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[personal profile] wonder_city
This week has been A Week, and so I do not have a Wonder City episode done for you. Instead, I present the first part of the first episode of Compass Rose, an interlude series that I've been working on with my wife. We hope you enjoy it!

Tom skidded around the corner and shored up against a dumpster. Christopher collided with her, his skull ramming hers into the steel wall in an explosion of pain. She felt blood start to trickle from her nose. "Off me, dammit," she snarled.

"Sorry," he said, peeking back around the corner.

"Do you see them?" she asked, carefully edging around the dumpster and looking down the other alleyways.

"No," he said, "because it's fucking dark." Then: "Yes, dammit, run!"

Tom pressed the sleeve of her shirt against her nose and ran down the most likely alley and heard Christopher trip over something and curse again behind her. There was a sound of shouts behind them: "This way!" "I just saw the little fag there!" And the kicking over of a trash can, someone slipping and falling in one of the rancid puddles she'd been dodging by the orange sodium vapor glow.

"Oh, fuck," she said to the cinder block wall that had appeared ahead of her.

"We're fucked," Christopher said. "No, wait!" He yanked on the handle of a nearby door. It didn't budge.

"There's another," Tom said, and darted forward, almost to the end of the alley, and laid her hand on the door handle with a little muttered, "Please."

The door, an anonymous slab of sheet metal with an extraneous assortment of locks, obediently creaked open.

Tom stopped in the doorway, or would have, if Christopher had not shoved her bodily into the room beyond. "Move, move, they're coming!" he hissed and then, like her, just stopped and stared. The door creaked closed behind them.

They stood on the periphery of an ocean of Persian carpeting. Against the walls were things that looked like museum antiques, and the walls themselves were lofted into a stone gallery carved like something out of a fairy tale, Tom thought, bewildered. Worse, the room was lit by sunlight, which was filtering down from windows in a ceiling which looked like some sort of Gothic church. There were even fucking tapestries on the walls.

"Did we just die or something?" Christopher asked after a moment.

Tom turned around to look at him. Behind them were a set of lovely half-glass wooden doors. She was pretty sure they were not the same size or shape as the door they had just come through. "Fuck me if I know," she said.

"I'll pass," Christopher said, but it was just force of habit. His eyes were huge and dilated and there was an enormous bruise coming up on the left side of his face. That reminded Tom of her bleeding nose, and she fumbled her handkerchief out of her pocket to wipe it.

Somewhere close by, a clock chimed. Someone strode through the open stone archway on the right, walking as though there were a definite destination in mind and stopping abruptly at the sight of the two of them.

She -- despite the sleek short haircut and the tall, slightly androgynous figure, Tom knew her as a she right away -- was dressed in leather slippers and a quilted dressing gown of a pattern Tom's mind kept insisting was "Jazz-coloured peacocks." (Tom failed to track the quote down until weeks afterward.) Her hair and eyes were black, her skin was a medium brown, she had cheekbones sharp enough to cut paper, and the most patrician and assertive nose Tom had ever seen. There was a newspaper tucked under one of her arms and the overall air of someone about to sit down to breakfast. At home.

She turned her gaze on the two of them and said, with what Tom thought might be an Oxford accent, with a slight touch of surprise, "Hello. Might I ask what you are doing in Rosamund's living room?"

"Um," Tom said, staring at Christopher.

"Oh," Christopher said, staring back at Tom.

"Sorry," Tom said to their inadvertent host.

"It's just," Christopher said, getting his wits under him faster than Tom, "we were being chased, you see, by some... people."

"With baseball bats," Tom added.

"Yes," Christopher said, "and we ended up in an alley up against a wall, and so we tried the doors."

"And one opened into your, uh, Rosamund's living room," Tom concluded, feeling obscurely like she should bow.

"So sorry to intrude," Christopher said, and he did bow, just a little.

The person in the dressing gown did not move through this entire recitation, only her gaze flicking from one to the other showing signs of animation. Finally, she rolled her eyes, sighed, and said, "Oh, Rosamund."

Tom's skin was prickling with a different sort of fear than she'd had in the alleys, and she began to back up, shoving Christopher along with her. "We'll, uh, we'll just be going. So sorry to bust in like this."

"Yeah," Christopher said.

"I wouldn't open the door right now if I were you," their host said, just a little too late.

Tom and Christopher stared out the door at... nothing. It might have been space. It might have been full of stars. Maybe. But Christopher slammed the door shut and put his back to it too fast for Tom to really comprehend what she was seeing.

They turned to look at their host again. Their host was examining the ceiling, which was, in fact, gorgeous. "Rosamund," she said chidingly, "that wasn't very nice."

The hairs on the back of Tom's neck were definitely trying to get her attention. "Um..." she started.

Christopher said, "If that were space, wouldn't we all be dead?"

Tom decided that even if it was a really bad question, she had to know. "Who's Rosamund?"

Their host sighed and tossed the newspaper down on one of the red, extremely comfortable-looking chairs. "This is Rosamund," she said, with an expansive gesture all around them. Tom peripherally noted that the newspaper was not in any alphabet she recognized. "Rosamundi, the center of the world, who seems to have decided that I need some companionship. Or perhaps she's just bored with me. Would you care for some breakfast?"

Christopher said, "Oh. My--" and Tom, recognizing the beginning of one of his more characteristic outbreaks, clamped a hand over his mouth.

"He gets like this sometimes," she started to explain.

Christopher reached up and pried her fingers loose. "No, Tom, really! You don't understand! It's real! She's--"

Their host gave them a bemused look and said, "Well, when you decide you're hungry, just... wander around until you find the dining room, I guess. Rosamund isn't likely to let you starve. Her sense of humor is more esoteric than that." Then she looked slightly irritated at their baffled expressions. "Oh, all right, come along."

They trailed through several more rooms of surpassing magnificence before reaching a panelled dining room with a table set for approximately twenty people. Their host investigated the silver chafing dishes on the sideboard ("Dear heaven, Rosamund, kedgeree? Do we have to take the theme quite that far?") and sat down with a plate full of food that was totally unfamiliar to Tom. She poured coffee into three cups and looked around for the absent newspaper.

Christopher sat down tentatively and said, “Is this place supposed to look familiar?”

Their host said, “She’s imitating Highclere Castle at the moment. I’ve no idea why; stately homes make me itch rather. It’s all sorts of weirdly retro-reverse-colonial or perhaps ironic. I can’t always tell what she’s getting at, really. This might simply be a rude comment on my habits of sleeping late.” She sighed and peeled a leaf off a snow-white pastry and bit into it. Upon seeing that Christopher was still looking a little wide-eyed and uncomprehending, she added, with her mouth full, “The original has been used as the set for Jeeves and Wooster, Downton Abbey, and Chrestomanci Castle. Any of those sound familiar?”

Tom said, “Are we really in England?”

Their host sighed. “No, we’re in Rosamund.”

Christopher said, wide-eyed, “Is this a time machine?”

Their host pinched the bridge of her magnificent nose. “Rosamund is not a machine.”

Tom said, “Wait, have we gone somewhere?”

Their host ran long fingers through her heavy black hair, making it stand on end briefly. “No. Well, technically, yes, but not since you stepped through that door. Rosamundi doesn’t go anywhere. She stays put, like the delightful center of the spinning-top of the universe, except that the universe is slightly more complex than a spinning-top.”

Tom said, “But when we opened that door again--”

“Yes, yes.” Their host flapped a hand, spraying crumbs from her plate across the spotless linen tablecloth. “Rosamund apparently decided she didn’t need a door to wherever you came from anymore.”

Christopher asked, cautiously, “Does that mean she can open a door to anywhere?”

Their host sighed. “Well, this has been a delightful and stimulating conversation, but really, I’ve got so many things to do. Where and when would you like to be dropped off?”

“Wait!” said Christopher. “Wait, please, can’t we stay for a little while? And travel with you?”

Their host paused in her deft peeling of an orange. “I don’t travel,” she pointed out with audible patience. “I stay here. In Rosamund. With occasional trips elsewhere, I admit, but I hardly need to travel to get anywhere from here. At least, not very far.”

Tom said, more plaintively than was her usual wont, “I don’t understand.”

Their host patted her kindly on the shoulder. “Everywhere is very close to here. All downhill, you might say.”

Christopher said desperately, “Can’t we at least take one trip before you take us home? That’s traditional.

Their host popped a few orange sections into her mouth and gazed at him meditatively. After a moment, she sieved the seeds out between her white teeth, spat them into her empty coffee cup, and gazed at them as though they were tea leaves. “Who am I,” she murmured ironically, “to go against tradition?”

Date: 2012-08-15 06:19 pm (UTC)
kore: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kore
Oh, this is neat! It's kind of like Dr Who! EXCEPT AWESOME.

Date: 2012-08-15 09:24 pm (UTC)
heavenscalyx: (Default)
From: [personal profile] heavenscalyx
Thank you! We're enjoying writing it!

Date: 2013-02-02 11:42 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Yes. quite neat. I enjoyed it. Though I'm insulted in your insinuation that Doctor Who is not awesome.

Date: 2012-08-15 06:45 pm (UTC)
finch: (Default)
From: [personal profile] finch
Please let me know when and where I can get more of this!

Date: 2012-08-15 09:25 pm (UTC)
heavenscalyx: (Default)
From: [personal profile] heavenscalyx
Right now, it will probably be filler when I fail to get myself together for a WCS episode, and if the first story arc goes well, then we'll probably go on to a second one. :)

Date: 2012-08-15 10:30 pm (UTC)
the_rck: (Default)
From: [personal profile] the_rck
I'm intrigued! Your introduction of the characters and setting has me hooked.

Thanks for writing!

Date: 2012-08-16 03:38 am (UTC)
the_leaky_pen: (Default)
From: [personal profile] the_leaky_pen
Seconding the intrigued feelings! Can't wait to find out what is going on here!

Date: 2012-08-20 02:01 pm (UTC)
heavenscalyx: (Default)
From: [personal profile] heavenscalyx

Date: 2012-08-20 02:00 pm (UTC)
heavenscalyx: (Default)
From: [personal profile] heavenscalyx
Great! I'm glad. Looks like I'll be posting part 2 this week, since freelancing is kicking my butt. :)


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