Fiearius led them along a quieter street to their next stop, which turned out to be a quaint little store a few blocks away from the square. To Leta’s immense interest, the windows were filled with mannequins and dresses — he’d brought them to a clothing boutique.
“Where the hell are taking me now?” Leta asked as Fiearius pushed open the front glass door, which dinged merrily to announce their presence. Inside, the store was filled with racks of dresses and suits, but emptied of staff.
“Hello?” Fiearius called. Even the cash register was empty. “Hello-o?” When no one answered, he muttered, furrowing his brow, “Oh he better be here … “
Leta wasn’t sure whether to be amused or concerned. The owner of a fancy clothing store did not seem like someone Fiearius would associate with regularly. “So who is it we’re giving the painting t — “
But it was then that a man stepped out between the racks so quickly that Leta jumped backwards into Fiearius. He was a short, round gentleman with a wide grin, kind eyes, and rosy cheeks. “Tieh waré!” he greeted cheerfully, marching forward, and, to Leta’s amazement, he pushed her aside so he could better throw his pudgy arms around Fiearius’ middle.
Leta noticed the man rather lacked the immediate firepower — and the height — of Fiearius’ usual network of thugs. But anyone bold enough to seize Fiearius in a hug like that had to have something going for him.
Fiearius half-grimaced, half-laughed as he patted the man on the shoulder awkwardly. “Orodiase, noh fian de gona’iin.”
“Asa’de, asa’de!” cried the man, taking a step back and bouncing on his feet in excitement. Then he noticed Leta and his eyes bulged. “Horidi forata sou limére ta?”
“She doesn’t speak the language, orodiase,” said Fiearius quickly. “This is my ship’s doc, and this is Yseltin, old friend from Satieri.”
“Oh, dov’ha gi’ame, I’m so sorry,” said the man, suddenly seizing both of her hands in his and squeezing. “Forgive my rudeness. I assumed your companion here would inform me of something like that before I made a fool out of myself.” He shot a glare at Fiearius before returning soft eyes to Leta. “My name is Rahdien Yseltin. I welcome you to my humble shop.” He smoothly lifted her wrist and kissed the back of her hand.
Over his head, Fiearius was rolling his eyes. Leta, however, laughed.
“Well aren’t you friendly. Nice to meet you, I’m Leta. And — how is it you know Fiearius?” she couldn’t resist asking. This was possibly the least likely scenario Leta could have imagined.
“Fiearius and I? Oh, my dear, we go way, way back. This man — he saved my life.” His chest swelled with emotion. “He truly did. Against all odds. More than I deserve.” The man took a deep, shaky breath, and Leta found her curiosity piqued. Especially when he confessed, “Believe it or not, he spared me from death. You’d never believe the story — “
“Hey, Yseltin, didn’t you see,” Fiearius suddenly interrupted, lifting the painting in his hand. “I brought you a gift.”
“Dov’ha toridi, this man,” he said, his voice exhausted. “I owe him my life, he keeps bringing me gifts. How ever will I repay my debt at this rate?”
“I told you,” Fiearius said impatiently, “You’ve already repaid your–”
“Although,” Yseltin went on, tapping his finger to his lips. “I cannot say no to such wonderful gifts. Especially not when they are pretty girls.” He held Leta’s shoulder fondly. “Though what will my wife say when she finds out?”
“Not the girl, giaté,” Fiearius muttered, passing Leta a look of exasperation. “This.” He held up the artwork again, though Yseltin did not glance at it.
“Ah, she’s yours then? I was wondering,” the man guessed slyly, a broad smirk slipping over his face, which made Fiearius growl in frustration.
“Though I don’t know how you managed to win such a fine young woman for yourself.”
“If you don’t mind me asking, miss — “ He swung toward Leta. “How well do you know him?”
At last, Fiearius held out the art piece one more time and snapped, “Take it or I’m taking it back.”
With that, Yseltin burst into laughter. He released Leta’s shoulder and accepted the handsome painting with two hands. “It is a fine gift, tieh waré. You, as always, have exquisite taste. But I have to ask — why? What is it this time, hm? You bring me such a fine gift, you must need something.”
So it was an exchange, Leta realized with growing interest. And indeed, Fiearius replied quickly, without looking at her, “We need papers.”
“Papers?” said Yseltin. “What kind of papers?”
“Ordenian papers,” Fiearius stated simply.
“What’re those?” said Leta, just as Ysetin’s eyebrows shot up.
“Ordenian? Now why in the dov’has’ names do you need Ordenian papers?”
Fiearius sighed. “Because there’s something I want to do that requires me to be Ordenian of course.”
With that, Ystelin suddenly brightened. “Oh oh oh! You need Ordenian identity papers! You need a new name! That means you wish wish to attend the–”
“Yes, that,” Fiearius cut him off. “Can you get us in?”
“In where?” said Leta, deeply curious. “Where’re we going now?”
“Oho, you’ll see, my dear,” said Yseltin, beaming. He clapped his hands together. “I can get you papers. Getting into the event though…You?” He frowned. “The lady, perhaps. But even she…You know how rich the Ordenian people are? They will sniff you out in a heartbeat, you know that.”
Fiearius opened his mouth to retort, but was cut off as Yseltin seemed to amend this problem. “But thank the gods, you’re here in my shop and I can make you look the part.”
“Well I was just going to–” Fiearius muttered through gritted teeth.
But by now, Yseltin was pushing Fiearius back deeper into his shop. “We will give you Ordenian garments. Fine Ordenian garments. You will blend right in! And you too, young lady!” he cried, as Leta hovered in the doorway uncertainly. “Tieh waré, pick out something from these racks. And you, miss — into the changing rooms!
Before Leta could comprehend what was happening, Yseltin seized her hands and dragged her back to the dressing rooms. “Let’s get started! Not much time!”
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
A half hour later, Leta barely recognized her own reflection. She looked nothing like herself, or nothing like herself of the past six months aboard a dirty pirate ship anyway. Her ragged jacket, shirt and trousers were discarded and replaced with a long, bold-red dress that fell over her bare feet, shimmering faintly in the light.
Behind her, Yseltin was positively bouncing with excitement. “It is perfect! It is perfect on you! Just a few more adjustments — “ He darted forward, needle stuck between his teeth, to finish the fitting. Leta managed a heavy, confused laugh.
How had this happened, exactly? She certainly hadn’t woken up this morning thinking she’d end up on Tarin, in a clothing boutique, wearing a gown and waiting for Fiearius to return. And in fact, at first, she’d resisted Yseltin (“Really, I can just run back to the ship and change, I don’t need to — “) but then, he’d brandished the dress at her and she’d gone a bit weak. As it happened, she’d lived on a grimy pirate ship with mostly male crew for nearly a year, and the last time she’d gone out wearing something like that had been even longer. As such, she couldn’t help it: her eyes got big.
“It is beautiful,” Leta had to admit through a wistful sigh, turning around on the dias. “But I still don’t understand where we’re going. Why did we need new identities? And what does Ordenian mean?”