A lie stared back at Aiden from a burnished, bronze mirror.
The disguised Yludih leaned forward over the vanity. He dipped a stained cloth into a shallow bowl of strong spirit, then used it to clean off the oil makeup from around his eye. Dress rehearsal had ended almost a break ago. Changing out of his costume was easy enough, but clearing this muck off of his face was always a chore.
And it was so redundant, considering his very face was already an illusory mask. Alas, it was part of the job.
"Lou Ellen?" Aiden asked as he dabbed around his other eye.
"Llywelyn. Llyr Llywelyn."
Aiden craned his neck to look over his shoulder at Vincent, his fellow actor. The mop-haired human sat atop a stool in the far corner of the dressing room, which he had been temporarily forced to share with Aiden. Vincent had the script open in his lap and didn't bother to return the look.
"I'm not hearing a difference." Aiden spun back around. "He's the one with the…"
His fingers traced a rough circle over the top of his head.
"Yeah. The Biqaji mage." He heard Vincent turn a page. "And there is a difference, trust me. Just don't ask me to spell it."
"Vincent, come on. I would never ask you to try to spell anything."
"I ought to kick your arse, Aiden." Vincent turned another page. "So what are you going to meet with him about?"
Rosalie Acothley. The girl who flushed when Aiden asked her about Tobias Acothley but then claimed to know nothing. The girl who pretended to have fluff for brains when Aiden could see the gears turning in her head. The girl who was clearly hiding something, but what? And why?
"With a mug like that? I think he should be on stage."
Face clean, Aiden set aside his rag, and then turned around to face Vincent. He laid a finger over his lips as the other actor raised an eyebrow at him.
“But remember, Vince. Mum’s the word. I don’t want Elena getting jealous that I’m scouting other talent.”
“Yeah, whatever. You've just got to tell me if he’s actually got wings.”
The man called Mister L was hard to miss.
Aiden had never seen a mage with such blatant mutations. Aside from being curious about what sort
of mage he could be, he couldn't help but wonder if the conspicuousness was intentional. Being hard to miss could be good for business, depending on what kind of business that was. If Llyr was on stage at the Lamont, he'd be instantly popular. Flawless, silver skin? Perfectly tousled hair? A halo of light over his perfect head? Aiden almost knew how Elena felt whenever Bert started casting for other blonde actresses.
Of course, he wouldn't have much flexibility as far as roles went. But he would be prime for playing Immortal roles or magic princes.
There was even something perfectly forlorn about him. Sitting alone in a booth, staring drearily through the window while his tea went cold and the pastries in front of him went untouched. Aiden had known several Biqaj back in Rharne, but none of them looked close to this. Llyr looked like a living painting. If Bert saw him, he might have thrown him on stage in bonds to bring in the crowd.
Aiden smiled, crossed his arms behind his back, and straightened his shoulders when Llyr Llywelyn finally turned to acknowledge him.
"Living the dream," he replied handily. He leaned over and reached out a hand. "Though maybe the Silverson name would serve you better. Call me Aiden, please."
The actor slid into Llyr's booth on the opposite side of the table. He gave a half-hearted salute to the waitress as she brought him what appeared to be more tea. As he left it to cool, he rested on his elbows upon the table. Llyr showed no imperfections even up close. It was clear that he was no Yludih, but if these mutations were unintentional, perhaps he would have liked to be.
He couldn't make out any wings, but perhaps they were there under his coat.
"No danger of missing you, is there?" Aiden folded his hands together. "Thank you for seeing me, Mr. Llywelyn. Always a pleasure meeting a Biqaji fellow. Knew a smattering of them back in my sailor days." He was never a sailor. "They always made for good, fun company."
Although Obriviyanah was not particularly fond of humans, or really any
mortal race, he was always reluctant to write off the Biqaj. They were never as grounded, honest, or trustworthy as humans, but they were almost always in a good mood and ready with a smile. As Aiden, Obriviyanah had always tried to emulate that same charisma.
Besides, they were unpopular in Etzos, and he couldn't help identifying with underprivileged minorities.
"Now, look. I've got a little business." Aiden leaned back in his booth. He scooped up his tea and breathed in the aroma while the cup warmed his hands. "Nothing untoward. I'm just trying to protect my fellow actors at the Lamont. We've got this new seamstress."
He tested the tea, then licked his lips and made a face. As the waitress passed by again, Aiden gestured to her.
"Mm. Miss? You got any honey for this, honey?"
As the waitress drifted away, Aiden resumed his focus on Llyr.
"Rosalie Acothley." He sipped his tea again, then set it down. "Woman from Foster's Landing. Oh, she's perfectly nice. Pleasant as can be. But she's hiding something, and I don't know what. It makes me nervous. My mate Vince has got a long history of pissing off young ladies and their families, so mainly I'm worried about him."
The waitress returned with a capful of honey, to which Aiden voiced his thorough appreciation. He began to pour it into his tea, scooping it out with an index finger.
"So." He slipped his fingertip into his mouth to lick off the honey. "Do you think you can help me out?"