Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Sea Glass

Lina wandered back from the water’s edge, the sonorous bells of her golusu tinkling with each step. She stood silently for a moment on the perimeter of a small, incongruous company. A tentacled woman was bouncing with excitement around a balding, mechanical spider that chitttered and skittered in response. An impatient Amazon with blue-black hair pressed into a very small, very pale, bald woman, dressed in Victorian black. The tiny woman seemed to flicker like a candle in the night breeze. A light-skinned blonde attired in all black stood heatedly arguing with a golden-haired man of distinctly canine features. She punched her fists in the air as she emphasized her point. Off to the side stood a young Neko, whose green-tipped ears and tail twitched as he took it all in.

Lina’s dark, almond eyes studied each one methodically until she nodded to herself and settled on the Neko. The Neko, called Pez, gave her a brief smile and attempted to spot what she held in her hand from her gathering by the water. Lina tilted her head slightly toward him and opened her palm, revealing three pieces of sea glass. The Neko brightened as he inspected the sea glass from a distance, nodding briefly to himself. “Wanna trade?” he asked.

The Asian woman walked towards the Neko with her hand still extended. The skirt of her gold-trimmed anarkalis rippled slightly as she moved. “It depends,” she replied. “Do you have something I need?”

Pez glanced over at the golden-haired man, then grinned at Lina, “Well, I guess that'd depend on what you might need?”

Lina Olaria smiled serenely. “What would you offer?”

Pez considered her question, and then tilted his head. “Well, they're pretty, but, mainly good for decoration. So I'd offer something similar.” He began to dig through his pockets, finally coming up with a beaded bracelet to offer.

“Decoration,” Lina nodded. She placed the etched glass into the Neko's hand. “I won't take that, but I will take a lock of your hair... if you agree, of course.”

The Neko’s brow furrowed as he wrapped his fingers around the glass. “You have use of my hair?”

As the two spoke, an elegant woman with blond, upswept hair moved close in a whisper of sun-dried cotton and sweet scented soap. A beaded circlet with a black feather ornamented her hair. Her name was Liu and she seemed to float in and out of the crowd with the ease of the perpetually tipsy. With the fingers of one hand she held the stem of a sherry copita, while the fingers of her other hand brushed over Pez's hair, and across his bare neck. “Such a lovely… color,” she murmured in a dreamy, melodious voice.

Pez startled, then glanced over his shoulder at Liu who gave him a sweet, unreadable smile, and slipped away. Lina turned briefly to gaze at the woman, and then returned her attention to the Neko. “I do have use for it,” Lina said, lifting one hand. A small silver razor glinted in the moonlight between her fingers. “It won't hurt a bit.”

The Neko blinked, very confused, and frowned at the appearance of the silver blade, “ But what’ ya need my hair for?” he asked again.

“Oh,” Lina replied as she stroked his cheek, “It's useful…. needful, in fact.” She stood with the razor poised, waiting for the Neko’s answer.

Pez Donner blinked and blinked again, “ Just a bit confused as to what you might need it for. But, if you really want it... maybe you have something else to trade as well?”

Lina’s only reply was to lift a lock of hair above the Neko’s ear. With a swift and nearly soundless slicing, she sheared it away. The Neko gave a brief yelp of surprise. Smiling to herself, Lina gazed at the lock for a moment, and then closed her hand around it. Then little silver razor seemed to dangle briefly from her wrist before it vanished.

“ D'ya have anything else you'd give me for that hair?” Pez asked again with a frown.

“Of course I'll trade with you again,” Lina said looking at the Neko quite seriously. “Your hair was in trade for the sea glass.” She shakes her head. “Have you something else to offer?”

Pez scowled back, “No, I wasn't gonna give you my hair just for the sea glass. I wanted other things, too.”

Liu drifted back toward Lina and Pez, then circled around the pair and wandered up the hill to where the golden-haired man stood quietly with the woman he’d been fighting with. His brown stood alert as he watched Pez, and he gave a deep sigh as if his fears of the Neko’s foolhardiness had been confirmed.

“Who's the green lad who's so cheerfully giving his soul away?” the Liu asked, her nod indicating Pez.

The golden-haired man, whose name was Jeriko, shook his head. “My assistant. Can't do shit without me, apparently. It’s a shame, really, because he had a decent sense about him. Now I'll have to rewrite the laws and probably shoot the witch. Damn it.”

The blonde woman, Adalyn, had been so interested in the cutting of the Neko's hair that she forgot her hatred for Jeriko for a moment and had stopped fighting. “What is so special about his hair?”

“Anyone's hair, silly girl,” Liu chided. “Not just his.”

Adalyn continued to look confused. ““What is so special about hair? It’s just for decoration.”

Liu sighed with exasperation, took an exaggerated drink of her sherry and said, “Oh, for heaven's sake.”

“It’s witchcraft 101, really,” Jeriko began. “Nails, hair, personal objects… to willingly give those things is to set yourself up for some issues.” He folded his arms across his chest. “The question now being, do I let him learn on his own or try to nip this nonsense in the bud? What the witch is doing is clearly against the law, but nobody's following the law tonight anyway.”

“Do you really want to deal with someone sticking pins into his heart?” Liu asked mildly.

A strangely greedy expression crossed Adalyn’s face as she muttered to herself, “The heart...very dangerous... full of blood....”

Jeriko scowled at Adalyn, then said gruffly to the cheeky woman, “Dealt with worse.”

“Yes,” Liu responded, as she considered Jeriko. “You look like you're quite able to take care of yourself. But the question remains… is he?”

The three turned their attention back down the hill toward the Neko and the Asian woman. The Neko stood stubbornly, arms crisscrossed, as he waited for Lina’s reply to his demand for more items. Lina took a deep breath. “Ah... well... the cost is a bit steeper for other ... things,” she said quietly.

The Neko continued to scowl, his words becoming more insistent. “But I didn't say you could just take my hair for only the sea glass.”

“You didn't say that I couldn't,” Lina smiled gently. “If there is something else you desire, perhaps we could trade again.”

On the hill, Liu nudged Jeriko. “You note that no matter how they bargain, she hasn't given back his hair.”

Adalyn shuffled around and shook her head. “Sadly, he is still too trusting to be left alone.”

“No, he's not…. But I'm not his mommy,” Jeriko laughed lightly.

“Aww,” Liu slurred and took another sip of sherry. “But he's so sweet. Be kind, and rescue him. I'm sure that there's no reputation so fine that it cannot do with a little spit and polish.”

Pez continued glaring at Lina, a distinct pout framing his face. “I shouldn't have to say you couldn't for you not to do it. Now I want my hair back.” He held out the sea glass towards her, expecting a trade back.

Lina shook her head firmly. “Unfortunately, all trades are final.” She looked at the Neko a bit sympathetically.

“Thought so,”Liu said with satisfaction. She turned back to Jeriko. “She wanted the hair and she's not willing to give full value for it. So isn't there something in the trade laws on that?”

Adalyn gave a small, secret smile at what she perceived to be Lina’s cunning tactics, while at the same time vowing never to trust her. Jeriko just sighed and shook his head, muttering about all the paperwork -this- stunt was going to cause now.

“But I didn't agree to -this- trade,” Pez continued stubbornly.

“If you look carefully,” Lina said consolingly, “You might find that the glass has properties you didn't quite expect…. Or not. It's so difficult to tell with these things.”

Liu hid a smile with her hand. “It makes your whites whiter and your brights brighter.”

Pez scowled and muttered, “It better have some damned good properties. I still want my hair back.” Not that he knew anything about witchcraft; it was all a matter of principle now.

“My name is Lina,” the Asian woman said. “If you decide there is something else you find that you need, you’re welcome to visit my shop.”

“I'm Pez.”

Lina Olaria lowered her head slightly. “It was good to do business with you.”

“If she walks away with his hair, he's hers, poor schmuck.” Liu rolled her eyes.

Jeriko continued to look at his assistant and Lina. “She reminds me of... what are they… Yuki Onna, I believe.”

Liu nodded, “Snow Women… hmm…. Depends on if she tries to kiss him. I've seen them, and I wouldn't say there was a resemblance.”

Lina gazed at Pez in silence for a moment, then said, “Namaste aayubowan... may you live long,” before turning away with a smile.

Pez said sulkily, “I still think it was unfair. ...but, um. Yeah, I hope so too. ...take care?”

Lina Olaria stopped and smiled over her shoulder. “Yes... take care.” And she walked way toward the water again.