Chapter 16: Fruit, Fashion & Farewells
I can barely remember what happened after we finished in the receiving room, just blurred fragments as I’d felt almost drunk. Drunk with exhaustion I guess?
I remembered servants guiding us through long lavishly furnished hallways, I remembered a comfortable room furnished similarly to the receiving room and I remembered parting with Roxi and finding myself in a bedroom by myself.
That’s it, all I remember from before I woke up, still fully clothed on top of the bed, sheets and all. Sleeping in— I mean sleeping on a bed after several nights sleeping rough was wonderful. Not that I’d gotten enough of it.
I might have gotten almost a full nine hours and the bed was near enough to sleeping on a cloud, but after the ordeal we’d been though I could have slept for days.
I would have too if it wasn’t for the maids orbiting around me as they drew open curtains, laid out fresh clean clothes and kidnapped my boots and cloak. Well kidnap in process, it was kind’ve hard to go back to sleep with sunlight streaming in and maids standing by my bedside waiting for me to get up.
Probably wanted to kidnap the rest of my travel clothes too.
Unfortunately for me, I was outnumbered, behind enemy lines and facing skilled and determined enemies.
So I surrendered, letting them strip me, kidnap the rest of my clothes and herd me into a chamber off the bedroom, where a hot bath was waiting. I’m not going to describe for you what happened next, except to say once the maids left me to my own devices, I almost fell asleep in the heavenly warm water.
Did I purr? I leave that for you to speculate on.
Unfortunately I seem to be under some sort of ‘curse of interrupted rest’ because it wasn’t long before the maids were pulling me up and out of the bath, patting me dry with towels, paying close attention to my hair as well as my ear and tail fur.
Next up, my captors, I mean the maids decided it was dress up time. It seemed like this Duchy didn’t have laws against torturing prisoners of war.
Ok I’m overreacting slightly.
I enjoyed it a little, but I might have enjoyed it more if they had let me dress myself. I mean the lilac peasant dress was like nothing I’d ever worn before. I can’t deny or confirm if I did a little spin in it.
The name peasant dress is kinda misleading, I definitely didn’t see any of the common people in Spot or Fort Brightspring wearing something this nice. Flower embroidery along the hem aside, the fabric was a very fine weave. Along the collar and sleeves was extremely detailed and patterned embroidery done in threads of lilac and purple, with tiny purple beads sewn in.
I’m not an expert on fashion, buuut… I had to say, considering my hair and fur’s dark blue colouring and the cyan of my character’s eyes, the dress seemed custom made to show off and compliment my avatar’s best features. They’d even managed to find time to cut and hem a hole for my tail. I had to wonder if it was something the palace had on hand to modify or had it been procedurally generated for me by some algorithm or AI working backend.
It was a nice dress, maybe they'd let me keep it. For special occasions. I wonder what Roxi would think… It’s not too much is it?
Speaking of Roxi, I wasn’t the only one with a palace provided dress. Exiting the bedroom I found myself standing in a shared sitting room, where my breath promptly caught in my throat.
Calling it a dress was loosely true, though I hadn’t seen a dress anything like it before. It had more in common with El’s outfit or the uniforms of the Officers back in Fort Brightsping.
It was all black and working downwards, she was wearing a short cut off at the waist officer’s jacket with silver epaulettes. She wore it left open to expose a black buttoned blouse with the collar unbuttoned just far enough to make out a hint of cleavage. The shirt was tucked into a pair of tight trousers that seemed to cling and conform to the shape of her legs and had an asymmetrical skirt that reached mid thigh at its lowest.
Her short hair, still wet was messily slicked back as if she’d styled it with her fingers.
“Wow!” I softly exhaled.
Shifting at the sound of my voice, Roxi pushed herself up from where she was leaning against a sofa and tugged awkwardly at her collar. “I— You don’t think it’s too much do you?” she asked, glancing down at her sleeves.
“No!” I half shouted, startling Roxi’s eyes up from where she’d been nervously looking down at her arm, her eyes widening in alarm. “I mean, no… It's nice, you look great,” I blurted, rushing to clarify my outburst. I really didn’t want to upset her, especially when she looked so… yeah.
“Um, thanks,” she replied, again looking down at her outfit. A moment of silence passed before she looked up again. “You look great too, it suits you,” she said, her voice slightly more subdued than usual.
She likes it! She likes it!
“Really! You think so?” I asked, twirling on the spot and letting my dress’s skirt fan out as I spun.
While watching me, her hand had slowly wandered up to her face, a finger coming to rest delicately on her lips and absently tracing the bottom one in a way that was, uh… distracting. It was almost as if it had somehow surprised her, Roxi’s movements freezing up while she attempted to look nonchalant. Then with a jerk, she drew the hand up and ran her fingers through her hair like that was what she’d intended all along.
What does that mean?
So umm moving forward…
I’m disappointed to say we didn’t have breakfast in a great hall. I’d been hoping to participate in a big banquet. It's a fantasy staple! Maybe we’d get to have one or maybe attend a fancy noble ball before we have to leave the capital. Roxi… Does Roxi know how to dance?
Breakfast was laid out for us in the sitting room. A fairly simple affair mainly consisting of dainty slices of fruit that looked almost fresh, still warm crusty baked bread, butter served in its own little silver plate with lid and a silver tray with a small selection of cheeses and preserved meats.
As we slowly picked at the display of food before us, the hovering maids filled a china teapot with boiling water from a hefty cast iron kettle and after a precise amount of time filled a pair of tea cups and brought them to us. Three teaspoons of sugar and two fingers of milk later I was happily basking in the scent of the tea, sipping at the blessed potion, while the maids tried to hide their amused looks of disapproval.
Roxi had her tea sans milk, but I did catch her adding two teaspoons of sugar.
The maids were clearing up after breakfast when Mr Stickinbutt Attendant from the night before arrived with two long leatherbound cases under arm and a letter in his free hand.
Shoving the letter ceremoniously into my hands with a slight bow, he wordlessly placed the two cases on the table side by side and opening them, he gestured for us to read the letter.
Fingers tripping over themselves for a second, I eventually managed to flip the letter and breaking the wax seal on the back, unfolded it. Seeing it was addressed to both of us, I recited the letter’s contents out loud as I read.
To my Darling Guests, the Ladies Aisling Mistmirror & Roxadice Umbrial
It was my utmost pleasure to meet you both last night.
During our previous conversation I promised to reward you today for your immeasurable service to myself, my family, my city and my duchy. I personally wanted to be there when you received your rightful rewards to further convey my gratitude, unfortunately the warnings you brought me raised many matters of the great urgency that I need see to personally.
Deciding it was better to fulfill my promise to reward you on this day, even if I could not personally be in attendance, I have selected from my personal vaults and collections rewards I believe will most please you.
For lady Aisling, I present to you the Rhithiau Brush. Said to have once belonged to a trickster from the Isle of Mists, the Fae Vandal, this artifact is a potent tool for any who wish to paint with light and illusion. The soft bristles are believed to have come from the tail fur of a Tod Sifv and have been bound to the lacquered elderwood handle with a moonsilver ferrule. Its magic is as much from the materials as the layers of enchantment woven into it.
For the Lady Roxadice, I present to you the Moonsilver Shawl. Unlike the brush it is not a rare artifact, but its value is most definitely equal. Despite being called a shawl, this gift comes from the craft of metallurgy rather than textiles. The shawl is a six foot length of pure Moonsilver chain. Barely lighter than a woolen scarf the Moonsilver Shawl is a magic casters best friend, each link in the chain can hold and preserve a separate enchantment and spell.
An enterprising caster can turn it into the ultimate trove of enchantments passively strengthening and defending them, or as a tool to prepare and store offensive abilities ahead of time.
In addition, for you each I leave a sum of one hundred gold crowns and a token of my favor.
I hope these rewards please you and you do not forget to ask my maids to see to any needs you may have while you stay as my guests.
Duchess of Parcosia, Protector of Santarriral.
As I finished reading, I found Roxi pressing a glass of water into my hand. Accepting it, I took a long gulp, icy water soothing a warm discomfit in my throat I hadn’t noticed until it was gone. “Thanks,” I sighed, sending a grateful smile her way.
The attendant hadn’t been standing around during our exchange. While I’d been drinking, he’d ceremoniously flipped open the cases’ clasps and lifted open their lids, revealing their contents.
Stepping towards the table I took in the rewards resting on the cases’ velvet lining. Inside the cases were our rewards, sitting in their bottom left corners was a bulging cloth coin purse, then behind them in the top left corner was what appeared to be a small silver coin or medallion featuring the image of a wolf resting in a field of flowers, each with four heart shaped petals.
The cases’ contents differed from there, as filling the rest of each of the cases sat our personal rewards.
In Roxi’s case a length of silver chain lay, neatly folded, to fill the entirety of the remaining space. Gesturing for Roxi to turn around, the attendant carefully lifted the chain and laid it across the back of her neck and hung along her shoulders, the rest of its length dangling down to rest draped over her wrists. Worn like that, I could see why they’d named it a shawl.
In my case was a brush that looked far too expensive to ever marr bristles by dipping them in ink or paint. Gently picking it up, the Rhithiau Brush was larger than I’d expected, slightly thicker than my thumbs, measuring it against my arm it reached from my elbow to a hair past the tips of my fingers. From its dark polished handle to the glimmering silver and silky hairs, a white so luminous you’d think they’d refract into a rainbow, the brush was a work of art of its own.
As if too impatient to continue waiting upon a pair of out of place provincials, the attendant spun on a heel and marched out while we were still admiring our loot.
Guess he didn’t approve of us?
Illegal Alien is a canon story in QuietValerie's Troubleverse setting. Make sure you read Quietvalerie's Trouble with Horns, her second Troubleverse story Witch of Chains and ChiriChiriChiri's Troubleverse story Snowbound.
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