After indulging myself in a book I hadn’t read before, I am back to writing. I hope you’re not too anxious and enjoy it. This part felt a little like filler, but it’s all tying in nicely. Enjoy.
The dressmaker hustled her out of the shop into the midday traffic of pedestrians, horses, carts, and wagons. Carefully avoiding any contact with the strangers around her, Lahrya returned to the inn for a midday meal. Saffey tried to engage her about her time out in the city realizing it was her first time but to no avail. A brief, tight smile was all Lahrya could offer after eating before retreating to her room to contemplate over what Aniyabel had told her. It took longer than usual to settle herself into the familiar trance of breathing patterns, realizing for the first time that whatever was calling her, was dragging her into a world she was in no way prepared to handle.
That evening she sang again with her full bodied voice encompassing the common room and beyond. A resounding peace drifted with those nearly visible notes to gather everyone in to the melody and harmonies she created instead of the words she sang. The song was marginally different from before. As people grew peaceful they stayed for less time. Sawl had no complaints with the departure of so many paying customers since no seat remained empty. Robst and Dole were hard pressed to keep the place from filling over capacity.
It was the differences in the song that almost seemed to encourage the flux of people. Those with the peace found themselves desiring their homes, wives, and children over continued drink. She sang for an hour, two, nearly three with no break not fully understanding the effect her voice was creating. After speaking with, or being spoken to, by Aniyabel there were so many questions that she had realized there was no on close to provide answers to. The song gave her comfort and that comfort was shared among all who listened.
When her voice finally trailed away, she remained up on the platform to view the patrons still there. The shift was still occurring with seats being vacated and filled. The strangest contentment was viable in every face. Men young and old from all walks of life would go to their homes and unknowingly share that solace with neighbors and family. Lahrya noticed a few watching her intently. Some studied her, others looked pleased, only one or two few showed and consternation to the feelings even as they appeared at peace.
Sawl walked around the inn as though puffed up with importance. Even after the strange girl moved on, she’d have made him enough to live comfortably for a few years at this rate. He’d be hearing from the other business owners on the morrow about them losing patrons he was sure. Noticing that the girl was leaving the platform, the stout innkeeper made his way over to her. He nearly quipped about the come and go of the people and her brilliance but something in those silver eyes gave him pause.
For a moment, almost brief enough to make him unsure, Sawl saw everything opposite of the gentle peace she gave in that quicksilver gaze. She looked fragile and concern for the child on her own overwhelmed him. He offered her a smile and led her out to the kitchen for a meal leaving her to her own thoughts rather than speak. He’d have the serving girl who chose to gather any coins for Lahrya just take it to her room. Even Saffey surveyed her from the corner of her eyes. It was only after Lahrya retired for the evening that she drew the innkeeper aside, not long before he was due to close up.
“I can see how you enjoy the way your common room has been full, Sawl, and in only two days. That girl is going to wear herself out. If I can see it, I know you can. I don’t know who she met today, but something’s upset her.”
His eyebrows knit together as he responded, “I know it, Saf. She has the means to pay for her room now. I get the impression she’d decline if I asked and keep singing.”
“Ask anyway. Make sure she knows her choices.”
“Yes, yes, of course.”
“I’ve been meaning to ask you,” Saffey began, “if you think she could be…”
“Don’t bring it up while there are still people out there,” he scowled. “She well could be with those eyes, and that voice.” Sawl shook his head. “She chose this place, Saffey. Whatever’s brought her here, I’ll not go asking questions that could run her off.”
“I didn’t mean for you to. I just… she’s just so young.”
“I know it. We’ll just have to watch her. And I will ask her about paying instead of singing.”
“Thank you, Sawl.”
In her room, Lahrya did not know she was a topic of great conversation. Not only downstairs, but the entire city of Halnon was buzzing with talk of her golden voice. A few who felt as peaceful as they had not in ages sent for Healers to make sure everything was alright. The Healers themselves were perplexed by this wave of calmness and astonished to realize a few men who had been ailing and frequented inns and taverns to remove themselves from trouble and pain in strong drink were without complaint that evening. Words sung with the golden voice of the silver-eyed girl could do more than bring peace. On some level she was causing healing in the afflicted.
The following day she did not leave the inn. She doubted if the entirety of her life could measure up to the amount of singing she had done in two evenings. No sore throat, no loss of voice, but never had she sung for such extended times. It left her feeling a fatigue that was not from being tired. Rather than stay cooped up in the small room, where the urge to sleep from the fatigue was greatest, Lahrya spent her time divided between the kitchen and a table before the raised platform. The serving girl who’d been present when she first arrived stayed close to her. It was around the midday meal that she finally grew curious enough to ask her why.
A timid smile and small voice came from the serving girl, “Well, Miss, my da asked that I keep close, in case you needed anythin’.”
“Your father? You mean Master Newhin?”
“Yes, Miss. He has me help out during the day, before the rowdies come in at night. When he noticed you not going out, he thought I should stay close.”
Lahrya looked more closely at the serving girl. They were close in age and she had the look of her father but definitely not all of him. The girl was taller but not terribly thin. She supposed that the girl’s mother showed heavily on her features, too, in the sun blonde hair and set of her eyes. Suddenly, Lahrya was smiling, a full smile that brightened her pale face and brought a shimmer to the silver eyes.
“Why don’t you sit a while with me and we can talk. What’s your name?”
“My name, Miss? My name is Daezhi.”
“Well, Daezhi, I’m going to insist that you don’t call me ‘miss.’ Please call me Lahrya,” and with those words, Lahrya was glad to see Daezhi relax. Not even children her own age back home had ever relaxed that much. “I think I would like to get out of here, now, for a while. Do you know a place? Would your father let you go out?” It occurred to Lahrya that the city folk would have less cause to stare at her if she was not alone. She did like Daezhi as well. There almost seemed to be a connection there that had never been at home.
Daezhi’s eyes lit up. “Of a certainty he would let me go for the day. Let me just go tell him, and I know just the place we can spend time at.” Lahrya watched as the girl quite nearly jumped up and skipped out of the common room to find her father. She was astonished to find that the lingering fatigue was fading after her brief conversation with Daezhi.
In less time than she expected, Daezi was leading her from the inn carrying a whicker basket. Both girls waved to Dole and Robst while a stray thought had Lahrya wondering if they ever got any time to themselves. Her thoughts were brought back to where she placed her feet as a small stone pressed through her soft shoes. To make sure she didn’t lose her charge, Daezi had gripped Lahrya’s hand to guide her to the place she knew of. In fact, it was a place that everyone knew of.
Soon, they were at an expansive garden area in the center of Halnon. Trees grew tall with canopies stretching out high overhead creating shaded walkways. There were benches, open areas, flowers, and small ponds with fish. The natural surrounding flooded Lahrya with joy. Daezi was likewise affected even though she must come here often. Mothers with small children were enjoying the dappled shade in the afternoon sun. Boys and girls not old enough to be apprenticed or work at the family business were gamboling about like puppies at play one moment then peaking shyly at one another to trying to be adult like and serious.
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.