Melyda stretched and yawned, bringing wakefulness back to her limbs and brain. The comfortable bed had certainly been welcome after the past days of inns and camping. Once breakfast was over, she'd be ready to spend some time shopping, gathering what she'd need to make sure her role would pass inspection.
She returned to the dining room they'd used last night, where she found Raidenaru, Wren, Sarra, and Channi gathered at the table, dishes piled with a mouth-watering breakfast. "How are you all this morning?" she asked them with a smile.
Channi bobbed her head and smiled shyly. "I am fine-fine," she said. "Have you seen-heard Chaer yet?"
"Not yet," she replied. "I wouldn't be surprised if he'd gone for an early-morning swim. He was a long time away from the sea--as you've been." Melyda smiled encouragingly. "Are you ready to go shopping? I hope you'll come with us, Sarra," Melyda said as she turned to her friend's beloved. "I could use your help-- you have such excellent taste, and I'm going to need to cut a finer figure than I usually do."
Sarra nodded quickly. "Of course, Melyda. I'd be glad to...and to tell the truth, this is probably the one area where I'm just like any other Lord's daughter, I just pay closer attention to what I buy. I hope Sammel plans on having lots of closet space," she added, with an impish gleam in her eye.
Melyda chuckled. "If he doesn't, I know the names of some wonderful cabinet and furniture makers. Nothing like custom furnishings to really fill your needs."
Turning to Wren and Raidenaru, she said, "If you're willing, you could meet up with us this afternoon so we can get you outfitted. Channi and I should look for our clothing this morning, since we may need to have some alterations done, and we'd want that started as soon as possible. There are some great shops in town, if you want to take a look around before then."
Between mouthfuls of biscuits and other manner of incredibly tasty pastries, Wren replied a slurred, "Oh yes!" He wanted to ask Melyda a question, but instead started choking on an exquisitely buttery piece of sweet bread. Wren began to frantically hit his chest and then his back with his closed fist, then when that did not seem to help he waved his arms desperately toward the others.
Melyda leapt forward, administering a few swift, hard whacks to his back. Once his airway was clear, she splashed some water into a glass and handed it to him. "You'd best be careful--we don't want to lose you too soon," she said with a grin.
He gulped down the water with a vengeance... and then breathed a sigh of relief. "Thank you, Melyda. I owe you one!" Wren definitely did not want to die before this adventure even got started.
"Not a problem," she replied. Looking at Channi and Sarra, she asked, "Ready to go?"
Sarra nodded and pushed her chair back from the table while thinking. "The tailor Grishawn on High Street would be a good place to start. He's got a wide selection at the finest prices...in fact I believe that is his motto," she continued with a grin. "But his work ranges from simple to elegant, so we should be able to find a good deal of what we need."
"Excellent," Melyda replied. Eating the last of her light breakfast, she waved to Raidenaru and Wren. "See you this afternoon."
The three women exited through the massive front door to the courtyard, where a carriage, drawn by two matched bay horses, waited to take them into town. The drive was swift--at least until they reached the beginnings of the town. Captain Alvezo wasn't the only one to bring in merchandise in recent days, and many people were out to see all the new items and fashions.
Melyda smiled as Channi looked around, wide-eyed. Channi hadn't been long in Montfort, and had only had a confused impression of a lot of people and buildings. Now she was seeing Tyndar in the daylight--shops, inns, taverns, and people of all sizes and incomes. 'I'll be glad to get back to Vestra,' she thought. 'So many people, so much noise, so many *things* they don't really need. Our way of life is better.'
The carriage eventually pulled up in front of Grishawn's shop. The window, shaded from the direct sunlight, displayed a variety of beautiful bolts of cloth. Melyda remembered walking by here a number of times and admiring Grishawn's taste, though she'd never actually had him create anything for her. She'd tended to wear her mother's clothing, which had been saved for her.
As Melyda stepped out of the carriage, she heard two tiresomely familiar voices through the open door. "Terrific," she said with a wry smile to Sarra. "Guess who's inside there."
With a sigh, Grishawn gazed out the open door of his shop. There were some days it just didn't pay to come to work--and this day was shaping up to be one of those. While Lady Aethra and her sister were regular customers, and spent a great deal of money, that didn't make them favored customers, though he did his best to hide that. They were spoiled, rude, pampered ladies who thought they ruled the town--or, at least, the shops.
Suddenly, he focused his gaze, looking at the three women stepping out of a carriage in front of his store. He nearly dashed to the door, a delighted smile on his face. "Lady Sarra! How wonderful to see you again! And Lady Melyda--it's been far too long." Though Melyda had never been a customer of his, they'd talked on occasion, and he knew she was cut from a much better cloth than her half-sisters.
Clad in a tucked and pinned green gown, Aethra put her hands on her hips and gave her foot a little stomp on the platform she stood on, glaring down at the timid little seamstress. "What do you *mean* you don't have this in blue?! I simply *must* have it in blue, and tonight!"
Meanwhile, Arbis looked down her nose at a saleswoman who was wrapping up her gown, which was a rather unattractive shade of mustard yellow. "I trust you have not raised your prices *again,*" she said frostily.
With a grimace he couldn't quite hide, Grishawn murmured, "Please excuse me for a moment," as he rushed over to rescue his seamstress, his mind already considering what he had in blue that would be close enough in style to placate Aethra.
Melyda nodded, carefully keeping as much distance between herself and her sisters as she could in the cramped quarters. She glanced over some of the ready-made gowns, as well as patterns, looking to Sarra for help in finding styles and colors that would suit her.
"What?!" came Arbis's screech from the back counter. "That's five sparrows more than you charged for the last one!"
"This one has some extra ornamentation..." the saleswoman began.
"A dress is a dress," blustered Arbis. "Five sparrows for a few extra stitches is highway robbery!"
Aethra glared at the seamstress impatiently before looking at the newcomers. While two in the party could be ignored, at least for now, Aethra jumped down off the platform and almost landed on the seamstress's hand to greet the third. Anyone who was anyone in society knew that you just had to make and keep connections with certain people. Lord Worthington's daughter, even if a friend of Melyda's, was worth a few moments of chatter.
"Why *Sarra*, it is so good to see you!" she exclaimed, leaning forward and kissing the air near Sarra's cheek. Her gaze slipped slightly to Melyda and she smirked a tiny bit before refocusing on Sarra. "Whatever brings you by here?"
Sarra managed not to roll her eyes at Melyda as Aethra leaned in to kiss her. Managing to keep a straight face despite the grin on Melyda's face, she deadpanned, "Actually, we were just looking for a few new garments. I'm sorry to hear that you are not happy with what you have tried on. Melyda, I think this one here would be perfect for you, the green is such a gorgeous shade, don't you think?"
"Not happy with it??? Why....I'm thrilled with it! It's perfect! It's such a glorious green, who would ever want anything else, I couldn't agree more with you!" Aethra whirled around and snapped at the confused seamstress and a slightly grinning Grishawn, "I'll take it!"
Just as one crisis was averted, another arose. Arbis's grating voice was heard from the sales counter, demanding to speak to the shop owner. Throwing up his hands, Grishawn turned to deal with his next difficult customer.
Melyda barely managed to keep herself from snickering out loud at Aethra's abrupt change of mind. She kept browsing through Grishawn's selection, and pulled out one that caught her eye.
"What do you think of this one, Sarra?" she asked, holding it up. It was an elegant gown in soft shades of blue and gray, with a skirt that was free enough for movement, but not too full. Melyda was a *bit* wary of the length of the cut in front, but she thought it might still cover enough cleavage to suit her modest tastes.
Sarra nodded quickly as she pulled out a shimmering gold gown, holding it up to herself. "I thought you said you needed my help," she teased with a grin. Glancing across the shop, Sarra added, "Channi, do you see anything you would like?"
Channi started as Sarra addressed her from across the shop. She'd slipped into a corner as soon as they'd entered the shop, trying to avoid being seen by the two richly-dressed women already there, who seemed to know both Sarra and Melyda. Her eyes were dazzled by all the bright colors, and she was amazed at the wide variety of fabrics. "Is all too-too much for me," she said softly.
Melyda smiled sympathetically at the Delphine girl. "I think I know just what you need," she said, diving back into the racks. She'd spotted a flash of white earlier, and now brought it out. The silk, short-sleeved dress was the perfect combination of elegance and simplicity. "We can find riding and everyday clothing elsewhere," she told Channi, "but you'll need at least one dress suitable for a court."
A rustle from a nearby rack stopped as Sarra popped out with a deep rose- colored gown. Its thin straps and sleek design made her pause as she thoughtfully compared it to the gold one. At Melyda's words, she glanced up towards them. "One?" she asked with a grin.
"Well, at least one," Melyda replied with a grin. She glanced over at her half-sisters, hoping they were nearly finished and ready to leave. She was used to their attitude towards her, but she hoped to spare Channi as much as possible.
As she compared her pile of gowns before her to those held by Melyda and Channi, Aethra grinned to herself and leaned closer to Arbis. Carefully gauging her voice so Melyda and Channi could hear as well, she murmured, "Well, it's not very fashionable, but it *will* do, especially on one who can barely walk upright..."
Arbis paused in her berating of Grishawn long enough to give a thin smile at Aethra's comment, then turned her attention back to the tailor.
Channi snorted softly. The Delphines had many types of people, as well as humans--those who were kind and good, as well as those who were bullies. While she might be shy around highborn *ladies,* she wasn't about to take that sort of guff from bullies.
"Swimming much-much better than walking any-all days," she commented to Melyda. "Can they?" she asked, indicating Aethra and Arbis with a toss of her head.
"I rather doubt it," Melyda replied, smiling, her voice rich with humor.
"Poor-poor drylanders," Channi said in a voice dripping with pity. "Never to see-know beauties of deeps…and riches…" With that, she reached into a waterproof pouch she now wore at her belt, and pulled out a handful of pearls--large, clear, beautiful pearls.
Melyda's eyes widened at the sight, and she whistled softly. "Where did you get those?"
"We find-eat many oysters," Channi replied. "Know drylanders seek- treasure-horde these, so we keep-store them for times when we need metals- other trade. Have whole caves-storerooms filled with these, and other treasures-jewels we find in shipwrecks." She grinned, knowing full well that the amount of treasures her people had stored were more than those two *ladies* had ever seen. By drylander standards, her people probably had more riches than some kingdoms. And none of them cared a whit about it.
Melyda choked back laughter as she glanced sideways at her sisters. Having known them for so long, she knew full well they had to be positively green with envy at seeing those pearls.
After one brief second, Aethra turned quickly to face the other direction, pretending to admire a new gown. She pulled at the delicate fabric so forcefully a small tear appeared, which she quickly covered up. "So much.." she whispered to Arbis. "They'd be so valuable. *IF* they were real," she quickly amended, with a nod to herself and a smile on her lips again. "Yes, of course, they aren't real. If this dolt here accepts them, it is his loss."
Arbis, however, knew real pearls when she saw them. Her mouth hung open as she mentally calculated the value of the handful she had seen.
Grishawn took advantage of that pause to break in. "So, madame, I'm sure you agree that this dress is actually a bargain for such skilled work. But as a favor to a valued customer, I will drop the price by one sparrow."
Normally this would have set off another quarter-hour's round of negotiations, but this time Arbis snapped her mouth shut and paid the extra four sparrows in a daze. "Who would have thought the little fish girl had so much wealth?" she wondered. "Perhaps I should invite her to dinner sometime...."
Melyda watched as Channi dropped the pearls one by one back into her pouch. "Are you taking those with us on the trip?" she asked quietly. At Channi's nod, she smiled back. "Good idea. No one will suspect a maidservant of carrying such wealth."
Ignoring her sisters, she led Channi back to the racks of dresses and fabrics, quietly consulting with them on color and fabric choices. It wasn't long before all three of them were standing still, enjoying the skillful attentions of Grishawn's workers. As she was facing the door, Melyda was the one to spot a familiar face. "Fontaine!" she called out. "Come on in!"
While Fontaine couldn't argue that she might need some clothes more fitting the region she still didn't understand why she couldn't just go to the look market and find a few used shirts and trousers. But she had been given coin and sent to this dress shop. She looked half startled by Melyda's welcome, and managed a quiet, "Hello."
Then she pushed her glasses up her nose and stepped in amongst the rich array of material. She was about to say something about getting outfitted for the trip, but at the sight of strangers she bit back the words. And pushed her glasses back up again.
Having endured as much as she could of the poking and prodding of the seamstresses, Channi jumped off her platform to go and greet Fontaine. "Nearly done-through here," she said with an air of relief. "Then we find lunch, and better-practical clothing. Just glad Chaer not here. He's much-much less patient than I." She grinned at Fontaine, feeling a certain camaraderie with her, and hoping she felt the same.
"Lunch would be good," Fontaine agreed, with a shy smile, "And I definitely need to find some practical outfits." She could see that Channi seemed about as comfortable in this place as she felt.
Channi whisked behind a curtain, emerging shortly with her usual, plain shift and rope sandals. She looked over at Melyda and Sarra. "You almost through-ready?"
Melyda nodded and slipped behind the curtain herself, followed shortly by Sarra. They both emerged in their normal attire and, after a few words with Grishawn, and a handshake on price and payment, they emerged from the shop, squinting at the transition from dark interior to bright sunlight.
Melyda glanced at the shadows, measuring the time from where they fell. "We'll be a bit early for meeting Chaer and Wren, but that's all to the good--we'll be able to find a table large enough for all of us." With that, she led the way to an open-air seafood restaurant, one that was off the beaten track a bit, but had scents that promised a wonderful meal.
As they all relaxed with glasses of water or wine, Melyda looked keenly at Fontaine. "So, did you have a good night's rest? Are you feeling up to the challenge we've all set ourselves?"
"I slept well, thanks," Fontaine answered, relaxing a little in the less formal environment; she pushed her glasses back up her nose and shrugged, "As to the other, I want to help so hopefully I'll be ready when things start happening."
"We all hope so, too," Melyda said with a rueful smile. "But there's always the unexpected to worry about, especially in this situation, where we know so little. That's why we're trying to plan for any contingency--including my so-called trade visit to Fallistra. But, hopefully, Channi and I will get a chance to explain the situation quickly, and get help from the government." She again looked keenly at Fontaine. "You're sure you'll be all right going with Sammel and the others to Chaer's village? I don't want you to be roped into doing something you'd rather not."
"It's the most likely place for me for me to be of some use," Fontaine answered honestly, "As to 'comfortable'....I've stopped worrying about that when I went from being just a cartographer's apprentice to an apprentice selkie...."
Channi chuckled. "We have-like this saying: 'If you are very-very comfortable, you are very-most likely dead.'" Channi looked keenly at the girl. "You be most-most welcome among Delphines, I know-sure. We not selkies, but kin, and kin always-much welcome among us." She could also think of a few Delphine men who'd be very interested in getting to know her--they were always lured by the new and exotic. But later would be a much better time for a warning than now.
"I'd like to meet your people," Fontaine answered, with a slightly less shy smile.
The aroma of food - particularly the strong scent of _fish_ - made her stomach rumble; causing the girl to turn a few shades red. "Excuse me," she murmured.
"Quite all right," Melyda said with a smile as the plates of food began arriving. She tucked into her grilled fish heartily, knowing they still had much to do that day, including meeting Chaer and Wren to help them get outfitted for the trip. She spared a thought for Montfort, wondering how things were settling down after the Festival, and wondering how *she'd* be able to settle down after this trip. 'I may be spoiled for the quiet life after this,' she thought ruefully.
Back to the Dragon's Inn Archives page.
Back to my main page.