Chapter 15: The Stars at Midnight

“Do you know where I could buy some small logs? Perhaps in the city or something?”

Harper and Fenston both turned from their conversation to look quizzically at him.

“Logs? Why do want stuff like that?” Fenston said.

Kason flushed slightly. “I, err, I like to carve sculptures out of wood and stuff like that,” He mumbled.

“Sculpting? Why do you do that? Isn’t it boring? I mean, it’s just sitting chipping away at some wood.” Fenston said, his voice taking a derisive tone.

“Ah, no not really,” Kason replied in a small voice to hide the hint of irritation that had crept into it. Fenston’s attitude reminded him of what most of the children at the school at his home thought about his little hobby. They had sometimes made fun of him for what they called his ‘strange’ hobby, and although it had never gone further than this, it had still annoyed him to no end when they did. After all, he put hard work into and was proud of the sculptures he made and to have other people disparage them didn’t exactly make him feel jubilant.

“Sculpting eh?” Harper said, “You’ll have to show me some of the stuff you’ve made.” His voice, in contrast to Fenston’s, did not contain ridicule, but mild interest.

“I don’t have any with me, I left them all at home so I want the wood so that I can make some if I feel inspired.” Kason replied, a small smile replacing the frown that had been creeping over his face.

“Ah well,” Fenston sighed, “I don’t understand why you’d do something pointless like that, but I think there’s a lumber shop in Constantin where you might be able to get some wood. It’s near The Stars at Midnight, the jewellery shop on the main street.”

“Where’s that?” Kason asked, having only been to Constantin for the first time a couple of days ago.

Fenston thought for a moment before replying, “The main street is at the end of one of the pathways leading out of the plaza where the monument is and then The Stars at Midnight is a short way to your left I think. Or was it right? Anyway, you should also know that the main street isn’t actually called ‘the Main Street’. It has got an actual name that I don’t remember but everyone who lives in Constantin just calls it that.”

Kason thanked Fenston for the information but felt that they were rather lacking in the usefulness department. He looked rather helplessly at Harper, trying to ask without words if he could give some better instructions as to where The Stars at Midnight was. Harper, however, wasn’t looking at him and his silent plea went unnoticed, so he slumped back in his chair and began brainstorming how he would find out how to get to his destination.

He immediately speculated that there must be maps of Constantin around in the college somewhere, so he asked Harper and Fenston, who had begun to chat again, if they knew where any might be.

“Maps?” Harper said and paused looking thoughtful, “I dunno, I could ask my brother next time I see him if you want.”

Kason turned his hopeful gaze on Fenston, who shook his head. “I was thinking of going next Tarisday, do you think you’ll see him before that?” He asked turning back to Harper.

Harper immediately shook his head, “He’s away from college for the next two weeks so I won’t get to see him until he’s back.”

Fenston looked interested at this bit of information, “Is your brother in the senior division?” He asked.

Harper nodded. “Is he a member of the quest society?” Fenston asked, upon seeing his answer.

Harper looked surprised, “Yeah, he is. How did you guess? In fact, how come you know so much about the college? It hasn’t even been a week since we entered and yet you know all sorts of things.”

Fenston’s face cramped up again and then began to morph into an expression of discomfort. He was about to answer but was saved from doing so by the arrival of Kayla and Lexia. They entered the room chatting but stopped once they entered to look around the room and spotting the three of them sitting near the fire, they walked over to join the conversation.

Before Kason knew it, the Tarisday he said that he would visit the lumber shop on came around. He had breakfast and then went back to his room and collected some of the money that his mother had given him to spend during his time at the college. He also took with him the smooth black stone he had found in his shoe a few days before, he figured that since he the lumber shop was near a jewellery shop he would go in and see if he could get the black stone made into a necklace or something of similar sorts. He didn’t know why he particularly wanted the stone to be made into an ornament he could wear, he just felt that it was a shame to have it lying around on a shelf.

He left the junior dorms and made his way towards the monument, following in reverse the path that he had taken with Ashton just over a week before. As he neared the monument, he began to get a slight feeling of wrongness about the place. A short while later, he made it to the monument, rising straight and tall into the sky. He was just walking towards it when he suddenly realised what had been causing the uncomfortable feeling, the trees were gone!

He thought back to the evening when he and Harper had arrived and recalled that there had definitely been trees surrounding the small circular compacted dirt area where the monument was placed. He paused in his walk to the monument and made a slight detour to examine the grassy banks of the pathway, they looked perfectly normal and healthy, as if there had never been any trunks splitting the surface apart nor gnarled roots twisting up the earth. He contemplated this for a few seconds before giving up and, shaking his head in puzzlement, he continued on his way to the monument.

He arrived on the smooth cobbles of the plaza where the monument stood in Constantin to the whisper of loud conversation carried over a long distance. He took his hand away from the monument and took a look around the plaza to take in his surroundings properly now that he was viewing them in proper daylight instead of the illumination of moon crystals.

There were several places that looked like shops with doors that opened onto the plaza, all of them had their names printed in large letters above their doors and had various images adorning the remainder of the shopfront, obviously with the intent of luring in more customers.

Kason then stretched out a hand, the one with the ring sitting snuggly on one of his fingers, and rubbed counter-clockwise around its circumference to activate the map function of his ring. During the past week, he had been asking around for the location of maps and, although Ms Luxford had told him where he could find them, she had recommended that he just use the map function of his ring.

This suggestion made sense, too much sense in some ways though because it made Kason feel stupid for not thinking of it before, and so he decided to just use this method to find his way around. He looked on as the lines on his palm wiggled about and arranged themselves into a map of his surroundings before settling down in their places.

The map looked to be fairly accurate and even had the names of the streets on, which Kason hadn’t really expected to happen. He had managed to find out that the name of the so-called ‘main street’ and so he looked for it on the map and so, spotting it at the end of one of the roads that led away from the plaza, made his way in that direction.

He found the main street in quick order and walked along it until he came to a shop displaying a sign upon which was written ‘The Stars at Midnight’. He paused outside it, wondering whether or not to go in now or after he had finished getting the wood he wanted. In the end, he pushed open the door and entered, thinking that it wouldn’t do any harm to see what it was like

Inside, the shop was quite large and dusty. There was a wooden counter running along the wall opposite the door made of some expensive looking wood and gilded in places with gold. Display cases were dotted around the room and hugging the walls were a multitude of cabinets, all holding various stands upon which were hung various ornaments and items of jewellery. Kason looked around, taking in the gemstones and precious metals that sparkled in the light of the sun crystals embedded in the ceiling which also created small glimmering spots now and then as their light reflected off small motes of dust floating in the air. He let out a sigh of admiration at the sight and couldn’t help thinking that the scene resembled the starry sky just as the name suggested.

The shop itself was almost empty, with only two people inside apart from himself. One was an old man who was standing behind the counter gazing intently through some sort of eyepiece at something held in a cloth in one of his hands. He had a small amount of grey stubble on his chin and long, messy hair of the same colour that fell over a face full of lines that looked as though it spent most of its time smiling. The other was a tall man in a faded dark green cloak who was wandering around the shop admiring the items on display, although his face was mostly hidden by the hood of his cloak, Kason could still make out the end of what seemed to be a rather pointed nose.

Kason wound his way through the display cabinets, his footsteps sounding noticeably loud in the quiet. He walked up to the place where the old man stood and waited. The old man looked up and removed the eyepiece from his eye. He looked down at Kason, whose head only just made it above the counter.

“Hello young man,” He said cheerfully, his face breaking out into a smile, “What are you here for?”

“I- I would like to get a necklace made.” Kason said shakily, feeling quite nervous.

“Oh…” The old man said, still smiling, “Do you have anything specific you want putting on it? Any particular gems?”

Kason blanked out for a short moment, having almost forgotten about the black stone. He felt his heart jump momentarily into his throat as he fumbled around in his clothes, wondering whether he actually had remembered to bring it. Then, with a small sigh of relief, he located the pocket where he had left it, took it out and placed it on the counter.

“I was wondering if I could get this put on?” Kason said more confidently, his nerves having been slightly calmed by the old man’s friendly smiling face.

“Most certainly, young man!” The old man exclaimed, picking up the stone with the cloth in his hand and looking at it through the eyepiece which he had put on again. “But this is a quite a remarkable stone, a totally unblemished surface like this is very rare in natural materials. Where did you find it? If you don’t mind me asking.”

Kason told the old man how he had found it in his shoe while wandering around the college. The old man let out a light breath of surprise, “Just wandering around the college, eh? Most peculiar isn’t it. So, you’re a student, are you?” Kason nodded. “Here’s a bit of advice, if you’re shopping around here in Constantin, showing your pendant will usually get you a discount at most shops.” The old man said kindly, “So if you could show me your pendant just to confirm…”

Kason brought out his blue pendant from beneath his top and presented it to the old man. The old man nodded and then went back to looking at the rock, muttering words like, “Extraordinary!” under his breath every so often. After looking at it through the eyepiece for a short while longer, he looked up and seemed to stare into thin air above Kason’s head for a few seconds before glancing back down at Kason.

“You’ll have to wait a little while for this to be done young man,” the old man said, “I’ve got a few other orders that need finishing before I can get onto this one, you see. It shouldn’t be more than an hour though, so you could go and look around Constantin in that time. I imagine you haven’t had much time to look around, given how the college is.” He then went into thought for a moment, one hand absentmindedly stroking the stubble on his chin. “I might not be at the counter when you get back so if I’m not, just ask whoever is if they can call Castor, that’s me.” He said and was about to turn away when Kason spoke up.

“Umm, what about payment?”

“Oh? We say that you only pay for what you get so you’ll pay when you come and collect the necklace. That being said, I almost forgot, how do you want this stone put in the necklace?”

They spoke for a few more minutes finalising the details for the design and then Castor left via a door behind the counter to carry on with his work. Kason exited the shop and stood for a moment just outside it, looking at the people and vehicles rushing on, and indeed, above the main street. He then rubbed his ring again to bring up the map on his palm and checked to see if it showed the lumber shop that Fenston had said was around the jewellery shop. He had, however, forgotten that the map did not show the names of buildings, only roads, and so he set out back in the direction he had been going before he went into the shop, bemoaning the fact that he had forgotten to ask Castor if he knew of the lumber shop’s whereabouts.

Half an hour later, Kason had still not found the shop he was looking for. He had gone down the street, then turned around and come back up after not finding it, only to go all the way back down again to double check that he hadn’t just missed it. He was now standing at the corner of a side street wondering what he should do next. Five minutes later, he was just working up the courage to ask one of the people walking past when someone called out to him.

“Excuse me. Are you ok?”

Kason turned on the spot and saw a young woman with long green hair standing a few paces away, looking at him inquisitively. Kason’s eyes widened slightly when he saw her, it was the woman who had been with the green haired and eyed botanist in the incident just before college began properly. She was wearing a pale green dress and white leggings instead of the college’s uniform along with a thin headband to keep her hair from covering her face. Kason couldn’t help thinking that she looked quite pretty.

The woman obviously recognised Kason as well as she let out a small gasp of shock when he turned. “You’re one of the ones that got caught up in the incident a while ago right?” She asked.

Kason nodded and she smiled. “I am terribly sorry for that again.” She said and gave a shallow bow, “Anyway, is there something bothering you? You look worried.” She looked at him with a concerned look on her face, a portion of her green fringe falling out of her headband and over her face, covering one of her brown eyes.

“Ah, yeah. I’m trying to find a lumber shop which I was told was around here but I can’t find it.” Kason stammered, feeling considerably self-conscious all of a sudden.

The young woman thought for a short moment, then clapped her hands together in a moment of realisation. “I think I know where there is a lumber shop around here, if you don’t mind, I could lead you there.”

“Ah, but don’t you have anything you need to do? It’s okay if you just tell me the directions.” Kason said quickly, not wanting to inconvenience her.

“No, it’s fine.” She said and smiled warmly, “I just came out for a change of scenery, I didn’t have anything particular I wanted to do.”

“Oh, okay then. If you’re sure.” Kason replied.

The young lady, who Kason found out was called Ledia, led Kason back along the road. They passed The Stars at Midnight and down a little side street he had passed by multiple times but never gone down. They walked down it for a short while before taking another turning which led into a small walkway only wide enough for about three people to down walk side by side. They walked a couple of paces down this path before coming to a door in the wall on their left above which hung a sign upon which was an image of a grand oak tree.

Kason left the shop a few minutes later, having gotten his hands on the lumber he needed. He walked out of the door, looking curiously at a little blue gem that lay in his palm. The man at the counter had said that the wood he had purchased was in this gem, but had failed to explain how Kason was supposed to get it out.

“Do you know how this works?” Kason asked, showing the gem to Ledia, who had been waiting outside for him.

“You just need to manipulate the ether in it in a specific way to release the spatial lock on the gem which will release the stuff kept inside,” Ledia explained.

“But, umm, I can’t…” Kason mumbled feeling slightly embarrassed.

Ledia smiled down at him, “Don’t worry, you can just find someone like supervisor Rayleth or your teacher to do it.”

Kason nodded, feeling relieved, then looked at the ring on his hand to check the time. He realised that the time the old man Castor had said he would have the necklace ready by was approaching so he thanked Ledia for her help and went off back to the jewellery shop.



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