Saturday, May 22, 2010

Mere Acquaintances- Chapter Twenty-Seven

As if they had disappeared from the face of the planet, Ryan and Joanna stopped talking to Lydia and Emery, who ignored them right back.

It had been some years since Draegon had last ventured into Morena, but his memories were surprisingly accurate. The Gaernin people were, for lack of a better word, snooty. Many of them either turned their noses up at him or simply didn’t look at him, pretending he didn’t exist. They didn’t want to see a man who so closely resembled a Keidenelle savage, so they just didn’t see him at all. There was a reason he had been so long away from here; no matter how good a singer and storyteller he was, no one paid him any attention.

At least people listened to Kemeny when she talked. They spend their evenings going from inn to inn, Kemeny drinking and gossiping with whoever would listen– which was pretty much everyone. The people of Morena were notorious gossipers. Out of necessity, Draegon stayed in the background, sometimes as far from Kemeny as possible, so that she wouldn’t be ignored because of her association with him. Occasionally, an open-minded innkeeper would let him play the flute or the drum and tell a story, but that was it.

Ryan sat at the piano in the common room but did not play. He sang softly, however, strange sad tunes that seemed made up on the spot but had the repetitions and form of completed pieces, almost like folk songs. None of the songs had tunes Becca recognized, and the words… the stories told by some of the songs, were nothing she recognized, either.

There was a lot of gossip flying around concerning the Search, even before Kemeny tried to start spreading the news of Roark. There were two tales that were most prominent.

The first was that some insane man was going around claiming to be Cheyne reborn, claiming that his plain sword was the great legendary Sonsedhor. But he went around killing people left and right and was, in all actuality, a servant of the Dark One. He was a bloodthirsty demon of a man, frightening to look at. No one they heard the story from had actually seen him, but they each knew someone who knew someone who had been there when the false Cheyne came and killed someone nearby.

The second most prominent rumor– one that made the Gaernin swell up with self-importance even more than usual– was that the real Cheyne had shown up and was, in fact, a young lordling from their own city. His name was Jaidyn Huntley. Even before he left on the Search, he had exhibited the memories of Cheyne, but still had yet to openly declare himself. The only person he told his secret to was another lordling, Zanthys Advissen, the heir to one of the Morena High Seats. He was the one with proof that Jaidyn was Cheyne reborn; he claimed to have seen Sonsedhor with his own eyes.

Kemeny stated the obvious when she said they should talk to Zanthys. But Draegon knew it wouldn’t be easy for commoners– and foreign commoners, for that matter– to get in to see the heir of one of the High Seats. They would need to be invited into his presence.

“Well, nobles like that are always having feasts, aren’t they? And entertainers? Who’s to say they won’t want a bard sometime soon?”

“First of all,” Draegon replied over a glass of wine, “there’s no guarantee that I would be chosen should they want a bard. Second, even the commoners here don’t want a…” he made a face, “……don’t want me performing for them. Nobles will be even less inclined to hire me.”

“If we dyed your hair, you wouldn’t look so… like that,” she said. “And I’ve heard you play. You’re one of the best dulcimer players I’ve ever heard, and your voice isn’t bad to listen to, either. Let me dye your hair and I swear you’ll be hired to play for them within two weeks.”

He sighed. “Fine.”

The herb she washed his hair with turned his pale buttery head into a cap of chestnut brown. When she finally let him look in a mirror, he almost didn’t recognize himself. “You know, this might actually work,” he said, turning his head one way and the other. “Not that I’ll want to keep it like this permanently, but it’s definitely interesting.”

He played at a different inn every night after that, always the flute so the patrons could dance. On occasion, he picked up the drum and used it to punctuate a story, but he never opened his dulcimer. He was saving that for the nobles. Word spread of him quickly, with people often asking where the Dragon Bard was playing so they could be at whichever inn or tavern he was performing. He had to admit, he liked the title they gave him, even though it stemmed from a simple mispronunciation of his name that spread like a rumor through the city. That kind of notoriety was sure to get him noticed by the nobles.

Every third night, Kemeny washed his hair with the herb again. By the third time, he was definitely getting sick of it. “Once we get done here, I’m never changing my hair color again,” he commented as she rubbed the herb on his scalp. She pulled a lock of his hair, making him yelp.

In the cafeteria, another patient happened to drop her napkin in front of Ryan. He snatched it up.

After eleven days of playing inn after inn every night, the keeper of the inn they were staying at presented him with a sealed envelope.

“Is that what I think it is?” Kemeny asked as he broke the seal of the envelope.

He scanned over the folded page inside and nodded. “We’re in.”

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