Frederick had been prepared to signal to the driver to stop and call the authorities when he realized the mispronunciation of his name.
“Kelstrin?” He asked, incredulous.
The stranger leaned into the curve of moonlight that snuck through the coach window, his cinnamon toned skin gleaming. His almond shaped eyes were highlighted with black ink that curved towards his temples. Two black lines extended from the center of his bottom eyelids, going down his cheeks and stopping just parallel to the corners of his mouth. Upon closer inspection, his eyes were a dazzling mix of amber and verdant green, the rims a brilliant gold.
Kelstrin reached out to Frederick, his slender hand pushing against Frederick’s palm as he leaned in and put his cheek against Frederick’s.
“Nam shallah.” Kelstrin whispered, grinning.
Kelstrin’s hand was palm to palm with Frederick’s, his tanned fingers covered in faded symbols. Frederick pushed him back into his seat, folding his arms.
“You know the law, Kelstrin.” Frederick calmly replied.
“Well do I know, Frederico.” Kelstrin sighed, slumping back in his seat, “I feel like an animal at the circus in these clothes. How do you manage?”
He took off his bowler hat and shook out his mane of dark brown hair that hid beneath it, sleek as a regal animal despite its captivity. He wore a simple button down shirt, his cuffs unbuttoned and covered in grease and coal stains. Elastic suspenders held up his one size too large trousers despite the large bulge that was his stomach, a sizeable hole in his right knee pant leg as his work boots seem to curl at the edges.
Frederick tried to ignore this stranger in his coach. Looking down, he noticed a glint on Kelstrin’s wrist.
“Take a good look, asagi.” He took his sleeve and rolled it back, sticking his arm out towards Frederick.
A skintight bronze band wrapped around his wrist, small runes etched crudely into the metal.
“For all your talk of technology and science, asagi, I find it amusing you rely upon our ways to subdue us.”
“Law says you can’t use the Heathen Arts within Eilban territory, unless you live within a preservation.”
Kelstrin scoffed, pulling his hand back and folding his arms.
“Such poetic language to cushion the harsher truths of life, is it not, asagi?” he spat, his gleaming eyes narrowing.
“One more Ur’Kan word out of your mouth and I’ll have you arrested, do I make myself clear, Kelstrin?”
He huffed in response, looking out the window.
“By the way, when did you become so proficient in Elbanish?”
“When our tongues were nailed to your dictionaries two years ago, if we had a hope of surviving in this charade.”
Frederick dropped the conversation, covering his face and exhaling into his hands before pulling them down over his features.
“How did you even know I would be in this coach?”
Kelstrin looked back towards Frederick, his expression caught between pained hesitation and a sly, knowing smirk. He leaned forward, cupping Frederick’s face as Kelstrin’s elegant eyes looked into his.
“I sensed you. Your keh’tah-” he quickly put a finger on Frederick’s lips, smirking, “There is no Elbanish word for such a thing. Trust me, I searched.”
He saw the copper veins that stretched towards Frederick’s pupils, chewing on the inside of his cheek softly as he let go of Frederick’s face.
“I could…help you.” He murmured, his eyes turned to the floor of the coach.
Frederick’s brows furrowed, his eyes watering due to the exposure of moonlight.
“You don’t even know what happened.”
“Pfft!” Kelstrin snickered, shaking his head, “You Gears think everything is isolated. A single part damages a whole machine, a sickly cell displaces one person.” Frederick was about to retort when Kelstrin held up his hand, “I’ve seen and felt this before, Frederico. Especially during the during the fighting.”
His expression changed now to stoic resignation.
“That was a Binding Hex that you read. Many a times, Gears would send these letters to our homes, only to have the readers’ eyes be put out and be stripped of their connection to Que’Vallah.”
“Did these hexes also include violent images?”
“Only ones that would horrify you the most. A little by-product bonus for you Gears.”
“For the love of-, Kelstrin, you can’t blame what happened on me!” Frederick snapped.
“You helped them destroy everything I cherish!” Kelstrin barked back.
“Then why didn’t you let me die?!” Frederick slammed his fist into the seat beside him, his eyes wide with anger as he leaned into Kelstrin’s face.
“Because I’m not an Elban.” Kelstrin hissed, his upper lip curling back.
Frederick yanked on the cable in the corner of the coach, a steam whistle going off outside. The coach jerked to a halt, Kelstrin grinning as he stuffed on his bowler hat.
Kelstrin lifted his hands in surrender, that same, crafty smile on his face as he slid over to get out. He quickly slung his arm around Frederick, his lips pressed against Frederick’s ear.
“You and I shared blood, asagi, and no power in this world can undo that. I will find you again.”
Kelstrin slipped out of the coach, tossing a coin to the confused conductor before walking down a dark, cobbled street. Frederick watched him leave, sighing as he dragged a tired hand down his face.
“Continue, sir?” asked the conductor, still watching the random passenger vanish into the back alleys of Silestra.
“Yes, cabbie.” He droned, snapping the coach door shut as the steam engine spluttered back to life.
Kelstrin looked over his shoulder and quickly latched onto the back of the coach, crouching down as it hobbled down the road.