Sesskia’s Diary, part 40

4 Lennitay, evening (continued)

The woman went a short distance down the hallway and stopped at the third door. “Again I apologize for the paucity of your accommodations,” she said, and pushed the door open for me. I went inside and nearly fainted. I have never seen anything so opulent, and I have stood in the King’s own antechamber and wondered which of his treasures I should take first while he slept in the next room. The flagstone floor, identical to that of the hallway outside, was covered with a thick maroon rug like the pelt of a very large, strangely colored bear. Glazed windows, their golden velvet drapes pulled back to admit the morning sun, looked out over the roofs and windows of the patchwork palace. A bed stood in one corner, covered in blankets that matched the rug and the drapes, with enough white pillows that I could have made a bed from them alone; four pillars at its corners supported a gauzy golden curtain that was currently pulled back and tied at each post. A dressing table made of the same mahogany as the bed, mahogany that would have cost a fortune in my world, stood next to a matching wardrobe large enough for me and Audryn and Sovrin to hide in together while we plotted tricks to play on the men. A mirror hung over the dressing table, and I don’t know why that struck me as a far greater luxury than any of the rest of the furniture, but I’ve never had a mirror that wasn’t cracked and certainly not one that could show me my entire body at once, supposing I cared to look.

There were more rugs scattered across the floor, and I went forward to open the wardrobe, because this all felt like a joke the God-Empress wanted to play on the otherworlder woman, and someone might be waiting inside to leap out and startle me. It was empty except for a few drawers and hangers. I didn’t have nearly enough to fill it, which was good—always travel light, that’s one of my many mottoes—but it made me feel awkward, as if they were giving me all of this because they think I’m more important than I am. I hope I’m not more important than I think I am.

“This will be adequate,” I managed to choke out, and the woman bowed and bobbed even more than before.

“Someone will call for you, when it is time for our audience,” Cederic said, and then he abandoned me—well, not really, but the woman closed the door and I was alone amid opulence I’m certain I don’t deserve. On the other hand…it is awfully nice, and the bed looked soft, not that I’d jump on it until I was out of these travel-stained clothes.

I jumped on it anyway. I’m not ashamed.

I practiced locking and unlocking the door with the pouvra—I noticed the woman didn’t give me a key, so it was important I learn to do that—and I took off my boots and jumped on the bed a little more, which is undignified in someone my age, I know, but I couldn’t resist, and then I sat around trying to decide what to do next. I thought about exploring, but I didn’t know when the God-Empress would call for us, and I didn’t want to miss that audience. So I put off exploring until I could do it when no one would expect me to be running around.

This book was nearly discovered when a couple of men entered my room without knocking. I shouted at them and explained at length about my customs (really, what is it about Castavirans that they don’t believe in waiting on an invitation?) and they bowed and groveled until I felt guilty. It turned out they came to measure me for my palace wardrobe. Wardrobe? Yes, wardrobe. Etiquette is very strict here in the palace, and while as I am an otherworlder it’s understood that my mistakes aren’t meant as a slight to the God-Empress, I’m still expected to make an effort. The men had armloads of clothing, most of it the same rich brocades and velvets Vorantor’s mages wear, and if I didn’t know the God-Empress was crazy, this and the mosaics would definitely confirm it, because brocade and velvet in this climate is insane. Even if the palace does have some kind of cooling system.

Anyway, they made me put on everything, and some things they discarded and others they fitted to me, and there was one long-skirted dress with full sleeves, made of linen, that they said was a pattern for my other dresses. Since they’d already fitted me with ten robes of varying lengths and trousers with wide legs like divided skirts, I’m not sure how many more dresses I need. At least they’re nothing I’d want to carry with me, because there’s no way I could manage that lot.

While I was being fitted, another servant came in with my bag and began putting my things away. Good thing I keep this diary on me, though I had to undress for some of the fittings and it was tricky keeping it hidden inside my discarded clothes. It’s too bad I’ve never had to do anything like that before. Hahahaha. This servant kept looking at me as if thinking “why does the otherworlder have so little?” and then he left and came back when the fitting was almost done with a box filled with all sorts of things: hairbrush and comb and hair clips, soaps and lotions, a file for my nails, and—this really shocked me—a flat box filled with jewelry. Not fake jewelry. They go in for cabochons rather than faceted stones, and they use more semiprecious stones like agates and jaspers, but the workmanship is incredible and some of the filigree work is far beyond anything my world has produced. And they just gave it to me. No one’s ever given me jewelry before; I’ve always had to steal it, and of course I never kept any of it because it was far more valuable in trade for books. It still shocks me.

I should stop if I want any time for exploring tonight. I didn’t realize how late it was. Cederic just came in to say good night. He also said, “I would tell you not to wander, but I realize that would be pointless,” and he’s right, because there’s no way I’m not going to investigate this palace. But I’ll have to write about that tomorrow. That, and seeing the God-Empress this afternoon. It was nothing like I expected.