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May, 2010... Fantasy became reality. Worlds overlay for the briefest moment. Outworlders became stranded on earth as more than half the human populace vanished. Our World, our universe, was transformed.

Fiction is now reality. Humans and those now bound to this world will either learn to coexist, or battle for supremecy.

JUNE 13, 2019 - Family emergency  took a bad turn so had to stay away but now things are finally calming down. Hope to get going again shortly. Thanks for understanding. ~ZEPH

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June 14th 2022

Early Evening

Sunset Bar

 

The heat was a difficult thing to get used to. The forests of her youth had been far more moderate, the abyss much cooler. She didn’t think she’d ever sweat quite so much as the first summer she was in New York. Not that she really minded sweating. Certainly not like the hume seemed to mind it. The cold on the other hand she found unpleasant. Especially this far north where the winter seemed to drag on at pace as glacial as the temperature. She had come to loathe the winters here. How they forced her indoors for months on end to find comfort.   The bulky uncomfortable clothing she piled on to keep the cold at bay when she did venture out. Mostly though she missed the sun. Nights were beautiful, and New York came alive like the light of the stars it hid from view, but nothing was more radiant than when the sun split the sky and painted the horizon with a thousand different strokes of color.

 

She had to remind herself of her love for summer a bit more forcefully than normal today however. It was sweltering out and the bars modest central air system just couldn’t keep up with the heat from outside and warm bodies within. There were decidedly fewer of those than there could have been. The bar was far from empty, but it definitely wasn’t packed either. Even the usually boisterous crowd of Friday night regulars seemed subdued by the heat.  Music from the jukebox, the low murmur of conversation and the occasional bit of laughter seemed blend together and drift lazily throughout the place.

 

Ayli was behind the bar trying not to wipe her brow with the back of her hand for what seemed like the millionth time so far tonight.  Her hair was even more wild than normal, but she’d managed to wrestle it into something resembling submission in the form of a long tail bound with at least half a dozen hairbands. Her evanescence T was saturated with sweat and clung to her skin showing her figure off even more than it normally did. The bar hid both her denim cut offs and the gun belt she wore over top of them from view.

 

She scowled slightly as she grabbed a rack of cocktail glasses from the washer and flipped it over, stacking them with practiced ease. She was going to have to have a talk with Tony about getting the AC replaced. Heat wave like this?On a Friday night? They should have been packed. Would have been likely, if the place had been cooler. She  probably wouldn’t be telling him anything he didn’t already know. He’d managed to keep this place running through both the times of chaos the hume called the resonance. He was probably waiting on  something.  Still, it wouldn’t hurt to talk to him about it. He’d come to expect her “whining” as he called it. She smiled slightly at the thought, a welcome distraction from the heat.

 

She’d  half expected him to show up tonight. It wasn’t uncommon for him to show up and lend a hand on the weekends. Not that it was really needed tonight. She’d already let Ash go for night. They didn’t need another bartender for a crowd this size.  Sanity had demanded that they close their kitchen tonight too, so for now it was just her minding the place. She didn’t mind. Even a slow solo shift meant more tips. Not to mention the off chance she’d get to have a little fun playing bouncer to any fool who didn’t know well enough to behave here.

 

She got to do that some weekends more than others, but their was almost always that one idiot who couldn't hold his liquor and did something stupid. Or a natural bastard who just needed to be drunk as an excuse to show what he really was. Didn’t much matter to her which it was, she found intense pleasure in watching their expressions when she kicked them out on their asses. She was grabbing a rag to wipe down the bar when the door opened and the small bell above it let out a merry chime and let in a welcome breeze.

 

“Welcome to Sunset friend.” She said brightly as she turned to greet the newcomer….                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

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 Always rumors. Leads.

 

He had to check every single one out that was thrown his way. The horrors he’d seen within the last year were immeasurable. Humans’ penchant for the despicable were making him feel more and more each passing day that he needed to hang up his work with the elf, and search for a way home. Those that spilled blood on the shores where he had left it were at least given a fighting chance. Terrified Outworlders loaded on a “boat to safety” and then dragged out to sea and sunk was the worst of humanity and then some. He had been able to save some. Only some.

 

The heat. Gods.

 

Loose shirt rippled as he passed an alleyway, the updraft giving him a bit of comfort as the breeze shuffled in between buildings. His sense of direction hadn’t waned in this world, several blocks east. Then north. Soon an unsuspecting bar came into view.  He seemed dressed appropriately. What was appropriate anymore really though? Khaki’s and a short sleeved pale green Henley that lit his eyes in that color were easy on his cut frame. Several cords around his neck were tucked inside; several more around his wrist were threadbare and held a collection of small odd trinkets. Blue tattoos were branded in bands up his arms, nothing that was out of the ordinary unless one looked extremely close. The script was foreign, and the color seemed almost alive as it shifted. Of course, that was if someone was really looking. Long hair was in a ponytail on this day, topknot ditched for something a bit more normative when he was walking the streets of the city. Hands slid in his pockets as he entered, shouldering the door and wondering why there weren’t more people until he felt the swelter inside.

 

The heat would kill him in this world.

 

“Welcome to Sunset friend.”

 

Eyes looked over, and there she was. An elf, not quite any dark elf he’d ever seen, but absolutely beautiful nonetheless. The rumors, were probably true. Obvious Outworlder in plain sight. How long would it be until somebody gave her problems, they may have already done so. If not, it was just a matter of time.

 

Smile easy, he nodded, finding a comfortable place at the bar.

 

“Beer, dark. Surprise me,” he said, forearms on the counter and folding his hands. Glance cast around the room, trying to pin anyone else that may be worth talking to. A bartender though, that would be one of the easiest to breach the subject. They were naturally chatty, or at least pretended to be.

 

Under the employ of Durion, he’d started watching for those in New York when the weather kept him from  reaching Ireland. New York was a bit more friendly than most, but still surprised him on occasion with the viciousness of hate.

 

He’d find out a little bit about her, then keep tabs on her in the future.

 

"Quiet night for a Friday..." he commented, looking around again.

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Her smile widened slightly as she eyed the newcomer and noted him doing the same. She didn’t mind being eyed. Usually. The Hume here had a fascination with “Elves” as they called them. Usually for better. Sometimes for worse. Here they were considered exotic. Different. Her more than most. Many liked it. Some didn't.

 

Elves of other breeds seemed to have come to this world in numbers. Her kind were few and far between if there were any others at all. She hadn’t met or heard of another like her since she’d been here. Hopefully she never would.

 

She was still taking him in, her eyes roaming  unapologetically as he walked in and took a seat at the bar near her. He was certainly pleasant enough to look at.  Especially the smile. Definitely a newcomer. She’d have remembered this one.

 

Beer, dark. Surprise me,”

 

Simple enough. She didn’t drink beer. Didn’t have a taste for it. Couldn’t get a buzz from it.She knew what was popular though. She flipped up a pint glass and lifted it up to one of the taps. It was a local brew with a name she could never read. Of course a lot of stock was local these days. Local was safer. Cheaper too.

 

Amber liquid flowed into the chilled glass, coming to stop just before it could spill over the lip. She set it in front of him without spilling a drop, lips quirking into a slight smirk. She enjoyed watching her customers try to do the same. She mentally started a tab for him. Letters? Reading? Those she found difficult. Numbers? Those she understood just fine. She didn’t bother asking him to pay yet. He’d settle up one way or another before he left. They always did. She made sure of that.

 

"Quiet night for a Friday..."

 

The smirk faded, another easy smile replacing it as she leaned against the bar not quite opposite him. His scent smelled  lightly of sweat and salt water. She found it as pleasant as she found the rest of him.

 

"Quiet for any night." She corrected him playfully.


 

"Mmm seems cold drinks aren't enough cold for this heat.  Drinks are the only cold I like though.“ She added with a hint of amusement.

 

Small talk was hit or miss for her. She liked conversation, but between her occasional missteps with the language she still made, and the ease with which she managed to offend people otherwise it was more often miss than not. Still, it didn’t stop her from trying. Especially here. Liquor tended to make people much more manageable. It probably helped she was a bit more careful when working. Mostly to avoid making trouble for Tony. He rarely got mad at her, but she preferred not to make too much trouble for him when she could avoid it .

 

"And you? What brought you out into the heat?"




 

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Hunters always knew; being aware of those that had their attention on him was ground into his bones. It was a survival skill, a warrior’s skill. He didn’t mind that she was 'sizing him up', he’d done it as well. The way she moved was unique if one was looking for it.

 

Nod was slight when she set the mug down. He picked it up, an almost unnatural affinity for balancing the liquid as he brought it to his lips and watched the window a moment. Perhaps it was the fact he could make the liquid inside do what he told it to. Maybe he was just lucky.

 

“That’s good,” he commented particularly to himself, looking at the mug before putting it back down.

 

He didn’t come into the city proper much save for business. Everything he needed he could get on the harbor except good beer. The docks were like a city unto themselves, and regrettably beer was something that only seemed to come in cans there. Various beers on tap weren’t exactly something you could hook up on a dock.

 

In any case, fingers slid around the mug when he set it down, the chill appreciated.

 

"Quiet for any night."

 

He nodded slightly, taking another drink.

 

“I’ll take your word for it. Unfortunately I’m not on this side of town much.”

 

"Mmm seems cold drinks aren't enough cold for this heat.  Drinks are the only cold I like though”

 

 “A bit too cold this past winter for even my blood.”

 

Small talk was not his strength. He gave orders. It was difficult not to for once.

 

"And you? What brought you out into the heat?"

 

“Lack of work unfortunately,” fingertip played absently with a droplet of water on the counter from the now sweating glass. “I’m in shipping. Weather has been making it difficult to go north or south up the coast, so I’m taking the time to make some more contacts while we’re docked.”

 

Everything he’d said was absolutely true, normal. He’d had this conversation a hundred times in bars around Ireland and down the east coast; there it was far from normal. It was the play to get contacts where they needed to be so he could get them out.

 

“I’m Calder by the way,” he took a long drink, inflection on his name not exactly an English one. “What about you?” he turned slightly in his seat, back to the wall so he could see most of the occupants. “Boss leave you all alone on a Friday? Pretty sure it’s not going to pick up?”

 

Attention was on her, but his senses were thrown out wide. Interactions, glances. Seemed, normal. Nobody as much as batted an eye at her. Maybe this was one he didn’t have to worry about and he could enjoy a beer and a conversation for once.

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Ayli arched any eyebrow curiously, her expression bemused as the newcomer grabbed the glass in front of him and lifted it to his lips without any hesitation...and managed to do it without spilling a drop. That was rare. Occasionally her customers had the good sense lean down and take a little off the top before they tried to pick up one of her mugs. More often they ended up spilling a sip or two down the front of them. Usually men. 

 

"That’s good,” 

 

He almost sounded surprised. She might have been offended if she thought so little of her. More likely he had few chances to find good beer. Or bad fortune when he did.  Either way his reaction brought another wide smile to her lips. 

 

I’ll take your word for it. Unfortunately I’m not on this side of town much.”

 

"How unfortunate" She thought to herself.  She wouldn't have minded him coming around, if only to enjoy the sight of him.

 

"A bit too cold this past winter for even my blood.”

 

Her ears flicked lightly as the words brought a distasteful reminder of the freeze that had ended a couple of months ago. She hoped this winter would be more mild. Or at the very least that she might not be so bothered by the cold this time.

 

Lack of work unfortunately, I’m in shipping. Weather has been making it difficult to go north or south up the coast, so I’m taking the time to make some more contacts while we’re docked.

 

That was unfortunate. From what she'd learned travel was dangerous enough, especially over water without the weather pitching in.  Honestly sometimes she found the weather of this world to be the most terrifying thing about it.  The creatures that had come through the tear into this world were dangerous,  so were those who had been changed by it, but that was a danger she knew. One she understood.  One she could fight. There was no fighting the wind and the rain, or the ground splitting and tearing itself apart beneath your feet.

 

"I’m Calder by the way. What about you? Boss leave you all alone on a Friday? Pretty sure it’s not going to pick up?"

 

She laughed at that.  A short bark that seemed at odds with her delicate features.

 

 

No, no he didn’t. He had one other here to help me tend the bar, but like you I seem to have an unfortunate lack of work today.  I let the boy go. Another will be here later, once the sun goes down. Won’t see more than this till that’s happened if we do at all.

 

She told him as she grabbed a glass and filled it with ice before putting it to the tap and filling it. She noticed him looking around as she did and frowned as she set the glass on the bar in front of her.  More often than not newcomers to the bar were there to get a peek at her. Some were discreet about it, others less so, but she didn't mind so long as they kept their hands to themselves and their speech polite. Unless she told them to do otherwise. She was used to that. Expected it to some degree.

 

She wasn't used to this. He'd known about her when he'd come in. That much had been obvious. She wasn't why he'd come though. Or rather he didn't seem concerned with her. He was subtle, but she could tell he was checking out the other customers.  Out of the corner of his eye. The occasional glace.  Like he was looking for something.  She didn't like it. That look. Trouble was what it usually found. Trying for it or not. Not all her customers were pleasant.  When she'd first started working the bar some had gotten the idea  they could do more than look. Others despised her openly for being what she was and nothing more. She ignored them until they layed hands on her. Or tried.  She broke them before they could manage. Sometimes fingers. Sometimes more. After the first couple fewer and fewer dared. Still there were always some....

 

"M' Ayli. Something tells me that you're not here for what's in that glass. Don't much care if you are so long as you're polite.  Cause trouble here and trouble's all you'll find friend." She told him softly. It might have sounded like a threat if not for her tone. It was stern, but not threatening.  Blunt. That was what Hume here called her. Many thought her rude because of it, but it what her kind were. What she was. Honestly she didn't mind much what he was here for. If he was here for a good time, he'd likely find it. If he was here to pick a fight he'd find that too. She'd likely enjoy herself either way. 

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Eyes slid back to her smoothly at the laugh. She was comfortable here, or seemed to be. Quite a change from his adventures of late. Maybe she was fine.

 

“No, no he didn’t. He had one other here to help me tend the bar, but like you I seem to have an unfortunate lack of work today.  I let the boy go. Another will be here later, once the sun goes down. Won’t see more than this till that’s happened if we do at all.”

 

The scent of water was powerful as she filled her own glass. Not saltwater, tapwater, tainted by tapwater ice. It had a distinct scent to it that was foul to his nose; water that languished in iron pipes and was mixed with chemicals to make it fit to drink. It had gotten somewhat better as the world got itself back together. Saltwater was by far sweeter to him, but tapwater was water too. It didn’t obey him as much as the sea did, and that as of late wasn’t much.

 

"M' Ayli. Something tells me that you're not here for what's in that glass. Don't much care if you are so long as you're polite.  Cause trouble here and trouble's all you'll find friend."

 

“Nice to meet you Ayli.”

 

He took another drink, eyes over the top at her as he straightened himself at the bar and leaned on it with both elbows. The wall still managed to be at his back, but his voice was only for her to hear.

 

“And no, I’m not, though it was a nice discovery and distraction.”

 

He enjoyed the beer again for a moment, then set it down.

 

“I’m here for you,” smile was quiet but his tone matched hers, absolutely fine with throwing away his small talk. He wasn’t good at it anyway except with people he knew well.

 

This was what he did and he felt no reason to hide what he was there for. Odds were she wasn’t a traitor to other Outworlders. He’d seen that on a rare occasion, some trying to save their necks by turning in others. Without exception, it never ended well for either. The world now was willing to push others forward to block their own blows instead of standing in front of those in danger. Even individuals threatened with death shouldn’t stoop to such cowardice. Not everyone was a warrior, so he couldn’t chide them all for it. Still, an Outworlder was a race on its own as far as he was concerned, and betraying each other was an offense in his book. They had to stand together, or so the elf had told him.

 

“To make sure you’re okay,” fingers intertwined together. “That’s what I do when I make connections. Network. Make sure others are fine with where they’ve chosen to be. And if they’re not, I provide safer options.”

 

His gaze was absolutely serious, voice only loud enough for her to hear.

 

“I hear things, about people. Then I check on them. You can tell me to go to hell and I will finish my beer and leave. But, if you, or your employer ever needed help, I’d be here.”

 

He lifted the mug to take another drink. Cards were on the table, she could take them or leave them.

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She laughed. A rich throaty sound. She couldn’t help it. The bar went quiet for a moment, the music from the jukebox the only thing keeping it from going totally silent. Her smiles came easy, but her laughter was a rare thing. After a couple moments though she managed to get herself under control and the laughter faded. Seconds later conversation picked back up and the quiet faded some. 

 

“ I mean no offense.” She told him breathlessly a moment later, her smile returning only to fade away as she regarded him once more. She said nothing, drumming her fingers on the bar as she considered her words as carefully as she could. He had been genuine. Sincere. People often lied to her. Sometimes they were petty, others grand, but when they did it was usually to get something from her. She got the sense he wasn’t lying. He meant what he had said. He would help her if she needed it, for no other reason than the fact she did. The only other person who’d done so was Tony. She had no desire to insult him. Even by accident.

 

“I thought your reason would be different. You’re very strange.” 

 

Her fingers stopped tapping on the bar and she leaned closer, leaving only a couple inches between them as she studied his features.

 

“Since I've been here many have come, not for me. No, for the “dark skinned elf”. Many just to see. Some for more than that. I'm an...oddity. Foreign. Mysterious. I make them curious. I don’t mind mostly. After all this world is much the same for me. Their interest keeps me     employed...and entertained.Some don’t enjoy the mystery. Fear it. They lash out. I make them regret it.” She kept her eyes locked on his as she spoke. Her tone gradually becoming amused once more. The smile once again parting her lips.

 

‘ I say you’re strange because when people find me most of them do it because they want something. Large, or small, a night in my bed or just the sight of me. Not, to worry over me. It’s...appreciated, I think? Mmmm. Not likely needed though.” 

 

To a stranger the words might have come off as rude. Arrogant. That wasn’t how Ayli intended them though.. She knew full well there were dangerous things in this world just as there had been in her own. She just knew she was one of them. Regardless of how much weaker she’d become when crossing the veil.

 

“That aside  I would be a poor bartender to send you away after one drink yeah? Especially to hell. No, you’re much too interesting to waste there.I’ve not met a Hume like you before.  I think you’re fine right here. “ She told him, her smile splitting into a wide grin as she leaned against the bar opposite him. 

 

“Refill?”

 

The laughter was present in her voice if nowhere else. 

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Brow cocked slightly at the laughter, taking another drink. What peaked his curiosity more was the reaction from others in the bar. Interesting.

 

“I mean no offense.”

 

“None taken.”

 

Nothing ruffled him. Ever.

 

“I thought your reason would be different. You’re very strange.”

 

The answer was just vague enough to make him wonder if she had been accosted before. It was nearly impossible given her appearance that she hadn’t had any trouble. New York was fairly live-and-let-live but there were limitations of some of the more intolerant. The city itself usually swallowed them up and took care of the problems on its own. Sometimes it took longer than others. She seemed to have navigated fairly well so far.

 

“Since I've been here many have come, not for me. No, for the “dark skinned elf”. Many just to see. Some for more than that. I'm an...oddity. Foreign. Mysterious. I make them curious. I don’t mind mostly. After all this world is much the same for me. Their interest keeps me employed...and entertained. Some don’t enjoy the mystery. Fear it. They lash out. I make them regret it.”

 

He didn’t move as she leaned in. Not many ever had the guts to get this close to him. He had to keep reminding himself he was not in his world anymore.

 

“I say you’re strange because when people find me most of them do it because they want something. Large, or small, a night in my bed or just the sight of me. Not, to worry over me. It’s...appreciated, I think? Mmmm. Not likely needed though.”

 

The captain wondered if she’d ever really seen what people in this world were capable of when they found someone they didn’t want. This would be a problem eventually for her now with the damn Outworlder Registration laws blanketing everything. He would have to continue to check in occasionally and keep an eye out.

 

“That aside  I would be a poor bartender to send you away after one drink yeah? Especially to hell. No, you’re much too interesting to waste there. I’ve not met a Hume like you before.  I think you’re fine right here.”

 

It was his turn to crack a slight smile, the joked threat on his life not missed. She amused him when so few did. Hume, he’d not heard that word before, the meaning fairly obvious. It reminded him he had a distinct advantage in this world. He looked undoubtedly human, and he used it to his advantage. It allowed him to move between worlds without suspicion because he looked ‘normal’.

 

“Refill?”

 

He nodded once.

 

“Hume is not a word I know,” elbows on the counter, his fingers intertwined and tapped his chin a few times. He was pretty sure what it meant. The dismissal into the category was concerning. It meant she most likely couldn’t tell who was from this world and who wasn’t. “Where does that come from?”

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As he spoke she took grabbed a fresh glass and filled it from the same tap before sliding it down in front of him, ever present smile dancing on her lips.She wasn’t sure quite what he wanted to say, but she was pretty sure that this wasn’t it. Still she didn’t exactly mind the questions. Unlike him there wasn’t much she missed about her own world. She was more than comfortable here. In fact she considered New York more her home than anywhere else she’d ever had. It was no bother to her if he wanted to ask about where she’d come from. He was pleasant conversation.She’d discovered company was easy to find, but good company was a much rarer thing.

 

“From the same place I do”  She told him as grabbed his empty glass and stacking it with others before loading them into the dishwasher.

 

“My world doesn’t have a name. Not like this one. No one there has ever even dreamed of another ‘world’. Every race calls it something different. Most don’t even think of it like that, as a single place. Their world isn’t the plane. It’s their country. Their village. Wherever they call home.” She told him as she worked.

 

“Mine was Basen’gir. In this tongue the closest word would be...The Abyss.  My kind had a city there. A fortress. Before I lived there my world was the forests of Angir. Now it’s here.” she told him simply. 

 

Since she’d come here she’d constantly been filled with awe. Surprise. She’d been amazed to learn how vast this planet was. Even more so that it had all been explored, mapped and  colonized. She’d found it strangely sad though. Exploring her own realm was a dangerous prospect. More so than here, even with all of the dangers that had slipped in from across the planes. At the same time there was wonder. A sense of adventure. That there was always something to discover that had never been seen by another. That the people of this world lacked that seemed odd. Tragic. Still if that particular wonder was lost to them the hume here had managed to create much of their own. She couldn’t imagine a city like New York ever coming to be on her home plane. Then again she couldn’t have imagined anything like this world if she hadn’t seen it for herself.

 

“And you? Where do you call home. Not here I think.” She said softly as she leaned against the bar opposite him, her expression curious as she eyed him once again.

 

“This city tolerates us...outworlders they call us, but it’s unusual to see a Hume actually  champion us.” It was true. Most of the people who lived here weren’t hostile. Many even seemed to feel some level of concern about their treatment for most of them it was skin deep. Forgotten the moment it caused them any kind of inconvenience. Not that she begrudged them for it. Friction between races was inevitable. Sometimes there were differences  were so ingrained, so intrinsic that it was bound to happen. Especially in this city where so many races, so many ways of living came together. She rested her head in her hand, leaning against the bar as she waited for his answer...


 

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