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Thread: [M] Anima Mundi IC (Namingtoohard and Headwrapper)

  1. #421
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    Sarah marched dutifully back towards the inn after parting with Shaun. The woven basket she held in front of her bounced silently against her knees as she walked, and her pair of brunette pigtails swayed to the same cadence. It was clear to anyone watching her that she was focused, her duties ahead of any menial distraction. She had even bothered to stop and look at her own reflection, she would see how out of place she looked in this upscale of a town. Her garb consisted of a simple dress the color of bark and a white hood that hung loosely behind her shoulders. Add that to the serious expression she held on her oval-shaped face, her cheeks hiding behind the freckles that peppered them, and he looked more like someone who served the wealthy of this town as a maid rather than a performer.

    Upon entering the inn, her expression did soften a bit as she searched for her peers that she promised to help. One of them had quickly spotted her, and soon a small group of girls gathered together to form a small pack. Quickly, the requests came pouring in.

    "Can you please fix my hair like you did last time, Sarah?"

    "Do you know what happened to the pink dress?"

    "Can you replace the string on my mandolin? I'm having so much trouble with it."

    Sarah eventually managed to scale the mountain of requests and round up the small group. "Let's get back to the room and I can help everyone get ready, yeah?" She allowed a small smile to creep passed her lips when one of the girls gave her a quick hug, and she ushered the group along up the stairs. The group seemed to slow down near the top of the steps as they squeezed passed someone, and as Sarah approached she recognized the person as the girl that was traveling with Mec. She could not remember her name, for some reason, but she was quick to associate her with her connection to the dark haired boy that Clair insisted on talking to alone after her bout of illness not so long ago.

    The pair of newcomers were certainly mysterious, Sarah thought. They seemed pleasant, and Clair seemed to trust them greatly, so of course Sarah respected them. However, while most of the others were content with the explanation that they were merely travelers on personal journeys, Sarah could not help but think there was much more to it all. She considered that Clair may have taken a fancy to Mec, but even if she had, she would have entertained such desires in Convittas and left him behind as but a memory. Besides, that would not explain him bringing his partner with him. Were they actually an item? How did they befriend Clair so quickly during their short time in Convittas?

    To her surprise, the girl asked for Sarah explicitly. "O-oh, did she?" she asked. "Does she need my help with something?"

    The kings all hate the ace.

  2. #422
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    It wasn’t long before Shallan got the answer she wanted. Sarah’s timely response left no room for doubt, and Shallan quickly found herself standing face-to-face with the woman that would become her singing instructor…if everything went the way Clair intended, at least. At the same time, Shallan became aware that the entire group had stopped for her. She could feel their eyes on her – not necessarily judgemental, but definitely curious. It was a sensation she would have to get used to, she knew, but in that moment, Shallan couldn’t help but feel bad for holding all of them up. She had intended on rushing straight ahead with her request, but in the spur of the moment, Shallan decided to switch tactics.

    “Sort of. It’s more of a special request” Shallan offered lamely, before throwing a not-so-subtle glance around at the rest of the group. “Ah…you girls have to get ready for tonight, right? I don’t mean to hold you all up. Let me lend you a hand. Sarah and I can talk while we work.”

    Deal struck, Shallan would tag along with the rest of the group as they finished their short walk towards the rooms. Once they were all safely enclosed inside, the controlled chaos that was stage preparation began in earnest. Given her own self-confessed lack of knowledge concerning instruments, and where the Misfits kept their costumes, Shallan quickly busied herself helping with makeup and hair instead. It wasn’t long before she was perched in a chair of her own, makeup supplies laid out nearby, and the requests began to come in. Shallan found herself consumed by her work, and was only able to listen with half an ear as the other girls badgered Sarah for her help, drawing on her expertise.

    Poor girl. How does she manage all this herself, without any help?

    Despite Shallan’s concern, however, Sarah was able to keep her head above water. She’d send one girl off to get dressed, and use the free time to help another replace a broken string, multitasking with an efficiency that was almost frightening. She even found the time to cast an eye over Shallan’s work and offer a few simple pointers, between other requests. Not wanting to interrupt, or add more to Sarah’s workload, Shallan would bite her tongue and focus on what she was doing, content to wait until later to ask about lessons. After spending all this time watching her work, Shallan got the distinct feeling that the rest of the group would have fallen apart without her, and found herself harbouring a growing respect for the otherwise unassuming organiser.

    When the performers finally drew close to readiness, and the flow of requests seemed to subside a little, Shallan finally found her opportunity. She was leaning over Tanya, carefully applying some eyeliner, when Sarah wandered over to get a closer look. She lingered for a moment, and – taking that as a sign that she had a moment to spare – finally posed her question, without looking up from what she was doing. She’d had plenty of time to mull over what she wanted to say by now, so the words came quickly and easily.

    “Um, Sarah? So, the reason that Clair sent me to find you was to ask if you’d be able to give me singing lessons. She heard me practicing earlier, and thought that I might be able to perform the Moonwalker’s ballad, with a little bit of training.”

    “What? Shallan, I knew you were good, but the Moonwalker’s Ballad? Really?”

    Whilst not really a part of their conversation, Tanya couldn’t help but overhear. She straightened up a little at the unexpected mention, eyes going wide. Her excitement was almost palpable, but it was enough to make Shallan’s hand slip. A scowl flickered across her features, at stark odds with her friend’s excitement, and she was quick to offer a rebuke.

    “Hold still!”

    Thankfully, Tanya got the message, and was quick to settle back into her seat. Shallan busied herself fixing the small blemish the unexpected disturbance had caused, whilst she waited to hear what Sarah would have to say on the matter. Given how busy the girl seemed, she almost expected her to refuse, if only because of a sheer lack of time.

  3. #423
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    Sarah raised a dark eyebrow in response to Shallan's request, thinking it over while she watched the girl work. If Clair herself had requested some focus on developing this girl's talents, Sarah would not really have much desire to refuse. The Moonwalker's Ballad was a challenging piece, one that the troupe did not even bother with after the passing of the late lady Teresa since no one believed they could do it justice. Did Clair really intend to resurrect that challenge, and did she really intend to do it through this girl?

    She chuckled after watching Tanya's face, now tensed in response to Shallan's demands. "Well, I guess if Clair sees it as something worth doing, then I'm willing to help. Especially if you are able to help me with the other needs of the troupe. There's a lot I have to do on a daily basis, and a backlog of other things too. If you agree to help me with those things, then I think I can make some time to help with some lessons."

    Once she made her peace, she had another thought regarding Clair's intentions. She waved it aside, thinking it be best that she talk with troupe's leader herself when given the opportunity. As she had been thinking earlier, Clair's intentions for these sudden newcomers to the troupe were only known to her, but those intentions would surely have the troupe's best interests at the forefront. To that end, Sarah would be happy to contribute to executing any of Clair's visions.

    "All of that being said," Sarah finally came to add, "If Clair is able to secure all of the performances she had been intending to for us, we are likely to be very busy during out stay in this town. I can't promise that we will be able to get straight into your practicing right away. All the rich folk around here love them some good entertainment, and we should be focusing on filling up our pockets as much as we can while we're here."

    The girl glanced around at some of the bottles of make up left around them, quickly gathering them together while keeping the empty bottles separate from the ones that were still mostly full. "Goodness Tanya, you soaked up all of the eyeliner. Do I need to start mixing up an extra bottle just for you from now on?"

    The kings all hate the ace.

  4. #424
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    It didn’t take long for Shallan to make her decision. Improving her singing enough to perform on stage might have been the ultimate goal, but learning more about the oft-unseen work that went on backstage struck her as a good idea in and of itself. Even beyond that, lending a hand behind the scenes sounded much more fulfilling than the odd jobs she had been doing to help out the Misfits thus far. If nothing else, it was a way to make sure she was giving back to the friends that were helping escort them across the country. Without looking up from her work, Shallan was quick to nod her agreement.

    “So the harder I work, the more likely we’ll be to find time to practice? Hard to argue with an arrangement like that” Shallan answered, a small smile flickering across her features. It was quick to fade, though, as she focused on her brushwork once more. “I don’t mind waiting until we’re on the road again, if we have to. There’s no way I’d be ready to perform before we leave town regardless. Just consider all of my work until then a down payment of sorts, if you want.”

    Shallan would do her best to focus, after that, whilst trying to put the finishing touches on Tanya’s makeup. It quickly became clear, however, that Tanya had no intentions of letting that little rib go by unanswered.

    “Hey, don’t blame me. I’m just the canvas. Speak to the artist” she huffed, pouting a little.

    “The artist wouldn’t have needed to use so much if you’d just hold still.”

    Shallan continued to work in silence for a moment, before finally straightening up a little. Holding her brush in one hand, she’d perch the end against her lips idly, whilst casting a critical eye over her own work. It was…passable. Shallan could spot the small mistake she had made when Tanya moved, but it was only small, and she knew what to look for. Nobody in the crowd was like to notice, especially not from a distance. Finally, she’d relent.

    “Alright, you’re done” Shallan answered, finally. She’d pluck a hand mirror from the rest of her supplies, and offer it to Tanya. Her friend gave herself a quick once-over, before nodding her approval. She’d rise to her feet, and reach out to give Shallan’s free hand a quick squeeze.

    “Thanks. Will I see you later? I’d love for you to come and watch, if you get a chance.”

    “If I get a chance.”

    The two exchanged smiles, before Tanya finally moved off, setting out to join the other dancers. Shallan would watch her go, a content sigh slipping from her lips. After a moment, she’d glance back across at Sarah again.

    “Do you need help with anything else?”

  5. #425
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    "Well, there are still a few things," Sarah replied.

    ~~~~~~


    As promised, the following days bore many opportunities for Shallan to learn from Sarah, and offer her support and assistance to the various members of the Misfits. In addition to helping performers with their various outfits, Sarah was sure to carefully explain how the various forms of makeup the troupe used was mixed and the shelf lives of the various formulations. Then there was hair and even caring for the wigs, which often needed some touching up between trips. Even the process of fabricating and eventually decorating some of the props that would be used for plays was carefully explained and demonstrated to Shallan. Sarah had proven herself to be a precise and diligent tutor, perhaps because the task was assigned to her by Clair.

    The final day of the Misfits' performances in Loefenshire arrived, the time having passed by without hesitation, like a fallen leaf traveling down a rapid river. Even for Mec, the end of the troupe's stay seemed to arrive faster than it had came. Much of his time was spent assisting with some of the troupe's chores, loading and unloading their various belongings, feeding and tending to the donkey, among other things. For him, there was still plenty of free time, which Mec had taken full advantage of. His traveling companion had been busy rather often, after adopting a more directly involved role to support the troupe, so Mec spent some time socializing with others in the troupe or secluding himself to continue his training... of sorts. A few hours a day were spent in the Loefenshire library, studying the many books that inhabited its shelves.

    In the beginning of his studies, Mec intended to learn more about the town's history, in hopes of finding some connection as to why the white lanterns in the inn resided there. As was no surprise, any sort of detailed account of the events, rather, the "horrors", associated with mages and their past reign, was nearly impossible to come by. Despite this setback, Mec still found himself absorbed in what he did manage to learn. The town's major families had deep roots connected to the surrounding land, with ancestors thriving there since even before the present kingdom was founded. The people of these lands were so self sufficient, in fact, that when the current kingdom was formed and sought unify these people with their own, they had failed to succeed initially. It required years of political courtship, royal marriages, even some catastrophe caused by unprecedented natural disasters in the area, to finally secure the lands of Loefenshire underneath the kingdom's thumb.

    Mec spent a lot of time reflecting about such historical lessons, the methods used to unify men and the kinds of people needed to do so. He recalled G, the mysterious voice in his head, often mentioning that he hoped to bring all of those that benefitted from the Anima "together". What that meant was still a mystery, but Mec wondered how that mission was supposed to be carried out, and if he would someday be forced to have a part in it. In fact, he had wondered a lot about G, who seemed to have all but eliminated contact for the time being. Some days, Mec wondered if that voice was even real, almost forgetting how it felt to hear another's voice inside of his own head. Even so, he never quite abandoned the reality of G's existence, a fact that could largely be attributed to the near constant reminder of Mec's unique ability: the Equinox.

    It was not until the mage was using the ability for days and days on end that Mec began to realize how it began to tax him physically and mentally. It was far from a danger, things had not gone quite so far yet, but for him, the changes in how his body functioned were unmistakable. He was often famished, eating much more than he had been before to satiate his stimulated appetite. The same could be said for his thirst. He would often find his lips growing dry even without performing much in regards to physical labor. Another, and maybe the most noticeable, was his increasing need to sleep. Mornings became a dread, and drowsiness quickly followed the moments just after each day's sunset. On nights that Mec and Shallan had spent the time chatting, whether in their beds at the inn or somewhere else that was a bit too peaceful, their conversations were eventually cut short by Mec suddenly dozing off. He tried to explain away the phenomenon as a byproduct of his training, in addition to the exertion caused by traveling and helping with some laborious tasks, but he was not sure if his partner fully trusted such excuses.

    Despite these inconveniences, Mec did not even flirt with the idea of stopping his use of the Equinox. It had been on constant use ever since Clair's second bout with her curse. Mec did not want to risk the chance of allowing his use of the Equinox to slip and putting Clair's life at the mercy of the evil magic that had influenced her body. Besides, the use of the Equinox did not require much thought, to the point that the ability was still active while he slept. Even the physical toll was not so bad, if it had not been for the extended length of time Mec had been using it.

    Mec closed the book he had been copying notes from and silently walked to return it to the shelf he had pulled it from. He had enough reading for the day, and besides, his thoughts were elsewhere. It was the troupe's last day of performances after all, and then it would be back on the road tomorrow. The final performance was going to be a major play in the town's square. All of the troupe's most talented performers would be taking starring rolls, including Clair, Ella, and Godrich. They were likely preparing right then, and if the last few days were indicative of anything, it was likely that Sarah and Shallan would be helping them do so.

    After gathering his things, Mec made a point to offer his courteous thanks to the librarian before pushing passed the dark, solid, double doors of the library and carefully descending the stone steps to the road below. As he walked back towards the center of town, he had an idea, causing his steps to slow as it weighed down on him. He managed to gather himself some extra coins here and there while helping some of the performers- it was customary within the Misfits to extend earnings to other members who contributed to performances in any way- and wondered if he could not find a suitable gift for Shallan to spend said coins on. After all of the work she had been helping Sarah with during almost the entire stay in Loefenshire, it would be the perfect time for such a reward.

    Having made his decision, Mec hurried off then, in hopes to complete his new errand quickly enough to find Shallan before the day's performance had started.

    The kings all hate the ace.

  6. #426
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    In the days that followed the creation of their new arrangement, Shallan quickly discovered that hew new mentor was as good as her word, and every bit as busy as suggested. Clair, true to form, managed to arrange several more performances for the Misfits’ various members, and Sarah was quickly called upon to make them happen. She, and by extension her new ‘apprentice’, were both kept so busy that free time started to become a distant memory. A concept that they had heard of, but never seemed to experience themselves. Most days they scarcely had time to eat, let alone practice Shallan’s singing.

    Under Sarah’s watchful eye, Shallan mixed and applied new batches of makeup. She cut and styled hair into a wide variety of styles. She cleaned and restrung instruments. She painted stage props and backgrounds. She altered costumes for the established performers, and occasionally helped them dress. Shallan even helped them recite lines, on occasion, and did her best to soothe any fears or concerns they might have had. Whilst the work wasn’t physically taxing, it required a great deal of mental focus. Even so, Shallan didn’t mind. Even if she wasn’t practicing her singing, she was still learning valuable tradecraft. Things that her mother, had, for all her experience and wisdom, never truly prepared her for. And after a long day, when she got to watch someone she had helped step out onto the stage, the sense of satisfaction was overpowering. That alone was more than enough to justify it all.

    The one real downside was how little time she seemed to be spending with Mec anymore. The two of them only ever seemed to see each other late at night, when they just so happened to finish their respective tasks at roughly the same time. Even then, conversations were cut short whenever he inevitably drifted off to sleep. Shallan didn’t mind. It was cute, in a way, and perhaps a touch endearing. She could empathise with his exhaustion, at least a little, and often told herself that she would probably benefit from trying to sleep a little bit earlier too. Besides, now that she was working with so many of the performers on such a consistent basis, it wasn’t as if she ever lacked for company.

    It wasn’t long before Shallan’s diligence began to show returns. The more capable she proved herself, the more work Sarah seemed willing to trust her with. Her mentor became more and more content to just give her a task and trust it would be completed, without feeling the need to hover nearby and supervise. She still double-checked Shallan’s work, on occasion, but both women seemed pleased by the way things were progressing. Shallan hoped that this was a precursor, and they’d experience a similar sort of success whenever they finally got around to her singing lessons.

    Perhaps just as important was Shallan’s budding friendship with several of the Misfits’ existing performers. The more time she spent working with them, the more she spoke and laughed with them, the less she began to see them as performers, and more as regular people. Shallan witnessed first-hand the sort of nerves that a lot of the newer performers possessed, and did what she could to encourage them. She watched as they stepped out onto the stage, and saw the way their nerves seemed to bleed away as soon as the music started. She asked the more experienced ones for advice, and admired the fearless self-confidence that a lot of them seemed to exhibit. The unshakable belief they held that this was what they were meant to do, and they would get it right.

    And at some point, Shallan couldn’t help but start to wonder. If they could all do it, why couldn’t she?

    Just as all good things must come to an end, so too did the final day of their performances in Loefenshire eventually arrive. It began like most of the others – with an early start, a quick meal, and then a quick fall into a now very familiar routine. The only real difference was the number of people involved. Given the sheer size of today’s performance, it was all hands on deck for any and all Misfits that were involved in preparing for their shows. Predictably, Sarah and Shallan both found themselves in the middle of it all. The performers and their requests flowed in thick and fast. So much so that it would have been overwhelming, if it were just the two of them. Thankfully, a handful of other members who had the days off had swung by to lend a hand. Even so, the room was a flurry of activity as they tried to make sure everything was ready in time. Clair even put in an appearance, and did what she could to help.

    Eventually, they were done. Shallan finished one request, moved to start the next, and was shocked to find that there was nothing more to do. They were done. It felt…wrong, somehow, to not be working, but Sarah assured her that their roles in today’s performance had ended. There was nothing left except the clean-up, and that would come later. All that was left was to watch the show, and then join the celebrations.

    Unsurprisingly, Shallan decided that she’d go and watch the performance. Despite the flurry of work and shows that had made up the last couple of days, the euphoria still hadn’t quite worn off. She bid Sarah farewell and slipped out of the room, with every intention of heading straight towards the centre of town - the site of their final performance. She stopped only briefly, so that she might grab a bite to eat, before continuing on her way. She joined the flow of people, and it wasn’t long before she reached her destination. There was still a bit of time before the show started, but a sizable crowd had already started to gather, and Shallan quickly joined the throng of people jostling for positions before the makeshift stage.

    Shallan knew that she probably would have been welcomed backstage, if she had tried to find a place for herself there. Even so, she remained on the outside, with the rest of the crowd. Watching from the sides of the stage felt less authentic to her, somehow, and it lacked the atmosphere, the sense of anticipation, that only a live audience could provide. No, this was definitely where she was meant to be.

  7. #427
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    "I need to hurry," Mec mumbled as he darted through the street, zipping from shop to shop. He would only stop briefly to glance through a window or look over an outdoor stall before deciding whether or not he would stay and shop or move on and search for merchandise elsewhere. The mission was simple: find a suitable gift for Shallan. What that gift would be was something that was yet to be decided.

    Eventually, the wares of one of the street vendors did manage to catch his eye. The stall was well built, made of thick and sturdy wood of a dark color. The wood appeared treated in some way. There was a uniform sheen coated across every inch of the near-perfect planks that were used to build the stall, and not a single splinter dared to reveal itself from even the cut ends of each board. The merchandise on display quickly revealed why a street vendor would dedicate so much effort into having such a well built table built to use as a stall.

    Narrow boxes, crafted just as carefully as the stall itself, were arranged neatly in rows that crossed the wide expanse of the table. Each face of the wooden boxes was dark and smooth, sanded to perfection, save for the tops which were made of a crystal clear glass. Every single contained was angled slightly to make the contents of the boxes, observable through the glass, more visible to passersby. Mec eyed the merchandise from afar at first, before slowly inching closer for a better view. Each display box contained a shining piece of jewelry, the metals and gems shimmering in the light. The vendor was dressed in lurid purple clothing, and each of his own fingers was adorned with rings housing gems of various colors.

    Seeing the vendor was preoccupied with a patron, Mec slowly approached the stall to get a better look at the wares. It was only once he was near did he realize that behind the merchant, a brightly colored bird stood on a manmade perch. It tilted its head, seeming to stare straight at Mec as he perused the merchandise. The cold stare that peered over the curved beak was more than a little distracting. In fact, it reminded Mec of the stares of Olenna's owl, but he ignored it as he looked from display to display.

    Such elaborate and painstakingly crafted wears would exceed Mec's budget- even if he chose to spend all of the money he had earned and saved. Most of the jewelry was rather garish and gaudy, a characteristic that was rather unappealing given Mec and Shallan's traveling situation, and was likely to fall outside the range of Shallan's tastes besides. As Mec rounded to the side of the stall, the eyes of the strange red and green bird following him all the while, and managed to find some smaller and less lurid items. After a few minutes of careful inspection, Mec decided that one of the necklaces, a simple silver chain that carried a round white pearl the size of a pea, was a nice but hopefully fiscally responsible choice of gift. Unlike the gaudier merchandise, the cases containing these items were labeled with their respective prices, and upon reading them Mec's jaw just about unhinged.

    "Can't pay, no stay!" squawked the bird, immediately recognizing what Mec's expression meant. "Can't pay, no stay!" it repeated, swaying from side to side, its perch wobbling with it. After a few seconds, the vendor turned to see what caused the commotion, and stepped forward to face Mec.

    "Excuse me young man, but you are in the way of potential customers who can actually afford my wares," the man said flatly. "And you're upsetting my parrot."

    Mec felt an angry heat rise in his face, but he did his best to control his tone. "I can afford them... But I think you are charging far too much for these smaller chains and rings here. Maybe they are meant to be in a different display?"

    The vendor sighed impatiently. "I do not haggle, sir. Please take your business elsewhere."

    "That pearl, off of what shores was it found? I would only pay the listed price had they come from the Vermillion Shores of the far East." Mec gripped his notebook tightly, his knuckles turning white as he forced back the anger of being rejected. Rational thought melted away to the raw desire to win, to rebel against the sentence that befell him at the hands of the crimson parrot and its velvet owner.

    "A pearl is a pearl. Its shape, color, and size are what are considered for the price. Origin is of little relevance, I'm afraid, unless Louvenshire happens to be plentiful in pearls. Now, if you w-"

    "This necklace here, at your price," Mec interrupted. His mind battled with the idea of using Midir's techniques to try convincing the man to sell at a lower price, but in the end, it did not feel right. Had the item in question been a necessity, then he would have thought more about it, but since it was not it was easy to put the decision to bed. His mind was made up, and even if it was nearly his entire purse, he felt that he needed to fulfill his wish.

    Mec walked away from the stall, his pouch nearly empty of money but now housing the delicate little trinket. "Stupid merchant, stupid bird," he mumbled as he walked along, but his temper quickly subsided at the thought of being able to present this gift to Shallan. He hoped she would receive it well. What was he even expecting from giving her the gift? It was hard to say- the decision was rather spontaneous altogether- but as long Shallan liked the gift Mec knew he would be satisfied. How would he present it? Should he wait until after the show, once everything is all packed and cleaned up? Maybe tomorrow, or even some time even later once the busyness of packing up and departing was complete?

    The throng of show patrons came into view before Mec could make any real decisions. He was unsure if Shallan would be amongst the crowd or somewhere backstage, or if she may have been assisting with some final preparations. That uncertainty could easily be addressed, however, with a little bit of focus and the ability to sense the shifts in the Anima. While most of the human influence on the Anima was difficult to discern, Mec had grown quite accustomed to Shallan's particular sensation, and was able to sense her location within the crowd. With a purposeful stride, Mec weaved his away amongst the patrons until he finally found his friend, playfully pressing into her side. "Hello," he said with a grin. "I was not expecting to find you here, on the same side of the curtains as the rest of us."

    The kings all hate the ace.

  8. #428
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    It wasn’t long before Shallan managed to lose herself in the crowd.

    Not in the physical sense, of course. It’d only take her a few minutes and some light jostling to make it back to the outer edges of the gathering, if she needed to. She knew exactly how to get back to their inn, or where she might find some of the other Misfits, if necessary. No, no. Shallan had lost herself in a rather different manner altogether.

    There was something special about being surrounded by other theater fans. They were kindred spirits, all of them. By tolerating her presence here, as another member of the crowd, each one was offering her a silent sort of kinship. It wasn’t friendship, exactly, but…acceptance. None of them knew that she had worked behind the scenes on the production they were about to witness, and so she could listen in on them freely, and delight in their anticipation. Their excitement was infectious. It filled the air – a subtle undercurrent that Shallan could sense or feel, even if she couldn’t see it. Was this how Mec felt, when he touched the Anima? She imagined it was. The closest an ordinary human would ever get, at the very least. It wasn’t long before she was just as excited and impatient as the rest of them, despite her insider knowledge, and the fact she knew everything that was about to take place.

    Her quiet musings were interrupted by Mec’s unexpected arrival. Shallan didn’t notice his approach until he was right next to her. To her eyes, he almost seemed to appear out of thin air, as if her very thoughts had summoned him forth. Were it not for the crowd, she likely would have accused him of sneaking up on her using…well, magic. How had he managed to find her, amongst all these people? Coincidence, or something else entirely? Either way, his company was an unexpected blessing that widened her smile even further.

    “Oh! Well, hello to you too, stranger.’ Shallan’s words were playful, spoken with an air of laughter and good cheer. “Truth be told, I wasn’t expecting to see you here at all. How lucky the both of us are, to find each other like this.” She stayed close, and leaned into his side eagerly, so that they might converse easily without their words getting lost in the crowd.

    “The others were probably expecting me to join them backstage, but I’ve gotten tired of watching all our shows from the sidelines. There’s something more…authentic about being out here, with everyone else. Viewing the show as its supposed to be seen.” Shallan looked about their surroundings for a moment, surveying the crowd with readily-apparent fondness, before glancing up to meet Mec’s eye good and proper. She’d even go so far as to bump him with her hip slightly, for good measure. Yes, she was clearly in a very good mood indeed. “What about you? Are you here to catch the show, or are you simply waiting for the after-party to start?”

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