Chapter 12- The Wizard

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The old wizard's home was in the last place one would expect a follower of the hidden arts to dwell. He resided in one of the stations that hovered around Yahal. Places of refuge for the technologically inclined tethered to Yahal for one reason or another. Most inhabitants were college professors, scientists or politicians.

The commute to Yahal mainland was under an hour, to and from the sky-train station. Darith tucked himself and Annabelle in an out of the way seat toward the middle. He knew a few kids he'd gone to school with who lived out at the sky-station and as the train filled he watched fearfully for them.

He'd kept his name off the books but if he was recognized that would leave a trail linking him and the old wizard, Parl. That wouldn't do. Could I kill them? A childhood friend, just on the off-chance it would help protect Annabelle?

'Yes,' a voice whispered.

"No," he said, gazing into Annabelle's eyes.

He gave a sigh of relief when a man he didn't know sat down next to him and settled a pair of net glasses over his face. The train jostled into movement, a brief moment without gravity caused Darith's stomach to lurch up to his throat. Then gravity reasserted itself.

Darith tugged at the ratty sweatshirt he'd found in one of the servants rooms. It was too big and the hood did a passable job of obscuring some of his face. He leaned back into the shadow for the remainder of the journey, tugging the web tightly around him. The thrum of energy obscured his face.

The whispering voice of the web wound around him. Its words encouraged him on. Darith would have broken free of the cocoon except that the shadows hid him from passing eyes.

Would Parl even remember him? It had been years since they had any contact. The last time they spoke Parl had accused him of having an attitude worthy of a spoiled noble brat— insinuated that soon he would be just like his father. Looking back, Darith regretted taking offence. He should have taken the words to heart.

Now, Parl was the only one he dared to trust. The only person he knew that could keep a secret and the only possible person who wouldn't try to harm Annabelle if he knew what she was.

The train pulled into the station, and the three vacuum doors opened onto the eclectic metal suburb. Darith stepped out onto the self-propelling ground. For a block he let the walkway carry him along but the ground propelling him reminded him too much of a wheelchair. He strode along the walkway achieving a pace akin to a run with the added movement of the ground.

Above him a screen stretched over the sky, displaying a view of a perpetually sunny sky. It would display that image until the clocks indicated sleeping hours and then it would clear showing the vast expanse of stars, and on occasion Yahal below.

Each segment of the station glowed a different color, illumination seeped from the cracks in the walkway. These colors defined the districts. He followed the walkways until he reached the green section. As he approached the clusters of fantastical houses, the revulsion bred in Darith rose.

The displays of tech were excessive and vulgar. He half expected drug addicts to start tumbling into the street and murder each other. That was what happened in all the 'documentaries' they showed at school. All that actually happened was a continuation of the mechanized bird chirping.

Parl's house, at the very least, didn't float. The small shack stood on long bird legs. He'd mentioned it once, called it an ode to a witch of legend. From all appearances, the house over his head was a wreck of old wooden boards with shutters loose on their hinges but that was a façade.

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