Wide wall high windows surrounded the comfort of the Lavorres' new living room, the light exposure embracing the sky blue wallpaper walls with an indirect sun. Blude moved the long sofa into place and Jester crashed on it.
“Blude, this is taking so long and my sketchbook is in my stuff.”
“I’m sorry, Jester, we’re almost done.”
She sighed. Marion Lavorre checked the last case unloaded from the chariots, her eyes scanning the surroundings with the familiar hint of anxiety.
“Mom,” Jester said, and sank more into the sofa. “Where is my sketchbook?”
Marion turned to her and smiled, her hands tight around her cloak. That same cloak she had once used to cover a younger Jester asleep on the sofa of the Lavish Chateau.
“My dear, if you help Blude bring your things upstairs you can have your sketchbook and take a look at your new room, what do you say?”
Jester stood up, her smile hurting her own face. “I’ll do that.”
Walking back and forth with Blude for the next hour, free to be just outside, no worry of being seen as some kind of intrusion into her mother’s work. Her mom looked around nervous, keeping her back near either a wall or the chariot or Blude when he was there. But she was the reason why they were in Zadash. Probably for good. That, and probably the fact that it was either moving or Jester being executed by Lord Sharp. But at the very least, the Traveller was proud of her.
“So, mom,” Jester said, and picked up another box. “Don’t stay outside too much, I can handle it.”
Marion twisted the hem of the cloak in her hands. “Are you sure?”
“Of course, mom, leave it to us,” Jester lifted the box for emphasis. “And besides: Blude and me are very strong.”
Marion smiled and her shoulders sagged in relaxation. “That you are, my little sapphire.”
Through the glass of her window, the Tri-Spire reached into the cloudy sky, arms of brick and metal and wood of a city that thrived with trade and knowledge. The “snooty district”, as Jester liked to call it, seemed less of a breathtaking scenery and more of a looming presence, the eye of the Empire now closer to her more than it had ever been. That and the constant clouds and humidity made her miss Nicodranas. The warmth. The ocean. The Chateau. But she couldn’t say she missed her mother’s now ex-clients.
After the Sharp “incident”, as her mother called it, she just packed, took her daughter, Blude and sold the Chateau, taking with her not only her precious jewel but also her reputation. The new house and future brother needed a name - mom shut down The Best Lay Ever with a laugh and a hug - but their papers were regular and new, as new as Marion’s decision to be just the manager of the new business. Too much secrecy and commitment, she had said.
“Jester, dear, come please?” her mom called from somewhere in the house.
“Coming!” she shouted.
Her mom was bent over a chest in her new room, pulling out clothes and other belongings on the bed orderly.
“Your sketchbook was here,” the woman handed her the notebook. “Must have put it in my things without noticing. Next time, don’t fall asleep on my bed while drawing.”
“Thank you, mom,” Jester held the notebook in her arms. “The towers are very pretty from here.”
“Oh, indeed,” Marion smiled at her and folded a dress. “Would you like to go for a walk and look around tomorrow?”
The smile that broke on her face threatened to crack her cheeks in half.
“Me and you? Outside?”
Marion’s eyes half disappeared in the smile that mirrored her daughters. “Yes, me and you. Outside.”
“Oh my gosh, mom, let’s go!” Jester jumped towards her and held her hands. “We can go look for new paints, and then we can go walk around and stare up the Archives of the Cobalt Soul - I hear they’re huge - and we can-”
Marion laughed and pur her hands on Jester’s shoulders. “We will do and see whatever you want, my little sapphire. I promise.”
“Beauregard, you’re sloppy ,” Dairon backflipped and charged towards Beau, whose arms didn’t parry in time. She found herself on the ground, staring up at the bald monk, who had her open hand pointed towards her like a threatening blade. It was probably almost as sharp, too.
Beau groaned. “I am trying .”
“Try harder,” Dairon stepped back and dropped her stance. “One day you’ll have to save your own life. What we do in here is dangerous, you can do better.”
“I said I am trying .” Beau stood up and launched herself with her fist reared back. Dairon ducked and next thing Beau knew was the pain behind her neck and her cheek on the ground behind her master. Dairon dusted off her elbow and crossed her arms.
“Well, I suppose that’s enough not trying for today.”
Beau huffed and coughed when the dust she huffed off billowed under her nose. Dairon’s legs walked towards her and a hand entered her vision. Beau took it and stood up. Dairon gave her a small smile.
“It doesn’t have to be a task , Beauregard Lionett.”
“For all intents and purposes looks and feels like a task to me,” Beau said and rubbed her painful neck.
“New perspective: you can do this to reach your end,” Dairon’s punch stopped in front of her nose. “Or you can do better and maybe even avoid fighting altogether. But sometimes you can’t avoid it, so you need to learn.”
“I’m plenty good with kicking ass and taking names, thank you very much,” Beau said and grabbed a glass of water from the table near the door of the training room.
“I’m sure,” Dairon shook her head. “But be mindful of why you’re here.”
Beau didn’t have to be reminded at all.
“See you tomorrow, Beauregard.”
And just like that, Dairon was out of the room.
Walking back to her bedroom with sour muscles and bruises was in no way less normal than being asked to escort somebody through the library - unless that someone was a homeless man in a dirty coat who happened to not have seen a bath in months - but every time she hit the bed after a day of training made her feel like that was the best bed she had slept on. Which was, technically, not wrong. She had slept in much worse places, her own house’s bedroom included. It was hard to sleep when the old man’s favorite hobby was to make your life a living hell.
Her eyes shot open as a crashing sound came from outside the window of the room. Stupid market chaos.
She yawned, stood up and walked towards it and opened it. The Zadash’s chaos was, like every single afternoon, winding down after another day of activity, and welcoming the evening strolls, the dating couples, the family trips, the street artists. That was probably one of the few things that kept her from leaving the library outright: the small world under her window. And Dairon, when she wasn’t being a hard ass.
But nothing stopped her from crawling down the window. Dairon had managed to get the acrobatic climbing techniques to stick, at the very list. And she really wanted a candied apple from down the street.
She pulled her legs up the open window and lowered her body to hang on the edge of the marble, her feet on the now familiar bricks that jutted out of the wall. She made her way down through crevices, protrusions and banner flags, and jumped down on her two feet. And right in front of a blue tiefling who, quite literally, fell on her back from the surprise.
“Ah, shit man, sorry, I-"
The blue tiefling had short hair, also blue, and small horns at the top of her head. Her blue gown rested long and messy on her legs, the green mantle hiding the top of the otherwise white and brown leather dress. And Beau looked away.
“Oh no, dear, are you alright?” A red skinned tiefling kneeled next to the younger tiefling and put a hand on her shoulder. Then she pierced Beau with bright scarlet eyes. “Where did you even come from?”
“Oh, uh, sorry I was just trying to go for a walk?”
The blue tiefling blinked and looked up at the wall, and then back at Beau. And then she - smiled ?
“Did you just climb down the wall?”
“That’s so cool!”
The red tiefling helped the blue girl up. “Jester, dear, she just fell on you-”
“Mom, I’m fine, it’s okay,” Jester said, and dusted her gown off. Then she looked at Beau. “How did you do that?”
Beau was not good with people. Like, in general. Unless she had to punch them or call somebody “asshole”. So this girl, asking to see her doing something she didn’t think was that big of a deal, especially after Beau had literally made her fall to the ground was a concept Beau struggled to put together.
“Dude, I just crashed on you, what the fuck.”
Jester’s mother walked between Jester and Beau. “You owe my daughter an apology.”
Beau took a step backward. “Yes, ma’am, I’m sorry. Can I go now?”
“But you need to show me how you did that,” Jester said, walking to her mother’s side.
“Maybe another time,” Beau gave an awkward hand wave and booked it.
What compelled her to walk away, beside being the direct cause of an accident, was the fact that she couldn’t get over how pretty the blue tiefling girl looked. So candied apple run became a visit to the nearest brothel. Nothing a night of forgetting couldn’t fix. But that night, and she laid down in a bed of sinful pleasures, Dairon in her dreams told her that climbing walls was beneath a monk of the Cobalt Soul.
Two nights later, Jester had a whole new array of paints, and the first thing she wanted to draw was sitting in front of her in the living room, near the fireplace.
Marion Lavorre liked to knit. She didn’t get to do it often, Jester recalled, but she had been able to make Jester a whole new - blue - scarf complete with her own initials. Her ruby skin looked smooth, comfortable, almost younger than what Jester remembered. When Blude brought her breakfast in the bedroom that morning, he was enjoying the comfort of a new white shirt. “It’s from the silk makers of the place,” he said, and smoothed it down with his hand.
The implicit air of - change? that permeated around them after the move had been done was at times disorienting. But seeing her mother and Blude glow with relax and the excitement of new beginnings was enough to overwhelm Jester and give her a reason to want to draw both even more.
“What’s the matter, sapphire?” Her mother asked. Jester didn’t realize she had been staring.
“Oh, you know,” she said, and dipped her brush in a deep ruby paint. “It just feels different, is all.”
Marion Lavorre smiled and stood from her chair, her knitting work on the seat. She walked towards Jester and sat beside her. “Do you miss Nicodranas?”
“Oh no, mom, I love it here.”
“I’m glad,” she said. “Something wrong?”
“You and Blude look different .”
Her mother leaned her head on the side, curious. “Different how?”
“Just different,” Jester put down the brush. “Happier.”
The water in the glass of brushes shivered. Shook. Swang out of the glass. Everything shook. Jester met her mother’s gaze, who looked confused and alarmed. The canvas in front of her fell, the glass of wine near the fireplace chair fell on the ground and broke, the wine bleeding into the carpet.
“Blude!” Her mother called. “Blude, where are you?”
“Miss Lavorre, I’m here,” Blude entered the room from the second door in the back. “There’s chaos in the city.”
“Chaos?” Jester asked, her arm close to her mother’s.
“A tower fell.”
Dairon left. After the tower attack, everyone looked on edge at the Archives. Zeenoth kept displacing books about Xhorhas, Beau guessed after he had consulted them. Strange coping mechanisms. Which she wished she had, since after Dairon had left, she had been assigned more library duty, and after that hall duty, and after that-
“Beauregard, are you done with training already?” Jennah asked, as she walked past her in the corridor to the hall.
Beau bit on her tongue. “Yeah, Tubo sent me away early. Said I did really well?”
“Oh, I see. Do you have time to go get some new robes at Basic Clothing Wears’? It’s for the new disciples coming in today.” She gave her a bag of coins.
Beau nodded and tugged the bag of coins to her belt and exited the building.
She walked a few steps and turned the corner of the building into a narrow alley. She leaned to the wall and slid down to the ground. She unwrapped her left boot and hissed when the damp cloth pulled on her wound.
“Tubo’s gonna be thrilled,” she muttered, and hissed when she pulled more at the cloth.
The evening before Beau had climbed down the window - again - and off to the brothel. When she came back right before dawn, she had climbed back up but slipped on one of the flag banners. One of the pointy ones that she kept reminding herself not to fall off of. Once she had come up into the room, she had used one of her old robe sashes to wrap the wound and used some of the pure alcohol on it - the alcohol she stole from the kitchen a few nights back.
Earlier that day during training, Tubo had noticed and finished training early, urging her to get it checked by a cleric. And Beau, being herself, did none of those things. And Beau, being herself, now regretted it.
“Are you okay, girl?” A low deep voice asked from the corner of the alley.
A huge minotaur in a white expensive looking shirt and pants looked at her, his look one of curiosity and his voice not doing much to hide worry.
“I’m cool, thanks.”
“I can call for help.”
Beau huffed. “I said I’m okay.”
The minotaur fell silent and looked at her for another couple seconds, and then turned away into the main street. Beau rolled her eyes and pulled the edge of the cloth, leaned in to look into the wound. It hurt, red and bloated looking.
“Oh no, are you hurt?”
Beau looked at the end of the alley, where now stood the minotaur from before and - the blue tiefling from earlier that week?
“Let me help,” the blue tiefling - Jester, that’s her name, yes - walked the alley towards her and kneeled down in front of her.
“Hey friend, listen, I’m fine, I’m just gonna go ask a cleric nearby.”
Jester grinned. “Technically I am a cleric , so.”
Jester’s grin grew wider and she looked down at the leg. The grin disappeared.
“Oh my gosh, does that hurt?”
Beau shook her head, but hissed when Jester tugged on the cloth.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, let me just,” and Jester cupped her hands around the calf.
A soft light green glow grew between the girl’s hands in the shape of the wound. Beau recoiled at the unfamiliar, unexpected warmth of it. Cleric magic was still hard to wrap her head around after years spent around them.
The wound sizzled, the skin around the cut grew bubbly and pulled around the edges until the two sides touched and melted together. The patch of bloody skin now matching the rest of her body, no wound to be found.
“Oh, wow,” was all Beau could say.
Jester sat in front of her, legs crossed. “Better?”
“I, uh - yeah.”
“Jester, your mother is probably wondering where you are.” The minotaur walked closer to them.
Jester nodded and stood up, and extended a hand to Beau. Beau blinked and just stood up, not taking it.
“Uh, thanks, I guess.”
Jester clapped her hands together and put them behind her back, smiling at Beau. And Beau was at a loss for words.
“You’re welcome,” she took a step back. “I’m Jester.”
Beau looked at her, at the minotaur, and back at the blue tiefling. What the hell?
“Jester,” said the minotaur.
“Coming,” Jester huffed. “Nice to meet you, Beau.
And she ran out of the alley, walking away with the minotaur by her side.
Discomfort and worthlessness sank deep in Beau's stomach as the leg, empty of pain, pushed her up from the ground. It was just a matter of time until she got hurt again and screwed up the blue tiefling's kindness.