(IP) The Deal

(IP) The Deal

               The tiny cottage stood in the long, dark shadow of the mountains, with a small copse of trees to the right of it. An indigo plume of smoke puffed into the cold wind, one of the only signs of life.

               The day was gray and rainy, but that did not deter the person living there. It marched out of the dwelling, whistling a low but merry tune, quiet but cheerful. The figure was hooded, its face hidden, but it was of medium height, walking over the river and onward. There was business to be attended to today, that beckoned far beyond the clandestine location of the cottage.

**

               After walking so long, legs began to numb and exhaustion began to set in. By the time the outskirts of the small town hub was reached, the person threw back their hood, revealing a young woman with long, strawberry blonde hair braided down her back, pale, creamy skin, and bright amber eyes.

She ducked into a tavern, instantly assailed by a riot of sound, color, and sensation: the scent of meat roasting over a fire, the sounds of a group of men crying foul over a game of dice, high, female laughter. After the silence of her journey, the noise hit the young woman like a series of blows, dazing her. She slipped inside and sat at a table, her stomach grumbling in want of food.

She would take a repast, and then, she would move on to what had actually led her here. Waving over a serving girl, she asked for a bowl of beef stew, some mulled wine, and a slice of apple pie for dessert. The girl took her order and disappeared to the kitchen, and the woman sat at the table, quietly waiting. The only sign of her impatience was the drumming of her fingers on the wood, and when her food was brought out to her, she tucked in eagerly, famished after the long walk to the bar.

She was just bringing the goblet of wine to her lips when the door opened again; it had begun to rain once more, and the man who came in was soaked to the bone, clutching something close to his chest and cursing in a low voice. He looked around the room, eyes narrowed. When he spotted the woman, he hurried through the crowd, head lowered, shoulders drawn up in wariness.

“Do you have it?” The woman hissed, and the man’s brows drew together as he sat in the empty chair opposite her.

“Do you take me for a fool? Of course, I have it.” He snapped back, gazing longingly at the remains of the food in front of her.

At his look, she summoned the serving girl over again and asked for more food, making sure to pay her handsomely for the trouble.

When she walked away, the woman looked around to make sure no one was listening.

She slid a small, wrapped object across the table, and the man slid his own package over to her. She peeled back the paper slightly, as if to check the authenticity of what was in front of her; there was a faint, rainbow glitter before she closed it again. The man peered down at the object in his lap, one hand cupped around it.

“This better be the real thing, or it will be the end of you.” He said quietly, lips barely moving around the threat.

This was interrupted by the reappearance of the serving girl, her tray laden with food: warm, buttered bread, a jar of honey, a bottle of wine, beef stew, roasted vegetables, and a generous slice of pie.

“Thank you very much,” He murmured, though his eyes never left his companion, lip curling in naked, blatant disdain.

The woman, for her part, was silent, slipping the package into an inner pocket sewn into her cloak, smiling in a way that distinctly told him that she was unruffled by his threats.

“Good luck to you, and good riddance,” She said, taking her leave and disappearing into the rain.

**