Practical Exercise

The two major streets were South Street and North Street. She knew exactly where to take us on North Street to procure something I’d never heard of, which she assured me was the stain specific for my panelling.  I nodded agreeably and paid the unman who owned the shoppe.  Two cross-streets down were a group of stores handling alchemical supplies.  The time-stopped chest with a hundred standard samples, each in a separate vial, was not cheap, but she paid it without hesitation.

Dinner was the breads and yogurt and curries place.  She knew the place, so I let her order, and did not complain when she insisted on paying. She had packed a stack of food preserver cartons and was going to save what we didn’t eat. It was all wonderful, though I already had a substantial lunch, so I left her a good part of it to take home. I did ask for a couple of the breads to drop into time preserver boxes of my own. The loaf I’d bought had been eaten by my neighbors. She explained why she was so grateful. She’d been working on this problem for several weeks.  Her research advisor didn’t like people asking him stupid questions, as he defined stupid, so she’d been afraid to say anything, just reported that ‘these colors worked, and some others are being stubborn.’  He was starting to get impatient. It struck me that being impatient and being unwilling to help was not necessarily an ideal combination.

The sun was not that low in the sky when we headed back with everything we had bought. She proposed doing the stain now, so I could get full benefit of the land breeze overnight. The stain did not smell that much, but I would still be happier with all my windows open.

We had gone a couple of blocks when she stopped looked into a shop window, bent over and motioned for me to bend over to look more closely. Then she whispered in my ear. “Adara, don’t look behind us, but I’m quite sure we’re being followed.”

“How can you tell?” I whispered back.

“My earrings literally give me eyes in the back of my head. It was a safety precaution from my parents. The same four guys either stay up half block behind us or drop over to the alley and cut in front of us, which they’ve done twice, and assume that we won’t notice.  Their coordination is good. I don’t see how they do it.”

“Tuned speaking stones,” I whispered back. “But we had better get going or they will get suspicious.”  I opened up my void nodes, reached over my head to tap my gnothdiar to wake it up, and readied a stack of defensive spells. Kwober’s had been very emphatic that the use of combat magic that could do damage inside Harmony was treated as an extremely serious crime. Penal servitude at hard labor for an extended period of years was standard.

About George Phillies

science fiction author -- researcher in polymer dynamics -- collector of board wargames -- President, National Fantasy Fan Federation
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