Alanna frowned as she dubiously inspected the many and varied bolts of
material before her. Dressed as a well-to-do young lady and chaperoned by
Mistress Cooper, she had ventured out in to the merchant district to
purchase a new ensemble for her slowly growing feminine wardrobe. They had
spent the greater part of the morning browsing through materials and
designs and as yet, had made little headway.
Buying women's clothes was not so unfamiliar to her these days and more
often than not Alanna enjoyed the experience of selecting pretty skirts and
soft stockings, but this time was a little different- this dress had to be
Of late she had noticed that the rest of her friends were not so subtly
ribbing Jonathan about his 'changed ways'. At court functions Jonathan
would flirt half-heartedly with the beauties that shamelessly threw
themselves at his feet, but had not left with one for months. Obviously
none could know the true reason behind his restraint so Jon had simply
laughed the comments off, something she was particularly grateful for.
Though no one would ever comment aloud, Jonathan's reputation with court
ladies was well known and Alanna could see his suddenly chaste behaviour
was probably the subject of many a rumour among the gossips. She
appreciated the lengths he was going to for her sake and had come up with a
way to possibly combat the rumour mills- but she was yet to consult Jon,
and wasn't even sure if she could pull off a stunt of the kind she was
She would attend the next ball not as the crown Prince's squire, rather as
one of the many court ladies, giving Jonathan someone to devote his
attentions to. Squire Alan would be sent on an 'errand' while Alanna
appeared as the daughter of a rich merchant passing through Corus. She held
no illusions of the difficulty, and extreme risks, involved in such an
undertaking- her disguise would have to be seamless. The copper hair and
purple eyes would have to go and she would have to be well dressed but
inconspicuous simultaneously. It would seem strange for the Prince, who had
his pick of all of the female courtiers, to choose a mere wallflower; but
her alias couldn't be allowed to be too memorable.
Here in lay the difficulty of choosing a dress. It needed to be fashionable
and well designed without being eye catching or the topic of conversation
for the next week; not too revealing or in unconventional shades. Of course
balancing practicality, there was also her somewhat sheepish, almost
embarrassed, desire to look good for Jonathan's benefit. The thought seemed
flippant and ridiculous, not to mention quite out of her own character, but
she could do little to suppress the wish besides simply trying to ignore
The vibrant materials delighted her developing feminine tastes but
practically, she knew that she could not realistically consider colours
like the vermilion reds or acidic greens in front of her, if she did not
wish to draw a great deal of attention to herself. So instead she directed
her interests to the more demure pastilles and whites.
After long consideration and a lot of advice from Mistress Cooper, Alanna
settled on cream brocade, with delicately picked coppery-gold embroidery.
Her chaperone assured her the cream suited her colouring while the fine
copper thread would bring out what reddish tones she would have left in her
hair after she had done dyeing it.
For reasons unknown, she was loath to part with her fiery curls, and had
decided on a natural henna dye that would temporarily darken her hair to a
rich chocolate brown, without completely covering her hair's natural ruddy
tint. The dye she had purchased was supposed to rinse out in one wash, and
she prayed to the gods above that it would do so- a newly made brunette
Squire Alan would be very suspect indeed.
However, compared to her eyes, the problem of her hair was insignificant
indeed. She knew of no other way to change her eye colour than by illusion
and that would use a great deal of her energy. The problem with illusions
was that the magic wasn't directed at the object, rather at those who saw
the object. This meant she would have to basically broadcast the illusion
to everyone in the great hall. She knew that would take huge amounts of
concentration and leave almost no room to focus on anything else. The idea
of an illusion really was quite unrealistic.
Feeling Mistress Cooper tug none so gently on her elbow, Alanna quickly
returned her attention to the dress patterns spread on a counter before
her. There were so many to choose from and she looked at her chaperone with
a slightly panicked and bewildered expression. Here Mistress Cooper took
"Well, we can forget these," she said, removing the most revealing of the
dresses. "And this," she added, also taking a conspicuously old fashioned
design from the group. Eventually, unable to decide on any particular
dress, she spoke with the store's seamstress and managed to work out a deal
that would incorporate the best parts of two designs she liked.
Unfortunately this meant she would have to pay for a customised dress- a
far more expensive dress.
After being measured, she forked out the considerable sum thinking her
latest 'amusement' was becoming very pricey indeed and vehemently hoped
Jonathan would be 'very bloody grateful' for her efforts.
Later that afternoon, as she ate tea at Mistress Cooper's house, she
broached the subject of her eyes. Much to her relief her mentor in women's
business was able to offer a possible solution to the complication.
Mistress Cooper explained that magics other than the Gift might be more
suitable for such a situation, magics such as the kind a hedge witch dealt
with. At first Alanna was greatly reluctant to trust something as crucial
as her sight to an unknown hedge-witch, but the older woman was quick to
inform her of a friend who could be trusted with such a task. By the end of
the conversation Alanna was quite satisfied that a hedge-witch's potion
would cure her of her purple eyes for a short while without harm, and best
yet, would require no effort on her part other than taking a draught.
That evening as she made her way back to the palace she thought about what
to say to Jon. Should she even say anything at all? It would certainly make
for a brilliant surprise when he eventually identified her. She imagined
the look on his face, and the idea immediately sold itself to her. She
would keep her plan a secret.
Spring was arriving in the coming weeks and with it would come the
beginning of the party season. The opening ball was to be held in two weeks
time, giving her plenty of time to return for a dress fitting, strike a
deal with Mistress Cooper's friend and find a suitable excuse for Squire
Alan's absence. Simple.