The Twisted Skein

2030/2006 -- All Roads

Tanfin Illian hit the ground running, his face fixed in an intent scowl. Behind him the portal flickered and vanished, but he knew that wouldn't stop the Black Cats for long. So he ran, ducking under branches, his cloak billowing behind him, until at last he broke from the trees to see the ancient city sprawled before him. Nestled amid its seven hills, Rome was bustling with life. If there was anywhere he could hide until his displacer recharged or whatever the stupid technobabble explanation was, it was here.

The closest gate led into an open-air market in what Tanfin still thought of as the Malij style, and the elf (half-elf, technically, but who's counting?) pushed his way through impatiently. He vaguely planned to head over to the various temples and see how they compared with the Elven gods, the Valar, but that plan went out the (presumably unglazed) window when a Roman woman, her black and green palla (wait, what?) showing a hint of brown hair, grabbed his arm out of nowhere. "Come with me," she said, and dragged the bewildered Tanfin between two taller buildings. With his mind struggling to figure out what was happening and his eyes unable to adjust quickly enough to the loss of light, the elf didn't notice the cloth until it was firmly over his mouth, and by then, of course, it was too late.


"... no idea, I just saw-"

"I think he's awake."

Tanfin opened his eyes and stared up at a well-lit stone ceiling. Then a... thing came into view, and he stared. "Good morning!" the thing said. "Did you have a nice sleep?"

A second thing appeared beside it. "I don't think he did," the second thing said, in a very similar voice. "I think he needs to sleep some more."

"No, no," the first said, "it's time for him to wake up! There's-"

Tanfin's eyes finally managed to focus. "If someone doesn't get these sock puppets out of my face," he said, "I will be very upset." Then he sat up.

A tall red-haired woman in a woollen stola was frowning at him, the sock puppets still held up in front of her. "Mr. Socko doesn't like this one," she used one of the puppets to say.

"All right, Jay," a voice said from the other side of the bed, and Tanfin realised it was the woman he had encountered in the market. "Put them away. Honestly, I don't know why I let you get away with these things."

The woman addressed as Jay looked up with wide eyes. "I don't know what you're talking about, Acy," she said. "Millie and Mr. Socko were just-"

"Just nothing," 'Acy' said, and knelt down by the bed. "Hey, elf," she said, and Tanfin turned to see that she had discarded her palla and was now wearing fairly modern-looking spectacles. He frowned.

"You're not from around here, are you?"

The redhead snorted. "Oh, he's a smart one," she said. "Brilliant, elf. Absolutely brilliant."

"Hush, Jay," Acy said. "Listen, all we want to know is who you are and why you're here. I was promised there'd be no interference once I reti-- er, went on indefinite leave." She shot a glance at Jay. "Present company excepted with exceptions, of course."

"I don't know what you mean," Tanfin said. "I was just trying to escape from the-- wait." He looked back and forth between the two women. "Jay and Acy? As in Acacia?"

"Uh-oh," Jay said, quietly but distinctly.

Tanfin shook his head rapidly. "You're that Jay and Acacia? The most famous Assassins the PPC has ever seen?"

Acacia rolled her eyes. "We've only been retired three years," she said. "Stop exaggerating, it doesn't win you any favours."

"Oh. No. I'm... no." Tanfin tried to get over his surprise and talk intelligibly. "Listen, I didn't even know you were here. I'm not even with the PPC."

"Given that we're not both meant to be here," Acacia said, shooting a look at Jay, who pouted, "that's hardly surprising. But what are you doing here?"

"I was looking for my sister," the elf told her. "Right now I'm sort of in hiding from some of her... associates."

"Your sister," Jay said flatly. "You're an elf, why would your sister be in Rome?"

"She's not," Tanfin said. "She's in Middle-earth. I portalled away from them."

"This 'not with the PPC' thing isn't really holding up, you know," Acacia put in conversationally. "Why don't you tell us who exactly you are, and who these people are you're hiding from?"

Tanfin felt a buzzing in his ear, and smiled slightly. Perfect timing. "I'd love to stay and chat," he said, "but I only get a short window on this. Still, it was nice meeting you." With that, he blinked three times, rapidly, and...

... vanished with a flash of red light.

Acacia raised an eyebrow and reached down to pat the bed, as if making sure he had actually disappeared. "Well, that was... different," she murmured.

"I don't think the elf liked us, do you, Millie?"

"No indeed, Mr. Socko. He wasn't a very nice elf anyway."

Acacia didn't look up. "Jay, I'm warning you..."

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