The Port of Maresh

BY : DevilDuck
Category: Fantasy & Science Fiction > Threesomes/Moresomes
Dragon prints: 699
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of characters to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. The Author holds exclusive rights to this work. Unauthorized duplication is

Chapter 01: Scenes 1-5 (Day 01)

Colette’s entrance into the city does not match her dream of it; she had imagined the grand gates, each door more than ten feet wide and thirty tall, swinging open for her as she rides up in a shining chariot. Instead she is put in a crate and smuggled in. The Port’s governing council has recently enacted a ban on all Lapine immigration so she cannot enter the city openly; even if she could the main gates wouldn’t open for her, they don’t open for anyone everyone instead being directed through a side entrance. 

Inside the crate Colette sits on a small stack of books that she lacks the light to read. These are what are supposed to be in there and what is written on the label. She and they are heading toward a book store which is one of many starting points for her people within the city. On their way there she listens to the creaking of the wagon and babble of voices in a dozen tongues around her on the street. 

The chatter fades as she is carried at an angle into somewhere dim, cutting off what little light had leaked through the cracks. She has to sit in total silence and darkness for several moments before a crowbar is applied to the planks revealing her ‘liberator’; he is an older fully furred Lapine graying at the muzzle and dressed in multiple layers of very aged clothing. 

“Are you Eloi?” She’s asking causing his ears to twitch drawing attention that at some point one of his already short ones had been torn shorter still. 

“Yes my child,” he offers his hand that isn’t holding his cane, “and you are?” 

“Colette,” she smoothes the dress, barely more than a slip, she had been given before being sealed into the crate. 

“Ah, you’re that one,” he leads her out of the storeroom the crate is in and into a narrow storefront, “the one with the plans.” 

“I wouldn’t call them plans more like… goals,” Colette walks the length store picking at the books on display. 

“And what is the first step in your… goals.” They both pause a moment to consider the problems with that sentence before Colette responds. 

“I’ll need to learn about the lay of the land, who the players are, where the power lies.” 

“Hmm, going to take some time that,” he sits behind the counter and pulls out ledger. 

“I know that.” 

“Where do you plan to live for all that time?” 

“I thought I’d-” 

“Stay here? Not for free; I suggest you get a job.” 

“Do you have suggestions as to where I’d get a job?” She tries to glare but the attempt is cut short when her ear falls in her face. Thankful he doesn’t look up to see it. 

“The printers down the way posts notices in its window.” 

She wants to argue, she wants to shout, but she settles for stomping out causing her rear to jiggle in a way that he almost certainly misses. Colette could try to somebody else to stay with, someone who wouldn’t expect her to pay but it’s not like she knows anyone else. She doesn’t even know Eloi, not really, just that he’s supposed to be trustworthy. 

The neighborhood outside the door is made up of narrow lanes and old two or three story buildings that divided vertically to give more front doors. Eloi’s bookstore takes up less than a third of ground floor of its building. Walking down the lane she sees that the people are mostly human which is true most of the places you go in the world; one mass of these humans stand out the print shop making it easy to find. 

As she pushes her way forward a voice reaches her through the murmur, “Ha’bit to read.” 

“What?” Colette turns to an old man sitting on a stool next to the window rattling a tin cup. 

“Give me a ha’bit and I’ll read the notices for you.” 

“No need.” 

“Suit yourself.” 

Most of the postings are for day work which would help her much, she’d just end up her again tomorrow, but three show potential. The first is at the main temple of Maresh which is one of the halls of power but a very static one. The second is at a café on the edge of the wealthiest part of town which would put her close to many powerful people but with no guarantee that she would meet them. The last is as an personal assistant within that section which sounds very tempting and has good benefits but the notice itself is old and has started to fade.

Considering her options Colette gets the chance to overhear of the old man handles his sign reading business; he doesn’t read all of them rather he seems to size up the customer and informs them only of the ones he thinks them fit for. She’s not sure how honest this practice is but it is most definitely effective and might be a useful to her in the future. Of course none of the was helping her make up her mind.

There is virtue in working in the temple but the mystery of the old notice is tempting. Trying to match up the directions on the notice with the map of the city she’d once seen she plots her route; sticking to the small roads might not be the most exciting but it would be the fastest letting her travel in a mostly straight line with little risk of getting lost. So she does.

Not for long mind but she enters the neighborhoods somewhere other than she expected and there are no signs here so that it takes a certain amount of rattling about to find the house. It stands out from its in its lack of outstanding features; behind its gates it stands as a slightly curved block with high narrow windows without any of the ornaments of the grander homes. After knocking on the recessed door she takes the time waiting for an answer to smooth her slip and push back her ear yet again.

The door is opened by a maid no taller than Colette in a uniform that has seen better days. “Yes?”

“I’m here about the assistant position.”

“You’ll need to see the steward,” She leads Colette across the disused formal hall and through the house to a small office built under the back stairs. She is left sitting on a short stool waiting for the office’s owner to show up.

He does in the form of a large man with keys hanging from his next, “So you want to be Master Rai’s new assistant?”

“Yes I-”

“You’re not the first to apply,” the steward filled the space between desk and wall. “Most can’t hack it.”

“Well I-”

“But I’m willing to give you a chance,” he pulls a sheet of paper from out of a cubby. “Just sign this and we can move on.”

The paper says only one thing above the line he is pointing to ‘Don’t Sign’. “This is a joke right?”

“More of a test,” he takes back the page and replaces it with a fuller one. “Here’s the real contract.”

“It looks good, for the most part,” Colette flips over the short contract her eyes passing over the language yet again. “But I have a couple questions.”

“What questions?” She can’t tell if the steward's was a response or just part of his personality.

“First there’s the schedule, this could have me working day and night for four days straight.”

“You only work when the Master needs you and you have some control over his schedule which means you would have some control over your own.”

“True, true. Now let’s talk about the extras.”

“Extras?”

“Yes the extras, the clothes, room and board.”

“Yes what about them.”

“They are on top of the salary of course.”

“What do you mean?”

“You’re not expecting me to pay the 3 bits a week for food for example.”

“Well…”

“The contract does say ‘also’ that implies that these benefits are in addition to the salary.”

“Well, yes.”

“Good that leaves just one thing,” she fiddles with paper a little more. “Why hasn’t anyone else taken the job?”

“Some tried; some failed that little test while others found working for a mage difficult. But your people have experience serving mages yes?”

“Hmmm, experience yes,” the reminder of her past is not needed. “Which means I know the dangers; is his work is well grounded? I’m not going to end up growing tentacles am I?”

“Tentacles!? We would you…?” The steward gathered himself. “No his workshop is sealed, the house is safe.”

“Good then we can reexamine the benefits.”

***

Walking down the service hallway along the back of the house, which is much more lived in than the formal hall she had entered in, Colette feels pretty good about herself; two extra bits a week and one extra night off every fortnight isn’t that bad. Having signed the contract she is now heading towards the kitchen as the first step in settling into her new role. In a room sized for the preparation of banquets three maids, including the one that had answered the door, who could be sisters sat at near the only working oven in their matching aged uniforms doing some sort of small work with silverware. A fourth woman, older, heavier, and struggled under the weight of an advance pregnancy, who could have been the maids’ mother or aunt is apparently the cook and is cleaning vegetables that most likely came from the garden visible through the open backdoor. Colette has to clear her throat to get any of their attention.

“Yes,” the cook answers for the group. “Can we help you?”

“I’m the new personal assistant,” Colette brushes back her ear in an attempt to look a little more professional in her slip.

“Of course, Beata,” she waves towards one maids, not the one that answered the door, “will see you settled in.”

“Follow me,” the maid set down the rag and spoon she was theoretically polishing to lead Colette out of the kitchen grabbing a set of keys that match the steward’s off of a hook. The staff staircase up from the ground floor is a tight spiral that lets out directly onto the hall that houses that staff bedrooms. The maid first points out the door that leads to the public hall. “The Master’s office is at the end of that hall, his workshop is next to it, that is where you’ll be spending most of your time.”

Next an unused bedroom, with its mattress rolled up on the bed frame and its cabinet covered in dust, was unlocked and a duplicate key was handed to Colette from its nail behind the door, “You’ll be staying here and,” the maid crosses the narrow hall to unlock a closet, “you can get your linens and uniform from here. Return the keys when you’re done.”

Left in the closet Colette picks through her options; there are plenty of maid’s uniforms all worn black fading towards grey and sized for short women like the ones she’d seen downstairs. There is also a collection of semi-formal menswear, most likely meant to be valet’s uniforms, in various sizes and states of wear.

She is not a maid and by all rights she shouldn’t dress as one but she can’t keep going running around in her slip. She would prefer to wear a valet’s uniform and even tries on the most likely pants only to have the seams stretch at her hips when she fastens them up. That leaves her with one of the black-grey dresses; fortunately, to her mind at least, the stiff, starched white cuffs and collars aren’t built in, having to buttoned on, so she chooses to leave them in their box on the shelf above the aprons she also leaves behind. The built in belt, designed to cinch the material in tight to her waist without showing her how, gives her a moment’s pause but by tying it into a knot behind her back she changes the lines without making her hips stick out too much.

Leaving the servants’ hall and padding down the public hall, still barefoot, the housekeeper’s keys makes a heavy weight in Colette’s left pocket. The end of the hall shows clear signs of renovation, the opening where once arched double had once stood has been bricked up leaving the narrow wood door next to it the only possibility for being the Master’s office. The door is not locked and opens onto a space much like the steward’s office below just built on a large, more expensive if equally worn scale. The desk is a heavily tooled piece of rosewood, with a small writing desk nestled against its side clearly meant for her, topped by a large sheet of slate and a mound of unopened mail. The chairs are all good, leather bound pieces from three different sets. The shelves that wrapped around the walls are only broken by the door and one of the tall windows she had see from outside.

Scan the shelves’ contents she sees- “And who are you?”

Spinning Colette finds the source of the deep voice to be a tall man, in floor length robes, looming, properly looming, over her having somehow gotten right behind her without her hearing; she hadn’t even heard the door open or, apparently, close again. “Master Rei? I’m your new assistant,” she badly mangles her curtsey. “I was told to start in here.”

For a moment his eyes draw together as if he’s working on a puzzle, “Ah yes the ‘assistant’, I need someone to help me deal with the responsibilities of my position. Or so they keep telling me.”

“If you don’t mind me asking why don’t you already have someone doing this?”

“Hmm,” he glides across the room to tidy one of the tall shelves, clearly stalling for time given the state of the room. “I use to have… someone who kept me on the straight and narrow buts she… isn’t around to do that anymore.” There’s a quiet moment as he stares at the nothing clearly remembering something before he spins back to Colette a clearly fake smile plastered on his face. “Ahhh but where shall we begin? You could get a start on all that,” a wave takes in the collection of papers on the desk, “or I could show what’s going on in my lab”

“Lab?” Colette leans back from the looming man.

“Oh good, this is my favorite part,” Rai grabs her wrist, his fingers sinking into the patch of fur there, and drags her towards one of the bookcases. Instead of slamming into it with a resounding thump and flying books he passed through it like a fogbank pulling her with him. The… ‘stuff’ of the fog tugs at Colette’s hair, fur, and clothes making them stand up and the skin beneath tingle as she passes through. Coming out into the clear air and much brighter light she sneezes, some treatise on record tides or some such getting caught in her nose. The man releases her to find her own bearings while he zipped around the room without losing his upright posture or disrupting his robe in the least.

The lab takes up the entirety of a glass enclosed tower the house most definitely didn’t have when she looked at it from outside; behind Colette is a stone archway leading back to the office, with no sign of the bookcase she passed through, while every other side of the octagon is taken up by large windows looking down upon the grounds. Rai has clearly added a collection of battered cabinets and tables to the room to increase its usefulness, the closest of which is covered in loose pages diagramming the reproductive organs of plants and animals. “What’s this?” she holds up one of the illustrations.

“That,” he zooms to her side taking the paper, “is old; it doesn’t matter anymore.” He carefully puts it back from where she got it before guiding her by the shoulder to the central slab. “This is what I’m working on now.”

‘This’ appears to be a helmet taken off one of the city guard and wired to a collection of bell jars, the contents of which seem to bubble and twist in response to her glance; the whole thing makes her nose twitch, “What is it?”

“I don’t…” his hands hover over a jar that appears to hold a piece of pink coral writhing like a belly dancer. “I’ve become interested in memory lately; reliving them, storing them, drawing them out of our blood. It’s one of the few advantages of my position that I can now research what I want. No more must I think in strictly commercial terms; no more cosmetic charms, no more designer offspring, and no more selling long life by the year.”

“Does it work?”

“Oh yes I could keep you alive forever if you were able to pay enough.”

“I meant…” Colette waves at the contraption on the slab.

“What? No… but there have been some interesting side-effects. Speaking of which, that’s why I went out,” Rai drifts in that way of his to one of the cabinets and pulls out a small, banded lead box. “I was going to have the steward run this over to the citadel for disposal but you can see to that.”

“Yes Master.”



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