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A Summer Barbaric of Shenanigans

Chapter 13

The whole caravan laid down to sleep as the Skyling sun rose to greet the day. Even the dogs snuggled into beds and under wagons, snoring in the morning light. Only a couple of watchmen kept their eyes open, yet, remained in comfy places, breathing rest and quiet.

The small town they camped by, bustled in morning business. Farmer’s markets opened stalls with daughters and sons flogging wares. Part-time artisans set up their creations to tempt the sophisticated housewives that made it their business to be up and beautiful, though casual, on an early weekend morning.

But not even the strong fragrance of coffee and breakfast burritos could rouse Tambeaux’s camp. They all slept solidly through most of third call.

Marin stumbled down the bus, dragging his shoulder along the wall so his eyes weren’t required to navigate. Blindly he fumbled for a small tub of grounds from the basket on the kitchenette counter and plopped it into his steamer. The Count continued snoozing upright, as the gurgling pungency of his coffee gently roused his mind. When the black gold spurted into a mug, it barely stopped dripping before the man lifted the liquid life to his sipping lips.

Swallow,

“Aghhhhhhhh.” He moaned.

“Morning,” grinned Filly from her fresh pose in her usual seat.

“Mmm-hmmm,” Marin answered, slumping into the seat opposite her, careful to not spill his morning drink.

He hissed loudly when he unwittingly lowered into the skyling shine that streaked through open curtains to sear his eyes. Filly continued amused, but kindly pulled the material across the window to block the harshly, cheerful light. Marin grunted in appreciation.

After moment of silent sipping, Marin asked with eyes still closed,

“What time is it?”

“Twelve minutes’ shy of fourth call.”

“Huh.” Marin blinked his eyes in open sarcasm, “I hate being awake so early.”

Filly nodded in gentle agreement, then apologized,

“Sorry for my curtness, yesterday. But, you were being an arse.”

Marin chuckled in teasing agreement,

“Butt, it’s so pretty.”

“True. I’ll give you that,” Filly cheeked back. “Still, you’d be more appealing in the end if you kept it a tush more mysterious.”

“Like the dark side of the moon?” Marin bartered his puns back with her.

Filly giggled and moved to the cooler.

“Eggs?” she asked.

Marin paused a moment, asking in mild surprise,

“You’d cook me breakfast?”

Filly discarded his sincerity,

“I’m eating. I might as well make enough for you.”

A couple of heads sluggardly popped out of curtained bunks in the hallway,

“Is someone cooking food?” one of them asked.

“Scrambled eggs,” called Filly, pulling a dozen fresh ones from the hanging basket.

There was more scrambling from the hallway as beds emptied of hopeful, hungry tummies. Coffee and conversation continued as Filly whipped coconut almond milk and cheese into golden yolk-ed whites. She poured the mixture onto a warming pan and flipped as necessary for scrambles. Someone else cooked and buttered toast.

Sir Guftson entered with the Count’s schedule and orders for the day. And a man-of-all-work knocked onto the Count’s open door, inquiring of the gnome lord,

“How long till we leave for the show?”

“Well, as it is set to begin at fifth call, I suggest you get over there as soon as you can… if you want to get paid, that is.”

The man ran off with a few of his eager mates and the hover craft emptied when most of the occupants ran to follow, breakfast in hand.

Filly stretched and sighed,

“I should shower.”

Marin asked helpfully,

“Did you need assistance with that?”

Snorting quietly, Filly shook her head. His tenacity was impressive. She moved to pass by, but Marin suddenly stood and blocked her way, gently,

“Seriously, I don’t mean to be an arse… all the time.” He grinned at her. “But, I do want to help fill any holes that might need attention.” He lifted her chin and brushed her cheek with his thumb.

Filly asked, her voice weakening, again,

“How do you manage to make the most profane statements sound romantic?”

Marin paused, staring at the contours of her face.

He whispered to himself,

“Why do I always want what I can’t have.”

Filly smiled with a quiet laugh,

“Don’t we all?” She let her hand fall on his chest.

“Why not, then?” Marin pleaded.

Filly breathed deeply, trying to hear her logic behind the loud thumping of passionate blood.

“It is really, Jeremiah?” he continued.

Filly looked away with sadness,

“I have nothing to hope for there. He’s been gone a long time and no one can say what that man thinks, wants, or intends to do.”

“Then why not here and now, with me?” Marin dropped his head to touch lips to cheek, inching closer to her mouth.

Filly leaned back just enough to see directly into Marin’s eyes. That darkness, hiding in his soul and clinging to his neck, glared at her with lust dripping from its bared teeth. Filly blinked directly at it, making sure it saw her acknowledge its presence. It leaned closer to her, growling.

Filly lifted her hands and combed her fingers through the man’s hair. She tenderly held the Count’s face, cupped in her palms, and said,

“My heart would love your soul, for the sake of healing, my friend. Healing first. What may come, later.”

The black creature on the Count’s shoulder slipped and swore at her, grasping a stronger hold on his mark.

Marin looked at her with a brief glance of longing surrender. But then, he blinked and shook his head, stiffening his neck.

“You can’t heal a dead soul, sweetheart,” he resolved and stepped away from her.

Filly wanted with all her heart to pluck that thing off him and throw it into the abyss. But she refrained, knowing what more would come if the “mark” didn’t choose to dismiss with his own will. Instead, she leaned in to kiss the man’s cheek, closest to the stinking deception.

“As you wish.” She spoke, “but, accept my grace upon you?”

“Your grace, I will always humbly receive.” Marin answered, with a bow of his head.

Filly nodded and moved to exit the craft.

As she passed the broken man, her heart pushed out an invisible force. Marin noticed nothing and went about his morning. But the dark thing suddenly found itself covered in a goo-ey, sticky, golden dust that applied to its skin like mild acid. It screeched in anger, flicking and wiping the shimmering love off from wherever it touched.

“Thy will be done,” Filly prayed, “here with us, in the same way it is done in Your Very Presence.”

And she left the scene to go shower and ready for the night’s revels.

It was an outdoor, all-ages show, this time. Filly arrived just as Mema Yhen was announcing door prizes and raffles. The three Lords of Ragefall were poised ready behind her, joining in bantering with their courtly manager and the crowd.

Ionny caught sight of Filly walking through the crowd and he nodded to her with a smile. She smiled back and stepped up beside her gaggle of gals, waiting at the stage edge. Hugs were passed around the women and excited anticipation was high.

The first chords of sound cranked out with Nikol’s jubilant exultations and the whole crowd jumped in one dance. The Chamberlin punished his drums with vicious joy and the Chancellor doled out melodies from his strings and keys like a war medic punches out morphine. Intoxication was real.

Angel Bryte leaned over and spoke loudly over the music, into Filly’s ear,

“They are missing the power of Vilhelm’s bass, but they’re still amazing.”

“Agreed.” Nodded Filly.

Ragefall was lacking the solid base that undergirded their sound, not to mention the power that Vilhelm’s person banged out on stage. But, none the less, the bad was still vibrantly full of life and legitimately more appealing than many bands with a full quota of members. Filly continued in awe, surrendering to the empathic high that effervesced about them.

When they finished their set, everyone was dripping in the sweat of dancing and thick, humid air. High summer was pounding down on them from the automated skyling. Filly wondered why the manipulated weather systems had to reflect whatever was occurring above in the Uplands. It was explained to her in studies as school once, but everyone still complained. It was weather: one is required to complain about it.

Filly refused to complain. Well, she tried not to. But, wow, was it hot today. She lifted her long hair off her back and let a cool breeze flutter her neck. Drinks were in order. So, she ordered something tall and cold.

Off the stage, the Regent Lords of Ragefall tossed back bottled water and sipped on cold beer. They flogged their wares and listened intently to everyone who crossed their attention. Filly smiled as she watched them work the crowd. They were masterful in making everyone feel important, yet, they did so with sincerity, in that moment. Each fan they spoke to was their best fan ever, in that conversation. Then they moved on to grace the next person with sincere favor. The Oracle thought she could learn a lot from these men, on how to live well, while being famous.

Euphoric Roya began setting up and Filly was eager to hear their performance. Most of those in the crowd had been following this band for years. Indeed, this group had been traveling the Artisan circuit for over a decade, yet somehow, they managed to not look wasted or tired. They were just as excited and eager to play out their dreams as they may have been when they started. It was a beautiful thing to see: people living their dream and loving every moment of it. Filly encouraged her heart in their example.

She’d been getting weary in her work. In fact, despite being given a specific secret commission, disguised as a holiday, Filly was desperately in need of a break from Temple and State living. These days in Kentari were unfolding as the best time in her life.

She swayed to the euphoric guitar sounds and drum beats. Roya’s lead singer had a voice that soothed like honey in brandy. Filly’s heart was much revived and she wept openly in gratitude as she laughed along with their lyrics about being drunk and gaining wisdom in that. *5

Divine favor dripped through the Euphoric sounds. The Oracle of Light loved nothing more than seeing pure love show up in socially unexpected places. The crowd, the band, the atmosphere even, may seem profane and gritty, to the outsider, but Filly saw with her spirit eyes. There was more Divine Blessing in these revels than she’d seen in many traditional services devoted to purity.

And it was proclaimed as good.

Filly sang along with the words she knew, or harmonized with vocals that lifted above the amplified volumes. Ionny joined her in the crowd.

“I can hear you over the band.” He said to her with admiration.

Filly blushed and shrugged.

“It’s pretty.” He encouraged.

Angel Bryte joined them and chatted eagerly in the flow of alcohol and song. Filly saw the eagerness in Angel’s eyes as she engaged the Chancellor in intelligent conversation. Filly watched the man, too, and admired his inquiring mind. Yet, noticed his critical nature. There was nothing wrong with that. It was good that he pointed out ridiculous deceptions hidden in the world of order and enforcement.

Filly’s heart, however, was intent upon diligently working compassion. She didn’t like to focus on criticism, even when she relied upon that in other perspectives. All viewpoints were necessary to have a clearer understanding of all things. But, Filly worked her compassionate view by steering clear of negativity.

So, with grace, she winked at Angel and left her to their conversation, stepping away with excuses for the bathroom. She looked back at them and recognized a hidden interest in her bright friend. The couple continued to mutually share thoughts, yet, both kept their hearts hidden and distant from each other, for whatever reason.

“Huh,” Filly muttered.

Soul observation always fascinated her. People were weird. The Oracle liked it that way.

[Footnote]

[*5 Reference to the Royal Bliss song, “I was Drunk”]

Pre-exposition Letter by the Scribe

Chapter 14

If you would like to see more of Gregga’s books and other creative projects, check out her website: Gregga J. Johnn and Story-in-the-Wings.

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