I almost forgot (actually, I did forget, so this is a couple days late). If this is your first venture in the Journey’s End story, don’t start reading here. Please go check out the table of contents and read from chapter 1.
For me this is an interesting chapter, and I’m not sure how it will work. When I’ve written everything I imagine that this chapter and the next chapter will probably be the two chapters that will require the most rework to them, but as it stands I’m relatively happy.
My problem is that I don’t like it when things move too fast. I don’t know, it feels like there should be an infinite between everything that happens, so when transition chapters come along, I tend to be a little apprehensive. This, I suppose, stems from my approach to story telling, where every chapter is really supposed to be a scene, or something like that.
As it stands, I’ve already explained part of why it took so long to write this chapter. To be sure, there will be many chapters that will take no time at all, but this chapter was tricky because it is the beginning of one of the most important relationships in the story, but also because, as I’ve mentioned before, because I didn’t realize that this chapter needed to be split up, and so I had actually written another scene that will be the beginning of the next chapter.
But beyond that, there’s not a whole lot to remark upon, and I suppose it is up to you folks to determine if what I was trying for was a success or not.
So, we’ll have to see.
Chapter 4: Everywhere Town
With a tip of a spear held menacingly close to her throat, Lindsey was quite positive of exactly one thing; she didn’t much care for having her life threatened, and she would be very grateful if it wasn’t threatened ever again.
“I said who goes there?” the voice repeated itself, to which Lindsey only gulped in reply.
In the dim, flickering light cast by a source Lindsey was far too preoccupied to notice, she could only make out a rough silhouette of the figure to whom the spear belonged. He was short, squat, and wearing what appeared to be a set of bulky armor that made a clumsy clunking noise every time he shifted his weight. She couldn’t quite make out his face, but then, it was something just being able to focus on anything other than the sharp, metallic point that hovered only inches away.
He shook the spear threateningly, and Lindsey heard a pathetic squeak escape her throat.
“Put it away, Al!” another voice called out, followed by a series of low grumbles. “Jeez, what’s wrong with you? Can’t you tell she just came out of the Someone Else Room?”
The dark figure turned his head, his armor sounding like the shaking of a bag of coins as he did so. “And how do you know, eh?”
A taller, thinner figure walked into Lindsey’s view, and pointed at her. “The pajamas might be a dead giveaway.”
“What if it’s a trick?”
From the new arrival, Lindsey heard a disgusted sigh before he grunted, “Right, yes. And what danger does she pose? Gonna bludgeon us all to death with that book in her hand?”
Unconvinced, Al snapped, “Maybe.”
And then the taller figured lifted a hand, and pushed the spear down to the ground. Lindsey took a deep, shaky breath.
“You’ll have to excuse Al, here,” he said congenially. “We normally keep our junior guards on the South Gate, you know, because there’s really no threat to speak of gonna come from the south. Not that we get many threats coming here from the North either, but Al’s been ‘junior’ now for about twenty years. Never could get the knack. Name’s Tom, Tom the guardsman. What’s yours?”
“Lindsey,” she replied, squinting through the dark to try to force her eyes to see at least some detail in the two guards, but to no avail.
“What are you… Oh, sorry about that, come on Al, step back a bit, she can’t see. Sorry about all this, Lindsey.”
The two shadowy figures backed up underneath the glow of a burning torch set atop a rusty looking tripod, and Lindsey noticed that the two guardsmen weren’t guardsmen after all, but merely boys. Neither seemed much older than she was.
“You’re just ki…” she began and thought better of it. “You’re just… doing your job, right?”
“Ha!” Tom guffawed. “More often than not, seems my job is keeping Al from giving people holes they don’t want or need. Like I said, I’m really sor…”
“I don’t need you to apologize,” Al snarled. “Still don’t think we should trust her.”
“Al… Why don’t you go do a set of rounds?”
Al gave Lindsey a nasty little scowl, his pudgy features screwing up tight like the bottom of a lemon, and then he plodded off, the chinking of his armor still audible long after the shadows of night swallowed him whole.
Tom smiled at Lindsey apologetically. “Good guy, Al,” he said. “Excitable, but still a good guy. So… anyway… I was right, right? You did just come from the Someone Else Room?” As Lindsey’s eyes grew accustomed to the low orange light, she could tell that Tom was at an awkward stage of development that one would hope was only temporary. A few spots of acne stood out on his cheeks, while his nose looked as though it had grown to manhood while it waited for the rest of his face to catch up. That progression, however, appeared to be sketchy going as the stubble on his chin was patchy at best; bald in some spots with little tufts of ungainly hair sprouting up elsewhere.
“Yes,” Lindsey nodded. “Just this morning, I think.”
“Well! I bet you’re hungry, aren’t ya?”
She nodded emphatically.
“We got a lot of restaurants here in Everywhere Town, but I have to recommend the Gut Rot Pub. Great place for newcomers; old Bill tends to be pretty generous to first timers.”
Lindsey frowned. “Gut Rot? Doesn’t sound very…”
“Don’t worry,” Tom waved at her. “It’s one of those… whatdyacallem names? You know, where the name means the opposite of what it really is?”
“There ya go,” he smiled. “Gut Rot’s an ironic name. Great food. I still eat there myself from time to time. Wanna know how to get there?”
Tom explained how to get to the Gut Rot, his armored arm waving intently at the town fervently in demonstration. As he carried on, Lindsey found it curious to say the least that the way to get there could be so complex in a town seemingly so small and simple, but by the time Tom finally finished, Lindsey wasn’t exactly sure she wouldn’t get lost trying to find the place.
“And if all else fails,” Tom added, “follow your ears and nose. Around this time of night, the Gut Rot’s always jumpin’.”
“Thank you, very much.”
And with that Lindsey gave the guard a very grateful smile, and made her way into Everywhere Town.
Her feet were aching, and her legs felt as though they were quickly turning into rubber. All the while, Lindsey’s stomach had given up intermittent rumblings in favor of a persistent and angry growl. Still, as the houses built of a dark and rich colored wood crowded around her, her path lit by more of the torch bearing tripods, Lindsey couldn’t help but feel comforted, like Everywhere Town itself was a giant blanket in which she was lovingly swaddled.
There were no people on the intersecting dirt roads, and no cars for that matter. The effect was not unlike stepping out of a time machine into a world before things like electricity and automobiles were invented, and she found that the quiet and serenity of it all suited her quite well.
Even as she continued to pick her way through the avenues cluttered with quaint looking houses and shops with large painted signs out front, Lindsey could feel the wear of the road slowly ebb away from her arms, her back, and her shoulders, even if neither her feet nor her stomach were so easily sated.
Despite Lindsey’s apprehensions that Tom had given her a set of directions that would be impossible to follow, the Gut Rot Pub appeared before her, practically jumping out at her amid the rest of the sleepy town.
The raucous noise of what sounded to be some overblown party spilled out onto the road before her, laced with the almost tortuous aroma of something spicy and delicious. As she pushed open the heavy wooden door that stood below a swinging sign of a fat boy grabbing his belly with the words, “Gut Rot” superimposed over him, Lindsey could also make out the sounds of a cheerful tune struggling to be heard over the cacophony of voices.
Inside, the sight that greeted her was busy and frantic. The place was crammed full of people that managed to navigate back and forth through the aged and cozy little restaurant, the whole while dancing, talking, laughing, and lifting mugs and glasses in toast.
They wore strange clothes, not totally alien, mind you, but far too old, with seams held precariously closed by thick cross threading. The boys wore tunics, as did those few girls that weren’t wearing very plain dresses. What gave Lindsey a moment’s pause, however, was not the clothes, but the people in them.
There wasn’t a single adult that she could see in the whole place. From the band chunking away at their rather crude looking instruments, to the waitresses holding their food and drink laden trays aloft, there wasn’t a single person in there that looked younger than eight, nor older than eighteen. Even eighteen seemed like a bit of a stretch, Lindsey thought; an age she gave as a benefit of the doubt to a couple of boys that she noticed with facial growth that was similarly as awkward as Tom’s had been.
As Lindsey pushed her way to the bar, the mob that throbbed all around her seemed to take little notice. Occasionally her eyes would meet the eyes of one of the patrons, and she would receive a kindly smile and even a wave, but for the most part, she was ignored, just another body squirming through the writhing mass of bodies and limbs.
She was bumped and jostled, and on at least one occasion forced to double back and try a different path, but after a great deal of effort, Lindsey managed to reach the bar. Miraculously, she even found an open bar stool.
Almost instantly she was greeted by a portly little boy with a bald head, and flushed cheeks that gave an almost cherubic quality to his face.
“Lookit here!” he grinned at her. “New arrival from the Someone Else Room, I take it?”
“Yeah,” Lindsey nodded.
“The PJs gave you away.”
She looked down at herself. Had her feet not been aching something fierce, and her stomach not only planning a mutiny but currently recruiting allies among other organs in its area, she would have probably been embarrassed. As things stood, though, the most she could do was shrug.
“Eh, don’t worry,” the barman… bar-boy… said. “Happens to most of us. The night I came to Journey’s End, I was sleeping in nothing but underwear with little cartoon animals on them.”
She imagined the boy trying to push his wide bare belly through the crowd she just negotiated, and laughed.
“Yeah, that’s right, laugh it up,” he grunted in mock indignation. “Trust me, there have been even worse.”
“Please,” Lindsey said, holding up a hand. “I think I can live without knowing.”
The boy chuckled and nodded. “Yeah, you probably could. So… Bet you’re hungry, eh?”
“No problem, newcomers eat here free. What can I get ya?”
“What do you have?”
“We got tons of stuff,” he said, pointing at a large wooden sign behind him with various dishes burned into it in thick, sloppy, black letters. Lindsey eyed it, making at least an attempt to take in what was offered, but she realized that she must have underestimated just how fatigued she was for even something as simple as reading the menu board was taking too much energy.
“You know,” she said, looking at the boy. “I smelled something good from the street, is that…”
“That’s Ross’s chicken,” he interrupted. “It’s famous in this part of Journey’s End; we even get the occasional Port Towners popping in to try it. Look, you’ve had a long day, I expect, I’ll take care of you good and proper.”
The boy scooted back towards a swinging door, and yelled something unintelligible before returning to Lindsey. From under the bar he produced a glass of ice water, and plunked it down before her.
“The name’s Bill,” he said. “I’m something of an unofficial one man welcoming committee, so let me be among the first to welcome you to our humble little town.”
He held out his hand and Lindsey shook it graciously. “Lindsey,” she said, “and thank you very much, but Tom and Al beat you to it.”
Bill groaned. “You really aren’t having a good day, are you?”
Lindsey gave a half-hearted smile and shook her head.
“So how long did Lignus keep you?”
“You know, the old talking tree? How long did she keep you before letting you go?”
“Um… Let me go?” Lindsey asked, feeling as though she had just been told a joke but failed to get the punch-line magnificently.
“Yeah,” Bill muttered, his once cheery expression transforming into something far more suspicious and guarded. “You did have a run in with the talking tree, right?”
“Yes, of course.”
“And she let you go?”
“Then how are you sitting here in my pub?”
Lindsey recounted her episode with Lignus. When she was finished, the look on Bill’s face was one of complete and total shock. For a long while he didn’t make a sound, making Lindsey rather uncomfortable. Did she do something wrong? She hadn’t been in Journey’s End for a full day and she was already seemingly in trouble.
Then, in a voice that had been well practiced at speaking over a loud din, Bill shouted, “QUIET IN THE PUB! QUIET! I GOT AN ANNOUNCEMENT TO MAKE!”
Lindsey’s stomach clenched. She had done something wrong, and any second the entire population of Everywhere Town was going to turn against her, grab her, throw her in some mildew ridden jail cell, or worse.
But then a smile cracked on Bill’s face as he announced to the now quiet pub, “Our newest member, Lindsey here, has put an end to Lignus!”
This was met with flurry of whispers that grew into a storm of hisses until a little girl came up to Lindsey and asked, “Is it true?”
Lindsey hesitated a moment before finally answering, “Yes.”
The steady stream of whispers broke out into a wave of applause as Lindsey was smothered in congratulations and adulations.
“That’s one way to make a first impression!”
“Food’s ready,” Bill cut in after about the sixth person came to pat her on the back. Lindsey turned to see a tray with a plate heaped with roasted chicken legs and mashed potatoes, and the sight of the food with a heavy steam slowly rising up from it was almost enough to make her drool. “Tristan!” Bill yelled past Lindsey. “Budge up! Give her a table!”
“Oh, no, I don’t…” Lindsey protested, but as she looked over her shoulder, she saw it was too late. A small, dirt covered boy with rat like features was already sliding out of a booth, apparently ceding the table to her. “Really, you didn’t have to.”
Bill shook his head. “Go on. He works here, the lazy mump. Not even on a break, neither.” With this, Bill shook his head and gave a heavy sigh. “Useless… Go on, take the table, it’s yours.”
Of course, getting there was much easier said than done. Pushing through the crowd was difficult enough when no one was paying attention, but now that everyone in the pub wanted to get a look at the person who had taken down (brought back to life, Lindsey mentally corrected) Lignus, getting to her table was nearly impossible.
The whole while, the smell of her food taunted her.
Eventually she had made it to the table formerly occupied by Tristan, and gratefully Lindsey collapsed, the food before her no longer giving off thick wafts of steam, but she didn’t care. As hungry as she was, she would have eaten just about anything. Anything except dandelions.
But even as she readied her fork to eat, the flow of coming well-wishers did not ebb in the slightest.
“You really don’t know how much easier things will be from now on.”
“You’re a hero!”
“Stop by my shop tomorrow, I’ll give you a 25% discount!”
“I’ll give ya fifty!”
“You know, you better take them up on their offer sooner than later,” one boy said as he plopped himself down in the chair opposite Lindsey with a grin.
She had yet to take a single bite out of her food, and yet she felt it would be rude to do so especially now that she had someone sitting with her. “Excuse me?”
He leaned forward a bit and explained, “The merchants. You better take advantage of the love-fest while it still lasts—they’ll change their tune soon enough.”
“Economics,” he said solemnly. “Lignus may have been a pain to deal with, but for a lot of the merchants, she was also the reason they got to charge so much for their goods.” He whispered this conspiratorially, as though the very merchants he was talking about had yet to figure out this particular bit of information. “A lot of what we use here in Everywhere Town comes from the valley south of the Someone Else Room. Now, if you’re going to the valley, you have a choice; go around the hill, which can take weeks, especially with no path to speak of, or go through the hill, which only takes about half a day… Until you meet Lignus. She can keep you for days, which means that you also have to supply yourself for a potential camping trip. As a result, most the stuff that comes from the valley costs more because it’s so hard to get. Now that Lignus isn’t a problem, people will likely start demanding lower prices, or just go to the valley and get what they need themselves for free.”
Lindsey attempted to digest what her new companion just told her, but she found it very difficult to focus on digesting anything that wasn’t on her plate from which she had still not managed to take a single bite. Thus, the only thing she could say in reply was, “Um, okay.”
“Sorry,” the boy said, and then extended his hand. “My name’s Trevor.”
She took it and shook. He had rough hands, big hands, and as she looked at him, she thought him actually quite handsome. Sara would call him cute. He had a clever face, if not exactly intelligent, with a head of dark, close-cropped hair that hung over his forehead in curved locks. Faint vestiges of stubble were noticeable on his chin and under his nose signifying that he was at least Lindsey’s age, but she also noticed that these weren’t patchy, but instead pleasantly uniform, and actually suited him quite well.
Indeed, the more she studied him, the more self-conscious she felt, and as she introduced herself, Lindsey could feel heat prickling in her cheeks; a tell-tale sign of a furious blush.
“Nice to meet ya,” Trevor stated easily. “So, how’s the food?”
“I wouldn’t know. I haven’t had a chance to eat any of it yet.”
He looked down on her plate and saw that her food had indeed gone untouched. A mortified look shown on his face as he said, “Oh, jeez, I’m… I’m sorry. Look at all us… You haven’t probably eaten in forever, and we’re just…”
But just then yet another throng of people stopped by to say something to Lindsey, but just as they opened their mouths Trevor held up a hand and said, “Give her space already, she hasn’t even eaten yet.”
They instantly adopted the same mortified look Trevor had, muttered some very embarrassed apologies, and shuffled away. Trevor returned his gaze to Lindsey and said, “Don’t worry. You eat, I’ll keep the wolves at bay.”
His light brown eyes crinkled in a smile, and then, puffing his chest out and making a show of looking like some sort of security guard, Trevor staunchly denied all further well-wishers and gawkers.
Grateful, Lindsey finally took a bite out of one of the chicken legs and practically melted. It took every ounce of self control not to groan in pleasure as the tender meat practically melted in her mouth. Had she not been in the presence of such an attractive boy, she probably would have groaned.
But while her self-consciousness prevented her from sounding like an animal as she ate, it could do nothing to stop her cramming the food down her throat as fast as possible. The potatoes were perfect, hot and buttery with little tiny chunks of unmashed potato in every forkful, and the chicken, well, Lindsey could understand why people would come from all over to eat it. She made a note to get the recipe, and when this whole business was over, she would have to take it with her back home.
Before she knew it, her plate was empty with the exception of the picked clean chicken bones, and her stomach was merrily full and telling all its allies in the coming revolution to stand down.
When Trevor glanced over, he flinched noticeably. “Wow! You were really hungry, weren’t you?”
Lindsey smiled sheepishly, “It is the first thing I’ve had to eat all day.”
“Yeah, I remember what that was like. Lignus kept me until nightfall; said she really liked me.”
“Why hasn’t anyone gotten rid of her before?” Lindsey asked.
“They’ve tried. Nothing works. Trust me; more than a few axes have been blunted trying to chop her down. After a while, people just kind of give up.”
“That’s very strange.”
“There’s plenty of strange to go around here, trust me. You get used to it, eventually, but things here tend to work a little differently than they do back from where we came from.”
“Like the fact that there aren’t any adults?”
“Exactly like the fact that there aren’t any adults,” he nodded in agreement. “In fact, you and I are about as old as it gets, but then, that becomes a pretty strange thing to talk about also; age. I mean, I was sixteen when I came here, but I’ve been here for about ten years. Now you take old Bill over there, he was nine when he first came through, but he’s been behind that bar for fifty years. So which age do you go with? How old our bodies look, or how long we’ve been here?”
“I have no idea.”
“Neither does anyone else. That’s probably why we don’t celebrate birthdays.”
“You don’t celebrate birthdays?”
Trevor shook his head. “What’s the point? No parents to buy us presents, and really, we all, or at least most of us, have jobs anyway, so if there’s something you really do want, you go ahead and just buy it for yourself.”
Lindsey nodded in understanding. “So do you like it here?”
Trevor smiled at her warmly. “I love it here. Got a good job, great friends, and this place is just so…” He seemed to struggle with the words to describe what he was feeling, but Lindsey thought she understood.
“Yeah,” she said, letting him off the hook. “I think I know what you mean. It’s beautiful here, you know, when you’re not getting threatened by talking trees and guardsmen that are trying to poke holes through you.”
Trevor cast her a sideways glance. “Al?”
Laughing, Lindsey said, “Yeah, how did you know?”
With a wry look, Trevor explained, “He nearly gutted me when I first showed up. Does it to everyone. We have a little saying here; you’re not a true Everywhere Towner until you met Al, and his spear.”
Chuckling in appreciation, Lindsey asked, “Why do they let him keep on doing it?”
“He’s a guard. That’s what the Someone Else Room designated him as, so that’s what he does.”
“So… You have to be what the Someone Else Room chooses?”
“You don’t have to be, but if you’re not good at anything else…” Trevor ended with a shrug that told Lindsey just about everything she needed to know.
“Then, what are you?”
Trevor flashed Lindsey a grin that was brimming with pride as he explained, “I’m a builder. Built half the buildings in this little town.”
Shocked, Lindsey said, “You did?”
“I did. All of the new ones anyway. By the time I got here, the old builder had moved on and people were stacking up as many as ten thick a house. I can’t describe the reaction I got when everyone found out I was a builder.”
“You like being a builder then?”
“Love it, plus, I’ve managed to make a decent amount of money in the business.”
It was about then that Lindsey was taken off guard by a tremendous yawn. Somehow, in talking to Trevor, she had forgotten just how tired the day had made her, and this thought not only reminded her that the very next thing she wanted to do was find a bed, but it also made her very aware of the fact that she was sitting in a restaurant with a very good looking boy across from her, and having what was a very comfortable conversation.
This just wasn’t something that Lindsey was accustomed to. She had talked to boys before, sure, but those talks never quite came off. Usually she was so nervous that she didn’t say hardly anything at all which ultimately ended in the boy walking away out of confusion or boredom.
But here she was, having a normal talk with a boy. Sara would be proud. Or at least Sara would have been proud right up to the point where Lindsey committed the grave error of yawning loud enough to make her plate tremble against the wooden table.
Mortified that she had insulted Trevor, Lindsey covered her mouth and squeaked, “I’m sorry.”
In spite of everything, Trevor just offered her a warm smile and said, “Am I really that boring?”
She shook her head. “No, no, of course not, I just… I just forgot how tired I was, that’s all.”
“And where, exactly, did you plan on sleeping?”
Lindsey began, and then stopped. She hadn’t really thought that through quite yet. “I’m not sure. I was thinking a hotel or something?”
Trevor shook his head. “Nah, come stay with me…”
“Relax. I have a couple of guest rooms that don’t get nearly enough usage.”
“No, I couldn’t.”
“Lindsey… Trust me. This is how we get by around here. Newcomers always get a little help from those who’ve been here a while. At least until they get on their feet, and then they help the next newcomer when they come along.”
“Really, I could just stay at a hotel.”
“We don’t have a hotel. We have an inn, but you really don’t want to stay there.”
“You don’t have money, for starters. And, as nice as the inn is, it doesn’t have running water, much less running hot water… you know, so you could clean up a little?”
Lindsey blushed again. “Do I look like I need a shower that badly?”
“You have a clump of dirt in your hair.”
Instantly Lindsey’s hands shot up to her hair and started raking through it and to her horror she felt chunks of crumbling earth coming loose in her fingers. Her shoulders sagged as she looked back at Trevor. “And you have showers?”
“And you really don’t mind?”
“If I minded, I wouldn’t have stayed so long would I?”
“Fine, but just for tonight.”
Trevor waved this last remark away like an unwanted fly at a picnic. “Nah. You can stay for as long as it takes. I can build you a house in about a week, two if you are patient enough for a real nice one…”
“I’m not staying here another night…”
Trevor had looked heartbroken when Lindsey said her stay in Everywhere Town was to be extremely short, and asked Lindsey why. She didn’t answer him immediately, though. With another yawn brewing up within her, she insisted they leave before Trevor would be forced to carry her to his house.
Once out in the cool night air, the sounds and smells of the Gut Rot behind them, Trevor repeated the last question he asked. “What do you mean you’re not staying here another night?”
They began walking and as they did so Lindsey looked up into Trevor’s face. There was something even more handsome in the way that the flickering light from the street torches danced off of his forehead and cheeks. But that was nothing more than a distraction. Forcing her mind to focus on what was important; Lindsey explained that she was in Journey’s End to find her sister.
“She’s been kidnapped.”
“And you think she’s somewhere here?”
“Somewhere. I don’t know, I just… She was in bed, and then she wasn’t, and there was this whole restaurant thing in my living room, and then it was empty and there was a door that shouldn’t have been there. I was kind of hoping someone might have seen her?”
Trevor shook his head. “No one new’s shown up in at least a couple of months. You know who took her?”
“Sort of. I can describe him. He didn’t tell me his real name, just said to call him Mr. M.”
She could sense Trevor shivering at the sound of the name beside her, and looked over. Even in the dim light she could see that he had gone pale.
“You know him?” she asked cautiously.
Nodding, Trevor answered, “I know of him. I never met him before, never even seen him. But I’ve heard stories… More like stories of stories. Nothing concrete, just, you know, bogeyman stuff.”
As foreboding as this sounded, Lindsey couldn’t help but feel at least a little encouraged to hear that Mr. M came from here. That meant that at least for the time being, she was on the right track. “Do you know where he stays?”
“Dark Iron Castle. It’s north. Way north, in the Northern Crags.”
“How far is that from here?”
At this question, Trevor scoffed. “If you’re real lucky, you might be able to get there in, say, two months, but that’s if you’re real lucky. Since you’ve had your sister kidnapped, I’m going to guess that you’re not that lucky, so maybe three.”
And with that, any hope of being able to find Sara any time soon was promptly killed.
Lindsey didn’t talk much for the rest of the walk back to Trevor’s house, even as Trevor tried keeping the conversation going. He was nice, she decided, but not nice enough to alleviate the fresh gout of fear that she felt for her sister.
As they picked their way through the dirt roads that dissected Everywhere Town, Lindsey tried to listen to Trevor, tried to push away thoughts of Sara being held in some place named Dark Iron Castle, but the name alone made it difficult. Still, when Trevor pointed to a house that he built, she nodded and smiled, and complimented him, and she pretended to pay attention as he explained that he was the one to figure out how to get running water in houses, and now he and an assistant were trying to go back through and install water systems in all the old houses.
Lindsey’s thoughts, and Trevor’s words carried them to an unusually large house; two stories where the rest were only one, with a gated fence and two majestic oak trees perched out front.
“Home sweet home,” Trevor said with a little flourish, and for once, Lindsey’s thoughts of Sara were driven from her mind. Or, if not completely out of her mind, they were pushed very to the back.
“This is your house?”
“Yup,” he said as he guided her up a stone walk way. “I told you, lots of good money in building.”
Trevor grinned sheepishly as he opened his door. “You don’t lock your door?” Lindsey asked.
“There’s no lock to lock,” he explained before throwing his door wide open.
At first Lindsey couldn’t see much of anything, until Trevor crept past her into the darkness. She heard a sound like someone trying flick on like a lighter until the room before her burst into light, cast by a table lamp that flickered with a bright yellow flame encased in an elegantly sculpted tube of glass.
“My house,” Trevor said, casting has hand about like a showroom model. Lindsey was impressed to say the least. The hardwood floors were stained dark, and polished to an almost mirrored sheen, while a family of comfortable looking leather chairs huddled together on an aged rug. Standing about them were a set of stalwart looking old bookcases that reached all the way to the top of what was a rather high ceiling, filled with old tomes bound in leather and gold.
“Thank you. Come on, I’ll show you were you’ll be staying.”
Grabbing the lit lamp, he escorted her beyond a wrought iron staircase that spiraled upwards to the second floor, down a hall with several doors embedded in its sides, and around a corner that revealed yet another hall with even more doors.
“I’m afraid I’m going to get lost,” Lindsey muttered.
“You’ll be fine, just remember to bring bread crumbs or a nice long piece of string with you every time you leave your room.”
“I thought it was. Ah, here we go, this should do.” Almost all the way at the end of the long hall, Trevor opened a door revealing a spacious bedroom with a large, bed made up with at least six pillows and a fluffy quilt that practically begged Lindsey to curl up beneath it. Another one of those delicate glass lamps stood on a squat chest of drawers beside the bed, and overlooking the whole thing was a canvas painting that looked not unlike the country side that Lindsey spent most of the day walking through. “Well? Does this work for you?”
“No, it doesn’t. Do you have a nice rocky floor for me to sleep on?”
“I thought so.” She grinned mischievously up at him, and received a wry smile in return.
“I’ll uh… get you a towel, and some pajamas. They’ll be a little too big but you might want to consider burning those when you’re done with them.”
“People here don’t wear pajamas like this?” Lindsey complained as she looked down at her matching t-shirt and shorts with kitten prints all over them.
“No. I just don’t think we’ve invented the soap that will clean all the stains out of those.”
Lindsey scowled good naturedly at him. “Fine.”
As he walked away, he pointed at the door set across from Lindsey’s room and informed her it was the bathroom. With Trevor gone, Lindsey placed her book down on the nightstand next to her bed, grabbed the flickering little lamp, and went to investigate the bathroom partly out of curiosity, and partly to at least wash the dirt and grease from her hands before handling clean linens.
More wood. That was the first thing that she noticed upon walking in. Considering how modern Trevor’s place managed to look (with the exception of a television and electric lights, of course), she almost expected to see tiled floors and porcelain fixtures, but instead the whole place was done in wood with some spare bits of brass.
She was pleased to see a mirror over the waist high sink, at least she was until she actually managed to take a look at herself. Her face was covered with streaks of dirt, as were her pajamas, and her hair no longer came close to resembling the curtain of black it normally did, instead looking like some poor animal that was only vaguely black in color had died atop her head.
It was then, just as Lindsey was discovering how hideous she looked at the moment, that Trevor managed to show up with the linens he promised, forcing Lindsey into an intense blush.
Picking up on what must have been distressing her, Trevor offered, “Don’t worry, most of us look pretty ragged when we first get here. Besides, you’ve got an excuse, tangling with old Lignus and all.”
“Right, well, it doesn’t mean I particularly like it.”
“No, here, let me just set these things down right here, and let you do what you need to do.” He squeezed by Lindsey and placed the items on another shelf before slinking his way back out. “Oh, and tomorrow morning. I get up pretty early, but sleep in as late as you like. Breakfast will be waiting for you in the kitchen.”
“Where’s that? I’m still a little afraid of getting lost in here.”
Trevor smirked. “You get there from the first room we came in. It’s on the other side; you can’t miss it.”
And with that, Trevor bade her good night, and started to walk away.
“Trevor?” Lindsey called after him just before he was about to turn the corner. He paused. “Thank you… for everything.”
The easy, warm smile that Lindsey was already getting accustomed to spread across his face, and she decided she quite liked that smile. She liked it a lot. “No problem. It’s what we do around here.” And with an easy wave, Trevor was gone.
The shower/bathtub combination was actually made of iron encased in wood, and while Lindsey wanted nothing more than to get clean and get to bed, she took the time to draw herself a nice hot bath.
Her stomach long since satisfied, she could now feel the wear of the day gratefully leaving her legs and feet in the nearly scalding water. She luxuriated in the tendrils of steam that curled up around her, and the way the bubbles clumped up all along her skin.
As she washed away the last, persistent, remnants of the day, Lindsey’s mind dwelled first on Sara, and what her next course of action in saving her was. When her thoughts there ran into a dead end, they shifted easily over to Trevor, and that easy smile of his. Everything had happened so quickly she hadn’t the time to process everything, but now, resting in his bath, she was able to linger on her thoughts of the boy whose generosity she was currently taking advantage of. Nothing solid formed, just… feelings, strange feelings, good feelings, and definitely some gratefulness mixed in, but also things that were curiously new and somehow exciting.
And then even those intriguing non-thoughts drifted away until the only tangible thought that Lindsey could produce was that of the very comfortable looking bed that was waiting for her.
Lindsey waited until her fingers and toes were nice and wrinkly before she climbed out of the bath, dried herself off, and donned the over sized pajamas that Trevor had brought her.
By now her mind was on autopilot, and she barely even noticed as her feet carried her from the bathroom, into the bedroom and onto the bed. She sank deep into it, the comforter enveloping her, the pillows feeling like clouds, and she had hardly spent a moment in wonder at how comfortable the bed was before her eyelids closed and she was fast asleep.