The first time Dominique and I went to Cora Rei’s Finest, about a month ago, I’d been shocked by the grandeur of it all. The very first time I’d been here had admittedly been a long time ago, and the memory was fuzzy; beside that, I hadn’t even known places like this existed in Dessely Village. It wasn’t a poor village, but it wasn’t Mosstueetue, either, and few had enough ehteren for such luxury.
The building is neither large nor small, but papered over with magnificent, historical tapestries done by artists over the years. The domed building is only one room - it’s anyone’s guess how it’s held together. The floor space is dominated by multiple tables, each one unique and beautiful in a different way.
The place is even quieter than usual tonight, its peaceful air only disrupted by the low murmur of voices. As we work our way through a maze of tables, I catch snippets of conversation. Most of the people are trading couples from Mosstueetue. A dishwater-blonde haired man with an extraordinarily long nose compliments his girlfriend. A tall, blue-eyed man poetically declares something about ducks, much to the dismay of the young woman across from him.
The conversations spark song inspiration in my mind. I make a mental note to myself to jot the lyrics down later.
Dominique turns to me, looking distracted. “Shall we sit?” he asks, gesturing to the surrounding tables.
I point to an unoccupied rubyglass table - a pretty thing of luxury. Dominique walks to the table, his stride graceful, and pulls out a chair for me. Once I’ve taken a seat, he pushes it back into place; his left hand brushes my shoulder as he goes back around, making my cheeks pink.
He smiles at me from across the table. “What is it that you are singing?”
Third time today. Paeline caught me singing twice earlier, and now Dominique. “Oh… an old song I wrote,” I explain with a tiny smile. “It’s silly now.”
He raises one gold brow. “You write music? Like one of the Mosstueetue performers?”
“Mm-hmm. I’ve written a lot of my own music. None of it is very good, though. A lot of what I write is inspired by Varietue Albietus… the musician from Rat-Riti.”
Dominique goes stiff, as if slightly offended. “I didn’t know Varietue came from Rat-Riti.”
I perk up, smiling. “You’ve heard of her?”
“Certainly. She is very popular in Mosstueetue… or she was, the last I knew.”
I nod, no longer sure how to carry on the conversation. Dominique noticeably senses my discomfort and launches into questions.
“Last week, you mentioned Fraulkoueoe. You have been there?”
“Of course! I even brought back a souvenir.”
“The blue foliage is extraordinary, is it not?”
“It is! And the music. Oh, the music… I wish I could live in Fraulkoueoe Village. There’s so much history there, too. It’s where the Roth first rebelled against their enslavement.” Most of it is just legend, but the Roth are said to have rebelled at the ‘Rift Point-’ some split-up between the Roth people and Saiopia.
Dominique gives a skeptical look. “I have never heard this before.”
“You weren’t in my class. Miss Boadicey taught us about it back then.”
“I do not understand your schooling system,” Dominique remarks. “In Mosstueetue, each age group has one class.”
“How do they have enough time to teach that many kids?!”
Dominique brushes at his shining gold hair and says, “You misunderstand. We have multiple schools in Mosstueetue.”
It’s my turn to shake my head. “How do they find enough teachers?” Miss Boadicey has taught in Dessely Village’s schoolhouse for longer than I’ve been alive, and she’s the only real teacher I’ve ever had. She showed me how to read and write and sing, to do arithmetic and understanding magic, however limited that understanding is.
Dominique, looking anxious to change the subject, points to my wrist. “What is that?”
At first, I don’t know what he’s referring to. But when I glance down, I see it - the yellow teardrop pendant that adorns my wrist.
My face flares red against my will. How could I forget to take it off? “Old bracelet,” I hedge. “I’ve had it for way too long.” Not exactly the truth, but passable.
“I see.” He smirks, but seems a little dissatisfied by the answer. “It does look nice on you.”
Now I can feel my face burning and have to hope it doesn’t show. “Thank you,” I mutter.
At long last, a green-haired girl in a contrarily orange frock flounces up to our table with a scrap of paper and a quill in hand. “What eats?”