More Like a Breach Between
Eleanor approached the two men at the front of the group. Just a few feet away now, she looked them up and down and asked more confidently than she felt, “Guys care to tell me what you’re doing on my farm?”
They were dressed… well, bizarrely, if she were honest. One was dark-haired and slim with a twirled moustache, the other broad-chested, blond hair shot through with grey, his face rough with stubble. That was all fine and well. But the moustachioed man was wearing some leather contraption, all adorned with buckles and fasteners and jewels, and the other was wearing what could only be described as armor. The armored man had a sword on his hip. The other, some kind of staff.
Eleanor chewed on a nail and in the silence muttered, “Bit early for Ren Faire, innit?”
“Excuse me?” the blond man said quickly.
“We’re, ah,” the dark-haired man cut his compatriate off, noticing the terness in his voice as much as Eleanor had. “We’re actually a bit lost, it seems.”
Eleanor glanced from the thing in the sky, to the two men she was confronting, to the soldiers behind them who were shifting anxiously in the noon heat.
“Yeah, I’d say so.”
The dark-haired man broke into a smile that could only be described as charming.
And also possibly slick.
“My name,” he said with a bit of a flourish, but the broad-chested man interrupted him in a whisper that Eleanor could hear, and wasn’t sure she shouldn’t.
“Is none of her business until we find out who we’re dealing with!” It was said through his teeth like he was anxious, like his anger might be directed mostly at himself, and like he might be just as scared as she was.
So she volunteered. “I’m Eleanor Redgrove. This is my land, and that,” she made a conscious effort to point with the gun over her shoulder to seem as intimidating as she could, which probably wasn’t very, “is my house. Your, I assume, soldiers?” she offered a question and a pause to allow them to correct her, but neither the two men or the soldiers spoke up either to correct the leadership or the occupation, “look hot. I’ve got cold drinks in the fridge.” She didn’t add that she was willing to take the strangers into her home because standing so close to the buzzing green void in the sky made her far more nervous than the man with the sword at this point, and she couldn’t explain why, except for the fact that directly above her was a buzzing green void in the sky. And the dark-haired man didn’t seem so bad. Even if she had no idea from where he’d come, or where had any of them.
“Dorian Pavus,” said the mustachioed man with a bow and a little twirl of his wrist, the other hand palm out on his back. “And I certainly wouldn’t turn down a drink.”
“You never do,” muttered the blond man. “Cullen Rutherford. Commander Cullen Rutherford,” he repeated, with extra emphasis on the ‘commander.’ And he offered Eleanor his leather-gloved hand. She shook it firmly, looking him dead in the eye, and she thought she saw a smile flick across the corners of his mouth, but it was gone in a flash.
“Come on, then,” said Eleanor, taking the shotgun from her shoulder and holding it carefully vertical along her side, “let’s get moving. I’ll get you drinks, and then you can tell me what exactly the fuck,” and she pointed to the green void with a firm finger, “that is.”
There were about ten soldiers with the two men and they hardly fit around the dining room table - which was to say they didn’t, but with the soldiers in the dining room and Eleanor and the two men in the kitchen, the squeeze wasn’t terrible. A few of the soldiers, Eleanor could see, sat in the chairs provided, and the others seemed perfectly happy to stand and drink the beers she’d offered them. Swiffer hadn’t seemed thrilled about the influx of strangers into the house, but the slim man - Dorian - had seen her start to dart across the kitchen floor and deftly swept her up into his arms, petting her downy belly with a brown hand, and Swiffer was so overjoyed she went limp as she purred like an onboard motor.
“What is it with mages and cats,” the commander said softly, his hip propped against the lip of the kitchen sink, leather gloves tossed onto the kitchen table so that he could grip the beer bottle, the glass slick with condensation.
Eleanor sat at the kitchen table, her eyes scanning the commander’s gloves. Those were not crafted for show, she realized. Those were real gloves, real leather, a kind of leather she wasn’t even sure she could identify, rough and scaly somehow, and those people in the dining room were real soldiers, though from what army - from what era? - she couldn’t say. Her brain lit up with impossible possibilities.
Without looking up, Eleanor asked, “Who are you people?”
The commander sighed. She turned her eyes to him, and she saw his face soften. His eyes were deep brown, sad, lines of worry creased well into the flesh of his forehead. The blond of his hair was like straw, the grey seemed fresh somehow, new. She figured he couldn’t be more than a handful of years older than she was - thirties, early forties perhaps - but he looked tired, harried, worn. He looked like he wasn’t sure he wanted to do this anymore. He reached out with his empty hand and grabbed a chair from the table, pulled it out for himself, and sat, setting his beer down.
“Eleanor, look,” he said earnestly. “There is very little chance that any of this is going to make sense to you.”
“Oh, don’t talk down to the poor girl, Commander,” said Dorian, still snuggling the kitten, who was still pleased about the snuggling, “there’s very little chance that any of this makes any sense to us, except that we have the distinct advantage of knowing about it first.”
It sunk into Eleanor’s mind for first time that the men had accents. She would call them English, but she didn’t know very much about accents, and they weren’t quite the same accent, either.
“Let’s start small then,” Eleanor groaned. “What’s that thing in the sky.”
Dorian answered succinctly. “It’s a rift. A Breach.”
Eleanor flicked her eyes from Cullen to Dorian. “A breach in what?”
Finally looking up from the cat, Dorian answered, “Well, that’s a question. It’s a Breach in… well, it’s more like a Breach between.”
She stared him down, and he pressed his lips thin and put the kitten on the floor, who beseeched him to pick her up again by mewling sadly for a few moments, before stalking off.
Dorian folded his arms. “Between…” he began slowly, then looked to Cullen, as though for approval, but the commander just shrugged, palms open to the air. “Between our world and yours.”
Eleanor cocked an eyebrow, expecting dissent from the more serious Rutherford, but none came. So she answered, “Huh.” She decided to let that one go for now. She wasn’t entirely sure how to object to it, at any rate. Standing up and shouting that that was bullshit didn’t seem like it would get her very far. “Where did it come from?”
“Well, that one we made,” Dorian offered.
“I thought as much,” Cullen said, exasperated. He put his elbows on the table and his palms on his forehead, fingers in his hair. Swiffer curled around the commander’s boots and meowed to see if this second new person would coddle her as well. Cullen peeked around his forearms to the floor, then lowered one hand to pat the creature on the head. “Hello, kit,” he said gently. Seeming satisfied, Swiffer bounded away.
Cullen refocused on Eleanor, folding his arms on the table. “Your people don’t know yet, then?”
Eleanor reached up to yank the hair elastic from her head. The tightness in her scalp was not being helped in any way by her sloppy bun, and she sent her nut-brown hair cascading down her back. Giving her scalp a quick scratch, then a rub, she said, “I don’t have any people. But I sure as hell don’t know anything about it. And I haven’t heard anything online, either. Nothing on Reddit or Twitter or anything. I’m pretty sure I would have remembered something about a - a, what did you call it, a breach?”
The commander’s eyes narrowed slightly in a way that indicated he had no idea what Eleanor was talking about apart from the fact that she was being honest about her lack of information. “Then you haven’t seen any darkspawn?”
“Pardon?” Eleanor thought for an instant that this was some elaborate hoax, some trick being played on her by - by whom? It didn’t matter - but it was wiped away by the sheer dismay on Cullen’s face, by the pained way he held his hands out to his gloves, snatching them up and crumpling them in his fists. If this was a trick, these two were excellent actors, and that thing in the sky was an excellent effect. But if it were all real… She snatched up her bottle of beer and drained it, slamming it back down on the table. “I want some answers,” she demanded, then seeing the stunned looks on the two men’s faces, added softly, “please.”Dorian glanced to Cullen and crossed his arms, saying, “Reminds you a bit of Trevelyan, doesn’t she.” Then he turned back to Eleanor and said, “I asked you about a map?”