The Grey City IX

Thursday July 01, 2004 @ 03:18 PM (UTC)

The Grey City I
The Grey City II
The Grey City III
The Grey City IV
The Grey City V
The Grey City VI
The Grey City VII
The Grey City VIII

Carys put out her hand for Eirian’s, but Eirian was already pushing forward through the leaves, evidently seeing no cause to fear. Carys sighed and followed.

“So, what are two little girls doing out at night? Or, for that matter, listening in on Runner business?” His voice drawled casually, but his eyes were intent.

“We didn’t mean to listen, we were hiding,” said Eirian with a toss of her tangled curls.

“We…we know it’s dangerous out at night, and we didn’t know that it was Runners coming!” Carys hurried out, grabbing Eirian’s hand and giving it an admonitory squeeze.

“I see. I see. In from the country?” he said, looking at their boyish boots and pocketed aprons. Carys nodded, ignoring Eirian’s general glare. “Here to seek your fortune?” he said, as if that were well nigh illegal and in questionable taste.

“No! We’re here to live with our aunt and uncle,” burst Carys.

“Indeed. Documentation?”

Carys stared at him for a moment, then delved into a pocket. Then, another pocket. With a blanching face, she turned out all her pockets, and even searched the little pouch she had hung around her neck behind her apron front. All their store of coins was there, but no letter. She looked up at the Inspector. “I had it only just now!” she stammered, “We ran from some dogs, perhaps it fell…we can go find it!” She remembered that they’d very likely been trespassing in the little shed, and hope fled her face as well as color.

The Inspector raised one expressive eyebrow. “I see. Where are this aunt and uncle?”

“Hardock Street,” she said, gaining a hold on her composure, “Iestyn and Marged Bleddyns, Number 8 Hardock Street. Or Number 18, perhaps it was.”

None of the skepticism gone from his face, the Inspector nodded. “Perhaps. You go find your aunt and uncle, then. But this is your warning. We don’t hold with loitering or vagrancy in the City. You’ll move on to somewhere off the street, or you’ll come across the Runners again, and we’ll put you somewhere. Do you understand that, Miss…”

Carys nodded, wide-eyed, and waited for something more, or for the dark figure to turn away. “Your name, miss.” He almost rolled his eyes.

“Oh! Carys.”

Both names, miss.”

“She’s Eirian, sir.”

“And your last name?”

“Last name, sir?”

“Yes, miss, out with it, I’ve not all the time in the world.”

“Our father’s name was Owain, sir,” she faltered, exchanging glances with Eirian, “but we’re not City folks, we don’t have —”

“You do now. Carrie and Erin Owens. To be taken in if not properly housed by next evening.” he cocked his head to one side, the first even faintly ridiculous gesture he’d made — apparently he thought it was friendly. “Do you understand, children?”

Carys nodded, and he turned on his heel and walked off into the night. Feeling dreadfully impudent, Carys trotted a few steps after him and tugged at his silver-trimmed sleeve. “Please, sir, is Hardock Street in the Southdowns?”

“Of course. But you’re not in the Southdowns now, not by any stretch. It’s on the north side of the river,” he said briskly, and dissolved into his element.

Carys looked after him wanly, and Eirian walked up beside her. “Then what is it called ‘South’ for,” the younger sister grumbled reasonably, and slipped her hand, chapped with work despite its chubbiness, into Carys’s. And as the sun began to burn away the night ahead of them, Carys smiled.

The Grey City X


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