They gave her a suite of rooms, all her own, large, elegantly furnished, and with a guard stationed outside the door. She pinched herself. She removed her jacket, but she couldn’t bear to mar the softly elegant furniture with her battered denim so she draped it over her arm. Her free hand ran across the back of the divan and she moved past an antique side table to stand in front of the enormous four poster bed. She could fit four sleeping bags on there without overlapping them at all. This space could hold four of the apartments and flats she’d lived in for the last four years. She sank down to remove her boots and got a good look at the grungy state of the laces and the bits of caked on dirt. Hurt, she went to the master bath to take them off. Carpet being hard to clean.
She felt more at home among the vanity, glass walled shower, and mirrors than she had in the open room. Bathrooms were private. She’d been sharing space for so long that the open echo of the bedroom was growing louder by the moment. She set her shoes under a bench. The shower had more than one head. Every surface sparkled with clean. Instantly her scalp started itching and she felt the dirt of every campsite, the grease of every car, and the residue of who knew how many fights on her skin. She’d stripped down to her underwear before she panicked.
It was a trap. It had to be a trap. She examined the thin blue robe for crafted spell work before putting it on and thoroughly searching her quarters. The knock at her door nearly sent her to the ceiling and she let the tingle of power rise to the surface, ready to defend if needed.
The guard opened the door and a slim woman walked through the door. “Miss Duke?” Slightly out of breath and eyes filled with the desperate hope that the woman in front of her was what… sane? Reasonable? Not going to kill her?
“Yes.” She was pleased that her own nerves didn’t show in her voice.
“You’re companions. I’m afraid. We do in fact want this to go well-“
Oh lord if she thought these rooms, rooms she would have given an arm and a leg for when she was younger, freaked her out, her friends were going to be having fits.
“My friends have issues with their rooms, I take it.”
The relief that comes from having something inarticulable be understood sounded in her voice, “One objects to the guard, the other one just refused to go in until the rest of your party arrived and both are demanding to see you. Please, you have to understand if anything happens to you…”
She couldn’t hide her wince. Even with progress some things didn’t change. “Okay.” She held up a hand. “Firstly, for the good of everyone, my party and I will need adjoining rooms, preferably separate bedrooms, but we can share a bath and a common space. Secondly, the guards are not to come in unless explicitly invited. Yes, we know that they are for our own protection, but we’ve been looking out for ourselves long enough to not view them as a courtesy. Thirdly, there hasn’t been a convocation in our lifetimes that we have actually attended so know that we may not mean to offend, but probably will anyway. Got it.”
The woman nodded, straightening the fit of her uniform jacket so that her symbol and her parent’s sat properly over her heart.
“Right. Let me gather up my clothes and we can go reassure my friends.” When the other woman nodded, she walked to the bathroom and took a last look around. They were everything her teenaged heart had dreamed of and more. It no longer sat against her skin smoothly, but snagged on the rough edges and clearer knowledge she had of herself now. She still appreciated fine things. Would enjoy getting to wear silk to dinner and washing in gloriously heated water. But the elegant echoing apartments – well, she couldn’t quite fill them up. And there were better places to be.