Chapter 1: The Remarkable Professor Sheridan

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Tam leaned over to join Jon in peering out the compartment window at the gray, misty view outside

Tam leaned over to join Jon in peering out the compartment window at the gray, misty view outside. The train gave out a loud hoot and one long slow lurch that sent the luggage sliding beneath the seats, and then it was still. The mist outside parted to reveal a busy platform with bustling porters and passengers.

"Those are fine horses," Tam observed, squinting out at the road beyond the station where bright carriages passed to and fro. "Don't know about those carriages though. Gaudy."

One gilt carriage stopped to let out an especially gaudy set of foreigners in fine clothing. Porters scrambled to carry a great array of boxes and trunks from the carriage to the train. One porter dropped the end of an enormous trunk and a foreign man in a top hat waved a cane and shouted at him.

"You don't think Professor Sheridan is with them, do you?" Jon asked, suddenly a little nervous.

"Nah." Tam rubbed at his nose. "The professor's a good honest Shandorian, right, like us. We've no use for gilt carriages."

"I think we should get out and have a look round. I want a paper. I bet they have papers here. New ones, from today even." Jon peered about, looking for shops, or the boys who had gone around waving papers at the last stop.

Tam, sandy haired and big framed, leaned back in his seat and frowned. "That's nonsense. It's best we stay right here where the Professor can find us. I won't be losing you in that crowd." Tam caught his brother's disappointed look. "And who's to say you could read the papers here? They might be foreign."

"We're in Vellinos. They're bound to speak trade common here. We're just south of Arien. They might get the Arienish National Times."

"You've got one of those in your case already," Tam pointed out.

Jon sighed. "But Tam, it isn't new. They make a new one every week."

Tam shrugged. Tam could read, he just didn't care to, not like Jon did. A puff of steam outside obscured the view from the window and showed Jon his own reflection briefly in the glass. 

A thin boy with large blue eyes looked back at him, his blond hair cut neatly short, his best clothes rumpled from several days' travel. He was not wearing the cravat his mother had carefully tied onto him. Jon looked about for the thing. Should he be wearing it to meet the Professor? The Professor was famous, after all, and Mother had wanted Jon to make a good impression. 

His essay had certainly made enough of an impression to win him this great opportunity: a summer working with Professor Eabrey Sheridan at the archeological dig site in Alarna, along with the equally famous and even more mysterious Doctor Corin Blackfeather. Jon found the cravat wedged between two seat cushions and pulled it free to find it was a wrinkled mess.

The window was clear again and Tam was looking outside now, with the familiar dubious expression that said he wasn't comfortable in strange and foreign parts. Tam was here to look after Jon, and for no other reason. At nine, even a very mature and intelligent nine, Jon Gardner was not permitted to travel alone, but with thirteen-year-old Tam along, big for his age and steady, Mother trusted they would get safely to the Professor's watchful eye. She had left Tam with all kinds of instructions, and he was taking them quite seriously.

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