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Busking in the Surya Plaza

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The Diamond of Kalea is located on Kalea's extreme west coast and called as such because its completely made of a crystalline substance called Skyglass. Home of the Alvina of the Stars, cultural mecca of knowledge seekers, and rife with Ethaefal, this remote city shimmers with its own unique light.

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The Ladybird and The Bee

Postby Cithius Wintersun on June 7th, 2020, 5:09 pm

7th Summer, 520


The mountains were high enough that the evening summer winds carried the last of the daytime heat as they buffeted up from the valley between the Shinyama and the Zintia mountains. The bard found the walk down the long thin bridge between the mountains more refreshing than terrifying. He remembered there was a time when he was eye level with his Pop’s dog and the valleys so far below would make him cry until his Ma picked him up so he didn’t have to walk across the bridge himself. Two decades later, the thousand or more foot drop was not a thought in his mind as he passed an Okomo. The majestic creature was making its way back west, so comfortable with the other pedestrians on the bridge, it hardly noticed when Cithius extended a few fingers to brush over the thick wooly coat as it passed.

But he did not stop, gripping his instrument case in his right hand, and humming improvised tunes to himself as he made his way towards the Plaza.

“Good evening” He tipped into an exaggerated bow to young teen who was fiddling with something in his hand. The teen scowled, but said nothing, and Cithius continued on.

It was just after the dusk rest period and still early enough in the night that a few families mingled in the Plaza. Two sets of parents lounging and gossiping on pair of benches, hardly watching the children that played an especially scream-worthy game of tag. He could see the workers lighting the lamps in front of the businesses on the edge of the Plaza, preparing for the night crowds and flashed back to the awful smelling oil that one could not get off their clothes if they spilled it. Cithius did not miss that job.

He could hear a familiar chord of a children’s lullaby striking up on another bard’s instrument on the steps leading up to the Koten Temple, so he walked a little further until he found his bench. It was far enough away from the fountains so that the water didn’t throw off his rhythm, and far enough away from the more popular busking spots where the more experienced bards captured their coin, and he wouldn’t make an utter fool of himself. Cithius took a heavy seat on the bench and opened his instrument case, pulling out his simple fiddle and bow, and a small wooden sign.

Cithius set out his instrument case on the floor in front of the bench, propping the little wooden sign against it which said simply: “Coin for a chord or a chat.” He could feel the nervous feeling bubbling in his chest as he prepared to perform, no matter how comfortable he was with his job, despite his talent, there was always a spike of energy and nervousness to get him started for the evening. He couldn’t hear the soft melody of the lullaby anymore, but he knew the song well enough that it was already stuck in his head.

It was a relatively easy four chords, repeated in slightly different patterns through the song. The fiddle was not the easiest of instruments, but he had so enjoyed the lively jigs his neighbor played as a child, that he was determined to enjoy the instrument as well. Still, it was easier to listen to someone else than to make your own strings sing. With his bow relaxed at his side, he adjusted the fiddle to his chin, letting the polished wood caress his stubbled chin. Cithius hardly remembered the words chronologically, as it was one of those songs that could easily switch the verses for something else. But the tune was well ingrained in any Lhavitian child, so he licked his lips, and began humming ‘The Ladybird and The Bee’ as he pressed his fingers into the strings, playing the silent chords without the sound of his fiddle. When reciting, vocalizing the song helped him focus on the rhythm.

Cithius’ tired gaze fell over the Plaza, taking each person in for a second and then moving on. The beginning of his performances were always a little slow to start as he adjusted to his instrument. Surely one day he wouldn’t have to practice his chords before playing them, but he found it saved him the embarrassment of forgetting a verse while actually playing the song. Turning his eyes to the nearest fountain, he kept humming. He was matching the familiar tune of his voice to the movements his fingers would have to make to have the fiddle sing instead. Only once he was sure he wasn’t going to forget a note, did he raise his bow, standing up as if it would give his elbow more room.

“The ladybird took off and landed on a tree,” He sang, pulling and pushing the bow over the horse hair. The children’s song was supposed to by lively and fast, reminding one of a bubbling creek and bringing laughter from toddlers. But since it was his first song of the night, it accidentally took on a more morbid tone, as he played each note carefully and slowly, more concerned with messing up than with drawing in large crowds. ‘Creative Freedom’ was always his excuse when questioned why he changed the speed of the song. But reality was if he went too fast, he knew he would mess up.

“Upon a yellow flower she met a bumblebee,” He continued, continuing to play the second verse’s tune, which was similar to the first, but with one important note addition. “They both were curious and confused and happy,”

And it didn’t take long for Cithius to increase his speed, despite the mistakes, falling into the familiar joyful tune. Since he was singing and no longer humming, he let his foot tap the speed into the stone beneath him, and it wasn’t long before he was kicking out his foot and taking an exaggerated step around the bench with each verse. Even though it was a simple tune a children’s lullaby, Cithius was happy to escape into the song, prancing around his bench and singing to his fiddle. He was having more fun with a fiddle than a grown man should, and quickly forgetting that he was there for pay.

“We are jolly good friends and always play together,
We fly up in the sky and reach the clouds forever.
And there we spend the time having more fun than ever,
And if you think we’re fools you’re wrong because we’re clever!”
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The Ladybird and The Bee

Postby Madeira Craven on June 9th, 2020, 8:44 pm

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The summer heat was still baking off the cobblestones as the day fell to dusk. Madeira could feel it through the soles of her soft shoes, and trapping itself under the long skirt of her lace dress. Despite the uncomfortable heat the dress was still buttoned to the throat, the sleeves rolled down to meet her silver gloves at her wrists. She wore diamonds at her throat and in her hair, but her fingers were studded with many cheap and ugly rings.

At her side was something that could be tentatively called a cat. The creature was taller than her knee with a lankiness of a kitten that was full grown but not filled out. It's fur was the kind of velvet black that absorbed the light around it, interrupted by plates of oily looking bone that ran down his head, back, and back legs. The creature was slinking along in the shadow of her skirt, trying in vain to avoid the last light of the hot day.

At her other side, connected to the fingers of her gloves by fine threads, was a little wooden man. He wore austere black robes and a black broad brimmed hat. His porcelain hands were missing a few fingers, and most of his fragile face was smashed in, but it was clear by its pristine clothes and well oiled joints that the toy was well loved. Concentration was knit between Madeira's eyebrows as her hands twitched in spidery little movements, making it look like the little man was walking beside her in jerky steps. And if one were to ignore the bizarre spectacle of the bejeweled woman and cat-beast walking a puppet in laps around the Plaza, and looked very closely at the strings that held it to her hand, it almost looked like the strings weren't supporting the marionette at all.

"What's that noise?" the cat thing suddenly lifted its head and spoke in flawless common. His ears were flicking around his armored skull and the end of his tail was twitching in annoyance. A few people close by skittered away in shock.

"Music", Madeira hummed succinctly. Indeed the words of what sounded like a foreign children's rhyme were floating through the muggy air, propelled by what she suspected was a fiddle. It was a tune full of gaiety. And though the musician wasn't particularly good, there was a charming enthusiasm behind it.

"Doesn't sound like music. Sounds like someone has a goose by the throat."

"You're just grumpy, Spooks. It's lovely."

The beast grumbled inaudibly as they approached the source of the music. It was a man with a fiddle tucked under his chin, who was at once prancing and singing and having a great time doing so. There was a lightness about him that didn't fit with the bags under his eyes or the shadow of a beard across his cheeks. He didn't seem to wear his showmanship like other buskers; his clothing was simple and scuffed, his hair untamed, with not an ounce of the flashiness his counterparts used to draw a crowd. Instead he seemed to rely entirely on his energy, which was so powerful it radiated outward like a physical manifestation of an aura. Madeira stopped in her tracks to watch. Twitching her index finger, she brought the puppet's hand up to scratch contemplatively at its ruined chin.

Spooks ear's flattened. "Don't do it."

"What?" she laughed. "Do we have anything else to do? Classes don't start for another bell and he looks like lively company."

"I think you can find someone better than goose man."

Madeira rolled her eyes. "Just for that..." she swept away, approaching the busker with her puppet marching along beside her. "How about a coin or two for you to teach me some cords instead?" she called to the stranger with a smile, nodding to his sign.

Behind her Spooks made a dismayed yowling noise.
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The Ladybird and The Bee

Postby Cithius Wintersun on June 10th, 2020, 3:59 pm

At worst, she was a witch. At best a dream. Cithius’ music stuttered for two notes, and then he switched into the basic verse of the lullaby, his brain refusing to venture back into complex song and dance. No third verse rang from his mouth, but one dark eyebrow raised at the curious sight that had approached him. An intrigued grin lit the corners of his lips, and he paused his tune briefly to nod and greet the woman.

“Ay, with eyes like those, I ask only a coin for a lesson. Two, and you can play whichever of my instruments you wish.” The shadow pulled his lips up into a full grin now, and he winked, but made no attempt for a rude gesture. Cithius placed his bow back on the fiddle and begun pulling, but he wasn’t dancing any longer, nor was he watching the enthralling sapphire stones that were watching him. Instead his dark gaze was focused on the dream’s companions, neither of which he could name, and only one looked as if it should be alive, maybe.

Was that a puppet? Without strings? Unsettling. However, it seemed rude to comment on them, so Cithius made no remark, focusing his attention on the only odd creature of the trio that could speak.

His eyes crawled over the silver gloves and their peculiar adornments, her extremely out-of-season preference of clothing, and the diamond on her neck before resting back at her eyes. Cithius’ began slowly playing the first few chords of the same lullaby. It was with slightly more easy than the first time now that his fingers were used to the pattern and his elbow didn’t yet feel too heavy to control. The bard played the first familiar few notes of the children’s song again, but much slower, so that it was once again ominous and not cheerful. He followed the next pattern of the song in the same manner when he spoke again. “My name is Cithius, I’m guessing you’re not from around here?”

He was stalling. It wasn’t as if Cithius was the best busker around, let alone tonight. But if this dream chose to make her request to him, then so be it. But how on Earth was he going to teach her? The bard pulled the strings as he danced his bow across the fiddle, creating a gradient tone from light to deep and back, adding to the spooky affects he was attempting. Then he returned back to the slow ominous version of the original tune, eyes flicking back to the cat once more, unable to shake the unsettling feeling it caused. Perhaps something about the personality that the woman possessed made him think it was the right choice. Perhaps it was her cat… thing. Cithius stopped playing and held his bow and fiddle evenly as he listened to her answer, holding her gaze instead of curiously flickering between her companions, however odd they were.
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The Ladybird and The Bee

Postby Madeira Craven on June 18th, 2020, 12:50 am

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Madeira twitched, but years of trained courtesy kept her from rolling her eyes when the first words out of this strangers mouth was a cheeky innuendo. Spooks laughed throatily behind her.

The language of his music began to change as they spoke, the tune growing slower and darker. She wondered if her presence had tainted it somehow. But the man seemed comfortable in this change of tone, his bow dragging almost thoughtfully across his bow as he studied the puppet and Spooks. Both of them stared back, though one took the scrutiny a bit better than the other. Spook's yellow eyes narrowed and he growled a tired warning.

The man didn't smile as he introduced himself. Madeira couldn't quite read his expression. Intrigued, maybe? Wary? She made up for both of them with a smile of her own. She had worked hard on it, honed through a career of placating ghosts and charming her superiors, and it fell somewhere between unguarded and welcoming.

"You've got a good eye, Cithius. No, we've come a very long way. We're from Alvadas. I'm Madeira, and this little monster is Spooks. I haven't quite found a name for the doll yet." She twitched her finger to jerkily wave the puppet's little hand before pulling it up by the strings and holding it in the crook of her arm.

"Charmed", the cat-thing sneered. Then with a puff of soulmist and a lingering scent of licorice, Spooks disappeared.

"Don't wander too far!", Madeira demanded of thin air. Spooks could blink like a ghost, but not very far. He was definitely still within earshot, and she needed him to take her back to Dusk after this interesting interaction. "Sorry about him", she turned back to Cithius, laughing apologetically. "I'm not sure what exactly he is, but bastard is a good descriptor."

Digging in her pocket, she extracted five kina and tipped her hand over his open music case. "You're Lhavitian, right? You have the accent. You're a good performer, too. What made you decide to take up busking?" That might have come off demeaning, for a person in an ostentatious display of finery to ask why someone was busking in the street, but her expression was open and genuinely interested. Artists were highly prized where she came from, and she had always regretted never having been raised to be artistic.

"Here, can I try? I promise I'll be nothing but gentle", she had approached his bench to sit her puppet down on the stone, and now held both hands out towards him and his fiddle in a display of pure deference. She knew how protective artists could be about their tools, and she wanted to prove she would be respectful to it. "I've always wanted to learn to play an instrument. Will you teach me how to hold it, first?"
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The Ladybird and The Bee

Postby Cithius Wintersun on June 19th, 2020, 10:34 pm

There was a lot for the Lhavitian to take in. At first, he thought the stranger before him had chuckled, and was surprised by the gravel in her laugh, which hardly matched her speaking tone. It was only once she named her cat-like creature, did it speak, and Cithius could no longer hold the shock from his face as his brows furrowed, trying to find an explanation for the talking animal-like thing. He knew not much of magic, so he shouldn’t be surprised if there was a discipline he had not come across before, but it was still shocking to see it with his own eyes. Only once the woman gave an honest smile and spoke of her home city, placing a name to her accent, and reason to the confusing character that just approached him. Alvadas, home of the God of Illusion. He had heard everything there was a bit odd, which made the woman make a little more sense now.

Cithius decided he had been shocked by her presence for too long, she was still a person after all. The bard stepped aside, offering the bench to the lady to prop her doll on. She had an honest smile, and an extremely friendly demeanor, despite her oddities. He did not count the coins she dropped in his case, but he knew it was more than their agreed upon two. Cihtius’ made a note to teach her at least one chord by the end of their conversation for the payment.

“Um, hmm.” He started, she had asked a lot of questions at once, although she seemed eager to learn the fiddle, silvered palms open and ready. He twirled the bow quickly in his hand so that it was facing backward and he could use his fingers to perk his pointer finger up and ask for a moment. He grinned. “Well, I’ll answer your questions about the fiddle first, since that is what you’re paying for, Madeira. Are you left handed or right handed? You’ll want to hold the fiddle with your non-dominant hand.”

“Holding it is not that difficult. Although some will have you believe it is.” He said, trying to use exactly the words his neighbor had so many years ago when he taught him. “You want to put the fiddle, kind of, firmly against your neck, not your chin.” He said, placing the fiddle where he normally did, motioning with his right hand that still holding his bow backward. He felt the hollow wood settle over his collarbone and into his jugular, gripping it by the neck of the instrument “Then, your chin can hold it, no problem!” He said, letting go of the fiddle’s neck and clamping his jaw down on the familiar smooth wood where his scruff had worn an easy marker for the placement. “Then you’ll keep a loose hand, and just hook your thumb so that it is just peaking up over the left side of the neck, here.” He pulled the fiddle from his chin to show her the placement. “And just loosely wrap your fingers around the neck, here.” He wasn’t sure he explained it completely, with his form being so normal to him now, it was effort to pick it apart for someone else.

He released the fiddle and then handed it to her waiting hands. He didn’t want to touch the stranger and offend her, so he pointed on himself to remind her. “Against the neck, on top of the collarbone.” He repeated, tapping his clavicle and neck once she took the instrument from him. For some reason he doubted she would harm it, everything about the woman seemed intentional… and although odd, and warm.

“And to answer your earlier question: Because I like it.” He said, not having taken any offense to her words, but still eyeing her diamonds one more time. He never really had much reason to interact with the wealthy magicians of Lhavit, but if one were to literally walk up to him, he was going to be curious. He chuckled, remembering her false compliment. “And I would be better than this, but I wasn’t trained properly. Hence the streets instead of a theater or music hall.” He grinned, obviously not preturbed by the nature of his employment in the least. After all, it was a step up. “I was trained as a philterer, but my family’s business closed down.” When my Pa got sick. “So this puts food on the table for my family, and it’s more fun than hard labor.” He shrugged and chuckled, not sure if she would understand the logic behind it. He wasn’t sure how much work the rich actually did. Cithius would offer a pointer if needed, but would otherwise deliver two thumbs up once she was able to place the fiddle correctly, but did not yet yield the bow to her.

“If you get serious about it, there are a few forms to learn. But my form isn’t great, and yours doesn’t have to be either. The fiddle will still sound the same regardless.” He explained. “I’m going to touch your hand.” He gave a brief warning before stepping to her right and placing his hand over hers on the neck of the instrument. He kept his touch light, because he had given her a flirtatious greeting and didn’t want to be a complete asshole, but nothing about the woman before him gave him the intention she would handle too much disrespect. And she had paid well. Cithius kept his touch light, applying just enough pressure to drag her hand down the base of the neck so that her palm was cuffing the base of the fiddle and her fingers were pushed in towards the strings closest to where the bow would play. “These are high notes.” He pulled her hand back up to the top natural position before releasing it. “And these are low notes.”

“Before we move on, I have to ask about your… The Bastard.” He said, already having forgotten it’s name as he looked over his shoulder as if he could see where the ‘monster’ disappeared to. “Why does he talk? And disappear like that? I’ve lived in Lhavit my whole life, is that type of, uh, cat native to Alvadas?”
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The Ladybird and The Bee

Postby Madeira Craven on June 25th, 2020, 12:49 am

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It was kind of nice to be a student for a change. Madeira watched with interest as Cithius demonstrated the proper way to hold a fiddle, noticing how at ease he seemed to be with the instrument, like the worn wood was an extension of his body. She raised her right hand in answer to the question of which was dominant.

When it was her turn to hold it she tried to channel the same ease he used, but she couldn't hide how out of her element she was. She tucked the thing against her neck like she was shone, her chin naturally finding the slight divot carved out of the wood from years of rough stubble. This close to her face she could smell the surprisingly pleasant odor of old wood varnish, along with something deeper and masculine.

"You're a philterer?" The question came out as more of a surprised exclamation. She knew next to nothing about the craft, except for what she suspected were wildly overblown rumours. Regardless her interest in the busker immediately raised several notches. He might not be a practicing philterer, at least not anymore, but she could think of several instances in her life where having one on her team would have been of enormous advantage. She mentally filed that thought away for later.

Madeira struggled through the form he showed her, eventually having him hoover beside her with his hand gently laid atop hers wrapped around the instrument's spindly neck. Though once he let go three of her fingers naturally unfurled, so she cupped it only with her thumb and index.

"I suppose I should have realized this would be an issue", she smiled self-consciously. "A few of my fingers are paralyzed. It's an old injury. Could I still make the notes with only my thumb and pointer? Or should I try with my left hand?" High notes were achieved at the base of the neck, where the strings were shorter, she noted. Lower notes needed the longer strings at the head.

Cithius inevitably asked about Spooks. Madeira ran her gloved fingers over the neck of the fiddle experimentally a few times as she tried to somehow organize that bizarre story into something succinct, informative and truthful. A harder task than one might expect, considering she didn't know all the fact either.

"Spooks started out as just a normal black cat, actually. The kind you'd find in any pet store in any city. But our lives have been... eventful since, and he just got caught in the blast zone. First he got tangled up in a kind of... potion? An experiment gone wrong." She didn't know how else to explain it. The enormous cauldron in the basement of her sentient house had bubbled and boiled with some strange concoction she didn't remember either her or it making, and in a dreamlike trace she had added stones and bones and several other miscellaneous items to the brew. The last one being her poor, innocent wall-eyed cat. "He came out of it twice as big and hundred times scarier, and able to blink, which is what it's called when a ghost instantly moves from one place to another. Also he smells permanently like licorice now, and only the Gods know why. Then, several seasons later, a ghost in my service accidently whacked him with a very powerful magical artifact that gave him human level sentience. So now he is that sentient, intelligent, candy-scented monster armed with several sets of very alarming teeth and claws you saw today. Also he hates just about everybody."

She glanced at Cithius to see if he was following or if the absurdity of it had checked him out of the conversation.

"If you haven't crossed paths with the unexplainable yet in Lhavit I expect you will soon. I swear your city is more of a hotbed for the bizarre than even Alvadas. Not that that excuses the existence of sentient, monster felines, but all the magic this city is steeped in does attract a certain kind of phenomena, doesn't it. Magic is actually the reason I came here. I'm a mage, specializing in Spiritism but I dabble in a few other disciplines as well, mostly world magics. Dusk hired me to be a teacher in their Tower."

There, that about covered it. Her fingers walked the neck again, feeling the ridges and the strings taunt over top. Pressing them with the kind of pressure she assumed one would need to make a proper note made it dig painfully into her fingers. She wondered how many bloody fingers it took for Cithius to gain the kind of callous necessary to play such an instrument.
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Madeira Craven
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