Small Beginnings- LOTA Part 1

Well, I think it's time I placed the latest version of what I've written on here. I'm starting a new project, and I'd like people to know where I got with the old one, just, you know, because. This is a working title, any suggestions let me know. Thanks guys :)

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5. Chapter 5

When Jiro entered Celestan, he found the town bustling. People and others alike were hurrying through the wide streets, narrowly avoiding the truckloads of foreign street vendors standing at the sides, each shrieking the names of their wares with such force that the sound repulsed half the commuters. One woman in particular was striding along, pulling a toddler with her. Another man had two arms full of bags and boxes. Jiro, still standing at the entrance, was mystified by this immense concentration of people. Ur, a secluded village in the middle of a valley, rarely had a visitor or a new arrival. There were about 100 residents in Ur; there was thrice that in this street alone. It took a while, but Jiro eventually spotted a small café to one side, and made for that. He was tossed and turned, pushed and shoved, thrown around like a leaf in a hurricane, but he relented, eventually arriving at the entrance.

Inside, it was suitably tranquil. A few customers sat at tables reading newspapers and sipping coffee. Jiro surveyed the café with a lazy eye, and then continued to the till.

A young lady with long blond hair, apparently bored, sat in a chair behind the counter.

“Madam,” Jiro enquired. “I’m sorry, I’m new here. What is that?” He pointed to a piece of what appeared to be jelly with a face.

“Four ninety.” The cashier wasn’t there to help.

“I’m sorry? What did you say?”

“Four ninety. Take it or leave it.”

“Madam...”

“Do you want it?”

“Well, yes.” Jiro hadn’t encountered someone like this before. He lifted the small enamel plate, on which the Four Ninety was situated, and made to sit down. However, before he could take a seat, he was stopped by the cashier. “I said four ninety,” the lady spat. She clearly didn’t appreciate whatever he was doing wrong.

“And I said I wanted it,” Jiro replied, hoping that she would go away.

“You give me the plate or I call the authorities.”

Suddenly everyone in the cumbersome establishment turned and stared.

“I asked for the Four ninety, and I will have it.” This wasn’t at all what Jiro wanted.

“Hirosh, get the authorities. Now.”

The one called Hirosh stumbled out of his seat, and ran out, without looking back.

Jiro decided to have one last try. “Just let me have the Four Ninety.”

He never got a reply. From the distance, a whistle was blown. “Authorities!” someone shouted. “Stay right where you are!!!”

Jiro turned to see three burly men in their forties. One had a large black baton, and they all looked like they could beat him in a fight. Another, standing at the front, wore a naval cap with “AUTHORITIES” engraved on the front in gold lettering.

Jiro went to speak, but the blonde cashier cut in. “This boy tried to steal from me. Take him away.” She pointed dramatically at Jiro. What had he done wrong!

“I asked for this four ninety, and she had a go at me!” This was how Jiro saw it.

The man with the hat considered this for a moment. He apparently reached a verdict, and muttered something in the man with the baton’s ear. He turned back, and announced;

“Belle is a trusted lady among our community.” The blonde cashier seemed to swell with pride at this. “I can’t say I’ve seen the boy around here, so I think he’s a thief trying to take food.” They didn’t even ask his name! “We’ll hold him until the patrician detective arrives in the morning.”

The morning! It was only 11 o’clock now! How above earth could he wait another day! The day wasn’t going well. He let himself be handcuffed, and was slowly frog-marched away.

~

Cells weren’t really where he wanted to be right now. They were cold, damp affairs, with scratch marks adorning every surface in sight. There was no entertainment, and the hard mattress in one corner gave nothing to warrant tiredness. How could those who had really committed a crime stay here for months, even years? The claustrophobic, insomnia-inducing concrete box was impossibly boring, and he suddenly realised the effectiveness of even half a year in these places. He had tried practicing spells, but even they flickered and died, reflecting Jiro’s hope. He was tired, very tired, but couldn’t sleep. He had lost track of time, but knew morning was upon him. As he cast a minor flame in the air, he saw the iron bars of his cell drawn back, and a tall man stepped in. The Patrician Detective was a balding man in his mid-forties, with horn-rimmed spectacles jutting out of his long, triangular, pointed nose. He wore a cream duffel coat, and had polished brown shoes.

“Alright,” the patrician huffed, as he sat down on the bunk. “What’s your name then?”

“Jiro, sir.” If he could help it, Jiro wasn’t going to be helpful.

“Jiro...”

“Koniyotu.”

“Where are you from?”

“Ur.”

“Er what?”

“Ur. Valley town, lower Atlands?”

“Oh, Ur!” He pronounced the ‘U’ like it was ‘you’. “I saw that once during my travels. Yes, well, sorry about that. Anyway, what is Four ninety?”

Jiro blurted out the answer before he could even think about it. “Food!” The instant it left his lips, the clammy space felt smaller, more compacted. He realised that wasn’t it. So what was it?

“Four ninety,” the Patrician replied, as slow and deliberate as he could, “Is a measurement of currency in Celestan. Four Cells ninety was the correct term.”

Jiro saw a break and leapt upon his chance. “Yeah, well she didn’t tell me that! I mean...”

The Patrician had raised a hand for silence. I understand your anger, but...”

“Shut up!” Jiro didn’t even bother with a raised hand. He just felt the anger bubbling up inside him. In this cold, threadbare box, with only a hard bed and a tall man that looked like a sophisticated bookstore owner for company, he felt like he was going insane. How could anyone survive this for ten years? What if he was given ten years for what he did? And Krenclire’s last words still resonated through his head, further complicating him untidy, messed up array of brain cells. “It’s not fair!” he screamed, in a shrill voice. The Patrician, taken by surprise, was thrown back in his seat. The thin, unwelcoming sheets seemed to cringe at this latest display of madness.

“Calm!” The patrician put a warm hand on Jiro’s having shoulders. It seemed to sober Jiro immediately. “Now,” he iterated, “Try again. What’s going on in your mind?”

Really, Jiro wasn’t in the mood. He wanted to set the Patrician on fire and steal a fast horse and gallop back home and spend the rest of his waking life curled up in a ball on his bed. He had wanted to show Vellian a ghost town, and was now halfway through getting back to a guild, where he would try to convince a magic stone face that a well should become sacred, so as to rescue a friend and a glowing ostrich-necked fish from an out and out mad spirit that wanted to be some kind of celebrity. What was wrong with him? Where did he go wrong? What above earth did he do wrong to deserve this?

His thoughts were interrupted by the Patrician. “Jiro,” he said calmly, “What are you thinking of?”

Jiro thought. He didn’t know why, but there it was, a thought. A beautiful, perfect, thought, out to help him. With a little loving care, that metaphorical seed could grow into the thing he needed to escape. But he needed to act fast. Impromptu, as a member of a local travelling theatre once said the night they invited the whole of Ur to watch a play.

“Sir, I demand you let me go!”

The patrician gazed at him, puzzled, and asked; “Why should I?”

Jiro was worried he’d say that. Looking back, it was obvious, but Jiro wasn’t thinking straight. How could he? Time for that impromptu.

“I’m an honorary member of the local guild.”

It had sounded much better in his head.

“I’m sorry?” When the patrician applied for a job solving crimes, he wasn’t expecting to meet lunatics from the Mechalisourrd.

“Sir, I am returning from a survey from the Well of Man’s...”

“Beginning, I know.” The patrician was losing his patience and his reason to keep the young miscreant. Although he looked like a middle-aged bank manager, he felt more like the lawyer of a criminal that had just confessed. A fish out of water. Or in a desert, to be more accurate.

“So I’m just going to believe that?” A patrician out of water he may be, but he still had one trump card left to play.

“Watch this then!” Now Jiro was really rolling.

Morphus Diffrento!

He loved winning, and it’s made sweeter when the guy opposite you is holding a plump, vibrant yellow, rubber duck in place of a pen.

It took a few seconds, but the patrician soon realised what he had in his hand, and recoiled violently at the sight, nearly falling off the wicker chair he was sitting on.

“You’re an agent?”

Jiro didn’t know what that was, but he supposed that meant he was in the Mechalisourrd. “I’ve been trying to tell you that! I need to get back now. If you have any sense, you will escort me back.” Jiro had figured that he was supposed to be important, and although the style didn’t exactly suit him, he thought that he was doing well.

The patrician on the other hand, was completely bemused. He couldn’t work out for the life of him what he was supposed to do. It took a minute or two of silence, but he eventually decided to call in the guards, and prepare a horse and carriage, just in case he himself was put into prison for harassing an honorary agent. He set a revitalised Jiro off in one of the town’s few escort carriages, just like one you read about in fairy stories, complete with curtains and fancy black wheels. The driver, a girl of about 14 that could drive something like this since she was eight, explained the journey should take about two days, so he settled down for the long term. It was late afternoon, so he ate a jelly similar to the “four ninety” he had taken earlier, and then lay down on his seat. He fell asleep like a log.

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