A Barbaric Summer of Shenanigans
The evening quieted into a steady hum of hovering as their heavy transport wavered three feet above the uneven ground. Roads were not necessary for HDP transport mechanics, but smoothness of ground, gave more ease and speed in passing. So, a little shaken up, or rather rocked to sleep, most of Count Tambeaux’s crew fell to resting in the dark night.
The Count, however, sat by a solitary light in the back, reading a book. Filly couldn’t tell if it was for pleasure or practice that he read. She crept up the transport, holding to the straps that hung from the ceiling, steadying herself as a few bumps grated and jolted the slow craft.
He was engrossed in his reading, and when Filly saw the title, she smiled at his choice in Literature. She sat quietly by, waiting for him to look up from the adventure in his mind. Respecting a reader is most important.
Staring out the window, she was distracted by her own reflection. It looked young in the distorted, dim light. This amused her to see herself as she looked a decade or so before. Rare, it was that any guess her true age. Youthful vigor kept such chronology most mysterious. Filly liked it that way. She practiced gazing into mirrors, to retrain her eye. Default reflexes saw her pick out all the parts of herself that she did not like. But rather than focus upon those, she worked to delight in her appearance.
Tonight’s reflection was kind, however. There wasn’t enough brightness to glitter upon her silver roots; she would need to touch up the painted blue-black of her waist length braids. Then the lack of clarity in the transport window afforded a softness to her face that hid the smile lines and tiny creases giving away her maturity. She only saw those in harsh lights, if she wore her glasses. Here, her vanity was safe.
Movement behind her, refocused her attention to the Count sitting across the walkway. He was watching her now. He smiled and saluted her in Southcentral Trevel fashion. Then he winked at her as if it were a great secret.
Filly smiled and saluted back to his reflection, then turned and joined him, across the small table that jutted from the wall.
“That’s my favorite telling of that story.” Filly nodded to the Count’s book. “Bois-Guilbert is a most delicious villain.”
“And Rebecca is my favorite heroine.” He counted.
Filly looked curious,
“Not the Lady Rowena?”
“I, like you, have a deep appreciation for complicated characters.”
Filly considered the man before her. She wanted to look to see him deeper, but hesitated as she typically preferred to ask permission before spying upon someone’s soul. But she couldn’t help herself. The dark shadow clung to him like a beacon in a reverse spot light. She fixed her gaze upon the lack of light and it moved to gaze back at her.
Filly’s sadness welled up as the black creature reached out to sneer at her.
“What is it the Oracle seeks, out here in the badlands?” Tambeaux asked.
Filly readjusted her sight and attended to the man.
“I was sent here to find you, Marin.”
“Interesting.” He replied. “I was given the same task.”
“To find yourself,” Filly teased.
Marin paused briefly, knowing the news would have an impact, though he was not sure what kind of impact.
“A know a pirate Captain who is looking for you.”
Filly’s heart leaped uncomfortably in her chest.
“Oh yes,” Marin was successful in shifting the entire conversation from himself onto her. “He is coming for you.”
“Well, fffek.” She sighed.
Marin laughed and stood.
“On that note, I am abed.” He winked at her in a great tease. “Sleep well, yourself.”
“Yeah, right.” Filly almost whimpered.
Why in all the cavernous dark did that one man cause such chemical protestations throughout her whole being. It infuriated her. It intrigued her. And damn it all, she knew there was no hope. Her wasted heart dove off the staid level of professionalism as she sat there alone on the quiet transport. She allowed the tears to fall.
He was coming for her. And she wanted him to… with all her heart.
Sir Guftson woke her in the morning.
“Miss.” He said abruptly. “Miss, you are wanted at meeting in a half hour.”
Filly blinked and wiped the sleep from her eyes, stretching.
The attendant insisted impatiently,
“The magnanimous Count thought you might like to wash before you meet with council.”
“The council?” she asked, yawning loudly.
“The Artisan council, miss.” Sir Guftson sniffed at her ignorance. “They have a task for you.”
The Oracle’s default training almost saw her correct his “miss”-ing her, but it amused her too much to remain anonymous.
“K.” was all she replied.
The rotund gnome gestured to the back of the transport.
They’d pulled over in a rest camp, so Filly exited the lowered steps and joined the break fasting crew around the morning fire. Someone pointed out the fat black bags of water on the ground, so she grabbed one and wandered over to the makeshift, curtained enclosure. One side was for female beings, so she ducked under the door flaps, into a curtained, open grassy space. Several other females were in various stages of dress, bathing under similar black bag showers.
After all her years in barracks style quarters, Filly had little shyness. She hung the bag upon a hook nailed to a central post, opposite a young wood fairy. Stripping down to her nothings, Filly did a quick dousing of water over her body, then cinched up the shower nozzle again. The bags must have been lying in the sun a while as the water was delightfully warm. She suds-ed her body over with the soap that came attached to the shower nozzle, then rinsed off, again.
The faery girl asked,
“If you want to wash your hair, I have some left over?”
Filly smiled thankfully,
“I would love that, thank you.”
The girl lifted her bag over to Filly’s hook. There was enough water in it, to give Filly a first soaking of her long hair. She found a mixed cleanser that softened her tangles as well, and lathered up. A couple of the fae girls openly admired her hair.
Rinsing a final time used up all the water in both bags and Filly was glad to have the extra, lest residue make brushing more difficult.
“May I?” Asked the same wood faerie. She held out a comb.
Filly wrapped a towel around her head and thanked her,
“Once I’m dressed, that would be most kind of you.”
Even a Trevel knows better than to deny a faerie their simply pleasures. Yet, Filly had an advantage. She’d been raised in the fae world and the aura of that life still hung about her, though somewhat diminished. It wasn’t uncommon for the fae folk to find her and give her offerings. Once aligned with the Fae, always aligned with the Fae.
So, it was that after dressing, Filly exited the tent with two wood faeries following her. They went through the breakfast line together and made Sir Guftson feel most uncomfortable, giggling over his short legged wobble, when he fetched Filly to the important council meeting.
It was “most irregular,” Sir Guftson tutted, that Filly then sat herself at council table, munching upon eggs, toast, and sausage, while the fae girls detangled, dried, and played with her hair.
Everyone, except the Count, was quite annoyed.
“It’s most unprofessional,” they all tutted under their breath.
Filly didn’t care a jit for professionalism. She loved having her hair played with and in the end, she rejoiced in the most intricately woven hair style that quickly became the envy of all the Trevel women in the camp. She thanked the girls with a kiss and an eyelash flutter on their cheeks. Then thanked the Count for the opportunity he offered her,
“We have several young children with us and they are itching bored.” Tambeaux suggested, “We thought you might like to take them in hand, and discover what talents they have to share at the festival of Blyns Crag.”
“To direct the youngers in a production?” Filly clarified.
“Precisely.” He smiled.
Strained approval from the other councilors leaked apprehensively.
The incognito Oracle of Atlantis noted all the opposition before her. She smiled big, glancing in a mirror to admire her fae-style hair,
“I’d love to,” she accepted.
And all the nerves that churned within her stomach, regarding her imminent meeting with that Pirate Captain, settled considerably. Directing a production was just what she needed to focus her energy and stop being agitated. He can come. And she will have work to do. It will all be well.
Chapter 8 to come…
If you would like to see more of Gregga’s books and other creative projects, check out her website: Gregga J. Johnn and Story-in-the-Wings.