Ferngreen was the capital city of the Andrian Empire. The word empire was used historically by most people, except by the Andrians themselves. As their empire waned they moved into specializing in regional disputes, loaning out the best shock troops on the continent. The city was nested in the cup of an ancient mammoth volcano that dominated the Fern Plains. The city had never been conquered not only because of the best shock troops, but because of the spring fed lake in the middle of city as well as the fertile volcanic soil. It was the last jewel in the empire’s eye, and they made sure it shown as brightly as possible.
All that was lost on Sariah as she was waved through the city gates. She looked past the stately buildings toward the castle situated at the highest spot inside the rim. She thought about walking straight there, but decided to get the lay of the land first. She headed to a small haberdashery located half way between the gates and the castle. From the outside, the tiny shop didn’t look like anything much. The only real hint that there was a store inside was the purple feather sign hanging over the door. Of course those that wanted the most amazing hats, and had the money to pay for them, knew where the Purple Feather was located.
Sariah entered the store and felt some of the tension ease away from her shoulders. There was an odd assortment of men’s and women’s hats scattered tastefully around the store. The trademark dash of purple was on each of them. That purple was a trade secret, allowing the store an edge no one could compete with. The purple made her laugh as usual.
That perked up the store attendant from where she was trying to place a man’s bowler with a purple ribbon tastefully next to a woman’s cloche with brim of the same purple, and failing beautifully. A different girl was behind the counter than the last time she was here six years ago. Of course that didn’t surprise Sariah. There was always a new girl there. They changed as often as the fashion did in these parts.
The girl gave Sariah the once over and went back to working on cleaning. “Sorry, but we don’t have anything for you,” she said, not looking up to see Sariah smile in a way that would make crocodiles frown.
“Kegan know you do that?” asked Sariah.
That caused the girl to jump a bit. She looked at Sariah. “Kegan told me to not allow people to waste his time,” she replied.
“I’ll give you one more chance,” Sariah said. “Go tell Kegan that he is skimping on the iodine again.”
The girl looked like she couldn’t understand what Sariah was saying, but after shooing her with her hands, the girl finally took the hint. She fled to the back room and Sariah decided the cloche was calling to her. She put the hat on and looked at the small polished silver mirror behind the counter. The purple of the brim went well with the bags under her eyes. Sariah smiled a sad smile and moved to take it off when a deep baritone voice stopped her in her tracks. “It looks marvelous on you. You on the other hand look like crap.”
Sariah turned and saw Kegan standing before her, all four foot two of him covered in coal black curly hair. Most people thought he was of dwarven ancestry, but he was just a human dwarf who was the premiere haberdasher in the three realms. “You would too if you had the last two weeks I’ve had,” Sariah said. She rushed over and gave Kegan a hug. Kegan hesitated a moment before returning it. Sariah continued, “I was about to think you weren’t happy to see me.”
Kegan lifted Sariah off her feet and crushed her as hard as he could since he couldn’t get his arms around her. “I’m happy to see you here, Sariah, but you never travel alone,” Kegan said. “Trouble is always following close behind and while you move like the wind, the rest of us have to entertain your shadow long after you have left.” Kegan put Sariah down and looked at where the girl was still watching the exchange with her mouth gaping open. “Nellisa, why don’t you go home the rest of the day? I’m going to close the shop down for the afternoon.”
Nellisa gave Sariah a blistering look. “You need to have Lady Marists hat to her this afternoon,” Nellisa said to Kegan while never taking her eyes off of Sariah.
Kegan snapped his meaty fingers causing Nellisa to focus back on him. “You take it there with my blessing. You can even keep the commission she has promised me upon delivery,” he said. That brought a smile to Nellisa’s lips and she disappeared into the back room. Kegan turned back to Sariah. “You and your iodine. I have improved the recipe. Look how luscious that brim is.”
Before Sariah could reply Nellisa came out of the back room with a round wooden hat box. “Thank you Kegan. See you tonight?” she asked.
“Make sure that you get your money from the Lady,” Kegan replied. Nellisa once again gave Sariah a once over before leaving the shop while shaking her head.
“I don’t think she is happy to see me,” said Sariah.
Kegan laughed a harsh laugh. “She is going to be less happy when she finds out that hat is her last payment from me.”
“That bad?” Sariah asked.
“Nope, just time,” replied Kegan as he put the bowler next to a complimenting beret where the under brim was the trademark purple. “I had my eye on this waitress at the Water Buffalo. I think she lives alone and she has such a nice set of legs.”
Sariah gave Kegan a light hearted hit in the arm. “You are such a man!” she said.
“I am who the gods made me,” Kegan said. “Nothing more nothing less. Now let’s go visit my new roommate while you tell me about your two weeks.”