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"All right," the Equestrian said, looking down from the grassy hilltop where their road ended. "I think we'll try this city."

Nereid topped the hill and looked down at a walled city that held a number of modern-looking concrete buildings and a single mirrored skyscraper. The wall around the city was also mirrored, looking sleek and futuristic and utterly wrong.

"Why not that last one we passed?" Wire asked, glancing over her shoulder towards a more traditionally pseudo-medieval confection a few miles behind them.

The Equestrian cleared her throat. "They're a little too experimental."

Maelstrom snorted. "They've been trying patriarchy for a while now. Makes them unpleasant to be around."

"Sounds like what we're used to," Wire said.

"Not their sort," said the Equestrian. "Remember that things here are sort of... reversed. Always reversed, really."

"The 'king'," Maelstrom said scornfully, "has a number of advisors who actually run the place while he's busy getting bug--"

"ANYWAY," the Equestrian interrupted, "this city is somewhat more traditional politically. And it's one of the more successful experiments with modern human architecture."

"What are we going to do there?" Nereid said.

"Try to find information about Brainchild," the Equestrian said, "that doesn't cost us too dearly."

Wire didn't have a witty rejoinder -- her witty rejoinders had been getting scarcer since the wedding incident -- so they started down the hill together.

As they approached the gate, which rather resembled the skin of a disco ball pegged out to dry, the Equestrian said, "Remember. Don't eat or drink anything I don't tell you to eat or drink. Don't take gifts from anyone. Don't shoplift. Don't wander out of sight of me -- not Maelstrom, me. Be so polite none of your friends would recognize you. All right?"

Both of them had, by this time, learned to simply say, "Yes, ma'am." It made life easier. She wouldn't answer their questions anyway.

Guards stood to either side of the gate, apparently male given the hang of their neat business suits and patent leather shoes. One was examining what appeared to be a cell phone, the other was mumbling self-importantly to the air. He may have had an earphone hooked over one ear.

The one caressing his phone looked up at them. "Oh, you again," he said to the Equestrian. "Come on in, I suppose."

Just then his phone said distinctly, in a tinny little voice, "Druid," and he turned his attention back to it.

Wire reached over and shut Nereid's mouth with a clack of teeth.

The Equestrian didn't even acknowledge the guard, but kept Maelstrom moving steadily toward the gate. The wan sunlight hurt Nereid's eyes as it was reflected by thousands of mirrored facets. Then the gates swung outward, admitting them to the faerie city.

"Need a taxi, lady?" one squat man with halitosis snarled at Nereid, advancing on her from his post next to a tiny yellow car that would have fit in Nereid's school backpack.

"No, thank you," she said to him, and to the hundreds of other cabbies who accosted her in the next five minutes. She could hear Wire similarly refusing service. No one approached the Equestrian.

Once they ran the gauntlet of taxicabs, they came onto a wide, clear, clean, empty sidewalk that led inexorably to the skyscraper. "Where we want to be is on the other side of the building," the Equestrian said. "Keep close."

"Why?" Wire said despite what they'd already learned about asking her questions.

Suddenly, they were in a press of people, all dressed in various sorts of modern and near-modern business gear. There were men in gray skirt suits with large, pastel 1980s bows at their throats. There were women in black suits and bowlers, carrying umbrellas and leather cases. There were male supermodels in bulky silver spacesuits covered in pockets. There were people of indeterminate gender in housecoats, with animate antennae emerging from their hair curlers and carrying tiny metal briefcases. Nereid had written off business garb as boring and monochrome, and learned very quickly that it didn't have to be.

She followed the Equestrian's stiff back in her dark green tailcoat gamely, though, elbowing her way through the throng. Nereid was momentarily bedazzled by the mirrored side of the skyscraper, though, as it showed the reflections of everyone around her as even more incredibly-dressed and fanciful-looking than they were when she looked straight at them. That businessman in the Armani-lookalike suit was a small furry humanoid with a sticky note on its forehead when seen in the mirror. That woman in the black aviator's hat and jumpsuit, landing her jetpack carefully at curbside looked like a small green fairy woman with butterfly wings in the mirror. Her own reflection remained quite mundane, to her disappointment.

Nereid looked away, feeling more than a little overwhelmed and... found herself alone. There was no sign of the Equestrian, Maelstrom, or Wire. She ran along the side of the building where she'd last seen them but they weren't there. They weren't around the corner. They weren't anywhere in sight.

Just stay where you are, Nereid told herself, trying not to hyperventilate. They'll realize any minute and come back for you. They can't find you if you start running around like an idiot.

So she waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Somewhere around the time that the sun appeared to be setting, she thought, I'm so very fucked.


From the Author:
Wonder City Stories has been nominated for the Rose & Bay Award! Voting has begun -- see this post for the fiction category. I would adore it if you voted for Wonder City. Also note that there are other categories, including webcomics, art, and "other".

I'm posting twice weekly during February. Thank you for all your comments! Please keep commenting while I come up with new ideas (or steal other people's ideas) for fan involvement. I love all your comments.

Vote for us at Top Web Fiction! Come on and click. You know you want to.

Date: 2011-02-05 12:14 pm (UTC)
sythyry: (Default)
From: [personal profile] sythyry
Now *this* is a section of Faerie I don't hear much about in the traditional sources. Cool!

Date: 2012-01-28 05:18 am (UTC)
the_leaky_pen: (Default)
From: [personal profile] the_leaky_pen
Oof. No section of Faerie is good to be lost in!


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