Alright, this is going to be installment 1 of chapter 1 to my title-less work. I hope you enjoy. I’m only planning on posting 2-5 pages each time. Of course, they’re word document pages, so I guess that’s approximately 3-10 pages of a paperback book depending on size. Enjoy!
Sawl Newhin was caught up in the quicksilver gaze of this slight girl. He doubted greatly if she was any older than his youngest daughter whom he would have nowhere near the rowdy bunch that often gathered at The Fool’s Dance.
“What is it you do, girl?” he asked, not realizing his first instinct to turn her away was overridden.
“I sing, Master Newhin.”
He canted his head to one side, studying her. “I suppose you would since I don’t see any instruments on you for playing and you don’t have the look about you of a showman. I’ll give you a chance, girl. I’ll have Dole and Robst, my guards, keep an eye out for you.”
“Thank you and my name is Lahrya,” she murmured through her smile. “Do you have anything for a midday meal?”
Sawl called over the serving girl who had fetched him. Between the two of them they got Lahrya a seat and a meal. She went quiet for all but thank you now and again. Those bustling around to serve the few patrons who entered early could not help but look at the girl and in turn the patrons caught themselves looking at her, too. Everyone knew Sawl quite well, and none were sure why he was letting a child stay and perform.
Before the evening brought in its normal crowds, Lahrya was shown to a small room barely big enough for one. Expressing her gratitude to the maid, she was left alone, and firmly shut the door behind her. She expelled her breath before moving to sit cross legged on the narrow cot, a small bundle with her clothes and precious items left at the foot. Her eyes closed as she focused on her breathing. Slow inhale and slower exhale with scarcely any motion to indicate she breathed or lived.
As a child she learned that looking directly at someone could compel them. Only the truly dimwitted or those with innate mental barriers could avoid the compulsion. She was careful not to push too many people too far. No one else seemed to be able to do this. There was no point in arousing suspicion if it could be avoided. Many were amenable to her even without a push.
Midday pushed on to evening without Lahrya moving until the din from the common room grew to a fever pitch of chaotic familiarity that can invade such places. Quicksilver eyes opened to a darkened room as she stretched. Soft shoed feet whispered in quick steps to the door where she flipped the light switch. Electricity was new to this country produced by water mills and features she didn’t comprehend, not always working. The light flickered unsteadily above her head catching her attention. With a tilt to her head, bemused, before turning the light off, she left the room. She’d ask one of the maids, perhaps, for a candle.
Lahrya smoothed the skirt as she made her way back to the common room passing only a few who were turning in early. While everyone pretended indifference, she could feel eyes watching her after she passed and more so when she entered the common room. Sawl saw her enter and nearly went to tell her not to bother. The gathered crowd was raucous. He couldn’t see how such a slip of a girl could captivate such boisterous group already far gone in drink.
Quicksilver eyes took in the men as she stepped up on the raised platform. Some raised cat calls but her cheeks did not color. With measured breaths Lahrya took a seat on the solitary stool facing the crowd. Those who had noticed her had gone back to conversation and drink. She caught Dole and Robst moving closer to the platform, circulating among the tables and couldn’t help but smile at Master Newhin’s concern for her.
She began to sing. If her eyes were quicksilver, her voice was liquid gold. Soft melody drifted over the inn’s patrons the sound barely touching on the peripheral of their conversations. Lahrya closed her eyes, giving herself over to the song. The intensity grew with phrase and verse spinning a tale to captivate. Each syllable almost seemed to shimmer in the air around her, drifting away to alight on tables, shoulders, and heads before melding together.
Not entirely sure what was happening, the crowd began to notice her song. The girl before them pouring out the entirety of her being in song gave them a gift that was slow to be realized and not at all understood. She sang of changing seasons, of peace, joy, and understanding. Her song encompassed time, infusing a measure of contentment in each person who listened. New patrons began to come in, filling the room to capacity. When Dole and Robst had to stop worrying over her and focus on the door to not allow anyone else in, people gathered around the door and windows outside to hear.
Lahrya’s voice reached them all. She didn’t overreach herself or strain her voice, but the splendid music trickled a feeling of golden calmness into everyone. Those not already drunk kept it to moderation, and those far gone actually came out of their fog to an extent. Sawl Newhin’s serving girls were kept in motion even if the new drinks poured were scarcely touched.
After nearly three quarters of an hour of continuous and unwavering sound, her golden voice faded. She didn’t sing songs like a showman but stories encompassing years to decades to millennia and eons. A collectively sigh ran through the crowd as she gently ceased the song. Hesitant clapping issued from a few listeners but most people looked bemused as Lahrya rose and left the platform. Sawl met her while the noise level grew in volume though the sound felt muted after her performance.
“My word, girl, you certainly can sing! I’ve never seen this crowd so caught up. I feel different somehow as well.”
“If I may be honest, Master Newhin, this is the first crowd of any size I have sung directly to. It was a pleasant experience. However, once an evening is all I can manage right now,” she said slowly, in a gentle fashion so as not to disturb the strange peace. “I can sing here every night however, for meals and continued sole use of the room you granted me. I prefer not to room with any others.”
“Lahrya, if you can pack my common room every night with the voice of yours, you’re welcome to stay,” Sawl told her expansively. “Oh, the girls collected this for you.” With that, he handed her a weighty pouch.
She took the leather pouch in both hands lifting a delicately arched eyebrow in inquiry. “Whatever is this for, Master Newhin?”
“It is customary for performers, though I would hardly apply that term to you, to leave a bowl or cap out for contributions from the audience. Now , should we see about getting you some dinner?”
Her smile turning rueful she nodded, “Definitely, please!”
The stout man led Lahrya back to the kitchen considering there was no space in the packed common room. She scarcely heard him as he talked about getting a showman to keep his patrons entertained after her singing, seeing as how any showman should see the profit to be made from so many jammed into his common room. He would have either Robst or Dole keep an eye on her, because begging her pardon, but she was awfully young to be out on her own.
His main thoughts kept to keeping her safe from a monetary standpoint. She let him ramble, sorting out her own thoughts. Something about Halnon insisted she leave the peddler. She had felt it. Hoping in a few days the reason would become clear; she sat at the end of a food prep table to consume her meal of a thick stew, crusty bread and milk. Sawl left her under the watchful eye of the cook.
Saffey Dalie had worked for Sawl for years. In that time, she had never witnessed his common room so full, not even five years ago when the royal guard came through with a treasured prisoner of war from the far north. They had stopped in every major city to display the strange man.
Watching Lahrya eat, Saffey felt reminded of that man but couldn’t quite place why. Keeping her own counsel, she was startled by the glimpse of silver from the girl’s eyes. His eyes had been silver, but she thought that it was imagined in fantasy seeing as how she only caught a brief glimpse of him. Thinking back to that day, she wondered if the fantasy were actually truth. The guard hadn’t allowed anyone too near.
She started when Lahrya spoke, “Thank you for the meal. Could I have a candle to take up to my room?”
Saffey nodded, “Of course, dear, I’ll get one for you.” She bustled off to the storeroom. So many patrons were enamored with the new electricity that even with the faults they tried to use that instead of the old-fashioned candles. Returning with a candle and holder, Lahrya thanked her before retreating. The cook took note of the girl’s quicksilver eyes. Having not seen her earlier, she didn’t get a full look at her, but now, she knew she saw true and it only made her wonder again about that man.
Back in the small room, Lahrya set the candle atop the small table by the cot, stowing the pouch Sawl had given her in a small box beneath with the pouch on her belt. A small bundle she had arrived with earlier was at the foot of the bed. She moved it to the single chair on the other side of the room and lay down for the night.
Downstairs, the cacophony never reached the extreme level it had before she sang. Closing her eyes, she slowed her breathing. The exercise she had always used and would always use coming to her naturally, with every sound and sensation overwhelming her until it was absorbed to peace. Lahrya did not know of Saffey’s thoughts, and did not know of this prisoner. The village she came from was too remote. With no more thoughts to distract her, Lahrya drifted to sleep.