Last week I posted the first short story in this collection. These are fun little peeks into the background of Mystery of the Golden Shells, which comes out on August 15th. If you missed the first story, you can find it here: The Scribe and the Rug.
Otherwise, here’s the next suspect.
The Dresser and the Color – A Mystery of the Golden Shells Story
It was a night for blue. Banners fluttered their deep cobalt in the halls in honor of the High Coast delegation and Marissa’s dress sparkled with gems on a midnight background, imitating a star-filled sky.
Unfortunately, Ashwin wouldn’t be able to fully appreciate the beautiful color as he was blue-green blind but she still felt lovely and excitement bubbled in her belly.
If you’re patient, you can become his queen in more than name. Her father had told her when he’d announced her arranged marriage to King Ashwin of the Capital Kingdom. She hadn’t disliked the arrangement, in fact she’d suggested it as it brought peace between her own Sky Kingdom and the Capital, but she also hadn’t known King Ashwin either, and her initial meeting with him had been…chilly.
But now, after months of being patient, of trying to help in whatever way he allowed, Ashwin had asked her to accompany him to greet the High Coast delegation. It indicated a new level of trust from her husband king and her stomach kept flipping in its own dance of victory. Her steps whispered on the runner as she approached Ashwin’s dressing room.
The guards didn’t object when she raised a hand to knock, another improvement since the early days in the castle.
A muffled, “Enter,” came from beyond the door and a guard—Elend she thought his name was—pushed open the heavy door for her, giving a slight bow as she passed.
She found Ashwin standing on a small dressing stool with his back to the door while Marius Jack, his new manservant, worked to polish one toe of his black leather boots.
“You’ll make a strong statement in this outfit, your majesty,” Marius Jack finished with the boot and Ashwin stepped down to greet Marissa.
As he turned, a tentative smile on his face, the blood rushed from Marissa’s cheeks and Ashwin’s smile vanished, turning into the indifferent mask she’d first met at their arranged marriage.
Her heart stuttered. She hated that mask and in its chill expression, she saw all of her patient work fly out the window.
Do something, idiot! She scolded herself.
But when she opened her mouth, instead of reassuring Ashwin, an incredulous question fell from her lips.
“Are you trying to start a war?”
Ashwin’s mask dissolved into anger and Marissa’s stomach rolled, threatening to be sick, but before he could respond or her stomach betrayed her, Marissa pointed at his chest and nailed Marius Jack with a look. “That’s green! That’s forest green!”
The young dresser smoothed his hands down his doublet, stuttering, “Isn’t—isn’t he dashing?”
“NO…yes!” Marissa threw up her hands at the wash of emotions running through her, and the embarrassment now on her husband’s face. With a sinking sensation, she realized Marius Jack might not know about Ashwin’s blue-green confusion and she’d just thrown it around without a care.
I’m being a terrible partner!
“Out!” she said, pointing at the door and drawing Marius Jack’s attention away from Ashwin’s outfit. The dresser’s face turned white at her glare.
“What did I do?” he asked.
“I don’t like it. Out!”
He ducked his head and left. She’d have to apologize to him later or he’d fear for his position. He’d stepped in when Ashwin desperately needed a manservant, but at the moment, she was more concerned with the realization clear in her husband king’s eyes. No way would she make a bigger deal out of his blindness and ruin any chance of actually working with him as his counterpart. If Marius Jack remembered anything about this encounter, it’d be her rudeness.
As the door clicked shut, Ashwin asked, “Forest green?”
“Aye, Husband, forest green.”
“Low Ridge color?”
She didn’t have to answer. The shaking in Ashwin’s hands as he moved to remove the shirt told her he understood.
Low Ridge and High Coast were at war. Had been for eight months. To show up in the color of one while meeting the peace delegation of the other would have ended discussions before they even began.
Managing to remove the offending shirt, Ashwin held out a hand toward her, “Help me match your dress?” he asked.
Marissa smiled, ignoring the flush on her face and the lump in her throat as she moved to take his hand.
Thanks for stopping by! I hope you enjoyed the story. We have four more of these leading up to publication, so next Thursday will see the next story. Hope to see you then 🙂
P.S. Pre-orders for Mystery of the Golden Shells will open on August 1st.