Hazy Epiphany (by Veshenga’s Player)
The arrow was in her hand before her intruder could even blink. It snapped out of the quiver, and notched to her forearm. The head steadied under a stiff index finger, her other tattooed digits coiled around the projectile. That metal point was level with the stranger’s neck, and a smile appeared through a shadowy coil.
Veshenga grunted tiredly. “I could hev’ killed you.”
Danel sat beside her, and shifted the dead hares off his shoulder. They thumped between them, bound together. “My little Quida,” he chuckled, “not even Dead Eye can match me.”
There is a flash of her dancing, the color red now a weightless, silk scarf, and she is so enticing. Her hips weave and caress the music. Even now, after Korvosa, you danced. There is a little bump in your belly, there is a little life there. I love you. You would not know it, but I love you.
“I can’t stay very long,” Veshenga propped herself up on her elbows, interrupted Danel’s thoughts. He cast her a bemused look.
“My girl is a haunting girl, a ghost in the Mierani Forest.” He tugged a leaf from one of her braids. “She still came to find me, though. Another face full of questions.”
“No questions this time…” What was she like? Tell me why you loved her. Maybe we can find her. Where would we start? “I wanted to see you before I returned to Sandpoint. We did what we could against the giants.”
Danel searched his daughter’s face, but like her mother, she was so secretive, and what expressions he gathered were mazes within mazes. Those blue eyes were strangers to him, shaped like Andrima’s, colored like Andrima’s lover. “What is on your mind, my little Quida?” He suddenly recognized that look, the one she sank into the swirl of leaves beyond her bedroll. He could not help but smile encouragingly. “ Who is on your mind?”
Ameiko dropped her chin into her hand, and watched as the returned adventurer celebrated the end of a long shift with a rowdy bunch. The tavern had been buzzing with conversation for the most part, but when Veshenga was off the clock ‘buzzing conversation’ had a habit of turning into roaring conversations and belly shaking laughter. The half-elf was definitely hitting the stuff harder tonight than usual, and Ameiko was not shy about addressing the matter when Veshenga tumbled over to the bar.“Ameiko, my lovely Ameiko!”
“Lovely? You looking for a raise or something?”
“Why?” Veshenga bounced a brow, and steadied herself against the counter. “Is this the way to do it?”
“Hardwork need not apply,” Ameiko replied with a wry grin.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Veshenga waved her hand in lazy loops, and Ameiko prepared the next round.
“You going to be good for work tomorrow, Smythe? You’re not being shy with the ale tonight.”
“I am not shy, Ameiko, I am not shy,” Veshenga giggled, her accent was thickening like the frothy heads on the ale Ameiko was pouring. “You think I am drinkink too much, y’eh? Well,” she whipped around, a patron ducked as her arm zipped by, “a round for everyone. I will share, I will not be shy,” she boosted her arms over her head, and bowed as the applause met her like a wave.
The ale was set on the bar, and the off-duty guards she had been catching up with dove for the brews. Veshenga swiped her own free, and slid out of the swarming boozers in one graceful step. Her movement carried her onto the closest table, where she stamped her foot and broke into an amusing jig. She sang songs of her tribe, the way Danel used to sing, and was even more entertaining when she put too much weight on one side of the table. The furniture tipped, and spilled Veshenga to the ground.
“The ale!” Was the last thing she said before she slammed to the ground, and was reduced to stupid giggles. Her leg had caught in the ladder of one of the chairs and brought it down with her, setting her hip at a weird angle. Still, the girl kept laughing.
Veshenga closed her eyes, the giggles jarring as she caught her breath and covered her face. Her hands moved through her hairline as if that could wipe away the sudden headache. The sudden memory of Fort Rannick. A flash of red in Tessa’s hands. As the tavern reverberated with sound and merriment, she could hear the music from the swamp’s festivities. Her giggling, her smiling faltered, and she breathed a suddenly saddened gasp, her eyes glass-like as they opened again to take in the guard holding his hand out to her. His skin was dark, his smile broad. In an ideal situation there would be oak leaves waving behind his head.
Later, he was kissing her behind the tavern. His uniform was nothing foreign to her, she was accustomed to shedding gear. What connected, what fastened. His breath was rich, alcoholic, that burning stench of liquor enough to intoxicate her again.“Come back to my place?” He asked against her neck, her pulse thundered under his lips.
But Veshenga’s eyes were on the stars above them. “What about right here?”
“In public,” he began to pry at her tunic as he watched her.
“Outside,” she slurred.
“I don’t give a shit what we do,” he pressed her to the wall, “just do it quick.”
Veshenga leaned away from an incoming kiss. He stared at her, and she looked back.
“But you want it like this,” he added, “you told me you wanted it like this.”
His skin was not as dark as she thought, that was a trick played by the evening. And that broad smile was nowhere to be found. Her disappointment was crippling.
“No. No, I don’t,” she ducked under his arm, and made her way for the street. She could feel his disbelieving glare pinning into the back of her neck. He whispered something under his breath, but she missed it. Hardly mattered what he had to say anyway, she had trudged too far to track him down, and Mvashti’s home was already in sight.
“Back so soon!” Mvashti called from her place at the table. There was a spread of cards in front of her and she gingerly sipped a hot cup of tea. She hopped a little when the door slammed shut. “Oh, and we’re trekking thunder in the house now? Since when do you slam the door, child?” There was no response as Veshenga briefly haunted the kitchen and returned with bottle of old wine. “Midnight snack, eh?” Veshenga nodded, and tipped over. Mvashti kicked out one of the nearby chairs. Veshenga slumped against it, and dipped the chair back on two legs before she recovered. Mvashti finally glanced up from her cards as Veshenga slid into the chair and dropped her head to the table. Her hands were sprawled in front of her, the fingers draped across the cards.
“You know what you didn’t warn me about?” Veshenga slurred, and began to blindly sift through the remaining pile of cards. Mvashti was put out as her cards were fumbled with, had anyone else been doing it… well, the outcome would not be pretty.
“And what is that, my dear?” Mvashti humored her drunken room-mate stepdaughter with a quizzical stare.
Veshenga occasionally peeked at the cards that surfaced in her lazy grasp. She finally found a lover card, and held it up for Mvashti about as pointedly as one half-asleep could. Mvashti’s face melted from the vague onset of elderly annoyance to a sympathetic, warm mask.
“Oh, my child.” Mvashti searched for the only thing she knew would aid her stricken gypsy girl, and in the end guided Veshenga’s bottle back to her lips. “Here. Drink! Drink!” Veshenga’s eyes widened briefly, and then she settled in. She laughed into the bottle of sloshing wine and leaned back in the chair as she gulped. The wine was sapped just as the chair angled too far back. Veshenga was spilled on the ground, unconscious and still. “Oh dear,” Mvashti mumbled, and began the arduous task of tucking Veshenga in at the settee.