We have reached the end of chapter one. I’m sorry it took two weeks to get up here. It’s been sitting on my computer for about a week staring at me and I just wanted to write that little bit more to end the chapter. Enjoy!
It was a completely different atmosphere from what she knew. Daezi’s voice brought her back, “Uh, Lahrya, are you hungry?”
They had stopped by one of the ponds. From the basket, Daezi had lain out a blanket and set up a small meal of sandwiches and fruit with skins of water. Suddenly, her stomach gnawed on itself and she dropped down onto the blanket with a sheepish grin. “You bet!” In no time at all they were done with the meal and giggling over short snippets Daezi was providing about people she recognized in the park.
The quiet whispers between them pointed out those of various trades, wives of the tradesmen, children and adolescents who continually were in trouble. There were a few aristocratic ladies with maids attending them. Some few gentlemen were out conducting small business affairs in the open air. Daezhi had an opinion of everyone or knew what the general opinion seemed to be. There was even a group of showmen, a family unit by the look of them, gathered by themselves practicing acrobatics and juggling.
They had been through town before. The only one identified with any certainty was the oldest son, Domik. Daezhi confided what she knew of the showmen from her father. One of the aristocrats was hosting a party in a few days and requested this group specifically. They tended to be among the top performers across the country. Even the royal family would invite them from their travels to come and perform in the capitol city. They captivated Lahrya’s attention until they packed up for the setting sun.
It had been too long since she could relax completely around another person. Animals were no problem but people tended toward shying away at home even if they never said anything. For the first time after the young age of six or seven, she was relaxed. It almost felt burdensome to help Daezhi pack up the remnants of the meal and blanket. Dusk was approaching and without talking about it, both girls knew they needed to get back to the inn. Both had comments to each other about the people in the park and the showmen in particular. Daezhi had a slight smile touching the edges of her mouth as if hiding a secret.
The streets were busier with a majority of people heading home for the night. Others made their way to the various drinking establishments. There was already a crowd gathering at The Fool’s Dance although she hadn’t sang this early on either night prior. Daezhi’s eyes grew large as the neared the inn. Saying, “We’ll just go in around back.” And hastily pulling Lahrya along to the kitchen, she seemed relieved to be indoors. With a wave to Saffey, she disappeared to empty out the whicker basket.
The cook looked Lahrya over and caught herself nodding in approval at the glow about her from a day spent with someone her own age. “Have a seat, child. I dare say Sawl will ask you to sing tonight rather than wait. Word of your voice has spread,” she intoned gently, setting the evening stew before her. Daezhi came back to sit beside her and help herself to a bowl of the stew Saffey provided without comment.
Nearly on her heels, Sawl stepped into the kitchen, looking at each of the ladies in turn. Focusing his attention on Lahrya, he cleared his throat, mindful of his conversation with Saffey. “Lahrya, I want you to know that if you’d prefer to rest your voice tonight, it would be understandable. I don’t doubt you’ve accumulated enough coin to pay for your room for a night or two.”
“It’s alright, Master Newhin,” she spoke between mouthfuls of the hearty stew, “I enjoy singing. I won’t sing as long this evening, I don’t think, but I do want to.”
He exhaled a gusty sigh in near relief. “Thank you, girl. I’ve lined up one of the showmen in town to perform after you, it’ll be a change of pace for those still hanging around, and well worth it so you don’t have to be up there so long.” Saffey scowled at him briefly but said nothing since Lahrya was obviously willing to sing. The benefit of her voice was already known. She and Sawl had already spoken to the guards to ensure the common room was not overly crowded. It didn’t matter a lick if people stood near doors and windows to her the child sing, but the girl had to want to do this, young as she was. She was not part of a showmen family to be raised into doing this at such an early age.
Daezhi was nearly bouncing in the seat next to her. “Lahrya, do you want to know which showman my da got?”
“Who?” and the question was intent for an answer. Hadn’t Daezhi just spent a large part of their afternoon pointing out the only showmen family to be in the city currently?
“Isn’t that something? I’ll be sittin’ by him at the front table. So when you’re all done with your song, let me know, and I’ll get him up there.” She was grinning now. That was what the secret smile had been about.
Lahrya felt herself grinning back, quicksilver eyes alight with interest. “That’ll be swell.” The two girls finished their stews in a hurried silence, ready to go out there. Lahrya realized that she didn’t need to calm herself before singing tonight. Spending the day in affable company had her sufficiently relaxed as it was. She caught herself thinking about Domik. He was rather good looking and close in age to the both of them. Musing, she wondered if either of them could ever be noticed or if they were still too young. It wasn’t long before her wandering mind was pulled back to the present.
“Come on, Lahrya. Can you hear them? Everyone is waiting for you,” Daezhi spoke in a hurried voice, breathy with excitement. “I’ve been able to hear you from my room, but now I’ll be able to see you when you sing.”
She let herself be guided out. The instant people saw her entering the common room the noise level died down. Grown men were nearly giddy with anticipation of her song. They knew how the golden notes that shimmered visibly in the air left them feeling. She mounted the platform with a calmness that was marginally interrupted by a fluttering in her stomach. With a start, Lahrya realized that she was looking forward to performing. The singing was something that before she had only provided to livestock, small children if she was allowed to mind them, but never before reaching Halnon had she sung for any adults or any crowds.
Quicksilver eyes swept over every individual present. This time, she watched reactions ranging from none, to curious, to startled and intense. There was even one that was hostile. She took note of the inn staff, and Daezhi sitting with Domik. Two deep breaths and she began her song. The gentle swell of breath and voice spiraled upward. It took less time than previous for the din that remained to fade away.
Enraptured faces looked up at her. This time, she experimented with this gift. Instead of giving herself over to the song within her soul, she allowed her liquid silver gaze to move from person to person. It was almost as if by looking directly at someone, if she could catch their eyes, the song worked like a compulsion. The turnover rate of those filled with the joyous calm was more rapid than the night before. People were not upset to leave once they were filled with her song.
Finding each person individually had the song adapting subtly to their personal internal struggles. Less than an hour in had the entire complement of patrons not staying at The Fool’s Dance replaced thrice. Sawl chose to interrupt her by stepping on to the platform. The stout man gently placed a hand on Lahrya’s shoulder to get her attention. So involved in singing, she was startled, having not noticed him, but her voice never wavered. She let the song fade.
A grin spread over his face, Sawl threw his other arm out wide, addressing those in the common room, “We thank you, Lahrya, for these nights of song. It is like nothing we’ve ever heard. However, we want to keep your voice well, and provide entertainment for you now.” Guiding her by the hand on her shoulder off of the platform to startled applause, Sawl pushed her lightly into the seat Domik was vacating.
“Everyone, may I introduce, Domik of the Showmen Cires Family? He’s agreed to give us a bit of a show to have Lahrya rest her magical voice.” The innkeeper was gesturing up to the young man. The applause from those assembled was polite and anticipating.
Domik bowed to the crowd with a flourish before beginning producing a set of eight colored balls in sets of two to perform some incredible aerial forms with those balls. He moved from that to a set of acrobatics that the warmed up crowd responded to with cheers and whistles. To finish off the short routine, he produced a worn but well maintained flute and performed a few upbeat songs that the assembled sang out words to in course voices.
Through it all, Lahrya watched with bright enjoyment written across her open features. He focused his attention on the crowed generally but specifically on Daezhi and Lahrya, particularly Lahrya. The quicksilver-eyed young lady was entranced. After it all, he returned to their table.
“Lahrya, my da wanted me to extend an invitation to you, after I heard you sing. We, the Cires Showmen, want you to come with us at week’s end to the estates of the Lady Damella Mairesh. She’s hosting a party, and while my sis, Coula, can sing some, it’s nothing like you. Will you join us?”
She was taken aback briefly, pleased. “I would be delighted, Domik.”
The two smiled at one another until Sawl bustled back over. He had heard the invitation. Daezhi was stunned but looked thrilled for the girl she considered her new friend. “That is an honor, Domik, that Lorne trusts your judgment of Lahrya’s voice. Lahrya, we should see to a few outfits for you.”
Her cheeks colored lightly. “I’ve… already done so, Master Newhin. I’m to pick up shoes from Master Veska, and Mistress Prescor,” she could not call the dressmaker by her first name to others, “said she would bring my dresses here. I met with them two days ago.”
“I see. It would appear you are on your way then. Domik, it felt as though you and Lahrya worked well in succession. Would Lorne spare you until week’s end to perform here?”
“He had already suggested as such to me, should you not have inquired, good Master.”
“Well then,” Sawl beamed, “all three of you should be getting on to bed. Domik, would you be needing room here or is your family nearby?”
Daezhi shot a quick smile to Domik before hugging Lahrya and scurrying out. Lahrya stood as Domik did, though he spoke to Sawl. “I’ll be heading back to the family. Our wagons are nearby. I need to give the good news that Lahrya will be joining us for the performance.” He reached out and took Lahrya’s hand, bringing it to his lips in a brief caress. “Sleep well, Miss Lahrya. We shall perform again anon.”
“Anon, Domik.” Her voice was very quiet, possessing a smile of its own as they separated. Sawl Newhin led Domik to the front door as she left to the interior and her solitary room. With so many thoughts now present in her mind and a smile that just didn’t want to leave her soft mouth, it took longer to achieve her personal state of peace. Relaxed to her core, she fell into a dreamless sleep while still sitting on the bed, still enough not to fall, but not taking the time to lie down either. The morning held promises she never before considered or dared to dream of.