Winds of Change

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After burying the worthless pile of Kin’keska junk, Elise stopped to cool off in the creek, wading right in. She savored her solitude out here, it granted her the freedom to do anything she liked, including skinny dipping, although she doubted she had the guts for that, no one around or not. Besides which, fall drew near, as the cool nights evinced. As she waded out of the creek, she wrung her dress out. Gabriella had taken out the waistlines of the dresses for her and Fiona, for which Elise was immensely grateful. It was amazing how much these stupid dresses got in the way of everything. They still did even now, but much less so without those tight, constricting waistlines.

When she walked up to the cabin, she saw that Andrew and Rick had returned with Gabriella. They had several trunks lined up about them and were sorting through them. Elise’s skin prickled and she sat down next to Rick in a patch of sunlight on the floor to dry quicker.

Rick pulled the chest of jewels over. He whistled at the craftsmanship of chest. “I thought that Kin’keska were... poor.”

“And so they are. Look you at the difference in the quality of the chest that holds them, and then compare it to the quality of those about us,” Gabriella gestured around them at the bulky trunks and then at the dainty, finely fashioned gold chest, inlaid with what looked to be ivory. Immediately, Elise saw the difference and realized the Kin’keska had stolen this, too. She dug a handful of jewelry out, finding coppery chains, rings, necklaces, bracelets, and other adornments as well as simple stones themselves. Some stones she expected were rubies or sapphires, others she didn’t recognize as precious stones but given the wealth surrounding her, probably sufficed as such in this land. Elise held up a rather large bracelet, which twinkled in the light as the sun hit the gems decorating it. Slipping it on her wrist, she thought to herself that there must be very large women in this world that they could wear jewelry as large as this bracelet.

Gabriella eyed her specimen then and informed her, “That is a man’s arm ring; one which belongs to a well-born man indeed, probably of a noble of the House of Danyon.”

“No kidding. Here, let me see that,” said Rick, reaching for it as he dropped the cloak he’d been studying. Feeling foolish, Elise slipped it off of her slender wrist and thought vaguely as she handed it to Rick that two of her arms would still be too small for that arm ring.

Rick rolled up the sleeve of his much-tattered old work shirt and pushed the arm ring up to his bicep, which was not large enough to support the arm ring by what Elise judged to be about two fingers’ width.

“Might fit on my thigh, what do you think? Whoever he was, he was one big man!” Rick tossed it back in the pile of baubles.

“Mmmm. Maybe we should look him up,” murmured Elise as she studied a handful of delicate looking necklaces.

“What are we going to do with all this?” Andrew asked.

“The contents of this chest we will sell some of at the Spring Market, giving us more than enough to outfit you youngsters properly...”

“Sell it? When we have so many people to impress with it out here in the woods? You know, I kinda think this limba’s falling for me, you should see her, nice tail, big paws….” Rick cracked. Andrew and Elise snickered but Gabriella continued as though Rick’s interruption had never transpired.

“You must have proper swords, too, for all that you have used here are fit for practice only. We shall purchase many supplies with the contents of that chest.

“Now, by count, I find four jerkins, though rather large, which you, Andrew, and Dar will be able to share among you, for I think we might all agree that the clothing in which you arrived is surely ready to be burned, or else used as rags. I find also some dresses, though I think,” Gabriella eyed Elise, “that you two girls would find yourselves somewhat uncomfortable in them. But you are welcome, of course, to try them.” The dress Gabriella held up in demonstration was of a bright red color that appealed to Elise personally, though upon further study, she discovered with some embarrassment that the neckline was so low as to be nearly nonexistent. She doubted she had enough to fill the dress, much less to show off in the way that the dress seemed to demand. She felt her cheeks staining with a color that rather matched the dress. Andrew and Rick had thankfully remained tactfully silent, though Rick had pursed his bottom lip as if an enthusiastic remark was fighting for release.

Gabriella nodded briefly, folding the dress and placing it in the stack of clothing deemed useful, with a rather amused look on her face. “I also count four cloaks, which, while ill-fitting, will at least serve to keep four of you warm this winter. I myself have a spare winter cloak myself that I will bestow upon the other of you who has not a cloak.”

“But we already have cloaks,” Rick protested in accordance with Elise’s own thoughts. If those warm, bulky things they wore the night they went dashing off looking for the Kin’keska in the first place weren’t cloaks, she rather hated to see what were.

Nonplussed, Gabriella explained patiently, “Those are spring cloaks; furthermore, they are women’s cloaks. Women as who wear the sort of cloaks of which quality mine are rarely need leave the comforts of the hearth and so do not require a variety of heavy cloaks to keep them warm. Men’s cloaks are much heavier. These,” Gabriella patted the stack of thick, smelly, cloaks she’d found in the trunks, “while not exceedingly ornate, or very clean at present, are at least well-made and durable and will keep you quite warm in the coming winter’s snows.”

Elise hated to think of herself as a vain individual, or a conceited one at that, but she also hated to think of herself being practically buried alive in one of those huge, thick, ugly cloaks. They looked as though they were made of burlap and were probably just as scratchy, too. And they reeked of the worst body odor she had ever had the misfortune to sniff, as though a homeless person had lived in them. They seemed to reach from head to toe and were at least as wide as her bed fur was long. She and Fiona could wear one together and never find each other in it. And just how cold was it supposed to get here, anyway? There had already been snow flurries in the mornings and evenings, and this was apparently autumn still.

“So how much colder is it going to get? It’s pretty cold as it is already,” asked Rick, who was eyeing the malodorous pile of winter cloaks with evident distaste. Gabriella looked at him pityingly and smiled.

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