Chapter 32 – New Uniforms

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The only news that came back from the investigation at first was that they had backtracked the demons as far as a small abandoned farmhouse near Copen. They had departed from there ahead of us and waited in ambush. Perhaps they had started out once they saw me arriving in Copen.

The palace and my mother both made it clear, I was not to participate in the investigation. I also was not to leave town except with a knight escort. I was not to leave home except in cases of absolute necessity. Which left me stuck with nothing to do.

I went through the next day looking for tasks to do around the house that the maid brigade wouldn’t stop me from doing, because the Young Mistress shouldn’t have to do those sorts of things. They were leaving me bored spitless.

On the second day, I actually found myself in my sitting room with needle, thread and embroidery hoop in my hand, trying to retrieve memories of lessons on embroidery with Amelia at ten years old. It had been Benedetta’s suggestion to try this. Apparently it’s a very noble girl thing to do.

Fingers trained to hold a sword don’t do this kind of delicate task well. The fight was over in less than a half-hour. Embroidery won. It was my total defeat.

“What am I doing?” I asked myself. I had no answer for myself, so I laid the work aside, stood, and told Genette to bring my duty uniform.

The wolf-kin maid hesitated, then asked, “May I ask what you are planning?”

It was unusual for her to not just immediately do as requested. I frowned. “I wish to go to the barracks and get some exercise in. It’s time I start training properly once more.”

She sighed. “I see. I was hoping to just suggest you go in civilian dress, but that won’t do then.”

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She’s been my lady’s maid long enough to know one can’t repeatedly show up at the Barracks in civilian clothes, like I had done a couple times already.

“Genette…”

She bowed her head and stated, “Forgive me, Young Mistress. Your mother ordered us to destroy all your old uniforms.”

“Um… why?” I asked, holding two fingertips to each temple. I remembered telling myself to check on this. Why oh why had I forgotten?

As expected, “The King authorized Lady Sasara to have new designs created for lady knights, for all levels of dress. I think it was because she was pleased about how your battle dress came out.”

By battle dress, she meant my armor. I was filled with worry now, remembering the spectacle Mother had created for a court uniform. “And just what does my duty uniform look like now?”

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Her ears fell. With a voice of dejection, she noted, “I suppose you will have to see it, at some point. I will fetch it immediately, Young Mistress.”

Twenty minutes later, I was staring into the mirror. Genette’s wolf ears were still laying flat and her tail hung straight down. I did my best to keep emotion out of my voice.

“Genette.”

“Yes, Young Mistress.”

“Call for the tailor. Or the dress maker. Whatever is appropriate in this case.”

“But…”

“Immediately.”

“Young Mistress…”

“I said, immediately.”

“Yes, Young Mistress.”

# # #

Now, I know Mother meant well, and frankly, I did find the uniform somehow very beguiling and lovely and yet still weirdly military despite its nature.

She had replaced the royal blue jacket and trousers with a much more feminine tight-fitting, long-sleeved bodice and a skirt. She had eliminated the blouse, and I could not wear my chemise under it for reasons I will note later. Instead, the bodice had a soft lining and support cups sewn into it. It had the uniform fasteners, buttons and epaulettes as appropriate, except the stiff collar had been replaced by a cloth choker, just like with that so-called formal uniform.

Like the surcoat of my armor, the dress was too short, but the designer had replaced the knee boots with form-fitting thigh boots. The combo reminded me of a schoolgirl’s skirt and stockings. The thigh boots had high heels, just like my armor’s sabatons, because Mother didn’t care that high heels are a challenge to fight in. I needed to get the same enchantments on them that I had on my sabatons, magic to aid with traction and comfort. The side stripes from the missing trousers ran up the sides of the boots.

Overall, well done, Designer. Except…

I REFUSE TO WALK INTO THE BARRACKS SHOWING CLEAVAGE!

The neckline formed a plunging vee wide open enough to come perilously close to indecent exposure. The dress had been ‘racially adjusted’ to add the required window in the back to accommodate my wings, but the window was oversized. It unnecessarily descended all the way to the top bounds of my derriere.

There was no way in Hades I would go into a place filled with large virile men while wearing something like that. I would have felt the same if I tied steaks to myself and jumped into a pit of starving lions.

After Genette had sent word and returned, she helped me into the mess uniform, as well. I needed to know.

It was the duty uniform upgraded with aiguillette and double-button hip length cloak, made in the almost blazing white fabric that had stirred the five-year-old Tiana’s heart the first time she encountered a group of senior knights striding down a Palace corridor wearing their mess uniforms.  The aiguillette paired with the cloth choker gave it the same unfortunate ‘dog collar’ impression as the formal uniform, but I had to admit, it was gorgeous.

Nicely done. I was glad I reviewed it before the tailor arrived, because it also had the upper body design of the duty uniform.

Plus, I swear the hemline was higher. Looking at the hem in the mirror, I wrote in my head the new line that I would have inserted into the Regulations of the Royal Knights, which read as follows: Lady Knights in Mess Uniform shall at all times keep their knees firmly together while seated.

I have a certain amount of pull with Uncle Owen too, you know.

On second thought, I decided I would have a word with the tailor about the skirt as well. Although I know I could only get so much without Mother overruling me, so I would have to tread lightly.

After putting my plan to head to the barracks on hold, I again tackled that classic book, while sipping tea. I was going out of my skull with boredom.

As expected, the tailor could not come until the following morning.

# # #

By noon, I at last had uniforms that I could call acceptable. Naturally, fate found another way to prevent me from going to the barracks.

I had actually just donned my new duty uniform– the same design but adding a long sailor-dress flap covering the back window, the bottom of which had been raised to a more responsible location, and with the bottom of the neckline raised significantly and the hem of the skirt lowered to below the top of the thigh boots so I no longer was showing bare skin on my legs– when a bird-like paper construct came flying into my quarters through an open window.

It flew up to me and hovered, flapping its wings steadily while seeming to stare at me. I held out my hand, palm up. It settled there and unfolded into a sheet of elven paper.

As I figured, the message was from Arken.

- my thoughts:

Programming Note: I am switching to Tuesdays and Fridays.

Tiana, you are Mother's barbie doll. Get used to it.

Check out my other novel: Tales of the ESDF

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