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Dear Paul,

I am off on to the South Seas on a supposed rescue mission of one of my former students that decided to go the way of the world, can you believe it? He ran off to be the squire of a local gentelman of leisure off on a grand adventure, and said Gentleman had the nerve to ask the militia, then the Church, to go after the boy whom he so thoughtfully left behind. Normally, I would not give a request like that a second thought, but anything is better than sitting for another 2 months in this frozen city waiting for spring. It is so cold here that the citizens think nothing of possible danger from thin ice and drag sledges and machinery out onto the frozen canals for winter festivals, and delight in fishing, by sitting next to holes drilled in the ice for hours on end, utterly motionless, so still that one wonders if they are actually alive or dead of frost… 


The hour had finally arrived. I had the letters addressed to Malus in my coat pocket, and my valaise and guitar packed and waiting at the door. The messengers next door were peaking out of their door, eager to see me go, I would imagine. All except that little one with the wooden sword. She was standing in the room with Lox, eyes wide and solemn, Lox behind her with her hand on the girl’s shoulders.

“Dominic,” coaxed Lox. “Say something to her.”

Say what? I stared at the girl. She was just another of that rat pack that lived next door. I wanted to be on my way. Now. I wasn’t good with children. Lox gave me her worst evil eye that said I better make a good show of it. 

“What’s your name?”

“Emily Eclipse,” she said.

Great. Now what? I took her little wooden sword and examined it. 

“Show me how you hold your sword.”

She held herself in a semblance of first position, then dropped into a guard. The kid must have been watching me and Nap practice in the back court. I corrected her grip, moving her thumb up to the back of the hilt, and moved her shoulders into the correct stance. She struggled to find the balance. 

“First Position! Medium Guard!”

Not bad, she didn’t go back to her own stance, but to the corrected one. I decided to get my own sword and give her something to practice. Ignoring Lox’s amused eyes, I shadowed the little girl’s movements. 

“Follow me, and Moulinet One. Cut down, right to left, now circle the wrist, and again…”

The kid was well coordinated for her age, though it was hard to guess the ages on those kids. Even the older ones were small, as the determined ones willingly starved themselves to keep their weight down so they could keep taking air missions. I guided her through the first two moulinet drills, and watched her practice while straining to hear the sound of the cab in the street that would free me from this ridiculous scene. The knock at the door couldn’t have come soon enough, but finally it did, and I was on my way.

“You practice that until I come back, Emily Ellipse,” I said as I rescued my guitar from the rough hands of the cabbie. Lox nodded in approval, and I thought I might have heard a girlish squeal as I boarded the bench of the steamcab, but it was lost in the roar of the safety valve lifting on the top of the steamcab’s boiler.

I didn’t know where I was going.

Whereever it was, it was going to be warmer than this damned place.   



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