The Ruby Nightingale Sings

Old Rose Harbor is Anaxas' main trade port; it is also the nation's criminal headquarters, home to the Bad Brothers and Silas Hawke, King of the Underworld.
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Cosima Lucinda Babineaux
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Mon Jul 15, 2019 10:40 am

The Black Dove Tavern Old Rose Harbor
on the 15th of Intas Early Evening
It was Lucy's second week in Old Rose Harbor and she was already tired of the town. She had managed to land a job at one of the taverns, but it wasn't the sort of tavern that had respectable clientele. She had found it difficult to get into the more… not even upscale, but the medium-scale taverns and had been forced to take the job at the Black Dove as her small savings slowly trickled down the drain of everyday expenses.

The newcomer to Old Rose sat in what passed for the "dressing room" in the ramshackle old tavern, ignoring the old man who stunk of booze and was snoring away in the corner of the room. She closed the door behind her, putting a spare chair against it to keep out any peeping Toms. Luckily, she had been doing this for years, so she didn't need to rely on the blurry image in the old battered piece of copper that passed as a "mirror" to do her makeup or to fix her hair. She quickly pulled her hair back into a loose chignon, making sure to let some tendrils "accidentally" drift over her cheeks in such a way that some people might be tempted to try to push them back gently.

Then she changed into her dress. It was bitterly cold out and she wasn't nearly stupid enough to go out in the dress she would be performing in. She pulled off the layers of clothes she had wrapped herself in, and then examined the dress happily. The Bastian galdor had commissioned it in Vienda and it had turned out much better than expected. It was a beauty made of satin, in a deep emerald meant to complement her fiery hair. She stepped into it and purred as it clung to her body, expertly pushing her assets up as well as any corset could, while not constricting her ability to breathe. The waspish waist lead to a skirt that draped down to drift gently (yet closely) over her curves. Ivory lace spotted with tiny emerald beads adorned the neckline, further drawing attention to what Lucy knew most men were interested in.

Lucy sat back down and took a few deep breaths. As always, she wasn't nervous about her performance. Someone with her talents could only shine. Instead, she reminded herself that, while this place was far beneath her usual standards, it was a stepping stone to better places. She ran mentally through her repertoire, choosing the songs she would sing for the night. She was only granted time to sing four songs, so she had to choose them wisely.

Once the songs were chosen, she made her way to the side of the stage. Her shrewd blue eyes watched the woman performing for a few moments before rolling her eyes. If that was the type of entertainment that this crowd expected, Lucy would blow them away. When the other woman walked off the stage, Lucy gave her a pleasant, but completely fake, smile. "Good job!" she said and, while her voice was encouraging, her eyes flickered with sarcasm for a second. Then she heard her stage name announced. She took one last breath before stepping onto the stage. She gave the crowd her most cheerful smile, though she doubted that anyone except the people directly in front of the stage could see it through the smoke.

The ruby-haired woman opened with "The Ballad of Old Rose" and a few of the drunks started singing along with her cheerful singing. Then she moved on to "You Loved Me in Vienda", which she knew always went over well. Her next song wasn't well-known in Anaxas. But it was one of her favorite Bastian love songs and she couldn't resist singing it. As she sang, her high, sweet voice filled with longing for a man who had left her for another woman, begging Hurte to bring him back to her. She poured so much emotion into her song that it wouldn't be surprising if some of the audience thought that Lucy herself had been abandoned. She finished off with a few rounds "Drinker's Lullaby", riling the crowd up again.

After her set, she bowed gracefully and made her way down to the main floor of the tavern to mingle. She didn't particularly like this part of her job, but it would ensure that more people would come back to her shows. She chatted cheerfully with the clientele, making promises to sing their favorite song next time as they tried to subtly paw at her. She was well-practiced in defending her body from drunkards, though, so the most that any of them got was a feel of her erse. She was also well-experienced in keeping potential pickpockets from grabbing her wallet, which she had tucked in her brassiere. Her purse had been left in the back, but all it contained was her makeup and hairdressing supplies.

The flame-haired Bastian giggled as men offered her drinks, fending them off with platitudes and even more promises. Of course, she wouldn't take them up on their offers then, either, but it was her job to give the audience any reason to come back. She looked for someone who looked even remotely trustworthy as she mingled, though, since she knew she would need to have at least one drink to ensure the clientele thought that she was one of them.

She wasn't one of them, of course, but they didn't have to know that.
Last edited by Cosima Lucinda Babineaux on Mon Aug 12, 2019 10:55 am, edited 1 time in total. word count: 983

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Arion Lux
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Mon Jul 15, 2019 5:51 pm

15th Intas, 2719
Evening - Black Dove Tavern, Old Rose Harbor
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Studying the competition: that was the justification for Arion's presence. It sounded like the kind of shrewd practice that a businessman might engage in. After all, how could one expect to run a successful tavern business, if one wasn't at least passingly familiar with one's rivals, and one's customers' alternatives? Truth be told, however, Arion was struggling to find the right mindset to think of the Black Dove Tavern as "competition".

It had begun with the sign outside, clearly painted by an imbecile who had no concept of what a dove actually was. The taxidermied crow suspended above them in all its decaying glory hardly improved the situation. While the Dove certainly appealed to a similar cross-section of Old Rose society that Arion hoped to attract to the Quill, the surroundings were lacklustre, the very cheapest and most makeshift of what was available. It was a prudent choice, perhaps: after all, cheap to make was cheap to replace. Yet there was something about the place, an air of shabbiness and resignation, as if the tavern itself had hunkered down to weather the inevitable of what this class of people in this quantity in these confines would inevitably lead to. It may have been a sensible mindset, and shrewd approach to this particular business, but it was half-ersed in a way that Arion would not feel comfortable attaching his name to. Fortunately for the Dove, Mr. Spitz did not seem to possess such qualms.

At least Arion could rest assured that he was in no danger of being stabbed or robbed: there were signs, crude pictographs designed to discourage such behaviour, no doubt based on the presumption that anyone likely to cause trouble would be unable to comprehend such discouragement if it had been rendered in words. Because of course, criminals were notoriously discouraged from their illicit activities by the presence of pictures that communicated to them as if they were infants. A few more moments passed, and Arion's eyes and nostrils both confirmed that there were no signs discouraging anyone from urinating on themselves. How very rustic.

Arion's mind had spent much of his time at the Dove in varying states of dismay. That had all changed when the Ruby Nightingale had taken to the stage. Arion had felt it before he saw it, the shift in attitude from most of the men and many of the women, the attentive hush that had swept across the crowd as those first few notes had tumbled from her lips, and then the swell of elation and engagement that had stirred a scattering of voices to accompany hers in song. It was what the place had been lacking: the polish, the sheen, the sparkle of a well-cut emerald that made you forget all about the quality of the setting that held it. Arion watched in respectful admiration as she manipulated the crowd, songs no doubt chosen for precisely this crowd, leading them on a journey from familiar favourite to elegance and class. It was the ballad from Bastia, though, that truly captivated his attention, sung with such feeling and sentiment that it made Arion's heart ache to hear it. The words this Nightingale sang might have been in Estuan, but from the magic her voice seemed to wield, one would be forgiven for thinking it was Monite.

The end of her performance was like the crash downwards from a narcotic high, a sense of withdrawal sweeping across Arion as her dulcet tones gave way to the discordant mutterings and mumbles of a crowd returned to conversation once more. Arion watched from a distance as the Nightingale descended from her perch, flitting among the crowd like she was searching for seeds among the grass. He watched her manage her audience, indulging just enough, pruning advances that tried to sprout in undesired directions. It was more than her voice that earned such interest from the crowd around her, of course, but one had to forgive the animalistic urges of primitive minds that didn't now any better - so society insisted, at least.

"You're declining everyone's drinks."

Arion waited until she passed within earshot before he spoke, not interested in competing with the other patrons for closer proximity: from what he'd seen, he doubted her determination of whether he was worth her time and attention would be any more favourable if they were separated by a few inches rather than a few feet. As her attention shifted in his direction, he offered a slight bow of his head, and a slight salute with his glass.

"That's probably wise. Nothing good ever comes of cultivating the advances of strange men."
word count: 811
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Cosima Lucinda Babineaux
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Sun Jul 28, 2019 4:21 pm

Off Topic
tw for mention of attempted rape, stalking, slut shaming
Black Dove Tavern Old Rose Harbor
on the 15th of Intas, 2719 Evening
Lucy mentally gritted her teeth as yet another hand groped her ass, carefully keeping her anger out of her field as she resisted the urge to pull out the small knife that was hidden in her waistband. Oh, she wanted to show the owner of that hand what she thought of his violation of her body. But that was a surefire way to get fired and she couldn't afford to lose the job right yet. She pulled off the act of someone taking a groping as a compliment perfectly, giggling and brushing the hand away gently. "Perhaps another night, sir," she said with a coquettish smile and a wink before turning away.

Gods, Lucy hated this part of her job. She hated being treated as if she were nothing but a chunk of particularly good-looking meat, and she hated it even more when those salivating for a bite of her were like the low-life scum that made up the clientele of taverns like this sad, rundown wreck of a tavern. To have humans and wicks touching her made her skin crawl, though she had learned how to cover that feeling quickly, ensuring she got good tips and returning clientele.

Sure, she sometimes scrubbed herself nearly raw when she got home, but a girl had to pay the bills, didn't she?

It was time for a drink, just one. Enough to take the edge off so she could finish her round of the tavern. Lucy always timed herself as she walked the crowd, making sure she only stayed on as long as the next two acts, or half an hour if she was the last act of the night. The idea was to tease them, entice them to come back, and make them think they might have the slightest chance of actually spending a night with her. But she didn't want them to think she was their friend.

She shuddered at the idea of being friends with trash like the people in this lovely tavern.

The redhead had yet to keep the unspoken promises made as she did her round after her performances. It generally didn't bite her in the erse, but after one particularly persistent "fan" tried to take her virtue, she had become more careful. She had hardly paid attention to her Physical Conversation classes and had barely been able to fend off the attacker, bashing him against the wall until he lost consciousness. The next morning, she went and got a knife and begged an old friend from the opera house teach her the basics. Her attacker started following her around and when her father told her it was what she deserved for "dressing as a whore", she decided to leave Florne for good. But not before she had ensured that every dress of hers had a pocket for the knife so she could easily access it.

The voluptuous galdor made her way towards the bar. "You're declining everyone's drinks," she heard. She turned slightly towards the speaker, quickly examining him and making stock of him as he saluted her with his glass. Galdori, well-off by his clothing and definitely in the wrong place by those same clothes. Her instincts told her that this man was one that was worth sharing more than a few lines of bland, empty promises with.

The Bastian songstress gave a graceful half-shrug as she turned to face the man. "Perhaps it's more that I have expensive tastes. I doubt that most men here could afford what I prefer," she smiled. "I prefer buying my own drinks anyways. Bad things can happen to people who let strangers," she said as she patted the knife in her waistband unconsciously, remembering the last time she had let an audience member buy her a drink.

She reached up and pushed a strand of hair behind her ear, her attention fully back to Arion. "I can tell that you don't come here often. Slumming it, then?" she asked before waving a hand at the other chair at the table. "May I?"
word count: 742
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Arion Lux
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Tue Aug 13, 2019 3:35 pm

15th Intas, 2719
Evening - Black Dove Tavern, Old Rose Harbor
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Arion tilted his head in acquiescance, a subtle gesture of his hand inviting her towards the vacant seat. "Please," he added, with a carefully moderated smile, warm enough to seem friendly, but not over friendly. He was sure she must have experienced more than enough of that tonight already.

He took note of everything she volunteered about herself: the concealed weapon, the expensive tastes, the fact that she spoke about the unsavoury actions and intentions of the men around them with the kind of gallows humour possessed by those who dealt with it too much. It was a complicated notion to wrestle with. Without a doubt, this Ruby Nightingale deserved far better than the treatment she had received thus far from this crowd. She had a beautiful talent, something that deserved to be respected and appreciated, like art. Such things were why respectful distances existed. No one would suffer the unwashed masses groping their grubby paws all over a framed masterpiece, so why here?

Yet, the treatment wasn't exceptional. Those groping hands weren't a gesture of respect towards her performance, they were merely a reaction to her gender, to her appearance, to the pretty young galdor in the midsts of those who didn't know how to handle such fine things, and so decided they would merely try to handle them. It was something no one enjoyed, no matter how adept they were at pretending to. Yet, it was also something so normalised that it was a fact of life, an indelible aspect of society.

Arion struggled with such things. He struggled when the world didn't seem to follow its own rules: or rather, when it was inconsistent on which rules it decided to follow. The laws of nature, the precepts of science, those were fundamentals that the cosmos seemed to obey; right up until magic entered the equation, and made them all meaningless. There was morality, the rules that seemed to govern what was good and right, and yet they did not always align with the tenets and rulings of the law, which in turn disagreed with the accepted practices of society. How was someone supposed to maintain any sort of comprehension of what was right, when life itself could not seem to find a consensus?

That was why he was here, ultimately; slumming it, as the Nightingale had so eloquently put it. It was the reason for his entire presence here in Old Rose Harbor: a deeper answer than her question required him to contemplate, perhaps, and yet he found it on his thoughts none the less. Arion had dedicated his life to the law, but like a love affair gone wrong, he and that period of his past were divorced now, and so he had brought himself to this lawless realm. It was supposed to make life simpler, easier to navigate. Without the rule of law, there were far fewer dictates to govern why people acted, and were. They resorted to their baser instincts, their lesser natures, and acted in accordance with primordial and predictable urges and whims. It made a place like the Black Dove Tavern easier to understand, and easier to process. Once you accepted that people would act the way that people did, as the woman opposite clearly had, you could plan, and act, and behave accordingly. Refused drinks. Concealed weapons. A discerning sense of who to avoid; and perhaps who to not.

"I've been in worse places," he countered with a soft chuckle, a lackluster attempt to defend the Black Dove out of humour more than anything else. It might have been a lie, but it likely wasn't, although Arion's thoughts couldn't readily dredge a specific example from his mind. He supposed it would depend on the context, and the criteria. He'd been in seedier parts of the world, grimier too, and others that made a galdor of his standing feel even more out of place than he did here. Variable definitions of worse, but none of it relevant or helpful.

"I must say, I was surprised to hear that you were performing." It was a gentle redirection, a carefully calibrated compliment, one that deftly hinted at an explanation for his own presence without allowing the conversation to become about him. People didn't like that. Another unspoken rule of conversation. Don't share too much. Don't dwell on yourself too much. Let them give as much as they were willing, and then dutifully respond in kind. "How does a place like this afford a performance like that?"
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