BY AL BRUNO III
Saturday November 16th 1996
Sig had finished his cranberry sauce and potatoes, he turned his attention to Magwier “When are you going to tell us why you’re here?”
“I’m just passing through.” Jason Magwier said, “On my way to Olathoe.”
“What’s Olathoe?” Isobel asked.
Jack leaned forward, “It’s a city. For people like us I suppose it is the city. You won’t find it on any map or mentioned in a history book. I suppose you might say it’s a lost city but the citizens have a saying of their own- Nothing is lost in Olathoe.”
Roxanne refilled his wineglass, “Well, maybe innocence.”
“You can find the truth behind every human nightmare there- wizards, cannibals, shape shifters and a tax code that has been known to cause insanity.”
Bodivar laughed out loud at that, “But the buildings, oh to see the buildings at sunrise. Family business brought me there often and I always found something new to surprise me- minarets and temples, hovels and towers. The wealthy lived in walled manors decorated with windows of stained glass and elaborate frescoes. The slums were dark and narrow, they smelled like shit and death but the people that lived in them had eyes the color of fire.”
“Really?” Warren said.
Isobel tried to visualize Olathoe but she doubted her imagination could match the scope of what Bodivar had hinted at. She either pictured Manhattan-esque skylines or fairy tale villages but could not combine the two. And as for the citizens of this mad city? Even though she was beginning to learn what to expect but she was still left wondering.
Magwier frowned, “Unfortunately most of those wonders were destroyed because Olathoe had been in a state of war with itself for almost seventy five years. One self-appointed ruler would fall and a dozen usurpers would try to take their place. Only the clever and the bloodthirsty could last more than a few years in power. Rebellion followed upon rebellion until the city was a shambles.”
“Well not now of course.” Zeth said.
“The Monarchs…” Jack said, “The Monarchs changed everything.”
“How?” Isobel asked.
“They promised us peace and prosperity, they promised to rule each of the many factions and sub factions equally.” Jack’s voice rang with bitterness, “They promised anything we wanted.”
Warren shook his head, “Politicians.”
Magwier turned his gaze to Jack, “You lived there then?”
Jack finished his wine and considered what he was going to say next, “I was a thief I guess you would call me a second story man. My muscle was an ex-soldier named they called Broken Meg.”
“You knew Broken Meg?” Sig asked.
“Intimately.” Jack said, “Did you know her?”
“Only her reputation.”
“You were there?” Magwier asked, “When the Monarchs came to power?”
Jack nodded, “I was in the amphitheater the day they named the Regent. I was picking pockets.”
“Everyone old enough claims to have been there that day.” Magwier smirked, “Like Woodstock.”
“There were no Vlodek there that day Jack.” Sig said. Angie’s head was resting on his shoulder, “At least none of repute.”
This place… Isobel thought. These people, it’s like coming into a soap opera in the middle.
And that was so true, even the most down to Earth person she knew here – Angie- was full of secrets. She never told anyone about how she and Sig had met and fallen in love. All she would ever say was “Johnny saved me.” But she never smiled when she said it, neither of them did.
Saved her from what? Isobel could only imagine but she wondered if perhaps they were what she and Galen could become blissfully in love, yet haunted by the cost of it.
Is that what I want? To be, for all intents and purposes, Mrs. Galen?
“Tell me Jack,” Magwier said, “When did you leave the city?”
“Shortly after the fall of Harnett's Tabernacle.” Jack said.
Isobel asked, “Jack how long ago did these things happen? I mean… how old are you?”
“It isn't the kind of thing I think about really.”
“Sorry I didn't mean to-”
He winked, “You didn't.”
“He’s just vain.” Roxanne said, “But to answer your question we all get older, just some of us at different speeds.”
“So…” Warren paused, “How old are you?”
Roxanne gave him an odd look, “Brave boy. But to answer your question, I’m close to 40… just like Hao.”
Hao shook a finger at her, “I know where you sleep lady.”
“Don’t be so sure.” Jack chuckled.