Among the Stars

Title: Among the Stars
Time Period: July 7, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary:A story told by a Traveller is brought to life by more than words; not everyone is as happy to be in the presence of such magic, however.

The fair, at night, is aglow with firelight; luminaria and torches create a pathway of flickering light beyond the merchant stalls and makeshift game fairway; in the distance toward the front of the fair, the carousel no longer seems to be made of living, breathing creatures — for the last few rotations of the night, it is merely wood and paint and brass, turned by the magical ability of one twin; her sister is needed elsewhere for the final scheduled event of the day.

The last hour of the fair, in tradition, is a story told around a campfire. The fair's storyteller, Merripen, tells children tales throughout the day, but saves one story for the end of the night, and those who have been in his audience the past few nights reported to those who haven't been that this is no ordinary event; the same magic that makes the creatures on the carousel breathe and gallop like real creatures is used to make Merripen's nightly tale come to life.

Already there is quite the crowd gathered around the fire; some have had the foresight to bring food or drink. It's a merry lot, and anticipation is palpable in the air. The fire crackles, now and then sending a sparkling cloud of embers into the air, and the smoke mixed with the sweet scent of grass smells like summer.

Taking up a spot near the front, Mariah sits next to her friend and mentor, a drink in hand, but no food in sight. But that's okay, she'll just be a little stumbling when they eventually stand up. Having tried a little of everything the fair has to offer, in the interest of making sure Sorcha has a good time, she's grateful for a place to sit now. And for the jolly company around them

But in the back, one of the new faces to Dornie has settled a fair distance from the fire, shadowed, but not silent. While the crowd waits, Idgie plays out a tune on her guitar. Sitting on her knee, the instrument is well made and well worn, too. Some old treasure she's loathed to part with. But the music goes well with the anticipation and merriment of the moment, and gives her an excuse to observe the others instead of picking up the various threads of conversation around her.

The woman beside Mariah is indeed Sorcha. Thinnner, drunker, looking this side of presentable if only by the good graces of Mariah. She has been, by and far, withdrawn and uncommunicative to most, inwardly bristling at sympathetic looks thrown her way. A drink in her own hand, it's the first time that Sorcha's been out and about in public. Hair pulled back in a braid, dressed in black pants, black blouse and a grey fisherman's sweater, brown boots, she remains stuck to her friend. Especially in light of the magic that seems to be prevalent in the little traveling carney. A sour note in a sea of gaiety as turns to stare at Idgie way in the back.

When it comes to raiding kitchens and wine cellars to provide for gypsies (which the Ceardannan are somewhat) Luna is something of an expert. This time instead of providing Dove stores to Fletcher and his lot, she's giving away Rowntree goods to the faire folk. It's never for the sake of charity itself or even a good deed, it's to make herself look better than most who partake in the free story at the end of the night. She doesn't seem a bit worried if the other residents of the castle might come down hard on her about it. It might be that she just thinks they won't notice.

A muted blue scarf covers her neck practically to her chin while the rest of her is covered in a long dress that's more fit for winter than summer. The sleeves creep down past her wrists to the tops of her hands. Even though she pushes them up a little every few minutes, they keep slipping down. Her boots are heeled and not practical at all for the soft green flooring that nature provides. More than once in her trek, she sunk into the muck and had to wrestle free.

Close to the fire and staring into it somewhat sullenly sits Beisdean; he hasn't been out and about much in town since coming back from his failed journey. But one might remember that he himself was quite the little storyteller of his generation as a child back in Dornie, and he couldn't resist the call of the Keeper of the Paramicha, the lore of the Ceardannan. One hand holds his flask; his eyes do not move around the circle to seek out those he knows — perhaps too deliberately.

Notably, among those seated, are many of the Travellers themselves, as eager to take a part in the event as the Gadja among them. Suddenly a murmur that's of a different quality than the idle chatter rises, and people peer over one another's shoulders to see the Travellers known as Merripen and Simza approaching. At the head of the circle, the young teen that watches the menagerie hops off of a fallen log that serves as Merripen's perch, and his father takes his seat.

Simza does not sit, but stands behind a few paces; her dark eyes dart around the crowd, looking here and there, as if for a particular face.

Even when Jorn isn't working, he seems to be working. It is, more or less, an unwritten rule. He has heard of the storyteller at the faire among chatter, either from the hydroplant laborers, or the people at market. Suspicion got the better of him, even if Deya plainly said that it was the girls; coming alone is mostly a guileless affair for Jorn, but hanging back from everyone else is still the order of the evening. Arms crossed and tucked, like most times. Whether to see who is in the crowd, waiting, or to see who isn't. It's a little too hard to not notice Luna, as she is, and those that either choose to place themselves apart, or a part of.

Jorn has no need for quieting himself as Merripen wanders out, flagged by one of the twins; the tall northerner deliberately tries his best to avoid unnecessary eye contact with either the travelers or the audience ahead of him. Now, he did come for the show- but that doesn't mean he has to be terribly social. ..Right?

Mariah turns, too, a few moments after Sorcha. And she's a little delayed in seeing the storyteller's approach, because her gaze catches Beisdean sitting there. It's enough to get her to open her mouth, but even her tipsy mind thinks better of starting that up here and she turns with the rest to watch the Travellers.

Not catching the look coming her way from beside the fire, Idgie plays right up until the pair approach. Seeing Merripen and Simza, she plays a little tingaling of entrance music, but it seems mostly for her own amusement, as her fingers still the strings a moment later.

"She brought his stuff" Sorcha of course speaks of Idgie, falling quiet at the sight of Beis seeming to be back in town. She turns, back in her seat, hunching in a fraction. Unsure of whether she wants to be here or not. The rest of her drink gulped down, she stands up, waving off any fuss Mariah may make, heading off to get another drink even if her gait isn't so steady. Or remotely steady. Or that the storyteller seems to have appeared.

Luna isn't terribly shy about tromping up to sit next to Beisdean. He has a flask but that doesn't stop her from uncorking a bottle from the Rowntree cellar with her teeth and taking a swig before offering it over. Classy. The dark liquid stains her teeth not a burgundy but a bluish purple, the scent on her breath is of fermented loganberry. "Have some, it's good. Been treating quite a bit of pain with it as of late." It's is better than what she's been begging for, milk of the poppy. Looking through the expanse of people, she raises a hand to wave at Jorn, Mariah, Sorcha, and the few villagers that she readily recognizes.

"A little musical accompaniment would be welcome, Dilly," Merripen says to Idgie, an elegant bow with a flourish of his hand indicating she should play on. That seems to be all of the direct addressing he plans to do, for then he begins to speak, and the tone is musical and projects across the wide circle, above the crackling of the fire, though he doesn't seem to be yelling.

"The world dawned, new, green, pure and innocent," he begins, and suddenly, aside from those in the circle, any other hint of the fair beyond disappears. Their campfire seems to be encircled by a forest. Trees tower above them, and animals of species that have never flown, crawled or slithered in Scotland can be heard. The growl of lions, the high pitched call of some exotic bird, the chattering of monkeys all vie for dominance. Unfamiliar scents, pleasant and rich, of flowers and plants overwhelm the smoky wood of the fire.

"There was no man. The creatures did not hunt one another. There was nothing but unity and harmony and sunshine for a millennium."

And amazingly, the dark night sky above seems to flood with light and the heat of the sun seems to warm the skin of those in attendance.

Tit for tat. Beisdean hands Lunahis whiskey flask, and takes a swig of the wine, before looking up, blue eyes squinting into the illusionary sun.

Mariah returns the wave, but as Sorcha starts to get up, her attention turns that way. And while the woman brushes her off, Mariah's pretty stubborn, especially with this particular woman, and she stands up to go with her. Only, when the illusion forms, and there's suddenly a forest around them, she takes hold of Sorcha's hand and pulls her back. It may just seem like she doesn't want to lost their seats, but it's really to keep her from being smack in the middle of the illusionary trees. And she passes her what's left of her drink. Which is blessedly plenty.

Idgie blinks at the words sent her way, but the flourish brings a wide grin to her face. She tips an imaginary hat — really, is there a hat that could tame all that hair? — and starts up again, the music slow to start, tone matching his own musical voice.

Booze, she was going for booze and then suddenly the world shifts around them and they're in not Dornie. Sorcha looks like she might be about a step away from flipping out in that grieving widow confronted with something akin to what killed her husband but Mariah's hand is there, and she's being tugged back to the seat in question. And she goes, thumping down, staring into the cup thrust into her hand, trading that one for her empty one. Suddenly, this isn't looking like a great idea.

Accepting the flask, Luna takes a long swig, practically draining the little container before giving it back. As the 'show' starts, all drink is forgotten, even the bottle in her hand that is tipped to dribble a little on the ground. She takes a deep breath, staring at the tops of the trees, looking for each animal as it presents itself through call. "This is better'n your stories even, Baizey," she whispers, her eyes wide at the giant trunks that seem to dwarf even Jorn.

Merripen's posture is mild; he leans forward, elbows on his knees and staring into the fire as he speaks; his hands sometimes spread open or clasp together, and he glances now and then around to make eye contact with those closest to him. "But as we know, such happiness never lasts, does it? The creatures began to argue, to fight, to gossip. No longer happy to share their paradise, they fought over what tree belonged to who, who could travel on the river, what it would cost to pass a path in the forest."

The calls of the unseen animals begin to escalate, rising in both volume and franticness; a roar of some great beast is followed by a frightened squeal of something smaller, something weaker.

"One day, the gods said 'Enough!' and threw a great curtain up into the sky," and his hands come up — with the gesture, suddenly a thick, dense blackness seems to blot out the sky, cutting off that false sunshine, "and it was dark."

The campfire is still there, enough light to keep people from being swept into blackness, but above, the dark is so deep it's like looking up into black velvet — there is no hint of anything beyond the fire, no hint of the moon or the stars beyond the "curtain."

Simza's eyes are closed, her lips parted — the picture of concentration.

Near Luna, Beisdean's eyes study the darkness above, and he then shrugs one shoulder. "So says you," he says, taking back the flask and frowning at the emptiness within, resigning himself with a sigh to her wine. Another swig of that, and it's passed back to her as well.

Near Luna, Beisdean's eyes study the darkness above, and he then shrugs one shoulder. "So says you," he says, taking back the flask and frowning at the emptiness within, resigning himself with a sigh to her wine. Another swig of that, and it's passed back to her as well.

Masking over everyone else here for the show helps a great deal, though of course here and there, is a person taken aback just a little too much. Or Sorcha, half-unwilling to stay, save for the tugs of her friend. Jorn unwinds his arms, clasping his hands in front and looking far up- and up, and up. As far as it goes. He yearns, just enough, when the story moves forward, and the gods of the tale drench the lovely forest in blackness.

In a moment of something that he'd describe as nostalgia (for a place he just met), Jorn takes a subconscious half-step forward, eyes scouring for signs of life in the illusion.

Mariah keeps an arm around Sorcha, comforting. Her attention is a bit split, but she looks upward when the dark covers their make-believe light. Her reactions, whatever they may be, are held in reserve, in favor of looking back to Sorcha to make sure she's holding it together.

The music adds to the frantic noises, getting steadily louder until the 'god's' decree cuts the noise short. Idgie lets the silence linger there after his words, her expression looking impressed as she eyes the sky, too. She mimes a whistle, a show of appreciation and wonder that only those close to her can actually see.

Sorcha's head is low, eyes squeezed shut and within Mariah's circle of arm, the seamstress is stiff and still.

Luna's fingers curl around Beisdean's forearm when the curtain goes up and darkness looms over them. The prostitute shrinks in her seat, as low as she can without actually laying on the ground. "I take it back," she murmurs, "yours are much better… I don't like this one bit." She tips the bottle to her lips and takes a few long gulps before handing it back, just as with the flask, nearly empty. The rest is for him.

The sounds in the "forest" turn to cries, pitiable and forlorn, of animals in fear and sorrow, lamenting the loss of their sun. "The creatures were frightened and asked the gods why they had lost the sun's light. They were told it was punishment for their behavior, but still, they could not seem to stop their petty fighting. With the world cold and dark, there was even more to complain about, even more to fight over, for the plants were dying and the warmest of shelters were coveted by all," Merripen says.

"After several days of this cold black perpetual night, one day a bluebird flew up, past where any trees still held any fruit, past the highest of cliffs." Suddenly a blue bird can be seen, rising from near Sorcha; it seems as tangible as her canaries, a vibrant blue; the wings are audible as they flap to rise in the air, taking the small bird upward to the dark curtain that seems to hang above the crowd. There, the bird punches a tiny pinprick hole in the inky dark above; a tiny gleam of light shines down.

"She flew to the top of the sky to where the gods had blanketed their world, and broke through that cloth with her beak. She flew back to the ground and rested."

As the bird came back down, coming to rest now near Luna's feet, the Traveller continued to speak. "The other animals didn't understand, and they mocked her for what they saw was a silly waste of energy. But up she went again. And again."

And the illusionary blue bird flies up again, and punches two more holes into the darkness above, and two more tiny beams of light shine down upon the audience, twinkling like stars.

While she watches the bird, Mariah's hand pets Sorcha's arm. Maybe it wasn't the best idea to bring her out, but at least there's one example of calm magic that isn't, you know, murdering anyone. But for herself, she looks more tired just now. Whatever excitement she had for the display, drained out just now. Regretfully.

Idgie is a bit taken with it all, and torn between watching the storyteller or the story playing out in front of them. But all the while, she doesn't forget to play along, following the feel of the arcs of the tale well enough.

"I don't want to be here" Sorcha murmurs tightly under her breath, not even daring to peek at the floor show going on around her, remaining close, perhaps too close, to Mariah, working at breathing instead of freaking out on everyone around them.

When the bird lands at her feet, Luna scootches them back just a little, not wanting the feathered thing to hop onto her boots and make a mess of them. It's obvious that the blonde has forgotten that the majority of what she sees is illusion, the warmth from the liquor and glow on her cheeks puts her a bit beyond reasonable thought. The bird, even though she seems to be the hero of the story, is kicked at with one boot. A little spray of dirt flies toward it as the prostitute attempts to shoo it away.

"Again and again and again… until she had to rest and take a bit of food or water, and then again she'd fly up. The other animals mocked her, called her names, went on with their fighting over scraps of food or trees for shelter," Merripen says; the little blue bird flies up again, as if not at all bothered by Luna's boot, but Beisdean nudges her with a scowl meant as reprimand.

That particular bird fades away into nothing and another takes its place, flying up from behind another person in the campfire up into the sky, and making its mark; one from behind Idgie next, and then another from near Jorn, each making another pinprick in the sky above as the animals in the trees that surround them continue to caterwaul and growl and screech.

The blackness above is now spangled with light glittering down; a careful eye might catch familiar patterns that match those found in their own sky on a clear night.

"And then, after forcing yet one more little tear in that great canvas above, that little blue bird plummeted to the earth," Merripen's voice continues, and is at once full of mourning, solemn, "dead."

The blue bird above makes one last bright spot in the darkness, before crashing down, a dull thud where it hits the grass.

Mariah leans into Sorcha, whispering an apology to her. Whatever she's saying, it's for the seamstress alone and the noise of the tale and the illusions does a good job of keeping her voice from carrying.

Idgie grins broadly as the bird flies up near her, and the music becomes more and more determined and inspired as the bird keeps going. When it falls down dead, she shifts into a dirge, a gentle hum going along with her strings.
Eyes flutter open, looking to Mariah before they droop, slowly sink to a close by the time that the bird is dropping dead to the ground. Head resting against the other woman and hands going lax as the seamstress drifts off to sleep, alcohol safely on the ground and not in danger of tipping over.

The scowl of reprimand is met with the wide eyes of innocence. Her hand moves away from his arm to land at the top of her chest as though to silently declare no wrong doing. The boots were an expensive trade. But now the noise of birds and beasts is near deafening and Luna cups her hands over her ears, pressing all sound out as she glares up at the sky around them.

Watching in silence, Jorn follows the course of the little blue bird as it flies up and down, back and forth, picking out the stars in the sky. The pinpricks turn into constellations, and the northman smiles quietly up at the patterns, picking them out in the rear of his mind, a chuckle in his ribs. The little bird's death is less mournful to him, than a relief; the sacrifice was not in vain, you see, nor was it selfish. He is glad that he made it here

Where there was nothing one moment, a small fox prowls out, brushing Mariah's leg with a furry red tail, feet padding softly as it approaches the bird. A wolf steps from behind Jorn's tall frame and joins its smaller brethren; from between Luna and Beisdean darts a tiny gray squirrel. Birds of all sizes and shapes come flying down from the trees that surround them. Soon, the little bird is surrounded by a myriad of creatures, great and small, their voices raises in a low keening sound of sorrow.

"The animals gathered around the tiny bird who they had thought wasted her last breath doing this silly, foolish thing. But then they realized who her feathers gleamed like silver in what they had taken for darkness; the change had been so tiny, one tiny prick of light at a time, that they did not notice how much light she had brought with each long voyage to that canvas in the sky," Merripen says, his voice growing less sorrowful, more uplifting.

His hands lift up, as if in praise. "The gods decided to give them mercy, to not allow the blue bird to die in vain for her selfishness. The sun once more rose on the day they buried the bird." As he speaks, the blackness slides downward, as if unveiling the sky above, and behind it is once more that false sunshine.

"But," Merripen says, looking at each of them, peering especially into the faces of children with a twinkle in his dark eyes, "they did not give back the sunshine without a limit. They chose instead to shroud the day sky once a day, to remind us that we can do great things, little by little, if we have the heart and courage, and that we should be grateful for small blessings, such as the stars."

As his last word rings out, the sunshine slowly fades away, little by little as the giant forest around them shrinks back down into the flat grass — once more, the real night sky is their only ceiling out in the veil.

It's a good thing she's got an arm around the other woman. When Sorcha drifts off, Mariah keeps her from falling right over into the ground. There are a couple whispers around them, about how much the seamstress had to drink, but her apprentice ignores them for the moment in favor of turning her attention to the story. She smiles when the fox brushes against her and looks up from it to the pair of Travellers. Impressed. But she follows it's progress along, but flicks back to the storyteller before long. The morale of the tale gets a smile out of her and she ends up being the one leading the applause when the world around them returns to normal.

Idgie keeps the music going, a more hopeful tune as the story comes to a close. She doesn't clap, obviously, but her opinion comes out in a loud, encouraging whistle.

As the squirrel darts out from beside her, Luna squeaks in fright and curls her hands into tight fists that shake on either side of her face. She soon calms and instead presses her palms flat against her cheeks with excitement as the rest of the animals gather around the dead bird. She was never one to truly appreciate death or what it means, such permanence.

"Baizey, you need a person to make pictures for your stories too," she announces at the end in the midst of applause. Her own are mixed in, a loud clapping and stamping of her boots against the ground. They don't make so much of a noise but they do add a little to the clatter.

A simple story, made that much more profound by the show put on by young Simza. Jorn follows the route of the wolf from behind him, a firm line in his jaw. He claps only after there is a round beginning, but his own end up a little louder, even from the back. Yes indeed- quite glad that he made it out.

"That'd be lovely. Maybe I can steal that one," Beisdean says with a nod to the Traveller woman, some appreciation in his gaze, finally swallowing the rest of the wine in the near empty bottle.

Finally, Simza's eyes open with all of the applause; she looks a little weary for the show, but pleased with the applause. She gives a little bob of a curtsy before drifting away toward where the tents and wagons that make up the gypsy camp sit in the distance. Merripen too is shy at the applause, standing and giving a theatrical bow despite the blush on his cheeks. The crowd seems to move as one, slowly getting to their feet, collecting their belongings, and glancing up at the very real sky above, perhaps with a newfound appreciation for the stars that light their way.