Raine August
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Chapter One: Welcome to Idlewild

Chapter One: Welcome to Idlewild

Sep 12, 2021

No matter how dark the city looked, blanketed in smog from the industrial buildings and cancerous chemicals that served to maintain some semblance of a perpetually progressing community, the humidity bore the truth of summertime in Idlewild. Ari flicked her cigarette and watched the flecks of hot, red ash disappear before hitting the ground 13 floors below. The wailing of sirens echoed in the distance, as they did every day of every week.

Life had become mundane for the chaos pixie in the last few years, taking the same bland jobs of creating calamity in the lives of her highest bidder's enemies. Money was never an issue, but her motivation was dimming as quickly as the end of her cigarette. Her watch vibrated against her wrist and she peered at the screen to see Regan's face lighting it up. She flicked her wrist and opened her palm to reveal a holographic image of her friend's face, with her tight curls framing her pug-like face.

“Are you coming out tonight? It's theatre night, and we can actually win if you bother showing up.” No amount of giggling would deflect from the very real annoyance Ari's friends had with her every time she retreated because she wasn't feeling social or had business to attend.

Before she answered, she heard a soft humming as a pair of fluttering wings entered her peripheral vision, followed by the rest of her friend's body, plump in all the right places. She clenched her fist to end the call and leaned back against the steel bars of the fire escape to watch Regan land with the grace only a fairy or elf possessed. She evened out her ruched, red dress which Ari could only describe as something out of an adult catalogue.

“They'll fine you for that, you know they outlawed tobacco, like, a freakin' decade ago.” Regan scrunched her nose at Ari as she took another drag before flicking the ash off the edge of the fire escape.

“Outlawed flying within the city limits too, yet here you are.” Ari tilted her head, flashing a grin at her life-long friend.

“Cops do it all the time.” Regan crossed her arms in a pout. She was right, after all. It was hard to restrict cops from using their abilities in a population as dense and diverse as it was in Idlewild, which was home to more than a million beings, mortal and Otherkind.

“Yeah, well, the humans keep a tight leash on them.” She responded dryly. Ari always wondered why humans, as insignificant and powerless as they were, had so much control over the population, which was more than half non-human. In her nearly 500 years on this Earth, the last two hundred of which the Otherkind were finally emerging from the shadows, humans never quite managed to surprise her.

Fighting wars, arguing over what color human was superior, conspiracy theories about the government – though, she had to admit, some of them she knew firsthand to be true. The governments themselves were just different systems for each plot of land. It all seemed so... restricting. Yet here was Ari, finally living by the humans' rules like some fool. She could feel the fire in her core waning, and she longed to fan the flame, instead of living in this state of controlled chaos.

“Well, get some clothes on.” Regan eyed Ari up and down, scrunching her nose. She looked down at her friend's oversized black tank top, partially exposed gray sports bra and boy shorts – anything else would have had her sweating from every single crevice.

“What's wrong with-?”

“Babe, you look like Stevo.” Ari made no movement to change her clothes. “Fine, at least brush your hair.”

“Which Stevo?” Ari got to her feet, putting the cigarette out on one of the steel bars and slipping it into an old plastic soda cup, halfway filled with cigarette butts.

“Take a gander in the mirror and I'm sure you'll figure out which one.” Regan was almost as old as she was, and at the dawn of the silver screen they were both hooked. Regan was far more interested in the tabloids and celebrity gossip than the movies and shows they were in, but Ari didn't mind listening. There were times Ari had taken on well-known clients around the world, and Regan's area of expertise came in handy then.

Ari climbed through the window of her modest loft, covered in framed posters and tapestries from hundreds of years ago. Her bed was pushed against the brick wall, and she didn't even bother with a dining or living room set, as she spent most of her time working within the city or reading on her black shag rug. Her kitchen was virtually useless, and home to a mouse that she made a deal with when she had moved into the nearly derelict building.

Flicking the light of her bathroom on, the only actual room in her loft, she wiped the mirror with a rag and made a dissatisfied noise in her throat. She sighed, taking in her short blue and orange hair sticking up at all angles. “Fair enough.”

She dragged her brush through her hair in an effort to flatten it. When that didn't work, she dug through the drawer of her bathroom sink, wading through the make up and wigs until she found her tube of gel. She squeezed a pea sized glop onto her finger, rubbed it across her fingers and ran them through her hair to create a wild, spiked style. Now she definitely looked like the Stevo from one of Regan's least favorite classic movies, SLC Punk. The differences were that Ari possessed a delicate nose, cat-like hazel eyes and a pointed chin to match her ears, one of the few blatant tells of her being an Otherkind.

As she stepped out of the bathroom, she collided with Regan. “If you insist on this...” she eyed Ari up and down, “... aesthetic, I need you to put in full effort.” She held up a pair of ripped fishnets and cuffed combat boots that Ari had forgotten she even owned.

“I'm only doing this because I trust your eye.” Regan had helped her with her disguises plenty over the years, and made a career out of styling people, especially humans who always left her shop with a renewed sense of confidence, and Regan was left with a heavier purse.

“This is dangerous!” Regan squeaked with a little jump, clapping her hands at Ari's outfit. “Now all you need is a little liner-”

“Nope. Let's go.” Ari made for the fire escape and waited for Regan to squeeze out before closing the window and knocking on the glass twice. She waited for the glamour to cover the inside of her loft, making the interior look decrepit to any curious eyes, before climbing down the fire escape. Regan waited on the street, tapping her heel impatiently until Ari, waving at one of her human neighbors, made her way down.

Regan filled Ari in on the latest gossip as they walked through the rough neighborhood, ignoring the screeching and yelling from a group of sub-humanoid grifters in the alley. A minotaur stood outside of one of the dive bars, and eyed them as they walked by. Ari half-hoped he would say something just so she could light his beard ablaze. Unfortunately, he kept his snout shut.

“Oh, did I tell you Shelley started dating a human? Like full-blown mortal.” The scandal. It wasn't illegal, but interspecies relationships were frowned upon in the swankier parts of the city.

“Love always finds a way.” Ari replied dryly, as they turned up the street. The city was built on a hill, which meant a slight climb until they made it to their destination; a coffee shop by day, quaint bar by night. As they walked in, the city sounds were drowned out by the thrumming of old music from another time and chattering between the round tables filled with every size, color and smell of creatures. Some had wings, some had horns, all wore transparent looks of surviving a broken world.

They weaved through the tables until they made it to a corner booth with three other people already sipping cocktails. A selkie with jet black hair and eyes like oil, an auburn haired fairy who always looked like she was ready to take a nap, and a witch who always wore go-go boots no matter what occasion he was invited to. Ari appreciated his bold tenacity, even if he looked like he had a bad stench in his nostrils every time she came around. The other two were better at hiding their disdain for her presence.

“Ari, so glad you could make it.” Shelley the tired fairy gave her a little wave and scooted over to make room, tucking her wings so Ari wouldn't sit on them. She had made that mistake once and the look of rage on Shelley's face was the only other expression she knew the fairy to be capable of making.

“It's been a couple months, figured it was time to prove I was still alive.”

“We weren't worried about that, dear.” Logan drawled, sweeping up from his seat for a refill, his translucent shawl waving as he went.

“Always a pleasure.” She muttered, turning to the others.

“His boyfriend left him for an ogre.” Mads, the selkie chimed in. Ari tilted her head to listen, trying to control the judgment her eyebrows so easily conveyed. “Allegedly. I think he just didn't want to be committed anymore.” Regan slipped in next to Ari with a pitcher of beer and glasses, pouring two and raising her glass.

“To winning a round of trivia.” Ari clinked her glass and took a sip when her eyes were drawn towards the bar, where a human was sitting and playing with an old silver coin, moving it between his fingers like they did in movies. He looked over his shoulder in her direction, just in time for her to look away.

“What's our team name tonight?” Ari looked around as Mads clapped her hand over her mouth, unable to stifle her giggles. Regan scrunched her nose and grabbed the group tablet which they used to enter their answers for each question.

“Humphrey Bogart-ing The Fun.” Ari read over Regan's shoulder. She leaned forward. “He's not even known for his stage acting. He's... Sam Spade. Of all the puns, you could have made-”

“Sorry, Ari.” Mads bore her oily eyes into Ari, knowing she hated that phrase more than anything in the world. Well, maybe not anything. Mads voice took on a slimey tone. “We didn't realize you would be here, so we did our best. Besides, they didn't clarify if it was stage theatre or movie theater.” Ari leaned back, using the last of her self-control to not roll her eyes. She was here for Regan more than anything.

The night drug on slower than a deep wade through molasses. But Ari stuck it out, if not for her competitive nature alone. They were in fourth place of twelve when intermission was called. She could feel the tingle in the tips of her pointed ears for a little more alcohol to get her through the rest of the game.

Ari made her way through the crowd that had formed between tables until she squeezed between a handsome faun and a burly minotaur.

“Black ale.” She shouted over the chatter once the bartender locked eyes with her. He nodded and poured a generous pint, setting it in front of her.

“It's taken care of.” He held up his hand when she moved to pay him. His eyes barely flickered to the corner barstool, where she had seen the human from earlier look her way. Ari's eyes followed and saw him smirking through his glass of amber liquid. She sifted through the crowd easily enough until she stood behind the dark haired, honey-eyed man.

“How much was it?” She asked, her voice level with the sound of banter throughout the bar. Without a flicker of a glance, he nudged the handsome elf next to him, locking eyes and tilting his head. The elf hopped off the stool, as though they had some psychic connection where he told the elf “scram”.

“Join me.” He still didn't meet her eyes, but his voice was smokey, tempting even, like her many cigarettes.

“No,” she replied flatly, before repeating herself. “How much?”

“A gift. In exchange for your presence, if not just for a moment.” Ari knew this game well enough to know he would not tell her whatever she needed until she sat with him. She hopped upon the stool and poured the drink across the bar in front of him.

His eyes were wide, not in horror but shock at her audacious action against his so-called gift. Once it was emptied before him, his eyes met hers. There was a low rumble from his chest that built into a soft chuckle before it burst into a hearty laugh. “Apologies. It wasn't poisoned.” He managed to say through wheezes of laughter.

“Mmk, what do you want?” She bore her hazel eyes into his. The human's laughs subsided and he raised his pint to his lips.

“Your company.” He took a healthy swig, setting it down. “I saw you there. You're all fire and air, like an explosion waiting to happen.”

“Not quite, Human. I'm afraid I'll have to disappoint. My friends and I have a game to finish.” Ari turned in her seat, ready to rejoin her party, until he placed a hand on the side of her stool.

“I don't mean to insult. I'm just good at reading people.” The gentle creases at the corners of his lips told Ari, he might be telling the truth, or at least his truth.

“Even Otherkind?” She raised a skeptical brow at him. He chuckled heartily again, nodding. “Ok. Read me.”

He licked his lips and narrowed his eyes, making a show of analyzing her. “Hmm... let me guess, workaholic, goes out once in a blue moon-”

“Already wrong. I go out once every retrograde.” Ari corrected, moving to leave again.

“Chaos pixie, right?” His voice was smooth as honey when he said it and Ari faltered. Being pegged as a pixie was one thing, but as a chaos pixie was rare, if not impossible. “You thrive in chaos. Retrogrades make sense.” He brought his glass to his lips again, and Ari wondered what it tasted like. She had seen plenty of handsome humans before, but never felt quite such a pull toward one. Naturally, she was suspicious.

“I'm good at guessing.” He flashed a cocky grin. “Ask me anything, bet I'll get it right.”

This was a game Ari knew she would have him beat, no matter how much psychological knowledge he had. So she hit him with the hardest in her arsenal, “What's my full name?”

He locked eyes with her again and she could feel herself drowning in the honey brown eyes. The corners of his lips curled, and he licked his lips before speaking, “Aristophe-”

Before he could finish, Ari clapped her hand across his mouth. His eyes lit up in amusement and she was tempted to spark him just a little, but with so many witnesses, she was bound to be hit with disturbance, endangerment, and assault charges.

“Who are you?” Ari lowered her hand.

“A fan, if I'm being honest. Your work is... impressive.” As he smiled, he ran his tongue across one of his canine teeth. He cleared his throat and turned back to his drink. “I'm just a delivery guy, here to send you a message from my boss. He has a job for you.”

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