“These gems would look beautiful on you madam,” the courtyard peddler stopped Amriel in her tracks, holding out a jade pearl hanging on a silver string, “Would you like to try it on?”
“No thank you,” the mage smiled and shook her head, examining the pendant for a moment, “I don’t need more gems.”
The salesman didn’t flinch, taking out a purple diamond instead and trying to stop Amriel from leaving, “I see, yes, a sorceress you are. Perhaps something more potent?”
“Well if potency is what you are trying to sell then violet stones should hardly be your first choice.” Amriel shot back, making the man’s smile droop. She examined the stone a bit closer, scoffing, “Especially when they appear to be made out of glass.” The man’s face flushed with pink as he tucked the diamond away and scurried back to his cart. The courtyard of Yin were lined with carts just like his, selling metals, gems, fruit, books, and all manner of artifacts. The signs and posts were decorated in lavish colors and signs that read “Yin Festival of Spritis”.
Amriel scanned the goods being sold with a bored smirk. There was always a sparkle of hope that someone may have something special, but rarely did she find anything even worth a closer look. The longer she perused, the most disappointed her dwindling smile. Near the fountain at the center of the square, a small crowd had started to form. Amriel expected some magician conning people with a cheap trick, but instead heard the sound of strings and drums.
A bard woman with a painted face strummed on wood and steel instrument as she sang to the crowd, hopping between her viewers to tip her head. Behind her several other women played a variety of handmade drums and lutes while a sole, timid looking boy blew into a metal pipe. Amriel pushed her way up to get a better view, joy returning to her eyes. The crowd started to clap along as the bard sped up, and Amriel noticed the low, pleasant baritone of her voice.
When the song ended, the woman held her guitar up high, bowing dramatically while Amriel and the audience clapped. Many started to move aside though as a man yelled, “What is going on here?”
The crowd dispersed to let through a scowling man in a black and yellow Militia uniform. Some of the bandmembers fled to a colorful cart parked off to the side, only the bard and the timid boy remaining. The bard woman hardly reacted at all, leaning on her instrument and greeting the officer with an extended hand, “How do, my fine sir. Did you enjoy the show?”
“You can’t perform here. Take your little show and get moving.”
“Ah but we did receive written permission from your Capitol, just as all these fine magic peddlers did.” The woman took a folder page out of the scarf wrapped around her waist, handing it off to him, “Notarized and everything. Now, any requests?”
The officer hardly glanced at the paper before crumpling it in his hand, “I don’t care what papers you and your freakshow here have. I gave you an order to move.” He shot a glare at the boy standing next to the bard. He only squeaked in response. The rest of the crowd fled, making some awkward coughs but saying nothing, while Amriel stayed rooted in her place and narrowed her eyes at the officer. “Well, pack up your cart then, ‘ma’am’.”
“I beg your pardon,” Amriel interjected, “This is a public event which has performers all the time. If they have a permit then you have no reason to remove them.”
“Ma’am, be on your-“
“Provide a reason they should be removed.” Amriel asked firmly, a few from the crowd pretending not to watch as their eyes wandered between her and the Militia officer.
The man grumbled, “Disturbance of the peace.”
“What disturbance? From what I saw, the crowd was very much enjoying their performance. Isn’t that right everyone?”
A few of the crowdmembers nodded, a couple verbally agreeing as they started to reform. Amriel smiled to them and then back at the officer, “There are salesmen out there far more annoying than these kind folks. Why not go police them instead?”
“If we’re going to have a problem here, I can ask you to leave too,” the officer took a step towards Amriel who stayed firm.
The confrontation could not go further though, as another younger officer pushed the two apart, “Now now, none of them. Goffrey,” he make a white, toothy smile at the crowd as he muttered to his partner, “What’s the problem?”
Goffrey started to stutter, allowing Amriel to interrupt, “These nice performers were just putting on a show for the Festival goers and showing their papers to Officer Goffrey here.” She waved a hand at the Militiaman who had turned red in the face. He nodded nonetheless and shot a glare at the boy and the bard before storming off. Amriel winked at the other officer and whispered, “Thank you, Trevor.”
Trevor tipped the black cap on his head towards Amriel and then the performers before he left, “Carry on folks!”
Amriel smiled widely at the Militia officer as he blended back into the crowd. The bard broke her focus after a moment, “Fantastic work, darling! You really told him what for. A million thanks to you and bless your spirit for eternity.”
“Oh please, no need for that,” Amriel shook her head as the bard took her hand, shaking it graciously. “Your music was beautiful and deserves to be heard.”
“And a beautiful complimenter as well,” the woman grinned, “My name is Izadi, and this is my young apprentice Timothy. Say hello Timmy.” Timothy peeked out from behind Izadi, making a tiny wave. Izadi pat him on the head and continued, “You know, not many would stand up for anyone like that, especially folks like us. You must be a special one. I can see in your eyes you are special in at least one way.”
Amriel’s cheeked brightened at a bit as she titled her swirling purple eyes away, “I try not to think of kindness as a special trait. Simple how I wish all people could be.”
“A very reasonable wish,” Izadi smirked, still holding Amriel’s hand gently, “I insist then that you join us for dinner. As a thank you for your help here.”
“I couldn’t impose.”
“I will not take no for an answer! I beg you to meet as at the old White Scale Tavern at the edge of the circle. Right around sunset? I trust we’ll see you there Miss…”
“Just Amriel,” Amriel smiled and made a polite bow, “If you insist then I will see you then. But only if you will continue to play for now.”
Izadi took up her guitar, grinned widened from ear to ear, “Very well! Timothy, wind please.” The young man nodded and picked up the metal flute, starting a new song.
When only half the white sun could be seen over the mountains, Amriel found her way to the White Scale Tavern. The inn was bustling with activity, a crowd of musicians in shiny and colorful clothes falling out of its doors. Amriel had to push her way in, looking frantically for Izadi. She finally found the young bard, a gold lined scarf draped over her head and a devilish spark in her eye. While the rest of the bar listened intently she retold the day’s events, only stopping when she saw Amriel’s amused smile. “Another time I will finish that story my friends.” Izadi jumped from the bench she had stood on, taking Amriel by the hand, “Miss Amriel! So glad you’ve arrived.”
“I did not know you had a penchant for storytelling as well,” Amriel hummed.
Izadi grinned, pushing the scarf back to better show her painted features, “I am a multitalented woman Amriel. Come, I must introduce you to our director, Lady May.”
“I would be delight,” Amriel nodded and let Izadi lead her through the crowd. While they hardly budged for the mage, they seemed in an instant for the bard, waving and hollering as she went. She led Amriel out the back and towards a table in the corner where a tiny crowd of skinny young men circled around a table. Amriel could overhear them discussing their act and the run in they had with the Militia that day.
Izadi shoved the others aside, “Come on fellas, go have a drink. I have to talk to our Lady.” The men started to argue but Izadi had already sat down, practically forcing Amriel into a seat as well. Amriel gave them an apologetic look and they waved a hand at the two and left. At the other side of the table, an elderly woman with short, curly hair and sharp orange eyes rapped her fingers against the table. The unusual color of her irises made Amriel peer closer, curious. “Lady May,” Izadi started, “I wanted to introduce you to the charming young woman I was telling you about from earlier.”
“As politely as ever Izadi,” May replied, looking towards Amriel, “Yes I see. She is one of us isn’t she.”
“She is absolutely stunning Lady May,” Izadi said without letting Amriel question the statement, “I admit I was unsure at first, but you know, I practically have the same senses you do without the strange dragon magic tricks.”
Amriel put a hand up to Izadi with a stern glare to match, “What are you talking about?”
“It’s alright my dear. No fear here. Izadi recognized who you are. Tyvansae. Am I right?”
Amriel went very quiet, fiddling with the ring that adorned her forehead, “I thought you meant…”
“You thought I meant your dragonblessing? Well I imagine you don’t bother to hide that. I certainly don’t. Even if dragonblessed aren’t the most accepted, at least people won’t test you. Torment you. To be tyvansae is very different, isn’t it.”
The three sat quietly at the table, Izadi watching Amriel intently for her reaction. The young mage curled her head down and began to trace the woodwork of the table. “How could you tell?”
“Lady May is dragonblessed too. Can see into a person’s soul and determine who they truly are,” Izadi dramatized, sweeping a hand over the table and pulling Amriel in closer.
May only rolled her eyes in response, “Hush Izadi. I see your spirit, Amriel. Your talent, your power, and your fear. No amount of dragon magic can hide that.”
“How did you do it? I heard some of our people try traveling to Freeland to get operations done, but if they even come back at all they never come back looking like you!” Izadi asked, still whispering but growing more excited, “It was dragon magic then?”
“You mean how I changed?” Amriel asked, earning an eager nod. The mage bit her lip, still following the grain of the wood with her eyes. “It came with my blessing.”
Izadi’s smile faded and she fell back into her seat, arms leaning against the table dejected. May was less brought down by the news, “It does not mean failure Izadi. You are very fortunate, Amriel. I imagine the dragon who blessed you must have had immense power.”
“She did,” Amriel confirmed, “Sorry but, what failure are you talking about?”
Lady May tapped Izadi, inviting her to speak. Izadi sat back up and cleared her throat, “Our troupe is almost entirely tyvansae people, and we came to Yin in the hopes of finding a place willing to try a new procedure for us. Something that will, theoretically, let us look as we were intended to look, feel as we were intended to feel. It’s a dragon magic, an imitation of the same thing tyvansae dragons use. Lady May has told us about it. In dragons unmatched spirits are hardly given a second thought, so of course they would have the magic to make that kind of physical change. But come to find out, pure dragon magic is banned!”
“You want to find a mage physician who can perform bodily transfiguration?” Amriel clarified, “With dragon magic at that. The human body is not intended to be exposed to magic like that.”
“We know it is risky. That is why our troupe wanted to volunteer. If we fail, we will have tried at least. But if we succeed, it will be a boon to tyvansae people everywhere.” Izadi explained, leaning her forehead on her palm, “We tried requesting an exception from the Federation but they refused. Refused to even acknowledge a need for the procedure.”
“Why not simply go around the Federation? I know some very good mages who could help with that.”
Lady May chuckled at the recommendation, “We know your Rebel roots, Amriel. Bards are all too often better at collecting information than the best spies. However, we want to do this legally. It is not just to benefit us after all, but all our tyvansae kin. Not just to earn the right to fit our born spirit but to be respected as humans equal to the rest. You can understand all that, I am sure.”
Amriel nodded, “Of course. Then what shall you do.”
“I don’t know,” Izadi confessed, “I had hoped you had a procedure done somehow. You would make a perfect example of the benefits.”
“Well, even if I had, I would rather not be made a spectacle.”
May chuckled again, “See I told you. Doubt the Rebel leader would be a big fan of drawing attention to herself.”
“Well it doesn’t matter anyway! We need to find some way to convince them though. Perhaps you know someone, Miss Amriel.”
Amriel shook her head, “I don’t know any other tyvansae actually. I had no idea the community was so tight knit. I will say though I am pleased to meet some others.” The mage smiled, earning a smirk in return. “I can’t go on stage for you, but perhaps I can help you organize something. It’s a difficult battle though. The current administration despises dragon magic enough as it is. I doubt they’ll be any fonder of it to help a group like yours.”
“Exactly. Children with horrible diseases can hardly sway them, so how are we supposed to?”
“Make it worth their while. And try to separate it from the dragons,” Amriel sighed, “Clarity would hate my recommending that, but the only way the Federation would ever agree to something like this is if they could at least advertise it as their idea and as a breakthrough in human innovation. Something Dast can propagandize. Then they would probably let you try it out at least.”
Izadi and May exchanged worried glances, pondering Amriel’s suggestion. May finally spoke, “We will try this, Amriel. I can’t say I’m a fan but, for the greater good sometimes we must play by the opponents rules. How shall we go about this then?”
Amriel tapped a finger against her chin, “My people know a few Militia officers and a couple Senators. I might be able to get a few of them to arrive and give their blessing. You are all the natural born performers though, so you are our greatest chance to draw a crowd. What you’re asking for is controversial but in the end it is only you wanting to try something new to even see if it works, so just a small amount of public pressure should do the trick. I’ll talk to my connections to try and plant the idea in Dast’s head.”
“What of us then? Just a performance?” Izadi asked.
“The performance will draw the crowd, but you and the others should share your stories. Focus on the human aspects of it. The human need. Try not to even mention dragons.”
“I suppose that means our stories are not very important to this, Amriel?” May interjected.
Amriel turned her head down and nodded, “Well, I said I didn’t want to draw attention anyway. And this is not for me.”
“I am inclined to agree.”
“You could get the change after, Lady May. Even if you don’t go on stage…”
“You misunderstand, Amriel. I do not seek the change. Once upon a time I considered it but now my goal is to make sure my younger sisters like Izadi and brothers like young Timothy do. Not all tyvansae need the change. For some our spirits need something else to find peace in this world, and for me, it was to bring together my beautiful family.”
Izadi made a tired smile, looking at the now dark speckled sky and the rising moons coming from the ocean. “I think it is late Lady May. I’ll work out the details with Miss Amriel, but you should rest.”
“You talk to me as if I’m on the verge of death Izadi. Very well,” May stood, bowing to Amriel as she did, “Thank you for your help and your courage, Amriel. I hope dearly your plan goes accordingly.”
Lady May brushed past the table, a long purple cape flowing behind her as she went through the tavern’s main hall. Izadi watched until she was out of sight and then relaxed next to Amriel, “Nothing we can do for now I suppose, so please go and enjoy yourself.”
“I don’t drink powder, Izadi. But thank you for the offer,” Amriel smirked, watching a few others begin to play their instruments and dance. “Your troupe is so lovely.”
“We are a family. Like Lady May said. They’re wonderful folks,” Izadi smiled and waved to some of the dancing patrons. “And you? Any family? You mentioned some Clarity – girlfriend?”
“No,” Amriel laughed, “She is family though. Like a sister. I think she would like your troupe as well. She cares very deeply for justice.”
“Sounds like a fine young woman. Not girlfriend though. Certainly a gorgeous lady like you has someone – it isn’t like you need to worry about people finding out you’re tyvansae.”
Amriel laughed again, shaking her head, “I have none. Not really looking.”
“I see. A woman in love with the world right?”
“Something like that,” Amriel smirked, “Go on. Go play with the others. I enjoy watching more than participating.”
“Suit yourself Miss Amriel,” Izadi took a clear drink from one of her colleagues and quickly drank it, then stood and began dancing with a short, thin man in a finely kept suit. Amriel sat and watched, clapping along with the music and forgetting the position of the moons.