Silverwood: Chapter 8

Mrs. Woods was a compact and solid and sun-dried woman with wise eyes. She had a broom in her hands and an apron around her waist and was sweeping the always-accumulating dust off the covered wooden porch in front of the Brokeneck Hotel in the threadbare-but-charming, one-street town of Brokeneck. Her sweeping raised a bit of a cloud that drifted off as she worked. She was almost done when something caught her eye.

Walking toward her down the middle of Brokeneck’s main and only street was a man wearing a black cloak and a wide-brimmed black hat. The crunching sound of his boots on the heat-baked gravel came closer and closer. Mrs. Woods leaned her broom on the railing, rubbed her hands together and went inside. She returned having removed her apron and walked out to meet the stranger. Crows cawed in the tops of stands of massive redwood trees that stood guard like an enormous backdrop to the town.

One of the customary functions of the one main street in Brokeneck was as a meeting place, and it was also the custom for everyone with an overlooking window to spy on whoever was doing the meeting. Mrs. Woods met up with the man directly in front of the hotel at the center of the street. Neither of them said anything at first. She held up her hand to shield her eyes from the sun’s glare and squinted at him.

“Ma’am,” the man finally said, removing his hat and bowing slightly. “I’m bound to make a delivery to you courtesy of the Council. You are Eleanor Woods, aren’t you?”

“I am indeed sir,” Mrs. Woods replied. “What do you have for me?”

The man fished out a small coin-like object with a hole in the center. “It is my understanding, ma’am, that you require a field free of Tromindox. Is that correct?”

“I do,” Mrs. Woods said. “I have lodgers arriving soon who will need protecting.”

The man gave Mrs. Woods the coin. “That there is a rarity, ma’am. A reversible field, capable of covering a wide distance. Wide enough to encompass your entire establishment here,” he nodded toward the hotel, “if that is what you aim to do.”

“I appreciate that,” Mrs. Woods said. “And I thank you, sir. Please accept these in exchange.” She dropped five small objects into his palm. These were an assortment of portals of various strengths and capabilities, although not the special-order kind strong enough to create a field. Mrs. Woods needed powerful stuff and she was happy to trade a few lesser items to make the deal. Even if it meant possibly revealing some of her own information to the Council. She figured those folks had other things to worry about. She’d heard they had Tromindox showing up at their headquarters these days, brazenly demanding things and taking what they wanted. So the Council weren’t likely to trouble themselves with some lady in a run-down hotel in the middle of a bunch of redwood trees in the middle of a bunch of nowhere.

“Won’t you stay for a glass of lemonade?” Mrs. Woods asked. “It’s not even eleven yet and already hot.” She was right. Waves of heat rose off of the street in places, creating puddles of shiny mirrors.

“I’m much obliged to you,” the man said, placing his hat back on his head. “But I’m afraid I have business elsewhere and must be going. Before I depart I am obligated to read to you the disclaimer that accompanies this very specialized piece of equipment that I am delivering to you.”

“Go ahead,” Mrs. Woods said.

The man pulled a rolled up piece of paper out of his breast pocket. He unrolled it out in front of him, arms straight, like a herald reading a proclamation.

“The Council of Portals hereby certifies that the attached item is a fully-functioning Field-Generating Portal of the Secondary Order, and as such transfers all responsibility for its use to its user. Deployment of this portal may result in effects including but not limited to the prevention of breach by Tromindox and other projected or time-traveling creatures, headaches, dizziness, nausea, dry mouth, and a persistent high-pitched whining noise. In certain rare cases the field generated by the portal may collapse, resulting in damage to property or persons. The user hereby accepts full responsibility for all actions and effects resulting from the use of the aforementioned portal, and in no way holds the Council or its affiliates responsible for any consequences, ill or otherwise, resulting from the use thereof.”

Mrs. Woods waited a beat to be sure the man was finished reading. “Perhaps if the Council spent as much time tending to their own business as they spend writing legal mumbo jumbo, I wouldn’t be requiring such a field in the first place.”

“I’m inclined to agree with you, ma’am, however in my capacity as the deliverer of the portal I am sworn to read the little paper, be that as it may. I endeavor only to protect yourself as well as the Council from any misunderstandings.”

“I hope that you will convey to the Chairman my deepest gratitude, and remind him that there is one more delivery to make.”

“Yes ma’am, I will do that. Good afternoon.”

The man touched the brim of his hat. He handed the curly paper to Mrs. Woods and turned and walked back the way he came. Soon all that was left of him was a bit of dust trailing his footsteps.

Curtains and shades on windows up and down the street closed or fell back into place as everyone inside went back to their business.

Mrs. Woods looked down at her new acquisition. She sincerely hoped it would be enough. Moments later she was back on the hotel porch, sweeping with her apron on.

Chapter 7 | Silverwood Index | Chapter 9