The tome that lay open on the desk looked fairly new, but was already heavily bookmarked. Tara had seen the cover a few times on the train down to Colwdvatn, enough to know that it was a volume of the Registry of theNovus Packus Magicae, which Seema had told her was a registry of known rune circuit patterns. Olsen had freely, and she suspected unwisely, admitted to not knowing how to read rune circuits. Clearly, this wasn’t on the local curriculum.
With a gleam in her eye, the Tinlander had dragged the two of them upstairs to the bedroom and sat down at her desk with Tara over her left shoulder and Finn to her right. The tome had been lying open on page 220 or 229 before, but the other girl had quickly turned to page 15. This bore the title “Simple Light Circuit.”
I hate the night. Nothing good comes out of it. Brigands, wolves, bears, you name it. There’s a reason nobody back in the foothills of my homeland goes out at night unless they need to. And it’s not the local vampires; they’ll extract a price for it, but they’ll at least guide a farmer home safely.
Down here in the Sydfjords, worse things come out of it.
Just like the station, the inside of the house was far brighter and warmer than the outside. The walls were a shade of white that, while plain, complemented the warm orange glow of the oil lamps. To her right, a narrow and slightly crooked staircase ran up to the next floor, disappearing underneath a grey shaft of light from a window or skylight. The opposite side of the corridor led down to a pair of doors, one of which was ajar and emitted a warm, vaguely fishy smell.
None of that mattered right now. Tara’s attention was taken up entirely by the large and extremely hairy dog trotting down the stairs with far more speed than the thick, corded hair in front of its eyes should have permitted. It must have been a dog, for it bore the general four-legged shape of one, and the deep bark that emanated from underneath the white corded hair reminded her of a boarhound that one of her father’s business partners owned. But the sheer size of it put her on edge; that thing’s shoulders were just a few centimetres below her elbows, even before it reared up and planted it’s paws on von Clief’s shoulders!
The view from the train window did not appeal to Tara. Grim, grey rocks sandwiched between a grey sea and sky. Squat stone sheds, warehouses and factories lined the far side of the harbour. Behind them, faded red huts or shacks that looked as though they could barely hold up to a stiff breeze lined the walls of the canyon – the fjord, she reminded herself. And above it all was the smell of fish and salt.
As the train slowed to a halt next to the main station building, her impressions of the town did not improve any further. The exposed wooden platform had long since lost any colour to the elements, and the faded white paint of the station looked like somebody had simply given up on maintaining it. About two thirds of the station windows had been shuttered, and the rest were too grimy to be fit for purpose.
She wrinkled her nose when she climbed down from the carriage as the smell of fish grew even more potent. Behind her, Seema remarked that it smelled like somebody had been painting with fish guts. But there was no time to comment on this, for the wind pierced their clothes as they left the shelter of the train and walked the five metres to the station doors. She could have sworn that a haphazard pile of crates creaked ominously as she passed it.
“Fresh fruit pies! Fruit pies, fresh from the oven!”
“Try this cheese and taste-”
“Tinland Station! All passengers-”
“Readallaboutit! Archmage’s Council deadlocked-”
“-looking to travel to the Sydfjords-”
“Sausage rolls, three for a taler! Grab ‘em while they’re hot!”
“-should embark from Platform Three!”
“This way, Tara. Platform Three, please,” Rose called, threading her way past a gaggle of vendors while effortlessly waving for a porter to handle their luggage. Tara followed, starting to feel slightly overwhelmed at the cacophony of noise and choking vapours that permeated the station.
This is the potential first chapter in a new fantasy/Western series I’m planning. I’ve had something like this kicking around my skull for a while, and I need to work on something different. Is this worth continuing?
The green tiles that lined the bottom half of the room’s walls smelled of coal tar. So did the plain whiter upper walls, the bed that stood against the far wall, the night-stand and the stool in front of it. Everything smelled of it, even the girl who who lay curled up on the bed, bandaged hands tucked between her auburn-covered head and the striped pillow.
A sudden knock at the door caused her pale blue eyes to jerk from an unseen point through the wall tiles and turn to her left as her head started upright. She hurriedly sat up, feeling her mouth dry up as the door swung open and a nurse stepped through.
“Tara?” The black-haired, grey-eyed woman who followed the nurse inside wore a scarlet robe that bore an embroidered white patch on either chest. One displayed a flask of green liquid with fumes pouring from the top; the other showed a hand gripping a staff that appeared to be topped with a glowing ball.