Evil is Rising 2 2

"Hey, Blondie! Yeah, you, girlie. I'm talkin' to you!"

It took a couple of repetitions for Trissiny to realize she was being addressed. No one in her life had ever spoken to her that way, and since she had gained her sword and armor, most people possessed of any sense would not have dared.

Now, a man ambled up to her directly, grinning and eying her up and down as he came in a manner that nearly made her reach for her sword. He was garbed like something out of a penny novel, all dust-stained denim and flannel, with snakeskin boots and a ten-gallon hat. "Mighty pleased to meet you, missy," he said in a prairie drawl, his grin becoming an outright leer. "If you got a bit before your car comes, mebbe we can find a shady spot to have a drink? My treat."

Trissiny was too astonished by the sheer effrontery to react as she otherwise might. That bought her a moment to reconsider her first impulse; thrashing this fool would doubtless lead to trouble no matter how much he deserved it. At the very least, she'd miss her caravan.

"No, thank you," she replied stiffly. A whipping with the flat of her blade would do him a world of good, but she could not go around smiting every idiot who lacked manners. She reminded herself forcefully of this as he leaned in close enough for her to smell the whiskey on his breath.

"Aw, don't be like that, darlin'. Why, I bet you'll find me the best company you ever-oof!"

A second cowboy, dressed similarly and strongly resembling her admirer in the face, shouldered him roughly aside, then turned to her and tugged the brim of his hat. "My apologies, ma'am. My brother ain't been off the ranch in half a year, an' sometimes he forgets he wasn't raised by wolves." He cut off the protest forming on the first man's face by swatting him upside the back of the head, forcing him to catch his flying hat. "Won't happen again. 'Scuze us."

"Turn loose a' me, Ezekiel!" the first cowboy said furiously as his brother grabbed him by the arm and began dragging him toward the nearest set of steps. "I was just havin' some-"

"You shut the hell up. Land's sakes, boy, if you gotta be embarrassing, couldja at least not be suicidal? Don't you know a paladin when you see one? You ain't that **headed!"

They were halfway up the footbridge, but their loud conversation remained clearly audible on Platform Ten. "Paladin? That ain't no paladin, dumbass. That girl ain't more'n fifteen."

"Jebediah Jenkins, if I weren't such a good brother I'd send you back over there to finish what you started, an' spare myself the trouble of whuppin' your ass for botherin' a girl you think is fifteen!"

Trissiny would have liked very much to sink into the platform and vanish. The brothers Jenkins were acquiring stares, which were quickly transferred to herself as people discerned the source of their quarrel. Against her will, her cheeks heated. Hopefully the onlookers would take it for righteous anger, selflessly suppressed. Yeah, and if hopes were coins, Avei would have a temple in every hamlet in the Empire.

A well-dressed man with the silver gryphon badge of an Imperial agent pinned to the breast of his coat, and another decorating his hat, shouldered quickly through the crowd, moving purposefully in the direction of the loud brothers. His wand remained holstered, though he held a hand conspicuously near it and kept his gaze fixed on the two cowboys. He paused before Trissiny to tilt his hat respectfully to her. "Blessings, ma'am."

"And to you, Sheriff," she replied gratefully, inclining her head. At least someone took her seriously without having to taste her blade. She did not look fifteen!

He proceeded after his quarry, and she fixed her gaze stiffly on a point above everyone's head. It was funny how she could tell people were whispering about her, despite the ambient noise in the station.

She was unaccustomed to the crawling pace of time in a tense situation. Trissiny's days were always full; there was never a lack of work to be done at the Abbey, and whenever she was not pitching in her fair share, she had more training and prayer to attend to than the other novice Sisters. On the very rare occasions when she wanted time to pass by faster, she would occupy herself in meditation, or in communing with the goddess.

There was simply nothing to do on the platform. Focusing inward was not an option as she did not feel remotely safe in this crowd of pushy strangers, especially after the encounter with the Jenkinses. She had her sword in its sheath at her belt and her shield on her back, but even had there been enough space to run through a combat drill without injuring someone, the sight would have caused turmoil in the bustling station. So she stood, for fifteen interminable minutes while the caravans roared by on their Rails and people gazed curiously at her, often pausing in their own business to do so. Trissiny practiced her situational awareness, keeping her gaze rigidly fixed on empty space but trying to maintain a knowledge of her surroundings through peripheral vision. It was the only thing she could think of to do aside from weltering in her own discomfort.

She was first to move when the caravan slowed to a stop next to Platform Ten. Trissiny watched the procedure with interest; she had seen it at the much smaller Rail depot in Trasio, but it remained impressive. The Rail itself, a single raised line on spokes like a bannister that extended into the distance in both directions, began to hum and glow arcane blue with the caravan's approach. The train that arrived to take her on to Last Rock had eight passenger cars, twice the size of the one which had brought her here. They looked the same, though, tiny bits of glass and steel looking like a single squared tube with so many in a line. This caravan also had four larger, boxy cargo wagons affixed after the passenger cars, and another angular enchanter's post behind that to match the one at the front. She wondered if the added weight meant it needed a second enchanter to keep it going.

Trissiny edged back from the Rail along with the other passengers as lightning sparked along the rim of the platform with the energy of the caravan halting itself. The tiny hairs on her arms and the back of her neck stood upright.

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