The Sequel to Alice and Finch.
Alice was always a point of interest in the capital. During her childhood, she passively garnered followers, kids in the neighbourhood and later children from around the entire city. Alice was an energetic girl, and she grew into a tactful woman with an energetic flair. Though exiled for a few years during her youth, Alice returned to the city and became a member of the guard alongside Finch.
Finch was a scholarly boy, though he didn’t know it. His father pressured him to read textbooks as a child because, well, his father homeschooled him, but also had to work. As a young adult, he worked in the guard in order to gain reputation so that he could find a way to get Alice back into the city. She hadn’t done anything wrong, certainly not criminal enough to warrant an exile. She was simply discriminated against because she wasn’t like them. She wasn’t Solune like most of the people in the kingdom, but neither was she Riley. Alice Dawngale was of a different nation, she was a Plainkind. But Finch never really knew what that meant.
The difference was clear. Alice had an obvious and striking foreign look to her. Her bright yellow-pinkish hair was lighter and had less like the natural blonde common in Solune. Her eyes shone deep red, but when she got into a chase or a skirmish, the irises tightened into vertical slits, like a cat or reptile, and the colour brightened. Once, Finch got her energized and watched the change close up. He saw that it was blood coursing through capillary veins that caused the change. Nothing magical. In fact, everything that was out of the ordinary about Alice could be explained.
Finch had done a full study on her, to her dismay, a few months into their marriage. Alice had three sets of canines, longer and thicker than the Solune’s. They often hid behind her oddly dark section of her cheeks. This part of her face pulled back, allowing for her to open her jaw unusually wide. Her front teeth consisted of two fangs pointing downward, followed by four more, two on each side, pointed up. In the middle, regular incisors, but with angled fronts. When she smiled, her cheeks also pulled back, and this could be quite terrifying for people who didn’t know her. Her nails were not only long, but animal like and dark. They were unmistakably weapons for hunting.
And so, while Alice was exiled, he tried his best to find out about the Plainkind. That was where Chloe Rhye came in. She was part of the royal family, but had offered to teach him and some of his peers. She gave him firsthand accounts from before the kingdom was secluded behind giant walls by the King.
“The Plainkind…they are a ferocious people. I’ve met a few, but we had little in common. A few centuries ago when my mother was colonizing the surrounding area, the Elken Jungle, N’Tariel Plains, and the Plainkind Desert were the only places she could not conquer. We’ve relinquished our control since then, but even so. Their weapons are for hunting, but they are both heavier and sharper than ours. It seems they mine. But primarily they hunt, and what they hunt are large beasts—dinosaurs.”
Finch was walking home from his lab. He thought back to his childhood. Where had all of his peers gone? What had they done with their lives? He had returned to his education after Alice was allowed back into the city, but the only person he met in the University was Artus. Jutt had gone missing, and…who else was there, really? It was Artus who first introduced him to the “monster” of Murdock City, to Alice.
Finch was walking home with an armful of books. Unlike when he was a child he no longer read Natural Studies textbooks, or even books from outside of the kingdom, by academics such Joss Resz the N’Tariel, Bradley Jeremy the East Metch, or Azure Shion of the West. Now, he kept up with the scientific literature of his field, kemia, also called chemistry.
“Aww…I think I took too much again.” Finch stopped on the cobbled street, near a house.
The door in front of him opened, and a youthful woman with giant teeth smiled serenely and took the books.
“Oh Finch, I think you’ve lost strength since your guard days. I remember you used to be stronger than me!” Alice said. She put the books down on a piece of furniture that had been crafted especially for material from his work. At least, like his father, Finch could do work around the house.
He frowned, closing the door behind him. “Alice, I think you’re right. You know Riley tend not to be very strong anyway. We, shameful but true, we tend to sneak around in the night.”
“I know.” Alice was cooking, which was always an ordeal. She used the stove in such a dangerous way. It was a normal cooking stove, with a fire inside and removable elements to bridge and make consistent the heat. But Alice always removed the elements and played with the fire as she cooked. Today was no different.
Finch stared at her suit of armour. “How was work today?”
“Oh, well, interesting you ask. We encountered your cousin, Dirge.”
“Dirge?” Finch thought for a moment. Dirge was his middle name, his mother’s name. “Wait, Jutt?”
“Yes, remember her? She was a little older than us. I thought she was a boy when we met because her hair was so short. Well it turns out she turned to crime.” Finch was shocked. The spices Alice was frying caught fire. “Ah!” She put the lid on, waited, and then opened it up and added in chunks of meat.
“Oh. I…I actually knew that. Her and her mother.”
“Yes, well, she’s working with Natasha Rhye now. The Prince. She’s my boss, by the way, that’s how I know.”
“They want me.” Alice moved the pan onto a proper element and added vegetables in.
“What do you mean?” Finch came nearer to her.
“Natasha says I should join the agents. They need more people in the west.”
“The west? Isn’t that—”
“—where they had the revolution. The whole thing with the shares. It’s gotten really authoritarian and the Solune figure that the couple agents we have there aren’t enough. They want someone strong. They want a Plainkind agent in there.”
“I’m perfect, Natasha said. The Djeb is full of Plainkind like the Solune kingdom is full of Riley. A visible minority. That means that for the most part, I would fit in. But Finch…” She put the element back on the stove and closed the drafters, and then covered the food. “I don’t want to leave this city again. You worked so hard to get me in. I like being a guard, not a King’s Agent.”
“It is a great honour to work for the King directly. And…weren’t we always talking about this?”
Alice turned to him, her eyes a sharp red. “What do you mean?”
“Going west. That’s…that’s where the Plainkind are.”
“My father!” Alice covered her mouth, and then her eyes. She sat down at the dining table.
Finch looked at the food. It was nearly done. He moved it off the stove and joined her at the table.
“…It is finally time, isn’t it Finch. Finally time to return to my home. I haven’t been there since I was four or five. Since my mother…”
“Since your mother saved your life. I know. And I think it is time. The walls have finally opened. Chloe Rhye said that the Lussa have become new allies, and they are closely connected to the Djeb through trade. Revolution aside, it is likely safer there than it has been thanks to that new alliance.”
“Finch you have to come.”
“Of course!” Finch stood up. “I—”
“No, become an agent with me.”
“I—” Finch stopped. He breathed for a few minutes, and then stood up and prepared the food.
He returned to the table with two plates and utensils. Alice ignored the food, she stared only at him. Finch sat down and took three, then four, deep breaths.
“According to my studies, it takes around four months to get back into shape.”
Alice grabbed her husband’s arm. “Finch they will train you!”