This is the 20th installment of our Saturday Storytime. *throws confetti*
If you need to start at the beginning or get caught up: ToC link.
A Close Call
They found a dusty bucket behind the bathroom door. Sharna was impressed there was a bathroom at all, much less a door on it. The bucket was the cleanest thing in the room.
Jackie left to get food, and Sharna began to establish order. While she scrubbed, she considered the plan. She’d been unable to grow even a tendril from the seeds during class, but she thought maybe she could figure it out given enough time. She just needed some practice, maybe. If…and she acknowledged it was an if the size of The Stalks themselves…but, if she could grow them, then what?
By the time they’d climbed high enough to be of use, all of Medlare would know. That included the Doe Mothers. They wouldn’t take kindly to anyone trespassing on their territory. She’d never seen a grown Stalk before, but there’d been much speculation. She had no idea how much of what she’d heard was fact or fantasy. Even the Doe Mothers were a bit of a fantasy in her mind. She didn’t know what they looked like, only that they controlled the Mages and every magical artifact used.
There had been no magic in Medlare, or anywhere else, until the Doe Mothers descended from the Cloud Realm. Another mystery, only accessible by The Stalks. They’d brought seeds people had never seen, and it was this revolution in farming that had powered change. Of course, you had to buy the seeds from the Doe Mothers, and it required a Mage to grow them.
Finding Mages was profitable in itself. The testing introduced by the Doe Mothers gave every poor sop hope they’d be the one. It had been almost a century since they’d arrived, and their mystery kept growing. Thinking about the Doe Mothers made her think of the Mansion which made her think of her mother. The whole plan was nothing more than dream dust. She should go back to Mistress Nora and beg. The water running muddy in the bucket made her grimace. Even if she did take me back, she’d treat me worse than ever.
What were the odds that Jackie would find her when she’d needed help the most? It’s meant to be. We just have to put our heads together. Her stomach growled, and she wondered how long the thief would be gone.
Jackie was a butterfly. A puff of wind. A pickpocket.
She was taking an enormous risk, and the denizens of the West End were a poor lot to try and make a mark or two, but Sharna had blown wide holes in her plan. They were going to need to survive while they hammered out the details.
Her fingertips were crossed and two knuckles deep in the pockets of a young man gawking at the dancing girls of Ladder Rungs when a hand the size of her head gripped her shoulder. She smoothed the motion into an embrace of her victim. Her hand went farther into the pocket and teased his leg. She winked at the dupe when he looked at her in surprise.
“Wanna go somewhere?” she asked.
The meaty hand lifted from her shoulder, and the Wave Guard curled his lip in disgust. “Move it along. The Ladder Rungs ain’t got a permit for that on the street.”
“Sorry, sir. I couldn’t help myself when I saw this handsome sweet standing at the door. Let’s go in, shall we?” She offered her injured hand to the confused man, and his blue eyes watered a bit as he stared. He stumbled forward, his mouth slightly open, as she led him into the sitting room at the front of the hotel.
“I…I was just looking,” he finally stammered.
Jackie peered out of the door to watch as the Wave Guard and his partner continued their slow stroll down the street. They pushed at the crush of people like they were wading into the ocean, and she could follow their progress by the ripples created.
She turned back to the blue-eyed man. “I was, too. Sorry about that, but I was about to be in a heap of trouble.” She looked around at the swept floor and hand-sewn lace curtains. “You could do worse. At least it’s clean.”
Before he could think of a reply, she slipped out the door and down the street in the opposite direction of the Wave Guards and their tide.
(See you next Saturday!)