Chapter 23; Pages 3 & 4

    Emily huffed and walked on ahead of him. She could see the flickering flames of the gaslights over the next ridge. The rest of the world just grew darker. “What town is this?” Emily asked.

    Darrian had somewhat kept pace. “Gettan. A mining town based around nickel and copper and not much else. The town sees a lot of people passing through so we shouldn’t be questioned.”

    Emily looked back. Darrian had shifted into his human form while her back was turned. The sight of him in something other than scales and stripes took the words out of her mouth. She had all but forgotten how dark skinned he was. The olive tone that peeked out from the gaps in his clothing nearly gleamed in the twilight of the town ahead. While the stripe over his eye had faded so far only memory made it visible. Beneath his hat Darrian’s rusted hair had darkened significantly.

    Emily caught her self, the unfamiliarity of his appearance was daunting to look at. Sure he was just a dark skinned man with brilliant green eyes and weather worn clothing, but something about him looked powerful and she could not place how. She breathed and carried on her previous thought. “You picked this town specifically?”

    Darrian shook his head. “Not the town; the area. Gettan is part of a belt of mining settlements all owned by the Hawkins family. They all curve around Crucible with the most eastern town, Fort Bellows, as the pseudo capitol. In comparison Gettan is nothing but work camps and a few necessary buildings. the main landmark each have in common is they are linked by rail to ferry people, equipment, and goods between the sister settlements.”

    Emily let the information sink in. “So we’re using the mine as an alibi?”

    Her partner grinned. “Works pretty good doesn’t it?”

    “I like the plan, simple enough not to be complicated.”

    “And complicated brings more questions.” Darrian agreed.

    The pair walked into Gettan’s deserted outskirts. Not much to say for the flat dirt paths that served as roads and alleyways. Some occupants mingled around or just moved in a predetermined direction. All the ‘houses’ were made the same and some already had lights on. At one point Darrian turned a courner and gestured for her to follow. Down an alley until he eventually stopped between two white building, “and this one”.

    Emily looked up at the houses’ painted wooden walls. “Here?”

    Darrian crouched and removed a wooden panel at the base of the building. In the recess he stashed the harness and the spare bags leaving only Emily’s duffel and his own. Darrian replaced the panel and stood up. “Now to the station; to wait for this train.”

    A wooden platform and a roof held up by sanded timbers. Nothing much stood as a station but Gettan was surely not the worst Emily had experienced. Benches were set up near the pillars and Darrian led her to one facing the tracks. She took a spot next to him and looked around. Miners with little to do sat waiting also for the same train.

    Darrian pulled out his pocket watch, looked at it, then tilted the device for Emily to see. “I thought it would be earlier than that” she remarked before he stuffed the watch in his pocket.

    Darrian leaned closer. “I did have a good tail wind for a while there.”

    “Until that brutal cross wind” she commented back.

    And so the waiting began. Emily pulled out a leather bound book from her bag and idly flipped through it to find her page. Darrian leaned back against the bench and began to doze softly. The night darkened and stars brilliantly etched out the vibrant cloudy band of the galaxy above. A low whistle sounded in the west after what felt like hours. Darrian jerked awake and looked in the source’s directed while Emily stashed away her reading.

    A sleek looking engine slowed down to crawl past the terminal. At that point the crowd which had accumulated over the course of  the night began to make their way to the cars for bording. All the faces Emily could see looked relieved and upbeat as Darrian stood up with his gear and waited. With a dull thunk that echoed down the line, the passenger cars came to a stop.

    Doors were opened and people shuffled into the awaiting warmth. Some of the passengers carried conversations with each other while a few looked half asleep. Darrian grabbed Emily’s arm and lead her silently towards the front cars. They entered behind a skinny man in blue overalls and blonde hair the colour and consistency of straw. The man urged his sleepy friend forward with a laugh and teasing comment. His friend waved him off poorly and the pair took one of the compartments with two others.

    Darrian moved past them and picked an empty compartment for him and Emily. He locked the door the moment it was closed and tossed his bag on the seat before sitting down. Emily found a spot opposite him and stretched out. Far from luxury the train car offered little but warmth and a place to sit but to her she felt glad to have an enclosed compartment.

    “Not bad. They’ve upgraded their rail system.” Darrian complimented freely.

    “It was worse than this?”

    “Let’s just say at one point in history, the mode of transportation here was little more than a flatbed with railing.”

    “Glad they improved” Emily responded with relief.

    Darrian waited until the last call whistle sounded and the train began to move before he spoke. “Ready for your Vera briefing?”

    “I need to be briefed?”

    The man nodded. “Normally if ever the mission changed we go through a briefing about your role in the upcoming operation. Not that we’re on what is stage four of this pain in the ass tail chasing I figure now is a good time. This is further made important considering the subject of our destination.”

    Emily leaned forward. “Alright, I am listening.”

    “Well first how much of Vera do you know about?”

    “Besides all your cautionary tales; not much. I had a healthy fear of the place since I had heard that for magic users, akyrie, and unwantables the city was a one way trip to Duron. I believed that all Wardens lived in Vera and that only the most elite of Divinity could safely call it home.”

    Darrian had leaned back over the course of her explanation. He idly stroked his short beard while weighing her words. “Not entirely wrong. While only Veran ships are permitted to harbour in Duron, it is not the only destination for what Divinity could call criminals. Most, if not nearly all settlements prefer to administer their own justice. Not that many elites in the city though there are a few. As for the Wardens. Vera is just a stopping ground before their Jericho assignments. In fact other than Veriel currently only one Warden has ever called the city home.”

    “So there is only two Wardens there now?”

    “Should be; yup.”

    Emily sighed. “That is almost a relief. How do we deal with them?”

    “Well we’ll only have to deal with Veriel.”

    “What about the other?” Emily blurted out in shock.

    Darrian shrugged off her concern. “Only one of these Wardens is hostile. You will end up meeting him so no need to mention much more than that.” Darrian waved off Emily blank stare. “Now about Vera as a place. I’ll try and keep it simple.”