Lysara waited until she’d separated from the others to sneak out of the Inn. A small part of her screamed that she’d said that she didn’t care about Bonnie’s past. She told Lilly that it didn’t matter, she didn’t need to know.
She was such a liar.
the truth was, she wanted to know. She needed to know. If she didn’t find out what Bonnie was hiding it would continue to be a gap between them. It would be a dark spectre looming over their relationship. They would never be able to get as close as they should be able to.
So, she snuck out and made her way to the pub on foot. She passed several guards who were patrolling the street. One of them stopped to tip her hat before continuing on her rounds. Finally, Lysara reached the pub and entered.
It was quite nice, well maintained and clean. Lysara made her way to a stool at the bar.
The bartender acknowledged her with a curt nod. “What’ll it be, Madame?”
“Information,” Lysara answered. “I’m a bard, you see. I heard something about a young lady called the…” Lysara hesitated, feigning a struggle to remember. “The ‘Azure Butterfly.’ Yes, that was it. I thought it would make a good story so I came to investigate the details.”
“The Azure Butterfly!” A middle aged woman nearly ran from the other end of the bar over to the seat next to Lysara. “Don’t tell me you intend to make a heroine out of that troublemaker?”
“I’m just going to tell the story,” Lysara stated. “The good and the bad. Let the audience decide for themselves.”
The woman seemed to relax. “All right then, I’ll tell you about her.” The woman put her hands together and took a deep breath. “It was eight years ago. The bad part of town had a serious problem with gangs. It was all our force could do to keep them from bleeding into the main city. The worst of em were the Masqueraders. Right group of thugs they were. They fought with the other gangs and even attacked the nobles in their own homes.”
The woman looked pointedly at Lysara. “The lot also went by nicknames. Guess they thought it would make it harder to find em. ‘Azure Butterfly’ was what they called their leader. Right nightmare of a girl, I don’t mind telling you. Ruthless too, I remember one time we were called over to the temple to follow a lead. Turns out she’d cut another kid’s leg tendons. Left him a cripple.”
“Bo…” Lysara stopped herself. “The Azure Butterfly did that?”
The woman nodded. “We figured it was a spat between gangs. Fortunately, the nobles were able to get King Axel into town and the Masqueraders got dealt with fore they could cause anymore damage.”
Lysara was taken aback. The idea that Bon… her Bon. The Bon who had fought so hard to protect her and the others, the idea of her doing something like that… It was hard to believe.
The barkeep slammed a mug down on the counter and subtly nodded towards the back. Lysara followed his gaze. The man who had called out to Bonnie earlier was sitting in a booth, beckoning her over.
She excused herself and joined him at the booth. “You wanted to see me about something?”
He nodded. “Yeah. Frankly, I can’t stand the thought of your story being based on that woman’s account. She’s a good enough guard, but she doesn’t know what she’s on about.” He pointed to himself. “I was one of the Masqueraders. Damn proud of it too.Though you wouldn’t know why to hear her tell it.”
He cleared his throat. “My name is Gavin Drulex, I was born in the bad part of town. There’s a reason those of us who were joined up with gangs, it was the only way to survive. We had nothin. We fed ourselves with crumbs, collected rain water in half broken cups to drink. It was a harsh existence. When I joined the masqueraders it was like any other gang. We stole from the people who were slightly better off, avoidin wealthy targets unless they happened to enter the slums.”
“But why avoid the wealthy?” Lysara asked. “Why steal from other people who had almost nothing of value?”
“Cause stealing from the wealthy made you a target,” Gavin answered. “You stole from the other wretches around you and no one cared. You stole from the wealthy and the guards were all over you. We didn’t have the guts to do it, until she took over. It was the damnedest thing too. Our first boss was a big guy, strong too. But he was challenged and bested by a much smaller girl. Bonnie Calendula, she changed things around.” Gavin reclined back, putting his feet on the table.
“She started with new rules. We were forbidden from stealing anythin from anyone who couldn’t afford it. Bonnie said that we all knew poverty well enough and we shouldn’t make it worse by stealin from each other. We also got nicknames. I was ‘Veridian Muskrat.’ We started raidin noble houses. We never attacked anyone either. I wanna make that clear. It wasn’t about hurtin the nobles, just takin what we needed from people who had it aplenty. Sometimes we did have to knock out a noble guard or two, but we tried our level best not to hurt em too bad. Bonnie didn’t like us hurtin people badly. Thought it wasn’t needed.”
“But she cut someone’s tendons,” Lysara said. “Or was that a lie?” She hoped that it was.
“Wasn’t much choice in that case,” Gavin said. “I do remember that fight pretty clearly. The Wreckers were a right lousy lot. Their boss… Adrian Hurmont, I think, always resented the way Bonnie did things. He thought she was too soft and he brought his lot to attack us. He was set on puttin us down for good too. Said he could take our heads to the nobles for a nice reward. It was a fierce match and Bonnie couldn’t stop him without killin or cripplin him. But she wasn’t no killer. She stopped him by cuttin his legs. His friends ran off after that too. We had to carry him to the temple ourselves. A bunch of us thought that we should just leave the bastard. After all, it was no worse than what he’d intended for us. But she insisted. Said he couldn’t hurt us anymore anyway, no use lettin him die.”
“So, cutting his tendons was an act of mercy?” Lysara asked.
“I get it, you’re havin trouble believin that,” Gavin said. “But it’s true. We ever would’ve taken him for healin, under her orders or not, if we’d have thought that he’d come back to hurt us. But, with his legs like that we felt safe enough to do it. We weren’t exactly as kind as her. Back then I really hoped things would continue like they were and all of us would be together, always. But it didn’t work out so well.”
“King Axel?” Lysara asked.
Gavin nodded. “The nobles were fed up with us. Seein him comin was terrifyin. She told us to run, she’d hold him off. A few people did too, but most of us stayed. We knew she’d fight harder with our safety at stake. But even then she couldn’t match him. It seemed like she had him a few times, but we were just kids. Inexperienced and far too damn cocky for our own good. King Axel beat her. the rest of us tried to swarm him, but he tossed us away like we were nothin. He offered her a choice. She could enroll in trainin to become one of his knights or she could spend her remainin teenage years in prison. What do you think she said?”
“She took the knight’s path,” Lysara said, confidently.
Gavin shook his head. “She asked ‘what about my friends?’ King Axel told her that we were all goin to prison. I’ll never forget what she said ‘Well, then you’ll have to send me with them.’ He gave her another offer then. If she’d swear fealty to him and serve as a knight in his guards, he’d send the rest of us to a private school with warm beds, good food and a chance to make somethin of our lives.”
“And she agreed,” Lysara said.
Gavin nodded. “She was always lookin out for us, protectin us and keepin us on the right path. At least as much as she could. She could have left us to rot, but she made sure we were goin to be taken care of. I’ll never forget that. None of us will. To those of us in the Masqueraders, our Azure Butterfly was a hero. The greatest hero we’ll ever know. I saw her in town recently. If you want to find her I’m sure she’s at the Inn, or maybe visitin her mum. I’ll give you directions if you want to get the story from her.”
“No, thank you,” Lysara said. “I… I think I can find it myself. Thank you.”