First draft disclaimer: This narrative is a first draft, and is therefor subject to grammar errors, repetitiveness, lack of clarity, and other issues. Later drafts will smooth such things over, but for now they remain. Please be tolerant.
As they neared the House of Angels, the rail car began to slow. In the new quiet, Chloe asked, “How is this car powered?”
Avvarice, applying the brakes, said, “it isn’t. All the tracks are on an incline. The cars just roll. You could say it’s powered by gravity!”
“Oh.” Chloe was a little confused. “So… how do you reset it?”
“There’s a crank system. At the end of a track is a detachable set of rails. The car and its rails are pulled up to the top of a new set of tracks!” Avvarice smiled, pulling the machine to a halt.
“…And thereby filled with new potential energy. Truly impressive. Who came up with the concept?”
“Me.” Avvarice’s smile opened, her teeth were sharp and bright. “Anyway, this is your stop. I’ll see you, I hope. We’re rooting for you, alright?”
Chloe didn’t know who ‘we’ included, but it made her nervous that people were expecting things of her.
The car rolled away, returning to its duties. When it was gone, Riley said, “I really want to make that free for everyone. Like, if I could just add public transportation to the budget…”
Chloe nodded. It was a good idea.
They stood on a landing, one floor up. The tall building damaged the skyline, standing as a roan red interruption among the silver city. Looking around, Chloe guessed that they were in a very poor part of town.
The platform they were on was likely the roof of the building’s foyer. In front, Chloe could see the building had six more floors, seven in total. She saw an older girl, maybe nine or ten, climbing the wall. She was three storeys up, scaling without a harness and wearing only a helmet and elbow pads for protection.
Chloe watched as the girl took a metal canister from her backpack, holding on with her feet and one arm.
“What is going on there?” Chloe pointed.
Elliott said, “Oh, that’s Spider! I guess she got her permits, sweet!”
Riley looked up at the girl, and then look back down, and walked to the door. “Let’s go.”
The inside of the building was just as stark in contrast as the outside. The floors were lined with dark red carpet that felt like grass under the shoes. The walls were a pale, almost off-golden brown. The roof was dark. Chloe noticed that the hall they had entered was lit entirely by candle lanterns.
Riley stood at the entrance and waited. Chloe looked down the hall, left and right. She guessed that it circled the entire building.
“Your Highness!” A voice came from the right.
Chloe saw a short woman, possibly in her thirties or early forties. She had very pale skin, a trait of the upper class. Her black hair came to her waist, and provided a beautiful contrast to her light skin and clothes. Chloe saw that her arms and legs had noticeable strength. Her clothes were lose and made of soft blue silk, an expensive fabric. Her top was cropped a few fingers below the breast, and she wore a loose loincloth that fell to her knees.
“This is Lillith,” Riley said.
Lillith gave a heated smile.
“Ah, I am Chloe Rhye.”
“Nice to meet you.” Lillith reached her arm out.
Chloe stared at the woman’s open hand. The handshake was not part of her culture.
Riley said, “you should take her hand.”
Chloe did, and Lillith shook. “Wonderful, I like you already! Come, let’s feel you up.”
Lillith let go and began leading the trio down the hall in the direction she had come from.
Chloe whispered, “do you know what she means by feel?”
Elliott said, “I have no clue, but I definitely want to watch.”
Riley gave the young man a look, then replied with, “she wants to know how much muscle mass you have. It’s hard to tell with someone who has as much fat as you.”
Chloe said, “oh, thanks.”
Elliott added, “I’m staying for this.”
Lillith brought the group into what looked like a half gymnasium. The floor was lined with wood, and the ceiling was high. Along one wall was a small armoury of thin swords and spears. The Lussa did not usually use shields.
“Alright, come here.”
Lillith was standing on a portion of the floor that was painted black. She pointed at another black square, and Chloe moved to stand on it. Chloe noticed that there was a ring painted around them, a duelling circle.
“Okay dear, I’m going to call for a duel, is that okay with you?”
“Ah, alright. But I am not very good…” Chloe trailed off.
Lillith sat on the ground and called the Servant of Duels, the spirit that sanctioned fights. With their protection, both parties would be safe from large injuries and also from death.
When she was done, Lillith stood and drew her sword. It was a long blade with a single edge and a slight curve, a fencing sabre. Chloe took the King’s sword from her hip.
“Let us fight!”
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