Success at Any Cost

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Writers Rift

Chapter 13 (v.1) - Day One

Submitted: December 12, 2017

Reads: 144

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Submitted: December 12, 2017

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Brooke had woken up next to Piper before and it had always been pleasant. Something about her arms draped over Brooke’s body made her feel so very very safe. She could have stayed there forever and a day were it not for Barnister who had stationed himself directly in front of Brooke’s head ringing a small bell. “Madam, it is time for you arise Guardian Maccavern is waiting for you and miss Smythe in the breakfast room.” Brooke rolled over but the ringing continued endlessly, “I should mention that your clothes have arrived as well, should you wish for maid servants I’ll have one sent to you right away.”

 

Barnister finally stopped ringing the bell and walked out of the room presumably to get a maid. Brooke rolled over to the sleeping body of Piper. She traced a finger down her naked back “How did you manage to sleep through that?” She reached the small of Piper’s back and then slid her finger back up

 

“I didn’t. Couldn’t miss a little more of you on my back.” Piper giggled and pressed herself into Brooke. Brooke nuzzled into Piper’s hair, she smelled like the soap from their bath the night before. Brooke could feel herself sinking back into a deep lemon scented sleep.

 

Until the ever attentive Barnister returned, slammed two trunks onto the floor, and pitched two matching dressing gowns at the girls. “Please attend at once we only have a short time for breakfast.”

 

***

The girls walked down the stairs arm in arm to find Mccavern sitting alone in the dining room furiously eating a fried turkey egg sandwiched between two pieces of barley bread. A glob of something that Brooke realized were beans. Prudence proceeded to grab at the beans with her hands. The girls stood in the doorway awestruck. Gone was the dignified lady from the night before. In her place was the captain the girls knew and loved. She took one huge bite of her sandwiched and grunted at the two women in her doorway.

 

Brooke was the first to speak up of the two “Good morning Ma’am, what on earth are you eating?”

 

“Full breakfast sandwich.” She said very matter of factly. “Sit down both of you, I need to discuss you work today Brooke.”

 

The girls obliged and as of on cue Barnister appeared with two plates containing eggs, two lamb patties, baked beans, a corn potato hash, and two slices of barley bread all arranged to the utmost details. The girls are happily although not nearly as messily as Prudence.

 

Mccavern started to speak with food in her mouth. “Now Brooke today is very important to both of our futures in the city so I need all of that Gains exceptionalism that I’ve come to expect from you.”

 

“Of course ma’am, what will you actually need me to do today?” Brooke suppressed a smile at her boss's compliment.

 

“Today, you’re going to be studying. I want you staring down anyone of importance on the floor of the assembly. Learn who they are, who their bodyguards are, anything that could be used to find a weakness that we could exploit.”

 

Piper stopped eating and spoke before Brooke could respond. “How is she supposed to learn everyone in a single day?”

 

“Adelina will be sitting with her giving her the basics.” Prudence turned towards Brooke. “But you’ll have to pick up on the details that are well beneath the surface.”

 

“I have no intention of disappointing you ma’am.”

 

“Good there’s a reason I chose you over…” she froze at the sound of feet on the grand marble staircase in the foyer. She instantly reached out to the girls. “Someone trade plates with me quick!”

 

The girls shared a confused look with each other, the captain was yelling in a whisper “Don’t just sit there staring just fucking hand met you plates.” With terror on her face Piper handed off her plate and received Prudence’s mangled excuse for an egg sandwich.

 

Just then Adelina swung into the room wearing another fine dress this one was grey with gold accents. Her typical sing songy voice she rang out “Prudence how are you this fine morning. Oh my dear you’ve taken finally started eating like a proper lady, I’m so happy I could cry.” She looked at Piper and Brooke, “Oh girls you look so well rested.” Pausing a minute to look absolutely disgusted, “Piper I had no idea you were had adopted that messy habit from your captain. I’ll have to train it out of you just like I did with her.” She picked up Piper’s plate slid off to the kitchen.

 

Piper looked at Prudence, “What just happened?”

 

“She’s been trying to teach me etiquette since I married her brother.” She handed the plate back to Piper. “I’ve only been able to care enough to hide it from her some of time.”

 

Brooke sat back very confused, “There’s a lot to unpack there ma’am but I’ll save that for some other time.”

 

“Of course why don’t you two get dressed I’ve arranged for a carriage to take Piper to the Tower just as we leave for the assembly.”

 

They said their goodbyes and left the dining room.

 

***

 

In the hallway Piper leaned up against Brooke and kissed her cheek. “Do we have to leave today?”

 

“We don’t have to do anything really...”

 

Piper smirked and brought Brooke into a hug from behind. “Let’s just stay in tour the house all day, I’ve heard of couples that get up to trouble in every single room of every place they visit.”

 

“...But if we don’t keep working this nice little place will be gone and we won’t get into any trouble in any of the rooms because we’ll definitely get kicked out.”

 

Piper groaned very loudly as she squeezed Brooke even tighter. “Fine, but tonight you’re mine, Gains.”

 

Brooke escaped from her lover's grasp and started getting dressed. “I wouldn’t want to be anyone else’s.

 

***

 

Brooke chose the Ruby outfit figuring that the black and red would let her blend in much easier. She added a long black top coat to help with the early spring chill in the city. Piper on the other hand was more proud of her brand new green dress. With tight sleeves that met at little puffy shoulders. With a high necked collar combined with a very tight fitted top the top half of the dress made Piper look much taller. The bottom half on the contrary was loose and flowing so that it flowed freely keeping her mobile, normally high fashion dresses in the eastern style would have tulle even a thick crinoline to make the dress billowy.

 

Brooke couldn’t help but stare as Piper spun around and around watching her dress billow up before she crushed it down laughing. She looked at Brooke in the mirror “You know my wedding dress was supposed to be just like this.” She pushed it down again and moved to take of both of Brooke’s hands in hers. “Too bad I never met a man who could beat the promise of adventure on the open ocean.”

 

Brooke shook her head and smiled “I know just what you mean.” She kissed her, “Come on there so many adventures out on the city.”

 

Piper winked and they left.

 

***

The two women separated with a kiss in front of the townhouse. Piper got into her carriage and rode off alone. Brooke on the other hand slid into her carriage to find Prudence and Adelina awaiting her. The two of them were smiling with like they had a secret. Brooke quirked an eyebrow and sat back as the carriage went off.

 

Prudence reached behind herself and produced a thin package and handed it to Brooke before saying “Although weapons are banned in the city as a member of an executive staff you are entitled to personal arms when on official duty. So…”

 

Adelina interrupted “I thought it would only be appropriate to get you some personal equipment. We didn’t have time to get it custom made but our weaponsmith assured Barnister that these were the very best he had for sale.” Brooke opened the box to find an ebony pistol with four barrels banded together the hammer was connected to a small gear that Brooke assumed would force the barrels to rotate around rendering a fresh round ready to fire much fast than Brooke could load.

 

Prudence chimed in “Be careful with that I loaded the first rounds myself, all you have to do is open the flash pan and it’s ready to fire.”

 

Brooke gingerly put the pistol down in the box and pulled out a long stiletto knife with a black blade.  Adelina dripping with pride announced “Sweet Prudence wanted to just get you a pistol but I insisted that you needed something with a bit more of a subtle touch.

 

Prudence rolled her eyes and said “I had known Barnister was coming back with such a work art I would have seconded the opinion from the beginning. Notice the color, I’m trying make that standard on all navy ships, it’s used by sailors on the blood sea to prevent reflections that vampire corsairs could pick up on. Normal mortal eyes would be useless against it.”

 

“You’re not wrong ma’am but I was actually stuck on the these.” She indicated to the crossguard which was made up of a half circle on either side. “If I had to guess this could trap most any sword.

 

“...And with the right skill bend or even break said sword. “Prudence smirked and patted Adelina on the hand before she continued with Brooke “I’d start practicing that move if I were you.”

 

“Of course ma’am.” Brooke sheathed the knife and put it inside of her jacket on her left side. The pistol she proudly displayed on her right side. She made sure that the knife was kept as hidden as possible while the pistol could be visible any time her waist coat was open.

 

The carriage slowed to halt in front of the assembly hall. The massive black structure the single most complete structure in city. It was originally a domed treasury for the wealth of the Mage Kings of the old era. With Prudence leading the way in her finest military uniform the three entered and were promptly greeted by two male guards wearing uniforms lines with deer and wolf skin respectively. These were the from the same company that guarded the captain during her last voyage. This also made them the only military wing in the nation that had both women and men fighting side by side. The Maccavern saluted both of them in response they clicked their heads and nodded as they passed. The hallway was cramped with assembly members making conversation. Adelina elbowed her “Your work begins now.”

 

Brooke set about observing the people around her. The first thing she could find was that there were two men for every woman in the room. Next she noticed three distinct style of dress; poor wearing clothes that were probably their only formal outfit, with fraying threads, I’ll fitting sleeves, or even runs in their stockings. There were quite a few dressed well but not ostentatiously, they represented the largest collection of people, and they were also the only group mingling with the other two. The next up were the people who wanted the room to know they were wealthy, wearing imported furs, gems, and even a few capes, those people spoke louder and acted more obnoxiously than anyone else in the room. Brooke remembered people like them from her time living in the city they were the aristocracy from the continent, old royalty that used to be the only voice in the affairs of the country that lost all the political power they had fifty years ago in a revolution. Even the city born urchins considered themselves higher than the provincial nobles.

 

Prudence met a thin man dressed in a fairly simple suit with his hair curled into two small rolls on either side of his head. He shook her hand and made a habit of touching her shoulder. Brooke could see that Prudence wasn’t comfortable with his being so warm but she smiled through it. The man whispered something to her at which point she turned around and said “Ladies if you’ll excuse me the Board would like to meet together before we begin the assembly.”

 

Adelina dipped into a low courtesy without saying a thing. Brooke didn’t expect her superior to be leaving her behind so quickly was caught with her mouth agape before snapping into a bow. Prudence turned away and walked a comfortable distance from her friend from the Board.

 

“Brooke dearest you should start learning the pieces in the room. No one here is a player but it never hurts to remember what they’ll be playing with.”

 

“You’re enjoying this too much Lina.”

 

Adelina tapped Brooke on the nose “If you do what you love you’ll never work a day in your life.” She whirled away and found herself leaning up against an aristocrat man pretending to have bumped into him.

 

Brooke slid through the crowd to sit down at one of the seats at the side of the hall. She started taking in the people at the hall. Before she could continue her observations someone tapped her on the shoulder. Sitting next to her was a woman not much older than her, but significantly shorter. She had pale skin with blond hair tied back in very small tight braids. She wore threadbare pants with a jacket that was ripped in at the semes. Her hands were covered by leather gloves that Brooke would bet were stolen. Brooke had a hard time looking past the cold sores on the sides of her mouth and the long wooden pipe in the center.  She spoke with a rasp and clear low class accent that Brooke recognized from her bourgh growing up. “You look tense luv can I in’res you ins a smoke.” Astrid waved the pipe in front of her.

 

Brooke quirked an eyebrow to her conversation partner, any rudeness might kill a potential political friendship. “Depends, what you blend you’ve got. I’m loose with my booze but tough with my snuff.” It was an old saying from the neighborhood she grew up in, usually said when they thought someone had better tobacco that they didn’t want to share.

 

Astrid choked out a wheezing laugh “I knew I ‘ad you pegged four a Blood Road girl the second I saw you. Good on you, name’s Astrid.” She dumped out her ashes onto the floor and scattered them with her feet. Astrid produced a small box filled with ground tobacco leaves, and set about repacking her pipe. “So what forced two lovely maidens from the Blood such as our selves to unite under such a place.”

 

“Found myself working for an executive, get a nice place and proper pay for proper work.”

 

“Same for me, this carriage riders invite us ‘ere to read the crowds for em.” She finished the pipe and lit it using a small piece of paper lit from candle overhead. She took a long drag on the pipe before offering it to Brooke.

 

Brooke gestured out into the crowd “They need us somethin fierce. Look at that one.” She gestured to a guildsman in the crowd who was playing with his wedding band constantly while staring at another man next to him. When her conversation partner turned to look at the man, Brooke snapped off the portion of the pipe that the other woman had touched with her lips. “E's cheating on ‘is wife with someone related to that guy over other there.” It dawned on Brook that her old accent was beginning to creep back into her speech, she stiffened. She brought the pipe to her lips and inhaled. She wasn’t ready, she hadn’t smoked in ten years. The smoke felt like glass running down her throat. She shut her eyes and fought we with every part of her body to not let herself cough. With eyes watering she very slowly let out a puff of smoke before handing it to her conversation partner.

 

“See that's what I’m saying, we are in a position to play this poor bastards against emselfs and tear this whole place apart in a matter of days.” She took a puff from the pipe and used it to indicate to a man on the otherside of the crowd. “See ‘ow ‘e keeps grabbin that man shoulders, ‘e owns him but shoulders doesn’t know it yet.

 

Brooke took the pipe and pointed out three patrician woman half listening to a skinny man rant on and on about something, that only he cared about. “I’ll bet you five cut diamonds that those three girls are going to vote against whatever he proposes just based on how obnoxious he is.” Again she broke off a small piece of the pipe stem and took a much more conservative drag. This time she still felt the burn but the urge to cough seemed to subside. She handed off the pipe.

 

“You’re definitely not wrong there. But ‘e’s not the most obnoxious one here.” Astrid waved at an overdressed aristocrat with a thin strip of hair on the top of his head strutting around eyeballing everyone in the room. “That shit finks two ‘ighly of himself.”

 

“But he’s not an assemblyman, see how he’s not talking to anyone, he’s here to observe not make friend. I think he’s like us, some upper level executive’s employee.”

 

“I don’t like those damn provincials over on the continent, they’re too damn hungry looking, every last one of them.” She tooka very long puff of her pipe.

 

Adelina walked over to Brooke at a clip but she remained at near perfect composure the entire time. Seeing that Brooke was with another person she forced a wide very white smile onto her face. “I see you’ve made a friend Brooke dearest, how lovely? But I do believe it’s time that we attend to our seats in the viewing area.”

 

Brooke stood and extended a hand to Astrid “I geuss this is where I take my leave. It has been an absolute pleasure, if your ever in the Blood again don’t tell them you saw Brooke I’ve got too many people who will starting asking after me.”

 

Astrid took Brooke hand in her and smiled her own white smile before saying. “I’ll remember that Brooke, ‘ave a good one luv.”

 

Brooke turned to Adelina and walked away. Something wasn’t right in her mind, it may have been the smoking, but as she walked to the viewing area she couldn’t remember anyone from Blood Road having white teeth.

 


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