What Is Art?

It was one of those gorgeous, idealized Spring days in Amber. The sky was that shade of blue that Princes of Amber had nearly wept at seeing after centuries in exile, that blue that no other sky in Shadow could quite attain. Jack wasn't sure there was a name for it; Cerulean, maybe? Azure? He could not say for certain, but as pretty as it was, with its cotton puff clouds, and occasional flashes of color thanks to the birds flying out of Arden, it was not the pale blue sky over golden dunes that he had grown up with. Amber was beautiful, he was too much the poet not to see that, but it still wasn't home. Kay was busy with some strapping Lordling or other, and Jack needed to get out of the Castle, and into fresh surroundings — and new women. Someone had suggested he head to the City and see the Artist's Quarter, so he meant to do just that.

He had his drumsticks tucked into his back pocket, he was in one of those moods, and sometimes it helped him remember a song if he tapped it out on something. He was dressed, in his opinion, in a manner appropriate to what was hopefully a casual, bohemian, possibly even hedonistic atmosphere. Jack raked his fingers through his hair, yawned, despite having finished two mugs of morning coffee, and went to knock on the princess' door. Smiling, Jack drew out his sticks, and drummed out the rhythm to one of their songs.

"Wake up, Kay! I'm goin' into town. You've got five if you're as tried of this pops-stand as I am."

Kaylee's voice, sounding sleepy, sang the snatch of lyric back at him, and then there was a rather familiar-sounding thump. "Gimme ten," she called - and then, after a pause and some murmured words, "Make that fifteen. This one's slow." There were a certain number of sounds immediately thereafter that seemed to indicate that maybe slow wasn't the issue. Particularly when the tapestry by her door - the one Kay had been threatening to take down since they arrived - shivered several times.


She emerged a little while later, wrapped in a blanket and towing the Lordling by his shirt. " - Be in touch," she answered agreeably. "You've probably missed morning Court, you know." He leaned forward and whispered something in her ear, and she snorted in amusement. "I'm sure. Here," and she released his shirt and opened the door. "Off you go." He bowed and kissed her hand before leaving; she slapped his butt to get him out more quickly and shut the door. On the way back to her room, she rolled her eyes at her brother and said, "Wash. Coffee. Then I'll be ready. Drum on something 'til then."

She disappeared into her room again and finally emerged in a tank top and cargo pants. She downed a mug of black coffee - not her usual style, but she was trying to wake up - looked out the window, and then nodded. "Right. Let's go."

They commandeered a couple of likely-looking horses in the stables on the way out, and headed down into the city. What started off as galloping down the mountain for the sake of getting away quickly turned into a reckless, pedestrian-dodging race that only ended when they found a line of slow-moving carts and had to pull up, grinning at each other. The ride continued more sedately after that, winding down streets until there were shops advertising pigments and canvases and crafts on either side, and not a few in between with names that had Kaylee peering in the windows as they passed to see if they had any good guitars.

If it was meant to create art-it all its forms-it could be found in the Quarter. Musicians and dancers could be found practicing in many of the Quarter’s side streets and courtyards, painters were everywhere, discussing, debating and comparing. No surface was safe from the painter’s brushes and murals caught the eye in every direction and constantly changing. Flights of temper were quite common, but the combatants were friends again by the time the next meal rolled around. The area had its own restaurants and taverns that reflected the multicultural ethnicity of the neighborhood.

Jack followed his sister loosely. He meandered along the street, peeking into this shop or that, but with an entirely different eye. He could play guitar, passingly well, not anywhere near as well as Kay, but he didn't suck. As a songwriter, he made excellent use of the piano, and could play it very well, but he rarely did so. The piano was good, and a fine musical tool, but it was not what his hands wanted to play. Neither were his musical first love. He was a percussionist, and he knew that was a very fine distinction. His drum kit was far and away the most complicated in Texorami, and he was always on the look out for something that had a new and interesting sound. Music was a tapestry to Jack; percussion was the heavy thread that held it together, lyrics added more threads, so did the other instruments, but to Jack, percussion was the driving force. When someone tapped their feet to a song, it did not match the tempo of the lead guitar. Jack was in the moment, he had a song in his head, but he was looking for something. He'd know it when he found it.

He was humming to himself, and waiting for Kay to pull her nose away from the latest window. Without thinking about it, his sticks were in his hand, and he was playing out a beat on a set of cast iron furniture; a table, a chair, and tall stool. All of them were on display, for sale, at the next shop over. Each one had a slightly different sound, and he was coaxing music from the differences with remarkable ability; his first drum solo in Amber, and it wasn't on drum. He was circling in on something, and drawing a few spectators — an even mix of the musically minded, and others that were taken with his striking eyes and scruffy good looks.

Kaylee had been listening, of course, despite her inspection of the wares in the window; she hadn't quite caught the thread of what her Twin was after, but she knew it was coming. The vocals were next, and her job, once he had the beat. Then the guitar, basics and broad ideas from Jack, the refinements Kaylee's too - because when it came down to it, the singing was a lot of fun, and she was good at it, but guitar was better. If it had a fretboard and six strings - or even twelve - she could draw the notes from it, make it scream and growl and purr and whine, and draw crowds to their feet with a single riff. Lyrics were last, and a shared duty, one that sometimes kept them in long past when they would have been out partying, as they tried to find that one line.

Then he heard it in a brief pause, and suddenly stopped playing. Jack turned, and with stunning accuracy, slipped a stick through Kay's belt loop and gave a tug. "C'mon! I hear something."


It was in the outdoor courtyard of one of those taverns - The Lusty Wench - from which came the sounds of laughter and accented voices over the driving sounds of one of the most popular drumming groups in the Golden Circle; Rolling Thunder.

She rolled her eyes in sisterly amusement when he snagged her and headed off; she hadn't been that fascinated by the shop she'd been peering into anyway - and when she heard the music, she chuckled and shook her head. At least she knew her brother's drum-radar hadn't been dulled by coming to Amber.

A peek inside the archway showed a colorful and assorted collection of musicians and dancers and their audience. Among them was a young woman with an open sketchpad over her legs and a collection of colorful pencils scattered across the tabletop on which she set.

Jack moved briskly towards a tavern's courtyard, smiling at the name. He stopped dragging Kaylee, and slipped his sticks in his back pocket. He moved into the courtyard, listening to the drumming, his smile growing as he went. He noticed the woman with the pad — terribly easy on the eyes — and smiled at her as he looked for a seat, his bright blue eyes lingering just a second shy of impoliteness. Jack found a table not far off, and dropped into a chair, pulling the sticks from his back pocket as he did, and putting them on the table under his hand. Kay trailed along after him when he decided he'd had enough fun hauling her backwards down the pavement, smiling still, and settled down in the seat next to him. He was tempted to approach the group, but he figured it was more polite to listen for a bit first.

The dark haired table topper caught Jack's stare part way through and returned it frankly while a smile shadowed the corner of her mouth. She smirked when he turned away and flipped to a new page in her book to start a new sketch. One of the dancers leaned over and laughingly whispered something in her ear and then twirled away.


Jack's smile brightened when the object of his appreciation chose to return his gaze, and smile - just a bit - at him. It was hard to resist a confident woman, but there were those drum beats to consider. He raised an eyebrow when he noticed the dancer, but it only made him curious.

One finger absently counted out the time on the opposite arm; Kay wasn't much of a drummer - simple rhythms, mostly - but she knew a good beat when she heard one. That a woman had caught Jack's attention, even for a moment, didn't seem to register; she had her eyes on the drummers, particularly one in the back…

Tall, dark, and exotic with the loveliest muscled arms that were bared by his sleeveless and opened Turkish style vest. Topaz eyes that glinted gold with laughter in the sun. Clearly he enjoyed what he did. He flashed her a grin when he saw her looking his way, and then his attention was on the shifting beat.

Kaylee returned the drummer's grin with a charming, almost impish grin of her own; she was as capable as her brother of drawing the opposite sex in with a smile. She just usually preferred a more hands-on approach.

Jack was already tapping his feet, and his hands were itching to play. He looked over at his Twin, and chuckled, Kay was already eyeballing one of the drummers. Jack rolled his eyes, but as much for himself as for Kay; they were so alike, it was just terribly obvious at times. He gave her a nudge, and leaned his head towards the Artist slightly.

She glanced at Jack when he nudged her, and then around him at the Artist that had his attention. Then she smirked slightly and nodded, completely unsurprised that it had taken her twin less than two minutes to find a woman to be interested in. It was just what he did. There was such a smooth rapport about the exchange that it was clear they'd done that before, many, many times.

He got to his feet, holding the drumsticks in his hand, and forgetting that he was. Jack walked over to the dark-haired woman, smiling brightly. He did not immediately interrupt, or say a word, she was working after all. He stood what he considered a respectful distance, and while smirking a bit, tried to get a peek at what she was working on.


The woman, dressed in a beige peasant style skirt that was very close to obscenely sheer and decorated with spangles and small pierced coins that coordinated well with her brown tank top, let the pad drop lower as she turned to her side to pick out a different color to apply. A colorful sketch of one of the dancers seemed to want to leap off the page and join in the circle.

Jack smiled, he took in the woman's details in his periphery. She was lovely, and bold, at least by her dress. She clearly appreciated music, or she'd not be able to produce such a beautiful piece. Even the subject of her work was a dancer. Jack liked her already. He took a couple of steps closer, and with a smile that brightened his eyes, and said he had a sense of humor, he said, "Excuse me, do you come here often?" He nodded at her pad, "That's gorgeous by the way."

She turned to look at him when he spoke and her eyebrow twitched. "Oh, you did not just say that," she laughed. "Later you'll be wanting to show me your etchings." The woman smirked and then looked down at the page. "Asia looks lovely in any medium. But thank you."

Kaylee turned her attention back to the drummers - or the one drummer, anyway - with the certainty that her brother would let her know when he left.

The tribal rhythms picked up and became almost frantic. The object of Kay's admiration had closed his eyes and immersed himself into the rolling, erotic rumble of over a dozen handheld drums. His muscled chest and arms were covered in a fine sheen of perspiration. The total effect of the scene was a work of art come to life.

Kaylee mentally shrugged. He was a drummer; he'd open his eyes again eventually.

"Well, I considered 'Did it hurt?' and 'Are your legs tired?', but I went with the classic." The blonde and blue-eyed fellow replied easily. "Oh, I don't have any etchings. But if you'd like to see my drum kit, that can be arranged." He grinned with amusement and sincerity. "She a beauty alright. Moves well too. And you're very welcome." He nodded at a chair, "Would you mind some company? Ready for this one? It's even true — I'm new in town, and this is just the sort of place I've been lookin' for."

Her eyes raked over his attire and she smiled as the music of drums and finger cymbals rose around them. "I think the Levis gave it away," she pointed out and shrugged at the chair. "You will find that unless you are deliberating offensive the Quarter is very laid back and open. I prefer it to anywhere else in Amber."

She could see the hint of his darker tattoo through the thin white fabric of his shirt, and see a piece of it where his neck met his shoulder; just a black ink curve on his skin. "Levis? Oh, you're a traveler too then?" He took a seat, his pale blue eyes on her. "I'm Jack. I've heard good things, so I came." He smiled at her, "I'm glad I did." Jack leaned forward slightly, putting his drumsticks on the table. "I didn't expect the music to be jumpin'." He tapped the side of his head, "I'm working on something, I came down to the quarter to find a piece of it." Jack's fingers drummed lightly on the table, he made no noise, but they were clearly moving to the beat of the drums.

"Oh, it's always jumping here," she said as she made a few more marks on her picture. "I'm Carmen. I'm not around much. I'm still exploring the GC. But I heard these guys were in Amber, so I thought I'd stop by." She eyed his sticks and watches his fingers a moment before she chuckled and went to a fresh page. "You're in a band, I take it."

"Carmen." Jack repeated, savoring the sound of it. "Not a local name, at least not with the folks I've met. It reminds me of home." His expressive eyebrows lowered in thought for a moment. "GC? The Golden Circle. You just travel around? That sounds like a good time. We went all over back home, covered thousands of miles, but that was all in one place." He smiled at the memory, and then looked at his sticks and his hand. Jack laughed, "We left them at home. Random Element we were called. I'm the Percussionist, Lyricist, Songwriter, back-up Vocals and so on…I woke up with a song in my head, or the hint of one." He stopped one of the wait staff, a young woman with red hair tied up in a bun, and with a charming smile asked for her tray. He placed it on the table, there were several glasses of varying heights, some with fluid in them, some empty. "Everything has a sound. He pointed towards the sky — just like everything has a color — what color would you call that anyway? I'm looking for the sound." He lightly tapped the different glasses with his sticks, and what would have been a simply glass 'tink-tink-tink', became something else altogether when Jack struck each different glass, drawing a different sound from each — and unconsciously weaving it into the music already playing around them. "Only I haven't found the sound yet."

"Ever look at a blank page and know something lives there, but its dodging your inner eye like a squirrel dodging autos on the freeway?"

She blinked at him. "Are you sure you aren't a writer?" She chuckled and shook her head slightly before tossing that mane of brown hair over her shoulder.

Jack smiled brightly at Carmen, "Lyricist. Which is somewhat like a poet, only a little less disciplined, with the advantage of music behind it." He sighed a little bit, as he played the glasses like very subtle chimes.

"Your analogy would be a more fitting comparison for a sculptor. But I understand what you mean."

"True, I suppose, but a blank page or sheet of music can be as daunting as a block of stone."

She looked up at the sky. "Azure. Shading to cerulean on the horizons." She smiled at him. "For future reference."

He smiled in return after she'd looked at the sky, and laughed, "I had both of those in mind, but couldn't pin it down. The sky back home was paler, but when the sun set over the dunes — magic." Jack reached out, and put a few of her colors together, to give her an idea.

"I have seen desert sunsets," she grinned. "But, yes, they are beautiful."

The drums came to an abrupt halt; a snapping crack of thunder and the dancers froze, their skirts and veils wrapping around them before slithering back to their rightful place around the dancers. Applause and whistles broke out, and the musicians and dancers took a bow. The staff started passing out drinks among them as a quartet of guitarist took their place.

Jack stopped playing as well, and smiled. "Uh-oh. Uppity Guitarists."

Carmen smirked.. "I love guitar players. They have such nimble fingers."

Jack laughed, "But drummers do it with rhythm."

—and if she still wants it, Kay has her drummer's complete attention as he slow starts to make his way through the crowd in her direction.


Kaylee shot him a bright smile and crooked a finger. Then she rose and sauntered over to her brother. "Hey," she said mildly, kicking his chair, "you know I hate it when you're looking for one without me." Without waiting for a reply - or an introduction, really - she claimed two chairs from a nearby table, set one down next to the table and the other beside it, and sat. It was hard to tell if she was paying more attention now to the incoming drummer or the guitarists setting up.

Kaylee shot him a bright smile and crooked a finger. Then she rose and sauntered over to her brother. "Hey," she said mildly, kicking his chair, "you know I hate it when you're looking for one without me." Without waiting for a reply - or an introduction, really - she claimed two chairs from a nearby table, set one down next to the table and the other beside it, and sat. It was hard to tell if she was paying more attention now to the incoming drummer or the guitarists setting up.

Jack hooked a thumb over his shoulder, "Kaylee. Twin. Co-Songwriter." He smirked, "I do most of the work really." He turned towards the drummers briefly, trying to see what they had been playing — for the purposes of sneaking up there and seeing if he could grab a turn on something he hadn't played before. Jack turned back to Carmen, "How well do you know the Quarter?"

Looking over at the other woman, Carmen nodded. "Hiya." Her eyes tracked over to the incoming doumbek player and she smiled slyly. "Oh, Basir's a good one."

"Hi," Kaylee answered over her shoulder. Then she grinned. "Hope so. He's got nice arms, anyway."

She turned her attention back to Jack. "I have an apartment here," Carmen shrugged as she once again started sketching something. "Not that I use it much at the moment. Like I said, I'm usual out in the Circle. Checking out the different culture's art. It's been very …enlightening."

He smiled, "Ah, well, I was hoping I could convince you to show me around."

"Oh… you might be able to convince me to do that," she said loftily.

He looked thoughtful a moment, and gestured at the drummers. "These cats aren't from Amber, I'm guessin'. Any idea where they're from?"

"Golden Circle," Carmen said, looking up to give the approaching Basir a cheeky smile. "They're all from the Circle, but not all from the same Shadow."

Jack smiled, "Art's subjective. Anything can be Art, though I imagine that's the part that is enlightening I suppose. I'd love to hear about what you've seen, but especially, what you've heard." He glanced to her pad, "When you've time. I don't want to keep you from finishing Asia."


"Oh, I'm done there," Carmen replied. "I may reproduce it in pastels later. But those are back in my studio." She looked up from her sketch and over to Jack. "You've seriously never done the GC walkabout? You really are new in town."

"Basir," Carmen smiled brightly to the bare chested drummer. "That was excellent."

The dark man flashed a smile full of white teeth. "I was thinking of you."

"You are such a liar," Carmen laughed. "Don't think I don't know why you came over here. Basir, Kay; Kay, Basir."

Kaylee turned on her smile again, for all the world like it was just for him and she hadn't shot that exact same smile at more men than she or her brother had bothered to count. "Kaylee if you're in the mood to be formal," she added cheerfully. "Come and sit and let a lady flag you down a drink." And she proceeded to do just that.


He sketched a bow and tucked his long hair back behind his ears when he straightened with a sly smile. "Who am I to deny the lady whatever she desires?" The man nodded to Jack as he took the offered seat His drum was set carefully between his feet. The instrument was beautiful; ceramic with mother of pearl inlays in repeating patterns.

Jacked waved at Basir, and turned his attention back to Carmen. "Pastels? Really? It looks so lively already. I'd like to see that." He smiled, and shook his head, "Nope. We've not really had the time. There was prep, and lotsa discussion, and yadda yadda. We've been down to the city, but we decided to take off on our own today." Jack leaned towards Carmen, smirking slightly, "So how can I convince you to show me around? I'd say I'm harmless, but I don't think you'd believe me." His smile broadened, "I'll show you my etchings…"


She tsked. "That's my line, drummer boy." Carmen flipped the pad closed. From behind her she pulled a leather satchel into which she put her materials away. The pencil into their case and her pad into its pocket. From the same bag she pulled a pair of espadrilles. She looked back at Jack as she laced them up her calves. "Just abandoning your sister to the tender mercies of another drummer?" she asked with humor. Basir buffed his nails casually in response.

Jack chuckled, and looked at Basir's drum, "Nice skin, Man. Sounded as good as it looks." Basir inclined his head at the compliment, but his attention was only peripherally on Jack.

He turned back to Carmen, "Percussionist Boy doesn't have the same ring, does it?" He has been watching her lace up the espadrilles, and smiled slightly at being caught doing so. "Nah. She knew we'd part ways eventually, and besides -" He hooked a thumb at Basir, "- he's the one in trouble, not Kay." Basir just looked pleasantly intrigued as he took a long pull from his tankard. Jack grinned and got to his feet, "Carry your books?" Kaylee grinned at the same time her twin did. He tucked his drumsticks into his back pocket again.

"A man of questionable virtue that I just met?" Carmen asked with feigned astonishment. She hugged her satchel to her protectively as she hopped off the table. "I am not that kind of artist, mister."

Kaylee chuckled. "I wouldn't call his virtue questionable," she said lazily. "But then, I've known him longer. See ya in the morning, Jack."

Jack smiled and waved at his sister, he almost advised Basir to put a pillow on the floor on his side of the bed, but he'd learn that lesson soon enough. "Later, Kay."

Then Carmen winked, tossed her hair over her shoulder and sauntered towards the exit.

As they left, she turned back to Basir and said, "Anything a lady desires…? That's a dangerous line. I'm tempted to take you up on it…"

He smiled easily in return. "I was hoping you'd say that…"

Sightseeing The story continues - TOC

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