“Novalee, you coming?” Felicia yelled up from the bottom of the stairs.
“Just a second.” Novalee took one last glance at the looking glass then rushed out of the room and down the stairs. Her wool skirts trailed behind her. She liked the way wool felt, heavy and strong. She had always felt vulnerable clothed in the gossamer silk she had worn at The Temple.
“About time,” Felicia grunted, “We're going to be late.
“Oh come on,” Novalee smiled, “We still have two and a half hours before we are expected at the Dancing Gypsies.” She made sure she had everything, then went out the door. “Aren't you coming?” she smiled.
Felicia shook her head and followed. It was difficult for her to believe this was the same timid girl they had found in the alley almost a month ago. She was now a part of their odd little family held together by Mag.“Slow down,” said Felicia.
Novalee stopped and waited. “I thought we were late?” Novalee found her new life a happy one. She played the part of distraction for the group of pickpockets and cut purses. She would play the ocarina while several members of the gang would walk around in the audience cutting-purses and picking pocket.
“We're not so late we have to run.” Felicia caught up and they fell in step together.
“I wasn't running.”
Felicia rolled her eyes.
“Either way I'm hungry, we need to get there before...”
“They're not going to run out of food.” Felicia huffed.
“Are you sure?” Novalee let Felicia set their pace.
Felicia was a short girl and stocky. If it weren't for the point of her ears no one would believe she had elven blood. She was older than Novalee, and much more serious. “Yes I'm sure, and don't make yourself sick.” She said
Novalee nodded. Her appetite was a source of mirth for the Grasping Magpies. No one could believe how much the little thing was capable of eating. On more than one occasion she had eaten herself sick. “I promise. But I would like to eat something before the performance.”
“How can you always be hungry?”
Novalee shrugged. “Call it making up for years of not eating.”
They made it to the tavern when sun was just starting its descent. The tavern was already filling up. The Dancing Gypsy was near the North Gate, and most of its patrons were adventurers from the north. There were other travelers. but mostly it was the place adventurers stopped at on their first night in the city. They were a little more free with their treasure and ready to tell anyone and everyone about the great deeds they had achieved, the damsels they had rescued, the dragons they had slain. Novalee loved to listen to them talk about the world outside the city. Maybe latter she would see it herself.
Novalee was given wine and bread which she ate and drank happily. This would be her fourth time playing at the Dancing Gypsy, and the first time the cut-purses would be in the crowd. Not too many, they didn't want too many of the patrons getting robbed, and most definitely didn't want the theft to be associated with Novalee's playing. Mag was good at using his resources as long as possible.
After she had eaten and cleaned out her mouth with some water the tavern keep announced her onto the stage. After bowing she played, one song after another. She loved the music and let herself become one with the sounds. She loved to watch the crowd as they were moved by the music. Tonight looking over the crowd she thought she recognized someone. She looked again and could not believe who was in the crowd. It was Slate, a boy from The Temple. Their eyes met and she knew that he recognized her. That made her nervous.
When she finished playing and she made her way off the stage, Slate was waiting for her.
“Jade Songbird, what are you doing?”
"It's not Jade anymore." She answered, standing straight and walking with as much forged confidence as possible. "It's Novalee."
He blinked, then said, "That is a dumb name."
"So was Jade." Novalee said pushing him out of her way.
Slate was back at her side in a moment, "Well you shouldn't be out in the open."
"Why?" She shrugged.
"The High Priest is looking for you."
A shiver went down her spine. "He survived?"
"Of course, how can you be so stupid."
Novalee flinched. "Maybe it was just wishful thinking." She looked down at her feet.
"You should come with me."
"Why? The Magpies can keep me safe."
"Really, you think a bunch of unbelieving thieves can keep you safe?"
"Because he knows where you are."
"Why do you think I'm here?"
Novalee looked like a rabbit who realized that the wolf had seen it and now was trying to decide which way to run.
"If you go back to the Magpies tonight by morning the high priest will have you."
"But if I go with you?" she asked in a quiet voice.
"I'll keep you safe." He offered his hand.
She hesitated, then took it.