Part I: Imegesis
Overture: The Reunion
2nd Month, 5th Night, 4,632nd Year
Copyright © 1999 C.E. by Dustin Jon Scott
[Last Update: 2003-ish]
It had been scarcely more than three months since Jady had attended her mother’s funeral in Graelark, and nearly as long since the disappearance of her father, Isaac. Llarallyn and Rylen had returned to their home outside Idlestone with William, Lodin was probably stationed at his paladin camp in Hathor, and Alyssandra was likely either staying with her parents down in Cottwood Hollow, or with Lodin in Hathor. And so, almost inevitably, Jady had traveled to Candleton; there, at least, she had friends in the Candleton Thieves’ Guild who would take her in.
The morning sky was overcast with a soft, white haze as thousands of tiny snowflakes drifted harmlessly to the ground, blanketing the countryside just outside the city with rolling sallow hills and cascades of glimmering white dunes. The streets of Candleton were covered in a thin layer of snow, hatched with hoof prints and track ways from the horse-drawn carriages traveling up and down the brick roads in the center of town as local businesspersons finished setting up their booths and tents for the Market Day bazaar that occurs here each month. A single, immense snow drake circled high above the city, probably planning to scavenge the excess foodstuffs produced each month during the bazaar.
Jadia strolled down the road, her hands stuffed into the pockets of her white ermine duster as her eyes scanned one vender’s booth after another. The buxom thief was careful, not only to examine each booth carefully, but to do so at a swift, steady forward gait with her face forward so as not to draw attention to herself before the bazaar had even begun.
The first booth Jadia’s emerald eyes fell upon wasn’t anything particularly amazing, just another rugman selling tapestries -- most of which weren’t exceedingly inoffensive to the eye at that. The next merchant was a young female saddler; nothing astonishing there either. Jadia was taken aback by the next proprietor, who appeared to be sentier. It seemed odd, in Jadia’s mind, that a maker of girdles would set up shop outside. It seemed even stranger that a sentier would do so in weather such as this. As Jadia could no longer resist the urge to simply turn her head and look at the booth as she walked by, she noticed a small tent behind it with smoke rising out of it, alleviating her concerns that the local lingerie sewer might’ve been several threads short of a chemise.
Jadia continued examining the booths. The thief spied a linener, a clouter, a farrier, a mustarder, a chandler, a nob thatcher, a coal higgler, and a clothier; nothing very remarkable, although the chandler deserved further inspection at some point in the day. Jadia then spotted a lone brewer -- an oasis in a desert of mediocrity; he appeared to carry a wide array of ales, lagers, meads, wines, and possibly even more exotic spirits. Jadia’s eyes continued to dart from side to side as her examination resumed. A powler from the Orient offering exotic hairstyles, a fletcher, a ripper, a cobbler, a goldsmith, a potter, a featherman, and a laceman.
‘Wait,’ thought Jadia, ‘a goldsmith?’ Jadia took another look as she walked by, pretending to brush some snow from the shoulder of her fur coat. Sure enough, it was a goldsmith. Just slightly up ahead were a greensmith and a silversmith as well. After them, a banker, and a jeweler. Jadia would have to be sure to make several passes by this area later in the day, not being foolish enough to attempt reaving five shops in such close proximity to one another, all in one fell swoop.
Finally, Jadia’s eyes came upon a booth that appeared to be owned by a tailoress, fully set and ready to receive business. She decided she’d take what money she had and treat herself to a new raiment while she waited for the bazaar’s business to pick up.
Jadia stopped and waited for a carriage to pass before hurrying across the street.
“Hello, I’m Ellythwen Aldryar,” said the young Elven shopkeeper as Jadia approached the booth. “I represent Aldryar’s Attire on the corner of Market and Fare Street in Westside Candleton. How might I help you?”
“I’m looking to purchase a new winter outfit,” said Jadia. “Something warm, but not too warm -- just something to wear under my fur coat. I don’t want it to be bulky either. Preferably, I’d like it to be snug and formfitting, but I don’t want it to restrict my movement.”
“You’re certainly not asking for much, are you?” the Elven woman jested, grinning brightly.
“Think you’re up to the task?” Jadia requited, smirking back with a facetiously raised eyebrow.
“Of course,” replied Ellythwen, leaning over the booth’s counter to look Jadia up and down. “I can tell you now, though, it’s not going to be cheap. It’ll cost you between twelve and fifteen shales, depending on your measurements and how much material I end up using.”
Jadia removed her left hand from the pocket of her ermine duster and dropped two electrum coins onto the counter.
“There’s twenty,” said Jadia, flashing the blonde tailoress a brazen smile. Jadia reached her hand back into her pocket and pulled out two silver coins, setting them on the counter along with the two electrums. “And there’s another two, just to make sure you do your best work,” Jadia said with a playful wink of the eye.
“Twenty-two shales, huh? Malnioryn,!”
An Elven man stepped out from behind the curtain at the back of the booth.
“What do you need?” said Malnioryn.
“I need you to watch the booth for a bit, I’ve got a customer here who wants a whole new winter ensemble,” said Ellythwen. “I’m thinking of using some of that new crushed velvet we got from Arluin.”
“Are you sure we have enough here?” Malnioryn queried.
“If not, we can always send Ranalia back to dad’s shop to get some more,” replied Ellythwen. She then turned her attention back to Jadia. “Come on back,” she said, gesturing toward the curtain at the back of the booth by cocking her head to the side as she opened the small gate at the front of the booth.
Jadia entered the stall and followed Ellythwen as she pulled back the curtain and stepped inside the tent setup behind the booth itself.
Once inside, Jadia was greeted by a comfortably sultry yet tender waft of air. The stove in the center of the room, with its smokestack ascending through the tent’s ceiling, pots of dye stewing upon its surface, and its intensely burning fire from whence the current of thawing air radiated, was the first thing Jadia noticed.
In one corner of the tent was a large wooden loom, surrounded by piles of various fabrics. In another corner sat a spinning wheel, with several bolts of fabric in various states of unroll scattered around it. In the corner immediately to Jadia and Ellythwen’s right, there was a large, tri-fold partition. There were also three tables about the room, one at each of the tent’s walls with the exception of the one Jadia and Ellythwen had just entered through, and each overflowing with fabrics, skeins of yarn, and spools of thread. Near the stove in the center of the room was a large steaming barrel, presumably into which the dyes were poured. On the other side of the stove was a measuring platform, complete with a tall metal shaft and sliding bar for measuring height.
Sitting in one of the numerous chairs within the large tent, seated at the table on the right wall, was a young Elven girl carefully hand-sewing a dress. She appeared to be no more than fifteen years of age at most; Jadia surmised that this was most likely the aforementioned Ranalia, and probably Ellythwen’s younger sister at that.
“May I take your coat and pack?” asked Ellythwen.
“Sure,” answered Jadia, slipping the ermine duster and backpack off her shoulders. Ellythwen took the garment and folded it neatly over the back of a nearby chair, and set Jadia’s pack on the seat.
Ellythwen was slightly surprised when Jadia removed her fur coat, as she’d expected, despite the complete lack of any fat on Jadia’s face or neck, that she would be quite a rotund woman. In fact, Jadia’s skin-tight linen trousers and the belt cinched tightly around her elfinly slender waist made it quite obvious that the illusion of obesity while wearing her coat was due to her having been blessed (or cursed) with an astonishingly sizable chest, uplifted to such an extent that most would find it inconceivable that there weren’t some manner of support holding it up; the rest of Jadia’s body, with the exception of her bulbous posterior, was as dainty and nimble as any Elven woman.
“If you’d like, I could bring in the waist of your coat so people don’t think you portly,” Ellythwen offered. “After all, a woman with a figure such as yours really ought to show it off. Besides, it would probably keep you a bit warmer.”
“Thank you,” replied Jadia, “but I like having the extra room.”
“So you’re a thief, are you?”
“Y’think?” Jadia smirked playfully.
“I hope you’re not planning to rob me,” Ellythwen teased in return.
“If I were, do you really think I’d be foolish enough to make such obvious reference as preferring to have ‘extra room’ in my coat?”
“You make a good point, but what makes you think that either Ranalia or myself won’t warn the other businesspersons of your presence?”
“Because no self-respecting Elf would betray someone’s confidence, and no self-respecting businessperson would jeopardize the possible return patronage of a prospectively loyal customer. Not to mention the fact that Lyraennon Aldryar was once a member of the local Thieves’ Guild, and that the thieves here in town know to let alone any shop run by an Aldryar in exchange for your family’s silence concerning our doings.”
Ellythwen’s eyes grew wide; “I feel as though I should know something of you. You seem to know so much about my family.”
“Don’t feel so bad, I don’t actually know anything else of your family. It’s just that I’m no stranger to Candleton and I have friends here in the Guild. Besides, I show off my figure plenty when the weather permits.”
“Huh? Oh, the coat thing.”
“So, am I your first customer today?”
“No, actually,” answered Ellythwen. “We like to get a head start on things, so we set everything up at dawn and open at sunrise. You’re actually the second person to come in today.
“I’m going to have you change into a gown so I can take your measurements. When I’m through, you can simply tell me what it is you want and come back in a few hours like the woman whose dress Ranalia is working on now, or you can stay here and help me give you exactly what it is you’re looking for.”
“Well I’m not horribly picky, and I’ve learned you can never go wrong trusting an Elf’s judgment when it comes to her craft. I’m sure you’ll be able to conjure up something that I’d like as much as anything I could think of myself if I just give you an idea and leave you to your own devices.”
“Good call,” Ellythwen remarked with a smile. “Ranalia, there’s a gown over by you on the table. Could you toss it here?”
Ranalia set the garment she was sewing down on her lap along with the needle and thread and reached next to her, searching through the linens.
“Here, this one should be big enough,” said Ranalia, tossing one of the gowns in the direction of Jadia, who reached out and grabbed the garment as it flew toward her.
“I’ll just be a moment,” she said, walking over to the changing screen in the corner to her right. She stepped behind it, slung the gown over the top of the partition, and began disrobing.
“So have you ever met my father?” asked Ellythwen.
“Who?” replied Jadia.
“My father, Lyraennon. He owns Aldryar’s Attire on the corner of Market and Fare Street over on the Westside.”
“No, I’ve never spoken with him personally. Is he Ranalia’s father as well?”
“Yes,” said Ellythwen, “and Malnioryn’s.
“So what’s your name, anyway?”
“No,” said Ellythwen, “I mean your surname, for when you pick up your clothes.”
“Oh,” replied Jadia. “It’s Rowan.”
“Height: five feet even.”
“Didn’t we have someone in here last month with almost these exact measurements?” asked Ranalia.
“I think so,” said Ellythwen.
“What was the name?” said Jadia, her eyes wide and hopeful.
“Same as yours, if I recall,” Ellythwen replied. “Rowan. I could be mistaken, though -- I mean a tailoress isn’t going to forget proportions as extraordinary as yours or hers, but I may certainly still be wrong.”
“And you’re certain she had the same measurements as mine?”
“Similar, at least,” said Ranalia. “From what I can remember, she looked just exactly like you in the face as well. Darker hair, though. Why the interest?”
“I lost a sister ten years ago, and I’ve attempted to keep an eye out for her. Whenever I hear rumors that someone was seen who looks like me, I can’t help but think that perhaps it’s her. Perhaps I’m just being zealous.”
“Well,” said Ellythwen, “unless the Nymphs have begun to wear clothes and come into the cities, I’d be inclined to agree that this mystery woman you keep hearing about, if she is indeed one woman, is probably that sister of yours.”
Without warning, Malnioryn peaked into the tent.
“We’ve got return business,” he said. “There’s a woman here who wants you to make some alterations to something you made for her last month.”
“Maybe that’s your long-lost sister now,” said Ranalia.
“I should only be so lucky,” replied Jadia. “I can recall dozens of times I’ve thought I’d finally caught up with her, only to discover that I’d missed her by the most meager of margins.”
Just then, as Malnioryn had disappeared to the other side of the curtain, a young woman entered into the tent.
She was a living mirror to Jadia in every conceivable capacity, with only the most trifling exceptions; a solid complexion devoid of freckles, straight, dark brown hair with a streak of blonde descending along each side of her face, bright blue eyes, and points on her ears.
After what had begun to seem like the foundation of a lifetime that the Fates had decided should have its entirety spent in the fruitless search for Jadia’s estranged half-sister, it appeared her hereto-futile endeavor had come to a comfortably anti-climactic end.
“I was hoping you could add some pockets to the inside of this coat I bought last month....”
“Kyra, is that you?” said Jadia. “Kyra Rowan?”
“No,” said the girl, slowly rocking her head. “My name’s Abigail, Abigail Rowan. And might I ask; just who the hell are you?”