Serial Fiction: Hands – Ep 002

Just off of Lord, near where it crosses past Long Bridge, was the Avninder Theater. South Gaijin in design, with long sweeping roofs over each balcony decorated in a myriad of colors and wavy patterns. The exterior was mostly clean with a few spots here and there showing the age of the place. The inside had a large set of seats in a crescent around a raised dais some eighty feet wide. The house curtains were up and stored when he arrived, and three performers were practicing on stage. It was a dry a run with no energy, just movements. The fireguard stood off to the side, watching the performers while keeping an extinguisher at hand. Glen had seen performers get carried away in the rehearsals before and he appreciated the on call guard.

The Dragon was sitting center house. He was with the patron, Cameron Huntington, so Glen stood back watching the practicing trio. The piece they were rehearsing was one he knew by heart. It required physical strength to manage the lifting the two outer performers needed to do. The inner performer needed the dexterity to reach out and cap the shape the three of them would produce. All three needed perfect concentration to stretch their flames into a large seven pointed star. It wasn’t easy especially since two of the performers hands were tied up holding the third so the use of a leg each was required. Glen had been in all three roles at one point or another, and could feel the aches in his joints watching the two humans hoist up the shade woman.

The patron stepped away and Glen caught The Dragon’s eye. The director waved him over.

“Mr. Travis. I had not expected to see you today. I thought you had an appointment,” he said. The Dragon, Diarmad Aitken, was a fairly short orc but large compared to Glen. He smiled as Glen slide through the seats to the small worktable setup in the middle of the row. Glen could see the burns he had only noticed in passing before around The Dragon’s lips. It was the reason for his nickname, the fire breathing. Only now Glen wondered what troubles it had caused for his boss.

“I did, sir. This morning.”

“That does not sound like comfort when you say it that way, Glen. What is wrong?”

Glen rubbed his hand and brushed the blister. “Nothing good. Do you know what peripheral neuropathy is? And neuritis?”

“Oh no,” Diarmad said. “No, no, Glen. You are much too young for that.” He looked at Glens hands and moved to take one. Glen let him and the orc slide his fingers over the blisters, giving each of them a close look.

“How bad?”

“A year, maybe, and then no more hands. I don’t know what to say.”

The dragon sighed and then turned Glen’s hand over and cupped it before giving it a gentle pat.

“Yours is an exceptional talent, but I see now that I was mistaken to push you as I did. Your displays are miracles to the eyes, but while some say preforming costs blood, sweat, and tears, I do not believe that is to be taken literal, do you not agree?”

Glen nodded as Diarmad let go of his hand.

“Glen, the theater doesn’t have much in terms of discretionary funds. You know we are paid performance to performance, but I cannot ask you to burden yourself and your health in order to continue your livelihood. Perhaps then, I would like your permission to host a fund raiser, in your honor.”

Diarmad grinned, and the scars around his mouth glistened in ways Glen didn’t realize he was becoming hyper aware to.

“I, I would be honored,” he said, shocked at the offer. “I’m touched. But, does this mean I can’t perform with the troupe?”

Diarmad’s expression turned into a pained look.

“No, I am afraid I cannot allow it. If you are already so injured that your specialist warns you against the task, I have to consider the other risks. While I know you would not think of it now, lawyers and hoard seekers might encourage you to stalk our coffers if we knowingly let you perform.”

The director paused as this sank into Glen, and he wished he waited before coming here now.

“Additionally, and this pains me to say it young man, but if you are so burned it means your manipulation is more reckless than I deem acceptable. I cannot have a man combust on me on stage.”

That was a slap. At least it felt that way to Glen. He understood the legality issues. He understood the health concerns. That, however, was a direct challenge to his ability in the performing arts. He felt himself heating up like he had when he left Dr. DeProspero’s office.

“Ah, I see I have said to much. My apologies, young mister Travis. Perhaps you may need to cool off with so many uncomfortable things of the day. I will have Miss Cranes sent to contact you regarding the fund raiser. Until then, we must prepare for tonight’s performance. If you would be so kind,” he said, offering up his hand. Glen took it and helped The Dragon up. “Thank you, Glen. Here, take this for tonight. Have a meal with that fine young man you brought to the last performance to take your mind off today’s worries.”

He had given Glen a small silver key. Glen recognized it immediately. The shape was ornamental, but it would serve the function it was designed after. It was an access token to a five-star restaurant called Ilahi, a place Glen wouldn’t be able to afford without spending a month’s of Deron’s salary. The key was more than just the ability to go to the restaurant. Anyone in a nice suit who called ahead could do that. It was a token directly tied to a tab at the restaurant. Maybe this was how The Dragon apologized for insulting him. If so, it was quite a first step.

He’d need to change. This would be more than just a simple night out.

Hands is a serial fiction series set in the Draco Artificium universe. Read the first piece here. Find the rest of the series here. New episodes go up Wednesdays.