Iconflash! Today’s icon:
Stranded World, Autumn.
Icon by dhamphir
This is the prequel to Love Letters and Colder Weather, and comes after this story.
Guys, I am ensaddened that Meeks’ sketch of Autumn (DW) has not yet received the 6 commentors required to get a clean-up. So, for every comment, signal boost, or donation this (or any of her sketches of my stories) get, I will write 100 more words of this story.
“Lady Fall, again?”
“You’re always wishing me ill,” Autumn answered without turning. It let her hide the ridiculously gleeful smile. “Tattercoats, I did not think to see you again so soon.”
“And if you don’t turn around, Lady Fall, you shan’t see me at all. Do you require assistance with thy booth?”
“I never require assistance, but a bit of help would be a boon, aye. I thought you were headed to points west.” She hopped down from the railing she was perched on and handed him a box of art, still not, yet, looking him in the face. If she did, he’d see how overjoyed she was to see him.
“Ah, but is not this west of where we last met?”
“Mostly South,” she countered. “Those go on the back wall, if you would, sirrah.”
“And you are determined to turn that lovely shoulder to me cold, Lady Fall. Why is that, prithee?”
Because you’re as constant as the wind, and as flighty. She busied herself with a box for a moment. “Because, Sir Tattered, you lied to me, and I am displeased. And whether you merely fudged the truth or spun a web, thy intent was to deceive.”
“You wound me, Lady.” He smirked at her, thinking she couldn’t see him through the pile of curtains she was holding. “I swear to you, I had no intention of deceiving you.”
She stepped back on the rail to hang the gauzy strips of cloth. “I don’t believe you.” She let her voice go flat, hoping he’d catch the cue to drop the games.
Tattercoats had never missed a cue in his life. Summer would love to have him on stage with her. “Then I’m truly sorry, Autumn. But I didn’t know until two days past that I was coming.”
She set down her burden and studied his face. He could lie like a pro, of course; it came with the job. But… she let her eyes travel down, from his very-sincere expression to his hand, and the lace at the edges of his cuffs, sticking out of the edges of the patchwork coat that gave him his nickname. There were, if she looked very closely, strands of a charm woven into the lace. Ana-Marie of Myrkfaelinn did work like that, sometimes – but only for people who knew what to ask for, or for her lovers. Which was he?
He followed her glance, and ostentatiously straightened his cuffs, and then his coat, so she could see the lines of embroidery with strands woven stealthily into them, and the identifying glyph half-buried in mud on the hem. “You wear yours out where everyone can see,” he explained apologetically. “I’ve never been that bold.”
“Very few can read it,” she answered uncertainly, tracing the glyph twisted among her body art. “I didn’t know that you could.” What else had he been hiding from her?
“I didn’t know until just now that you were for real.” His downcast eyes were apologetic – truth? Or another lie?
“‘For real?’” she asked incredulously. “What else would I be, wearing the mark out like this , drawing it into my art, hanging it out like a banner?”
“A tourist. A hobbyist, the sort who read about it in a book somewhere. A scholar, taking on a role for the Faire. That you wear it so obviously – I’m sorry, Lady Fall, but that’s what made me think that you were a pretender. My people, we don’t wave flags about saying that we’re Strand-Walkers. We keep the signs more private.
“Your people?” Strand-Walkers. She had heard that term before.
He smiled, perhaps a bit sadly. “My people,” he agreed, “as secretive as yours seem to be open.”
That rang like an accusation, and made her shoulders twitch. “You assume,” she murmured. Strand-Walkers. Strand-Walkers… ah. Yes. They shared some kinship, then, though it was a back-door-relations sort of thing at best. “Unless you are lumping me in with Ana-Marie.”
“Ana… Ah. No. She speaks in so many lies that the truth is lost among the tangles.”
Autumn stared at him for a moment, and then let the laugh bubble out. “You make it sound as if she’s the only one.”
It took him a moment, but then he echoed her laugh. “I see your point.” He bowed, one of his deep, floor-sweeping bows. “Your pardon, m’lady.” His voice sounded more serious as he continued. “You were offended by my assumption of openness on your part, or my assumption on who your people were?”
Which had offended her? She frowned at him, piecing together he own reactions.
“Neither, and both.” She hand-waved at his growing smirk. “You assume you know me. Until I read correctly the patterns in your lace, you thought you knew me. You assume again, based on what?”
“Based on what you have written on your skin,” he answered, infuriatingly calmly.
“Even though your first assumptions there were wrong?” All of her joy at seeing him here was gone, replaced by a desire to strangle him until he shut up. “Even though you thought I was a fake because of those marks?”
“Even though,” he agreed. “Because, if you are not a fake, then you are either a liar – and I don’t believe you are that, Lady Fall – or you know what you have inked into your skin, and what it means.”
She glared at him for his portentousness. “And what do you think it means?”
Finally, she seemed to have made him uncomfortable. He folded his hands, letting the lace fall over them – which, she noted, made certain Strands fall into a charm of some sort – and looked down at the lace. “Well,” he coughed, “we get back to the matter of keeping secrets.”
“We are still,” she shook her head at him warningly, “on the matter of your assumptions and beliefs about me. Are you worried you will tell me something I don’t already know, Tattercoats?”
“Well, I don’t know what you know,” he admitted.
“And so you assume ignorance. Again.”
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