Benedicta Bernewelt twirled around, holding up the skirts.
“The dressmakers are getting really good,” she said. “I can barely feel the corset.”
“It’s a kirtle,” said Margarett Pennebrygg. “I’ve been reading up.”
Wynefrede Aumberden, recently rescued from several days in captivity sat in front of her mirror and enjoyed the company. Her glasses were on the dressing table in front of her. She didn’t need them right now. She recognized Margarett and Benedicta easily by their distinctive voices and shapes.
Benedicta was the tallest woman in this year’s Royal Season and had a full head of long, wavy hair that was very nearly orange. She was rumored to be a famous actress in real life, and Wyndefrede thought she was vaguely familiar. A few days ago, Benedicta said that she’d been in a famous soap commercial when she’d been a baby. But she also said that she was used to being hounded by the parapazzi. If the only thing she was famous for was a baby soap commercial, then paparazzi wouldn’t still be stalking her, would they?
Margarett, on the other hand, was the shortest, and her hair was a short cap of tight blonde curls. Not very period appropriate at all, but very distinctive and recognizable.
“This red thing?” Wynefrede pulled back the skirt of her gown. “I thought it was a petticoat.”
“Same thing,” said Margarett.
“It still has a corset in it,” said Benedicta. She patted her midsection. “I can feel the ribs.”
“It’s just layers of fabric,” said Margarett. “Anyway, you should be grateful for the extra layers. It’s going to be cold out on the sea.”
“It’s got laces you can tighten up,” said Benedicta. “That makes it a corset in my eyes. But I had my maid tie them as loose as possible, so I can move around.” She eyed Margarett’s tiny waist. “You’ve got yours tightened all the way, don’t you? Why, you think George Bedgbery is coming? Or maybe you still have an eye on Elea?”
Elea Carlyle, who was playing at being the queen for this year’s Royal Season, was probably one of the richest people on Krim right now.
“You know it’s not all her own money, right?” Benedicta continued. “Most of it is her family’s, a lot is tied up in trusts.”
“I’m sure there’s still plenty to go around,” Margarett said.
Wynefrede stood up and turned around. “What do you think?”
Her maid put away the brushes and moved to the door of the dressing room.
“Darling, you look beautiful,” said Benedicta. “You could be an actress in a period drama. Now, if you had to choose between them, who do you like better, George or the queen?”
“Well, George is awfully nice,” said Margarett, then lowered her voice. “But maybe we shouldn’t talk about it here. The walls have ears.” She glanced meaningfully back at the maid. “Let’s wait until we’re in the coach.”
The maid saw them looking at her, flushed, and left the room.
“There you go,” said Benedicta. “Now it’s safe. And I hear that Elea is coming.”
“She is?” Margarett pushed Wynefrede out the way to stand in front of the mirror. “Maybe I should go home and change. The maids said I was supposed to wear my plainest gown today, I guess because of all the salt air. But if I change, then I’ll stand out by comparison to everyone else.”
“That’s not why we’re dressing down,” said Benedicta.
“It is to make it easier to move around? Because we’ll be on a ship, and have to go up and down stairs and gangplanks and such?” Margarett picked up her skirts and kicked up towards the mirror. “I’m actually excited. I’ve never been on a sailing ship before. I wonder what the edge of the world is going to be like. I just hope we don’t go over.”
“What? Did I say something funny?” Margarett looked around the dressing room and spotted a copy of the flyer. She walked over and picked it up. “See, it says that we’re going to go on a short tour of the edge of Krim. Wear plain, comfortable clothing. But I’m sure the captain knows what they’re doing. They won’t let us get too close.”
“Hah!” said Benedicta. “I asked the guards about it. They all know about the edge of Krim tours. The one we’re going on is supposed to go over the edge.”
“Hold on,” said Wynefrede. “Are we going to die?”
“Yes, but it’s painless,” said Benedicta. “After falling for a while, we just disappear from the ship and reappear in the Krim welcome area.”
“I don’t like the sound of that,” said Margarett.
“I hear it’s a lot of fun,” said Benedicta. “And exciting. You can hold on to George for support.”
“Or maybe the queen can swoon and you can catch her,” said Wynefrede.
“Sure, there you go,” said Benedicta. “Lots of romantic possibilities.”
“And how about you?” asked Wynefrede. “Are you still seeing Nigel?”
“His mustache is starting to annoy me,” said Benedicta. “And he’s a foot shorter than me. Of course, that doesn’t really matter, but here, on Krim, it bothers me. Plus, you know that whole thing about him possibly being a murderer?”
“I thought that was just a made-up rumor,” said Wynefrede. Though if it was made up, she wasn’t the one who started it, unlike the one where she had an affair with Farazzma Parazzmatazzma and was hiding out on Krim because it ended badly. She wished she’d had an affair with Farazzma Parazzmatazzma. She was hoping that the rumor would somehow make its way off of Krim, and the singer herself would hear about it and become curious about this Wynefrede she was supposed to be romantically involved with.
“I think it was, too,” said Benedicta. “He’s entirely too boring and ordinary to be a murderer.”
“Well, isn’t that always the case?” asked Margarett. “It’s always the quiet types who turn out to be the killers.”
“Hmmm,” Benedicta said. “So you’re saying he might have hidden depths.” She sighed. “Fine, I’ll give him another chance.” She glanced at Wynefrede. “As long as it doesn’t bother you.”
Wynefrede waved her hand. “You can have him. The thing I liked most about him was that his jacket was purple and he was easy to spot. But then he wore something else, and now I can’t tell him apart from anyone else.”
“Maybe you should wear your glasses,” said Margarett.
Wynefrede walked over to the dressing table and put them on. “I don’t like the way they look,” she said. “And they pinch behind the ears.”
“It doesn’t go with the outfit, either,” said Benedicta.
“Have you considered getting a lorgnette?” asked Margarett. “They’re glasses on a stick. Very fashionable. Not historically appropriate to this period, though.” She glanced at the glasses on Wynefrede’s table. “Neither are those.” She sniffed. “Krim is just a giant mess, historically speaking. Hardly anything here is truly period accurate.”
“Well, you certainly couldn’t go over the edge of the Earth in the 1500s England,” said Wynefrede.
There was a knock on the door and Wynefrede turned around to see the maid peering in.
“It’s time to go, your grace,” said the maid. “The carriage awaits.”