Kul Viller Subway – Yellow Line (eastbound)
A subway train is nearly empty. A paladin and her chronicler sit near the end of their car, on each side of the aisle. She has one foot up against the edge of the seat facing hers, just like in her youth. Old habits come back so fast.
Outside the window, a tunnel is dark. Obviously.
A train rattles and clanks. Metal grinds against metal. Breaks screech and engines growl. Doors pull open. Slam shut. Now and then, sootkin howl through the darkness outside, playing in the airstream of the train – like dolphins by a boat.
Someone steps off. No one steps on. A train car is empty.
It is all so very familiar.
– – –
Toini tugged at her parka. Too warm. It had been over a decade and they still hadn’t fixed the heating in the trains. Always too warm. That was one thing she wished wouldn’t have stayed the same.
On the other side of the car Raoul cleared his throat and shifted in his seat. “Alright boss, what was that all about?”
“What?” Toini frowned.
“Back at that shop. Prince Adrian and everything.”
“Oh, just drop it.” Toini sighed. Why couldn’t he just let it go? “It’s nothing.” She scowled at him and turned back to staring out the window. “Nothing…”
“Seriously boss. I really didn’t expect that of you.”
Again, there was that smugness about him, in the way he spoke. She could hear it even when she wasn’t looking at him.
”I said drop it!” Toini rolled her eyes. “And it’s not like that.”
“Sure looked like it boss.” Raoul chuckled.
Grumbling, Toini turned to face him again. “It’s not like that. Okay?” She made a chopping motion with her hand to underscore her point. It really wasn’t anything like that.
“You’re standing there moaning like a lovesick teenager.” Raoul shrugged, a big grin on his face. “What else am I going to think?”
“Seriously Raoul.” Toini sighed and shook her head. “You know me better than that.”
“Well…” He splayed his hands and raised his eyebrows, a total picture of innocence. “I thought I did.”
Toini hung her head. Her shoulders slumped and she let out a long breath. Might as well tell him. It wasn’t like all the memories weren’t coming back on their own as it were anyway. Stupid Adrian. Stupid Raoul.
It was supposed to be a good day. She was going to meet her sister.
She cleared her throat and straightened up. And then she just sat there, staring up the length of the empty subway car, sorting through her thoughts. This really wasn’t part of the plan. How could she have forgotten about Adrian? The train rattled on, clanking and grinding, taking her closer to her destination.
Raoul, wisely, said nothing.
Eventually, she took another deep breath. “We were in the air force together.” She looked down at her hands in her lap. “I served with him both at Hemsfil Base and aboard the Golden Lancer.”
“Oh, the exiled son.” Raoul whistled through his teeth. “The plot thickens.”
Toini clenched her jaws and shot him a glare. “He was a really good friend of mine.”
“Was?” Smirking, he raised an eyebrow at her.
Her blood boiled. She shot to her feet, and fists raised she took two quick steps towards him. Raoul shrank back, the smile gone from his face. Bastard. Cower.
“I’m stupid dead!” she shouted. “Everyone thinks I died. That life is gone. I have no old friends anymore.”
She stared at him, arms wide, fists clenched. He just wouldn’t get it. Chronicler or not, if he didn’t shut up, she’d beat the crap out of him.
“Oh…” Raoul cast down his eyes and shifted in his seat – put his feet together, bit on his nails. “Yes… Right.”
“Yes. Exactly.” Toini lowered her arms and returned to her seat, but her heart still beat hard, like she’d been running. She took a few deep breaths to calm herself down.
It wouldn’t be much longer. A few weeks and then she’d have a new chronicler. She didn’t care how good Raoul was at his job. It’d be a relief to not have someone around who pissed her off with his very presence.
She sighed and leaned forward with her elbows on her knees. “It’s a shitty situation, but I’d like to keep it like that. If Adrian finds out I’m here he’ll want to join the crew, and there’s no way that’ll ever end well.”
Really, it would be a disaster. No one would want that. Her god might be testing her by sending her back to her hometown, but even he wouldn’t want her to bring the stupid prince onto the team.
Over on his side of the car Raoul cleared his throat and tried a little smile. “I see.”
“Yes. Good. Can we drop this now?” Toini crossed her arms over her chest and leaned back in her seat, “It’s from before I was consecrated so it’s really none of your business. Okay?”
Raoul nodded, and said nothing else.