I insisted that Genette pick out a relatively simple, not too showy dress, for my errands. She had the maids dress me in a light-blue tea gown. It had a window for my wings cut out from the upper back, leaving the shoulders intact, but the designer had cleverly created a cover for it by adding a long back-flap, like a sailor dress has.
The outfit was surprisingly conservative for something Mother had bought for me.
“So why can’t my dresses be designed like this?” I asked her.
“Your dresses are all beautiful, Young Mistress,” Genette insisted. “It would be like a dream for me to be able to wear such lovely clothes. They are perfect exactly as they are.”
And so, at breakfast, I was dressed decently for the first time since I shed my armor on the road so I could fly.
Mother said nothing to me during breakfast about the prior night’s discussion, and she left for the Palace on business immediately after the meal. I had a list of things I needed to do as well, so I organized myself as soon as she was gone.
Before heading out, I had to take care of one thing though. I sent Genette to let Carson know I needed him.
It was while I was waiting that it finally dawned on me just how extraordinary the day before had been. I had flown nearly seven hundred miles, I had saved a princess, two noble girls and eight commoners from a horrible fate, I had received a tripling of my knight’s fee, and I had become engaged to my jerk older broth… I mean, to the second prince of Orestania.
I would definitely not be matching a day like that, any time soon. If only I knew what Mother would decide about me.
Genette’s tea wasn’t quite to the same level as Terese’s, but it was still excellent. I was in my sitting room enjoying the final sips of the cup she had served me when she returned with Carson.
“You wished to speak to me, My Lady?”
He was the one and only member of the staff who had taken to addressing Tiana as a knight after her dubbing. Everyone else still called her ‘Young Mistress’, the usual address to the female children of the estate’s master.
Well, from Robert Stewart’s point of view, she was still a child, but she did work for a living, so it was nice that someone in the mansion respected her for her achievement. All the women on the staff seemed to see her status as a knight as a stain on her life.
“Yes, Carson. My mother told me I should take your advice concerning an establishment to patronize when I require nourishment.”
I had worked hard on the phrasing of that sentence. I seeeriously didn’t want to say, ‘Hey Carson, can you point me to a good whorehouse, dude?!’
Yeah, I wouldn’t have put it that way anyhow. Carson was a well-dressed, tall and handsome man with gray streaks in his otherwise jet black mustache and hair. He was the sort of person who made you feel you had to present yourself perfectly around him.
He nodded. “I will provide you with an address. The one I have in mind is quite expensive though. I believe its standard rate is a half-crown. Depending upon the girl, it could go as high as a crown.”
My eyes may have bugged a little. Half a crown is quite a lot of money. Maybe the equivalent to a thousand dollars in the U.S. I had paid a tenth as much, while with the Hero’s Party.
“We have three establishments we have transacted from time to time for you, but this will be the highest quality. Please do not try to bargain them down; they have been a highly dependable and discreet vendor.”
“I shall heed your advice, Carson.”
Why was I already eager to get to a brothel? Was it Robert’s dream to visit a high-class legal establishment some day?
I ain’t talking. You can’t make me talk, copper.
But the truth in this case was, I had a slight crisis during breakfast.
I know that I have been describing the maids around me like a bunch of teenagers. Well, frankly, that’s because of how they act while spoiling me. In reality, the youngest of the ones who wait on me directly is Genette, who is in her thirties. That’s on purpose. I can control my urges more easily if the women around me are a little older.
Why does it make a difference? Blood is blood? Well… food is food, right? But if you put oatmeal porridge and porterhouse steak side-by-side on the table, which dish is going to get you salivating faster? They’re both food, right?
Well, girls in the late teens to middle twenties are the porterhouse steak. Guys are less desirable than girls, so older guys are the oatmeal porridge made with water and without any toppings. I don’t know why age and gender make a difference to vampire appetites, but they do. Bram Stoker got that part right, anyway.
So at breakfast, a maid leaned in to pour my tea. She was a new kitchen staffer, probably younger than me, and she had her hair in a bun, exposing her neck. When that lovely bare young flesh came near my mouth, I suddenly had an intense urge to bite into it.
Mother was right. I needed to feed as soon as possible.
Carson nodded. “The Mistress told me to summon the magic blacksmith who made your armor. Can you wait to go out until we hear back from him? He may come here directly in response to the summons, rather than setting a date.”
It took a long time for a messenger to get all the way across town to where the smithy was.
How does this world function without phones?
And so, I was left waiting an hour in my room, reading a book that Genette had brought me. This world does not have mass-market novels, although it does have printing and the beginnings of a publishing industry. This book was a classic tale and very difficult reading.
Firgolmir the blacksmith was the same dwarve from Tiana’s memory some six months earlier, shortly after the hero summoning, when she had first been told of her upcoming dubbing. Tiana had worn enchanted leather armor as a squire, because her fairy blood prevented her from using steel armor. Leather had been good enough for a squire, but not a knight. So Mother had obtained fairy steel and sea-serpent skin and hired the best magic blacksmith in the kingdom.
Only, Tiana had come away from the first measurement session convinced he wasn’t a blacksmith, just an old lecher. I wasn’t looking forward to this. Being originally a guy, would I get through it easier or not? I had a feeling Tiana’s sensibilities would dominate again.
When he arrived, Benedetta showed him to my suite with a look of obvious displeasure. I think her opinion of him was similar to mine. But, it was the Mistress’s orders, so she allowed it.
He was of course, short, less than five feet tall, but he had shoulders and chest broad enough for an NFL linebacker and a beard worthy of Lief Ericsson. I wouldn’t be alone with him, but it was just me, Genette and a dwarven girl with him who looked like a pretty but slightly chubby, small-statured human. She introduced herself as “Drusella.”
Benedetta drew me aside, once he was busy setting up shop in my sitting room, and asked in a low voice, “Young Mistress, I know it would be difficult for you, but to keep the smith’s behavior in check, would you like me to have Carson come in?”
Half of me was screaming “Two old guys in the room? Hell no!” while the other half was insisting it was exactly the safety I wanted. And I think both halves were Tiana this time.
“I can assure you, Carson is very trustworthy.”
After a long hesitation, I answered in a very small voice. “……please.”