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[personal profile] wonder_city
And apparently the freelancing gods have decreed that you get a third scene of Compass Rose this week. :) Sorry for the lateness; when I work over a weekend, I sometimes lose track of days of the week. We hope you're continuing to enjoy this little adventure!

“Here you go,” said the Dean, swinging open the small iron-bound door. “London station, everyone off, this train will NOT be continuing to the terminus!”

A flood of bright, sharp-edged sunlight poured in through the open door. Beyond was an eerie silence.

“That... doesn’t sound like London,” said Christopher, after a moment.

“No,” said their host, in no wise disconcerted. She exited and her sigh was audible even from beyond the doorway. ”Definitely not, I’d say, although I must repeat that you ought not to invoke happy endings in front of Rosamund.”

Tom followed her and found herself in the lee of a beautiful stone cottage. The cottage was at the bottom of a winding street dotted with similar cottages, each with a well-tended garden in a rainbow of colors. The street ascended a gentle hill, which was crowned (the word was definitely apropos) with a castle of many turrets in white stone. The countryside around was green and divided into meadows by low green hedges.

There was no one in sight.

Christopher, exiting after Tom stopped and ran his hand over the surface of the cottage they had just emerged from. “It’s real,” he said wonderingly.

The Dean didn’t even turn. “Of course it’s real.”

“No,” said Christopher. “I meant, it looks kind of like... well, like it ought to be made of plaster. Like a movie set. I feel as though we just wandered into Oz.”

“That road is dirt,” Tom pointed out.

“Tell me those cottages look right,” Christopher challenged her.

Tom looked and had to agree. It looked like an illustration in a children’s book... or one of those horrible photographic posters from the eighties (well before her time, but not before the time of some of her friends). The ones with photos of kittens captioned, “Hang in there!”, leaping dolphins under improbable rainbows ("Leap for the sky!"), and fairytale castles ("Dreams come true").

Tom took a few steps after the Dean. “Where are we?” she asked, trying not to be plaintive. “And... why does it feel so weird?”

“It’s partly the gravity, I expect,” said the Dean. “It’s almost Earth-normal, but--”

Christopher interrupted with a noise which Tom thought was better not described or remembered. It fell into the “squee” category, though.

The Dean favored him with a look Tom classified as “impossibly elegant Victorian scientist confronted with something uncouth under the microscope.” She raised one eyebrow as Christopher continued with the noise. “Have I inadvertently said something risque? Does ‘gravity’ mean something different in your dialect?”

Tom said, “No, I think he’s just... excited about being on a different planet.”

“Ah,” said the Dean. “Well, in any case, given the general artificiality of where we are, I think I can make a guess at the location. It’s one of a fairly small set.” She walked down the short garden path and swung open a little rustic gate which was made of branches tied together with rope.

Abruptly, the door of every cottage along the street swung open. People emerged, mostly young women, dressed in what Tom thought of a “Renfaire clothes.” About eighty percent of them were brilliantly blonde; the rest had curly brunette hair with auburn undertones. The nearest woman (one of the blondes) practically skipped up to the gate. She was wearing a blue dress and white flowers in her hair.

“Welcome, strangers!” she said in a lovely, musical voice. “Welcome to the Kingdom of Bettelheim!”

Tom became aware that Christopher had ceased making that... sound. The Dean stood quite still, holding the open gate in one hand. “And where, kind peasant,” said the Dean, eliciting a smile from the woman, “is Bettelheim? We have traveled long and weary miles and are not familiar with this road.”

The woman laughed. “Everyone knows Bettelheim! We are to the east of the fair Queendom of d’Aulnoy, to the West of the Barony of Orczy and the Great Heavenly Empire of Wu, South of the Empire of Lang, and North of the City-States of Aesop and the Caliphate of Burton. We are the center of the world!”

The Dean blinked once, then smiled again. “Of course,” she said. “But what of the Kingdom of Grimm?”

The woman’s face took on a stagy expression of fear. “Oh, stranger,” she said, “You must not mention that name here! Terrible things have happened in that kingdom, and we are forbidden even to mention its name.”

Another woman, this one with a brown dress and red flowers in her hair, stepped up to the gate, holding out both hands to Tom. “Please,” she said, “we would like to welcome you to our kingdom. The Prince would be glad to receive you at the castle.”

One of the rare brunettes batted her eyelashes at Christopher, causing him to take a half-step backwards. “Yes,” she cooed. “Do come.”

“Uh,” said Christopher. “Where are the guys?”

“In the background,” said the Dean, waving her free hand. Tom noticed several (mostly blond) men strolling along the street in suspiciously clean peasant attire. A male blacksmith (blond) had appeared as if out of nowhere and was making pleasant clinking noises from an open-fronted forge.

The three women (Tom privately named them Blue, Brown, and Green -- Christopher’s brunette was wearing a fetching pale-green number) who made up the Welcoming Committee smiled again. “Please come,” repeated Green. “The kingdom wants to welcome you properly.” Christopher took another step backwards.

Tom said, “Um, thanks, but I don’t think we have time. We have to go.”

Blue said, “I’ll run ahead and tell them to get a feast ready!” She skipped -- really, truly, skipped -- off down the road toward the castle.

Tom said, “Does anyone else get the feeling that they’re not really listening to us?”

Brown and Green continued to stare. Tom noticed that their eyes were both the exact same shade of sapphire blue, like those of Persian cats. Actually, their faces looked rather alike.

“Dean,” she said. “I don’t feel very happy about this.”

The Dean said, “I don’t think they’re dangerous.”

Tom repressed her first remark.

“It’s worse than that,” said Christopher from behind her.

“What?” she said, without turning around. She didn’t want to lose sight of the two women, both of whom were smiling alternately at the Dean and herself.

“The door to Rosamund is gone,” said Christopher, in a tone of mixed gloom and satisfaction.

Date: 2012-08-30 04:51 pm (UTC)
kore: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kore
The woman laughed. “Everyone knows Bettelheim! We are to the east of the fair Queendom of d’Aulnoy, to the West of the Barony of Orczy and the Great Heavenly Empire of Wu, South of the Empire of Lang, and North of the City-States of Aesop and the Caliphate of Burton. We are the center of the world!


Ha! I LOVE This.

Date: 2012-08-31 12:48 am (UTC)
heavenscalyx: (Default)
From: [personal profile] heavenscalyx
Thought you would! :)

Date: 2012-10-23 10:52 pm (UTC)
the_leaky_pen: (Default)
From: [personal profile] the_leaky_pen
I had to look most of those up. I need to brush up on my fairy tales!

Date: 2012-08-30 05:09 pm (UTC)
the_rck: (Default)
From: [personal profile] the_rck
Now I'm gleeful! This is going wrong in such interesting ways! I miss Wonder City, but I'm really enjoying these interludes a lot. I guess I'll enjoy whatever you write.

Thanks for writing!

Date: 2012-08-31 12:48 am (UTC)
heavenscalyx: (Default)
From: [personal profile] heavenscalyx
Thanks! I miss Wonder City too! I'll get back to it as soon as I get back to taking the train regularly -- that's my usual writing time, and the summer has been weird. :)

Date: 2012-08-30 09:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] interleaper.livejournal.com
Gh, Bettelheim, that patriarchal freudian fuck. Tell me there's a Zipesville around there somewhere? Or a Grand Duchy of Valente maybe?

(I know Lang, Burton, and Aesop, of course; I hadn't known Orczy had a connection to fairy tales; d'Aulnoy is new to me; and "Wu" seems to be a common enough term that searching it in connection with fairy tales gives me nothing likely... gimme a hint?)

Date: 2012-08-30 09:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] interleaper.livejournal.com
Oh, Journey to the West I guess.

Date: 2012-08-31 12:47 am (UTC)
heavenscalyx: (monkey!)
From: [personal profile] heavenscalyx
You got it! :)

Date: 2013-01-21 12:07 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I suppose they just don't speak of the Great and Terrible Land of Gaiman. The tales they hear of that land are just too disturbing.


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