For all the talents in the world, no one is good enough to get a cat to sit on command.
— The Sand Piper’s Daughter (Act 1, Scene 6)
Linsan struggled to keep up with Brook. Despite being only a few seconds behind, it was difficult to keep holding her violin, bow, and case with two hands while running along the cobblestones. Her boots slipped on the edges and she stumbled.
Brook didn’t slow down. She had hiked up her dress with both hands and was pulling away from her. Despite her boots having heels, she was a lot steadier without having to juggle so many things.
“Brook, wait up!” The bow threatened to slip from her fingers. Linsan swore and slowed down to grab it before it fell. “Stop, please!”
She almost dropped the case. After a few seconds of fumbling, Linsan looked up to see that Brook was still running away. With another curse, she stopped and focused on setting the violin properly into the case along with its bow.
As she did, she kept looking up to see Brook getting further away. She also looked behind her to see if Rab and his men had taken up the chase, but to her relief, they weren’t chasing her.
Sweat prickled on Linsan’s brow as she got everything settled into place and she closed the case with a snap. Standing up, she looked for Brook.
In the few moments it took Linsan to stow her gear, Brook appeared to not have stopped running. She had slowed down but she still moved as a hurried pace. Her blue dress fluttered as she wove through the crowds.
“Brook!” Linsan called out at the top of her lungs.
Brook glanced once over her shoulder, her dark hair bouncing, and then she turned sharply and took a side street.
“Damn the Couple,” swore Linsan. She grunted as she ran faster to keep up while trying to stuff the violin back into her case. It quickly became obvious she couldn’t do it. With the pressing need to catch up burning in her mind, she had to force herself to stop and ease the instrument into the case without harming it. As soon as it latched shut, though, she started running again.
By the time she reached the corner that Brook had taken, the other woman had disappeared into the crowds. There wasn’t even a hint of her dress in sight.
Linsan stopped and groaned. “Damn.”
She took a deep breath and ran down the street. As she did, she peered along the alleys and streets she passed. The crowds got thicker around her; she was heading toward the center of town.
After a few blocks, she realized that she wasn’t going to chase after Brook. There were too many people milling around, vehicles and horses to distract her, and a thousand other things that would make it nearly impossible to find just by wandering.
She reached out for the nearest person. “Excuse me, have you seen—?”
“Back off, beggar!”
“I’m not begging,” she cried but the person had moved out of her range. She walked toward a woman in a green dress. “Have you seen a woman in blue?”
At the scowl she got, she stepped back.
The woman dug into her purse and then threw a few coins at Linsan as if she was sick or injured. The look on her face was a terrifying mixture of horror and distaste.
Linsan stepped back and considered the other pedestrians. None of them were going to know where Brook went. With every passing second, the chance of finding her would diminish greatly.
With a grumble, she considered her options. She didn’t know if it Brook was running away from Rab or the both of them. The only way to get an answer would be to hunt Brook down.
On the other hand, Linsan still had a list to go through. Digging into her pocket, she pulled it out and pressed her thumb against the second item on the list. It should only be five or six blocks away, but it was in the opposite direction Brook took.
To Linsan’s surprise, she found herself craving Brook’s company. It had been only days since she left home but the comfort of being near someone who knew her—even one who hated her like Brook—brought a pang of homesickness that startled Linsan.
She looked at the list again and the desire to go to the next mechanics waned. She ran her thumb along the list, trying to decide which one was more important.
With a sigh, she knew her search was important. Maybe Brook was heading in the same direction and they would encounter each other again.
Linsan snorted. She was sure Brook would be happy if they never met again.
Though, they did defend themselves well against Rab and the others. She had never thought their magic was complementary but the way Brook’s concussions worked with Linsan’s string work, it was almost in harmony.
Curious and amused, Linsan turned and headed for the next mechanic.