Chapter 13:

Doors Opening & Closing

Mylo and the Summoned Hero

Mylo walked into one bank, but thought of another.Bookmark here

The bank he stood in shone and bustled with quiet energy. Library quiet, this place. Waistcoat wearing tellers and tellers of numeric fortune murmured soft assurances to clients who were already assured to the brink of sedation. The atmosphere itself did enough. Polished marble counters, old but unblemished green velvet cordons, luminous brass fittings, impenetrable gazes—they all whispered that this was no mere building, but an unshakable institution. Indefatigable, eternal.Bookmark here

But this bank’s northern brother, in the mining town of Stangeria, had made the same promises. Mylo only saw the Stangeria Savings & Loan from the inside once. After the run and following riot, the sheriff locked it up with the glass shards left unswept. The windows and doors had been boarded up, but Julian saw a way around that.Bookmark here

Julian was older, stronger, more popular than Mylo. He acted as the ringleader of their little crew, telling them which shopkeepers to hit and which to avoid. Julian had messy crimson hair. Charismatic and handsome, but not half as cunning as he thought he was. He might have been Mylo’s brother.Bookmark here

"Over here." Julian waved Mylo to hurry, and hopped the counter. Mylo went around the side.Bookmark here

A glowstone wavered in Mylo’s hands. "I don’t know. Won’t it be cleaned out by now?"Bookmark here

"You worry too much," Julian said, and levered the cash drawer open with a small prybar.Bookmark here

As soon as the latch failed, dormant alarms sprang back to life.Bookmark here

They ran, but not fast enough.Bookmark here

Jules…should have seen that coming.Bookmark here

In the present, a teller waved to Mylo. "Mr. Bract. How can we help you today?"Bookmark here

Mylo limped up to the glass and asked to see the record of yesterday’s deposit—if, of course, it had been processed. The teller went away for a moment and came back with a slip of paper. There, inscribed in gorgeous flowing hand, lay disappointment. The lemming boss-monster had dropped the old ducal coins. Legally still honored as tender, but not in common use. The bank automatically changed them to the more secure denara.Bookmark here

Mylo stood there, 220 denara richer than he’d ever been. It wouldn’t last long in Dioon. With an inoperable gyre, what work could he find once there?Bookmark here

"Thank you. That will be all."Bookmark here

"There were a fair number of items transferred into a safety deposit box in your name during that same transaction," the teller reminded him. "You still have your key?"Bookmark here

"Yes," said Mylo, looking away as he felt the key in his pocket laughing at him.Bookmark here

He was a strobilus, of course he chose a lock which allowed him to set a pattern of small bursts of mana down the channels of a grooved key. It seemed the most secure option. He reached into his pocket and closed his hand on the key. Anything, a tiny little puff would do. His reservoir sat fractured, his gyre wouldn’t turn.Bookmark here

"I’ll retrieve them another time. A friend is expecting me."Bookmark here

He walked away, unsure there would be another time.Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

The guards put Mylo and Julian into the same cell. Cold and cramped, it featured a grated window that let in the autumn air. Anything that touched the walls came away caked with soot. Coughs of other inmates echoed down the hall. The only upside was that the cot was sized for adults, so neither had to sleep on the stone floor.Bookmark here

Julian stood on the cot and tugged at the grate, and got only bruised fingers for his efforts. Meanwhile, Mylo waited by the bars, hoping to snag the keys off the warden as he swaggered past. Almost worked a few times, but the warden sent him sailing back into the far wall with a kick to his small chest.Bookmark here

There had been talk of abandoning Stangeria and its dwindling ore. It came true for the pair when the warden and the food stopped coming.Bookmark here

Julian kicked Mylo awake. "Help me with the bars!"Bookmark here

"There isn’t room for both of us."Bookmark here

But Julian insisted and hauled Mylo up. They couldn’t get a grip on the staunch metal, and Mylo fell backwards off the cot when Julian decided to do it himself. Hitting the stone floor knocked the wind out of him.Bookmark here

A delicate voice tutted. "This is not a time for the brutish strength."Bookmark here

Mylo looked up into the dark eyes and mustache of Paul Etier. He seemed to shimmer, taking what little light entered the prison—but it was just a shiny suit.Bookmark here

"Keys," Mylo whispered and pointed to the hooks over the warden’s abandoned desk.Bookmark here

"But of course," Etier said. "Ah, but after I open the door, I ask of you and your companion the little favor?"Bookmark here

Julian had clued in, and agreed loudly to do anything. The favor turned out to involve a glowstone, a clear one, pure and free of inclusions. At the moment, it sat dark, unlit. Paul Etier held it out in a gloved hand.Bookmark here

"Now," said Paul with a smile. "If you please."Bookmark here

Julian snatched the stone first. This was a crude, but well known way to gauge a strobilus. The glowstone only emitted when mana moved through it, but resisted injection. Julian held his breath and strained, pushing with his gyre and whatever he had in reserve. A brilliant speck flared in the core for a moment, then died.Bookmark here

"Now, your friend."Bookmark here

With a defeated look in his eye, Julian passed the stone. Mylo uncapped his gyre and let mana flow to his hand. The glowstone felt warm, then hot in his fingers. The core flared, then a few outer layers followed suit. Most of the stone remained unlit, and he was about to tap his reservoir too when Paul took the stone.Bookmark here

"Good." He smiled at Julian, "You are free to go where you please. Of your friend, I require his most capable assistance."Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

You couldn’t get further from the prison cell atmosphere than the North Star hotel—at least not in Edule. The edifice rode out the quake with only minor damage, but the summer patrons were clearing out early. In the bustle, a veranda was left quite lonely, so Paul Etier invited Mylo to help him keep it company.Bookmark here

"So, you remember my request?"Bookmark here

Mylo nodded over the table. "But I don’t know anything about heroes—nothing real anyways. I know bits of stories. Most of them contradict each other."Bookmark here

"I will tell you more soon, when I have confirmed my information. For now, I have a list of suspects."Bookmark here

Paul placed his glasses on the bridge of his nose and went through the list. It was only five names long, but he had a great deal of information on each person’s movements after arriving in Edule.Bookmark here

"So, let us see how you do. Mylo, what was strange about all of them?"Bookmark here

Mylo didn’t like this game. Following Paul Etier’s leaps in logic was getting easier with practice, but it felt wrong knowing a person’s every move.Bookmark here

He set his cup down on a frilly white coaster. "I guess…they all arrived within the last 2 days or so, despite this being the middle of the season when most have been here for a month."Bookmark here

"Good!"Bookmark here

"Each has made a comments which came off as strange to a listener."Bookmark here

"Yes, and?"Bookmark here

"And none of them are taller than 6 foot 1."Bookmark here

Paul frowned like a sour old cat. "That is not relevant to being a hero."Bookmark here

"Then why did you tell me how tall they all were?"Bookmark here

They fell quiet and listened to the chirp of birds from the trees and bump of luggage from the hall.Bookmark here

"Pelgram wasn’t on your list," Mylo said.Bookmark here

"I was waiting for you to tell me if he should be."Bookmark here

They shared a look, Paul over coffee in blue lace china, Mylo over water in an enamel mug. It was just a feeling for now. ‘Pelgram’ fit the pattern—arrived at the right time, said weird stuff. But heroism, as Mylo understood it? No. Mylo thought heroes were supposed to be strong, or weak but strategic. Kasumi didn’t fit either archetype—she strolled into monsters’ aggro range three times, once in a boss room, and seemed determined to use a single spell.Bookmark here

But if she was some hero, then the powers that be would call upon her. Kasumi might be useful enough to lift out of this boring place.Bookmark here

"Yeah, she’s a peculiar one," said Mylo.Bookmark here

Paul raised an eyebrow. "Then your task for now is to keep your eyes on her. I’ll let you know soon as we have instructions. Then, when this is all wrapped up, we can both go to Dioon. I have a most excellent pastry shop to show you."Bookmark here

He mopped his mustache with a handkerchief, twiddled his cane, and stood. Before he could bid farewell, Mylo gave him a sullen look.Bookmark here

"Is this why you’ve kept me around? Because I keep managing to be just useful enough?"Bookmark here

Paul rushed to dispel the notion. "No, you are not an asset."Bookmark here

"You had me protect you while you got revenge. I was just a child."Bookmark here

"No!" Paul looked flustered to dishevelment. "That was…wrapping up loose ends. They were bad men who needed to be put down. It was a necessity then, but now, now you are my friend. It is not about how useful you are."Bookmark here

Mylo asked quietly, "Then where’s Julian?"Bookmark here

For a moment the old detective’s face didn’t register any recognition of the name.Bookmark here

Mylo started to walk away, to turn his back on Paul.Bookmark here

"Mylo! He is not here because he was adopted a long time ago. Julian is now a member an important family."Bookmark here

The tension in Mylo’s heart eased. Paul had never lied to him. The old man must have had to pull some serious strings to get a northern street rat he couldn’t use into a good home—and after his own fall from grace, too.Bookmark here

"Which family?" asked Mylo, but the harsh edge had left his voice.Bookmark here

"I am not at liberty to say."Bookmark here

"Figures."Bookmark here

Paul sat back down. Two minutes later, Lydia Wode phased in atop the table, upsetting the silverware.Bookmark here

"Ah, Lady Wode, you are a bit late. Had you arrived at the appointed time, I could have introduced you to my young friend, Mylo. He is as wasted in this backwater as I."Bookmark here

"Save it, Etier." Lydia dismounted the table and flowed into a wicker chair. "I came for an update, not to meet your protege. A mountain doesn't move because someone deserves a meadow."Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

A ways down the hill, in a grotesquely opulent mansion, Mr. Morin decided that, what with the recent quake and upheaval, it was prudent to move some of his spending money to the safe.Bookmark here

"See to it, Wilkins."Bookmark here

Wilkins soon returned with a pale countenance. "Pardon me for mentioning it, sir, but the arquebus which you placed inside appears to have vanished."Bookmark here

Mr. Morin ran in to see for himself. The safe, ajar under Wilkins's steady hand, stood quite empty.Bookmark here

Marshall Eastman
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