"All at once. It had happened all at once. The rush of people, brought together by happenstance; whether the circumstances were unfortunate or not were yet to be seen."
The rhythmic scratching of pen on paper was interrupted as the writer raised her head to nod at the Stagnant approaching. The man - it was difficult to tell Stagnant apart from each other but this one had a gruff voice, so the girl had simply boldly assumed - slammed down a chipped plate with a slab of meat and a single, thick chunk of bread and shuffled off, none too happy. The girl paused, gaze hovering between the food and the Stagnant, sighed, and returned to her scribblings. "The beginning was confusing enough, and then it appeared - Lucid. It spoke of a dream, and itself, a deity. Wherever this place is, it seemed to differentiate it as a dream realm and a waking realm. Is it speaking the truth? It spoke of a mission, to find it in its castle and destroy it. A mission to complete the Dream."
Another pause, and the girl lifted her pen off the paper. If they could even be called that. The events had happened in a whirl; the entity had shown itself, and just like that, dropped them into some kind of civilization. The buildings had been blindingly white, and quite pristine; it reminded her of the quaint little cottages she'd visited once. There was a startling lack of large technology like LED display TVs like Times Square, or advertisement boards. If anything, the streets looked too clean, as though the inhabitants of the civilization were very well-behaved. If the shock of seeing different species and individuals wasn't enough, then being introduced to these so called Stagnants certainly was. Seeing all these interesting forms straight out of a Tolkien movie was one thing, and seeing something scarily akin to Voldemort was another. She was ashamed to say, she matched the Stagnant's gaze of surprise and disgust the first time she saw them in teeming numbers, before having the good graces to drop her gaze, draw up her hood and scurry away to quieter corners. Taking a minute to do a quick pat down revealed a bag of coins and... a dagger. So this was it, then? They really were thrust into a game of survival with nothing except a knife to their name? The being had said so; dying in this dream meant you never get to wake up. What was this? Why
was this? And if given the opportunity, would she have it in her to kill someone to save herself?
Another sigh, and she leaned back further into her chair. The tavern she had found herself in was sparsely populated, and she had been met with the same accusing glares when she walked in, but she'd been able to block them out within 10 minutes of getting a seat and a meal. It had been all of a few minutes since the string of events and none of those minutes had been easy. The pen she was writing with was just a feather plucked from her back, the biggest one she could find, whittled into a quill of writing capacity with her dagger. The cuts were easy; she'd done them before. The ink was tricky to get; she wouldn't have known where to buy one even if she had the money. But all inks were just two things; a pigment and a binder. It wasn't the best, but a combination of dirt and spit had made her the most rudimentary of inks. Writing with it made her feel like a caveman discovering civilization all over again. The 'paper' had been even harder; it was a thin sheet of bark, stripped carefully from a tree hidden far from the public roads. Half of the poor thing had been shaved away before she could figure out how to get a decently large strip of pith to write on. The sheet of papyrus-like material was uneven, curling at the edges, still moist, and now emblazoned with words in a small, neat handwriting.
She carefully rolled up the crinkled sheet of wood and stowed it in the bag of coins. The coins themselves were startlingly different from the ones she was used to. She pulled out the one she'd found in her pocket and glinted them both in the dull tavern lamplight, marvelling at the pair. With a quick glance around, she hurriedly dropped them back in and pulled her meal closer. Grey hoodie up, movements quick and quiet, she tried to draw as little attention to herself as she crouched in the dimly lit seating area. The food was... not all too appetizing, but that's what you'd expect from the cheapest meal on the menu. Even so, it had taken a decent amount of her money, and she'd winced at the payment. The slab of meat was thick and underseasoned, the mashed potatoes were overcooked and graying and the bread was sourdough, and she hated sourdough. Was this all they ate here? Where were the vegetables? Had they never heard of scurvy? And the biggest disappointment of them all, she felt no semblance of satisfaction or fulfilment as she mopped up the last vestiges of her food. Had she turned into a horrible vampire or something? Did she not need to eat? Was she going to throw this all up later because her body couldn't digest it? But she could still taste the food... she pursed her lips and leaned back again, contemplating her next move. The plucked feather lay next to her plate, blending in well in the dim light. A black feather. Her shoulders were speckled with feathers of a gradient; black, white, grey. She looked like a little mottled raven.
She watched the Stagnant at the bar roughly wipe the counter and all at once, she was moving on her own.
"Hello, my name is Raven. Do you have any openings? I'd like to work here for you."
Her tone must have caught the Stagnant off guard, because he stopped wiping while eyeing her incredulously. He raised a hand to dismissively wave her away but she was ready for that. "Please, think about it. A lot of new people have appeared in town, and they'll be needing food,"
She paused for a second at the blatant lie, and hoped he didn't know that, "and you'll be needing extra hands to keep up with the extra business."
In the kind of assertion only a soft spoken teenage girl can do, she placed a hand on the counter, still maintaining steady eye contact with the Stagnant. "We don't hire the likes of you around here,"
The Stagnant finally deigned to speak, voice harsh, but low. So he wouldn't insult her publicly; that was a start. " ...I'll work for cheap,"
She piped up, and then dropped her voice again, "and... you can set me on kitchen duty, no one will have to see me work here. No one will have to know. I can cook well, and,"
She paused again, struggling to sweeten the deal, "and, in fact, I'll even bring my own ingredients. New ingredients, fresh from the fields, enough to widen the menu range. You don't have to pay me much or feed me, all I'll need..."
She glanced around, racking her brains. It was a long shot, but she had to try. "All I need is a place to stay. Give me a room and I'll work here, whatever job it is, cooking, cleaning, the dishes, whatever,"
Fighting off the urge to shrug noncommittally, she looked up pleadingly, watching the gears work away under the Stagnant's still veneer.
(Leaving this open ended here in case @Psymallard
decides the Stagnant would really not hire her. Ideally I was going to write a reasonable deal where she gets paid a tiny amount of gold per day, works mornings and nights at the busiest hours, and starts small as a kitchen assistant but over time gains enough trust to become a chef once her cooking is good enough)
Nobody becomes rich from the get-go. In a world where they were the invasive species, Raven didn't indulge in huge hopes. She knew it would take time, and effort, and dedication. There was a small ruckus on the streets outside; the patter of many feet drifted to her ears, and she knew she had to move fast and stay low. Some had left the city premises to kill the wildlife and practice their newfound skills. Some had taken to running off to do... whatever it was they wanted to do. And here she was; she hadn't even discovered what her skill was. So far she'd only been mildly irritated by the strange glitter she kept finding everywhere. It was all over her; her hands, her clothes, her face too, she'd wager. Dusting it off just seemed to leave behind marginally more of it, so she ignored it for the most part, and thankfully so did the people around her. Even now, she wasn't sure if playing it safe was the right way to go; but in a world where dying here meant perhaps never waking up in reality either... well, she didn't feel too explorative in terms of the truth of that statement. Her eyes roved over the inhabitants of the tavern, and almost as though she knew she'd find them, her eyes settled on a figure at the back. A hunched over silhouette draped with dull robes and a gnarled wooden stick, upon which the Stagnant leaned heavily. Every small movement from them created a gentle, jangling chime, emanating from the many necklaces draped around its neck, bejewelled with small, shiny stones, no doubt of a magical nature. If that wasn't telling of their unusual nature already, the quick cat-like glint in their eyes as Raven approached was the dead giveaway. Taverns attracted all kinds of people; the proletariat, the poor, the ones like herself, trying to get by... the ones trying to keep a low profile and blend in, the ones who may or may not be looking for something, always curious about the world. The ones who know more than they let on. The ones who understand and practice the magics of this world. One way or another, this was a wizard and she was determined to introduce herself.
"Hello, my name is Raven. Do you have any openings? I'd like to work for you..."
"All at once. Life tended to happen all at once. I do not know why we've all been brought here; for some it's a second chance, for some it's a death curse. For some... it's what we make of it. That is all."