Xenatha looks at the small flaw on her face and neck in the mirror. She is alone now. Her noisy nursemaid is preoccupied with shopping and preparing cacti-berry juice. Xenatha has one hour and ten minutes to complete her task in privacy. She unties and removes her traveling bonnet. She wraps her long wavy hair in a tight bun. A clay bowl filled with a pale white paste sits on her vanity dresser. Next to it, a silk cloth contains white paper thin sheets of a rare mushroom, Taki. Kahalee, her suitor, risked his life searching for it in the Assart forest. Xenatha gets to work. She has to complete her task and dispose of everything before her maid returns or it’s the end of her political career and life. The small compartment under her bed makes the perfect hiding spot for her tools. She tucks them away and crawls out from under her bed when her nursemaid rushes in huffing.
She fumbles through an apology as she places the sweet juice on a small serving table. She approaches Xenatha but stops when the young aristocrat raises her hand. Xenatha does not want her too close just yet. Bena has a keen sense of smell. Bena looks at her. Xenatha can see curiosity and suspicion. Not good. Bena returns and fills a cup.
“Has Kahalee been by yet?” Bena asks nervously. A faint odor tickles her nose.
“No. It is too early, perhaps at noon. That would be more appropriate don’t you think?” she asks trying to discern where the conversation was going. “Why do you ask?”
Bena opens her mouth but thinks twice about revealing she’d visited Kahalee and his grandfather that morning. She picks up the filled glass and turns to serve it.
“Leave it there, I will get it when I’m ready,” Xenatha says walking over to the open window. She thanks Bena then sends her away. Bena’s reaches the door then stops. She turns back slightly, eyebrows raised and nose twitching.
“Uh Oh,” Xenatha thinks, “that blasted dry wind from the Schiavona desert. She’ll meddle for sure.” Xenatha narrows her eyes and scowls. Bena leaves the room.
Xenatha exhales. A dark figure steps from behind her massive velvet curtains.
“I thought she’d never leave,” the hoarse voice cracks.
Xenatha jumps. She feels a hot sticky breath on the back of her neck.
“Tobias,” she says in disgust. “How dare you enter my private quarters,” she hisses regaining her composure.
“Your payment is late,” he growls, his lips curl revealing razor sharp teeth. “The Taki flourishes by the blood of man; if you do not send a payment soon, the awakening will be your great legacy to Renaissance.”
Xenatha snorts. “I don’t care about your awakening. If Renaissance falls below 333 residents, people will become suspicious. There hasn’t been a birth or death in the last few years. Illnesses are rare since the arrival of the Kanda pharmacist.”
“Oh? Are they now?” he asks leaning into her neck, gazing at her face.
Xenatha shudders. Of course Tobias knows her secret, a skin disease that would make her a Renaissance outcast.
A rock hits her window. Tobias vanishes behind the curtains. Kahalee climbs through the window. Labored breathing, sweat beading on his fevered face, his bandaged hands carry a package.
Kahalee interrupts Xenatha.
“I can’t stay. I’m…I’m cursed.” he whispers. He hands her the package and disappears out the window.
Xenatha clutches the package, more mushroom skin and paste. She bites her lip then grins. Cursed blood?
“You will have your payment by tomorrow, Tobias,” she announces.
word count: 600
characters: Xenatha, Tobia, Kalahee (secondary character, Bena)
prompt: betrayal is in the air, the impending misfortune foreshadowed in the 1st prompt comes to pass, but one or more characters laugh at it, a long kept secret is revealed.