Thilda sat at her work desk in the back room of the laundry. She was stripping down a swan’s feather to make special fletching for some custom arrows that were ordered by the Huntsman’s Guild. The profit from the commission wouldn’t be life changing, but it would be a nice bonus for just a few hours’ work, and after the debacle in the cellars, every penny now seemed important again.
In the next chamber Gwendolyn was still fuming over Dennis’ betrayal. He had cleaned out the cash box, and the treasure cupboard under the floorboards. Fortunately she still had the secret safe behind the presses which he hadn’t known about, so had enough funds to at least to start rebuilding.
Then she noticed the box on top of his empty wardrobe. It was the one he had shown her a fortnight before, which held the letters and the Dwarfish book. “Why had he left it?” she thought. She concluded that it was worthless, so took it down to dispose of it, and any other memory of him.
It was a simple pine box, about a foot square. Its letters were still in it, but then she noticed that it seemed to be lined with a kind of smooth parchment. She dumped the contents onto the bed, and looked at it more closely. Yes, it was definitely vellum parchment. But why in such a cheap box? It had been carefully cut and crafted into the bottom and side panels and then folded to be form fitting as the box was assembled.
She ran her fingers across the smooth, soft leather and looked at how she might break the little trunk without damaging its liner. It was held together with small pins, which were inset slightly. Pulling them wouldn’t be easy.
She placed the letters back in the chest and slid it under the bed.
“I’ll be back soon,” she called to Thilda. “Don’t let anyone in my room.”
She kept to herself as she travelled the Alleys, making sure to avoid the filth in the pathway under the overhanging eaves of the wattle and daub houses she passed. She soon saw the three balls and the shingle which read, “Bertram Drake Pawn Broker.”
Bertram was her fence, the half-brother of second (or was it third?) husband. He was a weasel of a man, tall but slump shouldered. A pair of rimless spectacles rested on the bridge of his nose, and he seemed to be perpetually scathing the back one hand with the other in annoying repetition. He was, however, “family” and occasionally came up with some useful trinket in his role as a purveyor of magical (and not so magical) items.
As she approached the door, a tall man wearing a dented breastplate, was departing and tying something around his neck. When she entered the weasel of a brother-in-law was just placing a small bag of gold into his safe. He turned and smiled at her.
“Gweenoleen, my dear,” he almost hissed. “How, may I help you?”
“Bert, I need to borrow some tools, the little ones you use to alter jewelry.”
“Ah, my dear, how can I ever say no to you? May I ask . . .”
“No you may not. Just get them and I’ll have them returned by tomorrow,” she interrupted.
She took the little velvet bag from him, and hurriedly returned to the laundry.
She nodded to Thyme and Mildred the laundresses as she passed, and shot a sly smile at Thilda as she entered her own chamber.
She pulled the box out from under the bed, and again dumped its contents onto her mattress. She pulled her ottoman close to the bed and lit a lamp and placed it on the chest. She again examined the pine box, taking in the apparent order the panels had been assembled in, and then opened the velvet tool bag.
She pulled the first pin which squeaked as it slid out, then as not to cause stain to the wood, began to remove the others in alternating sequence. At last the first plank dropped, and soon the entire cube was dismantled. Leaving her with the parchment liner with clean cuts along the folds where it had been fashioned into the box.
And there it was penned in a flowing hand on the other side of the vellum, a carefully drawn map, bearing the seal of Sultan Razuli the Second, the Ralulee king of legend.
She could barely contain her excitement. She took a deep breath, and composed herself, and stepped into the back room to see her “sister.”
HW DAILY WRITING PROMPTS: Break, King, Feather
Fandango’s Prompt: Treasure
See also: Maya: A Sisters Tale