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  #26  
Unread 19th of May, 2005, 05:40
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"The lute and lap harp are prized among my people."

Rina's companion steps in through the door. He's slender for his height, with pale skin and dark hair. Dark blue hair.

Calliste blinks. Yes, his hair is blue. How very odd. And his skin isn't just pale, it has a slight silver sheen to it. She takes a step nearer, entranced for a moment by his exotic amber eyes. And then she notices his strangely pointed ears.

He is not human! she thinks with a start. Rina's companion is an elf!

As shocked as she is, Calliste lets no sign of surprise register on her face. It's not too difficult; afterall she's been trained for the stage where it is expected that you keep your composure even during the most bizarre occurrances, whether catastrophe or miracle. Go on with the show! Or risk offending the gods.

While Yavan talks, Calliste tries to recall the little bit she's heard about elves over the years. She'd thought the stories were just that - stories. Elves were said to live in far away forests protected by magic. And supposedly they lived for hundreds and hundreds of years!

She can hardly imagine that the last part is true, but she has to admit that she can't easily guess how old this particular elf is. There is something about his eyes that makes her think he is older than he appears. Well, elf or not, ancient or not, Rina is acting like he's just another man. Calliste decides that she can pretend that he's an ordinary person too.

She nods when he mentions the Summer Kingdoms. "Near there, yes, but a little north.

"Aegan the flute player? He said he was from Gelas, did he?" She smiles, amused. "I'm sure he'd like everyone to think he was from our city. But his home is Coryth. That's on the other side of the bay." She speaks with the pride that's typical of one who hails from a great cultural center.

"This is my first time to travel so far from home," Calliste says as she turns away from the two newcomers and back to the table that holds the statue and the jar of wine. "The ways here are strange to me, but in my land I would be remiss if I did not offer to share my wine with you." She turns and holds out the jar. "Please join me. We can drink to chance meetings and to friendship among bards!"
  #27  
Unread 19th of May, 2005, 22:57
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Yavan blinks.

Is she serious? Do people from Gelas normally behave like this? Perhaps there's a good reason why the elf has never visited the land. The thought willingly trusting a stranger is so strange to Yavan that he has trouble believing her words weren't some sort of masked jape. Yet upon searching her face he finds no sign of mirth. No, not a jest.

"A drink would be agreeable," he says, taking the opportunity to look over to Rina while the other woman fetches the wine. Rina, as usual, looks amused; Yavan thinks she smiles far too much.

"You say you are a performer as well? Tell me, what instruments have you mastered?"

The question is a trick, of course. Mastery of music is as likely as mastery of magic; there will always be more to learn, more to create. But this will serve as a good indicator of character. Yavan studies Calliste's face, awaiting a reply.
  #28  
Unread 21st of May, 2005, 21:16
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"I'm afraid I only have the one cup," Calliste says still holding the jar of wine. "There aren't many useful furnishings or utensils around here..." She smiles archly as she glances around the bare room as proof, then waits for Yavan to provide his own drinking vessel.

"I'm not sure what you mean by mastering an instrument," she continues in response to the elf's question. "I play the kithara, an instrument sacred to Iakchos. When I have succeeded in reaching a spiritual state where I am perfectly in tune with the Voice of the god, then the music I play is supremely beautiful! It doesn't always happen that way, of course.

"Is that not the way it is when you play?"

Last edited by Kelemyn; 23rd of May, 2005 at 08:03.
  #29  
Unread 24th of May, 2005, 01:17
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Rina smiles brightly at Calliste's response, her eyes finding Yavan almost immediately, the smile getting larger. The elf could be so difficult sometimes, what with his elitist ideas about what constituted proper talent. She could only imagine what he thought of her - not that it would change who she was or how she approached her art. But Calliste's answer ought to pass the virtuoso's little test, and that would probably gall him. Which made Rina smile even wider.

"Yes, Yavan, is it not so when you play?"
  #30  
Unread 24th of May, 2005, 23:52
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"It is what it is."

The woman answered well enough, he supposes, although the mention of Iakchos troubles him. It isn't the spiritual relationship, as a chosen of Biate, he's hard pressed to judge anyone's choice of deity, but he mistrusts any unknown religion. His suspicion flares anew. What if Iakchos is simply another name for the cult that hunts the Biatists? He unbuckles his sword-belt, laying the bejeweled rapier next to him.

The most innocent looking are often the most dangerous.

This holds true in the wild and in the cities. In his homeland, a great, pale blue flower blooms near the riverbanks. The maidens of his village would often wear them, creating a beautiful contrast to their black hair. Yet the petals are always lethal if consumed. The irony of maidens wearing deadly flowers is not lost on him.

"If you would tell it, I would know more of this kithara and Iakchos."
  #31  
Unread 25th of May, 2005, 09:03
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Calliste is a bit unsettled by the sight of the rapier. She has never seen such an elaborately decorated blade before, except as a stage prop used by actors playing kings. She isn't quite sure what to think about Yavan now. Is he some kind of minor royalty? Is it usual for elven princes to play at being bards? And more importantly, do bards in this land commonly feel the need to carry swords?

She glances over at Rina. The other woman carries a bow, which is unusual also but seems a bit more practical; she probably hunts. She is not openly carrying a sword.

"If you would tell it, I would know more of this kithara and Iakchos."

"The kithara, I can show you," Calliste replies to Yavan, recovering her easy manner. She steps over to the chests in the corner of the room and removes a leather case from one of them. From the case she takes a solidly built wooden instrument with seven strings.

"It would be inappropriate to play it now, of course," she says without explaining why it would be inappropriate. But she holds the instrument out for Yavan and Rina to look at. "Do you really not know of Iakchos? Perhaps he is called by a different name here in this land. Or maybe he never came here at all.

"Iakchos brought winemaking and the cultivation of grapes to Gelas and the other city-states. He is a patron of music and the stage, and a protector of all performers who honor the gods." Calliste's eyes stray to Yavan's rapier again briefly before she goes on. "Only once in my travels have I come to a place where I knew fear for my life. At all other times I felt safe in the knowledge that men would not dare to harm a bard in the service of the god." Her brow furrows slightly and her grey eyes seem to darken with concern as she ponders the significance of the elf's weapon.
  #32  
Unread 27th of May, 2005, 02:28
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Rina shakes her head when Calliste asks if they know of her god. Hathor was was the goddess of alcohol, love and dance - as any Khitaen could tell you. She raises an eyebrow at the thespian's last statement though.

"Only once feared for your life? These lands are not wild, but they are not that safe either. I assure you, few bandits will care who you serve or why. And being female makes you more a target, not less."
  #33  
Unread 27th of May, 2005, 09:21
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Rina's words are more troubling even than the elf's weapon.

"What do you mean?" Calliste asks, for the first time feeling very uncertain. She had expected to find other gods in this land, but discovering that Iakchos is completely unknown here is a surprise. "Are you saying that a performer's life is not held sacred? But we serve the gods! It would be like breaking into a temple and assaulting one of the priestesses!" Surely even bandits wouldn't go that far, would they?

"Soldiers I do fear, especially mercenaries from the barbarian lands. In fact, it was during the sack of Syranos last year that I--" But here her voice breaks, and she finds that she can't continue speaking. She shakes her head, and takes a small sip from her cup.

"Bloodlust.. comes over them, and they cannot be stopped." She had seen terrible things then, things that she didn't want to remember. There are images of that time burned indelibly into her memory. She has tried to wash them away with wine, laughter, song, love; but there is no forgetting such things. It is time to change the subject.

Calliste comes back to the table, standing before the bronze figurine of the youth and the panther. "This is Iakchos," she says, her voice soft and low. "See? He is young and full of life. In his hand he holds a cluster of grapes, and on his head is a crown of ivy."

Somehow or other, he brought me here, she thinks.

"Rina," she says, still contemplating the statue of the god, "what happened that you and the Red Sails parted company? Come, both of you!" she says, turning around again, a smile back in its place on her rosey lips. "Tell me of yourselves."
  #34  
Unread 27th of May, 2005, 23:41
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The acrobat looks at Calliste almost quizzically when she says that bandits wouldn't dare attack a performer. Yet her eyes flick over to Yavan as the other woman speaks about the sack of Syranos. He did not speak about it to her, but Rina knew that the elf had gone through something similar. She answers somewhat uncertainly, her accent slightly heavier than normal.

"Sacred? In Khitae performers are held in high regard, but like valuable commodities. Certainly not sacrosanct."

She seemed about to say more, then presses her lips together. One hand goes to her chin as she regards the idol of Iakchos. Yes, he looked to be a god that a performer would worship. When Calliste asks about the Red Sails, Rina does not answer right away, instead taking a moment to fill her own wooden goblet with wine. She holds it up in a brief toast.

"To the chance meetings of artists."

She takes a long, slow sip. Her mind goes back to her days in that most famous of Khitaen troupes, the hot sand and the cool nights, the charged atmosphere beneath the huge silken tents.

"One of my first memories is seeing the performers beneath their gaudy tent. It was a small troupe, I am sure, but I remember as a little girl being awed by the show. The action, the sights, the sounds. it was like a celebration of life. It was all I ever wanted, to perform . . ."

She trails off, shaking her head. She had gotten what she wanted, working her way up and winning recognition locally before joining a small company when she was still a child in most people's eyes. The road had forced her to grow up quickly.

"Being part of the Red Sails was wonderful. If it was not quite what I had dreamed, it was in many ways better, in some ways worse, and other ways just very different. It was there that I learned the real art of performance. Skill alone is not enough, it is the show that matters."

It was, incidentally, where she had also learned the fine art of theft. Locals staring at the sights were so much easier to steal from. What to say about her leaving, though? She pauses to take another drink of wine, savoring the unusual vintage.

"Pentu, the head administrator of the troupe, owed a powerful patron a favor. That man was Tanerad Seshat, an ambitious man who had almost single handedly ressurected his family status. He had seen me perform and was most intrigued by my talents. He had a way of seeing opportunities in almost everything, this man, and he usually got what he wanted. In short order, I was persuaded to leave the troupe and take service with Tanerad."

That was a quaint way of putting it. Drugged and sold into slavery was another, though indentured servant might be a better description. She shrugs.

"Powerful men make enemies. So it was with Tanerad, and one day there was an accident and I found myself with choices. I could have gone back to the Red Sails, but time had passed and I found myself longing for someplace beyond the borders of Khitae instead - to see places I had only heard rumor of. Eventually I found myself in this land . . . it has been good, really."
  #35  
Unread 31st of May, 2005, 10:59
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"Yes, good," he says, his voice thick with sarcasm. "These lands are dangerous. It's best to learn this thing sooner than later. Bards are not protected. There are even patrons who would take in a performer one night and then kill him the next. Perhaps Gelas has been saved these dark days. Perhaps I should move to new lands."

Or perhaps, you simply don't wish to see the same evil dwelling in your home.

He shrugs, his shoulders causing his doublet to shift and then return. "There are many lessons to learn and too little time to learn them. Yet I think this one important, particularly for you."
  #36  
Unread 31st of May, 2005, 12:44
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Calliste narrows her eyes. "Particularly for me?" It is not completely clear to her at this point who Yavan is speaking to, her or Rina. She thought that he had been speaking to her, but these last words seem odd to her.

What is also odd is that the elf has not offered any information about himself. Rina had spoken freely about her life when prompted. Why not Yavan? It seems that he doesn't trust strangers encountered on the road. The sudden revelation comes as quite a surprise:

He's suspicious of me!

Here he is, armed and armored, and he's worried about a simple travelling performer!

On the other hand, if these lands are as dangerous as he says, then Calliste ought not to travel on alone. She should try to make friends with these two, and hook up with them. It wouldn't hurt to have a couple of travelling companions, at least until she reaches a sizable city.

"I'm not sure why it is particularly important for me to learn this lesson, but if you insist, then I guess I'll have to take your words to heart. So, this land is dangerous. What do I do about it then? It's just me and my hired mule heading south. How do I protect myself?"
  #37  
Unread 1st of June, 2005, 00:16
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"You have already begun. Simply knowing that the road is a dangerous place and that an inn or keep is no safer is the first step in protecting yourself."

He paints an overly-bleak picture, but Yavan supposes it's better for this girl to be too cautious than not at all. There are still safe places in the world, but they are far too few for his liking. Places he visited not five years ago are now troubling to gaze upon. It disappoints him to shatter her delusions of peace; not too long ago Yavan had been just as blind, just as innocent to the ways of the world. He had worn a sword for effect and nothing more. Now the hilt of a blade feels almost as comfortable in his hands as the smooth neck of a lute.

"The second is to learn how to defend yourself. Words and coin will not always be enough. I have a spare blade you could borrow. Perhaps I could teach you the basics of staying alive."

Lesson the first: trust no one.
  #38  
Unread 1st of June, 2005, 00:57
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Rina resists the urge to roll her eyes at the elf's characteristically dire outlook. His words would have this woman cowering in fear until such time as she fled back to her homeland.

"Yavan makes things overly grim, yet his advice is sound. It does not hurt to be prepared should you find yourself in trouble."

Admitting he had a point rankled. After all, they were very nearly killed in what should have been a routine performance. Instead, it had turned out to be a nightmare come to life. A small smile lights her face as an idea dawns - a perfect way to put a burr under Yavan's saddle.

"Travelling alone is certainly more dangerous, and since Yavan offered to teach you swordplay . . . why don't you journey with us for a time? A companion of ours recently left to pursue a different career and we could use another skilled musician."
  #39  
Unread 1st of June, 2005, 21:38
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These two seem so very unlike each other; how did they ever come to be travelling together? Calliste has not missed Rina's sly glances and teasing smiles. The woman seems to delight in provoking her elven companion, who in turn hardly seems to notice. An interesting relationship.

"A spare blade?" Calliste echoes Yavan. "You mean you have a sword you'd lend me?" An amused smile curls the corners of her mouth as she imagines learning swordplay. "I played the young heroine Sybella once in Nikatos' The Hydra. You know the scene where she stands over her father's body and defends it?"

Looking at her companions faces, Calliste can see that they are not familiar with the play or even with the poet. "No? Well, I had to learn a little stage-fighting then. Of course, the object was to clash weapons resoundingly, not to actually injure anyone!" She laughs.

"Rina, I like your idea. I wasn't going anywhere in particular, just south to Rivers End, which I heard was a sizable city friendly to bards. But it would be most enjoyable to travel with the two of you for a while. Were you heading south also?"
  #40  
Unread 2nd of June, 2005, 02:25
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Yavan masks his irritation the same way he always does: beneath a cool veneer of cordiality. His offer had been made too carelessly. An hour showing this girl how to keep herself alive is fine, but to take her as a ward is another matter altogether. Rina, ever the burr in his saddle, is all too eager to bring the bard along, probably expecting a boon companion; Yavan feels otherwise.

The divine has no place in my music. She had better not attempt any conversions.

"I had hoped to see Old Town again by autumn. The land is most beautiful then." He looks over to Rina, the slightest displeasure flicking across his eyes. "It is south of here."
  #41  
Unread 2nd of June, 2005, 02:41
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The briefest glimpse of annoyance on Yavan's face is enough to make her feel both triumph and regret. It was wrong to bait him but he could be so stubborn, especially when it came to emotions. She looks at Calliste and gives her a genuine smile.

"And for my part I have had more than enough of these fogs and cold rains. The south will be a welcome change."

She lifts her glass in a silent toast to the future.
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