As she hears screaming, more indignant meowing, and more yelling, Lockette decides she’s had enough for today.
“For the love of all that is fucking holy, leave the fucking cat alone!” Her voice booms through the square as she stomps towards Bathtub and whoever threw him in absolutely frustration. Is this overkill? Lockette thinks to herself, as she grips the person that threw the cat and hauls them to their feet. Perhaps. She admits, as she bodily lifts them up and off their feet. But they violently threw a fucking cat like a fucking savage.
Then she tosses the culprit into the fountain.
She scoops up Bathtub into her arms securely, propping him up to climb onto her shoulders, “What the fuck is up with people today, Tubs?”
Wide-eyed, Molly watched the events of the next few moments unfold from where she’d been crouching on the pavers. Before she could even think to react, Tuesday had thrown the cat and Lockette had thrown Tuesday.
“Ohmygod!” Molly shrieked, jumping to her feet. She looked up at Lockette, who was babying the cat. Beyond perhaps its pride, it appeared unharmed, but Molly couldn’t tell for sure.
“Is he okay?!” She tried to lower her voice back to its usual pitch, which was high anyway, but failed. “Oh my God, I am so, so sorry!”
Tuesday had just enough time to turn and look at Lockette in open mouthed surprise. He let out the smallest confused chirp, much like a squeak toy, as she grabbed him by the arm an then his leg, took two steps towards the fountain for momentum and sent him flying. He shrieked as he went and crashed into the fountain and laid there too dazed to be furious for a moment. He had hit his head and that smarted something awful and he sat up and circled his hands around the back of his head, the goodness's spout splashing down on his head.
He was so angry. He had never not been furious. He was red with it. livid. Ready for action, but the pain in his head kept in the water where he'd been slam dunked. It went cool inside of him (wich had never happened before.) because a petty thought came to him. And usually he could not be furious and petty at once, so the event was novel. He remembered something important about Men.
"THAT!" He said, pointing at Cathal, "Is the Apple Hags familiar and I will not abide it!"
Now the Aple Hag was a known figure. More known than the Fairy king of forest even. Because the Apple Hag was flesh and blood and full of malice and the number of folks who had met her, done business with her, and furthermore regretted it, could be counted. It was a serious accusation. One the absent town wizard or even a priestess aught to be summoned for. It was something that had happened once, years before even.
And this was Tuesday's very first, very believable lie.
“Actually, will you please excuse me?” Molly turned on her heel and hurried over to the fountain. She leaned on the edge next to where Tuesday sat in the water and took stock: no blood that she could see, just a pissed-off royal with a knot on his head. There was a possibility he could be hurt in some way she couldn’t tell, but decided if he was well enough to hurl accusations, he was probably okay.
“Are you all right?” she asked, and then, before she could lose her nerve, “Also, what the actual fuck is your problem?”
She didn’t know exactly what ‘the Apple Hag’ was, but could make an educated guess: there were plenty of hamlets in Royesland with similar legends. Sometimes they were real, sometimes they weren’t. And sometimes, people got it in their heads to cry wolf when they were angry. She’d been on the wrong end of that disagreement, and was concerned what might happen to Lockette- much less their cat- if people took the claim seriously. They'd clearly already been through enough in their life.
“I don’t care who you are, you can’t just throw a cat when it ticks you off. This-” she gestured at the fountain, “-was not the right response to that, but neither is lying. Sometimes you have to suck it up and do the right thing, even when it’s not fair. Especially when what you're saying can get people run out of town, or hurt, or worse." Molly stood up and slid off her coat, setting it aside, and then reached out to help him out of the water.
Even though she meant what she’d said, her heart beat a thousand miles a minute. Praying he couldn’t tell how her hands were shaking, she said, "That's not acceptable. As your friend, Tuesday, you’re better than starting such a mess over a silly cat.”
This was not going how he thought it would, and his soul about left his body. He was far too mortified to answer because of the complex emotions sloshing around inside of him in the most unfamiliar ways; anger hurt embarrassment disbelief. He kept waiting for one to bubble up to the top and take him, in the whirlwind way a fairy's anger did and it refused.
And most of all he had never felt shame. He'd known Molly Sills for ten minutes and now, suddenly her opinion mattered intensely to him, this was also intensely new. He also suddenly did not like himself. And this was unheard of. All of it was very much a lot. Lies. Shame. Guilt. Self loathing.
Tuesday had taken a big sip of the human juice and he didn't like it. He took Molly's hand and let her haul him out of the fountain, his head throbbed and felt hot and over whelmed. He did not argue. Which was sensible.
Sensible was added to the list of human juice side effects he'd never had to deal with before.
"I-I'm sorry, I-" He said very quietly to Molly, "Don't like cats."
He had never. Not once apologized for anything in his long life.
Today was terrible and full of firsts.
Molly thanked her lucky stars when, humbled, Tuesday accepted her help out of the fountain. God, though, he looked so, so sad. Her heart twisted with sympathy and affection. They weren't quite out of the woods yet, however.
"Oh, that's all right, love," she said, grabbing her coat back up. Standing on her tiptoes, she swung it around his shoulders, the best towel she had for now. "I'm sorry for all this nonsense. Let's get you dried off before you get sick. Wait here just a sec? I'm gonna grab my guitar."
Molly walked back over to where she'd left her beloved instrument, mouthing "sorry!" as she passed Lockette and then flushing with embarrassment when she remembered they couldn't see her. She grabbed her guitar and its case, tucking it inside and strapping it to her back in a few deft movements. Continuing to blush, she picked up the bowl she'd had out for tips, now quite full (she didn't use her guitar case for this in case of emergency quick getaways as it was far more important).
She turned and faced the small crowd they'd gathered in the past few moments and groaned inwardly, then took a steadying breath. Coming up to Lockette's side, she said in a low voice, "good Lockette, I am so, so sorry about all this." And then she stepped away, to the centre of the open space, and cleared her throat.
"Dearest friends, good people of the market, thank you for attending today's… pop-up performance of… the story of the Apple Hag!" This was the best idea she had. "Part two, coming soon! Oh, and, uh, help yourself to refreshments." She gestured to the produce left from the morning. "Thank you again!"
Giving the biggest, fakest smile she could muster to the surrounding crowd, Molly hurried back over to Tuesday's side. The limp in her walk, not quite noticeable before, became more pronounced after she stumbled in her haste. Tucking her bowl under one arm, she took his hand and started pulling him away. "Okay, we should go." Her first priority was just getting them the hell away from the chaotic scene of the market. "Where's home, dear? Where can I take you?"
Tuesday let himself be shepherd away with no complaints, wanting to be as far away from Cathal and the mountain that was named Lockette. He tugged Molly's jacket around himself as the wind picked up and made him shiver.
Molly's simple question made him curl on himself. It was all fun and games until the Sherrif made you wear pants and you start to have complex feelings. He was sure by now the Duke of Foxes has set themselves up nicely on his throne. Not that he particularly disliked the duke of foxes- on the contrary he was certain he liked them quiet a lot. Just he was supposed to be king and there was no way he could go back to the forest like this. They would mock him. Tear him to bits. Or worse pity him. and who knew what the Apple hag was up to what with the Wizard gone and a power vacuum in the forest.
"Anywhere is fine," He said, having lived in the woods, sheds and barns of the southern farmsteads for the last week.
Cathal had only a moment to voice his absolute outrage at being accused of being the Apple Hag's familiar before Molly hustled Tuesday away. Cathal huffed and climbed back onto Lockette's shoulders. Him! The Apple Hag's familiar, when she was the one who'd turned him into a cat in the first place!
Though if he didn't figure out a way to get himself turned back, he wouldn't put it past her to come and get him and make that a truth. Cathal sighed and slumped his head on his paws, and not even the memory of Lockette throwing the King of Magpies into the fountain cheered him much.
Dusk fell on Port of Pearls, and the market closed up and the people trundled home and the boats came in to port. Lanterns and candles were lit and from up on the fjord tops the hamlet had a rosy glow. The wizards tower, at the top of the southern fjord remained dark as it had for the last eight months. It was as the stars were coming out that Quill realized he was existing again, like a sleeper awakening from a dream. He had learned not to lean to hard into the excitement of existing, because that would undo his progress. It took a few moments for the bank of white mist to settle from a person shaped cloud of mist into a real person.
They lay in a clearing of grass and moss some way up the northern fjord- they were lucky the wind had been blowing inland today. They were covered in a cold layer of dew that left their long white hair damp and drownt looking about their shoulders.
For a long moment they couldn't realy put two and three together to figure out how they had come to be naked up in highlands. Their head was still full of high vistas and the feeling of wind which was an intoxicating dream. They began negotiating there way down the sloping plains and back towards the village below. They remembered Lockette coming in and music. And they remembered dancing with Apollo. Oh fuck
This was going to be a whole thing they realized with such intensity and venom that he de-materialized again and the wind swept him back up fjord. Quill repeated this parlor trick three more times; Condescending, making his way toward their home, poofing and starting again down hill. they were not sure what would become of them in a frost, and the fear forced him to calm himself. Moving north had guaranteed, even in summer, that he would return to his proper form every evening, or just nearly.
Apollo would think whatever Apollo was going to think and he had made some sort of peace with that as he snuck closer to the shop. And this time he made it in through the back door and grabbed the house robe they kept there for exactly his reason. Pol had swept and the kitchen side of the shop was immaculate.
They didn't know Pol well enough to know if he was the sort to angry clean or what. But he tried to take it as a good side. Because if he thought about anything too hard he would certainly burst again. They set to making himself a cup of tea and dosing it with strong cocktail of sedative. and when they had had a sip or two they finally headed upstairs.
They entered the cozy parlor that was a fussion of their Qin style sensibilites and the avaliblible royseland style furniture. they did not announce there return, as they were prone to, and did not look directly at Apollo as they entered.
It was easy enough for Molly Sills to pay for two rooms at the silver prawn, which boasted six small rooms upstairs. It was also easy enough to convince Herbert to sell her some worn clothes. So by sun down she found herself in the tavern with a hot meal and having successfully peer pressured the king of the magpie into a worn blue gray tunic, with a tulip and herring embroidered trim. It was a lose garment and it still seemed to bother him tremendously.
She had asked him earlier; 'so is there anybody who can bring you more pants or something'
And he had managed a terse no.
"Do I have to keep this on?" He complained. He hadn't touched his soup since he had changed and come out to join her just preternaturally distressed by a tunic instead.
Apollo had a little time, after he had packed all his things, to himself. He swung his legs over the side of the bed, resting his feet on the outer robe that, wrapped in a bindle, carried all he owned. He wasn't thinking about what little he owned right now, or where he might go if he had displeased Quill.
The dancing and laughter in the market kept playing over and over in his mind. Almost as if the memory was asking to be preserved in the form of art. Ah, but what art could hold a candle to the real moment?
If only he hadn't made such a fool of himself after that incandescent morning. If Quill had already heard about it, Pol couldn't imagine they would have the patience enough to let him. Not now, that he knew secrets that could claw their way out of his throat. Not when he made a fuss over the whereabouts of someone who wanted to hide.
That one moment of elation might be the last one he'd experience in Port of Pearls. Pol decided he would carry it with him too, like he carried the memory of Bonne-Soleil as he knew it: sunlight glistening across pale shellstone, blue and gold pennants flapping wild in the wind. It would be worth whatever hardships endured to keep that memory kindled.
If Quill didn't yet know what Pol had been up to following their...mist-ification...well, Pol ought to tell it plainly, and as soon as possible. One honored one's friends by making a point not to lie to them.
So when a quiet susurrus sounded downstairs, Pol crept out of his room, hopeful and dread-full at the same time. And when Quill, dressed in a vaguely familiar robe, entered the parlor Pol confessed,
"I didn't know where you went. I, ah, set out on my own little quest to find this out and, well...in a roundabout way, I learnt, well, you know, that you...what happened at the market...happens from time to time."
Apollo sighed, running his hands through his hair. Was it taboo to speak of curses? Naive to suggest they could be broken?
"And even though I had been foolish, as soon as I learned, about the curse that is, I went straight back-"
His breath hitched as he stopped himself from saying home. It wasn't home. Maybe it could be. But right now, it was a place where he stayed, under the generosity of the individual he had just admitted to knowing more about than they had told him. Stars, he could really put his foot in his mouth when he needed it somewhere more sensible.
"-here. And I did what I could to make amends. And I swear -"
He didn't have a damned thing to swear on. The ocean took everything but his body. Oh, his body. He still owned that. For now.
"I swear on my blood I haven't told a soul. Someone else might know, from putting things together."
Yes, that bare shirted farmhand, the one who accused Pol in the first place. He would be one to watch. And the lady-bard, if her playing dredged up the sorts of emotions that caused Quill to change on a regular basis.
"But, I'd like to help, in any way I can, to make amends. Even if it means I have to leave Port of Pearls. I'd much rather not...but my own feelings are inconsequential. What say you, Nasiya Quill? Would you...like help, my help, such as it is, to break the curse you've been tied up in? Or, is it too much to risk...someone like me giving help?"
Bouncing one foot restlessly and staring into the fire, Molly didn’t register Tuesday’s question at first. She had a couple of topics on her mind at the moment, as evidenced by the list she was making in the stuffed, stained, dog-eared notebook in her lap- though she kept it at an angle so he couldn’t read what she wrote.
“Hm? For now, yeah,” she said absentmindedly, not looking up. “You’ll get cold.”
Foremost on Molly’s list was: had she painted a target on her back with the Apple Hag stuff, and if so, how big of one? Just because she’d escaped angry magic users before didn’t mean she wanted to try again- or that they hadn’t left their fair share of reminders that they were close calls. She started tapping her pencil on her chin, too, drawing attention to one of the larger scars on her face.
His fidgeting finally got her to come back to the present. It really wasn’t that she was unsympathetic- learning to be on your own was difficult. Molly was assuming from the few pieces of info she had that Tuesday maybe had been some sort of prince, but this status had very recently been removed. And of course I’m the sucker who picked him up, she thought with a sigh. But she’d wished so many times that someone had been there to have her back when she had nothing; she couldn’t just leave him out in the cold. Not tonight, at least.
“What is it that’s bothering you?” she asked gently. “Is it the texture? Sorry it’s all I could get. I don’t own a lot of clothes myself, and what I’ve got wouldn’t fit you anyway.” This was evidenced by the slightly oversized sweater she’d put on after coming to the tavern. Knit from the ugliest brown-red-orange yarn to have ever existed, frayed and patched in several places, it was obvious she’d had it for a very long time. "Even the more sketchy places I’ve been in tend to have a ‘no shirt, no shoes: no service’ policy, so you should probably have at least one of the two."
She nodded at the food he hadn’t touched, her own bowl scraped clean before he'd even come down. “You should eat something.” With that, Molly was back in her own thoughts. After a big yawn, she sighed again, a particularly musical sigh that began at the top of a scale and slid to the bottom. She scribbled something in the notebook, then erased it.
Quill blinked several times as Apollo's words washed over him. At first in confusion, this was not the homecoming he had been expecting or even dreading. And then he frowned at the thought of Pol running around market asking after him and the obvious omission that some one had clued him in. Lockette he was sure. He had taken her up on hospitality twice when the wind had taken him south. And their frown deepened as he swore on his own blood, a serious thing, and finally he sighed. He was relieved. and thankfully, relief had yet to ever evaporate him.
"Apollo, darling, you're very sweet, but I think there is very little that could rattle the folks who live this close to the fairy woods. I am not the only one in this town afflicted with something strange, and while I would appreciate your continued discretion it is not a mater that requires oaths or apologies. My curse is very simple and very strong and has bested several court magicians and even port of pearls of wizard before he ran off. I've made some attempts myself and it's very kind of you, but somethings must simply be borne."
When they spoke they seemed wane, tiered and formal. Some of that was sedative and some of it was the emotional middle place he had coerced himself into in order to complete their walk home in a corporeal form.
"- And before you feel the need to cheer me, I ask you to spare me. I am tired and an argument will surely put me back on the wind." they gave a quick bow and a made swift retreat to their chamber. The click of their door was all that was left behind. And laid out on the bed was their dress, rescued from the mark and left with care. The carefullness of the gesture touched them and urge to lay down on it and cry, thoughts of the wheightless spin oh joy that had undone them in the market that was denied them, and so was laying to cry. So much for the sedative.
If Apollo were to open the door after him all he would find was their rode on the floor.
He had no complaints of the quality of the tunic molly had kindly gifted him, in fact port of pearl's was home to many seemly embroiders and he had seen their work amongst many of the little gifts and tithes given to his court over the years. And this one with its fine tulips and Fishes was a fine thing- when it was not attempting to strange him. He attempted to say as much, because he would not want Molly Sills to think he thought her hospitality lacking, but was soon persuaded into shocked compliance by two things as they occurred at once; 1, he found himself under Molly's Sills direct attention; and 2; He realized the real and present danger represented to his very essence by the human invention of shoes.
"Shoes are mandatory?" He said with respect, fear and dread.
Quill's reaction was not quite what Apollo expected. He supposed, though, given Quill's circumstances, they couldn't remain angry and corporeal. Or much of the opposite, for that matter.
"O-of course, neither one of us wants that. Good night, Quill."
There was something that felt like a shade of forgiveness in their voice, until of course, they started to lecture Apollo.
Breaking the curse was a stupid suggestion after all. Pol wasn't even technically recognized as a wizard - yet. Of course, Quill would have sought experts on curses. If they failed, how could he succeed?
"Some things must be borne," they had said.
Perhaps, for Quill, this was true. But Apollo knew one thing that could not be borne. And that one thing was ignorance. He resolved to set out to find out more about the former "wizard" of the town, to see what sort of magic might have been known to him.
But first, he had to do something about the leftover dinner. He stared at the pot. The pot stared back at him, open mouthed and offering its contents as though the humans in its house were hungry nestling birds. Pol didn't think one could pickle or dry this prepared meal, and he was rather loath to waste salt enough to preserve it that way.
How do people even survive without some manner of kitchen staff? He knew two cooks: the lenient one of his childhood kitchens, rosy and round and perpetually baking dense eggy breads and the stern, suspiciously scrawny ship's cook who refused to laugh at any of Pol's jokes but had excellent taste in wine.
He heard of certain traditional meals being preserved in clay pots buried in the earth. But trying that sort of venture for the first time risked too much hard work. Besides, it wasn't his meal he was trying to save, but Quill's.
Then it occurred to him that he ought to ask Quill. If they were already asleep, then Pol decided he would leave the leftovers out on the sill. Some town stray would probably not turn away a cold supper, free of charge. Pol just hoped it wasn't a clumsy stray with a habit of breaking plates. There wasn't a dearth of dinnerware, but to Pol it was all quite dear. Mostly, because it belonged to someone he cared about. But also because he wouldn't know how to go about replacing it.
He crept very quietly back up the stairs, which felt much like sneaking around the family manor. Alas, those games of his the adults around him seldom understood, not even when he tried to explain them. He last played them a little more than a decade ago. But, ah, did he ever feel ancient now.
Apollo knocked softly on the knot-laden door.
"Quill, sorry to bother you. Only, I wished to know what I should do with your half of supper."
There was no reply.
"You don't have to come out or anything. Just let me know and I'll take care of it."
Mm. They were probably sleeping deeply. Pol opened the door a crack. Just to check.
There were no feet, no legs, under the bedcovers. Apollo's heartbeat quickened.
No soft creak in the tread. No shift of silken robes. Apollo flung open the door. To the depths with propriety!
The dress they wore to market today still lay atop the bed, smooth as he had made it the day before. Quill hadn't went to bed after all.
The someday wizard's chest tightened when he spied the robe crumpled on the floor. Not in a heap like it had been thrown off their shoulders. In the strange twisty manner Pol had found their dress on the cobblestones today. Twice in one day they had gone. Both times, his fault.
"Oh Quill," Apollo managed, before his voice fizzled to nothing and his knees thudded dully against the floor near the discarded robe.
She could tell from his tone he was entirely serious, but looked back up at Tuesday anyway to make sure she'd heard him correctly. As alarmed and concerned as he looked, Molly couldn't help laughing loudly.
"Um, in the city, yeah." She considered the list in her lap before closing the notebook, tucking her pencil behind her ear, and setting it on the table in front of her. But she crossed her arms over the top of the book and rested her chin on them, looking up at him. "It's a health and cleanliness thing, I'm sure. But I didn't get you a pair because I didn't know what size you wear. Also, I correctly assumed you wouldn't want them anyway. Things seem pretty relaxed around here, though, so fortunately I think you'll be just fine without."
Molly grinned and shook her head. "I almost wish my feet were so tough I could run around all over and pay no mind to cold mud or sharp rocks. You're a man of unique talents, Tuesday."
Another yawn escaped her. Stars, what a day it had been. "Anyway, I'm pleased the shirt's working out. I think it looks very nice on you." Her smile still lingered as she sat up and pushed his bowl a little closer toward him. "Now, please, I gotta see you eat at least something before I go to bed. For my peace of mind. Even though it's almost gone cold. Come on."
He took in the information about the necessity of pants stoically like a man at the bank being read the fine print of his loans as the debtor collects. He nodded solemnly as she explained and then demanded he eat.
"If it pleases you, Molly Sills," He told her. Then took the bowl of soup in both hands, not without manners mind you just in fashion of folks who grew up without spoons, and set himself to appeasing her.
It's a thought that stays with Lockette as she carries herself home. The sheriff had reluctantly asked her what, exactly, drove her to overhand throw a man into a fountain. And the explanation was not a good one, but the sheriff accepted it with a world weary sigh and a warning to not cause such a scene in the future.
"This is why I don't fucking go into town," She grumbles to Bathtub, but mostly to herself. She still feels so embarrassed by her lapse in control that she feels heat crawling into her face, "You can't spit without running into someone that's fucking hexed or cursed or some bullshit. I'll bet you're even cursed, at this fucking rate." She puts the key into her door, but instead of opening it when the door is unlocked, she hits her head off the door, "Goddammit, Bathtub, why the fuck did I throw a man into a fountain?"
She hears footsteps. Not close, but drawing closer. The road crunches beneath their feet, the walking speed and the weight of their fall familiar - the stranger with no memory. Lockette shifts, hearing them walking closer and closer until it seems they are going to pass, heading towards the Fairy Woods.
"It's not safe to go into the woods alone, especially at dusk," Lockette says, figuring she would sleep better if she made an ass of herself now, instead of letting someone go somewhere dangerous without warning them, then hearing they died later.
Riley had made a swift retreat once Apollo had confronted Lockette and had spent the rest of her afternoon experiencing existential dread at various shops. She;d managed to barter for bread and scored several green onions, a bunch of carrots and some leafy greens from the mysterious free pile that had emerged in the market. She was not the only one in need who had profited from the gesture and wondered if it was the bard who'd done it- the dancing had realy stuck in her mind and part of her wanted nothing more for the market to always be like that. And part of her was still deeply embarrassed by dancing with a cat and failing to speak to lockkette. She was entirely wrapped up in her head when, speaking of Lockette, her voice called after her.
She startled, and stopped abruptly having taken no account the last house on the path before her own- she was liable to walk past her own in this state of mind.
"Oh-no no no I would never. My home is just a little ways more-" She said too quickly.
Cathal meowed at Lockette, because yes, he was cursed, thank you for noticing, but she was too busy with Riley's approach to pay attention. He grumbled and resettled himself around Lockette's shoulders, and then meowed louder at Riley.
He wanted to go home, but he wasn't going into the forest this late when he was small and easily edible, so he instead just kept meowing unhappily.
Molly thought she would soon have every inch of Tuesday's face memorized, so often had he surprised her into staring at him in silence. She blinked.
"Ah… sure. Great. That's perfect, love." I'm going to have to be very specific with this one, she added internally, then chastised herself for being unkind.
"Well." She grabbed her notebook, stood up, and did a big stretch. "Ohhhh my gosh I'm tired. I'm going to pack it in for the night, so uh, sleep well. Sweet dreams and all that. Oh, and enjoy your soup!"
Molly paused, and gave a weary smile. "And again, I'm happy to have met you, Tuesday. It's been… we'll go with fun. Goodnight."
The next morning came softly, slowly. She was in a dream of another time, another place- and then, eyes cracking open to the grey light of the small room at the inn, Molly remembered where she was.
She watched the thin beam of light coming through the break in the curtains, and soon became aware of the sounds of the Silver Prawn beginning its daily bustle downstairs. As she became more awake, she remembered more of all the things that had happened and all the things she needed to do. The weight of it- not overwhelming, but definitely there- wanted to pull her back down under the covers. With a sigh, instead she sat up and pressed the warm palms of her hands into her closed eyes, pushing some of the tired away, and then got up.
Over breakfast, Molly considered what her plan for the day should be. There were several tasks to embark on, but the boldness she’d found yesterday seemed to have fled in the night. In the light of day, it all felt too uncertain.
The more she debated, the more restless she became, until a clatter near the fireplace drew her attention. Another early patron had simply dropped a spoon, but behind them was an upright piano she hadn’t noticed before. Molly stood up suddenly, sure now of what she wanted to do first. She returned her dishes to the nice innkeeper and paid for her breakfast, adding, “I’m going to play the piano for a little while, if that’s all right,” before she could talk herself out of it. But he smiled and nodded, so over to the instrument she went, trying not to look like she was in a hurry.
It had been a little while since she’d played a piano, since she couldn’t of course carry one around and mostly played outdoors when she busked. She began on some scales to warm up. Just play, no singing, she told herself. Things went awry far more easily when she sang. But she had to get some music out to be able to think clearly. With just Herbert and two or three others in the tavern that morning, a few classical pieces wouldn’t hurt anything.
Not even realizing she was smiling, Molly started to play.
”You mean the house that’s a strong breeze away from collapsing at the end of the road? That -“ Lockette sighs deeply. She shouldn’t say more, she should let her find out for herself that the house inhospitable. Being even within the bounds of the fairy woods meant that it was likely inhabited by some sort of wild animal by now. That’s the other woman’s business business. None of Lockette’s business at all.
”Oh, for fuck’s sakes, Tubbs,” Lockette growls to Bathtub, before she raises her voice, “Hey! You can’t stay at that house. If it doesn’t fall down while you sleep, then it’s definitely not sturdy enough to keep anything that wants to come in from breaking down the door. If you... Ah, fuck. You can crash here for tonight, and I can take a look tomorrow morning and fix up the roof and the supports, alright? That house isn’t safe.”
She would have laughed and put her hands on her hips at such an insult to her family home but Lockette spoke so matter of fact and sure that it took all the wind out of her sails. Today had already been strange. Hadn't she spent the last few nights there without trouble, hadn't she woken up there this morning just fine? She was certain one of her cousins had come up from Royse to help her thatch the roof? If what the innkeepers son had told her was true then she'd been out of town for at least five years, but even so the roof wasn't likely to cave in. She knew a bit about roofs and houses, not as much as she did about chairs and tables but a bit.
"We just redid the roof a little while ago, even if I've been a way for a couple years, I don't see the fuss?" She said it doing her best to be polite.