“These are my sisters, Lily and Rose. They would be the little girl and the baby that you see in the picture you and I were discussing. Girls, this is… You know, I actually don’t think I ever asked your name,” he said, remembering his manners.
“Joshua Marlowe,” Josh answered, feeling like an ant under a microscope.
“Huh. You have a weird accent,” Lily said.
“Lily!” Rose chided, giving her a reprimanding glare. “You’ll have to pardon her. Sometimes she has a tendency to say things a bit more bluntly than usual.”
Josh just smirked, finally feeling some of the tension ease from the ironic comedy of her saying that he had a weird accent. “It’s fine. So, where exactly am I?”
“Like I said, you’re just a long walk away from Dunwoodton,” Byron responded matter-of-factly.
“Right, but where is that? No offense, and thank you for helping me out, but I need to get back to New Orleans before my grandfather starts to worry.”
Three faces instantly formed a confused expression. Rose and Byron turned to each other and shared a look of bemusement before he faced Josh again. “I’m sorry, Joshua, but I don’t even have any clue where that is.”
Josh was taken aback in surprise. “New Orleans? One of the largest cities in the state of Louisiana?” When that met no response, Josh was desperately trying to grasp how they had never heard of the city. “What state am I in?”
“You’re in Deyras, on the Eastern frontier province of Dunwood. Are you feeling well, mate?” Byron asked, concerned Josh’s memory might have been damaged.
“I… I don’t know.” Josh’s head began to spin as the gears started turning. Something was severely wrong here. These people were speaking with a vaguely familiar but foreign accent, wearing Victorian era clothing with contemporary items, and told him he was in a nation that, to his knowledge, did not exist.
His thoughts were broken by Lily’s voice. “So, what’s it like being blind?”
“Look, I’m not blind, ok?” Josh shot back, more out of frustration with this enigma than genuine anger. Lily retreated temporarily.
“Our guest is of the Coeden, Lily,” Byron explained, eliciting a surprised glance from the two girls. Even Rose, who had seemed fairly calm thus far, had an obvious spark of curiosity at the revelation.
There was that word again: Coeden. What could that possibly mean? Josh had no time to ponder this, however. If lily was curious before, she had now become ravenously inquisitive. “Great spirits! Really? Wow. Can you tell me about your people? Is it true that you sleep in trees? Can you really live off just a few raindrops? Can you-”
“Hold on, hold on.” Josh interrupted, already way over his head in exposited information. “What is a Coeden?”
Byron shot Josh a look that practically spelled out the phrase Are you kidding me? “The Coeden tribe. The tribe you belong to. You know, they who live among the trees.”
Josh gave up trying to infer anything from the random bits of information he was being told. “Ok, look. Deyras, Dunwood, blank eyes, Coeden- I don’t understand a shred of what you’re talking about.”
Byron remained staring for a moment, utterly perplexed as to what to do. Finally, he broke the tension and turned to Lily. “Lily, I want you to go ahead and tend to your chores. Rose, I would appreciate it if you warmed some coffee from this morning up. Our friend and I obviously have a great deal to talk about.”