Evil is Rising 1 1

Glad as she was to be off the caravan, Trissiny stepped into a scene of such chaos that she froze, unable to take it all in. The Rail station at Calderaas was bigger than the entire Abbey back home, but vastly open and apparently made of glass.

She'd have thought the metal framework which supported it was some kind of empty cage, except that rain was pounding on it at the moment. Worse, the huge station was crammed with people; shouting, shoving people, dressed in a variety of costumes such as she had never seen. Barely a majority of them were even human.

She inhaled deeply, trying to orient herself. The Hand of Avei would not be paralyzed by indecision, nor peer about stupidly like some sort of bumpkin just in from the sticks. Truthfully, that might be a fair description and Trissiny had little in the way of personal ego, but she was terrified of being an embarrassment to her goddess. She could do this.

Behind her, someone cleared his throat loudly. Blushing, she mumbled an apology and quickly lugged herself and her trunk out of the path so everyone else could leave the caravan. Apparently the Hand of Avei could freeze like a spooked rabbit and hold up the entirety of Imperial commerce on this Rail line. Only the fear of making herself an even bigger spectacle stopped her from slapping her own face in frustration.

Judging by the level of pushing and general rudeness going on around her, that more gentle reminder had been very special treatment. Well, even if people didn't know the significance of the silver finish of her armor, it was still recognizably the ceremonial gear of the Sisters of Avei; few would seek to irritate her.

She took up a position to the side of the caravan steps, out of everyone's way, and fished out her travel itinerary from her belt pouch to look it over again. Not that she hadn't memorized the thing long since, and anyway it wasn't that complicated, but it was a tiny bit of familiarity.

People back home weren't all that homogenous, or so she'd thought. Viridill had been settled by humans from every part of the Empire, and even today was home to humans of every color, shape and description. But with the exception of the odd elven traveler and the lizardfolk up in the mountains, they were all humans, and dressed themselves mostly in the same, humble style. The people here in the station were a cross-section of the entire Empire, or so it seemed to her, and she didn't know what to make of the variety of costumes she saw. Suits, waistcoats and coats with long tails seemed the custom for most men, often with stovepipe hats on the more elaborately dressed, or wider brimmed ten-gallon styles for those who worked for a living.

Nearby, a knot of well-to-do ladies tittered amongst themselves, garbed in flowing pastel-toned gowns, a menagerie of preposterous hats and corsets. Trissiny forced herself not to gape. How could a woman even breathe in those things, much less move? Perhaps Mother Narny had been right about fashion being a weapon against all womankind.

Oddly dressed as they might be, though, humans were something Trissiny understood, and most of her attention was on the various others in the crowd. There were more elves than she'd ever imagined seeing in one place, mostly keeping to themselves and moving in small pockets in the crowd, as if their neighbors were reluctant to touch them even by accident.

Dwarves she knew only by description, but the several who were presently trundling rapidly about their business on the platform were unmistakeable even so. A passing couple of very small people on a goat-pulled cart had to be gnomes of some kind. Through gaps in the crowd, Trissiny glimpsed a small family of lizardfolk seated against one wall, a battered hat set in front of them. That sight was troubling; she'd rarely dealt with the lizardfolk back home, but she thought of them as too proud to beg.

She was gathering stares of her own, as well; none hostile, but many awed and some rather fearful. Apparently quite a few people in Calderaas did know what silver armor meant. There might even be some present who could sense the aura of divine power that she had been told hovered over her. Trissiny schooled her expression, tucked away her itinerary and set off in search of Platform Ten. There hadn't been a paladin of Avei in thirty years, and she surely hadn't been called now to make a spectacle of herself in the Rail station.

Five minutes later she had to give up and reorient herself again. The layout of the station was confusing; platforms were interspersed with Rail lines, reached by collections of wrought-iron footbridges that arched over the Rails themselves. Her trunk had a handle and wheels, which she'd thought a great luxury when it was first given to her, but that was before she'd had to drag it up and down half a dozen sets of stairs.

The platforms weren't labeled in the most helpful manner, either. She ultimately had to stop in the middle of one of the footbridges and crane her neck around to find the signs, which revealed that she had been going in the wrong direction. With a sigh, Trissiny turned back and made her up-and-down way, gritting her teeth against the constant bumping of her trunk, to Platform Ten.

She was a good twenty minutes early to catch her next caravan, but made certain to consult the board posted by the stairs to verify that this would be the one going to Last Rock. With little else to do but wait, she tucked herself as out of the way as she could on the bustling platform and fell back to studying her environment.

Of the same iron construction as the footbridges, there were several small platforms extending over the Rails themselves, which were in use for a variety of purposes. Two were clearly for storage, piled high with crates and barrels. Another, otherwise empty, was being taken advantage of by several travelers as a respite from the pushing throng.

On the nearest, a couple of elves had set up a tiny stand and were selling tea from beneath a hand-painted sign reading "Platform 9 ¾." Trissiny appreciated the whimsy, but she was not tempted. Between her general nervousness, the roiling in her stomach from the Rail ride she'd just escaped and the anticipation of her next one, she couldn't have kept a cup of tea down. Riding the Rails was one of the most romanticized experiences of the modern age; in practice, she found it rather like being sealed inside a barrel and rolled down a hill.

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