This is an installment of a longer story (The Black Medallion) that has been going for a little while now. If you are just joining us now or would like to refresh your memory where we have come from, follow the links below (they are in story order).
Blame it on the Train
As he sifted through his pockets, he remembered the man from the train. The card. The man had given him a card to get a hold of him. There would be no payment, that was a given. At least not something he would be able to spend. He would be lucky to come away with his life.
It seemed like an ordinary card at first glance. Monsignor Brackstone 438 Sycamore Lane, a high-town address. A small emerald stone had been embedded in the upper left corner of the card. The words shifted and shimmered with varied colors, shaper magic.
He had slept longer than he originally thought. It was approaching late afternoon, and the sun neared the end of its journey across the sky. With Jak gone his options were limited. It was a fool’s errand but his path decided, and the station was close.
Later in the day the stations would slow down to pick back up again when workers returned for the evening. The crowd wasn’t such that Tisdan would be able to blend in and find a hidden way onto a train.
A cheap seat to high-town ran 3 copper. His money pouch was light but he still had the gold coin from the girl. This would buy him a good meal and more than a few trips to high town. He hated to spend it, gold in low-town would draw more attention than he wanted or needed. He paid for a private cabin like he did it all the time.
He settled in for the long ride to high-town. The amulet was back in his hand again. He hadn’t taken the time to examine it since the time at the shaper’s lab and that had been a brief glance.
The glow he used as a light seemed to come to him on instinct alone. He wasn’t sure how he did it though it felt natural. In the shaper’s lab it had spoken to him. What else could it have been? That image on the wall, the amulet showed him what had happened though his recollection had been cloudy at best. The door at his place had been another moment when the amulet responded to him. His need for safety jammed the door into place.
But none of this told him anything about the amulet itself. And then the mist, that strange mist that crossed the miles of the city. The amulet was something more than just the metal and its inscriptions.
Lost in thought, he didn’t hear the knock at the door. The second knock startled him, woke him from his reverie. He expected the conductor, waiting for his ticket or payment. It was the girl from yesterday.
“Ticket please?” Her soft smile burned through him as she pushed past him into the cabin. She glanced at the benches before she gave him a nod. “Do you often find yourself speechless?” she asked.
He stood in the open door, his mouth agape. It took him a few moments to collect his thoughts again. “Have we met?” The words felt hollow, as he stumbled over better responses in his mind. He lost the fleeting thoughts as he shut the door then sat on the bench across from her.
“It was only yesterday,” she said. “Do you woo so many girls that I am so easily forgotten?”
He readjusted his sash, ensuring the amulet was still in its place. “Did we have dinner?” He gave her a wry smile. “I know, we had tea at Donovan’s last week. You spilled jam on your dress.”
She frowned at him, crossing her arms. “Now you are simply toying with me,” she said. “And to think I found you to be a proper gentleman when last we conversed.”
“I remember now, it was on the train. We shared a car before.” His smile was softer, warmer.
She leaned forward, closer to him. “Much better. You left me at midtown. I had hoped to spend more time in your company.”
“I have business in high-town today.”
“Really? How long will you stay?” she asked. “We must have dinner. You will have time for dinner?”
“I can make time,” he said. “But I… I don’t even know your name.”
“It is settled then. We shall have dinner at, Donovan’s.” She smiled her eyes locked on his as she offered her hand. “Jillian.”
They continued with light conversation until the trained pulled into the high-town station. The conductor never knocked on their door.
They were the last to disembark, jostled through a group coming on. They stepped out into the chill, early evening air. Outside the station they walked to the street her arm in his.
“Are you sure I am dressed for Donovan’s?” he asked.
Her gaze settled on his eyes. “You’ll be fine,” she said. “If I didn’t know better, I would think you are trying to run out on me.”
He didn’t answer her, his attention pulled away to the cab that stopped at their section of the of the roadway.
“You aren’t planning on running out on me, are you?” she asked.
He held her hand and answered, “Not at all, but I do have some business I need to attend to.”
“Pish,” she said. “Men and their business. That can wait, we’ll have dinner first.”
He held the door for her, watched as she stepped into the cab. Tisdan stood at the door unsure if he should follow, caught by his own inaction. She took his hand from the door and gave a gentle tug.
“You won’t be getting away so easily this time,” she said. The door shut as the cab pulled away from the curb. “You aren’t often taken to dinner are you?”
“To be honest,” he said. “This is not something that happens, not to me. I eat on the go quite a bit.”
“An apple from the stands does not count as proper dinner,” she said.
His attention came back to her. “Apples are a rare treat,” he said. “They are better than the meat pies that Lau Bay sells.”
“I have never experienced one of these,” she said. “Is this “Lau Bay” a restaurant?”
“Nah, he sells at a stand on market day. His meat pies are awful but some call them filling.”
She digested the information, as her gaze never left him. “There is so much of your world I don’t know,” she said. “One day you shall have to show me around.” Her cheeks flushed red as she turned away from him with a soft giggle.
The cab pulled up to the curb outside of an old building. The bright sign, the word Donavan’s written in aether light, illuminated the walk to the door. A doorman, dressed in a deep red uniform jacket, stood immobile beside the entrance.
Jillian took Tisdan’s hand. “He’s with me.”
The doorman looked her over, then stepped aside. He said nothing as they walked through the door.
“You make it look easy,” Tisdan said.
She smiled, that same smile she gave him on the train, then whispered, “They know me here.”
Benches with soft cushions lined one wall, next to a staircase leading to an upper floor. The staircase had an ornate railing made from dark stained oak. The light for the room came from frosted glass sconces along both walls while leading to the upper floor as well. She guided him to the door at the far end of the entryway.
Light flared through the doorway when she pulled it open. A blast of light that glared at them as new wonders caught his eyes from every direction. Crystal chandeliers hung from the ceiling. Open tables were spread throughout the room with diners in various stages of dinner. But these were not what drew his attention. Instead the private tables scattered throughout cut a different picture of the setting. All that could be seen were the screens. Divider walls surrounded a number of tables within the dinning room. The light from above diffused and fell away from the top of each island. Those inside had complete privacy from the world outside.
“Now I know I am not dressed for this,” Tisdan said.
She pulled him into the room with her, and twined her arm into his. “I have a standing table,” she said. “We never need reservations.” They stopped at a table with settings for 6. “I can get us something more intimate if you prefer.”
He felt the eyes of the other patrons burning into him. A naked feeling that he couldn’t shrug away. When he glanced around the room, no one looked in their direction, but he couldn’t shake the feeling. His entire body had tensed with anticipation of … something, something he couldn’t quite explain. “It might be best. I feel a bit exposed here,” he said.
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