Haimler cut. Threads of pink descended silently from the scissors blade. They came to a gentle rest atop the polished work surface and Haimler lost himself in their simplicity. Small strings twined together, a basic material for a most intricate task.
Haimler looked up from the offcuts to examine his work. The embroidery was an uncomplicated design of spiraled roses, leaves and branches. Work that should have been left to one of his assistants, but Haimler needed the peace that the familiar task afforded him. His fingers knew the paths to take and it left his mind free to wonder.
Haimler stared at his work a moment longer before chuckling to himself. He had made the thorns far more pronounced, almost a dangerous warning, than he had intended. It seemed that his thoughts had led his fingers astray after all.
Haimler looked toward the door, his thoughts again betraying his motion. Lady Raegalynn would have returned from the Young Nobles Club by now. An event that Raegalynn despised, but her mother considered non-negotiable. The Ladies of the house were most likely arguing somewhere deep within the residence. It would not be long before both women crashed into Haimler’s office, the older of the two demanding an explanation.
Haimler put his work down and began to clean. The task did nothing to ease his growing apprehension.
The door swung open. Haimler jerked as it crashed against the opposite wall. Coloured offcuts fluttered out of his startled hands. The Lady Nisha stormed in, Raegalynn dragged in behind her. The mother had a fierce grip on her daughter’s wrist. Neither looked pleased.
“What is the meaning of this?!”
Haimler straightened, folded his hands behind his back and assessed the women. Lady Nisha was scowling. One hand swept the length of Raega’s dress, gesturing to the this of which she spoke.
And Lady Raegalynn… she was a vision! Dark red fabric hugged her body. It cut in tight at the waist and hips only to flare out, just slightly, as it cascaded down her legs. The skirt was made of alternating shades of ruby to wine to not quite black. Each swath of fabric ending in a jagged point. The neckline coasted the breastbone, a smaller echo of the jagged points below.
Over her shoulder was one delicate strap. She had chosen her jewellery well too. Beautiful, understated pieces that complimented the dress rather than competed with it… and her hair. Raega’s maids had done well. They had given her raven hair a new cut, daringly short on one side of her face and cascading layers against the other. Another echo to the sharpness in the dress.
“Well?” Lady Nisha demanded again.
Haimler kept his voice steady. “Lady Raegalynn needed a dress. I made her one.”
Lady Nisha gestured wildly. “This is not what I requested! This is not… respectable!”
Haimler shifted his weight. Respectable? No, the dress would not be considered respectable, not by Nortier standards, but that was not what he or Lady Raegalynn had been trying to achieve.
Lady Raegalynn had requested that Haimler make her look deadly and he had done it. Lady Raegalynn was a weapon. Haimler imagined how she must have looked at the Youth Club; a glistening dagger amongst a field of poof and lace. Magnificent, the kind of dress he had had dreamed of crafting.
It was too tight to the body, too lacking in the skirt. Within its embrace, Raegalynn boiled with a dangerous intensity.
The dress was not respectable.
Haimler returned his gaze to Lady Nisha. “It is what the Lady Raegalynn requested.”
Lady Nisha’s nostrils flared. She let go of Ragae’s wrist, her hand coming up to gesticulate fiercely. Haimler noted the red imprint of fingers on Raega’s arm.
“Her request? HER REQUEST? You know what is expected of the Ladies of Nortier. How could you allow her to leave the residence in such a state?! Raegalynn is a child! I expected more responsibility from you. How dare you entertain such foolishness!”
Haimler swallowed hard and readied himself to defend Raegalynn, but he did not have to. The young lady had stepped out from behind her mother. She spoke in deep, even tones, a bitter edge to every word.
“I am not a child.”
Lady Nisha turned, ever so slowly. “Excuse me?”
“I am Eighteen. Unless my lessons in Nortier Law have been an utter waste, I believe that that is the age of Majority, is it not?”
Lady Nisha rose above her daughter. “I am your mother! It is my responsibility to ensure you are presentable to society. These reckless acts tarnish my name. Tarnish our House. Your behaviour insults me. The other nobles will see me and see a fool. Is that what you want? Your mother to be a fool?”
Raega closed her eyes and clenched her fists. “This is not about you, mother…”
Raega did not get a chance to finish. A page stepped into the room. He coughed awkwardly. “Sorry to interrupt. Ah… an important message.”
Lady Nisha swung all of her anger toward him. “Well?!”
“Lady Raegalynn’s presence is requested at the castle. Tomorrow. For tea.”
Lady Nisha’s eyes became large. “Why? Does it say why?”
She did not wait for the page to answer. She grabbed the invitation from his hands. Her eyes darted across the square of parchment. First hurried and then slower. Finally, Lady Nisha looked up. She swallowed hard. Haimler cocked his head curiously as the Lady Nisha became suddenly unable to make eye contact.
“Well,” she said. “Well… It seems the princess would like to invite Lady Raegalynn and her Master of Wardrobe. To… discuss contemporary fashion.”
Lady Nisha rolled her shoulders. She handed the invite back to the page. “We accept the invitation. Now go.”
The page hurried out of the room. Lady Nisha followed. She paused in the doorway to gather herself and then gave both Lady Raegalynn and Haimler a piercing look.
“This discussion isn’t over.”