Gavrien/Back Alley Business
Bards and Back Alley Business
In the narrow confines of an alley, quiet murmurs were punctuated by abbreviated snatches of lutesong.
"You got the tune down," one low voice said with a hint of approval. "Be ready to break if the crowd gets rough, hey? Hate to see any bruises on that pretty face."
A dismissive laugh in answer. "I'll have them eating out of my hand," replied a prideful tenor.
A chuckle, then a muffled clink of coins as payment exchanged hands.
A dirty, round-faced boy darted through the busy street, weaving between townsfolk and armored adventurers going about their daily business. He earned a few annoyed catcalls when he jostled a goodwife or nearly tripped a militia pikeman. His antics were energetic and playful, but his roving gaze was sharp.
At a previously agreed-upon signal from their urchin lookout, two figures detached themselves from the shadows of an alley and melded with the crowd. In the lead, a winsome, freckled youth dressed in muted motley and clutching a lute. Behind him by a few steps, a scarred giantwoman in battered leather and homespun. The pair found a clear corner not far from the town square to settle, where the giantwoman slouched against a wall while the young bard made a show of tuning his instrument.
Once he felt he'd attracted enough attention, the freckled youth opened up with an old folk favorite that soon had some passers-by nodding. The friendly, festive air of the songs that followed soothed tensions and brought smiles to faces.
A block away, a swarthy half-elf in dark leather hummed an altogether different tune quietly to himself. His watchful amber gaze flickered between the singer's little crowd and a trio of lanky street artists hurriedly painting a rough mural on the shaded side of a nearby shop.
Several outlines took shape under their quick hands: central, a standing, sharp-eared woman in cool greens, blues and purples, her shoulders hunched and her weeping face buried in her hands, while around and behind her, splashes of greys and blacks depicted sinister, looming forms, with sketchy streaks of white for cloaks. Each bore a stylized crown drawn in dull yellow-brown on the forehead above feral golden eyes.
A frantic tug on his coat caused the half-elf to glance down. The round-faced urchin fidgeting beside him stabbed a finger behind, where a small group of hostile townsfolk appeared to be muttering to each other and casting dirty looks his way.
He tossed the kid a few coins and whistled softly to his crew of painters. One acknowledged the quick flick of his fingers with a nod. The second snatched up their depleted sack of supplies while the third slashed out the finishing touches of scrawled crimson text that slanted across the bottom of the still-wet mural: "Our Sister, Our Mother, Us"
As the youths scattered into the shadows and alleys, the half-elven man eyed the approaching group of surly humans and ambled away, keeping his distance but remaining in sight to keep their focus on him and not the graffiti, nor the singer he meandered away from. "Az is going to have my head if they catch me," he chuckled to himself.
Behind him, an echo of his hummed tune lifted above the crowd on plucked strings, accompanied by a sweet young voice:
- "Jori's eyes are crystal blue
- And mine are muddy brown..."