Act 1: Chapter 3, Part 3

Posted on April 23, 2017

In Which Angie Talks With Her Mouth Full

Evan. First Day of School. Time to Eat.

“Sure,” Evan said. “So what is it, exactly, that happened?”

“Hard to explain in words,” Chris said. “My birthdate came up in passing, she got way excited, and she… channeled something?” He shrugged. “As she worked out the numerological implications. She ripped off her bell charm when she pronounced that we’re five, and it transformed, changing from a fake bell to a real one. We were late to class.”

Ryan and Angie both stuck their hands out at Megan, palms up. She spread out both her hands, half shrugging, and gave a bemused look to Evan and Chris. Ryan and Angie each raised an eyebrow at the other. After a long moment, Ryan shrugged, withdrawing his hand. “You first. Of course. Don’t know what I was thinking. Just interested, is all.”

Angie smiled at him, that soft fondness entering her eyes, the one she got when Ryan had done a good job at being gentlemanly. Megan handed the small silver bell over to her, and she bent her attention to it, jiggling it to hear its small, bright chiming. After regarding it a few moments, she shrugged and passed it over to Ryan. “I got nothing. That definitely didn’t used to ring. We walked pretty fast at a couple of points this morning, I would have noticed that.” She pulled the last object out of her lunch bag, a small candle. She picked up a match and delicately lit the candle.

In the meantime, Ryan pulled out his phone, and, for some reason, examined the bell through the camera.

“Is that a magnifying app?” Chris asked, pulling an iPhone of his own out. “Where’d you get that?”

Ryan stopped and glanced up at Chris. “Uh, something like that,” he said. “I wrote it myself, though. Not going to find it on the App Store.” His hands flicked over some of the screen controls, and he made an intrigued noise.

“O-kay,” Chris said, nodding slowly. “Sure.”

Angie had formed a triangle with her thumbs and forefingers, and regarded her sandwich and the candle through said triangle for a long moment, before closing her eyes and passing her hands over the candle. She let loose a deep breath, then opened her eyes and smiled at those around the table, taking up her sandwich and digging in.

As she did all this, Megan watched her, smiling a little wistfully.

Evan watched Chris watching Ryan and Megan watching Angie, uncertain how to feel about any of this.

Angie gave them a grin, despite her mouth half full of PB&J. “Am I the only one eating?” Evan couldn’t help it, and burst out laughing, as did Megan, nearly simultaneously. Chris and Ryan both looked up at her a second later, to find her now merely chewing her food enthusiastically.

Ryan gave Chris a shrug, and handed the bell back to Megan. “Beats me,” he said, gesturing to Megan and Evan, who were still chuckling. Megan glanced at Evan even as he was glancing at her, and she started up giggling again. “Delirious with hunger, I imagine,” Ryan continued, and took a bite of his pastrami on rye to emphasize the point.

Chris laughed then too, a bark of a laugh that conveyed to Evan genuine surprise and delight. “I guess so,” he said, smiling widely, then took a bite of an apple.

After a few more chuckles, Megan and Evan shared a smile and dug into their own meals. Evan also had a pastrami on rye, while Megan had brought Greek yoghurt with honey and fresh late harvest strawberries. Chris, along with his apple, had a piece of hard white cheese and some sort of salami.

After a minute or two, Ryan, between bites of his sandwich, said, “So Chris, what’s your game? Quiet and haunted? Loud and proud? Tastefully demure? How you play this thing?”

“You mean my status as a Light Bearer?” he replied after a sip of iced tea. “Matter-of-fact, I suppose. I don’t mind talking about it, but I don’t really like to bring it up unless I’m asked. Feels braggy.”

Both girls had leaned in toward him, the better to hear. “Consider it asked!” Angie said impatiently.

“Ha! No, I don’t mean—you haven’t actually asked a question. What do you want to know?” Chris looked at the girls with an amused smile.

“Let’s start with: what’s your style?” Ryan asked, then sipped a lime seltzer.

“Blade and off-brand,” Chris said, then, “that’s what I’m trained in, at least.” This was a style that involved a spiked iron baton with a torch chamber in the end, usually filled with Bearer’s Pitch, used as an off-hand weapon along with a one-handed sword or saber of some variety. Like what he was carrying, so Ryan probably should have had that figured out already. It was a bold, at times risky, and powerful style, as it involved using the Light Bearer’s Flame as a weapon far more regularly than many styles.

Evan whistled. “Dang. Don’t mess around, do you?”

“I try not to,” Chris said, with an easy grin.

“Who’s your teacher?” Megan asked, eyes wide. “Anyone we’d know?” Evan and Ryan both blinked at that.

“My father, ‘the youngest scion of the Providence Gramyres, a modest family that has long dwelled within that fair city,’ ” Chris said, making his voice slightly gruffer, telegraphing the fact he was quoting. He shrugged. “He runs no schools and leads no delves, but he’s a capable trainer.”

They all nodded. “You’re not from… New England? though, right?” Angie said.

Ryan agreed. “Not with that accent.”

Chris laughed. “Indeed not. My father, as the youngest of three brothers in a family in which every male descendant since time immemorial has been a Light Bearer, in a city with no shortage of established families of Light Bearers and those descended from Light Bearers who have the ancestral weapons to prove it, decided that he needed to set out to ‘find fame, fortune, or fate.’ He wandered town to town, Bearing Light all across the eastern seaboard, until he met my mother, who was studying law at Duke. Real knight-errant stuff, he's a minor legend in some places. They settled down in Durham until my mom got a job offer out here in July. We’ve just finished really settling in.”

“Is your father still in the game?” Ryan asked.

“’Fraid not. A Beast of the Deep Wood did a number on his leg a few years back, and he was pushing forty-five anyway,” Chris said, smiling fondly. “Now he just sits around haranguing me and Cat all the time.”

“Cat?” Evan asked, raising an eyebrow, wishing he could pull that off the same way Ryan could.

“Catherine,” Chris amended. “My younger sister.”

“Oo!” Angie said, and Megan asked, “Is your dad haranguing her because she’s a Light Bearer too?”

“Sure is,” Chris said, smiling proudly. “She’s the first daughter of a Gramyre to be one since 1819. Though,” he added, “that’s probably because our mother’s a Light Bearer too, part of a matrilineal family of Light Bearers that goes back centuries. She also helped train me, though they split us up a little bit, and Father trained me more while Mother trained Cat more. Cat’s going to inherit my Mother’s ancestral blade.”

“That’s really cool,” Megan said.

“How was the trip?! Interrobang?!” Angie asked, her voice low but excited. This prompted a guffaw and a series of aftershock chuckles from Evan (“Interrobang? We haven’t said that since like sixth grade!”), and a look of mild bemusement from Chris. Angie went on, voice hushed and awed, “Did you come by land, sea, or air?”

“Land, by train. It wasn’t nearly as exciting as you think it would be, though. Those things are plated in steel, don’t have windows, are going 50 plus miles per hour, and are armed with cannons.” Chris gave a lazy wave of his hand. “And have been all those things for over a century. There’s no Beasts left dumb enough to attack them.” He paused. “In the daylight, anyway.”

“Okay. That’s fine,” Angie said, less hushed and less awed. “Did anything cool happen?”

“Well, I did join in on a couple of twilight wilderness hunts in the towns we stopped for the night in. That was pretty cool,” he said, grinning.

“Tell us about them, you goof!” Megan said, and whapped him on the arm without real force.