The First Rose Scene, Maybe
Oh man, okay so I read through this one. It's the first scene with Rose? Maybe? I'm still trying to remember which character Jessica became? I think she just melded into Fionna. Ishmael is definitely Silas, but I just haaaaaad to give him a quirk and he only says one word at a time cause I think I thought that was cool?
Man I have a hard time trying to parse what it was back in 2010-2011 and now. I have actual old papers in my bag that are some of the earliest writing I did for Hunted, back when there was anthropomorphic lions and the main character was a half-angel? I watched a loooot of anime. Some day I'll get a scanner and post those horrible horrible things.
“I want to sing to you, my loves.” A woman’s voice filled the smoky room, the entire place fell silent. She was laid back on a plush, red velvet chair, a cigarette smoldering in a long holder held between two fingers. Her corset matched the colour of the chair, her lips as well. Red feathers crowned her blonde hair, swaying slightly as she leaned forward. A ring shaped microphone hung from the ceiling, dangling in front of her. “My only loves and happiness.”
A few of the patrons whistled, some cheered, the rest stared in awe. She gave them all a warm smile, “I’ve missed you all,” she looked around the room, “Except you Frank, you still haven’t left.”
The crowd laughed and the man raised his pint to her, grinning, “An’ I don’ plan to fer a while yet.”
“Oh, sweetie you know I’d never make you. So, my loves, what should we begin the night with?”
Voices overlapped each other as the men and women tried to get in their requests.
In the back two sat, not paying attention to the show. “So, suga’, what are you thinkin’?” The woman leaned back into the overstuffed, leather cushions of the booth she sat in. She took a last drag from her cigarette and snuffed out the butt on the table. She glanced around the dimly lit room, taking a moment to enjoy the sight of happy people; it had been so long since she’d seen that.
“Wait.” The man’s voice was low, barely audible over the woman on stage. He fumbled in his pocket for a moment, taking out a small case.
Accepting another cigarette from him she lit it. “We need to figure somethin’ out, honey. I don’t want to spend the night waitin’ around.”
“Fiona.” She looked up, then in the direction he nodded.
“What the hell is she doin’ here?” She slid out of the booth, “Give me a second, sweetie.”
Fiona slid from the booth, making her way through the mass of people. The girl who had just entered the bar looked so out of place she was impossible to miss. A few of the other patrons had turned to look her over, some of the more vulgar men, and woman, licked their lips. Fiona kept track of their faces as possible dangers later.
“Jessica, what the hell are you doin’ here?” Leaning in as close as she could, grabbing the girl’s arm.
The girl jumped, “I needed to talk to Ishmael.”
Fiona massaged one of her temples, “Alright, well, you’re here now, so it can’t be helped.”
Half steering, half shielding the young woman through the crowd, they made it back to the booth. “Our madame apparently needs to talk to you. I’m gonna get us a couple fresh pints and watch Elyse for a bit.” She leaned in and kissed him.
He nodded, “Love.”
“Love you too, suga’.”
Jessica sat next to Ishmael, “We’re having some problems. He stubbed out what was left of his cigarette, “What?”
She leaned close, turning a bit more toward him, her lips almost touching his ear, “Sorry, but we need to be sure no one hears. There’s been movement again. They’ve already been through Rendou and Tendrin, we’ve also gotten reports of scouts in Tamire, Ramine and Lecaus.”
The soldier’s eyes widened slightly, “When?”
“Two days ago. There’ve been reports of faust and artillery being unloaded on the caost as well. I know that this is important, Elyse is the reason we have half of our intel, but we need you two back soon.” She paused for a moment, “You really have fallen for The Dragon, haven’t you?”
He was thrown by the sudden change in subject, “Yes.”
Jessica hovered for a moment, finally sitting properly. She gave him a shy smile, “She really got lucky with you.”
He wasn’t sure how to respond. Jessica had always fancied him, but he was far too old for her. They had shared a brief relationship together when they first met.
Thankfully Elyse’s final note hung in the air and the two looked at the stage. The woman shouted, “One, two, one two three!” The curtains behind her raised and half a dozen dancers rushed the stage. In the back the band started playing in full swing. The crowd erupted into dance and cheering.
Fiona waded through the mass of flailing limbs and bodies, finally making it back to her husband. “It’s a mad house in here! El can always get them goin’.” She paused to watch the woman on stage, “Hell, she still gets me goin’.”
Fiona and Jessica both sighed, “Yeah, she is.”
Fiona’s hand unconsciously touching the scars that covered the right side of her head. Shortly before Ishmael joined them she had been captured. After days of torture, the soldiers had carved most of the skin from a large part of her scalp and cauterized the wounds so a healer wouldn’t be able to repair them. After she was rescued she shaved the other side, letting her Mohawk fall over the scars, hiding them the best she could.
Ishmael took her hand and kissed it, “You.”
She smiled at him, “Thank you, love.” She flopped back into her booth bench, “So, what’s so important, Jess?”
Snapping out of the trance Elyse’s performance put her in, she whispered, “Banghal, they’ve landed on the coast.”
“Well, that’s a fuckin’ problem then. How the hell’d they make it here so fast? I thought Rendou would have put up more of a fight.”
“We aren’t sure yet, communications with them stopped a little over a month ago. We need you back, at least for a while. We’ve got to get things organized, start getting people out.”
“Alright, but let’s at least wait till the end of the show.”
Jessica nodded, “Of course. We need to speak to Elyse as well, find out what she plans to do.”
They fell silent, enjoying the performance. A flurry of naked legs and feathers as the bodies of the dancers mingled.
Elyse spun around, showing the crowd as she unhooked the back of her corset. She turned back around as the garment fell, a fan of feathers in her hand, covering herself. She feigned a look of surprise then smiled and kicked the piece of clothing into their outstretched hands as the song finished.
“Thank you, my loves, we’ll be back in a bit. Be nice in your requests tonight, John’s hands have been sore lately.”
She walked off the stage, lowering her fan as she did, briefly flashing the entire room. Jessica turned bright red, “How can she do something like that? I would absolutely die.”
Fiona took out another cigarette and lit it, standing up she said, “Oh, but fearless madame, then where’d we be?” She offered her hand to the girl, “C’mon, let’s go give El the bad news.”
Elyse paced back and forth in her dressing room, one hand playing with a lock of her hair, “We don’t have much time then. I have seen a few more of their officers than usual, but I haven’t heard anything.”
“As I said, we- Elyse, could you please put something on?”
The woman looked down at her still exposed breasts and then back to Jessica, “Oh, I’m distracting you, love?”
“It’s just, I mean, it’s not-”
She laughed and hugged the young woman, “I’m only messing with you, my dear.” She let go and scooped a shirt from the back of a chair.
“As I was saying, we aren’t sure this isn’t just a bluff or misinformation, but, we can’t really take a chance on maybes.”
Elyse sighed, “And that’s where I come in. I hate sleeping with them, just so you know. They don’t’ take time to enjoy it, ever. It’s no fun, especially compared to you.” She grinned at Fiona.
The woman’s normally cool manner broke and she blushed slightly, “That was a onetime thing. I was far too drunk and I still think you put something in that whiskey.”
Elyse gave a slight pout, “Fine, believe what you want. I say that Ishmael would have plenty of fun as well, but you won’t stop hogging him to yourself.”
Ishmael and Jessica glanced at each other, shaking their heads. “He’s my husband! I don’t have to share him!” Fiona nearly shouted.
“The only reason you don’t want to is because of what happened with James and you know it.” Elyse was now standing over the other woman, finger wagging in her face.
“Yes, please, there’s far more important things to discuss.”
“I know what I have to do. Just make sure you keep my girls safe.”
Jessica nodded, “Would ten of our best as security for the time being be satisfactory?”
“More than, love. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to the stage; we can talk more in a bit.”
As soon as the dressing room door closed Jessica spun around, facing Fiona, “James! James Cam-”
“Shut up. Now. It was long before I joined up with you. Just, don’t ask.”
The parliament banned alcohol consumption just months before the war started. Taverns like Elyse’s started to sprout up almost immediately. With Banghal invading nearby allies, and the threat of invasion always in their thoughts, many people, including some of the men who voted for the ban, started frequenting her speakeasy.
Elyse had always been a performer, so she did what came naturally, she started singing for her patrons, eventually hiring other women to dance and sing as well. Now, their performances every night were what kept the men and woman who came there in good spirits.
She gathered the nonessential workers shortly after Jessica, Ishmael and Fiona left. “Loves, please don’t panic when I tell you this, but we may be under attack soon.”
The fifteen people in the room started to murmur, one woman started crying. “Now now, don’t you start that, we don’t know for sure yet.”