Apr 26 2019

Daughters of Fate (Chapter 21)

Posted by Mathias in Daughter of Fate, Fantasy, Novels, Projects

Only Earoni’s will can let one pass the great reef that protects Fimmirra.  Even in the dark times, without her guidance, no enemy shall pass to the land of our ancestors.  

-Wonders 15:8 

Chapter 21 (40th of Taru-Des in the year 6198)  

Staring out the small window of her cabin, Sheala sat there and watched as the ship bobbed and pitched in the water. The gentle rocking of the ship as it sat in port caused Sheala’s thoughts to wander without purpose.  It had been three days since the Oracle, crippled and still in need of repairs, had reached the Islands of Fimmirra.  Just like the only other time she had come here, she had chosen to confine herself to her quarters on board. 

Sheala told herself it was for the best, twirling strands of her hair between her fingers.  Even though she did not grow up here, there were many unpleasant memories this place brought back.  

Ignoring a knock at her cabin door, she hoped it would get the hint and not come again.  When it did, and she ignored it again, Sheala knew who it was the second she heard the key in the lock.  

Reane opened the door gently and shut it behind her after she entered.  Although the Captain no longer wore her bandages, it was obvious that certain motions still caused her discomfort. 

“You just can’t brood in this cabin forever,” Reane scolded.  “Why don’t you come to town with Bentai and me?  It’s a lovely day.”  

“I’ll be fine until we set sail off these rocks.”  She failed to turn and even look at her friend.  

“You know, tonight is the Yule Festival.”  

“I’m well aware of what day it is.”  There was purposeful shortness in Sheala’s tone.  

“I thought you might like to go.”  

“You know how I feel about King Turon.” 

“So, you’re just going to hide from your past forever?”  This was a conversation the two had had countless times before.  “You’re the daughter of the King’s sister.  I’m sure he’d be more than elated to have you back and know that you’re alive after all these years.”  

“He didn’t care enough to find me fourteen years ago.  Besides,” Sheala then added, “parties aren’t my thing.” 

“Oh, that’s right.  I forgot.  You do rather enjoy being a thief.  Risking your neck and living in abject poverty back in Catersburg.”  

“You know I have more than enough money to make a comfortable living for myself.  I do it for the thrill.” 

“Yeah.  Right.  What are you so afraid of?  Rejection?”  

Sheala took a moment before responding.  “Go to the party.  King Turon’s an old friend of your mother and father.  And you.  I’m sure you’ll have a blast.  I’ll still be here when you get back.”  

“Beneath all the talk and ability, you’re nothing but scared.”  

Growling Sheala had hit her limit with this discussion.  “Damn it!  Why do you act like you’re my mother?  Why can’t you let me be?”  

“Fine,” Reane threw up her hand.  “Fine.  But I don’t think that you have the guts to play a little game.”  

“A game?” That sparked something in Sheala. She turned to look at the Captain, suddenly interested.  

Reane knew she had the attention of her friend now, but she continued to play her along.  “Here I was hoping to make tonight somewhat interesting.  But if you’re too scared-”  

Sheala stood and confronted Reane.  “What’s the game?”  As Reane smiled, Sheala knew she had fallen for her ploy hook line and sinker.  But she also didn’t care. 

“I was thinking something similar to the gambit we ran last year at the Camen Festival.”  

“Another scam.”  

“A friendly test of skills,” Reane corrected.  

Sheala second-guessed whether she should accept the challenge.  Reane always seemed to come out of these little bets on top.  Just once though, Sheala wanted to beat her. “A cast full of people neither of us knows?  Sounds fair.”  

“Actually,” Reane reminded her, “King Turon does know me.  But I’m willing to accept that handicap to make it all the more interesting.  And there’s definitely a few others that I’ll have to steer clear of.  The advantage is clearly yours.”  

“Alright, I’ll accept.”  

Stepping back, Reane eyed Sheala up and down.  “Do you have anything formal to wear?”  

“No.”  

“Well, I’m sure I can scrounge something up that’ll fit you.”  

“This is ridiculous!” Sheala whined as she turned around in the sky-blue evening dress Reane had given her to wear.  It had long sleeves, was cut off the shoulder, and flared slightly after dropping off her hips.  “This has no place to hide anything.  I can’t work like this!”  

Reane paced around her.  The Captain’s dress was much fuller and elegant, covered with frills and a wider make. She watched as Sheala squirmed in the skimpy garment.  “I think it’s quite becoming of you.  Besides, it’s too big for me and all I have that will fit you.”  

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Sheala screeched. 

Reane pulled her hair up onto her head and used a clip to hold it in place.  “Listen, if you’d just concede now-”  

“Not on your life!”  

“Now ladies,” Brentai stepped between the two as he saw the temper growing in Sheala’s eyes.  He and Anthony had agreed to oversee their bet and make sure everything went smoothly.  Both were dressed in fine clothes suitable for a royal ball.  Brentai tried to soothe Sheala, “I think you look lovely, Sheala.”  He walked behind her and began combing the knots out of her long hair, ignoring the few grays that he saw.  “You’ll look even better once we add a few more little things.”  

Sheala pulled away from him, waving her hands in the air.  “How can I work my magic dressed like this?” 

“Stop complaining,” Reane laughed.  

Sheala picked up a pair of long white gloves and slipped them on one at a time.  “I hope you’re not too attached to this dress.”  She picked a knife from Brentai’s sash that laid on the table.  With a flick, she cut a slit in the palm of her left-hand glove.  

“That old thing?  Not in the least.  Too big for me anyway.”  

Sheala groaned at another jab to her weight and started picking at the seam of her dress at the waist.  Pulling out a length of the thread she produced a matching small, but unseen gap in the fabric.  She looked around the room for some way to make the idea she had work.  Locating an old leather drawstring pouch from a table, she confiscated it.  Simultaneously squatting and pulling up her dress, Sheala entered into the most undignified of poses.    

She fumbled about between her legs, ripped the bad a little and then pointed to a sash of fabric on a chair near Brentai.  “Be a dear,” she asked, “and had that to me?”  

Brentai did, curious as to what she was doing under that dress. 

With a couple of minutes work, Sheala finished, stood, and dropped her dress down to its full length, revealing no sign of what she had placed there.  She smoothed it out and twisted, to check both the front and back for any signs of anything that would draw attention to the jury-rigged contraption. 

“Perfect,” she exclaimed.  Holding out her hand, “Brentai, give me a piece of gold.”  

“Do I get it back?” he chuckled.  

Sheala cocked herself sideways and warned him, “Depends.  Now please give me one?”  

He did so, not having any intention not to.  Placing it on the table, Sheala moved her hand over it, causing the coin to disappear into her palm with smooth grace.  It was as though the coin had vanished into thin air.  Then she placed her hand over the slit on her dress.  Without even a moment of stopping, the coin was transferred into place.  

“Bravo,” Reane applauded.  

“I don’t even know,” Brentai smiled, “if I even want to know what contraption you’ve got going on down there.”  He then approached her an again began to brush out her hair.  “Now stand still.  You hardly look like a duchess with your hair like this.”  

Leaning against the wall, Anthony shook his head.  “I can’t believe I’m going along with this.  I came here to see the King.  Not get thrown in jail.  Are you two always like this?”  

Anthony had spent several days trying to see King Turon but had not yet been able to get an appointment at court.  He knew that he had much to offer the King in terms of information, but the delays he faced unnerved him.  

Reane sat down in front of the wall mirror in her bedchamber.  “It’s just a friendly little game.  You’re not going to be in any danger.  Besides, I told you that I’d talk to the clerk tomorrow and get you right to the top of the list if you did this one little favor for me.  Not that I don’t trust Brentai, but … I don’t trust him or that he won’t assist Sheala.  Now, would you be a dear and hand me that jewelry box there, Anthony?”  She pointed to the item she spoke of. 

Anthony retrieved it from its shelf and brought it to her.  

As Brentai finished with Sheala’s hair, he took a small metal clasp from the dresser and pulled her hair into a bun atop her head and held it there.  Sheala fussed as he worked, never liking to get dressed up, even if there was both money and pride at stake.  

Opening the jewelry box, Reane began pulling out an assortment of necklaces, broaches, earrings and other trinkets. Every once and a while she would find one that caught her eye, look at it in the mirror, and then set it aside. 

She pulled out a heavy diamond necklace and tossed it at Sheala. “Here.”  

Catching the necklace as it was starting its downward arc, Sheala huffed, “Reane!  Be careful.  This must be worth a fortune.”  It took Sheala only a second to confirm that it was not a piece of costume jewelry.  

For a second, Reane grabbed her ribs.  The movement caused them to hurt again for a moment, but she was able to hide her discomfort from the others.  She put a small emerald earring to her ear and watched as it dangled.  She liked the way it looked and put it and its twin on.  

She then selected a gold and pearl necklace.  “Anthony, will you help me with this?”  As he worked with the clasp, Anthony fumbled at first.  But was then able to fasten it. He brushed against her skin, purely accidentally, but it sent a pleasant chill down Reane’s spine.  

“Please explain to me the point of all this again?” Anthony said. 

“It’s simple.  Sheala and I will go to the Palace tonight each posing as the Duchess of Rumar.  She won’t be here.  I’ve already checked.  But I did add her name to the guest list.  The trick is threefold.  First, avoid anyone who might actually know the real Duchess, which I don’t think anyone will considering how distant Rumar is.  Second, meet as many different people as possible.  Being careful not to introduce yourself to someone who has already met the other fake Duchess.  And thirdly, get away with as much coin as one can.”  

“And no using your mental abilities,” Sheala reminded.  The two had agreed on that part earlier.  

Brentai adjusted the necklace on Sheala and then helped her with an assortment of other jewelry.  He stepped back to admire his handiwork.  “Not bad.  I’d almost believe it myself if I didn’t already know you.”  Sheala blushed at the compliment.  

Reane stood, her disguise now fully assembled.  “She’ll have to do more than look like a duchess.  She’ll have to keep those all too opinionated comments to herself and that attitude of her’s under control.”  Reane curtsied in a dignified and poised manner.  She looked almost as if she really did belong to royalty.  Then she engaged in a display of her refinement.  “How do you do?  It is a great pleasure to meet you.  I am the Duchess of Rumar, Eluna Tarasque.  Please allow me to relieve you of some of that money in your purse.”  

Sheala scowled, picking up the silver necklace her father had given to her.  She slipped it around her wrist and wrapped it so it fit like a bracelet, deciding to wear it for luck, inexplicably feeling she needed something. 

“You haven’t won yet.”  Sheala eased her feet into a pair of heeled slippers.  There was a brief moment of awkwardness as she found her balance.  They weren’t like the boots she normally wore. “I can be as dignified as the next person.”  She walked to show her own prowess at being refined and then bowed.  “Let the games begin.” 

<< Back to Chapter 20 | Forward to Chapter 22 >>

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