They pulled into the train yard, slowed -- too quiet, I thought, but with all the noise around them, it probably didn't matter. Engines roared, signals whistled, train cars clanked and bounced together.
And over it all, I could feel the tingle of magic that did not come from us. Maggie glanced my way and shook her head. Whatever was out there, none of us could actually feel what or where it was.
"It was interested in us, but so far not much more than that," Tom said. He frowned, though, which was not a sight I liked to see in an Elder Fae with his power. I'd come to see what he could do, just in this pretend train. He looked bothered, but not worn, by the amount of magic he'd used so far. He was a good ally to have if we could just get to the war.
The train continued to inch forward. I thought a few people looked our way sometimes, but then I noticed Maggie move her hand -- and the people would look elsewhere. I suspected they forgot that we were not supposed to be there. Or maybe they just forgot that we existed.
"I need to learn more magic," I said, mostly to myself.
Edmond, who was sitting up by the windows, turned back and gave a decisive nod.
And a sudden explosion of magic surrounded them, the entire train glowing brightly for one blink of the eye --
"Oh hell," Maggie mumbled.
Something exploded ahead and off to the left. A moment later a surge of soldiers rushed the tracks and I knew we were about to be attacked --
Only we weren't. The soldiers surge straight out in front of us and kept going towards the explosion. I was watching with some shock -- so were the others -- when a tall woman in a cloak following behind the soldiers slipped up the steps and into the train engine with us.
"They had a trap set for anything magical coming this way," she said. Her voice was deep and husky, and I thought magic came even with her words. "I set it off. We go now or we stay here."
Tom looked for a long moment at her -- I could see distrust in his face, but on the other hand, the soldiers probably would have caught us if the trap had gone off. He gave a nod and set the engine moving a bit faster. We had still been inching along but now the whistle blew (Edmond hated that part) and the engine roared and we moved past the group of soldiers who seemed to think they had something caught in a magical field."
"What is going on?" Tom demanded. I stepped aside. I didn't like to see Tom mad and I didn't like the feel of odd magic coming from this woman.
"I set up that trap," she said. "I was only waiting for something to come along and get me out of they. They believe they have me under their control. I didn't have a way to get out on my own. We must move fast before they realize I'm gone."
I could barely see her face beneath the cloak, but she did look pensive. Was that because she worried about being caught again or because she feared we would not believe her? I supposed it might have been both.
"I am Alsia," the woman said with a nod. We were nearly to the edge of the train yard, though the town still stretched out around us. "Why are you traveling like this?"
I left the whole story to Tom and moved over by Maggie. She had a frown as well. I wanted to ask questions about our new guest, but I wasn't certain Maggie would know and besides I had an odd feeling that I shouldn't give way how little I did know about anything.
The trouble stayed behind us, though. She had done us some good, I thought. The soldiers had been there, waiting. Even without the magical trap, we might have drawn attention. I tried to think well of her, but the look Maggie gave the woman did not help.
Nor did the words I heard from her after Tom's tale.
"It would be easier and wiser to simply leave this reality," she said with a wave of her hand. "I don't see why you would fight for such a dismal place."
"Leave this reality to Darman and Potilia?" Tom replied with one elegant eyebrow raised. "That is not a wise idea, Alsia. You know that this world is laden with magic. How would we stop them from taking Elsewhere? Darman will not be happy until he has everything, and Potilia is no better."
"I am going to go talk with the others and let them know all is safe," Maggie said. Tom nodded.
I said nothing, but I followed her through the door that led to the rest of our train. Edmond came as well, and I wondered if we should leave Tom.
"He'll be fine," Maggie said. "I needed to get away from her. There's something odd there."
"I know. But I can't decide if it's bad or just strange."
Maggie agreed. So we went back through the train, talking to others and calming everyone. I spent some time with a group of nons in one car. They were fascinated as we started the long climb up the mountains and we sat looking out the windows. I thought wild creatures must be drawn to the magic. I saw deer, elk, and even bears and wolves. That could not be natural.
Snow soon covered the ground. We'd be heading down the other side tomorrow, I guessed -- and it wouldn't be hard to cross the flatlands and head for the east. Good.
I started back to the engine --
And between one car and the next, something caught hold of me and threw me off the train.
To Be Continued....