I'm working on a project more thoroughly described in my bio in "About the Authors. These are the first two pieces in that project, and I'd like some feedback before February comes and they get posted on the web. So any thoughts are great. And I promise this is the last of my stuff for a while - I owe a few people some critiques.
Most cities bustled. It was a widely known fact around the continent, actually, that cities were accustomed to bustling. Villages and towns sat idly by, peaceful and serene, while metropolitan areas crawled with people, excitement, and culture.
The capital of Aslan was different, though. At least, it was different for Tessa Orillian. Most people simply moved to Thames to get away from country life – to experience the beautiful rampage of the city for a while. Tessa, by contrast, was directed to Thames by her trusty compass. Resting on a tree stump just outside of town, Tessa consulted it, her belongings on the dusty road at her feet. Other than her cloak and hat, Tessa’s ‘belongings’ consisted of one large bag and an equally large spike-covered club. The latter looked to be the kind of weapon one would only see in a museum and nowhere else. Yet, it was one of Tessa’s only lines of defense.
That is, it would have been if she didn’t have something even more powerful waiting inside that bag of hers. Tessa made it a habit of keeping a lot of things inside her bag, including the various and sundry magical items she acquired on her adventures. Her bag was even more impressive than the club: most people who saw it in action swore that there was no way it could hold half the items Tessa managed to remove from it. The bag was terribly useful, though. After all, it was how she moved her mother’s grand piano downstairs.
Those things didn’t matter to Tessa, though. At least, not while she was almost finished with her trip. Right now, she was more concerned about her compass; its needles did nothing but spin circles, and it was starting to frustrate Tessa. She wanted to throw the thing to the ground, instead choosing to tap at the glass in hopes that it would comply.
“Tessa says stop it!” The compass wouldn’t listen. It kept spinning.
Tessa inherited the magic device from her aunt, Fiona. Tessa smiled as she stood on the edge of Thames’ city limits. She loved Fiona even more than her own parents; they never understood her. Fiona did. Fiona also shared Tessa’s love for adventure – as well as some of the same quirks. Like speaking about themselves in the third person.
At long last, the compass settled down into a direction, as if it had grown weary (or dizzy) from all the gyrations. Tessa was pleased that she won the fight.
“Tessa should keep going. It’s not much further.” Hefting her bag and her club off the ground, Tessa continued her trek into town, musing quietly as she took in the sights of the city.
Ever since Fiona had given Tessa the compass, the two were inseparable. It always led her to where she needed to be. Whether that was to treasure, adventure, money – it didn’t matter. And more often than not, it was all three together. This time, the compass had pointed directly to Thames. Tessa hoped it would; she wanted desperately to begin the conglomeration of her wealth. To do that, she needed to run a shop selling magickal items. Of course.
Tessa wondered why her parents didn’t see it her way. It didn’t matter; Tessa was dead-set on her adventure, and so adventuring she would go.
The teenage girl stood at the city’s edge, breathing in its city air. Thames sat closer to Aslan’s shoreline than Northaven was; she could smell it in the cold, salty air. She wrinkled her nose, looking at the signs on the buildings. She needed a place to stay, for now, while she got on her feet in the city. The compass still gave her direction, and so Tessa meandered the city streets, passing one inn after another. She frowned but pressed on. Weren’t any of these any good?
“Tessa will trust her compass for a little while longer,” she muttered to herself under her breath. She must’ve been quite the sight, trudging with a set jaw through the streets of Thames armed with a club, holding a compass, and lugging a very large (and very heavy-looking) sack on her back. All at once. Tessa didn’t notice the stares, and she could’ve cared less.
After all, Tessa was on an adventure. “And when Tessa is on an adventure,” she said to no one in particular, “nothing else matters.” She ventured onward.
Tessa’s search for lodging eventually ended when her compass pointed directly at the doorknob to an establishment called “The Thieving Magpie.” Where on earth someone could’ve come up with that kind of name for an inn, Tessa wasn’t sure. Still, it was a place to stay. And it was where she needed to be. Tessa barged in without a second thought and approached the desk. An unassuming man dressed in corduroy slacks and a white dress shirt stood there as if doing a couple figures while waiting for patrons.
The girl didn’t waste any time.
“Do you have a room available for Tessa?” The proprietor of the Thieving Magpie scratched his head, tilting his entire body to the side as he wondered what this girl could be asking. When he didn’t answer, Tessa sighed, shifted her weight to her other foot and explained. “The compass pointed straight here. You must have a room for Tessa, don’t you?”
“Why don’t you want one for yourself?” That would make more sense. Yes, Chester thought. There was definitely only one person standing behind the counter, and she was definitely talking about a compass, standing sideways. In fact, the entire room was standing sideways now, and Chester had forgotten why.
“Tessa does want one for herself. That’s why Tessa’s asking for a room. Do you have one, or not?” Chester thought about it. All of his rooms were full, now. Every last one of them. She looked at the man over the top of her glasses and added, “Because Tessa can go elsewhere if she has to. She needs a place to stay for a couple of days. Not just one night, you know.” Weirder than the fact that the room was tilting at about a ten-degree angle was that this girl was now most certainly talking about herself. And that she had been all along. Sighing, Chester pulled out a pen and the yellowing ledger from under the counter to make a new entry.
“Up two flights of stairs, there’s a studio bedroom. It’s open, and it’s yours if you want it. Miss …?”
“Orillian. Tessa Orillian, adventurer extraordinaire.” She winked at him and reached down in the pocket of her cloak, fishing out a couple of coins. Tessa plinked them down deliberately on the wooden counter near the ledger and hefted her bag up to her shoulder. Chester watched her turn a right-face and march to the nearby staircase and up to the next floor, creaking with every step.
Chester smiled. She was one of the first lodgers he’d had in a while.
Upon finding the room, Tessa noted the dust-covered drapes and armoire filled with old newspapers. If Tessa felt the desire, she could have found out everything she ever wanted to know about the way Thames was thirty years ago. Still, it wasn’t that kind of history she was interested in. There was another dresser full of clothes that weren’t hers, and an end table nearby sat cluttered with papers. She ignored them. The floor was clean – spotless. Tessa didn’t notice.
Instead, she pulled a chair up to her window to stand on. Tessa pushed her nez-pince glasses higher up on her face and marveled at the cityscape from a higher vantage point. The rooftops made up an entirely different world, but she could see some of the city streets, too. Children played ball in a park nearby. Down the road a ways, a couple of merchants peddled their wares. Tessa wondered at her future in Thames. She would get to open her shop. She would start tomorrow. Tessa would take her bag and look for a nice little shop to move in to and start her entrepreneurship.