benefitted the elf in the end. They just needed to know it that before they made the decision to stay.

 

I get help that can be trusted not to blow up my home…. they get a chance to get on their feet in a place where they are safe from the outside world….

 

“I don’t vet anyone before I bring them here, so what they do here is on you.”

 

Satisfied?

 

“No, but it’s not my choice.”

 

He nodded slightly to Avi and the man broke from point to head down to bring up the weary travelers.  Light footsteps brought him back onto the rail of the boat, where he balanced until they all had emerged.

 

“We’re going to get on a caravan to get something to eat, then you can choose to go to Rio or you can go further in with Mr. Caranthir and work for him. Both options have pros and cons, but the decision is yours.  Know though, that I will not leave without any of you that want to return with me. I will not leave you here if you don’t want to stay.”

 

There were nods and murmurs of the half dozen tired and hot passengers.  He unpinned the gangplank with the aid of his crew and secured it to the dock, stepping to the side to let them begin to make their choices.  Leaving them to it for a moment, he went to his quarters and found a gray t-shirt and peeled it over his torso, abandoning his larger blade for small utility-looking ones that were in leather sheaths at the base of his spine.  T-shirt would be soaked through in a matter of moments. He simply was not of this climate- it seriously took him off his game; he just didn’t have the physiology to deal with it.  Shoes were somewhere, sliding on a pair of worn skipper shoes.

 

He was going with to check out the locations.

 

“Keep sharp, leave if there’s any trouble. Half mile out, I’ll find you.  If it’s safe we’ll rotate shifts to go up the road and get things we need.”

 

They nodded and he took the gangplank for once.

 

“I’m going with.  Not that I don’t trust you, I don’t trust anyone until I see it with my own eyes.”

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Stay a week…. a year… a lifetime…. choice is theirs.  

 

“Is it really?” 

 

Brow quirked upward at the man, bit of a smile creeping at the corner of his lips. The seafarer was quite the mistrustful one.

 

Of course. I hardly have the time Mr Muireadach to be forcing anyone to do anything. I am running one of the largest companies in the world. I need people working there that want to… not ones that need to be babysat. If I decided to start forcing their hands it would all unravel.

 

He had no need to lie to the man. For all his arrogance, the elf was typically honest in his words.

 

I get help that can be trusted not to blow up my home…. they get a chance to get on their feet in a place where they are safe from the outside world….

 

“I don’t vet anyone before I bring them here, so what they do here is on you.”

 

True, though I pity the one that decides to take advantage of my offer. I protect those in my lands. Satisfied?

 

“No, but it’s not my choice.”

 

The faint shrug acquiesced to the man's mistrust. There was little the elf could say to change his opinion. Time and interactions were the only things likely to sway the man. Elongated ears dipped listening to the speech given to those below, a smile ghosting across his features. The man's refusal to leave any of them here if they didn’t want to stay was the final confirmation that the elf had chosen well. This man was a leader and protector of their kind. Whether he felt he was or not.

 

The massive avian's beak perked on the sides in a smile that almost passed for warm considering the carnivorous appendage making the gesture. He began talking to the people as they departed the ship, gesturing towards the oversized all terrain truck that easily accommodated the half dozen in the comfort of the air conditioned cab. The trek wasn’t far but it was without a road which meant walking would only delay the comfort of food, drink and a bathroom facilities that put the Ritz to shame where they could wash up and make their decisions.

 

The elf waited for the seafarer to return and gestured to his own two person vehicle in askance if he would join him.

 

 “I’m going with.  Not that I don’t trust you, I don’t trust anyone until I see it with my own eyes.”

 

Fair enough. Would like a few questions being answered about the northern lands while you come take a look. I have heard some rumors that concern me.

 

The elf effortlessly hopped over the half door of the military grade jeep and waited for the man to make a choice. As it was, the elf wasn’t sure if the man was so paranoid he would want to join the passengers in the truck. The elf wouldn’t take offense but it would delay the answers he desperately wanted.

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