Magic Ink 9

The boarding house where I lived before my stay in Tent City was a welcome sight. Lamps were on in the common area, and kitchen, gentle piano music drifted toward me.

My feet hurt, all I wanted to do was throw myself on a bed and let dreams take me. It wasn’t in the best part of town but Nana’s Boarding House was the closest thing to a home I’d had in a long time.

I knocked on the door and waited. A red haired girl a couple of years out from womanhood answered the door.

“Nana’s Boarding House, can I help you sir?”

“Is Nana in? I’d like to get my room back.”

She pulled the door close, “Yes sir, one moment.”

I heard her move toward the kitchen calling for the elderly woman.

“Who is it? I’m up to my elbows in dough.” Her voice brought back scores of memories.

“I don’t know sir, but he don’t got no shoes on.”

“Doesn’t have.” Nana corrected.

A few moments later the door opened and I looked down at the heartily plump grey haired woman with bits of bread dough stuck to her fingers.

She stared at me for a brief moment. “Who…” then a flash of recognition appeared on her round face. “Victor? Victor!”

She charged forward wrapping her arms around me. “Oh Victor we thought the worst when we heard about Tent City!” bits of unbaked bread stuck to my clothing.

She pulled me inside and the girl closed the door. The boarding house hadn’t changed much, the well warn yet serviceable furnishings, the wonderful smells coming from the kitchen and the big scruffy dogs. They came up, tails wagging excited to see me.

A flurry of questions came from my surrogate mother.

“I’ll answer everything as soon as I…”

“Get something to eat. You look half starved my boy.”

Moments later I sat at the kitchen table eating fresh hot from the oven bread and butter. I was in heaven. Nana cut me another piece, steam rose from the slice as she slathered it with a heavy helping of raspberry marmalade.

“Where have you been? When we heard Tent City had been overrun…”

I told them the events as well as I could remember. I told them about rescuing Carolyn, fleeing the onslaught of the Skaji, my imprisonment and redemption.

The young girl sat on the edge of her seat. I found out her name was Marinda. She was another one of Nana’s strays she was caring for in exchange for some help with the household chores. Nana probably didn’t make enough coin to break even but I doubt she cared. She had enough money from the sale of her late husband’s chain of tailor shops to last two lifetimes.

“You actually flew on the back of one of them giant birds?”

“Those.” Nana corrected.

“Those giant birds?”

I sighed, “Yes it was… a dream of mine.” The spot where Windrider’s consciousness had resided felt especially empty.

“Me too. I’m gonna be a Raptor Rider when I’m older.”

“Going to.”

I didn’t know what to say, but I’d never heard of a woman Rider before. “Sounds like a good dream.”

Nana took a sip of her Matte. “Marinda, why don’t you go make up a bed for Victor in the Green room.”

“But I wanna hear more of Victor’s stories.”

“Want to.” She corrected, “He’s done with the stories tonight. Now go.”

“Yes Nana.” The girl said reluctantly.

Once the girl was up the stairs, Nana turned to me and adjusted her thick glasses. “Nice story Victor. Now what have you really been doing? Hmm?”

I rubbed my pounding temples, “Nana, how long have you known me?”

“Ever since you were a, wide-eyed fresh from the farm, apprentice.”

“Right. In all that time have you known me to be a liar.”

She shrugged, “No, but your story sounds like pure fantasy. Where are your shoes by the way?”

“Thirty Three stole them.”

“Well that just won’t do. Tomorrow you go straight to Ned’s, tell him I sent you and he’ll have your feet shod straight away.”

I shook my head, “Nana, I don’t need charity, I’ve a little money in my First National accounts.”

“You don’t need charity? My boy, you look half starved, have no shoes, and don’t have two coins in your pocket.”

“True, but that’s probably because I was half starved.” At least they had given me my pistol back, but no powder and balls. “Do you still have the trunk I left?”

She nodded as she slowly got up from the table. “Of course, it’s in the basement.”

I stood and took a step toward the basement door.

“Oh no you don’t, you can play with your things tomorrow, off to bed with you now.”

“But.”

She gave me the evil eye, I conceded. I was too tired to lug the heavy box up the stairs anyway.

“Good night Nana.”

“Good night Victor.”

I was almost out of the kitchen when she called out. “Victor.”

“Yes?”

“Be sure you bring this girl Carolyn back here. I would like to meet her.”

I sighed, “Nana it’s not like that…”

“Nonsense, I know you have feelings for her.” She smiled, her plump cheeks showing their ample dimples.

“How could you tell?”

“Every time you mentioned her name, your eyes told me.”

I leaned up against the door frame, “Am I that easy to read?”

“Like a book, my boy.”

I rubbed a sleepy eye, “It wouldn’t be proper for me to call upon her. She’s a Magus.”

“But did she not tell you to come see her at the University?”

“Yes but…”

“Well then she must have some interest in you. Though I’m not sure why.”

“Good night Nana.” I said with a shake of the head.

“I will be most unpleased if I do not meet her.”

I nodded and stumbled away.

I struggled up the stairs, why couldn’t Nana own a single level? I walked through the open door of what I assumed to be the Green room, nearly knocking Marinda over.

“Excuse me, sorry.” I said.

“It’s alright. I’m well.” She said as she brushed a red curl out of her eyes.

“Why’s this called the Green room?” I asked.

“Do you not see?”

I looked around; I realized this used to be my room. The plain walls had been painted with a sweeping mural. Grasslands with running bison, forests with Raptors skimming the branches. Rivers and streams circled the room.

“It’s beautiful.”

“You really think so?” She asked.

“Yes, who painted this?”

She blushed and looked down at her toes.

“You did?”

She nodded,

“You have a gift.”

“Thank you, it’s nothing. Nana just let me…”

“It’s not nothing. These murals are beautiful.”

She took a step toward the door, “Well good night, I hope you enjoy sleeping in the Green room.”

I blew out the lamp, climbed under the quilts, and fell asleep.

My dreams seemed eerily empty without the flying, hunting, and salty taste of the blood of freshly killed prey. I know it may seem odd, but after haring Windrider’s dreams I felt lost and alone in my own mind.

There must be a lot of empty space in your mind if you can get lost in it.

Did you just insult me?

Umm, yes.

How incredibly rude! Here I am ripping open my soul to you, and all you can do is insult me.

Hey you left yourself open for that one.

Fine finish the story yourself, smarty trousers!

(Psst there’s more… scroll down.)

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Why are you’re still here. Didn’t that blank page deter you at all?

Come on, I have to know what happens next.

Nope. I’m not going to tell you about my visit to the Magorum University or the Skaji siege of Vassar.

Please.

I’m not listening. Blah de blah blah!

I’m sorry.

I don’t believe you.

How can I prove that I’m sorry?

Tell me that I’m the best story teller in the world.

Umm what?

Come on, say “Victor is the best story teller there ever was, or ever will be.”

Victor is the best story teller there ever was, or ever will be.

Louder.

Victor is the best story teller there ever was, or ever will be.

What? I can’t hear you. Speak up please.

Victor is the best story teller there ever was, or ever will be.

That’s better. Now where were we?

Your empty dreams.

Yes right. Sharing ones dream with an animal was unsettling at first, but when I woke in the morning I found I missed it.

The sun shone brightly through the window, it must have been close to mid day. I wandered downstairs and pilfered a slice of bread, and a bit of cheese. Nana must have been gone to the market, and the other residents of the boarding house were out working for a living.

I lit a lamp and made my way down into the basement. I’d only been down there a handful of times, usually to fetch something for Nana. I found my trunk of personal belongings intact. I lugged the heavy thing up two flights of stairs and laid it at the foot of my bed.

This trunk had cost me nearly three months of wages making flintlock rifles. But it was worth every coin I’d saved to get it. The lock was painted with magic ink. The heavy steel banded trunk had been set up to only unlock for me.

I whispered the password and pressed my fingers on the formerly shiny brass pads. The heavy locking mechanisms clicked and turned, retracting the hidden steel bolts.

Inside I had a spare set of Journeyman’s tools, powder and improved balls, a few personal belongings and a small stash of emergency coin, but no pair of shoes.

I took my tools, coin, and loaded my pistol. I needed a new job. A journeyman without a good set of tools would not be easily hired in Vassar.

I locked my trunk, and slid it under the bed. Hidden by quilts I hoped it would be missed by an amateur burglar. I was about to leave when I thought of the prisoners toiling under the mountain.

I re-opened the trunk, pulled out my scribble book and charcoal pencil. I sat the green room’s little table and began drawing. I spent at least an hour trying to figure out how to fashion leather, glass, and metal to do what I wanted.

I drew pictures of masks, helmets and tubes. I needed something more than leather to work with. I had heard of a new material from the island protectorates, sheet rubber. We’d been using rubber on boots but it was thick heavy slabs, not particularly suited to my current project. I’d have to find some of this rubber and see what I could do with it.

I made my way to Ned’s Taylor shop like Nana had instructed. In a few minutes I had a new pair of boots. It felt so good to not have my bare feet scraping on the cobblestones. With new boots, tools, and skills I set off to find some work. The first thing I did was scuff up my boots. A shop owner might wonder why a man with fresh new shoes was looking for work.

I visited a couple of the smaller arms workshops in the craftsman district. Most were full up with workers. Others didn’t see the need to expand. I tried to tell them a full scale shooting war with Skajistan was probably only days away.

Reaction to the news of the destruction of Tent City was varied. Some didn’t worry at all, others hadn’t even heard. I never understood those people who only looked at where they were. Some people didn’t plan five minutes in advance for anything.

I found a small shop that was down a journeyman, The Master Rifle Maker told me he had up and disappeared a couple of weeks ago. He didn’t want to hand me the job, but when I hand fit the action of a Vassar Mark IV Infantry Rifle in front of him he asked when I could start. I even got to keep the vanished Armsmaker’s tools.

I now had a fair job, boots and a dry place to sleep. Many people couldn’t say the same.

Walking back to the boarding house after a half day in Sam’s Ye Olde Rifle Works, my thoughts turned to Carolyn. What was going to happen in six days when I saw her again?

On to Chapter 10

2 Responses to Magic Ink 9

  1. Colin says:

    “Oh Victor we thought the worst when we heard about Tent City!” bits of unbaked bread stuck to my clothing.

    Its bits and pieces like this that really make good writing into great writing. Adds flavor, personality, and makes the story more real. I like.

  2. Colin says:

    Um, I like the conversation with the reader. The reader seems witty and sarcastic, and somehow, that comes across as flattering to the actual reader, if that makes sense. Anyway I like it.

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