The marketplace had been transformed into a giant bazaar filled with people of every color and style. There were stage performers, dancers, acrobats, magicians, swindlers…of course, the last were only for show. The real mages were busy being important, probably, and the thieves had been paid to take a holiday. Though I did see a few notable Thieves Guild Elites looking for a fix and even more padfoots looking pathetic for food.
On one street corner, soup-boy was telling his little friend plaintively, “How unfair. Mother knows everything is more expensive during a festival. What can we get for a few measly crystals?” The little girl was tearing up, so he said bravely, “Don’t be sad, Sally! It’s plenty enough to buy your favorite sweets, come on.” He proceeded to haggle with a sweets-vendor until a tearful foreigner gave the vendor a handful of little crystals for, “whatever these children wish”. The vendor looked to be in on the game.
“I feel so proud of my country.” I had to look away.
“It is very nice,” Sebastien agreed, watching the magicians play with fire and the acrobats dance on ropes. “Some day, you must come Vior. The festival of Lights and Waters in Idrelle is a wondrous sight.”
As we admired the sights and sampled the food, one itchy-fingered guilder attempted to lighten my pockets. Unluckily for him, they were already empty. I patted his hand and offered encouragement, “You’re nearly there! Only four more days.”
Looking rather abashed, he said, “Ten days more on our sentence.” He was probably off-kilter because of the withdrawal. The Thieves Guild did not accept mediocre thieves. Gloomily, he explained, “They want to give the visitors time to leave.”
What a strange country where we could legally steal from ourselves, but not anyone else. With nothing to give him but a lolly, which oddly he accepted, I bid him luck and ran to catch up with Sebastien.
“Is he friend?”
“Friend of the family.” I did not see any other family friends, but to be safe I asked Sebastien, “You did not bring a lot of money, did you?”
“No, money to use. Do you want a thing?”
“Ah-” I intended to decline. He had already bought me food and paid the performers that I watched too long and too closely. But my eyes lingered on a pretty hairpin that perfectly matched my dress. “I do like that,” I heard my voice say.
He sweetly bought it, and the vendor helped me place it in my hair.
“I want to look really pretty when the Captain kills me,” I said, admiring the pin.
“You are really pretty.” Sebastien said smartly, before the rest of my words translated in his brain and horrified him completely.
“I am shirking my responsibilities,” I explained.
“Shirking? This is bad?”
“Yes, it means avoiding.”
“I am shirking my father,” Sebastien said gravely.
I tried not to laugh. “Oh, that is not quite the same. Shirking is like, not doing. Is your father in town?”
“Yes, he is come for the-” he vaguely gestured around us.
“Yes. He is come yesternight for the fanfair. But I do not believe. When I writ my sister yesterphase, he said only he was come.”
I thought a moment. “Only your..sister? Your father did not plan to come?”
“Yes, I believe not.”
Sebastien laughed. “You look the Captain Winter exactly!”
“Do I?” I laughed and tried not to look horrified.
“What is it you are do for him?”
“For the Captain?” my voice was too high, and somewhere Avery was singing a mocking children’s rhyme, Now you’ve done it, whatever to do? You’ve gone and made a fool out of you!
“Your cook said a thing, that you are work for him.”
“Did she? Right. That is because I am helping him, yes, as his temporary assistant.”
“For the festival?”
“Until the festival ends,” I agreed. My position as his assistant was not likely to last much longer with all the growing chaos around us.
Sebastien’s eyes shined. “What is he like?” Without waiting for an answer, he told me his own opinion and spoke of the Captain so admiringly that I wondered if we were thinking of the same person. His Captain sounded like an impressive hero and a warrior. Not that the Captain is not, but his description did not sound like a man who would lock someone in a tiny room and feed them only bread and water.
We passed a pleasant day, and he walked me most of the way to the palace, expressing regret that he was unlikely to be free again. He promised to look for me at the ball, and I wondered how he would gain admittance to a ball that only allowed royals, nobles and other persons of wealth and importance.