Chapter 3 - Part 2
It was hard not to boast about being from Clearwater. It was one of William's more impressive features, right after his long list of failed attempts at well...everything. Through his friends at school, he learned that Clearwater was one of the nation's larger towns due to the natural resources nearby. For example, he now knew that they were one of the largest lumber exporters. But unlike the typical resource management scheme set by the capital, much of their products were shipped to surrounding townships to aid in rebuilding projects. Materials sent to the capital from Clearwater were often for tailor-made luxury items to meet the unique demands of the denizens of the metropolis, which in turn lead to a flourishing crafts trade. A skill that he had not inherited through the ever popular study of osmosis, much to his friends' dismay.
His hometown was also in the unique position to not have to pay out tribute produce in exchange for food supplements. Instead, they could trade other raw materials such as ore, seeds, or pre-grown plants that included flowers, shrubs, and trees for the purpose of transplanting and revitalizing less than prosperous areas. He was vaguely aware that this was part of the government plan to bring life the northern regions in hopes of increasing natural food sources. He felt that jobs like that were better suited to the kind of worker who felt fulfilled by a day of ridiculously long hours, backbreaking work, and pay that would never be able to support a single person, not to mention a family. Yeah...jobs like those belonged to suckers. William had an ambitious career track in mind, though he wasn't entirely sure how he was going to go about it.
There was definitely a sense of pride that swelled in his chest whenever he saw the local folks smile and wave at his father, offering a "Good day, Father Mathers," and engaging in meaningless small talk. As Master Hunter of the Red Order, there were definitely some solid perks to the job. The people knew exactly who to thank for their continued safety and wouldn't hesitate to offer gifts as thanks. They owed it to the Master Hunter too. One day, it was going to be William strutting in his father's place and the people would be bowing their heads at him.
He felt important, even if it was residual. It was much in the same way Astral was important just because she was related to the Councilman. He noticed how their whole act would change when they would inevitably find out his guest's heritage. Astral referred to it as 'the culling of the disingenuous'. He thought it was stupid. There was no way to get ahead in this world unless you were useful. That was a reality that she needed to learn to accept.
The three of them were dressed in their finest today. His father wore a neatly pressed suit that was far too simple in William's opinion, even with the silk crimson red tie to serve as the mark of the Order. Overall, it gave Mathias as casual, approachable feeling, though did little to reduce his obvious importance within the town.
Astral was encouraged to wear the clothes that she had worn when she had arrived earlier that summer, as her summer wardrobe was often torn, patched, and stained by time she due to return home. It was definitely not befitting of a Master Hunter and his family to be seen with such unclean company. It came as a huge disappointment to William at just how clean she could appear if she bothered to give her looks some thought. He resented that next to his father and despite being shorter and thinner, she still gave off the impression of personal importance. Maybe it was the way she carried herself, one long leg striding in front of the other, her feet following a narrow invisible path. Maybe it was the way she looked ahead instead of at the paved walkways. Or maybe it was the fact that no one could see her eyes behind tinted lenses. He was told that she had to wear protective eyewear because her eyes had become sensitive to the light. He figured it was capital city thing; a direct result of being cooped up in a place where natural sunlight couldn't reach them.
Much like Mathias' wardrobe, Astral preferred less elaborate designs and flat colours. It was clear where she hailed. Her clothing was very modern, broken up in strong vertical line running up and down her body. She wore knee high black boots and black trousers to hide the cuts and bruises on her pale legs. She wore a white vest jacket which was probably emblematic of her families ties to the governing Council, much in the same way that Mathias had to wear a piece of crimson red to mark his allegiance. Her collar was done up to her neck, adding to her rigid importance. It hung open from her navel, likely to allow some youthful allure to her otherwise overly mature appearance.
Luckily she had ruined the look by insisting on bringing her teddy bear packsack. Not quite satisfied with the odd accent, he had conveniently pulled and lost her white hair ribbon midway into town, causing her wild hair to tumble loose and cover the teddy's accusing eyes.
He wore something similar to his father, a basic grey vest suit combination with no jacket. It was too hot for a jacket. His clothing didn't allow him to opt out of wearing a shirt, which stuck out from his trousers in a way that he felt made him look cooler and mature, hopefully more mature than his summer guest. He left his collar unbuttoned, favouring being able to breathe overlooking 'smart'. Besides, his tie had been conveniently misplaced.
Mathias pulled a palm sized hand tablet from his coat pocket, quickly checking the time as he nodded to another "Good afternoon, Father Mathers."
It was par for the course on a day out on the town. His father had to pay his respects to the people who kept him employed. Being visible gave the appearance that all was well and that the people had no reason to fear a demonic onslaught.
An older woman moved toward them making every attempt to appear as though there wasn't any urgency in her purpose. William smirk, noting the hungry look in the woman's eyes. She was some twenty years older than his father, with a niece who had publically rejected her local suitors, pretty much ruining her chances at a local match.
"Good afternoon, Master Mathers," the woman greeted, bobbing her head respectfully with a touch of a curtsey in her footing. She wanted to maintain control of the conversation by reducing her height ever so slightly, albeit, briefly, but maintained the stiffness in her posture and did nothing to reduce the amount of space she was taking up. She wore black, the traditional dress of widow. She would be made to carry on wearing the colour until she remarried. As a practitioner of the faith she was sure to abide by the rules, especially if she wanted to impress the Master Hunter.
She lowered her eyes, casting them toward the shorter William, to whom she nodded respectfully and offered a slight smile. William nodded to her, as he was expected to do. He noticed how quickly her nose moved skyward when she saw Mathias' summer student. The woman returned to her full height; her gaze fixed on her target.
"Good morning, Mrs. Archer," Mathias smiled. "How's that niece of yours? Fairing well in the big city?"
The middle-aged woman smiled like a fox about to snap up its prey. "Graduated this past June and completed her Oathing ceremony! Oh to the Red Order of course, like I needed to tell you," she laughed a hollow rehearsed laugh. "It was a risky choice, but you know Kaitlin, once she gets her mind on something she's just set to it. I'm glad you asked, actually. She's due back any time now; I'm off to the station to pick her up, if you'd care to join me."
Most of the town was built around walkways. Motor vehicles caused too much noise pollution and could attract demons. The city center held most of the commercial outlets reserved for the locals, such as grocers, tailors, and the only restaurant. The house of worship, town hall, and shelter were also part of the central landscape. Schools were closer to the inner town but dotted residential areas often accommodating as many as a thousand children per school. Larger production outlets were on the outskirts well passed the residential districts. The Mathers' household existed on the outskirts, which was a series of duplexes once called townhouses. Their proximity to the eminent dangers of the unknown made these dwellings less than desirable. Their neighbors were often migrant workers there for a season, gone the next. Some capital city company was said to own all of the houses on the outskirts and had been buying up property for years, pushing toward the inner town. No one complained, possibly because there were laws against too much wealth acquisition.
The train station was one of those buildings on the outskirts. From there, a person could book a shuttle to a nearby town or right to the capital itself. They could also rent or a bike or small cart for the day. There were other similar small outlets throughout the town, all with a limited supply that came from the train station. The only other way to Clearwater was by road, but so few people owned a personal vehicle, due to the aforementioned threat of attracting a demon, it was a rare sight. Those people would be made to park their vehicle within the station's parking garage, and they would have to proceed on foot or via bike to their intended destination.
Mathias took a step away from the woman's extended hand, placing a hand on his charges as though proving he had other plans. "I'm afraid I have quite a bit to do this afternoon," his smile broadened. William couldn't help but smirk at the indignant expression that had flashed across Mrs. Archer's worn features. She was a middle-class woman, with middle-class prospects. Women like her were always on the look-out for a better arrangement, if not for herself than for her family. It was probably no small coincidence that Mathias had carefully planned every outing to include a long list of errands and the company of his two charges.
Mrs. Archer wasn't the only one eyeing up the Master Hunter as a potential step up. She was quick to collect herself, smiling with frosty warmth behind a wall of pearly whites. "We're planning quite the party this evening. It'll be the talk of the town. I would very much like it if you would do us the honour of blessing the event."
William resisted the urge to nudge Astral in a shared joke, but she was watching something off in the distance, ignoring the exchange entirely. He'd have to catch her up with why this party was such a joke anyway. No one in their right mind would want to attend, least of all any available bachelors. Not after the last time...
Mathias smiled in the way a parent would when they try to avoid making their child feel stupid for trying something that was destined to fail. "Now you know I'm not that kind of priest." He sighed and looked to the heavens as though seeking answers in the clouds spotting the otherwise clear sky. "I do believe that Father Hubert owes me a favour. I can make a request if it still suits you."
The woman's frame sagged with disappointment and the warmth from her eyes vanished. William had to commend her on maintaining her smile. "That will do nicely. Please, Father Mathers, if you're able, we would be very happy to have you attend." Her eyes lingered on the inattentive Astral longer than they should have, causing feelings about the student to melt away her false smile. "Your...charges are most certainly welcomed." The smile returned.
"That's generous of you," Astral spoke and nodded to her respectfully. "However my grandfather has made it abundantly clear that I am not to socialize with...umm..." she looked to Mathias whose cheeks flushed with embarrassment.
"What she means to say is that the Councilmen is very particular with whom Lady Daamon is acquainted," he added hastily. William glanced to his companion, 'Lady?' He hoped that it wasn't an actual title; rather it was just one of those polite things people said.
"I see," Mrs. Archer eye narrowed and pursed her lips. "It would appear that you have more in common with my niece than I would have at first thought." She bobbed her head respectfully to the young Lady and a second deeper bob to the Master Hunter.
They watched Mrs. Archer's form disappear in the bustling crowds of the city center. Mathias roughed up Astral's hair. "I think you've earned ice cream," he told her giddily.
"Seriously!" William shouted in surprise. "I would have gotten in trouble for talking to her like that!"
"So would I!" Mathias cheered. "Thank god one of us doesn't need manners."
"Bite me," Astral bristled.
"We're not going to tell your grandfather about this," he told her. "If he asks, I'll tell him that you've been thoroughly reprimanded."
She considered his offering and nodded in agreement. "You're an enabler, you know that right?"
"Do I get ice cream?" William asked.
"Of course!" Mathias smiled. "Ice cream for everybody."
'Uh oh!' William had this sinking feeling that the ice cream his father was referring to was quite possibly the stash he had polished off last night. His excitement waned. In his defence, most of it was already eaten by the time he found it. Maybe he could pin the blame on Astral, she'd get into less trouble.
In preparation for my 4th draft, I need a reader's perspective on some of the content. I can guess at lot of the technical stuff, but it's not quite the same because I'm too close to the work. So if you could keep an eye out for some of the stuff mentioned in the following questions, that would be awesome!
- What parts do feel like are just fluff? Like stuff that's nice to know, but you didn't really need to know?
- I spend time developing the towns' personal and how it links to world. My intention was to demonstrate one part isolation and one part this is how the towns are set up in this world. However, I suspect the town stuff is only interesting to someone like myself. What are your thoughts on it?
- I invested a little bit of time with a cultural narrative that -I know- has nothing to do with the story I want to tell. Logically, it should get cut. However, the interactions do a lot of character reveals in terms of personality, station, and so on. At least that's how I justify it, but I could be way off base. Was the scene with the lady inviting the Master Hunter to her party entertaining to read? Irrelevant? Other? If you have an opinion, please elaborate.
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