The de Warrene Sisters

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Double Trouble

Caelia couldn't remember sleepwalking last night, but she must have left her bedchamber at some point. The place she slept now certainly was not her mistress' chamber, and this was not her soft feathered mattress. Cold hard stone met her feet as she swung off the straw pallet. It was dark and cold, and her body ached. As she tried to clear the grogginess from her head, a door swung open, casting her surroundings in light. With the light came the flood of memories of what had occurred last night.

"You are Lady Caelia Eld-ar?"

"Yes."

"Come with me."

Caelia studied the man before her. He was a simple guardsman. Nothing more. As she had no belongings to claim in her cell, she followed the man directly. They followed a long corridor, up a flight of torch-lit stairs and entered a hall. Off the hall was a small room with a table and chairs. Already seated at the table was the woman who had started all the trouble last night. Eyes flashing, Caelia studied the woman.

Dressed in trousers tucked into soft brown leather boots, a white cotton shirt under a dark green vest, the woman looked the very image of a man in drag. Caelia smoothed her dress and stepped lightly into the room.

Addressing the man who brought her to this room, she asked, "How do you know who I am?"

"That's not important. What is important is that we know that you are Lady Caelia Eld-ar and you were caught in a bar fight with this one." The man thrust his thumb over his shoulder in the general direction of the trouble-maker. "You are being released. Someone has spoken on your behalf. Here are your belongings, though I advise you to make sure everything is accounted for. Your horse is out back."

Caelia took her satchel and looked through it. It appeared as though everything, including her brooch, was there.

"I see that you were able to recover my brooch from her?"

"No, mi'lady."

For the first time, the troublemaker spoke up. "You mean THIS brooch?" From somewhere in the inner recesses of her shirt, the woman produced a brooch.

Caelia studied her brooch and then the brooch held by the woman across the room.

Finishing up his paperwork, the guard stood to accompany the other women out of the room. "This one is staying here. There is no one to speak for you, is there, Rhyliel?"

Still staring at the woman's brooch, it took Caelia a moment to realize what the man said. Without even thinking, Caelia quickly uttered, "No, this woman is under my protection. I will take responsibility for her. See that my horse is brought around."

Rhyliel stared at her. Caelia stared back. Neither woman could quite absorb the scene that had just occurred. Just last night they were fighting and thrown into jail, and now they were thrown together by a casual thoughtless remark. Once outside and left again to their own devices, they had opportunity to talk.

"What in the name of Ocati did you think you were doing in there??? I am under YOUR protection? What made you say something like that? I was doing just fine on my own and would have been out of there before the first bells! What were you thinking?"

Caelia could only stare at Rhyli's brooch, shake her head and whisper, "I do not know."

The pale light of sunrise was beginning to illuminate the alleyways and far off movement could be heard as shopkeepers were beginning to set up for another day's business in the market. The guardhouse that the two girls had just been released from was located on the opposite side of town from the market square and in a less than desirable area of Prydell. While most streets would still be quite bare at such an early hour of the morning, this one had a few drunken stragglers having yet to find a bed for the night.

"Well, it would seem to me, Lady…whomever-you-are," Rhyli stumbled, trying to remember the name the guard had used for the redhead, "that this is a good place to part company."

"The name is Lady Caelia Eld-ar. But you may call me Caelia as you are now under my protection."

Caelia's voice reflected a measure of uncertainness as a large, bald man, stumbling as though still besotted with ale, came near. She raised a handkerchief to cover her nose as the powerful stench of stale drink reached her, stepping aside just in time to avoid a lecherous hand. Rhyli hooted in amusement, booted the man, and turned again to face Caelia.

"Oh, so this is what you are going to protect me from? Drunken old men? Ha! I am Rhyliel of the Shadows! I do not need…"

Before Rhyli could finish her boast, the drunk behind her straightened up and pinned her arms tightly to her sides. With his right hand, he unsheathed the large, curved blade of an ukani knife and held it tightly against Rhyli's throat.

"Well, I had to be certain, now, didn't I? So I thanks ye kindlyfor tellin' me yer name so polite, like."


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