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Sebastian meets the Dark Queen

December 14, 2006

As he stepped off the train and onto the platform which rose high above the skyline, he found himself at the perfect vantage point for seeing the largest graveyard he’d ever seen. Two square miles of empty, dilapidated warehouses and office complexes. Vast blank parking lots surrounding dead sheet-metal monsters and mummified distribution centers splotched the landscape. A chill wind blew, and Sebastian shivered.           

Down three flights of steps and he was standing just before the first of the silent behemoths. It had one maw with a garage-style door that gaped at him. The broken window could have been eyes. It did not breathe, and Sebastian felt lucky.

 There was nothing typically frightening about this place. It was mid-day, the sun was letting in just enough light through the clouds to illuminate everything and eliminate shadows, and no one had been here, reportedly, in almost ten years. It hadn’t even become the victim of youth gangs armed with spray cans and crowbars. The pathways between buildings were immaculate. Actually, it was downright creepy.           

The idea that this was the hidden city of Ribar, home of the Dark Queen, bothered him most. For all his doubts, for all his misconceptions, it finally seemed real, and it quivered his soul.           

The path marked on the small napkin map was clear enough. Tenaka had been patient enough with his own foul handiwork to draw the skeleton information needed. He could easily make it from train depot to Warehouse Seven without getting lost.

Sebastian couldn’t keep his eyes from wandering, regardless of what he’d been told. A caved patch of aluminum siding revealed a simple desk and swivel-chair, both a deep red and covered in a thin layer of dust. An open door showed an empty chamber resembling a hanger, in which there was nothing mechanical other than the pipes that ran up the walls from floor to light box. Another shiver ran his spine, this time at the thought of what brought about such abandon without replacement, without enough signs of remains to constitute previous inhabitance.           

Two lefts, a right, a half mile of straight, and a quick jab through the parking lot to the west, and he found himself staring into the stolid face of Warehouse Seven. No doors, no windows. Just a sign marking its name beside a peaked triangle with a line running northeast to southwest. He checked the map and read, through a small ketchup stain, the symbol.            

But how to get in? Making the seventy paces to check both sides, he found one tall white door with a silver handle on the right. The handle was covered with a dust of its own, a fine grit, and creaked as Sebastian gripped it firmly in his bare hand and opened it.           

Before him, he could see the other side, straight across. To his right, a small barrier blocked his view of the rest of the warehouse. The ceiling rose up from just above the door to a
high point, beamed with rusting steel. A thick layer of white dust carpeted the floor. 
           

He moved around the barrier, slowly, one eye at a time, one hand on the cold cement that blocked his view. It was as long as football field with a bright red glow breaking into the center of the room.           

The light that cascaded down from the slightly smashed windows in the roof marked the path like a checkerboard, and he proceeded square by square all the way until the vision became clearer. It was a throne. A high-backed chair rimmed in gold and silver intertwined. Rich red velvet filled the space between, and on the velvet sat a woman.           

The first of the explosion of feathers that was her headdress touched the back of the chair with ease, flowing a little in the stale breeze. All the feathers were red and black, making three thin black stripes on a field of red, fanning out to touch her shoulders, which sloped to the arms of the chair. The dress flowed outward in all directions, surrounding the throne in a sea of crimson silk that shined bright.            

As Sebastian drew nearer, his vision revealed two blued hands covered in rings of many different metals and two eyes behind a blood red veil. The eyes, black like onyx, stared at him, through him.            

He approached, keeping a respectful distance. He could make out the jewels in the dress, and could see the delicate shine of the silk as it draped across the floor, almost to his feet. He dug his hands into his jeans’ pockets, trying to hide in himself.           

“You know why you were sent,” she thick smoky tones informed him.           

 He stammered, wavering both in his mind and in his body. “Uh, y- yes ma’am.”           

She continued to stare, as though expecting more words. He picked up on this.           

“The old man told me that if I came to Ribar, I would be told what I have to do to make the nightmares go away.” His face fell thinking about all the horrors that had permeated his mind in that last several months.           

The eyes smiled. “Yes.”           

The silence between them was as vast as the warehouse itself.           

“So… what do I need to do?”           

“You are needed. You possess a skill that is rare in your kind, and you have knowledge, now, that is useful to us. The Fae need you.”           

Great, he thought. Another recruitment technique from another weirdo. The eyes continued.           

“The group known as the Reality Liberation Front is threatening our existence. You have seen the twisted landscape of New Mexico, no?”           

With those words, images of the hulking pillars that bolted suddenly out of the group flew into his mind. The bloody corpses that hung from make-shift fortresses. The furniture that tried to eat him. All too vivid. If he’d not been there when it happened, he would have laughed and chalked it up to a bad night’s sleep. Maybe that was why it was all so horrible.           

“Yes,” he answered, removing his hands, and folding them around his sides to stifle the chill.           

“Then you know the horror of nightmares when they come to life. The Fae suffer, and the things that terrify us all the most make their way slowly into Reality, destroying everything we know to be true.”

He nodded to show that he was beginning to understand, though everything was so fuzzy in his mind.           

“You are needed as an agent for the Fae. You will help us end the work of the RLF, and in turn, we will return your sanity to you.”           

His eyes widened, trying again to comprehend this call to action. Tenaka said that they would ask this of him. He didn’t understand then, and he didn’t understand now.           

“What do you mean ‘end the work’?” his quizzical expression pulling him forward to the edge of the silk.           

“I mean that you have to stop them. You have seen them.” The voice grew firmer, stronger, higher. “You have seen them kill a Fae. You have seen them destroy a house full of Fae in the name of restoring order to human reality. How can such chaotic action bring order to anything?” One hand crumpled up into a fist and pounded the arm of the throne, bringing a shiver to the headdress. “How can ending one life save another?!”           

Sebastian took a step back, away from the silk, away from the form. He’d never seen such emotion from a Fae before. The familiar pain of sympathy imbued his chest. He breathed deep.           

One hand reached up, and pulled the veil away. Beneath it was not the black-blue twisted jaws of a Fae, but the small chin of a girl, acne-scarred, and a quivering bottom lip.           

“We need you, Sebastian. We need your Sight. We need your ability to reach into the human world and save the Fae that are lost.” Her face fell down, and her hands played with the silk of her dress. A delicate scene. He wanted to hug her.          

“I need you. To save my people from a death even you can’t imagine.”           

Again, silence.            

After a full minute, she replaced her hands on the arms of the chair, raising her posture again.            

“You have one day to decide if you will help us. Remember, it is your sanity that is at stake. We will help you, but only if you help us first.”           

That said, the Queen, the throne, the building and the whole of the warehouse graveyard vanished, before his eyes, leaving him standing on sand, surrounded by sand, looking out into the bay, and wishing he had some aspirin.

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