JP: Rumor Has It #Jaya #Brandy


Steph
 

Who: Jaya, Brandy

With: Other tavern patrons

Where: The Silver Tankard, Merchant's Quarter, King's City, Eventyr

When: Sunday, February 24th 872 RoK (Reign of Kings)


Another temp job had wrapped up without a permanent job offer, but at least this time Jaya's performance had been rewarded with a big enough bonus to ensure that she could pay her part of the rent at the start of the month, and rent for the month after would be a problem to deal with later. Today's problem was almost definitely going to be securing her room at the Silver Tankard.


It was her room. Jaya paid for it, in full, with money she earned as the Ghost Blade and rewards from the quests she embarked on. Hers. Rightfully so. But in Fantasyland, some legalities just didn't exist. If she wasn't actually in the room--and even sometimes when she made it clear she'd be back same day--the room might be double-booked.


So, she stood at the end of the bar, knuckles rattling over wood as she waited for Brandy to finish up with her other customer. The tavern was packed, probably for the same reason that Jaya had told everyone who'd notice her missing that she was going on a little road trip with someone special, wink. A commoner couldn't be noble, but when the Royal family threw a week-long festival in the King's City, you packed in…


"Finishing up" with a customer only really happened when Brandy received coins. So she chatted and flirted and edged on deep, meaningful connection… until she had a couple of bronze in her hand, and then she found a reason to sashay away. On the move, Brandy managed to find half a dozen greetings, cheek-kisses, or laughs before she settled across the bar from Jaya. A smart, sort-of butch chika - probably dangerous, but not in the way Brandy had to worry about. Settling in with the back of her hand under her chin, Brandy fixed the other woman with a look that ranged from just curious all the way through predatory.


"Jaya, Jaya, Jaya," Brandy cooed, sensuously, as her hand extended to over the other woman's. "You're in early, aren't you?"


Brandy probably made a lot of money as a barmaid, Jaya figured. The way she handled all her patrons with so much attention was magical-adjacent if it wasn't actually magic. (Could bartending be magical? Did it matter either way, if Jaya believed it?) She wished she could command so much attention, though. Maybe she'd manage to land a permanent job.


She stilled her hand and tried to give Brandy a cool, stiff-lipped sort of look, but there were cracks around the edges, a glint of honest amusement in her eyes.


"Should it matter when I arrive, considering my room is paid through at least the next two months?" she asked in return.


"Are you… are you really trying to talk about the room?" Brandy said, feigning an air of being affronted that was totally an act, and one she didn't hide. A hand brushed against her heart and her eyes rolled on up to ceiling. "Do you know how dangerous this city is? I'm just glad to see you're alive. Beautiful young ladies - like yourself - face life and death on a nightly basis," her eyes held a glint of sensuous flirtation, which might not have been inauthentic but also seemed very much like a front. Especially as her tone turned to a whisper: "Not to mention what the dangers get up to…"


Although Jaya put on an air of being completely nonplussed by Brandy's performance, the air was completely undermined by the smile lines that brightened the glint in Jaya's eyes. The whole exchange was novel even in its absurdity. Jaya pressed herself a little more closely to the bar to allow another patron passage behind her, and she tried not to let their movement distract her from her part in this conversation.


"The dangers might get up to putting knives in the vital organs of people who rented out their rooms to other people," Jaya said, though, the words coming to her in one of those witty flashes of inspiration that she got sometimes here on this side of the fairy circles. "I suppose you only have my best interest in mind, though. What do you think we should be talking about, if it's not time to talk about my room yet?"


Brandy's eyes narrowed a bit even as a brow raised - Jaya's words held a serious threat but… again, not the sort of threat that Brandy needed to worry about all too much. So when her threat laid off, Brandy let her expression relax. "Of course I have your best interest in mind. I have all kinds of people who need knives put through vital organs, and when I need to call someone, you are at the top of my list," Brandy said. "So it is in my every interest to keep you happy." You know, short of not double-renting the room that she used half the time anyway.


"So why don't we talk about… how you don't have a drink in your hand - " Brandy said, before she turned away in a fuss to get a mug, fill it with drink, what did Jaya like anyway?, shoo a boy away from her stool. Once the whole procedure was done, Brandy was quite satisfied. "See, you're home!"


Jaya relented to Brandy's cheerful fussing easily enough. When it seemed like everyone on Earth somehow managed to ignore her existence, there was something to be said for being seen and welcomed, even if that welcome was covering for an egregious customer service nightmare. If Brandy would just stop double-booking Jaya's lawfully-paid-for room, this whole exchange would be all the more pleasant.


"Home," Jaya echoed with a sufficiently tall glass of pale ale now in front of her. Fantasy beer was better because the calories didn't count. "What's the news? Were you here eight years ago for the last one of these festivals?"


"Nah, the little prince was already out of diapers by the time I started coming around," Brandy said. It was funny to describe it that way, but Eventyrian time was so very different from Earth's that she had no real concept of what year it was or how long things had been. "But I've never seen the city so beautiful - or so packed."


But she leaned in a bit as her tone lowered, a bit more real. "Truth is, though, for all the festivities… people got problems. Everyone talks a big game about being thrilled for the new baby, but a couple drinks in, and they are calling the king out for magic, treason, witchcraft, you name it. All whispers, you know, but they aren't just blowing hot air."


That turn of phrase, coming around, made Jaya wonder yet again if there was a chance Brandy was also from Earth, but she could just as easily mean that she was from one of the duchies and started living in the King's City four years ago. It just wasn't a question Jaya wanted to ask. Even if her logical mind told her she couldn't be the only Earthling in this strange realm, she sort of hoped and wished she was, that this was her own personalized fantasy experience. That she was special for a change.


No way did she want to pop that bubble. So, instead, she took a swig of her own drink.


"When I met the king, four years ago, he didn't seem like an evil man," Jaya said, focusing in on the rumors. She'd been hearing them, too, almost as long as the Consort had been standing at the King's side. "He'd been dressed all in black, in mourning still for his wife and the missing Crown Princess, but there hadn't been anything sinister about him. One day in Court isn't really a great measure of a man, though. You heard the story about the missing maidens, right?"


"Uh-huuuh," Brandy said, and swiped her eyes about to be sure no one was listening too closely. Most eyes were reddened and glazed over, so she didn't pay them any mind and focused back on Jaya. "And almost everyone I talk to says it's true - I haven't even heard the royal family deny it."


Lowering her head a bit, Brandy raised an eyebrow. "Everyone says it's black magic or whatever, but I don't know how much I buy all that witch talk." Hell, she'd be called a witch if people knew too much about her. "I wonder if he wasn't appeasing his creepy-ass brother, somehow. Like a fucked-up gift of some kind. I doubt the Green Duke doesn't know where those bitch…" Brandy stopped the word halfway through, forcibly, and helped herself to a sip of Jaya's drink as if to wash it down her throat. "Those lovely young women went."


Jaya was no longer surprised by the way that Brandy took a drink from her cup sometimes. She just hoped that Brandy would understand the simple intrinsic fact that every sip also sipped away at the tip. Shifting the blame from the King to the Duke of the Eastern Forest felt easy somehow. The only stories that Jaya heard about that particular noble did not cast him in the best light. She gave a hum and a nod of her head.


"Maybe his weird green armor needs to be polished in the blood of innocent maidens." Jaya said this with a warbling spooky-story voice, smile making it clear she was making a joke. "Have you heard if the Green Duke going to be in the city for the festival? He almost never leaves the Forest, if the stories are true."


Brandy's eyes widened almost comically at Jaya's joke, but… the truth was, it well might not have been far from the truth. Stories said that armor was impenetrable and indestructible - and given how much the Duke wanted for popularity, if this wasn't true, word would have gotten around. She'd been surprised to hear there was some kind of warlord taken up in the East. That wasn't where she would have started making waves. So, nailed it!, Brandy wanted to say, but knew that phrases too Earth-y often went over Eventyrian heads, so she just said, "I think you might have hit the nail on the head."


And smoothly went on, somewhat sardonically, "Oh, aye, he'll be here - although I wouldn't be surprised if he's more interested in seeing that werewolf drawn-and-quartered than in his new nephew."


"Or niece," Jaya added easily. She almost pointed out it would be better to use nibling because she didn't want to assume the unborn child's gender identity, but then that felt too much like a liberal college graduate sort of thing to say, and she was pretty sure it would be interpreted as another word for snack instead of a gender-neutral term for the child of a sibling here in Eventyr. (There were too many things that ate people in Eventyr.)


She did have to agree, though, that the Green Duke seemed in rumor like the kind of person who'd care more about executions than births. And, continuing on that line of logic, she had to wonder. "Considering the castle was built to keep werewolves and zombies out, it seems incredibly unwise for anyone to put a werewolf inside the castle dungeon. Especially with the full moon right around the corner. Doubly especially with a tasty morsel of a pregnant consort due to have a fat noble baby inside the walls."


A saucy smile spread across Brandy's face in agreement. "Should be an interesting week, hm?"


"Should be." Jaya finished the last swig of her drink, set her cup down, and gave Brandy another steady look. "So, my room?"


/End

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