The general rocking of the train felt rickety at worst till the whole thing gave a gut-wrenching shudder. The paper dropped from Roland's hands as he braced himself against the window to keep his head from cracking against the metal. But the general screams, alarm and dumping of other passengers unceremoniously to the floor, Roland assumed this wasn't normal train behaviour.
His heart constricted in his chest while simultaneously trying to vibrate its way clear of his body. Was the train failing? He'd prefer if it were, but there was something powerful about that burst of motion. Something superhuman. Had they tracked him this far, only to strike now when he had nowhere to hide?
There was an elderly woman sprawled on the carpet, holding her head and moaning. It was a mechanical sort of instinct that tugged Roland out of his petrified state to crouch next to her then pull her upright into a seat.
"You hit your head, ma'am?" Roland asked, gently pulling her hand away to find a small gash just in her hairline, gushing unnecesary amounts of blood. He pulled out his handkerchief, shaking it a few times as though to s flick off the stains then pressed it gently to the cut. "Hold this here."
Another, smaller jostling came, and this time Roland braced an arm across the woman's middle to hold her in place. A groaning, screeching noise came from below then the entire car pitched to one side. It was as though the rear tyres had been plucked clean off and the deafening scrapes of metal on metal filled the cart.
"It's bandits!" Someone cried.
More screams followed, and there was a sudden crush of people pushing into the aisle and scrambling for the door leading to the cars further up the train. The woman, previously stunned, had a surprising strength to her as she surged past Roland, even sending him stumbling back into the opposite side of the aisle. She took his handkerchief with her.
There were two others not running, two young ladies. They were small things, but they didn't have the same witless terror about their faces as the others. Roland didn't know he liked the oddity. As Roland brought up the rear of the retreat, he considered for a moment bidding them to follow, to escape, but held his tongue. If he was going to survive, he needed to remember to keep his head low .
Then came the next hit, and with this one the glass warped and shattered and the carriage followed with shards and wind, with Roland just short of slipping away.
It was clear now. No normal means could have done this. This was magic. He'd be the only one able to defend against it.
"Hide," Roland roared over the wind, fumbling with his pockets for that infernal wax-paper wrapped lump he'd been hoping never to need.
As soon as she was awake, the nausea came back in full force. Really, the nausea was what let Missy know she was awake. She couldn't, for the first few moments, figure out why she was awake and feeling nausea when she'd gone to sleep in the first place to escape it. She wasn't feeling any better than when she'd gone to sleep--her head flopped loosely against her shoulder, her teeth and jaw ached from tension, her whole mouth was just welling with saliva like a fountain... As far as she could tell, she was still upright in her seat, arms folded, leaning just slightly against the shoulder to her right. The train still rattled along as noisily and sickeningly as ever. There was no reason for her to be awake.
"Up, I said!" The shoulder pressed into Missy's right arm jostled sharply.
With effort, Missy peeled her heavy eyelids open. "...Y'hate me, Cole?" she mumbled, through a mouth that felt like the bottom of a well.
"You feel no better, I take it?" Colette, in the seat next to her, asked. Through the watercolors of unfocused eyes, she looked as coiffed and unbothered as with both feet on solid ground.
"Not now'm awake. Whas matter?" Missy slithered upright, cracking both of her elbows as she shook out her arms. Colette faced forward, hands folded in her lap, carefully looking at nothing in particular as she answered. Her hair had been piled up with a beribboned hat perched atop it, leaving long teardrop-shaped loops of gold to swing freely nearly to each shoulder. These winked gently in the afternoon light from the windows as the train jerked its occupants back and forth.
"My earrings are resonating, as of the last station."
That straightened Missy up in a hurry. She stretched up as tall as she could make herself to examine their train car, searching for anything familiar. Red hair, a wide hat, a huge black beard. Or, hopelessly, a single braid tied up with brown feathers. None of these features leaped out from their fellow passengers. Nobody Missy knew was in the car. Though... of course not. Colette would have obviously mentioned it, if Leigh had actually gotten onto their exact train car. Missy subsided. Now that she knew, leaning in, even she could hear a faint, buzzing chime coming from the direction of Colette's jewelry. Too faint to register from farther away than directly next to her, but the vibrations must have been clear through her earlobes and against her bare neck.
"You can't tell who or how many?"
She shook her head just the tiniest bit, not allowing the earrings to swing too sharply. "The spell was merely any nearby locum. I do not even know how close they must be, myself."
Annoying, but it was what they had to work with. If Leigh waltzed through that compartment door, there would be no hiding from him in any case. "Where are we now?"
"Past St. Louis now. I think--"
What Colette thought Missy did not get to hear, because at that moment, the train gave a huge, unnatural lateral lurch that toppled Missy right out of her seat and onto the floor. Missy's stomach might as well have been tied with a string to the wheels, because she felt the motion in perfect sync in her gut rather than any other part of her body. For a few seconds, absolutely every muscle in her body was devoted to locking up against the threat of retching. She didn't notice Colette leaning out over her, one hand clutching an earring, the other reaching out to grip Missy's shoulder.
"What was that?" she appealed. Missy had no answer, even if she could have spoken without fear of vomiting. Regardless, as if in answer, the tiny chime of Colette's spell rose sharply into an unpleasant whine, clearly audible even at this distance. Colette winced and gripped her ears with both hands.
"Nothing good," Missy could only conclude, both of the lurch and the sudden intensifying of the warning spell. "Let's go check it out."
Roland had never been on a train before. Everything inside was clean, without any dust or grime and Roland self-consciously checked his own seat again to be sure he wasn't somehow leaving dirt behind. He never felt clean, truly. Even without having touched the stuff in weeks he could still feel the staining smudge of it.
Weeks. Huh. That had a nice feel to it. Not enough to feel safe, but it was something better than before.
The train jostling caught Roland with a small smile on his lips. It had been harder to sneak onto without a ticket than the ferry, but with the water behind him he'd had to take the risk. What little money hadn't been lifted from his pocket back in St. Louis wasn't near enough for a train ticket, and he'd had to resort to slipping in with the crew loading luggage. Once on, he'd found a seat near the rear of the train with a discarded newspaper that he was now shielding himself behind as he stared out the window.
If they came looking for tickets, he would have to improvise. Maybe slip back into the luggage carriage for a bit. He didn't know how trains worked, or if the rules were enforced, it wasn't exactly something he could ask beforehand. Maybe he'd be lucky, though. Maybe they wouldn't notice the stowaway. His luck had been holding on for [i weeks] now, and it might just get him a little further.