Strangers in the Rain

Black hair dripped from his scalp like the strokes of a paint brush on his papyrus skin. He stood in the drizzle, never mind the fine cut of his shirt or the buttery soft leather of his riding boots. Instead he focused heavenward, eyes fixed like a moon sick wolf man on the blue white pearl of the Mystic Moon.

Darjah followed his line of vision, more fascinated by the bone cold sickle of the second moon lost in the Mystic Moon's shadow. It made her think of forlorn smiles and the gleam of a scalpel before an operation. Through the rain and mud her memory offered her that distinct aroma of death, alcohol, and anesthesia. Night was a time that belonged to the dead, to the ones who didn't make it through the operations and the ones who never saw the table.

Her mind came back to her as a shift of wind sent rain to soak her beneath the shop awning. It seeped through the canvas cut of her pauper's breeches and the stiff, old coat that was dated standard issue for soldiers. It had been her brother's before he'd been promoted. Uniforms had changed by now anyway. She pulled the stiff collar up a bit higher, tilted her wide brimmed hat just so, and hugging her purchases leaned against the rain.

Bare feet squishing along the unpaved road of a Palas ghetto, she headed towards the bridge upon which the pondering noble stood. She wondered how his love had been disappointed or who might have died so that his feet would carry him so far from home. He was certainly a pining fool to be out in this miserable drizzle just standing there without a jacket. The war time healer in her rankled the closer to him she got. Throwing away such good health was utter madness. Before she could stop herself she turned smartly onto the stone bridge, climbing up an impractical, aesthetically pleasing arch, and stood defiantly beside him.

"You should consider that this is bad for your health," she intruded on his thoughts. He turned a startled expression to her, slightly disoriented. "A good bottle of brandy will do your unrequited love more good than this frigid rain," she advised. His features were noble though he looked like an injured pup with his eyes still whimsical.

"I can't argue that logic," he smiled suddenly, the same sickle sad grin of her white moon.

"Go home, blue blood. This place isn't safe," she urged, crossing one leg behind her and bobbing a curtsey. His face lifted back towards the sky, watching the moons drifting in and out of the thick clouds. Darjah thought about clocking him a good one, particularly since he stood an open target in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods currently embroiled in turf wars.

"I lost something today," he said when she turned to go, giving him up for dead. Darjah stopped at the cynical edge in his voice. She recognized it as the tone a man used when he was trying to hold onto the last pieces of his sanity. "The pendant she gave me…"

Darjah thought of frightened men clutching little paintings of their women, holding onto hand kerchiefs or hair ribbons, a lucky few with something of a promise ring. These were precious links, idolized pieces of women they could not reach and were terrified they would never see again. She thought of a young soldier, barely fourteen, who went mad when he lost the locket belonging to his sister, the sister who had died right before his eyes and driven him to join the army.

"What did it look like?" she turned around. He looked back at her, seemingly surprised she would take him seriously.

"It was Dragon Heart, set in gold on a small chain," he replied.

"The Hydra is a strange place. One head might swallow something only to be found in the jaws of another," Darjah consoled him. "If I pry it loose where would I take it?"

"Allen Schezar will know where I am," the man smiled to say that he appreciated her consolation. Darjah nodded to him.

"Go back now, while the rain washes out the scum."

"Thank you," he gave her a slightly wider smile and turned away without further hesitation. Sometimes just hearing a man out was the best thing. In this case it was the only thing she could do.