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Viv hesitated, torn between the privacy of the booth, the excitement of the performers, and the opportunities of the bar.
But the bar seemed like the best option. She could get a drink right away and learn more about town from the bartender—wasn’t that one of their specialties? And besides, since she was being brave tonight anyway, she had to admit she would never forgive herself if she avoided the opportunity to talk to a gorgeous nagi.
She’d always thought snakes were lovely.
Determination fueling her, she headed over to the bar and took one of the seats there. There were plenty of free bar stools, since more people were gathered around the tables near the stage or filling the booths for dinner.
Just as she’d hoped, the nagi bartender slithered over, giving Viv a bright smile and leaning her arms on the bar so she could be heard more easily without shouting. Her dark hair showered down over her shoulder, snakelike in itself. She was wearing a halloween blouse, black with little jack-o-lanterns all over it. “Hey there. What can I get you?”
“Uh… cider, please,” Viv said. She didn’t exactly want to get drunk, and the last few days hadn’t adequately prepared her for heavy drinks. “What’s your favorite?”
“Normally, pear ccider,” the nagi said cheerily. “But right now? I have to recommend the pumpkin cccider. We only have it in the fall, but it’s ssso good.”
Viv perked up more at the nagi’s bright attitude. “That sounds perfect! Very Halloweeny. Yeah, I’ll have that.”
“Sure thing,” the nagi said. She produced a cold can from a fridge behind the counter and poured it into a pint glass.
While the nagi worked, Viv let herself get distracted by the band. The singer was one of the high lords of the fae from the look of him, a sidhe—although his typical Tolkien-elf sort of appearance was slightly bespoiled by a mass of fine silver hair that stood out around his head. She was reminded of when she’d been a kid and had touched one of those electrical orbs at the science museum.
“You like the mussic?” the nagi asked, placing the glass in front of her.
Viv looked back with a smile. “It’s great. I listened to a lot of much softer Celtic stuff growing up. My parents were mundane, but my aunt’s a witch and you know that whole sort of… well, you know the music.”
“Actual witch or the, you know…?”
The nagi’s voice was cheerful, and Viv didn’t take any offense. “Actual witch but they kind of embraced the aesthetic.”
“Lotsss do,” the nagi agreed. “There’sss power in expectationss.”
Viv found she really didn’t want to talk about her aunt anymore and cast around for a change of subject. “You get lots of sidhe performers?”
“Among other kindsss,” the nagi said. “Our opening act didn’t show up today, ssso Dandelion iss onsstage early. The Gentry will be playing for sssome time yet.”
“Nice of them to go on early,” Viv said. She gave the nagi another smile. “So, uh, can I ask you something?”
“It doesssn’t hurt to assk.”
Viv drew a breath. Every dumb instinct she had was to flirt, but the bartender was working; she should focus on getting information. “So, I’m actually new; I just moved in a few blocks away. Do you know much about the area? I mean, you work here.” Belatedly, she wondered if she was being rude, and offered her hand. “Hi, um, Vivian. Viv to my friends.”
The nagi dimpled sweetly, taking her hand and shaking it. “Hi, Viv. I’m Varsha. I live nearby too, actually, ssso I know a fair amount.”
“Great,” Viv said, a bit relieved. “I’ve had a few people recommend me places to go around here, so I don’t need that so much, but my apartment’s had a couple of things going on. Are there frequent power outages or, uh, bug problems in the area generally?”
“Bug problemsss?” Varsha tilted her head, her blue, forked tongue sticking out between her lips briefly. “I don’t have any problemss with them mysself. Power outagess, thossse are fairly regular. My building hass more than mosst reccently, I think.”
“That’s what I heard about my building too,” Viv admitted. “Maybe they all do around there, and everyone thinks it’s just them.”
“Hah!” Varsha grinned, showing small fangs. “Could be. Wouldn’t it be funny if insstead of being the ussual leyline ssspikes, it wass just Hydro One being lousssy in our neighbourhood?”
“I’m not sure if that’s better or worse than some mysterious supernatural happenings,” Viv groaned.
“Oh, worsse,” Varsha said knowingly. “You can fix sssupernatural happeningss. You can’t fix public ssservices.”
Viv laughed, but before she could ask more, several new patrons showed up, and Varsha gave her a wink and slithered away to serve them as well.
She waited to see if Varsha would get free again, but it was only getting busier—she imagined that the Genry’s actual scheduled play time had started, and so their fans had shown in addition to the standard late-night pub crew. Her chance to get a booth had passed, the last one now taken by a girl who appeared to be part octopus, and so she just nursed her cider, turning her stool and watching the band.
They seemed to have endless energy. The sidhe leader, Dandelion, danced across the stage like he owned it, lights shining on his odd hair and the glittery glam-style makeup he wore. A satyr with a big beard and long curly hair played on the drums, a nixie played bass, and a tall woman in white, standing stiff as a board, played the keyboard. Every time a song ended, Dandelion would flirt with the crowd around him briefly, laughing and teasing as if he wasn’t fae nobility, and then would slam into the next song in his set, his guitar screaming out fiddle tunes into the night.
She wondered who the opening act had been and why they hadn’t shown up. Her paranoia had dimmed between the cider and the energy of the room, so although the thought of mysterious vanishings crossed her mind briefly, she assumed it was much more likely the ever-present fall flu.
By 11, she had long finished her cider and wasn’t sure she wanted another. Delaying here was filling a seat that a paying customer could have—and she didn’t think that she’d get the chance to get more information from Varsha, who seemed to be going off her shift, trading places with a stoic-looking gargoyle and vanishing into the back.
The music stopped. “Thanks all for the love,” Dandelion said to the cheering crowd, blowing kisses to everyone his eyes fell on. “I’ll be giving my fingers a bit of a rest for a time, but you all know the next hour is trivia anyway. Stay and win—or lose—big. The stakes are always high, as you surely know. Susan, I’ll hand it over to you?”
A dryad bounded up onto stage. “Thanks for the introduction!” she chirped. “That was Dandelion and the Merry Gentry! Stick around for another hour, and they’ll be back. In the meantime, who is ready to risk it all? Hands up!”
Vivian looked down at her empty glass. If she left now, she might still happen to bump into Varsha as she left work. Of course, it was possible that Varsha would be less cheerfully willing to talk when she wasn’t on duty, but Viv considered herself relatively sensitive to that. If Varsha seemed unwilling to talk, she’d go her own way with just a greeting.
Then again, maybe she shouldn’t bother Varsha further, Viv thought, a little anxious. And there was no guarantee she’d run into her anyway. Perhaps she could stay and try the trivia game, or at least watch it, if she were willing to order a second drink. Or maybe she should just go home. Though, those weren’t the only options; there’d been other places that had been recommended to her which she could head out to, and surely other things she could do that she hadn’t thought of yet.
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