Part of Raevenly’s NaNoWriMo Drunken-Character bash.
Bria Lana’s experience in the bar started last week.
The table Seth lead her to was one of the larger in the room, tucked over in the corner up against the stairs. Not only was it Asylum’s customary table, but this way the dancers would be able to help guard the stairs from guests who might be inclined to wander. As they approached the table, Seth began introductions, knowing the dancers would be fairly boisterous once they actually sat down.
“The man that could be my twin over there is my brother Naj, and the man who’s lap he’s practically in is Kain. Serpent and cheetah shape-shifters, respectively. The lanky dark-haired one in the button up is Rowan, a raven shifter, and his gothed out companion is Emily, a leopard, and quite the accomplished artist as well as dancer. To her right are Nat and Marie, wild dog and fox, and yes, the red head is the fox and yes that is her real tail. She can’t be parted from it most of the time. If a pair of blondes ever show themselves, that’ll be Lena and Chris, but I haven’t seen either of them yet, nor have I seen my Nica, so perhaps they’re running late.”
He turned to his guest for any last minute questions before the mob devoured the newcomer.
Bria Lana wasn’t sure she had ever felt quite so out of her element before. For the briefest moment she felt the urge to turn and run, but reminded herself that this was no different than being told to go talk with Lady Intelworth and her gaggle of followers at one of Chana and Frederich’s soiree’s. If Lady Intelworth could turn into a horse.
The very thought of the self-proclaimed keeper-of-all-fashionable morphing her elongated chin into the nuzzle of a horse was entertaining enough to put Bria Lana at ease. She smiled at Seth, and then turned to the table.
“A pleasure to meet you all. I’m Bria Lana, and afraid my ability to transform remains pretty solidly to the human form.” Taking another careful sip of her drink she looked around at the group, trying to remember names (and shapes), and figure out some of the terms Seth had used. It was no different than what her brother had to do when he was encountering a new culture. She knew it was actually highly different, the cultures he encountered in his travels often were not all that different from their own but it was the same basic concept. Unknown terms, unknown customs.
Naj jumped up immediately and gave the woman a small bow, then pulled out the seat next to him. “A pleasure to meet you, Lady Bria Lana. Would you do me the honor of sitting next to me?”
His words were courtly and formal, but the enthusiasm with which he said them belonged to a small boy, as did the huge grin on his face. If Naj could be summed up in one word, it would be earnest. Seth had to laugh at this little brother as he handed their guest off to him, before asking the others if anyone needed to be topped off while he was up.
The combination of enthusiasm and formality was such a familiar combination that it made Bria Lana even more at east. “I’d love to, thank you. But it isn’t ‘Lady’… I suppose it is, technically, “Lady Gherilant,” but that is such a farce of a title…. I really don’t use it much at all. Just Bria Lana.” She took the offered seat.
Naj nodded, holding the chair for her. “Bria Lana, then. I’m Naj, as I said, and this is my partner, Kain.” He paused long enough for the big man to nod and smile, then continued gesturing around the table. “These are our fellow dancers, we all dance together at the Asylum, a club down the street. This is one of our favorite haunts, so feel free to ask us any and all questions you might have, my dear.”
“Thank you, this is rather different from any of the taverns I’ve been in before but…” She shrugged, “It seems like a lovely place. What kind of dance do you do?”
“I prefer the classic serpent style- very tribal, very sensual- but nothing is outside the range of possibilities at Asylum.” Naj gestured to the dark-haired couple across the table, who smiled and nodded at the attention. “Emily and Rowan there do a kind of musical theater, and Nat,” Here he gestured to the dark-skinned woman sitting next to the red-head, “is trained in ballet. Her partner Marie likes burlesque style strip tease.”
Marie bounced in her seat, smile as broad as her tail was bushy. “Oh, I like any dance, just about! You’ll get to see me shake it when karaoke starts!”
Nat smiled, golden bangs dancing in the black cloud of her hair as she shook her head. “You’ll have to forgive our fox- she’s the only one here friendlier than Naj. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Bria Lana.”
Marie squeaked, eyes going a little wide. “Yes! Very nice to meet you! Where are you from?”
Bria Lana laughed, “I think I know what one of those types of dance are, maybe two…. but I look forward to learning more. I’m pretty hopeless at dancing myself, despite the lessons, I’m just not that coordinated. Okay with a sword though… anyhow,” She turned to Marie, “I grew up on a farm outside of the small village of Pothian. Lately though, I guess the closest place to a home I’ve had would be my sisters estate in the Capital. I travel a lot.”
Naj sat up a bit at the mention of swords- he was quite good with sword dances himself, though he knew that’s not what she meant. But he sat quietly, letting their guest talk. Funny how she’d gone from so shy to so outgoing in such a short amount of time.
Nat patted Marie’s leg under the table, soothing her excitable little love. She was doing well not to babble a million miles a minute like she usually did- she and Naj both were. Nat cast smiling eyes to Kain, he returned a smile of his own as he wrapped an arm around Naj’s shoulder. Yes, he too knew what it was like to be dancer wrangler.
Finally, Naj felt it would be polite to speak again. “Oooh, a traveler, how exciting! I bet you’ve seen sights far rarer than than a humble dance troupe.” He let his pupils flick to serpent-slits, a knowing grin on his face.
Seth shot his brother a warning glance as he returned to the table – a little fun and games was fine, but no spooking the guests. Naj stuck a forked tongue out at him, but otherwise behaved.
“I’ve never actually thought of myself as a traveler — it seems like a title like that deserves venturing outside of Dorinel.” Bria Lana took another sip, pleased to find that it seemed to be settling better now, whatever magic was infused seemed to be settling with minimal impact. Though she hadn’t had any particularly exciting adventures recently, the implied invitation to weave a tale of her journeys was a bit hard to resist.
It had been a long time since she’d had the chance to create a new story to tell anyone, it would be nice to have a little practice. To be able to actually place herself in the story, rather than that necessary distancing…. Bria Lana broke into a broad smile, a clear sparkle in her eyes, “Though, there was the time that I came across that bear the size of a house, with fur like steel and a growl that echoed through the mountains.” She stopped short, feeling a blush rise in her cheeks. Chana and Liron would both be ready to chastise her if they were here. She hadn’t begun to weave the story outside of her words, but she was just on the edge. Always trouble when she was at home, and she had been told that it was rude to practice her own magic here — plus she didn’t know how any of her magic would be accepted here, even the most mundane.
Seth felt the familiar pricking’s of a Story on his skin, and gave their guest a curious glance.
“Magic weaver?” he asked conversationally. Naj jumped right on the tail of that thought.
“Oh, a Story? Seth is trained in weaving Stories! Nearly brings the characters straight to life! Do you practice any magic with storytelling in your world?”
“I… uh.. I’m not supposed to. It could get me killed but, sometimes I just can’t help myself.” Bria Lana admitted, “It’s the magic I have probably have the worst time keeping hidden… especially when Hannah and Kevin — my niece and nephew — beg me for stories.”
Naj tried not to look crestfallen. “Aww, that’s a shame. A good story is a magic unto itself, but we do understand having to keep certain gifts hidden, don’t we Seth?”
“Huh?” Seth snapped his head back around. He had been watching the newest group come through the door. He’d been expecting some special guests, but there was no way that was Mara. She would never allow herself to be carried over the doorway like that …would she? Their last letters had said Kyp and Mara were really exploring each other as a couple, so maybe… But Naj was asking him a question and Seth turned back to the conversation at hand. He’d find an excuse to get away in a moment, just in case…
Naj carried on without him when it was clear his brother’s attention was elsewhere. “I don’t know how outside magic might work here, but I’d hate to ask you to do something dangerous. Would you like to try some karaoke, perhaps?”
“It isn’t traditionally dangerous, despite the lies that are spread…” Bria Lana snapped from that train of thought quickly, it was not the time or place, “But yes, I don’t know how any of my own magic would interact with the magic of this world.” She looked up for a moment in thought, “it might make an interesting experiment but…” shaking her head she turned back to Naj, “What exactly is karaoke?”
Naj’s grin was so huge it split his face clean in two. “The best answer, my dear, is simply to show you.” He turned to Marie, who wore an equal grin of her own. She was practically vibrating with excitement, and the effort not to blurt out exactly what Naj was about to invite her to say.
“Would you like to do the honors?”
She was off to the machine almost before she had finished speaking.
Bria Lana gave a little laugh at their excitement, it reminded her of Hannah and Kevin, or herself and Liron, if she were to be honest.