by Marie Brennan
I first heard her fiddling on a corner at Taranabh Fair. There were plenty of
buskers around; it was odd that she caught my ear so clearly. I stopped in front of
a booth selling woven amulets and looked around, trying to spot the source of the
She'd perched herself on the edge of a well, legs crossed, fiddle tucked under her
chin. The music she was playing was unusual; that's what drew my attention. I
cocked my head to listen. It sounded for the life of me like a court waltz.
It was a court waltz. A simplified one, true, but the five-beat pattern was
unmistakable. I snorted. Busking Taranabh Fair with music like that? Not
exactly brilliant of her.
I drifted closer, still listening. The crowds passed by her without stopping.
Technically she was very good; I'm enough of a musician to recognize skill when
I hear it. Somewhere, some time, she had gotten training. She wouldn't last a
season out here, though. Not playing music like that.
She wrapped the waltz up with an intricate flourish that was wasted on the
passers-by. By then I was standing just a pace or two away, arms crossed over my
chest, watching her.
She glanced up at me. I watched her expression closely; it's useful to monitor
how people react to finding a gypsy man hanging around.
Her gaze didn't linger on me long, although I did notice a momentary widening of
the eyes when she took in my appearance. I get that a lot. Nytere says I'm more
creative about how I dye my hair than any three other Ieros, and about every third
attempt succeeds at being something other than ugly. It took me a moment to
remember what my hair looked like today. Mostly it was its natural blonde, but
I'd tipped it with dark green. Not one of my best efforts.
The busker was rolling her head around to release neck tension. I stepped closer.
"You taking requests?"