Vanni bounded up the gangplank of the airship with a mixture of excitement and anxiety. He carried a violin that he’d purchased with the money he’d earned at the little inn. On his back was a pack full of the provisions that he’d forgotten in his haste to leave home. He wore more serviceable clothes now, instead of the finery he’d worn when he reached the inn.

“Vanni Galiano?” the steward said as he reached the deck. “You’re one of three musicians on the ship. I’ll take you to your room as soon as the others arrive. For now, feel free to explore but try not to get underfoot.”

“Yes, sir,” Vanni said. He stepped over to the side, out of the way of a passing airman. Then he looked out over the bow of the ship. Before him lay the great wide blue of the sky. The world seemed to stretch out before him, beckoning him forward. He felt the freedom of the open road and chuckled, as he had to shake his hair out of his face.

“Might want to cut that,” an androgynous voice said wryly from behind him.

Vanni spun to find a buxom woman of dark complexion standing behind him. He pushed his hair away again and nodded. “Might be a plan,” he agreed. “Vanni Galiano,” he added. “I play violin and piano and sing tenor.”

“Sentina Cole. My friends call me Sen. I play harp and guitar and sing alto. Classically trained or self-taught?” she asked, not taking his hand.

“Classically trained,” Vanni returned, tucking his hands behind his back. “And you?”

“I have formal training,” she replied, offering her hand now. Vanni frowned but shook it as she added, “Sorry, a lot of folks set themselves out as bards when they really don’t have a claim to the title. Being able to pick out a few folksy songs, does not a bard make.”

Vanni grinned and looked away, sharply reminded of his music teacher. The maestro had thought only those educated in music should pursue it as a career. He’d only learned music to please his father and, later, because it was fun. It had never even occurred to him that he could find a career in music until the barkeeper had asked him about his skills. The juxtaposition of the two ideas was intriguing.

“Are you saying that those who learned in a more traditional manner have no business being bards?” another voice said.

Vanni looked up to find a fair man who appeared a few years older than he was. “If so I fear I must disagree. After all, going back to our roots music was largely a structureless endeavor. It’s a more recent addition, actually.”

“The only musicians I know are largely untrained and they’re… fun to listen to. They have a sound that’s all their own,” Vanni pointed out. “I suppose because they don’t know how music is ‘supposed’ to sound.” He turned his gaze toward the horizon. “Like when I first started, I figured that I should only play the few folksongs I knew. It wasn’t until later that I began using my more classical music with a less classical audience. I was pleasantly surprised when they liked it.”

“Just because something is different doesn’t make it bad. It can make it all the more interesting. Variety adds spice to life,” the young man agreed. He held out a hand and said, “Oliver Montgomery, pleasure to meet you.”

“Vanni Galiano.” He took the offered hand and smiled broadly. “Are you the third musician that they were waiting for?”

“I am,” Oliver replied. “I play flute and harp. I sing baritone… trending toward the lower end of the register.”

Vanni nodded and added his own vital information. As Sen made her introductions and the ship set out, he gazed out at the horizon. He had a long way to go before he went home again but he thought he would enjoy the journey.