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Sing to the Wind…
As he stumbled into the poorly-lit tavern, Lucien spared a moment to reflect on just how badly the last few days had treated him. He hadn’t been back in Ramwaq for more than a fortnight before a man he’d trusted turned out to be not entirely worthy of that trust.
The way things stood, Lucien had lost more gold than he’d hoped to gain in the endeavor, and considered himself lucky to have gotten away before the metaphorical knife in the back turned out to be a literal one, and that at least he still had his lute.
He fell into an unoccupied chair and looked around the small room. Most of the patrons were paying little attention to anything, and the others were focused on a pair in the corner on a makeshift stage.
The musician – though Lucien hesitated to acknowledge him as such, considering the crimes he was committing against that lute – was a young man, perhaps just barely out of his teens, and had wirey hair framing a pretty face. Lucien surmised the face was what had gotten him the gig, because it certainly wasn’t his music.
The dancer, however – she glided and spun like a spirit of the wind itself, giving life to the notes that the poor excuse for a musician was busy beating to death. She had the lean, sharp features of the Sylvans – a long-lived people who resided far to the west, allies to the Curled Isles – and her golden eyes marked her as a mage of some sort.
Lucien had known a few Sylvans and doubted any of the pure-blooded would be caught dead dancing in a tavern, least of all for as poor a player as the one accompanying her. It wasn’t uncommon to see half-Sylvans throughout the Curled Isles and its kingdom, and Lucien guessed she was one of the many wandering through life, much like he was.
As she turned, her eyes fell on Lucien, and the man saw in them a fire that burned in her soul, a passion wholly out of place with the tortured notes she was dancing to.
It wasn’t often that Lucien was caught staring, but as her lip curled in a smirk on the next turn, he knew she’d seen him and taken as much a measure of him as he had of her.
The song, such as it was, came to a close, and the few patrons who were sober and conscious enough to be paying attention gave a half-hearted applause to the pair, but what Lucien didn’t hear was coins clinking into the bowl they’d set in front for tips.
As the pair took a break – he headed to the bar, she to a back room – Lucien headed to the bar and put a pair of copper coins on the bartop.
“One for me, one for the lad here,” he said. He knew where the boy had been, as he’d been a visitor to those parts in his own youth. Talent was one thing, but everyone had to start somewhere, and Lucien recalled being booed out of his fair share of taverns when he was a lad.
“Thanks,” the musician muttered as he took up the mug of ale, tilted it back and made a face, wiping his mouth.
“Been doing this long?”
“About a year,” he answered with a sigh. “I thought I’d make it big by now.”
“Takes time, is all,” Lucien began, but the kid wasn’t really listening.
“If I could find someone good to work with, maybe I’d get somewhere,” he spat. “If she knew what she was doing, we’d have at least made a few coins.”
Lucien hid his expression behind his own mug and gathered his words carefully.
“Are you sure that’s what the problem is?”
“I mean, you saw her – she wasn’t following my beat at all!” the younger man protested. “And this is the third time. I’ve tried to tell her to do it right, but she won’t listen.”
The boy tipped back his mug once more and drained it. He sighed and muttered, “Women.”
“Yes, they can be trouble,” Lucien answered dryly. “Maybe you should try striking it out on your own. If you feel like she’s holding you back, tell her you don’t need her.”
“Hah,” the boy snorted. “Yeah, it’ll be worth it just to see the look on her face.”
Without another word, he stormed into the back room. Lucien rolled his eyes and sighed. The kid needed to learn a lesson, one way or another.
He couldn’t hear the words, but Lucien heard the tone of the conversation in the back room. It sounded like the boy’s voice cracked as he tried to tell off the woman. Then there was silence.
After a moment, Lucien could hear a full-bellied laugh echoing from the back room. It was followed by an angry shout from the boy, a rustling like a localized gale and a panicked yelp before the door slammed open again and the boy ran out as if the seat of his pants had been set on fire.
Lucien spent the last silver coins he had ordering a glass of the tavern’s finest Sylvan wine – or, as he learned a moment later, its only Sylvan wine – and counted the seconds until the woman emerged from the back room, the smirk still just barely on her lips.
He waved a hand and she glided over, meeting his eyes as she scooped up the glass of wine.
“I take it you had a few words with my ‘friend,’” she said, dry as rustling leaves.
“Only a few, he felt the need to supply most of them,” Lucien answered. “It seemed he needed a lesson, but you don’t seem the type who likes to be rescued.”
She inclined her head in acknowledgement of the point, then smiled broadly.
“Yes, his little tantrum wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle,” she raised a hand and a small whirlwind kicked up in her palm for a moment. “The name is Lyrina. Might I have yours?”
“Lucien,” the bard raised his mug in salute. “How did you end up working with someone like that?”
The woman shrugged and sipped her wine, “What he lacked in ability, he made up for in confidence, it seems. He was the first to approach me when I went looking for accompaniment.”
“Surely someone of your talents could attract someone who actually knows how to play.”
The woman’s golden eyes flicked to the lute Lucien had left by his table, then back to the man.
“I rather think I just did,” she said, and the smile she gave him now filled him with a warmth that the ale couldn’t approach.
Without another word, she swept back toward the make-shift stage and spun, golden eyes inviting Lucien to join her.
He lightly stepped to retrieve his instrument and settled into the recently-vacated seat on the stage.
Things were looking up, all of a sudden. He recalled a Sylvan melody he’d learned while traveling in the west, and strummed the first few notes, a rising and falling arpeggio, and was heartened when Lyrina turned back to him with a surprised smile.
“Make my feet move, musician,” she murmured and stepped into the first moves of the dance.
Now, the crowd in the tavern awoke, keeping time with their hands as Lucien found the beat and Lyrina moved in the rhythm like a bird on the air.
Lucien’s voice came to him as he began the first verse and filled it with a new hope that cleaned away the foul mood he’d come into the tavern with.
And he sang to the Wind as she danced through the night.
Mike Curley is a journalist and author with two self-published books, “Brothers of the Curled Isles,” and “Spectres in the Dark.” He is currently working on his third novel, Shades of History and records The C Team Podcast with his brother. To check out books, please visit his site.
The First Daylight
Amy looked into the vast expanse and all she could see was darkness. Only the sounds of the waves told her that there was an ocean out there. She turned away from the window and sighed. Her last night at the flat. From tomorrow, there would be nothing – nowhere to stay, nothing to do. She had tried too hard to save this and her business but it had come to nought. She wandered into what used to be her home office – the bare walls gleamed at her. The plaques and photos that once shone proudly on them had disappeared. The room was vacant; her antique oak desk lay empty – all the records had been moved to the office premises for the appointed administrator to go through and sort out.
She moved from room to room, savouring each memory and moment that she could. Yes, there had been struggle – being away from family, starting up and setting up her public relations (PR) business, building her reputation, expanding the company and then getting into partnership had taken her three years. After which things had settled for two glorious years – she had been so happy. And then…she shuddered as she remembered. How did she miss all the signs?
She remembered the first time she had met Veronica – it was an event she had done for one of her more famous clients. Veronica was suave, stylish and intelligent. They had hit it off at the first meeting itself. At that point, she had not thought to ask how did Veronica come to be at the event, when it was so exclusive. Nor at any point afterwards, she thought, she had asked how was it that Veronica seemed to be at most of her local spots when she had not been there before. At that point, it was great to find a likeminded soul in the city and soon the frequent meetings had blossomed into a great friendship.
As she moved to the kitchen to put the kettle on, she tried to remember how did the partnership come about. She couldn’t pinpoint exactly how it had happened but the next thing she knew Veronica was her partner in the business. It had been amazing. Veronica had a great head for numbers so slowly the business side of things had become her domain while Amy did what she loved – she was great at creating the right PR opportunities and was good with dealing with the clients, most of whom were very high profile and somewhat eccentric personalities.
She took her cup of tea and went back to the window to stare out at the unending pool of darkness waiting for the first daylight to break. Her mind went back to a week ago. She had woken up as usual with no inkling that her life was going to change. After a run of the beach, a quick shower and an even quicker breakfast, she had left for the office – her thoughts on the agenda for the day. Two potential customer meetings, a press conference for a client and a product launch event for yet another in the evening had made for a packed day.
As she had neared the office, her steps had faltered to see her employees outside the doors. She had looked at them quizzically and in turn was told that Veronica had not opened the offices that day, as she usually did daily since she lived nearer. She had opened the doors and instructed the secretary to try and call Veronica as she had prepared for her meetings. After her successful meetings, she had walked out with an air of triumph, which had soon dissipated, on being told that Veronica was unreachable and the runner who had gone to her flat had found it empty and locked.
Confused, she had tried to call Veronica herself and upon finding the phone switched off, she had arranged for her team to attend the press conference and product launch event on her behalf as she thought about dealing with this situation and matters that were usually dealt with by Veronica. She had to get the petty cash for the office and had walked to the bank only to find there was nothing left. All the money had been withdrawn.
Jerking back to the present, Amy spilled some tea and uttered an expletive. She reached for the tissue box and wiped up the mess. It had been a sleepless night, a sleepless week and she was tired. Word had spread fast. She had to file for bankruptcy. Her assets were taken over and an administrator appointed. All she had left to show for her five years of hard work were some clothes and her photo album.
She gulped her tea and as she was turning away from the window, she saw the first daylight break. As the sky filled with hues of orange and pink, she saw a small boat far off creating a ripple as it set off to catch fish. It looked tiny in the face of the mighty ocean but it kept going. She watched it for several minutes and then turned away, went to the kitchen to rinse her tea cup. She took a final look around, picked up her duffel bag with her worldly possessions and walked out to start all over again.
Palak Tewary along with being an ardent part-time writer, is a travel buff and photography enthusiast. She blogs at www.palaktewary.wordpress.com and tweets/instagrams at @palaktewary.
I’d like to thank all the writers for joining in on the writing prompt and sharing their stories.
Interpretation and Inspiration,