Previous: Chapter 1, “An Unexpected Awakening”
Out in the autumn sunshine, Lysander set about finding three things: an internet cafe, a place to stay, and a hot cup of tea. It was surprisingly difficult.
The streets were unusually clear for the downtown area of a major metropolis. Lysander saw few people and even fewer storefronts. What people he did see, more often than not, were walking between skyscrapers using a series of elevated skyways. Tunnels of glass and steel, the skyway network seemed to connect most of the buildings in downtown Minneapolis at the second story level.
Maybe he’d have better luck inside one of the buildings. There. Lysander pushed through a nearby revolving door. He found himself in a long, open space, not unlike what one might find in a mall. An escalator lead up to the second floor, where he could just make out the rows of shops he had missed seeing outside at street level. Lysander stepped on the escalator and allowed it to carry him upwards.
The second level boasted restaurants, clothing stores, small shops—everything you would normally expect to find in a business district or a mall. Here, too, were all the people he would have expected to find at street level, and more. For a while, Lysander just wandered through the maze of corridors, pausing every so often as he crossed a skyway to look down on the traffic below.
Eventually, he passed a Caribou Coffee—Minneapolis’ answer to and replacement for the ever-present Starbucks, it seemed. Some hot tea and a secluded corner to think would not go amiss. Adjusting his duffel bag, Lysander entered, stopping several feet from the counter, in order to study the menu. A tall young man with pale blond hair and ice blue eyes was working the counter alone. The rest of the shop was empty.
Lysander came to a decision and stepped up to the counter to order.
“Hi, what can I get you?” The barista’s voice was cheerful and bright, threaded through with a northerly accent Lysander couldn’t quite place.
“Earl Grey, please. The big one.” Lysander pulled a bill from the roll he’d stowed in his pocket and handed it to the barista.
Or rather, he almost handed it to the barista. As he extended his hand, Lysander blinked, and in that instant, with eyes closed, saw something that gave him pause.
In place of the barista stood a fey, otherwordly warrior with blue skin and hair as white as snow. Rather than the chocolate brown Caribou Coffee shirt, links of fine chainmail glimmered across his chest. His eyes were the same, though, and his face.
Lysander opened his eyes. The barista was looking at him. Lysander extended his fingers, money held between them. The barista didn’t take it.
“You can see me,” he said, making it more statement than question.
“Only when I close my eyes,” Lysander replied, feeling the tension in the room increase.
“That’s a neat trick.”
“Not as neat as yours.”
Tension mounted. People streamed past along the hallway, just outside the half wall that separated it from the coffee shop.