Lindsey Drutherstone was scuffed and ruffled from his passage through the continent. He had been carried mostly by train. One cargo ship ride had been thrown in as well to get him across the channel. He had been in the bowels of stowage but found it was manageable and certainly exceeded itself in luxury compared with the nuisance grip of a donkey ride between the stations of Louvelle and Gervitz due to the lack of a connecting rail. He hadn’t been able to get the smell of manure and mildew out of his trousers. He planned to buy a new pair once he reached Erbulii, the trading nexus between the continental empires and the desert kingdoms. He’d trade up for something stylish but affordable.
His thoughts about Janus were still a feathered mess. It seemed that each leg of the journey brought a new slant or consideration to the subject. The whole affair had iridescence, illuminating brilliantly or sinking into a dull prosaic depending on the whimsy of angles. He had the superstitious sense that he could invoke clarity if he could only choose the correct side of his train car to fall asleep in. Somehow, this would invite a shrewd awakening, one that knew better than the last one hundred awakenings. This was never the case, though. He wondered idly if he was a dreaming damned to somebody else’s circus?
He slurped through a centennial’s worth of coffee, all the while reciting speeches in his mind for Janus. Insights into his personality, a formal proclamation of love abused, maybe a withering comment or two. But a mainstay of his hashing thoughts, always, was Janus’s imminent death. The focus on dear, dear Janus’s approaching demise kept him personal to Lindsey. Within reach, somehow. Just a man and not malevolent curse conjured for and solely for him. A man as riddled with mistakes as he was with physical illness. Did Janus feel guilty for him leaving, Lindsey still wondered? It seemed unlikely given Janus’s overall chosen style of life and livelihood. Still, this was the Veil. The cliff’s edge. The last of it. Does that sort of thing change people or does it make them act even more as they did in life? Far from contrition, are they moved by desperation to act all themselves and all at once?
Heaving a sigh and resting his head against the vibrating glass window of his train car, Drutherstone turned his attention back to his namesake, his circus. He felt confident that Ungulen would have things under control. Goren Hargus was, of course, useless, except for his expert ability to stretch every last penny to its celestial limit. Marrionetta, thought Lindsey. Hard grief. He knew the circus’s finances were stable, though, as long as she was around. What a find she was. He recalled meeting her — or at least observing her — thrumming around in nightclubs, earning whatever cash the drunk foolery of Dorcett left on the piano. He had stalked her — in the professional sense — for a few days that week. He saw many of her acts and also the eager way she enmeshed herself into gratis plates of fried tubers at a local cafe. The cook there had also noticed that she was something special.
Drutherstone had seated himself next to her — a gesture that was extremely dangerous in retrospect– and asked if she had any references. He had seen that urchin’s glint in her eyes and known she’d be a hard worker if he gave her enough tether of her own to play with. The dreaming damned just couldn’t get enough of her. He suddenly remembered he had been meaning to discuss her act with her. He felt there were some opportunities to heighten things, make it a touch more frightful. She would throw her shoes at him, of course, but she was always listening.
He smiled. Just as well I’m away from all of that for any stretch of time. He couldn’t help himself and started laughing. It’s nearly a holiday!
The lunch cart banged in the outer corridor. Drutherstone signaled the girl and ordered a plain roll.
“On second thought,” he said to the lunch girl, his good mood swelling, “make it two. Do you have any with raisins?”