Introductions and Deliberations

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Maya and Gwenldolyn led Wilberta through the Alleys until they emerged on the Back Lane. This time there was no need to wait in the queue, and the trio was ushered into a small grubby office where Breena was sorting some papers.

“Hello again Gwendolyn, and you must be the “Green One,” Breena said nodding to Maya.

“I have been called that on occasion,” said Maya “though it is more about my choice in sarees than for anything mystical. How are you ‘Bright One?'”

They both smiled, and Gwendolyn felt she was on the outside of an inside joke.

“And this is . . .” Breena began.

“Wilberta,” Wil interjected.

” . . . the wiry house breaker,” Breena continued. “You are welcome, as well.”

Wilberta felt suddenly naked before Breena, and after the experience of being caught by Maya earlier in the day she began to wonder what she had gotten herself into.

“Can we trust her?” Gwendolyn asked.

“Definitely. She is like you and Thilda: troubled, and trying to survive, but her heart is good,” Breena replied.

“Good, that is what I hoped,” Gwendolyn rejoined. “I am good at what I do – locks and such, but I am no climber.”

“Wil, we need a “specialist,” if you know what I mean. It’s not technically thieving, more of an adventuring into some pretty dodgy places. Would you like a job?”

Wilberta stood with her mouth aghast, not quite taking it all in. “Arh, I . . . um, can you say it again?”

“We are going beyond the frontier to the borderlands. There is a treasure there and we aim to take it. We have a couple of fighters, a healer, and an Enchantress, we need another ‘thief.’ Are you in?” Gwendolyn explained.

“I think so. How dangerous will it be?” Wil questioned.

“I cannot lie to you,” Breena said. “It will be perilous, but if we survive great things can come of it.”

Wilberta stood deep in contemplation and then nodded. “Okay, I’m with you.”

*          *         *

 

Thilda was sitting at her work desk binding the fletching to an arrow, when the others arrived back at the laundry. Now there were five of them. “Five ‘sisters,'” Gwendolyn thought to herself. “This was looking good, especially with Seymour along as well.”

Thilda greeted Maya and Breena, and then looked puzzled at the newcomer.

“Who’s this?”

“Thilda this is Wilberta, she is our new ‘light touch,'” Gwendolyn explained. “Wil, this is Thilda.

Thilda shot a glance at Breena, who smiled and nodded approvingly towards Wilberta.

Thilda taking the cue, stood and shook her hand, “Welcome.”

*        *        *

Thilda slid her stool back from the bench and removed two floorboards. There was a chest with two new locks on it. She took a key from her neck, and Gwendolyn produced another from her coin purse. She then pulled a folded vellum sheet from the box and spread it out on the table top.

It was the first time all of the sisters had seen the map. Thilda and Gwendolyn had of course, and Maya and Breena seemed to “know” more about it than seemed natural. But for Wilberta it was her first real knowledge of it.

There it was, neatly written in the common tongue with Ralulee characters in brackets in a different hand under each caption. In the corner was the royal seal of Razuli which looked authentic enough. All seemed in order.

The women circled the table and examined it more closely. Breena pointed to a side of the map. “We are here in the Northwest. We will need to cross the Great Runnel here, and enter the disputed lands.”

“Then if we keep to the west, we can enter the mountains via the Long Pass,” Gwendolyn said.

“Are you sure of that?” Thilda challenged. There is a lot of traffic in the pass, and we really don’t need any more attention drawn to us than is necessary. After all we will be five women travelling in the Borderlands.”

“Yes, but Seymour will be with us too, . . . but I take your point.” Gwendolyn conceded.

“When I was travelling with the circus,” Wil chimed in, “we went through the foothills here. They are fairly easy to travel, and there is a small “Runnel League” town at the base of the peaks which has a tavern as well.

“In that case we should cross at the ferry, here, instead of the bridge,” Thilda said.

“Good idea,” Gwendolyn and Maya said almost in unison.

“We will then enter the mountains above the Runnelman town, and it will also give us less time in the desert on the other side,” Gwendolyn observed.

“So all together about three weeks in each direction, though it might take a little longer on the return,”  Maya concluded.

“It looks like a plan, then,” Gwendolyn said, and they all nodded in assent.

“What are we going to tell Seymour we are doing?” Thilda asked.

“Good question,” Gwendolyn said musing.

“May I suggest that you tell him the truth,” Breena intervened. “He isn’t as dense as you think.”

“Have you met him?” Thilda asked, chuckling.

“No I think we should, or at least a version of it,” Gwendolyn conceded. “Let’s tell him we need to collect some lost things, that some bad people have taken.”

“I think that will do,” Breena agreed.

“Next, what will we need?” Gwendolyn asked.

“Six good horses, and two pack mules – a wagon will be useless in the mountains,” Thilda observed.

“Good, let’s start with that,” Gwendolyn said. “Maya and Breena, you two make a list of any “special items” you need and I will see if Bertram can source them. Wil, you and I will get the standard stuff, like the bread you kept me from ordering earlier,” she said giving the girl a wink. “Now ladies, let’s have a drink.”

Padre


This is a Sisters Tale, and it follows Chance Meetings A full index of the Tales can be found on Themed Fictions.

Haunted Wordsmith’s 3TC: Return, Queue, Drink

 

 

 

 

 

 

World Tour Travel Tips

world map

It is Travel Tuesday, so the perfect day to reflect on tips for a round the world trip.  World travel can be a formidable undertaking but with some planning and preparation, it can be a real joy. Those who have read my travel posts in the past know that I am a big fan of cruises. Cruises are an excellent way to see the world, but are time consuming. If you have limited Holiday time, and need to keep to a work schedule, flying is the better option.

Of course working out your itinerary is important as well. To maximise the potential of schedules, starting at the International Date Line seems to be the way to go.  But, this approach is not without risks, however.  I find that for a clear mind, and to maximise the desired outcomes, starting in North America and finishing in Europe is the better plan.

“But why?” you might ask. Well if you are trying to get around the world in lets say, one night, you need to have your wits about you.  In America you will need to negotiate a wide range of cookies, and small snacks, but most are accompanied by glasses of milk, or the occasional cup of cocoa.  In Europe however, mince pie, Yuletide puddings, and glasses of sherry can quickly fill you up and make you a little tipsy.  Best save these to the last.

Your choice of air provider is also important. It doesn’t matter if you are using major carriers such as British Airways, or smaller more personal providers like Dancer, Dasher, Prancer, you need to look at their record of cancellations and delays.  You don’t want to be caught out by missed connections or become stranded by some technical failure.

This leads to some associated travel tips. It has to do with vegetables. Eight (or occasionally nine) little reindeer cannot possible eat the number of carrots, parsnips, and turnips placed out for them.  Flying on a full stomach is really a no no. But this is where the magic toy sacks come in handy.  As the presents are deposited in stockings, under trees, and in wooden shoes around the world, the sacks make for an excellent collection tool for the excess veg.  This can be taken back to headquarters for long term deer feed, or it can also be turned into a hearty stew for hardworking elves.

Speaking of headquarters, the North Pole is a great strategic manufacturing venue, but weather conditions might provide difficulties on priority travel night. I know reindeer number nine has done much to alleviate these problems, but having a reserve airfield in a place such as Lapland remains a prudent arrangement.

Well, I hope you find these tips useful, and that you will enjoy your Christmas celebrations and that they herald a great New Year.

Padre


 

The Haunted Wordsmith: Dancer, Dasher, Prancer

Fandango’s One Word Challenge:Formidable

Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie Wordle #215:

Present 

Yuletide

Holiday

Herald

Santa

Tree

celebrate

mistletoe

stocking

pudding

elves 

reindeer 

The Plan: A Sisters Tale

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Image: Pinterest

“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.

Padre


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

HW DAILY WRITING PROMPTS: Elf, Storybook, Grandfather

 

The Find: A Sisters Tale

Wooden-box-Plain-wooden-box-2

A Simple Wooden Box

The Find

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.”

Padre


HW DAILY WRITING PROMPTS: Break, King, Feather

Fandango’s Prompt: Treasure

See also: Maya: A Sisters Tale

Maya: A Sisters Tale

Gwendolyn went to the back room and showed Thilda the map. This was not going to be one of their usual capers. They were going to need help.

They were still smarting from the failure of their last job, and how they had been betrayed by Dennis, Gwendolyn’s fourth “husband.” They needed to be sure of their crew this time.

“How about seeing a fortune teller?” Thilda queried. “Then we could check them out.”

“Those charlatans . . . ,” Gwendolyn began, but she was cut off by her “sister.”

“No Gwen, I saw one near the fair, and she was good.  She got every question right from the entire audience. It was well worth the coppers to see her.”

“Okay, but if I see through the con, we are out of there,” Gwendolyn finally conceded.

The tent was not the usual gaudy circus affair, but a simple army marquee. In it sitting at a small trestle table was Maya. She was truly fascinating to behold. She was tall, and slender, and wore a striking outlandish gown, and her raven hair, and hazelnut eyes gave her an exotic beauty.

maya

Maya

She looked up at the two women before her, and said “Welcome, “Sisters.”

Thilda nudged Gwendolyn, but was given a mouthed retort, “Could be a standard greeting.”

“How can I help you with your journey?” Maya asked.

“Another fishing statement,” Gwendolyn thought to herself.

“We have come for some advice, ” Thilda answered.

“About the map or about your companions?” Maya replied.

This took Gwendolyn aback.

Gwendolyn cleared her throat. “Both,” she croaked.

“Then come sit,” Maya said, beckoning them towards a pair of pufes which seemed to have suddenly appeared in front of the table.

The women seated themselves in front of her. The table was bare, with not so much as a deck of cards, or crystal.

“May I have your keys?” Maya said motioning to the table. “Just drop them.”

Gwendolyn dropped them with a loud rattle upon the wood, and Maya gazed at their configuration before her.

“The map is true, though it will lead you into perilous paths,” she said. ” I see a frozen waste, and labyrinthine forests you will need to negotiate. And, yes, you will need help.”

“But who can we trust?” Thilda asked.

“There is one man, tall and trustworthy, I see.”

“Who?” Gwendolyn rejoined.

“An axe-man, thick in both stature and mind. He will be faithful.”

“Where will we find him?” Thilda asked.

“He will be found at tavern, guarding the door. Befriend him, and he will stand by you forever, and I too will accompany you.”

Thus Maya the Enchantress became the third “sister.”

Padre


 

HW Daily Picture Prompt above

Three Things Challenge: Faithful, Fortune Teller, Hazelnut

Daily Word Prompt: Frozen

 

Other Sisters Tales: Thilda Feathermann: A Sisters Tale and Seymour de Klod: A Sisters Tale