The Adventures of Tristan Shadow: Thief
Rain poured down. The cobblestone streets were slippery under Tristan’s soft leather boots. He pulled his collar up around his shoulders in a vain attempt to keep some of the rain off of his neck. A bobby stood on the corner of Houndslow and Digdowns, looking thoroughly soaked and miserable. Tristan hurried up the side street. The bobby watched him go by, wishing that he too could retreat to come place of shelter on this dismal night. Tristan’s footsteps came to a stop in front of a large steamy windowed shop. Above hung a sign that declared the shop: Mr. Burt’s, bones and biscuits. Tristan took an empty envelope out of his pocket. He glanced at the writing on the back, hurrying as the rain blurred the ink. Assured that he was indeed in the right location, he grasped the brass door knob firmly and entered.
The room was warm, dimly lit, and all the people sitting around in squishy armchairs, or at little tables, looked quite content to be waiting out the storm in such an agreeable location. At the back of the shop there was a large intricately carved and polished oak counter. Tristan walked up to the counter and perched himself on one of the plush stools. The bartender walked over. “What can I get ya mate?” he asked in a think marleybone accent. “A mug of hot apple cider,” Tristan said. “Comin’ right up!” said the bartender jauntily, and busied himself with making the drink. Tristan looked around the shop. All the groups sitting around were busy talking with their own parties. The only person out of place was a young woman with long dark brown hair, sitting at the other end of the counter, sipping hot cocoa. “’ere you are!” Suddenly a tankard of steaming, cinnamon smelling cider was placed in front of Tristan. “Thanks,” he said, and wrapped his hands around the warm mug. “That should warm ya up. Don’t want to get a chill on a ‘orrible night like this.” Tristan nodded and took a sip of the hot drink. After letting the hot liquid warm him down to his toes, he spoke to the bartender. “I was wondering if you would tell me something.” “I’ll try me best,” the bartender said as he leaned over the counter to listen to his customer’s question. “Does a lady by the name of Wind work here?” The barkeep shook his head. “Got ‘erself the sack she did. She was always nicking root-beer outta the cellar, see?” Tristan paused. “Thanks,” he said, pulled a few gold pieces out of his pocket and left them on the counter. He walked swiftly out of Mr. Burt’s, back into the gale. He pulled his wide brimmed hat down, and started walking.
He didn’t pass anyone in the square, but by the time he had gotten to Fleabridge avenue he was sure he could hear an extra set of footsteps. He paused. So did the footsteps. Wondering if he had only imagined the footsteps, believing that this whole affair was getting on his nerves, he plodded on. He soon came to the entrance to Digmoore Station. He got in the lift, and as it rattled to a stop, Tristan spied a small conglomeration of airship passengers waiting for their flights. As the metal grate clattered and slid out of the way, he stepped out of the life and made his way to the side of the station. Descending a small flight of stairs and pushing open an old wooden door.
Air Dale’s was packed, and Tristan had a hard time finding a seat. As he sat down at a small table in the right hand corner of the room, the crowd let out a great cheer. Tristan tried to look past the crowd to see what all the commotion was about, but the mass of cloaks, capes and full skirts was too dense to see through. Moments later the crowd quieted down, there was a jingle of piano keys, then a light trilling voice began to sing:
Everyone delights to spend their summer’s holiday
Down beside the side of the silvery sea…
From out of the crowd strode a lady wearing a violently pink dress and a large black feather boa. Atop her head was a whimsical hat, consisting mostly of a large black dove about to take off in flight, and a cascade of silk roses. She continued her singing, smiling and meandering through the crowd. She waved her boa and the crowd joined her in singing the chorus. She smiled and nodded encouragingly as they finished off: “Beside the seaside! Beside the sea!” The lady in pink twirled around and found herself facing Tristan. Her bubbly smile evaporated. She viewed him warily as she began the second verse:
William Sykes the burglar,
He’d been out to work one night
Filled his bag with jewels, cash, and plate…
Tristan nodded. The lady jerked her head towards a door at the back of the room. Tristan got up and slowly made his way towards the door. He opened it and found himself in a dingy hallway. On one of the doors a paper star, messily cut out hat been pasted. Tristan opened the door and entered the closet sized dressing room. It was poorly lit by one oil lamp, but it was tidy. Tristan was about to pick up a framed photograph on the dressing table and read the inscription on it when there was a muffled cheer and the door flew open. The lady came in, her hat looked almost sinister in the lamp-light. “Tristan Shadow,” she said. “I’d have thought you’d be sitting pretty by now.” “That’s interesting,” replied Tristan. “What makes you think that?” “Oh,” said the lady coyly, taking off her hat, “just something I heard from a friend.” “I see—and did your friend mention anything else?” “Not that I recall,” she said sweetly. Tristan switched approaches, “I liked that song you were singing.” “Really?” “Yep. Particularly the part about the thief,” he said smiling. “I thought you’d like that,” she said with a tinkling laugh. “Where is she Fiona?” Tristan said, still smiling. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Fiona said quickly turning away, and straightening the dressing table. “Where’s Wind Fiona?” Tristan said more firmly. “I know you know where she is. There’s no use denying that you two are best friends.” Fiona looked at him critically. His determination was unmistakable. “She’s not here anymore,” she said at last. “Wind heard you were coming and she cut and run.” “Where did she go?”asked Tristan, a touch of impatience in his voice. “Why should I tell you?” asked Fiona skeptically. “Because, she took it. And I need it back,” Tristan replied simply. “It is far more powerful than even I imagined.” Fiona stood there under Tristan’s hard gaze for a minute then said reluctantly, “She’s gone to work for the mander called ‘Hanif’ in Krokland.” Tristan nodded curtly. “Thanks Fiona.” He made to leave, and was just opening the door when Fiona called out, “She doesn’t have it you know.” Tristan whipped around. Fiona looked smug. “Sold it.” “To whom?” he asked a tenor of panic in his voice. Fiona shook her head. “You’ll have to ask her that yourself.” Tristan’s expression hardened and he left Fiona laughing to herself in the lamp-light.