In the previous episode, while working at the tavern in the port, Celia encounters a mysterious man. Readers voted that he is a trader who offers Celia a deal.
Celia leaned into the shadows, and saw piercing black eyes looking back at her.
“Can I get you anything?” she began hesitantly. The man smiled broadly, his expression akin to one who had just found something he had been searching for for years.
“Yes,” he said slowly, “I believe you can, Celia.” He reached up and lit a small lamp on a shelf above him, illuminating a dark, weathered face; handsome but worn, as though it had seen a lot. With curiosity and confidence, the man reached out and touched a long strand of Celia’s dark hair, running it through his fingers.
Celia wasn’t sure what to say. The man was looking at her like she was a treasure half-protruding from the sand; a jewel that he had just discovered and needed to make sure wasn’t simply a rock. There was something magnetic about him, and yet Celia felt as though the wise thing to do would be to turn around and run. She nodded silently.
The man glanced behind Celia and smiled with approval, and Celia turned to see Ondine leaning against the bar watching them, toweling off a glass with a self-satisfied expression. When Celia threw her a questioning glance she didn’t meet her eyes, however, but simply looked down at the towel in her hands and continued to polish the same spot over and over.
“Please sit.” The man gestured to the seat across from him, and Celia sank into it, nervously rubbing her hands along the coarse seams of her work pants. Her long hair was lush and tangled as ever, and she let a curtain fall in front of her pale face as she regarded the man, who suddenly laughed out loud.
“I have been searching for you for a long time, Celia,” he said delightedly. “What luck that I should find you here, as I take a break from my long journey. Tell me,” he said, leaning forward, “how is it that you managed to get off the train early?”
“Excuse me?” Celia thought back to the last train she had been on, chugging through the dark forest, waking up in the tiny red caboose. “I didn’t – I mean, the train just stopped. I got off when it stopped.”
“Extraordinary.” The man’s gaze was piercing now, and he looked like he was trying to discern if she was lying or not. “In the middle of the forest, correct? Yes, I spoke with your friend, Marguerite -”
“Marguerite!” Celia interrupted. “What? How is she? “Why were you -”
“Do not interrupt me,” the man said calmly. “I have been a few steps behind you throughout your entire journey, Celia. I lost you for a time, after you left the city, but now you’re here and that’s all that matters.”
Celia opened her mouth but closed it again at the man’s expression.
“There will be time for questions later,” the man said. “Right now we have things to discuss. I am a – a trader, of sorts. I have a proposition for you, if you’re interested.”
He lowered his voice slightly and continued. “I know you have left your home, Celia. I know you’ve seen a lot since then. Usually, that train brings people to my employer, and she…well, it appears that for some reason, fate had other plans for you. Your time with the caravan, and your experiences since then, I’m sure, have been most interesting. But I have an obligation to my employer. She is most anxious to meet you, Celia.
He leaned in even closer, and Celia inhaled his musky scent. He smelled like the sea – like barnacles stuck to rocks, like salt in your hair, like the endless black unknown. Vote below on what will happen next or if reading in email click Take our Poll.