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Originally written November 21, 2012.

It was a new routine. She awoke at the first pale wash of dawn, her bare feet felt the chill wooden floor with each step across the bedroom. Instead of armor, she donned a robe, her fingers moving slower, less assured over each delicate fabric fold. The make and pattern of the robe was simple and bore a theme of colors: white, gold, blue.

 

Hours later, she was surrounded by a throng of intricate shawls, polished medals, feathered headdresses, and high-buttoned collars. Their wearers were a pampered sampling of city nobles speaking of politics, money, and war. The lady knight stood among them, speaking to few and lacking the customary glass of wine in-hand that appeared a requirement for the gathering. Instead, she watched, listening as one does as an outsider, doing little to fit in. She truthfully did not understand quite how, finding the patterns of conversation illogical and without a clear path of entry.

 

"We have no more laborers to give to the war," one man said within a group of gatherers. The loose folds of his neck bulged over his collar and wiggled as he abruptly shook his head. "They asked for my son and I had to pay for his slot to be filled by someone else. Do you know the going price for an Alliance soldier these days? Monstrous."

 

"They say the high taxes are to fund the reconstruction of the city," one woman spoke over the glass lip of her wine glass. Her lips were stained doubly red with wine and a shade of lipstick. "But have you seen any improvements? A waste of labor, really, and what we lost was only a section for the elves. Why aren't they paying for it themselves?"

 

"There were so many stories of that dragon flying overhead and setting entire lands aflame," said a young man awkwardly dressed in slacks that seemed far too new and pressed with starch to be worn comfortably. He squirmed as he spoke but bolstered his voice with as much confidence as his choking collar let him muster. "But who can confirm them? Anything can start a fire, and I could see peasants setting their fields ablaze for a little sympathy."

 

"What about talk of local militias? Some vagabond from Duskwood wove a tale about undead running about the countryside and Stormwind doing nothing," a man sniffed, wrinkling a crooked nose over a thin mustache. "Don't they know that the undead are all in the north? Their paranoia and ignorance is disturbing, and they will no doubt cause unrest outside the city if their delusion continues."

 

"What do you think, dear? And which one are you?" A woman of growing age but fading beauty caught Arialynn by the arm as she passed through the conversation. The solid color of her painted lips was offset by the uneven stain of her teeth, her squinting eyes trained down to the lady knight's growing belly as the noble woman attempted to identify her.

 

"I think much," Arialynn replied and added nothing more. She abruptly departed, leaving the hall of finery, tinkling glass, and shrill laughter behind her.

 

Which one are you? The phrase repeated itself in her mind as she walked the stone streets. It took a moment before she was able to discern its meaning: she recalled the image of women's gloved arms interwoven with their husband's, like attachments to their prize.

 

She returned to her residence, discovering her own husband hunched at his writing desk. After greeting him with a gentle touch of a hand on his shoulder, she proceeded to her wardrobe to undress.

 

"How was your day?" He asked her as his quill scratched another signature on another line. The nub of the quill was dull from the repetition of the same loop and stroke, written again and again.

 

"Enlightening," she replied, then paused. "No. Something else."

 

"Disappointing?"

 

"No, dear. Unsettling. Very much so."

Author Ari
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