Making Up for Yesterday
June 7, 2012
I totally missed posting yesterday and that’s my fault.
So here’s more Out of Thyme! Technically this is a followup to the last chapter posted, and after this I’ll be writing a new chapter for Out of Thyme. Between the last post and this one, as well, is probably going to be more fighting. Because I like writing fight scenes but I just couldn’t wrap my head around this one.
I grabbed my leather bag and cane, keeping my eye on the big guy between me and the door the entire time. He seemed amused at the idea that I might be able to get out. Instead of letting this get to me, I stretched my jaw and prepared for the worst.
I kept a tight grip on my cane as I spun down into a crouch before lashing out at the brute’s knee with my heel. I followed this up with a double-handed swing of my cane toward his cranium as I stood from the kick, not even bothering to check to see if the first strike had landed as I would have liked. I was rewarded with a sudden bark of frustration from him as my cane drove him toward the ground. Instead of pressing my sudden advantage, I broke for the door and ran toward the elevator.
The hallways were empty, luckily, and I had no problem calling for the next car. I could hear him following me down the hallway but thanks to the odd design of the hallways and the hotel, I couldn’t tell how far. It was like his footsteps were everywhere. I snapped the cane’s handle down and converted it into a sabre. Just as he came around the corner into the elevator lobby, a car arrived and I dove into the protective meal chassis and hammered the button for the lobby. I kept my saber poised at the door long enough to hold him off until the doors closed.
And I was safe. At least until the elevator stopped and I had to deal with the man again. I folded my sword back into a cane and flipped out the grip. When the doors opened in the lobby, I tried my best to sink into the crowd, disappear, and walk out onto the street.
The crowd was welcoming and pressing as I hit the street. I didn’t have a proper coat but I did have my jacket and hat. Luckily this was enough to blend into the crowd, on the whole, as men’s fashions have never been as varied or as colorful as women’s fashions in hot and muggy climates. My brown and tan ensemble was no different than those around me as I slipped toward the central tent. All the while listening intently for a large, frightening man behind me and trying not to dwell on the disturbing sound of the calliope in the night.
When I made it into the network of platforms that makes up circus, I hid deep in the shadows and crept up on the smugglers’ meeting. All of the small top tents reeked of spilt beer and engine grease, with this particular tent smelling strongly of metal shavings as well. The musicians were gathered under the stage they normally played on and were having some sort of party when I found them.
All told, there were five musicians and six or seven others who were clearly not part of the smuggling ring directly. Or, if they were, they were going to great lengths to not be near the musicians themselves. Sprawled on some kind of throne made of rolled carpets and discarded wood sat the guitarist that led the ensemble. He was lean and sharp, made of corded muscle, jutting bones, and an unearthly luminescence. His hair was bright as sunshine and splayed about his face like he was standing in a windstorm, perfectly complimenting the insane grin he seemed to wear at all times. The bassist sat just to his right. She was a mountain of a woman, tall and thick, with a smoldering pipe hanging out of her mouth. She seemed to be upholstered in her clothes, tight leather pants and vest, but there was nothing sexual about how she carried herself – not that anyone would try anything with her anyway, her arms were probably strong enough to crack beer kegs by themselves. The drummer sat beside her, and looked to be the bassist’s younger and wispier sister. She was also smoking, though it was a rolled cigarette of some kind, and was wearing a pair of torn mechanic’s pants (with all of the tools replaced with knives of various types) and a thick velvet half-cape around her shoulders. Throughout the meeting, despite saying nothing, she seemed to have some sort of control over the guitarist with how she handled the knife in her hands. There has never been a time where I haven’t seen her without a knife in her hands. The other guitarist was a lithe, light and tall woman with long, wavy brown hair. The way her face was shaped, with how long and thin her hands and fingers (and, well, everything) was, she had the look of a heron or crane turned into a person. As well as a mouth built to scowl. The last member of the group was the strangest, at least in the Empire in general. The band’s singer was a mountain of a man, brown as bread, with raven-black hair tied back in a braid. The face he wore was carefully neutral, dispassionate, in a way that spoke of sadness and hardship in a way that only the Natives understand. Since the French-Indian War, the Empire has had a slight racial problem with the Natives of the Americas, treating them like violent savages. It’s incredibly rare to see anyone of Native descent in the protectorates of the Empire, let alone within any of the cities. He leaned against a support beam in the darkness through most of the meeting, so I never got to see what he was wearing.
At least I was in good hands as far as getting into the Workshop. The smugglers clearly weren’t strangers to dangerous hijinks.
The other people there were dressed in matching suits, all of Italian design, and carried cartridge hand canons. It was hard to miss the impression on their coats from the gun holsters. While I’d love to reproduce their conversation for you, to know exactly what it was that the smugglers had brought to the Italian suited gentlemen and how much the suits were fleeced for such services, the entire conversation took place in Esperanto, which I do not speak nor understand. For now, it is important to know that the men in the suits were intimidated by smugglers in general, and appeared to have good reason to be so.
And I’d love to say that I introduced myself and things went swimmingly but by now I’m sure you realize that didn’t happen. What did happen was the Queen’s Special Dispatch agents showed up and the smugglers and I were introduced through mutual survival.