Dislcaimer: Anything you recognise Belongs to KB
Karigan inhaled, humming in satisfaction. The rare spices on board permeated every breath she took, but underneath it was the unmistakeable smell of Corsa; sea salt and fish and seagull shit. She grabbed a crate of sugar and stepped of the ship as it docked. The wharf creaked under her boots as she made her way to her family's wagon.
Kieran Kelo, her Cargo Master, held a skin of wine down to her from the front. She deposited her burden and took it with a nod of gratitude.
"You're looking extra crispy there, boss." Keeran grinned, the white of his teeth a sharp contrast to his dark skin. Karigan had offered to let him take the trip in her place, but the younger man insisted she needed the holiday.
"I was hoping the cloud isles would turn my skin as pale and soft as their name, but we can't have everything." Kieran laughed.
"It's good to have you back. We've about gone spare keeping up with demand. Seeing my home village would have been nice, but seeing gold is nicer."
Karigan and Kieran returned to unload the ship, joking with the crew and accepting thanks for the easy voyage.
The crew took their leave, and Karigan heaved a sigh as she stretched her arms above her head, feeling her shoulder and back pop. She and Keeran drove to the nearby Warehouse and unloaded everything again.
Finally allowing herself to feel the pull of home, Karigan clambered back up and let Keeran steer the pair of huge, shaggy horses out of Corsa and towards the G'ladheon manor. Wildflowers were just beginning to bloom, and Karigan admired the riotous carpet on either side of the well-worn path, the exertion of constantly hauling on the ship's ropes and shifting heavy containers leaving her pleasantly inattentive to the flow of missed gossip Keeran was inundating her with.
Before Karigan knew it, Keeran was shaking her shoulder, and the lazy swaying of the wagon had come to a standstill. "Hey boss, we're back home."
"H-hold your horses, I'm getting down." Karigan stifled a yawn, distantly aware of Janelle and Ryan unhooking the horses and leading them to the stables.
Keeran closed the front door behind her, amusement in his voice as he said, "I'll just let you catch up on a bit of shut-eye, yes?" Karigan mumbled an affirmative, dragging her feet up the stairs and falling into her room and onto her bed, still fully clothed. The sun was just beginning to set ad she hadn't eaten for a few hours,, but she didn't care enough to fight the insistent drag of sleep.
Karigan woke to the hot blaze of sunlight on her face and a high, excited voice filling her ear.
"Mph. Let me sleep."
"Absolutely not, Kari girl," Aunt Brini stated, "you've been on that boat for more than a fortnight and you can't have properly bathed that entire time. Up." Now that she was more awake, Karigan could hear the slosh of water as somebody filled the tub. Karigan rolled off the bed, caught herself on hands and knees, and grinned at her aunt's dissaproving, "tsk."
"I had sponge baths on the ship." She stood up and began undoing the laces of her shirt. Aunt brini gave a disparaging snort.
She sighed. "You know how I worry about you. You're all I have left, since…" She trailed off, letting the words hang, since the bandits attacked. "Well, I'll let you clean yourself up. Don't take too long, Master Kelo received an important letter for you." She bustled out, followed soon after by the maid, who left soap, scrubbing brushes and a clean towel beside the tub.
Karigan finished undressing, only just noting how salt-encrusted the fabric actually was, carefull to leaving it in as small a pile as possible. As she sank into the steaming water, she felt her overtaxed muscles slowly relax, warmth seeping right into her bones. Karigan gave herself a few moments to relax, then set about with soap and brush, determined to become somewhat presentable. By the time she was satisfied, the water was murky brown and lukewarm. Karigan hauled herself out and grabbed the towel, drying off. She changed into a comfortable, olive green tunic and black pants, rebraiding her still-wet hair with the ease of long practice.
Karigan padded down the stairs, following the scent and sound of frying meat, to find Kieran seated at the large dining table, already hewing into a veritable feast of sausages, eggs and freshly-baked bread. Aunt Brini turned from the stove at her arrival and held out an identically huge plate.
"Eat up, you're likely to need all the food you can fit in your belly today." With that ominous statement, Karigan took the proffered food and sat beside Kieran, who gave a muffled grunt Karigan took for a greeting. Karigan ate in silence, even after Brini joined them, waiting for one or the other to tell her more about the letter. It was only once all three plates were emptied, cleaned and stacked away that Kieran spoke.
"Brini tell you much?"
"No," the women traded glances, "just said it was important. Anything bad?"
"Wouldn't know." Keeran pulled an envelope from beneath the table, palm covering the seal. "Sure you want to read it, boss?"
There weren't many things that could put such an apprehensive expression on her friend's face, or many people. She took a swipe, catching the letter before he could pull it out of reach.
"Who is it from?" Karigan saw the seal and froze, ice trickling through her veins and coalescing into a painful throbbing centred on her chest. An intersecting firecrand and crescent moon. The royal seal. It had been a long time since she'd seen it.
Karigan took a moment to steady herself, her own voice unfamiliar as it said, "Thank you, Kieran. I'll be in the study if you're looking for me." Karigan's hands pushed her chair back; Karigan's legs carried her up the stairs and down the hall to the bright room with the ornate desk and creamy parchments, their quality a match for the missive in her hand. She bypassed the chair to perch among half-completed orders and discarded quills on the desk. With a hand that absolutely did not tremble, she slid her fingers under the flap and broke the seal.
Karigan took a deep breath and tugged the letter out, letting her eyes wander over the single crease, following the straight edges and noting the slight bleeding through of ink, not enough to make out the words. Gathering her courage, she unfolded it and began to read.