Sabrine Mon Marion, royal clerk of Liefeld and appointed guardian of Jessica O Dacram, the foster child from the North, was about to knock for the third and final time when the meager wooden door before her finally gave way and opened as it should have minutes ago.
With an air of absent-minded, over-practiced politeness, her knees bent in a curtsy as the door opened. Her lavishly decorated red and gold dress graced the ground with the tip of its hem as her voice echoed forth with all the pomp and circumstance she felt was due a member of the royal court.
“Good Morning, dear Jessica. I do hope I’m not too late. You wouldn’t believe the nerve of the townsfolk this morning!” She had her eyes closed as these words flew the roost of her mouth in one big cloud. Straightening her knees, she brought her hands together and opened her eyes. “How are You today?”
Xiska OdAkram, suffocating in her bandage-like green and gold dress, managed to affect a smile. She opened her mouth as wide as she could, letting out a resounding, “I am well. How are You?” in what (to her) sounded like perfect Kingtongue.
She then tried her best to match the squatting motion of a curtsy, and immediately fell over backwards.
Sabrine, with a look on her face that gave herself far too much credit for the idea, took the moment to step forward and shut the door behind her. Once she was sure that none could see them, she let the smile fall from her face and placed a firm grasp on Xiska’s arm. She pulled with the strength of a frustrated parent in the middle of a marketplace, fueled by embarrassment and indignation.
Xiska was jerked back up to her feet.
“Jessica, what are You doing?” Reproach dripped from her evenly toned voice as she spoke. “I don’t know what they do where You come from, but a lady never falls to the floor in Liefeld! You’re really lucky we are in private right now!”
While being showered in Sabrine Mon Marion’s torrent of reproach, Xiska was brushing herself (Well, really, the clothes upon clothes upon clothes covering her backside) off. Only when she had finished did she turn and look up at Sabrine.
“Sorry, Sabrine,” She softly said through clenched teeth. “I musta fallen… I didn’t mean it.” Xiska’s lavender eyes met with Sabrine’s green, which stared back expectantly for a few beats too many. Xiska broke the gaze suddenly, and followed up.
“I am sorry Sabrine!” She repeated, twice as loud and without the teeth.
“Oh, Dear, it is not the end of the world that You fell…” Sabrine’s loudly lilted way of speaking began again. “It’s just… I worry about You, You know? How You are adjusting, how You are feeling… They tell me You haven’t written home yet.”
Setting her things on the nearby table, she shuffled some rolls of parchment out of a long leather container, along with a brush and a black vial that clinked against the wood. “Now, I know You aren’t used to our ways here, yet…” She began again, picking up the vial. “But since we can’t send sheets of glass by mail, You’ll have to resort to more primitive methods… like those used here, in Liefeld.”
The bulk of their meeting, Xiska then discovered, was to be about writing to her family back North. She was told she could write in whatever language she preferred… But, that this was a fine time to practice the Kingstongue’s writing, should she choose.
So, it’s better to write it their way, right? Xiska thought to herself. Maybe I could ask for some help… She eyed the black vial of ink suspiciously. The smell that came out of it was vile, though the marks it left on the paper (at least, those left by Sabrine, anyway) were rather pretty, she had to admit.
The midday bell had just begun ringing when they were finished. Sabrine, true to form, had had her things already packed and ready to go by then. “So, have the missive ready for us next week… and remember to practice Your curtsy!” A chuckle more annoying than bugs flying past Your ear accompanied Sabrine’s parting curtsy as she spoke those final words.
Xiska let out a long sigh.
She was alone again, at last.