Kason, with the little blue gem safely stored away in a pocket, made his way back to The Stars at Midnight. He reached it just before the appointed time arrived and entered the shop to find that it was now quite crowded. There were many people clustered around the various stands and the hubbub of voices sounded loudly in Kason’s ears, even compared to the noise out on the street. Kason couldn’t help wondering whether or not there was a special event going on that Castor hadn’t mentioned or had forgotten about.
He tried to manoeuvre his way towards the counter at the other end of the room but couldn’t squeeze a path through the mass of bodies, so he decided to just wait around near the door for the crowd to thin. After around ten minutes of waiting, Kason heard Castor’s voice rise above the chattering of the crowd.
“Hello everyone! I understand that you are all here for your purchases, but I ask you all be patient for a little bit longer. There are a lot of people here which means that there are a lot of products to give out and that will take some time.” Castor’s voice then paused momentarily before continuing in the same jovial fashion, “I will call out a customer’s name and then that customer should make their way to the counter where I’ll hand over your purchase. Is that okay with everyone?”
There was a general murmur of acceptance from the crowd and so Castor began calling out people’s names. While names were being called out Kason took another look around the shop, feeling mildly surprised at how popular the shop seemed to be, especially as it wasn’t even mid-day yet. Kason’s name was called after about twenty minutes and after most of the other people in the room had already left with their purchases. Upon hearing his name, Kason made his way to the counter, noting that there were only three people left in the store, one of whom he recognised as the green cloaked man from earlier.
When he reached the counter, Castor handed him a small black box that felt like it was covered in a layer of soft fabric. Sewen onto the fabric were the letters ‘S.M.N’ and in small writing underneath was Castor’s name in the same golden thread.
Castor smiled at Kason and said, “You should check the necklace just now, young man. Just to make sure it’s how you want it.”
Kason looked down at the box and saw that it was split in half through the middle and one side was hinged allowing the top half to be lifted up like a lid. He carefully lifted up the top of the box and saw, resting on a small lavender coloured cushion, a small silver locket with a pattern like folded bird wings on the front.
The silver locket looked brilliant! It glinted as Kason moved the box, looking at it from all angles, making it seem like a pair of angel’s wings, however, he couldn’t help wondering where the black stone had gone.
Castor saw his slightly confused look and leaned over the counter slightly, “The stone is inside this locket,” He said slightly sheepishly, “I know you said you wanted it on the cord but I couldn’t bore a hole through it no matter how hard I tried.” He gave a slight grimace, “I don’t know what it’s made of but whatever it is, it’s too hard for me to cut through, no matter what method I use. Really, quite extraordinary…”
His eyes seemed to lose focus and he stared off into space for a few moments. “Anyway, young man,” His eyes focusing back on Kason, “The price is the same and I even upgraded the materials I used as an apology. The cord is now made of salamander skin instead of ordinary leather and the metal used on the locket is Argentum, a specially treated form of Silver.”
He then reached down with a finger and poked the wings on the front of the locket, which opened silently, the folded wings spreading out like it was a bird getting ready for flight. Inside, sitting snuggly in a little niche, was the black stone.
Castor smiled and looked back at Kason, withdrawing his finger from the locket, “To open it just inject ether into the lock and it’ll open.”
Kason nodded feeling slightly glum. Of course, this was another thing that he couldn’t use until he finished training to up his level of saturation. “Could I get a normal catch put on? I can’t use ether yet.” He asked Castor.
Castor looked thoughtful, “I could put one on for you…” He began, “But this spatial lock is much more secure. You’re in year one of the junior division I presume? So that would mean that you’d only have to wait, well, a few months, depending on how hard you practise. This spatial lock will also last for at least a couple of decades, whereas a normal catch may break after only a few years.” He smiled down at Kason, “But if you really want it changing, then I will. If you ever want it changing back to a spatial lock, though, it will cost you quite a bit more than it will now.”
Kason thought, he didn’t really need to be able to access the black stone. He probably wouldn’t even wear the necklace all that often, at least to begin with. “Can I think about it for a bit?” He asked tentatively.
Castor chuckled good-naturedly, “You can have until I finish dealing with the rest of the customers.”
Kason moved away from the desk and leaned against one of the walls near a display cabinet. He thought about the what he wanted to do as a rather large man wobbled up to the counter to collect his order. He gradually came to the decision to leave the spatial lock and just wait until he learned to manipulate ether, after all, it wouldn’t be too long relatively speaking. Or at least, that’s what he told himself as he walked back over to the counter where Castor stood waiting.
Cator noticed him walking over and looked at him expectantly, “Well young man, have you decided?”
Kason nodded, “I’ll keep it as it is.”
“Excellent choice!” Castor exclaimed.
Kason handed over the amount they had agreed upon as payment and then left the shop. He wandered back in the direction of the monument that would take him back to the college, glancing at the shops he passed, seeing if there were any that looked interesting. He visited a few of them, staying particularly long in on that sold magical instruments, like the wands he had seen various people using.
There were, of course, wands. One particularly spectacular looking one was enshrined in a glass case and took pride of place in the very middle of the wand section of the store. The wand itself was a deep scarlet and wreathed little puffy white clouds, which spiralled around its tip. There were a few other rather magnificent items in the shop: an emerald green staff, a glittering silver sword, a pair of gloves that looked like they were made of stone and something that looked suspiciously like the long dried out carcase of a large snake.
Kason lost track of time as he looked around at all the wondrous items in the shop. Everyone he had seen use magic so far, had done so with the aid of some device, whether it be a wand or a pair of gloves, so he began looking around for a device that he would like to use to cast magic.
He exited the shop, his mind still full of the different devices he had seen in the shop, but as he exited he suddenly thought of something. His mother and father had never used a wand or anything had they? He thought back to all the times he had seen his father or mother use magic and, sure enough, he couldn’t remember a single time when he had seen them do it with any sort of aid from something like a wand.
This puzzled him but his attention was quickly brought away from that thought when he checked his ring for the time.
‘Lunch finished at one, didn’t it?’ Kason thought as he looked down at his ring, which showed the time to be just after one o’clock.
He stood for a minute feeling lost at the side of the road, wondering what to do. He had missed dinner once before, after falling asleep just before he meant to leave, and when he had eventually turned up to the dining hall, it had been empty. No menus popped out of the tables like they normally did and no ghostly voices spoke to him, telling him what to do. He was sure that if he went back to college now, he would encounter the same thing again and would have to wait for dinner to come around before he could eat again.
Just as he was debating whether or not he could just wait it out, his stomach made its plight known to him by grumbling in a rather loud fashion. Kason blushed and looked around briefly to check that no one had heard and then began to walk quickly back towards the monument, he had spent all of the money he had brought with him on this trip on the necklace so he was going to go back to college to get some more and then come back to Constantin and find a place to eat.
He was just hurrying along the street that led back to the monument from the main street, his stomach still growling every so often, when he heard his name called out again. He turned and saw that it was Ledia, the girl who had shown him to the lumber shop earlier, as well as the green haired man from the incident with the trees and a few others, all with green hair.
They were sitting at a small rectangular wooden table in front of a small cafe and were all looking over at him, Ledia waving for him to come over. He walked over nervously, hoping that his stomach wouldn’t start rumbling all of a sudden.
When he got over, Ledia smiled at him, “Hello, did you get the necklace okay?”
“Yeah,” Kason stammered, “It worked out fine.”
“That’s good,” Ledia replied, “Anyway, this is Perceval if you remember. He wanted to have a word with you.” She indicated the man sitting across the table from her.
Kason looked at him, feeling a bit anxious. He had come across as having a rather haughty and arrogant attitude last time they had met, so he wasn’t feeling too keen on speak with him.
Perceval surveyed Kason for a moment before beginning to speak, “Look, I’m sorry for what happened a while back. I know that I didn’t really come across very apologetically last time, but that I was just in a bad temper at that time. That Ashton just pisses me off.” His face clouded over into a grim expression and Kason could fancy his fists were clenched under the table.
“That’s alright.” Kason said, feeling rather surprised by the contrast between how he seemed now compared to back then.
Perceval nodded and said, “Well that’s all I really wanted to speak to you about, you can go and finish whatever you were doing, I won’t keep you.”
Kason nodded and turned to walk away, but as he did his stomach decided to grumble especially loudly. He blushed and began to walk away faster but a voice called him back.
“Are you hungry?”
Kason turned shyly and nodded to the person who had spoken. It was a woman who was sitting on the other side of Perceval. She was tall; had long green hair that fell to her waist and a face that bore a startling resemblance to Perceval’s. “You see that Percy, the kid’s starving. How about you buy him something? You owe him for all the trouble you’ve caused him after all.”
Perceval turned quickly to the woman with a rather distressed look on his face, “But sis…”
“Huh! Don’t look at me like that! You’ll give our society a bad name.” She responded harshly. Then, turning to Kason and speaking in a normal tone, she said, “Come and sit with us, we’ll get you lunch.”
“No, it’s fine, really,” Kason mumbled, trying to squirm his way out of the situation. He appreciated the free lunch but felt uncomfortable at the thought of sitting with all these people he didn’t know.
However, the woman kept on insisting he stay until he felt even more uncomfortable refusing, so he ended up squeezed on the end of one of the benches that were on either side of the table next to Ledia. While Perceval went off on his sister’s instructions to buy lunch, his sister began talking imperiously to Kason and the table at large.
It turned out that all five people, six including Kason, were Botanists and that Perceval’s sister, who was called Philera, was actually the current leader of their group. She went on talking throughout the entire time that Kason was eating and continued on even after he had finished.
Kason wasn’t really paying attention to what she was saying most of the time, instead, he focussed on his meal and then, once he had finished, on how he could successfully disengage himself from the group without interrupting Philera’s speech and appearing rude. He was, however, brought suddenly out of his contemplation when Philera directed a question at him.
“We’ve got something planned for the two weeks today, do you want to come along?”
“What?” Kason spluttered, “Err…”
“That’s great, you can bring along some friends if you want. No more than four or five though. It’ll be fun you should look forward to it. We’ve not done something like it for a few years now, so I think we should be able to get away with it this year…”
Philera continued speaking, no longer paying attention to Kason, her gaze now focussed on one of the other people sat around the table. Kason sat there feeling dazed. He remembered Ashton’s whispered advice from after the incident a while ago and, although he didn’t think the Botanists would be as bad as Ashton seemed to think they were, he couldn’t stop an ominous feeling rising from his stomach.