This segment of Taliana’s adventure was written in collaboration with Raevenly Writes. The story continues on her blog (follow the link at the bottom of the page to see what happens)
Taliana took a moment to get her bearings. She appeared to have stepped her way into a kitchen, with a man who seemed to have a fair number of tattoos on his arms, and metal pierced into his face. Something new, certainly. She held the Book of Evegran a little closer to her, it had already become something of a security to her. The threads clearly led here, and seemed to play around this individual in some way, so she knew at least she had stepped into the right place. There was something vaguely familiar, though she could not quite place her finger on just what that was.
Zig was more surprised that he felt the shift in dimension than he was at the stranger stepping into his kitchen. While the Underground had never dumped anyone into their home before, it wasn’t unlike her to be playfully unpredictable. It’s just that Zig never seemed to notice. The shifting of the doors and rooms seemed so completely natural, as seamless as night following day. But again, it had never connected to completely alien worlds before, so maybe it wasn’t so strange that the hairs on the back of his neck stood on end.
He couldn’t say how he knew she was alien, save from the way he simply Saw things. Sure, a dress over jeans and a tee was a little odd, but nothing about it screamed time-travel or dimensional slips, just… He just Knew. This girl moved among magics in the same graceful way his brother did, slipping between skin and soul with elegant ease. No, practiced ease. He could See now the subtle strain such a journey was costing her, though doubtless the Underground had lent a bit of a hand.
Because it was clear from the expression on her face that she hadn’t brought herself here deliberately. Much like Rain when a broom closet would suddenly dump her outside, his guest was clearly caught off guard to be standing in his kitchen.
So of course, the only thing to do was offer her a seat.
Zig was used to going for a warm and non-threatening vibe, despite all the contrary evidence he put into his appearance. The blue hair he could will away with a thought, especially here surrounded by the Underground’s magic, but at this point, color changing hair might be freakier than blue. And there was nothing to be done about the ink. If he’d known he’d be entertaining, he’d have worn sleeves instead of the ratty wife beater he preferred to cook in. Too late now. The best he could hope for was that manners would speak louder than skin, so he moved to pull a chair out from the table for her.
“Howdy, stranger. Have a seat? I’m not sure why my home decided to welcome you, but she wouldn’t let anybody in that meant harm, so …can I offer you a drink?”
Taliana quirked a slight smile, “Thank you, I would love a drink, perhaps just some water?” She sat down, looking around her a little more. “Does your home often welcome random people into it?”
Something about the polite way she sat encouraged him to unleash his “courtly manners”. Zig gave a low bow, sweeping his hand dramatically to the side. “You are the first, madam.”
He thought about giving her hand a kiss, but both were tightly wrapped around a book of some sort. It wavered a bit in his Sight, but everything about her was kind of shimmery, now that he was trying to focus on her. It made everything else in his vision fall back, like they were moving away, so he turned away from her to clear his head and fetch her water. With the visitor out of sight, everything returned to normal, including his usual chatty demeanor.
“Usually, it’s a fight to get her to let anyone down here. Dropping strangers from another world is new.” He flashed her a sideways grin as he handed her the water glass. Then his words caught up with him. “Oh! I’m sorry, was that rude? I- Wow, my manners are seriously lacking today. Let me start over.” He held out his hand, softening his expression into the one he usually used with Rainy Day. “Hi. I’m Zig.”
Only after his hand was out did he realize she might not be from a world where they do such things, though something about her did seem kinda familiar….
Taliana returned his grin, loosening her grasp on the book to reach out and shake his hand, “Taliana. Your manners are quite fine. As you said, it isn’t every day a stranger from another world drops in. Just as it isn’t every day…” She laughed, shaking her head, “no, never mind, what I was about to say was completely untrue. I have a tendency to find myself in places others may not get to go to, it’s something of a skill. If I may ask, where is this place?”
Zig looked around sheepishly, trying to imagine his comfy kitchen from a stranger’s eyes. The stove and counters were a glorious wreck of spills and scraps and simmering things, as it always was during the “Feast” days, but otherwise, things were fairly in order. The fridge was about as tricked out in magnets as his face was in studs, and his “six string” pizza peel would confuse bakers and musicians alike, but all in all, this was one of the Underground’s better days for not scaring the straights. Z, for example, was nowhere in sight. Thank anything that listened for that.
“This is the Underground,” he said with another sweep of his arm. “Though I doubt that tells you much.” He tapped at his chin, absently fiddling with his soul patch. “I don’t suppose *Lakeshore would tell you much either…”
With a shrug, Zig grabbed a take-out menu off the fridge. It wasn’t much of a map, but Charlie’s Chuck Wagon Chili had enough locations in the *Greater Lakes area that it spanned a few states at least.
“Does this help at all? I have a solar system place mat around here somewhere if we need to zoom about a bit.”
Taliana laughed, “I’m not sure that it would help, but I appreciate the offer. I suppose the question, more than where are we physically, should be, what can you tell me about the Underground?” It was a bit more direct than she would normally be, but Zig seemed like he could handle directness.
He laughed and pulled out a chair. The instant he sat down, he leapt back up, stove catching his eye.
“Sorry,” he said with a sheepish grin. “Forgot I was cooking.”
Stirring the browning meat actually helped him gather his thoughts. It was always easier to talk when he was doing other things with his hands.
“The Underground is basically a fey den, a magical space kind of outside of reality. So the basic rules of time and space don’t really apply here. If the magic likes you, you can do just about anything in here. If it doesn’t like you….” He turned back to his guest with a reassuring smile. “Well, I wouldn’t worry about that too much, if she invited you in.”
Which was a curious thing in and of itself. “Any idea why she might have brought you here?”
Taliana shook her head, smiling, “I’m on something of a mission to understand magical threads that connect worlds… Everywhere I’ve visited is connected, in some way, and I am certainly learning things as I move through them. I suppose she invited me here because something about this place is relevant to what I need to be learning.” Taliana laughed, “I’m being terribly vague, and presumptuous. I really just am hoping that all the places I am visiting truly are relevant to what I’m seeking out, and that I really am learning things that I need to know.” She leaned back in the chair slightly, enjoying the way the threads of the world wove around the room.
*Author’s Note: I have no idea where Asylum takes place, but since my go to of “Asylum-town” sounded epically lame, I used the first thing that popped into my head.