“Are you Raonal?”
I looked over my shoulder at a hulking brute leading a bevy of other brutes. “Who asks?”
“I am Immanhov, the estate’s sineigs. I am to escort you to your quarters, where you will have the peace required to finish your commission.”
I quirked an eyebrow at that statement. “I was unaware that boarding came with the bargain. I have already made arrangements for -“
“Tell me where, and arrangements will be made for your rent to be canceled and your coin returned.”
“Why would I wish to stay in a flea-infested inn? The stars are roof enough for me, and the breeze a better companion than any amount of groans and screams through thin walls.”
Put a wolf in a cage, and all you get is an angry wolf. Is this a cage, or are they really being polite?
“Then it is settled. You will stay at the castle. We have a large tower room reserved for those who prefer light and air to damp and dark.”
“And I am certain you expect me to live on … Pray tell who the special order is for?”
“Her Eminence, Seonase, our Prince’s consort.”
With a sigh, I rolled my carpet. What a tangled path I walk. How did I find myself caught up in this sun-blighted, web-spawned mess? I was free just a few marks ago, now I am expected to stay in one place until when?
I followed Immanhov into the castle and down more corridors than I could count. How I missed the flat smell of an undead when the commission was made I could not guess. Even with my sensitive nose, the scents around the market must have masked it, and I had been too eager to get some real coin. Now, all I could smell were the vampires that lived in this pile of stone.
When Immanhov opened the door to my quarters, I stopped and stared. Compared to the Courts, the heavy wood and gilt highlights were mere tawdry trinkets. Compared to the quarters I had while traveling with Master Gil, these quarters were fit for royalty-something I knew I was not. I looked at my guide, mouth working but not making a sound as I tried to ask if these luxurious quarters were for me. I cannot if the brutes that accompanied us thought I was refusing, or simply stalling. Two hands-one on either shoulder-gave me a hard push through the door. As my heel cleared the threshold, the door slammed shut and I heard a heavy bar drop across it on the other side.
Just great. Not only am I going to be forced to be in one place for ages, I will do so as a prisoner.
With a groan, I dropped my pack to the floor, forgetting that I had not properly stored my wares. A “thunk” made hitting the stone proved to be phials I kept from Master Gil’s stash breaking. Their stench soon overpowered the room as I tried in vain to open a window. The window finally swung open enough that air could seep in around it, and some of the stench could seep out. When I felt the first tentative wisps coming in, I stuck my nose into the crack and dragged in a lungful of the uncontaminated air with as much gratitude as I could muster.
I hope I can wash that stench away. I do not look forward to living in it until it fades. Knowing what it did to the vixens at Court, I can only imagine what it would do here. I will not survive those encounters, no matter what my stamina is.
After a few breaths to clear my lungs, I forced the window open even further, creating a hand’s width gap between the upright and the sill. Knowing I had to get everything out of my storage pocket before the scents permeated the thin barrier between here and there, I searched through the quarters until I found a semi-empty room I could use for a workroom. As quickly as I could, I unloaded everything I had stored through a secondary access I quickly created.
I wish those phials had not broken. The more accesses I make, the more likely I will lose something I do not intend to. I cannot move the access from the bottom of the pack to comfort level without reaching through the spilled perfumes, and I know how long they will take to wear off my skin – more than five anni.
Whew, that stuff smells good.
With everything piled up on the floor – my worktable, the hides and fae linen bolts, thread, spare clothes, and other miscellaneous items, the room had the appearance of the most organized lady’s bower in the world. I shuffled through the pile, looking for my curing frames so I could finish curing the rest of the hides I needed.