Chapter 10 - The City Market

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Kastali Dun

Claire heard a knock at her door just as she finished the ties on her gown. She gathered a shawl about her shoulders before calling, "Give me just a moment." Then she stepped away from her mirror and left her dressing area. She skipped across the floor quickly. Her bare feet disliked the chill of the stone.

Because her windows faced west, the golden rays of sunlight sparkling upon the ocean were not yet dancing on any part of her chambers. The air outside was especially cool this morning, as if the world knew it was a rest day, as if it had permission to relax. Each morning was becoming consecutively cooler as fall approached. The first day of fall was a little over four weeks away, and with it would come the Fall Tournament, something Claire was eager for. Saffra had told her enough about the yearly event to steal her curiosity.

The Fall Tournament happened on the first day of fall each year. Claire knew various competitions were to take place in the city's arena—somewhere she had not yet visited—and these were open to the public to witness. Categories included sparring with and without weapons, and archery with various types of bows. A number of parties were scheduled to accompany these competitions. Best of all, because this was a fifth year, year 52,305 TA (Third Age), there would also be a royal ball.

Claire reached her door and opened it to find a welcome, bright smiling face. "Desaree!" Desaree's chocolate-brown eyes warmly greeted her. She would have reached out and hugged her friend were it not for the tray Desaree held.

"Good morning, Lady Claire," Desaree said.

She stepped back, grinning widely. "Cut the crap, Des. Call me Claire. None of that lady stuff."

Desaree smiled wide, then she stepped forward and Claire's door closed behind her. "I was excited when Tess sent me along with your breakfast." As she spoke, she walked over to the large dining table where she deposited her armful. "I have been waiting for a chance to bring you food."

Nearly two days had passed since Claire last saw her dear friend. That was the night she first did controlled magic. As always, she was overjoyed to be in Desaree's relaxed presence. They had a lot of catching up to do.

"Please say you'll dine with me, Desaree."

Desaree gladly accepted. They sat down to a generous breakfast of oatmeal, boiled eggs, fruit, warm spiced bread, honey, and juice. Each of them ate in silence for a few minutes, licking their fingers and letting out the occasional sigh when a bite was particularly delicious. At last Claire slowed down her pace and used the opportunity to tell Desaree about her about lessons with Mage Targa and how Lady Caterina threatened her.

Desaree's tan face lost its color and she stopped eating. "Caterina threatened you, Claire? But you are royal."

"That didn't stop her."

Desaree shook her head. "You are in a higher position than everyone except the king..."

Claire shrugged "I told Reyr about it. He wasn't happy either. Oh, and you'll never guess what else Caterina said."

"I am afraid to know." Desaree appeared agitated, her relaxed demeanor gone.

"She said something about having killed someone before. I told Reyr about that too. He claimed she was probably bluffing to scare me."

Desaree's face paled further. The fact that Des cared so much about her meant so much. Thank goodness she had friends like Des and Saffra.

"Be careful, Claire. That woman's soul is black as tar. She really could kill you." Desaree's brow furrowed and she began chewing on her lower lip. "Claire, there is something I should tell you about Caterina."

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