“Father’s gone on business for the moment,” Djaren said, opening the carriage door for his mother. “He’ll be home quite soon, I imagine.” Hellin Blackfeather picked her small daughter up nimbly and set her in the carriage. Ellea bore this with dignity and chose a window seat for herself. Hellin took the hand Tam offered and climbed up into the carriage, revealing in that motion that her full skirts were in fact voluminous trousers. The Professor followed her in. Jon wavered a moment, finding his choices were to sit between Hellin Blackfeather and the Professor, or next to Ellea, who was regarding him steadily with some unreadable expression. She edged over an inch. Jon took the motion as an invitation and sat down carefully. The Professor smiled across at him. Tam and Djaren took the remaining seats. Djaren wiped dust from his spectacles with an equally dusty handkerchief and settled them back on his nose with a smile. “Off to the dig. Wait till you see it!” (more…)
Jon told the Professor and Tam about seeing the pickpocket on the train but did not mention seeing the great black wing. He didn’t want the Professor to think he was telling stories, and Jon was unsure himself of just what he thought he had seen. Tam was excited at the news about the thief. “If I see the little sneak about, I’ll make him give up that watch right enough,” he declared. “Was your pocket watch terribly valuable?” Jon asked the Professor. “I confess I don’t really know,” the Professor replied. “I myself treasured it. It was a gift from a good friend. But it was a thing only, not the friendship itself, and all things are transitory.” The Professor touched something near his collar, and Jon noted than he wore something strung about his neck, under his shirt. (more…)
The Professor and his charges boarded their new train without further incident. It was bigger than the last train, painted green, with brown upholstered bench seats in little walled compartments. A hallway beside the compartments ran the length of the passenger cars, of which there were sixteen. The eight luggage cars and six freight cars were all off limits to passengers. There were also three dining cars, two for the more well off passengers and one for everyone else. The boys had explored all they were allowed of the train in a very short time, found the nearest lavatory, and chosen how they wanted to sit in their own car. The Professor remained remarkably calm about the loss of his watch and satchel. Jon wanted to ask him about the feather, but felt it was impolite to do so. The Professor was being so very kind to them. Unlike other grown ups, it didn’t matter to him who read what paper first, and so both boys were invited to share freely in the wealth of words before them. (more…)
The grand terminal at Merigvon could be seen from some distance, gleaming amid the city’s spires. The great glass roof seemed to slide arching over them like a glittering clamshell as the train pulled slowly in. Other trains passed quite close to them, alarming Jon until he remembered they were all on their own tracks and couldn’t possibly collide. Dozens of tracks led into the cathedral-like building, and trains of all kinds stood puffing and steaming under vaulted arches of steel, stone, and glass. Statues stared down grimly from the high ornamented arches and balustrades on either side of the hall. Cherubs, soldiers, and ladies in flowing robes with scrolls and baskets of fruit were everywhere upon the high walls. Stone wreaths and angels, memorials of some foreign war, stood at the east end of the hall, winding around the largest clock Jon had ever seen in his life. The Gardner boys regarded the place with wonder, faces pressed close to the window. “This is the crossroads of the continent,” Professor Sheridan informed them, straightening his hat carefully. “We will change trains here, and be able to stretch our legs.” “Do they have papers?” Jon asked, hearing his own voice rather smaller and more breathless than he wanted. “Quite a few. I telegraphed ahead to have certain titles bundled and ready for my arrival. We shall have a pile of reading for the next leg of our journey.” Jon returned the Professor’s smile readily. (more…)
“The train is stopping. I think we’re here,” Jon Gardner told his brother Tam. (more…)
These stories follow the nation of Shandor through its colonial and industrial eras. Unlikely heroes chosen by a living land investigate the supernatural, reconcile cultural divides, and discover their own gifts.