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Fool Without A Master (Chapter 10 Part 2 & Chapter 11 Part 1)

by MissGangamash


(Author note: I cut the last chapter off with like 2 pages left so I've smushed these together)

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Alta’s store was quiet and surprisingly sparse. I usually found myself narrowly dodging toppling bolts of fabric taller than myself as I weaved my way towards my friend’s workstation. But I entered the squat little building with ease; the fabric was all carefully packed away in open wall cabinets. There was an obvious reason to the neatness. There was hardly anything in the store at all. I frowned at the remaining swathes of material; all dark, rough-spun and itchy looking.

“I thought I heard shuffling about.” Alta appeared from behind her curtain, hands clasped over her middle. It felt odd seeing her empty-handed.

“I do not shuffle,” I said in way of greeting.

She smiled softly. Even her hair looked carefully styled, her unruly dark curls clasped tightly at the nape of her neck.

“Here for more lessons? I can sit and help you fix your current creation.” She looked around then crossed to her station and opened a drawer. I couldn’t help but smile when her brows furrowed with overdramatic horror as she pulled out the patchwork mess of mine. It truly was a sight to behold.

“Actually no,” I said. “You can leave that to rest. Or better yet, burn it.”

“Oh, then what can I do for you?”

“What? I can’t just come in and catch up with a dear friend?”

Her eyebrow arched, unconvinced.

I caved instantly, painting on my brightest smile. “I need an outfit.”

Her eyes suddenly turned as dull as coal. Her hands ran up and down the tops of her arms as if to comfort herself.

Had I said something wrong?

“Well, unless you want a dress made of burlap, I’m afraid you’ve come to the wrong place.”

The sorrow in her lowered voice struck me like a dozen pin-pricks to my heart. I took another look around her sparse store and in the corner of my eye I saw her flinch as if ashamed. Emotion swelled between us like a boiling pot. Part of me wanted run right out of the door.

I opened my mouth to apologise but she shook her head, dismissing my attempt. Probably knowing it would have been frail and awkward.

“I’ve been managing.” She straightened, eyes finding mine with sudden steely resolve, despite the whites of them tinted red with held back tears. “I’m resourceful. I even managed to make this smock out of my old tablecloth.” She gestured down at her simple grey, floor length dress with a handy breast pocket of a purple flowery material. “I had all these ideas. So many orders. A dye trader had my supplies ready.” She took her seat by her station, carefully folding into herself. “But I can’t pay him. The king’s gesture of goodwill for me making Lady Delphine’s dress was sadly lacking. I suppose I should have just been honoured enough to even be asked. I’m thinking of renting out the back of the shop but… I’m not sure anyone can.”

She looked across her workstation and that’s when I noticed a sheet of paper on top of a pile of dress patterns. I crossed to the desk to get a better look. My insides grew cold at the flyer with hand-writing I would recognise anywhere.

Do you think Tax Day took too much from you?

Are you struggling to feed your family?

Do you need someone to talk to?

Come to the Stag’s Head at sundown

Together, we can make change.

In the corner of my eye, I caught Alta watching me read.

“Have you been?” she asked tentatively.

“Have you?” I countered a little too quickly.

Her eyes widened at the sharpness of my tone and she shook her head.

“I don’t like taverns,” she said simply. “But… maybe I should go.” She began shuffling her dress patterns about her worktop, busying her hands. “I don’t know what to do, Wallace. If it’s the same next month…” The thin paper shook in her grip.

If it’s the same next month I could lose the shop, was what she was going to say.

“You can always talk to me. That group-” I stabbed my finger at the taunting flyer, “they are asking for trouble.”

I couldn’t believe Mirabelle had become reckless enough to post flyers about town. This was getting out of hand. Getting out of my hands. So much for being partners, she was working behind my back. But, then again, wasn’t I doing the same thing?

Furious, I delved my hand into the baggy pockets of my britches to get my coin purse. Before Alta had the chance to react, I pulled open the string and poured the contents out onto her workstation. The coins jangled loudly against the knotted wood.

“Here. Take it.”

Alta blinked up at me. I ran my hands through my hair. It was starting to stick to my temples.

My friend shot to her feet and backed away as if the coins had suddenly turned into snakes.

“Absolutely not! I will not have you pitying me. Everything I have, I have earned on my own!”

“And you have earned this.” There was a strain to my voice and I realised I was pleading. “See it as payment for your tutelage for all these weeks.”

She scoffed, crossing her arms over her chest. “Some tutor I am, you can barely sew a straight seam.”

“I think that has more to do with the student than the tutor.”

She caught my smirk and it seemed to have done a good job at hiding the erratic energy coursing through my body because she smiled back, rolling her eyes and shaking her head.

Carefully, she picked up the coins. Her eyes flicked to me warily but I nodded my assent. She counted it, frowned, and placed them back on her desk.

“This is too much.”

“It will see you through the month.”

Wallace.”

I was already backing out of the shop. “I’m not taking it back.”

“But what about your new outfit?” she asked, laughter lightening her tone as she watched my careful back-stepping.

I shrugged. “I’ll find something. You just keep that head held high for me.” Blindly, I reached behind and found the handle of the door. “And whatever you do, do not go to that meeting. I mean it.”

.

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Chapter 11 – This Forbidden Place

The thinning woods outside my house were dark as I made my way to the town centre. The moon was high but it was a clear night. I had mastered tracking the time to make sure I would be able to reach my destination before I could no longer see my feet before me. On my return, the town would be alight with street lamps, and I had a lantern ready in my satchel to guide me the rest of the way back to my secluded domain. I rather liked that there was still elusiveness to my nature. No one, besides Kaspar, had set foot in the hunting lodge since it had been gifted to me, and I had never told anyone where exactly I lay my head at night.

This night, I wore a rough-spun hooded cloak similar to the one Kaspar had forced me to wear on our little excursion through the woods high above me. My cheeks flushed at the memory of him uttering those three words to me as we rested against the trunk of a tree. I quickened my pace so I could be home in case he visited.

The town square was desolate besides the men in charge of lighting the lamps. They wore all black as they slipped through the streets, slinking back into the pockets of shadows once their work was done. Now, that was an elusive job. Or perhaps it was my performer mind that was making the ordeal much more poetic than it was.

Despite there no longer being a soul in sight, I pulled my hood down lower and tucked my red locks into the collar of my shirt. Once I turned into the street where my destination sat, squat and tilting ever-so-slightly to the left, the foot traffic began to pick up. My heart stammered. Calming my breathing, I passed the greasy window and paused as if to check the clasp of my cloak, my eyes penetrating through the hazy light inside. She was in there, my partner, in her usual spot at these meetings. Her blonde bun wobbled atop her head as she spoke energetically to her new members. Or should I say recruits? And there was a lot more than the last time I had stopped by. It almost seemed like the entire tavern was dedicated to her meeting, the way that groups from the other side of the large open room were turned to her, lifting their drinks in agreement as she punctuated her words by stabbing her finger into the table. After several scans of the room, I sighed in relief when I couldn’t spot Alta amongst the tumultuous crowd.

The front door suddenly slammed open. In a panic, I pulled my cloak close to me and slipped into the narrow alley between the tavern and the neighbouring apothecary.

“…speaking sense to me,” the end of the sentence was cut off by a brutish burp.

“The little lady sure does have a mouth on her,” replied another man. I shuddered at his silky tone, “she should be using it for better things ooft-” The heavy thud distinctly sounded like a fist to the gut. I couldn’t help but feel comforted by the other man having my friend’s back.

“Woman or not, she’s at least doing something about this mess.”

“Oh yeah, and what exactly is she doing besides getting everyone in there all riled up? Those drunks don’t need her squawking about and putting ideas in their heads.”

“Trust me, once enough of us realise that the palace is nothing without its people, we can do something about these ruddy raised taxes. You hear Big Reynard might have to shut shop?”

No!” the pervert gasped.

“Can’t get the business. With everyone focusing on keeping fed, ain’t no one gonna be wasting their money on his fancy goods.”

The pervert tutted loudly. “Damn shame. The guy made good belts. Had this one years.”

“Had to add a few extra holes, mind.”

“Oi!”

They both burst into haughty laughter.

I’d heard enough. I bent my head and hurried back home, using a low street lamp to light my own lantern on the way.

I was in two minds as I tossed my cloak to the floor and lit my hearth, shaking off the night’s chill that settled in my bones. I knew I should be proud of Mirabelle, and a part of me was. There was no denying that when it came to our performances, she resided in my shadow. The king said as much himself. But now she had found her own thing, and that thing was much more meaningful than anything I could achieve. I could make people laugh. Mirabelle could make people question their entire existence and give them the courage to speak up about their misfortune. Not only that, but possibly make them risk everything they had for fairer treatment and a better life.

Of course I was proud of her, but I couldn’t help but also be concerned for her. Was I a bad friend for wishing her to give up, even if it was her own protection?

For the rest of the night, I stayed curled up in front of the hearth, the cloak draped over my shoulders like a blanket. I had somehow worried a hole straight through it with my restless fingers.

Kaspar did not call upon me. He had probably had a hard day preparing for the ball, what with needing a new suit tailored and picking the right meats and cheeses to compliment the wine. Perhaps freshening up his dance moves with his new partner? I was being cynical, I knew, but that blasted invitation taunted me from its pride of place, tacked to my wall above the hearth. May it accidentally fall into the fire and perish. If only torching the whole indecorous event from existence could be so easy.  


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Comments




i like that the title of dr jekyll and mr hyde makes a clear stance that the embodiment of one’s own evil doesn’t get a claim to the doctorate
— waywardxwallflower