Taris

A courtly matter

Business in high society

The rattling clatter of wooden wagon wheels and the clomping hoofsteps that pulled them served well to drown out the muffled conversation that stirred within the coach. The driver, blissfully unaware of the discourse between his three elegantly dressed passengers, continued on his way to the gala at the Castle District estate that his fare had requested. Upon entering, the ladies had drawn the curtains closed over the shuttered windows. The driver didn’t seem to mind, as the evenings were unseasonably chilly this late in the spring. His thoughts turned to retiring for the night following his next fare, as he was eager to get back to his hearth.

Within the coach, the woman in a lavish blue gown glanced herself up and down in her pocket mirror before deftly snapping it closed with a sharp click, and returning it to her clutch purse. “So, one last time, are we clear?” she asked, surveying the other two ladies with her, extending a finger to wipe some errant lipstick from one of their faces. She looked down disapprovingly at it as she smudged it between her fingertips before wiping it away on the bench seat beside her. “Well?” She asked again, her tone more insistent. “Yes, mistress.” The two replied politely in near unison. The younger, dark haired girl in a silvery dress shifted uncomfortably as she recounted her duties. “So, I am to catch the eye of the Duke’s son. Then, I must make sure he’s quite drunk before allowing him to take me upstairs.” The girl next to her continued, “And I am to slip away and disappear, and change into the house maid attire you’ll hide for me out back. Then, I gain the favor of the serving boy Dylon, the one who drinks and gets into bar fights. I lead him off and share this drugged flask with him”, she says, revealing a small leather bound vessel from her purse. “Before he passes out, I convince him to take me upstairs because I just must see the rest of the estate. Then, I bring him to the Duke’s son’s room…” and the dark haired girl finishes, “…and we kill the son, and plant the weapon on the drunk after clubbing him with a vase, or something.”

“Or something!?” The matron interjects with a scornful look. “I expect better than ‘or something’ from you. We’re professionals. And professionals have plans. If you want to improvise, join a theatre troupe. This has to go exactly as planned. You have to slip out that window and change back into your dress and find a way back into that party before she screams out that the Duke’s son has been killed. We’re being paid to make this look like an accident. Our employer doesn’t want any suspicions to be raised.” At this, the coach ground to a halt just outside the gates of the estate. As the coachman dismounted and moved to open the door, the matron took one last look at the girls and sweetly said, “And don’t forget to smile.”

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