Long story cycle coming your way.
This is the first installment and we will follow the pattern I have used for all the other long stories. Links will be shared to the rest as they appear. And of course, this one may need some clean up on the links as we go. But it will be set up for easy reading (at least that is the hope) as we go along.
The Black Medallion
The rain slowed, then came to a stop as dawn’s light broke through the clouds. The fog was rolling in, shrouding the streets in its embrace. The smoke billowing around the trains added substance to the mists. Mornings in the stations were often a blur, a place of shadows.
As the train pulled into the station the throng of people braced themselves, ready for the mad rush to board. This was only the first boarding of the day. The “earlies” headed to the mines and farms to start their daily cycles. With an ear piercing screech the train announced its arrival in the station. The crowd pushed on board as the night workers pushed off the other side. The normal exchange.
He checked the clock then swung from his perch to move to a new vantage point. In the chilly morning mists it paid to keep moving. Otherwise muscles could cramp up when you needed them most.
He moved to the market side of the station. The crowds on market day were easy to blend with. He might not always find coin on market day but he could always find food. The smells wafting from the sweets vendors caused his stomach to rebel against further progress.
Fighting through the press of bodies he bumped into a fat man also fighting through the crowd. “Out of my way whelp!” The man pushed Tisdan aside, spinning him out of his way. When he turned back he saw the fat man fall forward with a dagger protruding from the back of his neck.
Tisdan melded back into the crowd. The crowd that now surged around the body of the dead fat man. Though it wasn’t a planned distraction it was a sure way to allow him to sneak off, away from prying eyes. How he had managed to throw the dagger true caught him by surprise. This was not part of his training with Jaktor. Most of their current training was in self-preservation. Ways to defend yourself and avoid notice. This had been an assassin’s move.
As he was moving further away from the scene he felt a strange weight in his hand. He had forgotten about the purse he removed from the fat man’s belt when he bumped into him. The man would no longer be needing it anyway. He slipped the pouch into his belt then moved into the shadows behind a loading dock. From the dock he returned to his perch.
Again able to watch over the station he noticed the crowd begin to thin. Another body in low town, forgotten after it fell. A few stragglers were left to strip the body of anything of value. This was their way of “helping.” A short time later a crew from the station arrived and lifted the body to a stretcher. They pushed their way through the crowd toward the rail office.
Tisdan pulled the pouch out and emptied the contents into his hand. Not too bad for this time of morning. A couple of silver coins, also a strange medallion, were the better part of what it contained. There were markings on the medallion in an odd script, no resemblance to anything he had seen before.
The metal had a warmth different than the coins he normally sought. It was not something he would be able to spend outright. If he was lucky his fence might be able to give him a few bits for it at any rate. He slipped it into his pouch with the rest of the coins then tossed the empty purse into the distance.
Growing up in low-town, if you wanted to take the trains anywhere else you had to learn how to work the system. Workers had passes to get to and from their stations. These passes were marked with destinations and could only be used for “to and from.” To pass within the city special passes were required. Tisdan had a fake pass that allowed him to travel during high traffic times. It worked for quick looks. But later in the morning when the shift transfers have already been done, the inspectors would have more time to look at his pass.
On a good day he could find an unoccupied cabin he could slip into and hide in until he reached his stop. But other days it paid to be creative. With the right timing he could talk his way through a bad situation and come out on top.
He boarded the train and found a seat close to the cabins. The conductor was in one of the cars further ahead. They tended to check the cabins last. Passengers who could afford a cabin would not be getting off in low-town or mid-town. The train jerked forward, building speed as it pulled away from the station. He slipped through a thin crowd that had come from the last moments of the market that day.
He crossed from the low-rent car into the cabin car, the hall deserted. Looking back the inspector had made it into the car he just left. There would not be much time before he had to find a home. After a quick listen, he found a quiet cabin. He pushed it open and slipped inside.
He came face to face with a young woman sitting by the cabin window. Though she wore a clean white sun dress, wide brimmed sun hat with a parasol at her side, it was the book she had closed, holding her place with her finger, that caught his attention. She smiled at him, her eyes alight with curiosity. “Can I help you?”
Tisdan, quick to play the part. “Ticket?”
Still smiling, she said, “I have already had it checked.” She stood up. Though she appeared younger, she was still a few inches taller than him. “I do believe you may wish to move into the privy if you don’t want them to catch you.”
Once inside he heard a knock at the main door. There was little sound as it was opened, muffled voices come from the main cabin. The door closed again, and then a knock at the privy door a few moments later.
They spent the ride till mid-town in light conversation. She did not ask who he was or why he snuck into her cabin and revealed nothing of herself. They talked of the weather and state of the train system over tea and cakes as if this had been a daily occurrence. Tisdan felt a bit off but didn’t want to call attention to it and didn’t want it to end.
When the train pulled into the mid-town station he stepped toward the cabin door and bid her, “adieu.”
She stopped him with a hand on his shoulder and pressed a coin into his hand. “I wish you well in your travels.” She smiled and sat back down.
Tisdan pocketed the coin without looking at it, smiled, then melded with the passengers disembarking. He turned to watch the train pull away from the station, loaded with new passengers heading to new destinations. In the shadows he pulled the coin from his pocket. The gold shone smartly back at him, worth so much more than he can pilfer in his best weeks.
He absently slipped it into a different pocket of his shirt. The sparkle of the coin had lost its luster when he remembered her smile. Something about it had given him a chill but he couldn’t shake it, couldn’t get it out of his head.
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