The Card Dealer: Part 5

Part 5: The Letter

 

It took me a moment to find my voice, and the only thing I could manage was a choked squeak.

“I apologize for showing up so suddenly,” said Master Greaves, standing on the other side of the counter.  “And I can’t stay long, so I must hurry.”

I got hold of myself and cleared my throat, giving him my best smile.

“You’re always welcome here, Master Greaves,” I said.  “What can I help you with?”

“Where is Adrian?”  If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought that he sounded frightened.  As always, his expression didn’t give me much hints on how he was really feeling.

“Um, he’s not here,” I said.  “He left for Port’s Town early yesterday morning…I mean, that’s what he said, but I heard otherwise.”

Now Master Greaves’ expression changed for a split second.  He was concerned, and that meant that I had reason to be concerned, too.  Even more concerned that I already was.

“What do you mean?”

I stared at him for a moment, searching for the right words.

“A friend of mine, uh, a merman…he told me he got on another ship that took him away from Port’s Town.  He just told me that a few minutes before you walked in through a mirror call.”

If he thought that a merman using magic was strange, he didn’t say so.  Instead, he straightened his posture with a deep sigh.

“That Adrian,” he said, shaking his head.  “As always, he’s keeping to himself and doing what he wants.  Did he say why he was leaving?”

“He said it was a wizard get together, but I don’t believe him now,” I replied.  “I have no idea.”

Master Greaves thought for a few seconds, then nodded, like he was having a mental conversation with himself.

“What did you need to talk about?  If Adrian needs to hear it too, I can tell him about it when he gets back.”

Greaves took up his hat.  He acted like he was going to leave, but he paused to consider what I said.

“Maybe you can help me,” he said.  “Tell Adrian that when he gets back, he needs to go here.”  He waved his hand around, and silver sparkles appeared in such a large cluster that I couldn’t see his hand anymore.  When they dissipated, he was holding a sheet of paper and a pen.  I nodded slowly to myself…it was a simple spell, but I hadn’t learned it.  I made a mental note to do so.

He wrote down something on the paper, rolled it up, and handed it to me.

“It’s important that this gets to Adrian, understand?  As soon as you see him, give it to him,” he said.

“Yes sir,” I said.  I wanted to ask what it was SO badly, but if I’d learned anything from Master Greaves, it was not to ask him questions like that.   He put on his hat and strode to the door.  I hurried to open it for him.

“Um, please come again,” I said.  “I’m sure Adrian would love to see you.”

Master Greaves laughed.  “Do you know my student, Claudia?”  He asked.  “He would turn himself invisible if he saw me coming.  He’s too afraid I might return all of that unfinished homework I found a few years back.”

I laughed.  He patted my shoulder.  “You do well on your final year of studying, and be sure to know that even though you may be graduating, there is always more knowledge to be found.”

I bowed.  “Thank you, master,” I said.  He gave me his warmest smile, then ducked out the door.

I shut the door so I could lean on it.  The rolled up paper was sitting on the counter, practically calling my name!  Before I could go against my better conscience, I grabbed it and rushed to Adrian room.  He always kept a spell on the door that kept it locked, but I had taught myself the reverse spell.  I placed my hand on the door, concentrating my mind to see the realm of magic.  A magician could see things that others couldn’t.  I closed my eyes, but still pictured the hallway and the door in my mind.  I could clearly see the lock.  I concentrated on the lock with all my might.  Muttering a word in an ancient language, I snapped my fingers.  I saw -and felt – the lock spell shatter like a wall of glass.  I felt a little guilty for breaking into his room, but I needed the paper to be far away from me.  I opened the door and disappeared inside.

I had only been in Adrian’s room once, and that was six years ago when I had helped Lex snoop around to find proof that Adrian was cheating on her after a rumor had spread. Turned out it was just a rumor, and everything was fine, but Adrian had started locking his door with magic after that instance, which prompted me to learn the reverse spell, just in case I’d ever need it.  He’d be upset if he knew, and I guessed I’d have to tell him I did it eventually, but I didn’t care at the moment.

His room was neat and tidy, which actually kind of surprised me.  But then again, he kept everything else in the shop organized, so I guess it wasn’t that big of a shock.  His bed was made, his desk was free of clutter.  Shelves on the wall held little boxes full of trinkets and other miscellaneous items.  Directly opposite of the bed was the door to the only other bathroom we had in the shop.  I stood there to observe the room for a minute before I remembered what I came for.  I set the rolled up paper on his wooden desk.  Unlike my desk, it had no picture frames.  The only things that sat upon the desk was a pencil/pen holder, a box full of paper, a lamp, and a letter.  The letter had not been folded or put into an envelope, and curiosity got the best of me.  Picking it up, I noticed that it hadn’t even been finished yet.  His handwriting was messy, but I managed to read this:

 

Dear Mr. Clark,

I know you paid less than usual for the package when Miss Philips brought it to you.  I don’t appreciate you taking advantage of my pupil.  To make up for that, I’ll be expecting twice the amount of silver next time, or else there’ll be no deal.  You’re lucky enough that I even agreed to do the dirty work.  I’ll meet you next week for another trade off (you better have the extra money).  Oh yeah, and when you see your sister again, tell her to remind the Card Dealer not to be late like he was last time.  It’s bad for his reputation.  Just so you know, I’m going to get Lex to take me to the future for a few things, and I’ll give them to you when I see you next.  Sorry if it’s not what you specifically asked for.  Your details were vague.  Anyway, I’ll be home already by the time you read this, but I had to go to

 

It ended just like that.  Frustrating, considering that I’d probably never see the completed letter.  As I put the letter back in it’s place, I wondered how much Adrian knew about Clark.  He apparently knew he had a sister, and it seemed like he was friends with her too.  But, more importantly, did this mean he personally knew the Card Dealer?  If so, why hadn’t he said anything?  I realized that I shouldn’t have come in, because now I was only more confused than I was before.  I heard the bell ring in the shop and jumped.

“Claudia?”  I heard Leon’s scratchy voice.  I bolted out of Adrian’s room and slammed the door shut behind me.

“Yeah?”  I said as I walked back into shop.  Leon was sitting at the counter with another lollipop from the candy jar.  I smiled.

“You need to stop stealing so many lollipops,” I said.  He wagged his finger at me.

“Don’t tell me what to do,” he said.

“Is that all you came for?”

He shook his head and swiped strands of his hair out of his eyes.

“No, I just came to hang out.  Lex still isn’t home, so I got bored.  None of the other kids want to play with me right now.”

“That’s too bad,” I said.  “I guess that means you’re stuck with me.”

Leon shrugged. “Those kids play boring things anyway.”

I opened a drawer to get out a packet of Adrian’s lemonade powder.

“Has Lex been in the future since Adrian’s been gone?”  I asked, setting the packet in front of him.

“No, she came home last night, but she didn’t say anything to me.  I think she misses Adrian.”  Leon put his hand to is forehead.  “She can’t live without him!”  He cried in a mocking voice.  He dramatically fell out of his chair and sprawled out onto the floor.

“Don’t hurt yourself,” I said, turning my back to him to that I could dust the shelves.

“Well, I have to go return a few books to the library,” he said as he got back up.  He grabbed his packet of lemonade powder and stuck his lollipop in his mouth.

“I’ll be back tonight.”  His words came out garbled with the lollipop in his mouth.  I heard the bell ring as Leon left, sighing to myself.  He literally only came for the lollipop.

Alone once again – I figured I better start getting used to it – my thoughts swirled around in my head like pixie dust.  Hyacinth and the mysterious death of one of the Nymphs, Zion following Adrian’s ship to who knows where, and now Master Greaves pays a visit out of no where to give me a secret message that I can’t even look at.  I didn’t like to think about it, but somehow I knew; this was all connected.

~~~

The next few days went by dirt slow.  Hyacinth brought me a blood sample from the dead Nymph, which was a little unsettling to analyze.  I found nothing.  No traces of poison, no bacteria or signs of disease.  As far as I was concerned, that Nymph had been absolutely healthy.  I hated sending Hyacinth home with no answers, but I couldn’t help it.  I got more and more anxious the longer that Adrian was gone.  Lex did come back from the future to hang around, which was a plus.  Worse, I was losing customers.  Now, I only got around three or four a day.  Five if I was lucky.  The same question was on everyone’s mind; where the heck was Adrian?

That question was answered six days after Adrian left.  A ship came in from Port’s Town, and lo and behold, Adrian was aboard.  You better believe that I was down there to meet him, and I was hot mad.  Especially when he ran over to greet me like nothing happened.

“Hey, Pink!”  He called as he ran over.  I crossed my arms, preparing to vent my practiced lecture.  He saw my furrowed brow and tight frown and his smile dropped.  “What’s the matter?”

“What’s the matter?”  I repeated.  “Adrian, where have you been?”

“I told you.  Wizard’s get together in Port’s Town,” he said.  I clenched my fists.

“I don’t think so,” I said, trying to keep my temper.  “We need to talk.”

Adrian glanced around our surroundings, then back at me.  He had such an innocent and confused look on his face, I almost faltered.  Almost.

“Um, okay,” he said.  I turned to lead the way to the shop, and he trudged along behind me.  Once again, people called to him when they saw us, welcoming him back.  Their joy at seeing him only made me more frustrated.  I was glad to get back to the empty shop.  Lex and Leon were no where to be found, which I thought was a little strange.  I pushed that thought aside and slammed the door.

“Why are you mad?”  Adrian asked, setting his bag and hat on the counter.  “Oh, I see you’ve kept up with the shop pretty good.”

“Don’t change the subject,” I said.  I pointed my finger at him.  “You did not go to a meeting.  You got to Port’s Town and immediately got on another boat!”

His gaze sunk to the ground, and for the first time since he’d gotten back, he looked guilty.  “Ok, so maybe I did,” he said with a quiet voice.

“Where did you go?”

He shrugged.  “I had to get some things for Clark…they couldn’t be found here.  I didn’t do anything but that.”

“Then why did you lie?  If it was as simple as that, you could have told me.”  I sat down at the counter and locked eyes with him.

“I…I don’t know,” he said.  He took a deep breath.  “I’m sorry if I worried you.”

“That’s besides the point,” I said.  “When I was a little kid, I learned to trust you as my teacher.  You can’t go and break that trust, can you?”

He nodded.  “Yeah, yeah,” he said.  “Did anything happen while I was gone?”

I waved my hand.  “Of course.  Master Greaves came by.”

At this, Adrian’s eyes went wide.  “M-Master Greaves?  He was here?”  He looked around the shop like he was looking for his master.  “What did he say?”

“There’s a message from him on your desk.  He said he needed you to see it as soon as possible.”

He left the counter, but hesitated.  “How did you break the lock on my door?”

“Easy.  I taught myself the reverse spell.”  I heard him mutter something under his breath, then he disappeared around the corner.  I wondered if he would tell me what the message was, but after what had just happened, I doubted it.

Adrian returned a few minutes later with a gray face.  Whatever the message was, it had definitely bothered him.  He had let his hair out of its ponytail, which he almost never did, and it was all messed up like he had ran his hands through it.  But like nothing was wrong, he dropped his bag and hat behind the counter and put on his robe, taking his place at the counter.

“Have you been getting a lot of customers?”  He asked.

“No, not really,” I replied.  “What was the message?”

As I expected, he shook his head.  “It was nothing.  Just a few things that I need to take care of.  Nothing to concern yourself with.”

I sat on a stool and folded my arms on the counter.

“Are you sure?  You’ve been acting strange lately.”

He turned his back to me to stack some jars on the shelf.  “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

I wanted to scream.  If he wasn’t going to talk, I wondered if it was worth the trouble to interrogate him.  Still, there was one question I was interested in…

“Can you at least answer one of my questions?”  I asked.  He paused what he was doing and heaved a sigh.

“I’ll see,” he said.  “What’s the question?”

“Do you know the Card Dealer?  Personally?”

“Does this mean that you also read the letter on my desk?”  He asked.  I couldn’t tell if he was annoyed about that or not from the sound of his voice.  He turned to me so that I could see his face.  His eyes were kind, as usual.  He put his hands on the counter and gave me his annoying smirk.

“He’s a skilled magician,” he said.  “I made it my business to know him.”

“How did you meet him?  He always leaves before I can talk to him…and I’ve never even heard him speak before,” I said.  I looked at him with expectant eyes.

“Well, I’ve met with him a few times, usually right after he does his tricks.  We’re…acquaintances.”

“Really?”  I said.  “What’s he like?”  I felt like a little kid full of wonder.  I had never known anyone to speak with the Card Dealer, and then all of a sudden I learn that my own master is friends with him!

Adrian lowered his voice.  “He’s an interesting fellow,” he said.  A strange nostalgia was in his hazel eyes.  “He’s charming, really.  He’d be great with the ladies if he bothered to say anything to them.”

I rolled my eyes.  “I’m sure,” I said.  “Do you know his real name?”

Adrian shook his head, turning back around to continue stacking things on the shelves.

“Nope.  We’re not that great of friends yet.  He’s a pretty mysterious guy…always keeping to himself.”

“Where can I find him?  I want to talk to him.”

“You’ve gotta hurry, and ask nicely,” said Adrian.  “He doesn’t stay very long, but if you get to the Jadehaven Creek before he does, maybe he’ll hang out for awhile.  That’s how I met him, anyway.”

I beamed.  Maybe I would finally meet the Card Dealer?  All I had to do was wait for the next full moon, if Hyacinth was right about that.  The wait would be agonizing!

“If you read my letter, then you know I’ve got to go to the future too?”  Said Adrian.  “Have you seen Lex around?”

“She said she’d come later tonight.  But what do you need from the future?”

“Just a few things.  If Lex says it’s alright, you can come too.”

My head swam at the thought of going to the future.  I couldn’t imagine what it could be like – and I really didn’t care to know.  But if Adrian was going, I wanted to know why.  Maybe I would get to see what he needed to get for Clark?

“I’ll go, if she says.  I know it’s hard for her to bring you along, let alone two people.”

“It’ll be fine if I lend her my strength,” said Adrian.  I clasped my hands.

“Aw, aren’t you two adorable!”  I said in a mocking voice.  He turned to me, chuckling.

“Shush,” he said.  “But you think you can handle the future?”

“It can’t be that bad,” I said.  He nodded slowly to himself.

“If you say so,” he said, grinning.  “This’ll be good.”

I got down from my chair and headed for my room.

“Where are you going?”  Adrian asked.  I didn’t stop to face him.

“I think I need a nap before we go to the future…this weeks has been exhausting,” I said.  “See you tonight.”  I didn’t wait to hear what he had to say after that.  I was too tired.  I locked myself in my room and hid under my covers.

Ready or not, I was going to the future.

~ ♠ ♣ ♦ ♥ ~

 

I apologize for how long it took me to get this part out, and I really apologize for it’s quality.  I ended up not having a lot of time to work on it, and it’s just…poor.  The next one will be better!  I must be positive!  Sound off your thoughts on Part 5 in the comments!  I’d really love to see your feedback, so go ahead and tell me what I could do better!

Part 6 will be released on November 2

2 thoughts on “The Card Dealer: Part 5

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