Swamped Chapter 31 Page 9

“Not just now,” you say. She’s gotten you curious. “What was that about a troupe?”

“Wasn’t there for long – only eight months,” she says, looking thoughtful. “It wasn’t a family troupe, though. Heavy turnover. Most of the performers were runaways, or like me, just down on their luck enough to try a little time on the road. Lots of times they’d look for housing when they stopped by a new town, and if they found it, they quit just like that. The boss never seemed to care much.”

“That’s odd,” you say. “Never heard of a troupe like that.”

“Yeah, well, as time went on I started to think they were kind of shady. Some of our ‘performers’ only stayed on from one town to the next, didn’t even do one show. I wasn’t the nosy type, though; I was getting food and water, and I got to play every couple of weeks, so I was happy enough there.” She looks upset now. “Then one day, they just kicked me out and left town without me. Didn’t say why. I figured they just didn’t want an outsider around too long – even if I wasn’t poking around, I might stumble onto something.”

Strings groans.

“But apparently I wasn’t cynical enough. The real reason they left me there was to take the blame. I don’t know what the hell happened exactly, I just know I had the town guard on my tail. I spent half my savings bribing a passing farmer to take me to the next town, but they were on watch for me too. Whatever those bastards were up to must’ve been real big… but it’s not my problem any more.”

“So, you came here? To the swamp?”

“It’s where we go when we got nowhere else. Wasn’t easy getting here, and it’s no palace, but it’s my home now and I’ll take it. I mean, all I had goin’ for me when I got here was my lute and a price on my head. Here, at least, I got food and a family. The food may stink and the family’s got a pile of assholes in it, but they’re mine.”

You suppose you can relate.

Granted, you aren’t exactly a criminal, or a soldier. But you can understand how this run-down fortress in the middle of a smelly swamp can be a home, and how the people here, for all their flaws, can be a family. That’s desert life.

Something occurs to you.

“If you have a lute, why are you playing that rickety old piano?”

Strings laughs heartily.

“I ain’t got the lute any more. Smashed it on old man Burgundy’s face years ago. And it was damn well worth it.” She smiles at you. “So! You want more music, or more conversation? I can take a crack at either.”

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play something that makes YOU nostalgic this time

> Ask them to let you play. Then leave them awed at your skill.