Petty Gossip is the great know-it-all of the world. It gathers to itself tongues and eyes and all manner of discontent.
Via and Gerry’s shows took up space in the central square on Creek Street. These shows slowed traffic, and were performed without permission. It’s dangerous for kids to be in the street at a high traffic time. Twice already this week they had closed off three-quarters of the street so that the little mob of kids they rounded up could watch. They are no-good performance urchins. One has an older brother; he’s good for his strength—today helping Leon unload the fresh timber. And think of Leon! Leon’s cart will be delayed. The poor merchant hates suffering through traffic. Those kids really ought to find somewhere else for their shows… So the murmurs ran.
Indeed, Leon had hired Ozzy to help him unload the cart of timber logs. They would have to unload the cart, lift it over the road-stones and fill it up with linens and jams to take back to the city. Despite the stuffy nose, he could smell the sloshing refuse beneath the wheels of his cart.
A minor headache roamed the crevices of his mind.
While he sat atop the cart on Creek Street, his apprentice, Rath, made small talk with others and went to watch some type of puppet show for a few minutes. Leon just sat, brooding, and wondered how long they would have to wait. A mosquito landed on his left hand. He swatted at it. He sighed.
“Cap-i-tain!” his apprentice said.
“What?” Leon huffed.
“Turns out the young fella doing the puppet show up yonder is Ozzy’s younger brother.”
Leon started to think about how much he was paying Ozzy for his services, how he had a headache, and was in his least favorite town, how the air smelt bad, how the day was going even more slowly than usual. He took up talking with Henrietta Chib. An incessant gossiper, she only aggravated his frustrations. In the face of knowing the relationship between Ozzy and his present inconvenience his goodly spirit gave out altogether. The shoddily constructed edifice known as “Leon’s Patience” crashed to the ground, and fractured the very foundations of Leon’s justice. He determined that it was all Ozzy’s fault: this delay, this headache, this town, this faint smell in his clogged nose. When it came time to pay Ozzy for his services, he would give him three-quarters of what they had previously agreed—a fitting penalty for causing such a wretched day.
As their show ended, Via noticed that David Lamb was watching. Seeing such a well-known musician made Via freeze with bright-eyed surprise. For a brief moment she forgot that she was supposed to be bowing and thanking everyone for coming to the show. She thanked one of the children for his donation of a few coppers as her mind swam. She wondered if David liked the show. She thought she didn’t do half bad playing music during the show. Gerard threw his voice a few times. The children had laughed, at least.
Gerard started putting away their costumes and props behind the box stage. They set up the stage at the highest elevation on Creek Street—where the road waste was thinnest. Via came around to the back side of the stage excitedly. “Gerry! David Lamb was in the audience!”
“Really? That is amazing. Did he stay?”
“I don’t think so. I didn’t see him a second ago. Do you think the show went well? Do you think he liked it?”
“Maybe. We’re not very good—well, at least not yet. I wish we had practiced more!”
“So do I, we have to have a really good idea for next time, just in case he is there again,” Via said.
At that, David came around the stage. They both took half a step back and froze in awe.
“Good work, Thespians! Keep it up. How many shows have you performed before this one?”
“Two,” Gerry said, barely able to form thoughts.
“Wow, I’d wager they were as good as this one too! I liked the way you paired music with each character. The bandit was definitely the funniest, and I appreciated the troll who hoarded make-up bottles.”
“Thank you,” Gerry said.
“Do you have advice for us?” Via asked eagerly.
“Yes. Practice. Don’t view your work as a task to be accomplished. If this is a part of who you want to be, be it on a daily basis. Let it become your way of life. Keep pushing your skill forward.”
“I can’t even go to school or get a tutor. Do you actually think we have talent?” Gerry asked.
David paused a moment and thought. “Seriously, I think you can do it. I’m not much of a cheerleader. So let me tell you, it will require perseverance, and we will have to get you educated. Otherwise, you will never be able to join the guild. Besides,” David grinned, “all experts start out as novices.”
“We could never join the guild!” Via said. “We don’t know anything about the city. Why do you think we want to join the guild?”
“That’s what you want, isn’t it?”
“Yes!” said Gerry compulsively. Via looked hesitant. She looked toward Gerry and her nervous smile faded.
David noticed that something was holding Via back.
“Let’s have a quick test. Do either of you know who is on the Council of Divination?”
A pause. They shook their heads ‘no.’
“How about the three types of prophecy? Or, do you know the names of any famous bards?”
“Oh yes!” They both called.
“Via’s brother, Antegenor, is an official bard.”
“I’ve heard Martialis twice! He’s my favorite,” Via said.
“Aamu Kahvilla writes plays,” Gerry said.
“Okay, okay. So you know of a lot of us. But did you know Antegenor can create illusions, or that Martialis can toy with people’s love and laughter, or that Aamu can make people feel a cold breeze or summer sunshine at will?”
“Antegenor make illusions? My brother? Yeah right!” Via said. “He’d be terribly irresponsible with any power.”
“Unfortunately, you’re right.” David said a little too quickly.
“What do you mean?” Via asked.
“Nevermind, nevermind.” David half-laughed. “As you progress as a bard your ability manifests itself. But you two won’t progress anywhere without more education about the wider world. When you know enough, you can join the guild. More thoughtful and talented people would be great to have. I’ll let you be on your way now. We’ve stood in the street long enough. Look, that cart driver is red in the face. Pack up and get out of here.”
“Thanks for your advice. That’s my brother working with him,” Gerry said.
“See you soon!” Via said.
“Maybe, but likely not,” David said. “I must go to the city where a lot is going on… A city is made of many moving parts and some of them create delicious little cheesecakes.”
With that David strutted off. They looked at each other.
“How am I going to get an education?” Gerry said. “You already have a tutor so you don’t have to worry. I’ll be stuck here. I don’t have time for school.”
“Don’t worry. We can figure that out.” But secretly Via didn’t know if they could. Her own education was lacking in many ways, she knew. Her tutor wasn’t that good. Suddenly, she was worried.
“Did you notice something bothering him?”
“I noticed his beard.”
“Who wouldn’t! It’s so thick.”
“Maybe there is a lot of work in the city?” Gerry said.
“Or maybe there is trouble.”
They pulled their stage down the sidewalk and carried their little bag of props. Creek Street was flowing with people and carts and the eternal sludge which slowly oozes.
As they trotted along, people behind them became frustrated at their stage taking up the sidewalk. No one could walk around without stepping into the street. One blue-shawled lady with a large black hat walked behind them exaggerating her pain at their sluggishness. She was about to say something when a large and grim figure gently nudged her aside and grabbed the stage.
“Gerry,” he said, as he lifted the stage off the ground and over his head.
“Hi, Ozzy!” Via said.
“I’ve got to work late tonight. I’ll see you at Kilt’s.”
“Wait, why?” asked Gerard. “Didn’t have a good job for the day with that timber driver?”
“He didn’t pay like he promised,” Ozzy said.
“You should have said something!” Via scolded. Gerard was fuming, but didn’t see any point saying so. Ozzy was not about to confront the cart driver.
“Meet at Kilt’s Quilts late.” And Ozymandias was off to the risk district to find more work.
That evening a small preach arrived from the south.