Xiska OdAkram was tired this morning.
She hadn’t slept well, that was true: The air around her here still made it feel like she was breathing hot soup: When she walked, she waded through the air around her as though she was at the bottom of a pool of water. When she talked (And she did, though this land’s strange tongue still mystified her own), she choked each syllable out through the broth which covered her and the rest of this land.
But that was not new. She had been dealing with that for the last few weeks, since she first stepped off of that rickety carriage and into her new life.
What changed was the noise which seemed only to grow with the moons in the sky. Everyone had apparently decided that last night was a great night to go out to sing, dance, and in general prevent her from getting a moment’s rest. She had very nearly gone to see what the commotion was… but thought better of it when she looked outside.
It had been so bright! They had lit so many torches and fires, in every color you might imagine a for a shirt or skirt. Someone, or perhaps some group of people, had put a lot of effort into setting everything up… And it was clear that her small voice, tripping on strange words she’d only met recently, would not change a thing.
The sun’s rising seemed to scare them off, and for a few blissful minutes she’d gotten some sleep… but she could not afford to spend the day in bed, today. Her weekly visit from Sabrine was due.
“Sabrine Mon Marion,” she sighed to herself. At least those words were easy now. Sabrine had told her to practice a few phrases, including her name. Along with that, she’d been told:
“How do you do?”
“I need help.”
“I am well.”
“And remember to keep your teeth apart!”
The last one fell out of her firmly clenched teeth, and she smiled softly as they hit the ground in front of her. The people here all spoke every word with their mouths agape, unworried about the cold or how loud they might speak. She mused over the differences as she found her bar of soap (which smelled like the bright purple flowers which grew just outside her door) and went to wash her face.
She was told that, when speaking the Kingstongue, she must also open her mouth as wide as she could, or she might sound angry unintentionally. Sabrine listened as she tried it, and commented how she should speak up, and let her pretty voice be heard. So unlike her home, so unlike how she learned to speak as she took her first steps in life.
That thought alone made her smile follow the soap she wiped off of her cheeks and into the sink.
She had no time for food, but that was fine. She had little food in her flat anyway, until Sabrine came by with her stipend for the week. Sabrine usually brought the muddy water they liked to drink here and some food, anyway. She’d eat something then.
Xiska brushed the cool metal of the handle to her wardrobe softly before opening it. From the outside, it looked so official: Metal inlays danced around the carved motifs that draped themselves over both doors. And then, when she opened it: Her normal Kunymqikod robes hung to the right side, next to the far fancier clothes she was given upon arriving.
Layers upon layers upon layers was what it seemed like she was to wear. First, the short-clothes, which came in two pieces, both in a natural looking white: One for her hips, and one around her chest. She’d thought she’d hate wearing the chest piece, but quickly found that it was not as uncomfortable as it first seemed. With this heat, she almost wished she could walk around dressed as she was… but that was not allowed.
Next came a set of underclothes: A small, white skirt and a green colored tunic. This was already getting to be too much for her, as though she was wrapped in bandages for some reason.
Finally, the over-skirt and cloak she was to wear over top everything. These were magnificently colored, golds and greens making patterns of patters all over her back and front, with black and green waves running down around her legs. And with that, she was done.
She was all dressed up, but could go nowhere fast: Her legs, so strong even with weeks of inactivity, still itched and begged for the fast, strong movement she’d grown up with… but in all of these layers, she was forced to walk slower than she’d ever dreamed of moving. She’d mentioned this to Sabrine, but was quickly told that she would, “Get used to it.”
Sighing and picking up the edges of her skirt, she walked out into the sitting room… just in time to hear a measured, firm knocking at her door.
“One moment!” she called, inching her way towards the door.
Her meeting had begun.