[ FOUR ]

26 7 22

chapter four | setting the stage, even further

⋆⋆⋆ ☾ ⋆⋆⋆

Fontein is a small village near Dutkans' border.

On the grounds of the military, economic, or trading values, the small town has no value whatsoever. However, due to its proximity to the Merge, it was always bustling with new people and travelling regulars.

The way Johnn and Michele walked into the town, picking streets and avoiding the curious stares of several Fontein inhabitants, it would seem that they have not only been here before but that they used to either live here or travel through regularly.

Jean-Luc, Andrè and Julienne didn't notice. They were too busy studying what they could see of the small town's quaint buildings and the different dress of the people who walked the streets.

In comparison to Mireston's tall, brick, grey buildings, Fontein had white and brown wooden houses that didn't surpass two stories. Since they were experiencing sunset for the second time in twenty-four hours, feeling more tired than they had in a long time, it was hard to discern all the differences.

Julienne immediately noticed that the women were wearing trousers. Trousers with pockets. And long, sturdy boots.

Andrè and Jean-Luc noticed that there were no machines. Instead, they noticed hitching posts and that they passed two stables on their way to the inn. A horse neighed loudly in the night, the faint clopping of hooves on cobblestones were the only sounds that broke the stillness of the night.

As they neared the inn, warm lights welcoming them inside. The smell of dinner grew stronger and the sound of laughter grew stronger as they approached the door. Michele was the first one in, not bothering to knock, and heat flooded them.

It looked like an inn from one of Jean-Luc's many books. He blinked at the wooden tables and the metal tankards, the way a matronly innkeeper bustled to his mother and invited them in with a wide smile.

So many things were out of place, Jean-Luc decided.

"Look," hissed Andrè, pulling on his older brother's sleeve. "There's a snake, a mouse, and a falcon sitting at the table in the corner."

"What?" asked Jean-Luc, sweeping his eyes over the crowd, trying to look for the extraordinary guests his brother had spotted.

Julienne joined them, elbowing Jean-Luc in the ribs and pointing to the corner, unashamed to be noticed. "Not at the table. Sitting on someone's shoulder, curled around someone's neck, and nibbling on a cracker."

Jean-Luc finally spotted the table full of animals, becoming more intrigued when he noticed their owners. Instead of the rough fabrics that the townspeople wore, they were dressed in black leather. The woman wore her hair in a braid, coiled on her head mimicking a crown, and the men had their hair cropped close to their scalp.

The people around them, crowded into the inn's common room, were happy, the sound of laughter drowning out much of the conversation. Jean-Luc noticed, however, that those sitting at the table with the three animals were not just serious, they seemed anxious and restless.

The woman tapped constantly stroked the snake. The man with the mouse was drumming his fingers on the table. The final occupant was staring back at Jean-Luc, his falcon doing the same.

There was a moment of silence in Jean-Luc's mind as he stared at the strange man. And then in one, abrupt gesture, the man slammed his dagger into the tabletop. The hilt wobbled from the impact. Jean-Luc looked away.

Worlds Within the Pages | NaNoWriMo '18Read this story for FREE!