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Nathan (and I really should find a real title)

August 20, 2008

Nathan stepped out onto the landing and leaned on the railing. His sister owned the immense loft apartment over a small shopping center. The neighborhood was one that had slowly been renovated by people with money creeping in, leaving it full of trendy apartments and shops. The shops directly below Linda’s apartment were actually also her property, though it would take a keen eye to follow that particular paper trail. Where Nathan found almost no interest in the intricacies of keeping a low profile, Linda reveled and excelled, sometimes even taking on side jobs to help others trying to keep a relatively low profile or recreate themselves.

Nathan blinked up as snow brushed against his skin. He glanced up, just now noticing the storm. He glanced back to the door, wondering if he needed a coat to keep up appearances. A moment later he shrugged and started down the steps. If the muddle-stone couldn’t keep prying eyes away from a man without a coat in the snow storm, it wasn’t worth the rock holding the enchantment.

Nathan made his way up the street, peering in shop windows and curiously watching the various people scattering to escape the coming storm and night. Many of the little shops in this section of town were already closed or were in the process of closing, keeping just enough activity to hold Nathan’s attention.

Steadily, though, he found himself moving away from yuppie territory, more toward the actual heart of the city. To him, there was actually a soft sound drifting from deeper in the city. A faint drumming that drew him toward the darker streets, toward fast food and liquor stores. His smile widened as he was getting into the thick of the sound. The winter was certainly looking up.

Nathan leaned town and held both hands against the sidewalk, nodding his head slightly, eyes closed. Lost in the sound, Nathan didn’t see the man in ragged clothes wandering from the alley. The man was mumbling unintelligibly to himself and looked up and down the street before crossing over to Nathan and leaning down to check his pockets.

Nathan’s eyes suddenly shot open and he spun to his feat, catching the would be thief’s hand and twisting it sharply. The man let out a soft yelp and released the pouch, letting it fall into the snow. Nathan frowned and leaned in to examine the man’s eyes.

“Why did you grab the bag?” Nathan said.

The man tried to tug himself free, reaching down with his free hand to grab at the bag again. Nathan twisted more, forcing the man a step away from the fallen pouch of stones.

“Just let me see the stones,” the man grated his voice harsh, almost as if it hadn’t been pushed to audible volumes in years.

Nathan pushed the man back and quickly scooped up the pouch, brushing it clean. “What do you know about them?”

“Ancient keys. Forbidden arts. Power bound and fighting to be free. Hubris in stone…” the man said, eyes wild now, voice rising with each word.

“I think I best be going now,” Nathan said, voice soft, tension thrumming through his slender frame.

The man straightened and stepped toward him, straightening, drawing himself up, “I see you and I know you. I call you, with the names of the guardians,” he began intoning.

Panic flashed across Nathan’s face and he moved. Nathan lashed out his hand catching the strange man in the throat, then swung up his knee hard into the man’s stomach, driving the air from his longs. Nathan shoved the man over into the snow and fled deeper into the city.

He ran blindly until the drumming of the city flooded his ears, then found a shadowed doorway to duck into, stopping and panting. He crouched low and planted his hands against the frozen ground. He began singing along with the beat of the city, more straight sound then words. His hands slid along, finally settling on a loose bit of cement near the door and pried free the small piece. He pulled it close to his lips, continuing his strange wordless song. Before long a soft glow pulsed off of the rock once, then faded, leaving a strange sigil scarred in the surface of the cement chip.

Nathan examined it carefully, making sure he had channeled everything correctly. Most of his family would be horrified at the use of concrete instead of proper stone, but then none of them could hear cities the way he could. He tucked it into the breast pocket of his coat, next to the small velvet pouch, then leaned his head against the cold building, taking a small comfort in the solid presence of the building.

Finally, Nathan slid to his feat, carefully checking up and down the street for any sign of the man, then resumed exploring the city. It didn’t take long before he found his way into a noisy bar and settled on a stool at the bar itself. He sighed and finally let himself relax a little. The noise and crowd were the perfect way to loose himself for a while. He dropped cash on the bar and cleared his throat. “Barkeep, bloody mary,” The bartender started slightly, noticing Nathan for the first time. Any concern fled at the site of the large bill on the counter. The man quickly nodded and started on the drink.

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