Working Girl

Working Girl



Sasha woke in the late morning, as had become part of her usual routine. She dressed quickly and put on her little Prussian cross, as usual. Then she went downstairs to greet the Gerandine clan and hopefully manage to get a little breakfast. Like always. She had been in Stormpoint for nearly a month, and as pleasant a place it seemed to be, her existence there was... Well... Boring.

She'd resigned herself to the fact that Tiennot was either going to come or he wasn't, and hanging about her room pining like something out of a harlequin novel wasn't going to speed him on his way. Her father had sent her a modest sum of money when she first left, but it was beginning to run low. She couldn't bear to write him asking for more money. She wanted to make her own way. She felt the strange need to prove she could make it on her own.

Which would require finding a job.

"Monsieur Gerandine?" she asked, picking at her thin porridge.

He turned toward her. "Oui?"

"Do you know..." She lowered her eyes to watch her spoon stirring the gruel, trying to steel her nerve. "Do you know of anyone looking to hire help?"

He shrugged a little. "Patria always could use another hand in the kitchen."

She tried not to show the distaste she felt. She hadn't been raised to be a kitchen girl. "I'll keep that in mind, thank you," she said, trying to be polite. "What about the stores? Do you know if any of them are hiring?"

He shrugged again. "Best thing for you would be to go to Merchant's Row and ask for yourself." His tone was rather cool. She hoped she hadn't been too rude.

She smiled. "I'll do that, thank you. Merci." She stood, leaving her breakfast mostly untouched, and went out into the street.



* * *


Several hours of back and forth down the road had left her with nothing but a bit of a sunburn and a mounting sense of frustration. It seemed that all the reputable places a girl could work had their full complement of staff. She'd garnered a few promises of there maybe being something available, later, but she didn't need something Later. She needed it Now.

She sighed, and turned to the dressmaker who was the latest to reject her services. "Please, ma'am she said a bit desperately, "Is there anyone else who might be able to give me work?"

The woman's brow furrowed as she considered. "Well..." She looked Sasha up and down slowly. "You seem an intelligent girl. You can read and write?"

Sasha nodded rapidly. "Oh, yes, ma'am!"

"and you're good with your hands, you've told me."

"That's correct," Sasha agreed.

"Well... Perhaps you might try the Kuriousity Shoppe, two doors down. Run by a lady by the name of Eowyn."

"What sort of shop is it?"

The seamstress chuckled. "Why, it's the Kuriousity Shoppe. You might as well go knock at the door. I hear tell she's looking for someone to help her."

Sasha took her leave politely, and went to the address specified. It was certainly a quaint-looking little place. She took a breath, and raised a fist to rap at the door.

Sasha


It was late into the afternoon when Eowyn heard the knocking downstairs at the shoppe door. She almost ignored it. The sign she had placed in the front window clearly indicated that the shoppe was closed until one and it was only . . . . Eowyn sighed in quick irritation as she glanced over at the timepiece sitting by the window. It was half past two. Leaving several books and papers strewn on the desk before her, she rose from her chair and headed downstairs.

Partway down, the ever-present bird alit on her shoulder and gave a half-squawk in greeting.

"I'm not speaking to you," she said blankly and received another squawk in response. "One," Eowyn replied sharply, not looking at the bird, "I said remind me at one. It's now after two."

More squawking and ruffling of feathers followed.

"That's no excuse," she shot back as she reached the floor and placed the braided cording back across the stairs. Shrugging the bird from her shoulder, Eowyn took a deep breath and expelled it slowly, trying to improve her mood, before calling out, "Come in."

The door opened with the sound of chimes, their delicate peal floating through the silence of the shoppe. Eowyn reached the front just as their echo died, and caught the first glimpse of her visitor. The girl that stood before her was all of 18 years of age and, despite her assumed look of confidence, she carried all the naivety inherit to her years.

"Hello," she with a hopeful voice, "I'm looking for Eowyn."

"You've found her," Eowyn replied, taken somewhat aback. "Welcome to the Kuriousity Shoppe. Are you looking for something in particular?"

"Yes," the girl answered, pausing to collect her confidence, "I'm looking for employment. I was told you might have a position available. My name is Sasha Barrett."

Eowyn studied the girl quietly before asking, "Where are you from?"

"From Corsham." She faltered a bit, realizing that it probably carried no significance of its own here. "It's in England. Near Bath. I've only been here in Stormpoint for..." Her brow furrowed as she tried to remember time exactly. "About a month."

Eowyn nodded and smiled silently. In truth, recent events had so entirely consumed her attention that she had considered closing shoppe. Not wanting to raise suspicions, however, she kept it open for the sake of appearances, but did little business, neglecting it in her pursuit of a more serious concern. Perhaps she should hire someone to take care of affairs in her absence.

But this one? She was so young, so fragile, and so seemingly unaware of the true character of the city which she now called home. Eowyn considered suggesting to Sasha that she turn her attentions to a more appropriate, a more mundane establishment, but the weariness written across the girl's features and the lateness of the hour told her that the girl had in all likelihood visited every other shoppe in the district before coming to her door.

Looking the girl over again, Eowyn asked, "Have you ever worked before?"

Eowyn

Away with him who heeds the morrow!
Death, plucking the ear, cries: "Live; I come!"

Virgil, Copa 1. 37


Juleana paced the docks, smoking yet another cigarette as her cowboy boots made clicking sounds on the stones. She received the usual stares from the townsfolk, having left her the mansion in clothes more appropriate for 20th century New Orleans. Just as she got up the nerve to do what she'd determined she must, she watched the young stranger enter The Kuriousity Shoppe.

"Damn it!" she mumbled through a long exhale of smoke. Turning back to the dock she eyed Ogrek's ship, busy as usual. A tall figure caught her eye. He was standing next to the fountain. She was struck by the black attire and the hat, one of those gambler Stetsons. As her head turned back to get a better look he was gone. But a weird feeling came over her.

Grinding out the cigarette, she decided enough is enough I need to do this. Hoping that the young stranger, perhaps a customer, would make it easier, she headed directly towards the Kuriousity Shoppe, ready to eat her share of crow.

The door handle turned easily, almost too easy. Juleana could feel the power here. She tried to be quiet, to go unnoticed, but the blasted chimes announced her entry. Both the proprietor and her visitor turned with the sound, and Juleana met Eowyn's eyes. Smiling shyly, she broke the Lady's gaze by glancing about the shop. The black bird caught her attention immediately, ruffling his feathers in apparent agitation over her arrival. Great, she thought, remind me! "Squawk!!" the bird sounded as if in response to her thought.

Juleana jumped and glared at the bird, thinking, "Don't rub it in you! I might just eat real crow! The bird stared back at Juleana and squawked again before winging to the back of the shoppe and finding a suitable perch. Turning back to Eowyn, Juleana smiled and shrugged, hoping she hadn't read those thoughts.

"I don't think he likes me."

"I wouldn't pay it much heed if I were you," Eowyn replied expressionlessly.

Uncertain how to proceed in the presence of the visitor, Juleana sent out a hopeful thought, "I need to talk to you. I owe you an apology." Smiling through her message, she added verbally, "I hope I am not interrupting?"

Lady Juleana St. Clair


"No," Eowyn responded, pausing in mild surprise, "No, not at all," she continued, her tone growing more receptive. "A visitor is never an interruption. Have you met Sasha? She's only just arrived in Stormpoint and is inquiring about a position at the shoppe. Sasha Barrett, this is . . . a friend of mine, Lady Juleana St. Clair.

"A pleasure to meet you," Juleana began, extending a hand towards Sasha. "I've heard wonderful things about the shop and decided that I was past due for a visit." Still holding Sasha's hand, she looked at Eowyn with a pointed gaze.

Eowyn, for her part, stood quietly for a moment before offering, "Sasha, why don't you look about the shoppe for a bit . . . see if you have any questions. I need to speak to Juleana privately. We shan't be long."

Having received Sasha's assent, Eowyn led Juleana towards the back of the shoppe where the bird had presently taken refuge. Though ruffling a few feathers in protest, the bird remained on its new perch, its eyes fixed on Juleana.

Either ignoring or not noticing the bird's dark gaze as she glanced back to make sure they were beyond earshot of the girl, Juleana began in a hushed tone, "Lady Eowyn, I did you a great disservice and I owe you an apology."

Eowyn stared at the woman silently for a moment, her expression softening uncharacteristically, "I don't know what you're referring to, but you owe me no apology."

"Oh, yes I do," Juleana insisted, "I was a fool to think anything ill of you. Calo explained your relationship to me and I was immature to act as I did." She continued urgently, the entire story spilling out now that she had started. "I am sure you've heard of the incident at the church?" She hesitated, wringing her hands. "I was face to face with Giacomo, and you were right. I fell right into his game."

"Shhh," Eowyn warned, looking cautiously towards Sasha with the with the reference to Giacomo, "It isn't safe to mention that name here."

Juleana nodded, "I'm sorry, you're right. But you did hear about it, didn't you?"

"Yes, I have heard of the incident at the church." She paused suddenly, her eyes becoming distant, her mind someplace else. "The church . . . ." Snapping her attention back to Juleana, Eowyn spoke again, a note of possible concern in her voice. "I trust you've suffered no ill effects from the encounter?"

Juleana bowed her head as if suddenly embarrassed. "Nothing physical, no." A flickering remembrance of the event, however, crossed Juleana's mind, and a sudden flush of fear crossed her face.

"Don't worry," Eowyn told her as she placed a hand on the woman's shoulder, an offer of strength and support, "all will be made right." Had Juleana known Eowyn better, she might have noticed a change, a subtle shift in her expression as the touch, the assessment, lingered. 'This one has ability,' Eowyn thought, 'she could be one of the four.'

-written jointly with Lady Juleana

Eowyn

Away with him who heeds the morrow!
Death, plucking the ear, cries: "Live; I come!"

Virgil, Copa 1. 37


Juleana smiled a weak, but thankful smile, "Actually that's why I am here, sort of. I know from Triana you were directly responsible for banishing {HIM} last time."

Removing her hand quickly but gently from Juleana's shoulder, Eowyn turned away, "Triana?" she asked in a guarded voice, "You know Triana?"

"Yes, Triana brought me to Stormpoint. When my Brother Michael disappeared in New Orleans I was alone, and we had . . . similar interests so I came with her to manage her club. You know she owns the Raven, right?"

"I knew she was here, yes. Have you spoken to her of 'our homicidal friend'?"

"Yes," Juleana began, and Eowyn stiffened imperceptibly with the revelation, "but only briefly, and mostly to question her about you, I am ashamed to say. She has been preoccupied lately with her own dilemmas, and since my engagement I have left the club."

Assessing this news, Eowyn remarked cryptically, "Triana's encounter with the daemon was different from mine, and the memory may be difficult for her. Might I suggest that you not mention him to her again."

A quizzical look crossed Juleana's face, but she assented, "I can abide by that if you think it important. But she was the one who helped me through Calo's . . . changes. Did you know that he suffered some . . . serious effects from his encounter with the demon?" A red flush rose in her cheeks with the recollection of the events following Giacomo's earlier departure.

"Yes," Eowyn replied, a pained look appearing in her dark eyes "I know what happened to Calo when the daemon returned, but you needn't worry. I won't let that happen again."

Missing the other's expression, Juleana explained, "Milady, in a way I am not worried. I am ashamed to say that those effects may have been part of why I fell in love with Calo." She blushed before continuing, "I was a very different person when I met him. But I want to make sure he is safe. That's the other reason I have come."

Eowyn raised a brow and fell back into a defensive tone. "Pray, proceed then."

"The wiccan festival of Ostara is coming and I am going to invoke the Mother Goddess and Father God as well as the elements and ask for protection for Calo. It is a Vernal Equinox festival honoring the changing of seasons and the rebirth of life in spring. I thought it would be a good time to gain a blessing for my union. I had tried the church," her back stiffened with the memory, "but there is no help for me there."

"Ah," Eowyn replied, relaxing somewhat with Juleana's explanation, "and you've come here because . . ." she let the sentence trail off, punctuating it with a raised brow.

I need three things that I'm missing and your shop seemed to be the closest thing to a new age store in Stormpoint."

"A new age store?" Eowyn repeated in an amused tone, a wry smile lighting her eyes. "Well, I don't know about that, but you're welcome to anything you need."

"Do you carry incense? I need frankincense and sandalwood? I also need a dagger, preferably steel?"

"Hmmm," Eowyn pondered looking over towards Sasha, "you know, I'm not entirely sure. But things have an odd way of turning up here.

Following her gaze, Juleana offered, "If your planning on hiring her maybe she can help me look? She seems to have a friendly aura."

~written jointly with Eowyn

"An it Harm none, do what thou wilt"

Lady Juleana St. Clair


Drat! She'd lost it, she'd lost her chance! She'd been so close, this time, too. At the expression on Eowyn's face, Sasha was sure she was about to suggest that she look elsewhere. She tried to keep her own expression from showing her disappointment.

But then to her surprise Eowyn asked, "Have you ever worked before?"

Her brown eyes widened with she took on a look of nearly desperate excitement. She felt that she might agree that she'd been to the moon, if that would further dispose Eowyn in her favour. "Oh, yes! I kept books in my father's store, and I worked for a time in the library in town. And, um..." She couldn't think of anything else impressive to add to the list. She'd been errand girl for more than a few people, but she didn't feel that would quite add to the impressive effect she hoped to build. To her mortification, she heard herself say with hopeful desperation, "Oh please! I won't cause you any trouble, and I'm a hard worker, really I am! I've tried everywhere else, you're the--"

She was suddenly cut off as a strangely dressed woman entered. Sasha blinked rapidly, trying not to stare. Eowyn didn't appear to be unduly upset by it, so perhaps this was a normal thing here. The black bird which reminded her so of her brother's pet raven squawked indignantly at the girl.

Juleana jumped and glared at the bird. Turning back to Eowyn she smiled and shrugged. "I don't think he likes me."

"I wouldn't pay him much heed if I were you." Eowyn replied expressionlessly.

Sasha swallowed, glancing back and forth between the two women. Was there something here she didn't know about. Well, doubtless there was, but was it a negative something?

Smiling, Juleana asked, "I hope I am not interrupting?"

"No," Eowyn responded, pausing in mild surprise, "No, not at all," she continued, her tone more receptive. "A visitor is never an interruption. Have you met Sasha? She's only just arrived in Stormpoint and is inquiring about a position at the shoppe. Sasha, this is . . . A friend of mine, Lady Juleana St. Clair.

"A pleasure to meet you," Juleana began, extending a hand towards Sasha. "I've heard wonderful things about the shop and decided that I was past due for a visit."

Sasha accepted the hand, a bit surprised. "Nice to meet you as well."

Still holding Sasha's hand, she looked at Eowyn with a pointed gaze. Eowyn, for her part, stood quietly for a moment before she offering, "Sasha, why don't you look about the shoppe for a bit . . . See if you have any questions. I need to speak to Juleana privately. We shan't be long."

Sasha blinked rapidly. Had she just heard correctly? "Does this mean I have the job?" she asked, as Eowyn and Juleana retreated to the back of the store.

Sasha



1999 Stormpoint Writers Guild
All rights reserved