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Short Story: The Effect Of Starlight, Part 1

In a departure from my usual style, I came up with the title of this one first.

The Effect Of Starlight

Cabath came to in a cemetery. It was old, and other than Cabath and the bodies that he presumed were buried beneath the hundreds of gravestones, it was uninhabited. A tree, bare of leaves, stretched its branches to a sky that was strangely black. Following the line of the tree up, Cabath rolled onto his back and looked into the sky above him. It was full of stars, and that, for a moment, took him completely aback.

As he lay there looking at the stars, the patterns entirely unfamiliar to him,he noticed that a moon, too, sat in the sky above him. In defiance of everything he knew about Earthly cosmology, at least, it danced slowly around the dome, seeming to move between the stars almost at random, which disturbed Cabath so greatly that after a few minutes he couldn't stand to watch it anymore and got to his feet.

The cemetery, it now became apparent, was on a hill overlooking a town. From what Cabath could see, it was only barely that; it had only a few thousand inhabitants at most. Still, those inhabitants might at least be able to tell him where he was, so Cabath headed down the hill, toward what appeared to be an all-night diner. As he walked, he noticed that the shifting moon made for shadows and light patterns that shifted eerily, and to avoid being bothered further by it he fixed his eyes on the diner and didn't stop walking until he was inside the front door.

"You're new here," said the hostess who greeted Cabath inside the door. She was tall and slim, in a shirt, tie, and slacks, with long black hair and the green tint to her skin that marked her as a Daughter of Lilith. "What's your name, hon?"

"Cabath," he said, looking around. Most of the rest of the denizens of the diner seemed to be demons as well, and those whose shape Cabath didn't recognize were certainly not human. "Call me Cab. Where am I?"

The Lilim smiled and gestured, with the menu in her hand, to a table. "Right now? Gyorcz's Place. And that one's free, because you gave me your name. Sit down, take a load off. Welcome to town."

Cabath blinked at her and sat at the indicated table. "No, I mean, what's the name of the town?" he asked, looking up at the Lilim as she handed him a menu.

She laughed and winked, then met his gaze. "This one's not free," she said quietly. "What'll you give me for it?"

"What's your price?" he asked. Dealing with the Daughter was familiar territory, and prolonging the conversation helped him get his wits about him.

She smiled. "Something small. A favor, a mote."

Cabath paused a moment while he did some mental math. "I'll trade an hour's work for six questions."

It was the Lilim's turn to pause, but she nodded after a few seconds. "Done. Ask away."

"You know the first one," he said. "As for the rest, I'll ask them after you're off duty. Don't want to keep you from your customers." For emphasis, he gestured back to the door, where a ragged serpent had just arrived.

"I'll be waiting," she said, leaving the menu on the table and standing up. "Don't forget. And the name of the town is Socan."
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