Finding Gratitude, Part 5

Lady Violet

            Sela awoke from her bed. A quick look at the clock confirmed that it was nearly midnight. Exactly as she had hoped. Time to start her evaluations.

The room Sela had chosen was not pristine. It was truly a chest of drawers, a bed, and a window. There were not even easy access to facilities. But it was cheap, and paid by the hour. Sela had not asked any questions, and when a passerby had inquired whether she was sleeping alone, she had shown them Sir Violet. Anyone with a passing interest in the sharp beauty quickly found other pursuits.

Sela looked at the blade. The violet hilt that helped give the sword its name was velvet to her touch. The single-edged blade mirrored her, showing a face that stared back without empathy or real interest. Sir Violet knew she loved the sword, she did not need to look on with adoration.

She belted the sword to her side. The duelist threw on her cape and boots, and walked out of the no-name inn. It was time to see what Gratitude had to offer her.

The city night life was intoxicating. While the shops and bakeries closed up shop as the sun went down, other businesses opened their doors. Cafes and taverns, a few theaters. But the streets themselves were what truly came alive.

Sela walked through a celebration of art. Trumpeters, flautists, a pantomime, every few feet there was a new attraction. Tourists and critics gathered at what drew their interest. Every act was cutthroat. They were in competition with each other and the business of the night. Who could catch interest, and hold it long enough for the interested soul to part with a coin?

A fight broke out between a puppeteer and a mime. The two each felt that the other was encroaching on territory, or creative license, or perhaps the mime did not appreciate the color palette of a certain puppet. The puppets were soon banging on an invisible box as the mime wailed in silent horror.

Sela smiled. Not at the violence, though it seemed real enough. However, given the crowd that gathered around the two acts to lay bets and watch a strange fight, it could have been staged. Certainly the rest of the street suspected such.

Sela kept moving. While interesting, that was not the entertainment she needed.

She kept her eyes peeled. The duelist could pick out the thieves, the scoundrels, the hucksters. They followed everyone as well, hoping to separate fools from coin far faster than the artists ever could. If Sela was in a mood, she could have cleared them out as well.

But that was not a challenge. It was, at most, a mild interest. She needed to fill her blood with fire, set it alight with passion that could not be quenched by a beer or passing fancy.

In short, she needed a real fight.

copyright 2018 Jack Holder

Finding Gratitude, Part 4

Lana stared at Nahc, very confused. The crow-boy wasn’t looking at her, so much as he was…strutting. He walked up and down the rooftop.

“Mmmh! Bah! Zabba-dee, zabbi-doo, you can’t hear it, Wing?”

“Wing?” Lana asked.

“The music, wing, the music!” Nahc spun on a taloned foot, and crowed to the sky again. “The wind soaring through the buildings, whistling through new ruins and older successes that stand in defiance, it makes a melody that just…baba doo bah!”

Lana was sure that this creature was quite insane. Especially when he turned and dove off the side of the building.

Lana cried out, and ran over to the side. There, in the city lights, was the crow-boy. He swooped down to street level, singing his ridiculous song. Pink and purple flashed past the storefronts. He settled on a lamppost, and kept on that incessant howling.

He was insane! He was a beast, a being created by magics that humans and other creatures despised. Lana hid under her robes not because she was ashamed, but because she feared for her life. How could he risk all of this, for a song?

But…no. The passersby did not look at Nahc in hatred. No one reached for a handy weapon or spell component. Most gave him dark looks of extreme annoyance, or flipped fingers in his direction. He was a nuisance, and an un-funny one at that. Not a threat to the very fabric of society that needed to be stamped out.

Lana stared in wonder. They didn’t like him because he was stupid, not because of what he was. What a city.

Nahc finally tired, and flew back up to the roof. He tipped his beak, and winked.

“Whatchoo think, Wing?”

Lana stuck out her tongue. “My name’s not Wing, it’s Lana.”

“Ok, Lana-bat. Like my singing?”

“No. it’s a screech, not catchy, and generally annoying.”

Nahc pouted. “But it’s fun, right?”

“Definitely.”

Nahc crowed again. “I knew it! I knew I caught the scared gal smiling.”

Lana laughed. “It’s because of this city. You were able to…to be! You are here, you’re not having to run, or hide.” She pointed at his feathers. “You can dress ridiculously like that, and no one is going to say anything other than it’s silly.”

“Hey!” Nahc pointed at himself. “This is an original style. No one else has anything close to this fashion.”

“For good reason.” Lana was being snide. She could be snippy! What was going on here?

Nahc sighed. “New girl comes to Gratitude, and already she’s sniping like a pro.”

“I’m sorry, I’m not usually like this.” Lana said. She spread her wings, and looked around. “It’s just, this place. You are here, and not having to live in fear. It is so…wonderful.”

“It’s all right,” Nahc agreed. “The Quarter is kind of…ethnic, but good food and fun people.”

“The Quarter?”

“The Waste Quarter,” Nahc said. “Where all the Reza live.”

“All?” Lana’s eyes bulged. “There’s more?”

“Oh, Lana-bat,” Nahc shook his head. “You don’t even know.”

copyright 2018 Jack Holder