January By the Numbers Eight: Purple Pretenses (Fiction piece)

January by the numbers continues (still a day off~)!
From [personal profile] kelkyag‘s prompt “purple pretenses;” a story of Things Unspoken


In the western cities, the ones that had once belonged to an Empire called only To (never the To Empire, the Tovan nation, or anything else, just To), it was known that women of a certain class wore purple (as is often the case, this was an exalted class, the policy-makers, the deciders). This purple was very difficult to make, and was made only by a small group of people, dyers with the To Mandate of purple.

But in the evening light, there were three other colors that could be mistaken for this exalted purple. They were not all made by simpler means; indeed, one was even harder to achieve than that allowed by the To Mandate. But they were not regulated, they were not restricted, and anyone with sufficient coin – either literal or in trade or services – could obtain them.

Despite the prevalence of the false purples, there were, but cultural agreement, several things believed without fail of those wearing purple (even, perhaps especially, in the seediest establishments where those who wore the purple by To Mandate would be unlikely to ever be seen): they were women; they were affluent; they were powerful; they had the ear of those at the highest levels of government — the To.

Some people wore the false purples for that last reason, and collected bribes no genuine wearer of the purple would ever touch (although some of those worked surreptitiously for those genuine-purple-wearers, and the messages sometimes actually got to the correct ears.

Some people wore the purple to be believed affluent, or to show off genuine affluence, and they were often courted in such a way that their affluence became real if it had been false before.

Some wore the purple because it was shorthand for being a woman, because no man, rich or poor, could wear that hue by To Mandate.

And some wore it because others liked to touch those who had power, and would pay well for the illusion of an hour with a decider-in-purple.

Wrapped in their purple pretenses, they strode the streets that had once been To (and were forever so, in the hearts and minds of the people), and were all the more powerful for it.

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