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Vivian Dormer woke up in the darkness and was, briefly, confused about where she was and why she felt so awful.
An annoying arrhythmic ticking was happening somewhere to her left, an uneven patter that made her waking even less comprehensible. She raised a hand to scrub her face, then sighed as her surroundings slowly became familiar again.
She was in her new room, in her new apartment, in a new city—a place her aunt had rented for her and practically forced Viv to move to. It was across Canada, a good eight-hour flight from her home in B.C., but was a much shorter distance to travel with careful use of gates in the Otherworld, sending her from one Valley to another.
It was that trip which had made Viv so sick that she’d barely eaten for days, only getting up to take care of the cats and shove a piece of bread or two into her mouth before stumbling back to bed. She hated having to spend time in the Otherworld—it always did this to her, like she’d never really got acclimatized to it no matter how long she was forced to spend in it. The magic she supposedly had in her body reacted to the Otherworld, but some sort of…allergy did too. She couldn’t go too far from a gate or the active magic in her body would start to quell, something that would also make her sick. But she couldn’t go all the way into the Otherworld easily either without the magic in her body staging a complete revolt.
She basically had no choice but to live in a Valley. The Uncanny Valleys were the rifts that had been torn into the human world when the gates to the Otherworld had opened a couple of decades earlier. Not quite human territory and not quite monster territory, it was considered an ideal place for witches and other monster-adjacent humans to live—although, of course, they were also heavily occupied by humans and monsters alike. The one she’d lived in near Vancouver had been just fine for her, familiar and comfortable, until…
Viv considered going back to sleep, rolling over with a groan to face the window.
She should have known better than to date within her aunt’s coven. She was already treated more like a novelty than a proper witch, some sort of scientific curiosity to the others. The magical veins in her body failed to work right, and only her aunt’s word to the others that the magic did live in Viv gave her any clout. Viv knew it was there too, could feel it inside her, knew it was what kept making her sick. But the only thing she could do with it was minor divination, fortune telling to help herself guide her actions or foretell the weather or things like that. Simple tricks, half of them wrong or, perhaps, changed through the actions she took after doing the foretelling.
No matter how many spells she memorized, the language of them seemed to escape her. Like a mundane human with no monster blood, the spells just didn’t want to be spells for her. She’d doubted herself a dozen times, despite feeling the magic inside her; her parents were mundane, even if her aunt was a witch—couldn’t she be too? But her aunt had insisted that Viv join her, and Viv couldn’t say no. And, since she had to be in the coven anyway, she’d tried to make the best of it.
Sure, dating had been nice, but having a messy break-up with one of the covenmates? It had practically caused a faction split.
So here she was, in Branwin’s Valley. On her own, in a city she hadn’t picked, in an apartment she hadn’t picked, in a room she still wasn’t familiar with, boxes literally everywhere since she’d been too sick to unpack.
But… she was feeling better finally, she had to admit. The effects of the Otherworld had passed, and she was just hungry now, and with an awful caffeine headache. Viv sat up, rubbing her head with a grumble, scrunching her hair between her fingers. With everything still packed, maybe she should order something in? Or maybe it’d be better after so long stuck inside to go out, find a coffee shop, start to get used to the area. She needed to do something to get herself fed ASAP, anyway.
The patter started up again, this time accompanied by a chittering meow next to the bed from one of the cats—Beano, from the sound of his relatively deep voice. So the sound was a bug trapped behind the curtain, huh?
Viv hauled herself out of bed, straightening her fox-patterned pajamas, and nudged Beano out of the way of the curtain. She reached in behind it—and closed her hand directly around the bug, with perfect aim.
Holding it loosely, careful of the flutter of wings in her hand, Viv pulled it to her. Peeking down at it, she saw an absolutely enormous moth huddled in the curve of her hand. She froze, a little grossed-out but mostly afraid to do damage to it by holding it too tightly.
But it just stayed where it was, little legs on her hand, seeming to look up at her between the gaps in her fingers.
“Better get you outside,” she muttered. The balcony would do.
Beano let out a plaintive meow, pawing at her leg. He’d been hunting it, she recalled; he’d want her to give it to him instead.
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[Next Day: Day Two]