A Murmur

Writerly Update: My poetry chapbook, Terracotta Pomegranate, is finished and in review. I’ve never done this before, so I can’t slap down a timeline for availability, but my hope is before August 1st. I’ll keep you updated, but in the meantime, you can sign up for a patreon tier offering discounts and other fun ways to support my work.

I’ve also got a comparative book review headed your way before I’m swallowed by the TWO writing challenges I’m doing in August.

If you need to catch up on any part of the story, here is the Table of Contents.

A Murmur

Bashal was chewing something slowly, a look of pure joy on his scrunched up face. “No sales, but a man came by looking for her. He gave me a murmur, Diddle!”

Diddle and Jackie exchanged a quick look before scanning the tattered market for unfriendly faces.

Diddle kept his voice level and asked, “What man, Bashal?”

The boy giggled through the candy. “Oh, he’s gone. I told him she’d wanted to buy shrooms, but the quality was too low for her picky tastes.” He opened one eye wide and kept the other pinched tightly shut. “You’re a real pain the ass. He’s off to the Sands to find you.”

Marty.

Jackie tilted her head toward the bright sky and exhaled. She dug in her pocket and extracted a mark. “Thank you, Bashal.”

She turned to Diddle. “Any suggestions on where to lie out of sight of the Guild?”

“I’d recommend the West End.”

“Really? That’s awfully close to The Barrow, isn’t it?”

He nodded. “It is, but that’s why it works. There’s a lot of humanity to swallow you up. ‘Course, that’s also a lot of humanity to spit you back out.”

The wig she’d borrowed from Lily would only get her so far if Marty was already this close. She thanked Bashal and Diddle once more and headed west. She walked as if she were shopping, looping and backtracking, even though her feet ached to run.

Sharna had intended to go straight back to the Mansion as her mother had instructed, but she found herself enjoying the walk. There was no one to tell her where to be or what to do, and the people on the streets would widen their eyes and then dip their chins or tip their hats to her. She felt important.

It was more exercise than she was used to though, and by noon her feet ached and she was tired. The streets were narrower and more crowded, and definitely smellier. People no longer showed her attention. Now they avoided her; they even looked away when she tried to make eye contact. The heat was stifling, and she was thirsty. But, where to stop? What if she went somewhere unfriendly, or worse, dangerous?

A woman dressed in Merchant’s Guild blue stepped down from a doorway. Her eyes were wide with concern. “Oh, luvvy. Your face is as red as my finest wine. C’mon, come with Lizabetta and get out of the sun.” She took Sharna by the elbow and gently guided her into the shade of the lobby.

Every corner and edge was full. Her eyes adjusted to the dim lighting, and she tried to take it all in as she was steered toward one of the narrow tables and offered a chair. Before she got a look much past the row of stuffed owls with shining glass eyes lining the mantle, a drink of iced rhubarb wine was pressed into her hand. A drink for someone older, someone wealthy.

“Oh, but I don’t have any money, and I’m just a Yellow.” she explained.

Lizabetta smiled tightly. “Luvvy, you’re a walking bag of money. Yellow? You’ve got enough magic to buy any drink I serve.”

“I do?”

She’d never thought of her magic as a source of income. Mages were never paid for anything. Anyone with a Mage-seal scorched writ were compensated directly by the Doe Mothers. Allotments to parents of children in the Mansion were doled out monthly. A Mage herself was above something as common as handling money. Maybe she wouldn’t need to go back to the Mansion after all!

She sipped the wine. The tang burst on her tongue, and the coolness made her sigh.

“Thank you so much,” she said.

“You’re welcome. And when you’re done, we have a bit of a need if you don’t mind.”

“Oh,” she frowned. Of course. She’d have to do magic. In front of strangers. By herself. The wine no longer cooled, but instead twisted like a knife under her heart.

(Thanks for coming by!)

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