Act 1: Chapter 7, Part 6

Posted on January 07, 2018

In Which Evan is Informed of a Detail That He Missed

Evan. Tuesday. Fucking Late.

About fifteen minutes after they woke Evan up, he and Chris were walking out of the hospital. They had given him a sleeping draught,1 taken care of his hip, and then woken him up and immediately given him something non-narcotic for his head. His hip was surprisingly without pain, though it would still take a while to heal properly. At least the alchemical salves of protection would allow him to treat his body relatively normally (as long as he didn’t engage in a significant amount of exertion), allowing the wound to heal as well as if he were on full bedrest.

But true healing magic wasn’t cheap, and a true healing potion, the type you heard about in stories, was probably more than one Bounty would cover. It could be fifty or more Silver Eagles for even the weakest true healing potion. And of course the city didn’t want to spend that much of the raw material gained from the slain Beast to help someone who had gotten themselves injured hunting.

They walked in silence to the hospital’s Link2 station, and stood silent there for a moment too, until Chris said, “So you, Angie, and Ryan were all estranged from Megan.” The digital sign at the stop said the next car would be there in two minutes. At one end of the stop, a militia watchwoman sat in her watchtower, shotgun hung on the wall, the screens connected to the cameras monitoring the station illuminating her face. Her partner was not visible. They were likely already/still asleep for the watch.

Evan took several breaths before replying. “Yeah.”

“Until this morning,” Chris prompted. There was faint sound of bells in the distance, the Link at its stop before theirs.

“Yeah,” Evan said, not taking the hint. He checked his phone. “Yesterday morning.”

“But you used to be good friends,” Chris said.

Evan looked off into the darkness for a long moment. After a bit, he glanced at Chris and said, “Since first year. Megan and Angie and me.” He sighed. “I don’t remember how it first happened. It was, was just always the three of us. Always together at school. Always over at each other’s houses.”

The crackle of the gas lamps was audible in the night’s still air. “Yeah, we were friends.” Evan spoke dully. “So it was hard, when she stopped speaking with us after she got back. Dodging us in the halls, or hiding behind the popular girls she was hanging out with all the time. Some of whom had also been our friends. Or at least people who were friends with Megan and tolerated us.” He said this last with a considerable amount of bitterness. He couldn’t help it.

“And then she showed up this morning. Absolutely smoking, but also one of your oldest friends. Apologetic and vulnerable. Cutting through your every defense.” Chris nodded steadily as he spoke, looking forward into the darkness. The Link was approaching now, the low squealing sound of the rails and the rush of air heralding its arrival.

Evan nodded. “Yeah, absolutely. She shows up without warning, she’s been crying, Angie’s been—wait, what?” He stopped, baffled, staring at Chris, as the train slid into the station, feeling his hair blown in erratic fluttering by the wind of the arriving cars, much the way his mind had just been as he registered what Chris had said. “Absolutely smoking? Like, as in hot?” An early autumn leaf blew into the station with the arriving train and right into Evan’s face, forcing him to flinch and shake his head to dislodge it.

Chris blinked at him, looked similarly confused. “Yeah, smoking hot!” he said, with feeling, as he led the way onto the car; they found themselves alone at that late hour, which was unsurprising. “Enchanting. Totally gorgeous. It’s dizzying. I’ve been dizzy all day. She’s amazing,” he continued as they grabbed the nearest seats. Then, quieter, almost to himself, and in a tone with more than a little awe in it, he added, “And that ass though!”

As they settled into their seats and the doors closed, Chris continued in a more normal voice, “If I were in your shoes and had an old friend who hurt me like that and then she tried to make amends without warning and she’d gotten super hot in the meantime, and then some other dude I didn’t know had shown up the same day and then suddenly she was paying attention to him, I’d be confused and angry and do something dumb to catch her attention too.” He paused, frowning, looking at the back of the seat in front of him. “Hmm. I’m kind of the asshole in this situation, aren’t I?”

Evan had only been half paying attention. His other half was actually thinking about what Megan actually looked like now, independent of her... Meganosity. It wasn’t like she was actually their estranged sister, despite the way Cali talked sometimes. As he did, the train left the station, the noise of it so much more noticeable with the car so empty.

And as he did, Evan was struck with the realization of how beautiful Megan was. After over two years of barely having contact with her, the knowledge emerged in his mind as if he’d struck a match and lit a candle in a dark room in a strange house, revealing its contents to him for the first time. “Oh. Dang. You’re right,” he said. He didn’t know how he hadn’t noticed it. It felt weird, like something had been wrong with his brain. It wasn’t like he didn’t notice pretty girls in general. He didn’t do anything about noticing, but he noticed.

Chris looked back to him again, frowning. “Well, you don’t have to just flat out agree with me; I didn’t know you had all his history and drama with her, or even that you were into her at all. You didn’t show it any.”

“No no no no no, no no no,” Evan said, shaking his head, emphatic. “I was not, I’m not…” He paused, briefly, struggling to find his words. “Sorry, I’m really tired.”

“Sure,” Chris said, still frowning at him. “Pain and blood loss and being awake into the Moon’s Watch will do that to a person. Took a tap to the head, too.” He tapped his temple with a finger, two quick flicks.

Evan took a long moment to formulate his thoughts. “I’m not into Megan.” He looked at Chris, right into his crazy, ridiculous eyes, to emphasize the next bit. “Megan’s just… Megan to me. I was saying that you’re right that she’s gorgeous now. I hadn’t realized it until you pointed it out.”

Chris stared back at him with an expression that could be fairly described as flabbergasted. “You hadn’t realized it? She’s the prettiest girl I’ve ever met! How could you not have realized it?” The train pulled into the next stop, the rhythm of acceleration and deceleration, momentum and inertia nearly as familiar to Evan as breathing.

Evan frowned at Chris. “Megan’s my oldest friend. Or she ties with Angie, at least. I don’t really remember life before I knew her; she features as much in my memories of childhood as my sisters. I looked at her and saw Megan, my friend. I mean, my friend who hurt me terribly by cutting me out of her life for three years, but still. She was always cuter than the rest of us. It just… didn’t occur to me, I guess.” He glanced toward the window, feeling something akin to embarrassment at the fact of not recognizing Megan’s attractiveness. She presumably had made an effort to look nice that day, and he hadn’t noticed it.

“That’s wild, guy. I can hardly keep my eyes off her,” Chris replied, slowly shaking his head as Evan looked back. “And then that crazy thing with the bell happened, and…” He trailed off.  

Evan looked at the other boy. Really looked at him. Chris’s eyes were on the seat ahead of him again, unfocused. Evan glanced at the seat himself; someone had written “I think dogs should vote” on the back with some sort of orange paint marker.

“Yeah,” Evan said, at a loss. “Sure. The bell thing, where I sneezed.” The train started up again. This jump would be a little longer.

“No, seriously!” Chris turned his head and looked at Evan, his strange eyes solemn and sincere. Deliberative. “Okay, so,” he continued. “I was given the blade Dyrnwyn by a dragon.”

Now Evan blinked, stared at Chris in disbelief. “R-really?” Evan said, after a moment. “That’s pretty wild, too.”

“It was a little one,” Chris said, not dismissive, just matter of fact. “But it was a dragon. And even compared to that, the bell thing with Megan this morning was… was shivers.”

Evan just continued to stare at him. “Shivers?” he prompted after a long, confused moment.

Chris blinked back. “Like, like shivers. Like, gives you shivers, like it was mystical. Like…” and now his eyes unfocused again, “Mystical!”

Evan nodded slowly. After another few seconds, he said, “I... do.. not think we say that ‘round here.”

Chris quirked his lips. “You don’t call magic shit Shivers up here. Dang.” He paused, shook his head a little. “That’s silly.”

Despite himself, Evan laughed. “Sure! I suppose it is silly that we don’t refer to the supernatural as ‘Shivers.’ It’s kinda tight.”

“Yeah, that’s how we do it in the Triangle,”3 Chris said, nonchalantly. “So tell me more about you guys. How’d you figure out the Nineteens thing?”

Evan blinked, realizing what he should have told Chris earlier. “Uh. Honestly, now that you say that, that’s what started us off. We’re all pretty good at number stuff, were even in our first year at primary school. I think Angie and Megan realized that they were exactly two months apart in like kindergarten, and when my birthday got announced on December Birthdays day they both got way excited.”

He shifted his weight a little, bracing himself better as they slowed to a stop again. “The teacher had to ask them to take it down a notch. They started out as February and April, and I added December onto the front.” He shook his head. “Funny how you don’t remember stuff. I haven’t really thought that much about the birthday thing since...” He struggled a little bit again. “You know. Since.” Meaning since he’d last talked to Megan, before earlier that day.

Chris laughed. “Again, you just took a pretty good thump to the head and lost some blood. Angie is sorry, by the way.”

“What now?” Evan said not following the change of subject at all.

“I guess Angie summoned some sort of storm owl to save you from being taken down by a Beast,” Chris said as the train started again. Evan blinked at him. “By hitting you with blasts of wind to knock you out of the way. She wanted you to die slowly instead of quickly, I think. We want this next one, yeah?”

“Yeah.” Evan blinked, thrown by the question, then burst out laughing. “Nah! Not Ange. Angie did her best with what she had.” He paused for a sec, and said, “That explains that then. I’m glad she did it, but it was weird to experience.”

“Man, I saw it happen!” Chris said, shaking his head. “Boy was I confused! It was a relief when she told me when I called them to let them know I’d found you.”

“Damn though,” Evan said, nodding his head as the train slowed to their stop. “She called up that storm owl. Yeah, seems like she’d be asleep after that.” He checked his phone, felt chagrined. “Especially since it’s 1:11am. Dang. Sorry.”

Chris shrugged. “This isn’t that bad. I mean, Flame’s Watch4 is called that for a reason. A little later than I’d usually be out, since I’d probably aim to be in bed by midnight, but you know. You usually need to spend a few hours out in the dark to grab a Beast’s attention, and even with the sword I’m not pulling down a Beast every time I go out.” He fell silent for a moment, then gave Evan a look than Evan couldn’t parse. “Honestly, I thought it was pretty weird that you, with no Flame to draw it in, just happened to run across one so early in the night. Such a dangerous one, too.”

Evan stared out of the window into the darkness of the night, the flames of the regular gaslights casting a flickering orange glow over the lane the train was traveling down, fire gleaming reflected in windows of the buildings they passed, contrasting with the light of the Moon up above. “I suppose. Mostly unlucky for whoever that thing got first.”

  • 1. The Fredonian Alchemic Association still uses the British spelling of draft for some reason.
  • 2. The Seattle light rail system. The two car trains are also referred to as Links.
  • 3. The Research Triangle, one of the nicknames for the city-state of Raleigh-Durham, located near the northern edge of the Carolina region in Fredonia’s southeast. The satellite settlement of Chapel Hill is the third corner of the Triangle. So named for the three universities in those cities, Raleigh City-State University, Duke University, and University of Chapel Hill.
  • 4. The Fredonian term for the hours between 8pm and midnight, derived from watch schedules used by British town guards and Fredonian militia for the purpose of guarding against the Beasts. So named because Light Bearers traditionally patrolled or stood watch from sunset to midnight.