Part IX Finn was putting things into his Travel Pack when Hazel turned and saw something shiny.
"What's that?" Hazel peered closely at the small brown leather bag Finn was holding in his lap.
"It's some of Loukas' Gold from the Treasure Chest that he was going to use to bribe the Ottoman's to leave Constantinople."
"Better hurry and finish packing. We need to get to the carriage before we're seen."
Hazel found Levi washing up and Zoe was heading out through the oak door they had found open the day before.
"Come on Finn!" Hazel grabbed her Travel Pack and they followed Zoe out of the Imperial Palace. Levi sent Ruby-bird into the air and the small group made their way through wreckage of the walled city toward the Gate of Blachernae. Once outside the Gate, Ruby changed back into her human form and took Zoe's hand. Levi glanced in the direction of their carriage, and spotted a stranger talking to their urn-carrying passenger. The stranger was dressed in black and was leaning up against the side of the carriage, in conversation with the urn-carrying passenger and holding a handkerchief to his face. He turned his head and saw Levi in the distance. The stranger waved at Levi from beside the carriage.
"Hello!" The stranger waved at Levi again. "My name is Radu! I'm looking for safe passage to Transylvania. Where is this carriage headed?"
Levi walked over to the stranger and explained that they were searching for the Silver Dragon. Levi unrolled Hazel's charcoal sketch of Ruby's dragon vision and showed it to the stranger.
"We are looking for the Silver Dragon. Do you know where it is?"
Radu said, "I might, but only if you take me there."
"Deal." Levi gave the dragon sketch back to Hazel.
"Climb aboard." Levi motioned Radu toward to driver's seat. The urn-carrying passenger was seated inside the carriage as he was before. Finn climbed into the carriage first, followed by his sister. Hazel handed the silver urn over to the strange passenger. Ruby climbed up and sat in between Hazel and Finn. Zoe entered the carriage last.
"What's in the silver urn?" Finn asked the stranger. The stranger replied,
"I am carrying silver sand that came from a far away land,
and the man for whom it was intended never materialized."
"Where is it going next?" Finn was still staring at the dark-haired passenger across from him.
"Wherever it take us." The stranger stared out the carriage window into the shade of the trees.
Finn asked, "Where did it come from?"
The urn-carrying passenger smiled a weak, thin smile and replied,
"That, my friend will cost you. What did you find inside the Imperial Palace that wasn't Loukas' Gold?"
Finn gulped and sank down into the carriage seat. Hazel spoke up just as Levi cracked the whip across the horses' back.
"Wait! We can pay you! How much do you want?" Hazel leaned over Ruby and whispered into Finn's ear. The carriage started moving towards the dirt road heading north and away from the crumbling city.
The stranger replied, "How much do you have?"
Finn smiled and said, "I have enough to pay your price if Radu can get us to the Dragon's Gate."
The urn-carrying passenger smiled weakly again and said, "We'll just see about that."
"Is it time for the story?" Ruby was wondering.
The horses picked up their pace and Constantinople faded into the distance behind them. The urn-carrying passenger introduced himself as Alexander and said that he was looking for a lady with a fan - a Gold fan - just like Ruby's fan from the night before.
While the firelight's aglow
strange shadows in the flames will grow
till things we've never seen
will seem familiar,
Shadows of a sailor forming
winds both foul and fair all swarm
down in Carlisle he loved a lady
many years ago,
While the storyteller speaks
a door within the fire creaks
suddenly flies open
and a girl is standing there,
Eyes alight with glowing hair
she takes her fan and throws it
in the lion's den,
"Which of you to gain me, tell
will risk uncertain pains of Hell?
I will not forgive you
if you will not take the chance"
The sailor gave at least a try
the soldier being much too wise
strategy was his strength
and not disaster
The sailor coming out again
the lady fairly lept at him
that's how it stands today
you decide if he was wise
The storyteller makes no choice
soon you will not hear his voice
his job is to shed light
and not to master
Since the end is never told
we pay the teller off in gold
in hopes he will come back
but he cannot be bought or sold.
"I am looking for the Lady With A Fan." Alexander seemed to be in pain by the end of his story and was staring at Ruby with a strange light in his eyes.
Finn quickly grabbed a few gold coins from his pocket and handed them over to the urn-carrying stranger.
"Here mister, we didn't meant to disturb him or anything, did we sis?" Finn smiled at the stranger whose hand slowly closed around the coins as he fell silent against the carriage window.
"Oh well, who cares about that filthy urn anyway. It's probably just someone's stinky, old pile of ash."
Hazel flipped open her notebook and started scribbling something in Russian. Zoe reached over to help Ruby with her cloak. She fastened Ruby's clasp under her chin, pulled the hood on over her blond head and watched her until she fell asleep in the middle seat.