Of Veils and Polish, Part Three (2015-07-28)

There was once an old man. He had a wealth, he had power, he had wisdom; but he had no successor. Without an heir, his legacy would be lost, and so he searched.

He searched amongst the glimmering, gilded courtiers, the nobility who ruled the lands with much wealth, great power, but little wisdom. He turned away. He searched amongst the military, the diplomats, the merchants, the scholars, and the artists. He found varying amounts of wealth, decent levels of power, and promising potential for wisdom; but nothing that felt correct.

He had been searching for almost two decades, his enemies and rivals’ places secure with successors of their own, and still nothing.

Until, one day, his servant placed his tea–perfectly brewed–upon his desk. And a report full of corrections beside it.

Finally, the old man had found the perfect candidate to be his heir. His servant’s origins were humble, but within him there was the capability to do great things. And so, the old man decided to claim his servant as his apprentice, to teach him the ways of the Minister of Dusk.

The servant was a quick learner, the perfect student, a worthy heir. He would be a great Minister of Dusk.

This is not that story.

~

A/N: Time flew right by me and whoops… so heres a dinky continuation of these drabbles. Blurgh, sorry.

Of Veils and Polish, Part Two (2015-07-11)

“A stowaway,” the captain hummed thoughtfully, seated behind the bolted down table in his cabin. He had said the same phrase, and only that phrase, repeatedly since he first laid eyes on her. Practically chanting it on the way from galley to captain’s quarters, excitedly showing her off to the sailors they passed on deck. They rolled their eyes or gave quick chuckles, but there was no hostility. When they spotted Ram again, he winked at her, and she thought, so long as her hair was covered, it wouldn’t hurt to wave back.

Ed, unalarmed, followed gamely after him, so she did, too, if a bit more bemused. She wasn’t entirely sure if she regrets, of all the ships in the port, choosing this one to sneak aboard.

“Now go on, stowaway, tell me your tale,” the captain, a rather tall and thin man, gangly he could be described, commanded, propping his elbows on the table and setting his face in his hands; an eager boy waiting for story time.

She hesitated, glancing at him, then at Ed, gaze flickering back and forth.

“Did you want Ed to leave?” Delano asked softly, his own gaze moving from her to Ed.

She shook her head swiftly, not wanting to isolate her first ally, but still dithered.

“Let’s start with your name, lass,” the sailor suggested from where he stood beside the table.

Suddenly her hands were the most fascinating thing to look at.

“Not even your name, huh?” Delano murmured, fingers drumming against his cheek, “And a headscarf despite the summer heat.”

She flushed at the reminder.

“Let me see your hands,” the captain held out one of his own toward her indolently, head still propped in the other.

Surely, there were only so many times she could refuse before they kicked her off the ship. Warily, she held out her hands.

Slowly, Delano held one and brought it closer to his face, inspecting the nails thoroughly, before releasing.

“Unless you’re a priestess from the western mountain tribes, the only reason you’re wearing a headscarf is to hide something. It’s not your face, as I can see it plain as day, so it must be your hair. Or you’re bald and you’re trying to hide that, but no, it must be something about your hair. What would be so noticeable about your hair that you’d need to hide it? The color, perhaps?” He asked rhetorically, confident in his extrapolation.

Reluctantly, she pulled the hood down.

“Let me guess… faint traces of polish on your nails, blue most likely, combined with your red hair and your attempt to stowaway… a servant from the Court, who caught the unwanted attention of one of the nobles, and is now trying to flee the kingdom by way of sea. Yes?” The captain looked so pleased with himself, despite how clich├ęd such a tale was, a Court scandal was still intriguing.

“No,” she said, finally breaking her silence to correct him. The indignity of having herself and her past reduced to such a trite guessing game–her hands clenched into fists, still lightly stained fingernails biting into her palm, “No,” she repeated, “I was a green polish, not blue. Scholar, not servant.”

“Ah,” Delano said, voice dropping to flatly unamused, “a runaway noble–”

“No,” she interrupted, “I was the first. I was the only… commoner,” she spat out, hating having to use the epithet so often hurled at her like an insult, “among the scholars.”

“My apologies,” the captain said, interest recovered, though thankfully not the flippancy.

The silence felt heavy, ringing in her ears.

“There’s more to it than that,” Ed’s gravelly voice said, reminding them of his presence.

“You can stay, if you tell us. No matter what you did or what was done to you. You have sanctuary here,” Delano offers, back straight and hands pressed flat to the table.

“Yes,” she sighed, in relief and resignation both, “yes, there more to it than that.”

~

A/N: Direct continuation to this drabble here. And, I guess, the ~expository dialogue~ will be in the next segment.

I am now considering actually telling the full story in this way as a sort of flashback of what led narrator to this point. I mean, it’s a pretty good set up which I hadn’t even thought of originally.

Of Veils and Polish, Part One (2015-07-09)

“It looks like we have a stowaway!”

The heavy cloth which she is hiding under is suddenly lifted, the harsh, bright sunlight filling her tiny alcove between crates and barrels. The silhouette of a man, wide torso, short legs, breaks the wide expanse of sky. She blinks, blinded and scared.

“Come on out, now, there’s a lass,” the man–one of the sailors of the ship–says, in a loud gravelly voice that, nonetheless, manages to be comforting. It’s rough and honest and so removed from what she came from that it nearly brings her to tears from relief, even if it conflicted with her plans. She had been found before the ship left port.

“You’ve gone and scared her, Ed,” another of the sailors, shadow a little thinner and shorter, knocks shoulders against the first man.

“Have not!” Ed immediately protests, jostling the newcomer in return, before softening and asking, “I haven’t, have I lass?”

She shakes her head, tremulously, before crawling her way out of the cargo, careful to keep a hand on her small pack.

“Oh, wow,” says the second sailor, as she finally stands in the sunlight, “Red hair.”

She twitches–or perhaps, flinches–before hastily pulling her fallen hood back over her head.

“Don’t be a gawking barnacle, Ram,” Ed scolds, smacking his friend, “Don’t you have other things to be doing?” He not so subtly suggests.

“Right, yeah, sorry about that, lass. It’s nice, is all,” Ram says in a rush, before climbing up some ropes to the mast.

“He won’t tell anyone,” Ed reassures, before briefly patting her on the shoulder and gesturing with a head toss towards the cabins, “I’ve got to bring you to the captain, though. Stowaway protocol.” He explains.

She nods silently, unsurprised. She had expected to be found eventually, she was just ashamed she had been found so soon.

Almost as if fate is mocking her, it takes them a while to find the captain,. He’s not in his cabin as Ed had expected, because apparently Captain Delano is a very hands on leader.

When she first sees him, she thinks he’s just the cook’s hand, peeling potatoes in the corner of the kitchen, which Ed explains to her is called the galley. The cook, a man shorter than even her, yet twice as wide–from muscles, not fat–takes one look at her and Ed, then barks out, “Stowaway!”

She jerks, startled. So does the captain.

But where she, at least, remains standing, the captain flails off his makeshift barrel seat and lands in the pile of peelings. He then sits back up, meets her eyes, and gleefully exclaims, “A stowaway!”

It’s a fairly perplexing beginning to an extremely perplexing relationship.

~

A/N: This is vaguely part of an old fic I had planned out called Of Veils and Polish. This part is actually the end/not even mentioned in the fic proper; I guess I’ll try to find a different title then. I’ll… probably do a part two to this in which narrator and the captain actually speak to each other and there’s some ~expository dialogue! for why she’s in this situation.