The Plan: A Sisters Tale

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“The Washer Woman” stood imperiously in the middle of the bustle of the laundry. Mildred and Thyme were completing a rush job for Lady Bentford, and Helen was operating the presses along the north wall. All was as it should be in the legitimate business, and Thilda was in the back room packing up some odd “lost and found” items to deliver to the pawn broker.

A tall, sandy haired man entered the shop and stood at the counter.  He held a small bundle of washing wrapped in a pillow case, and tapped a silver piece on the counter top. Dennis Dennison had become a regular customer, and made it a point to ignore the greetings of the laundresses, insisting on dealing only with their “Mistress.”

Gwendolyn involuntarily smiled as she went to take his clothes. He was fairly good looking, and was quite the flirt as well. She wondered what he got up to produce so much laundry, or was it a ploy to have an excuse to chat with her?

Whatever the case, the flirtation became more serious, and soon they were “an item.” Within three months, he had moved his things into her chamber behind the laundry. He was always a little wary of Thilda, who occupied the next chamber, and whose work desk overlooked his and Gwendolyn’s door, but by in large the pair got on.

Dennis was in fact a common thug, and sometime mercenary, and while he brought a little silver into the “household,” he largely lived off the labour of “the sisters.” He had asked for Gwendolyn’s hand more than once, and once made the mistake of calling her Gwen, a name which only Thilda used for her.  But he was rebuffed on both accounts.  Gwendolyn, three times widowed, was going to tie that not again. In fact, she thrived on now being “her own woman.” That was not to say that she wasn’t prepared to share her bed with him, however.

In early autumn, Dennis arrived at the laundry with a small wooden box.  He said he had acquired it in exchange for some bouncer work. In it were a stack of letters, and a cloth-bound book, all written in the Elf or Dwarfish tongue.  Gwendolyn was never sure which was which as they all looked much the same to her.

She put the box under the counter and when Ethbert, a grandfatherly lecturer at the university, called in to collect his gown, she showed it to him.  He examined them and pronounced that the letters were of little consequence, written in a clumsy hand; and the book was a collection of fables and children’s tales written in colloquial Dwarf.

Gwendolyn was never one to waste what might raise a penny, so took the box back to Thilda’s table. She say that the book had some woodblock prints, which could raise a few coppers if framed nicely.  She started to use a razor to cut the prints from the book when she noticed that the third and fifth were identical. On closer examination it became obvious that the duplicate had been carefully glued on top of another page, and any non-Dwarf reader would not notice the break in the narrative.

She took the page into the laundry and held it over the steam.  The pages slowly separated revealing the text beneath and a smaller illustration of a Dwarf-hold. She rolled the page carefully and placed it into her waist pouch.

Next morning, she stood outside the university and waited for Ethbert to emerge.  When he came strolling absent-mindedly through the Porter’s Gate reading some tattered scroll, she called to him.

“Ethbert, can you tell me what this particular page says?”

“Well Mistress, it seems to be part of a story in which a fabulous treasure is buried among the crypts of a Dwarf-hold constructed beneath a man dwelling,” he paraphrased.

“Does the picture look familiar to you?” she asked.

“Well,” he said, “It does look a bit like our old Guildhall, but these old prints all are pretty much the same.  It could be anywhere, and besides it’s from a storybook.”

When Gwendolyn returned to the laundry, she called Dennis and Thilda into the back room.

“Do you see this?” she asked.

“It was cleverly hidden in the Dwarf book from the box,” she continued.

“And . . . ?” Thilda interjected.

“I think it is telling us there is a Dwarf-hold under the vault in Old Guildhall,” she suggested.

“It’s been abandoned for years,” Dennis retorted. “Surely there is nothing there now.”

“I think it is worth a look see,” Gwendolyn said, “And tomorrow night has no moon.”

The plan was then set into motion.  The next night they would close the laundry at sunset, and send the three laundresses home early “as a reward for their hard work.”

Then Dennis and Thilda would arm themselves, and Gwendolyn would get a pair of lanterns, and borrow some of lock tools from her late husband’s brother.


*The Sisters Tales are presented in the correct order on the “Themed Fiction” page of my blog.

HW DAILY WRITING PROMPTS: Elf, Storybook, Grandfather


One thought on “The Plan: A Sisters Tale

  1. Pingback: Entry: A Sisters Tale | Padre's Ramblings

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