Out of the corner of her eye, Red hair noticed the flap of a large black kerchief. She turned away from Feather, who was bargaining with a villager for some ale. Curious, she pushed through the crowd into a circle of people. They were surrounding a woman covered in black robes grandiosly waving a large kerchief over a table.
“And now, I will produce wealth for the village of Gimli!” she said grandiosely waving a small painted stick over a linen-covered tabletop. When at last she pulled away the kerchief with a flourish, a pile of gold tarsks appeared from beneath the tan linen.
“Oh, here you are.” Feather walked up behind Red hair to find the panther studying the magician intently. “Something interesting?”
“She made gold coins appear under an empty kerchief,” Red hair explained.
Feather giggled. “How’d she do that?”
Red hair shook her head in wonder. “I don’t know.”
Feather looked up, hearing the wonder echoing in Red hair’s voice. “Well, are you ready to head back to the forest?”
The magician was preparing another box for her next trick. Red hair leaned back against the wharf wall and shook her head. “You finish getting supplies. I’ll keep an eye on things.”
Feather put a hand on Red hair’s shoulder as the panther sank to a sitting position near the wharf wall. “I won’t be long.”
Red hair nodded, still watching the magician. Feather noted the flurry of her hands as she produced a bouquet of flowers and presented them to a young woman with two young children hugging her skirts.
Feather realized Red hair was transfixed, in a way Feather had never seen before. A soft light had entered the almond shaped eyes. Her breathing had slowed and her posture was more relaxed than Feather ever remembered seeing. She even uncrossed her arms from in front of her chest, bracing them instead on the wall, a very unguarded stance for the usually wary panther.
Intrigued, Feather resolved to finish her supply gathering some other time and instead settled by the wall next to Red hair. “It’s time for a break anyway,” she said off-handedly as Red hair tilted her head and arched her eyebrow inquiringly.
The magician stepped back from her last trick, a floating glass ball, and asked for a volunteer. Red hair stood.
“You’re going to volunteer?” Feather was surprised.
“I want to find out how that glass ball is suspended.”
“It’s floating. It’s not suspended from anything.”
“We’ll see.” Red hair stepped forward. Feather watched as the magician took a step back as this woman, nearly a handspan taller than she was, stepped forward.
“Are you volunteering…?” she seemed to cast about for a moment for something to call her.
Red hair obliged, giving her name. There were collective gasps in the crowd.
The next trick actually didn’t involve the floating glass ball, Red hair realized, as she stepped closer, trying to examine the shiny hovering object. When she stopped next to the magician, she raised a hand. To the amazed applause of the audience the ball lowered itself into her upturned palm. Even this close, she could not see any manner of suspension wires. She looked expectantly to the magician, very aware of Feather’s eyes, as well as everyone else, watching her.
“Hold out your hand?”
“Either one will do,” she said. “Curl your fingers up and then open them slowly.”
The magician looked around at her audience and laughed. “You’re going to call the ball.”
The audience laughed; Red hair felt her cheeks heat slightly, but determined, she did as asked and extended her right hand, palm up, until it was about a foot away from her chest.
The magician, still holding the ball in her left palm, nodded as she watched. Red hair couldn’t figure out if she was supposed to watch her hand or the magicians, and settled on trying to watch both.
“Now open your palm slowly, wiggling your fingers,” she instructed. Red hair nodded.With a flourish that drew her eyes away from her own hand, the magician snapped her hand up, and she heard her fingers snap. The ball disappeared from her grasp. A breath later, Red hair felt a weight and looked down on her own palm.
There in her hand rested the shiny glass ball.
The gathering of villagers went absolutely wild, applauding, hooting, and cheering.
Red hair lifted the ball to eye level for inspection and tried to decipher its shiny unbroken surface. Just beyond the ball, she caught Feather’s equally amazed gaze. Quietly she placed the ball into the magician’s hand.
“Thank you for the help.”
Red hair was quiet for a long moment. “You’re welcome,” she said finally, feeling the edges of a smile tug at her mouth. She paused even as she started to take a step away from the magicians side. “How did you do that?”
“You wanted the ball,” she said simply. “So it came to you.”
Red hair wondered if that was like a Priest King’s power, but wasn’t certain how she could phrase the question, so she nodded, and slipped back into the crowd.
Feather met her once again over by the wharf wall. “That was awesome!” Red hair continued to watch the magician perform another feat. This time is was one she’d seen and knew simply to be a sleight of hand: a ball under a series of up-ended cups on a table. “So,” Feather’s voice interrupted the panther’s thoughts.
Red hair drew her gaze away from the magician, a smile playing on her lips, the look of youthfulness amazingly enhancing her smooth features. “Mmm hmmm?”
“Did you figure out how the magician had suspended the ball?”
“Nope.” Instead of distress, Red hair sounded almost pleased.
“It doesn’t matter,” Feather soothed. “It’s just a game.”
Red hair chuckled. “Yeah,” she sighed. “It’s just a game.”