READ FROM THE BEGINNING: The First Page
Branch walked along the first stretch of houses. Some of them barely qualified, they were so ornate, they could have posed as cathedrals. Carvings and bronzed statues lined walkways, where flowers and plants flowed in and out of the tastes of neighboring houses and gardens. Where some flaunted with flourishes and flowers, others showed it in different ways. Tall white columns, a shining polished stone courtyard, stone fountains of every shape.
He walked by tourists and locals, passer-throughs and folks that just hung out on corners. He waved at some, smiled at others, some he outright avoided. Those were usually the folks that reeked of a maddening itch to sell you something. He’d learned to recognize that look, they’d cut your pockets to pull the coins out if they could. He followed smells of roasting meats, or baking sugared breads, or caramelized apple pies, or the turn of the road that looked pleasant, where grass grew or a garden was in grand display.
Mostly, he kept his eyes open for Estelle.
Mageform soon disappeared behind him. This part of town, the residents, they didn’t often know the pains of hunger, or worry over a place to sleep. No, their worries were surely different, though their homes were worked pieces of art, their coffers full, pantry bursting. They feared the judgements of their neighbors, the loss of all they had, they hid it all behind the veil of success.
But it was beautiful. He passed an old couple that sat on a piece of stone that held a Shaping, it wound around them in a likeness of a crashing wave. Splashing up in a backdrop of water, as though it was unsure if it should continue to crash, frozen in moment. They looked out, and he could see they were truly happy. The kind that reflects in an eye. Where their attention speaks softly, quietly, but it resounds. He smiled AND waved at them.
It took longer than he’d hoped, about an hour, to find Storack’s. It had moved, things always seemed to shift around in Clarity.
It was a familiar call. Like Branch had known the shop owner well.
“Branch! Where in the storming worlds have you been?! What has it been? Seven years now?” Frentz Storack was a short man, rounded with years of tastings and experiments with scrumptious drinks, delightful desserts and everything between. He was a man who regarded the sense of taste as a haven to experience life through.