In a Cabin on La Danse Calinda…
The brothers stared at Tayliana Winddancer, each with an identical eyebrow raised an identical distance. They glanced at each other, at her again, and finally lowered their weapons.
“My dear woman,” Lord Jeneyeru said somewhat archly, “whatever made you think I would know anything about some sort of automaton? I am no enchanter. The Luminous Shadow Way manipulates darkness, not gears and whatnot. ‘Pon my word, what eccentric people ride aboard this vessel. Peino, brother, do you have any interest in this whatever-it-is?”
Prince Peino was securing his dagger back in its scabbard, looped to his waistcoat. “I know stars, winds, sails, lines, and maps,” he said. “I confess myself quite hopeless at any mechanism more complex than that.” He nodded with a terse courtesy to Tayliana. “‘Tis a pity my first mate is not here, lady. He’s a deft hand with all sorts of engineering problems. Alas, Captain Lafitte had no room for him.”
There followed an awkward pause, some moments into which Thimble jumped down from his bunk and opened the door for Tayliana Winddancer. The others in the cabin merely stood and waited, looking at her.
— — —
Elsewhere, on Raurugia Rail No. 47…
It might be considered that Haug Handslayer was making a bit more headway in his quest than Tayliana Winddancer.
Just a few other people were in the galley car, as the train had only been a short while out of the terminus. Haug steered the exotic Y’lanna towards a booth near the entrance to the car, in a corner where the pull-down table fitted to an el-shaped bench, all snug and cozy and not very different from a quiet corner in any workman’s pub in any town in Aeldreth. Soon enough, a pitcher of strong ale and a platter of cold meat, pickles, and cheese was before them, and Haug was pouring a healthy draft of the thick, frothy liquid into pewter mugs.
Gallantly pushing one mug towards Y’lanna, he half-drained his own in a single gulp and wiped the foam from his lip with an enormous hand.
“Now then, pretty one,” he said, “drink up for your health’s sake, by the gods, and tell me where you’ve been and where you’re going, and what you seek along the way. No, none of that — you put your purse away. You’re in too good company now for that.” He quickly tossed more gold than was needed at the barman. “So then, adventure did you say? What adventures does a lass like you dream of then? Tell me quick, and whatever you desire, I’ll get it for you — and the price for each item will be fair, I vow. A smile here, perhaps a kiss there, or what have you. Nothing that should offend a free woman’s sensibilities, eh?”