Neydra gathered the gold coins in her hand, ignoring the coppers, the nickel pieces. She liked gold. It felt warmer than all the rest, heavier. It made a pleasant clunking sound when she dropped each coin into the small metal chest under her bed rather than the paltry clink and shuffle of the copper and nickel bits which slushed into the corners as if they were ashamed of themselves.
Neydra looked at the girl in front of her, noted the ragged tears in her dress, the smudges of dirt on her cheek. “Your master send you, child?”
The girl shook her head. “No, Mistress. I come of my own will. I’d like a song.”
Neydra looked again at the coins in her hand. Three gold piece with ten copper and two nickel still sitting on the table between them. She sighed, eying the girl again, the sharp cut of her jaw, the way her fingers plucked at her clothing, the subtle swelling around her eyes. She couldn’t have had more than ten years on her.
“When did your master last feed you, child?”
The girl looked down at her hands, forcefully stilling them and clasping them together. “We didn’t have the money for my brother,” she whispered. “Mother begged at the wall for hours.”
Neydra shut her eyes, remembering all too well the decorous walk to the wall, the way she and her sisters had clustered and clung to each other, trembling with fear and purpose both, a sense affirmed by the hum of beggars calling for mercy, for coin, for attention. She snapped her eyes open and smiled. “You’re not begging now.”
The girl met Neydra’s eyes without flinching. “I’ve learned better.”
Neydra rolled the gold coins in her hand. “For your mother?”
“I’m an orphan now,” the girl said.
Neydra put one of the gold coins to her lips, licking at it a little, tasting the metal. She eyed the girl sharply. “This coin would feed you some months, child, might buy you a place with one of the crofters up north, or a shop-keep if you’ve ties.”
“I need the song,” the girl insisted, squinting through reddened eyes. “I’ve the coin. It’s enough, isn’t it? It’s all I’ve got.”
Neydra stood, taking the gold with her and reaching down to collect the other coins as well. She tucked them all into the small purse at her belt and then sat again, matching stares with the young girl across from her.
“I’ll sing your song, child.”
The girl nodded, but did not say thank you. Neydra was not surprised. The girl had paid good coin. There was no favor here.
Neydra watched as the girl stood, trembling and sick with hunger and grief. Neydra put one hand on her purse, reassured as she always was at the weight of it, and watched the girl go.
Author's Note: Playing catch-up with N. This is not exactly an excerpt (unless I decide to throw it into the novel proper at some point) but maybe an aside to one of my novels in progress? A little glimpse into the life of one of its characters, Neydra. A missing scene?