Just posting this for fun, as I don’t think it spoils anything. This is an excerpt from Death-Dealer, sequel after the sequel of Aurian and Jin. I like being a book ahead of myself. Have I mentioned that yet? Anyway, here’s the basic overview for the scene:
The Chief Historian of the College of Things That Were has tasked her daughter, Mercery, with finding new clothes for Cecily, the mute and poorly dressed ward of the quite vocal and poorly dressing Aurian Koch. Mercery, unfortunately, believes in Kindness with a capital K. Or, well. Maybe it’s KINDNESS in block caps.
Of course, this is about to get her into trouble.
This is like the only couple of paragraphs I think I have EVER written about dresses. It’s fun, but I feel I’m also pretty obviously out of my element.
At heart, Mercery was a completely kind woman. It took a lot, actually, to be completely kind–Mercery had raised kindness to a special plush pedestal, turned it into her particular soft art. Mercery didn’t eat meat, crush mosquitoes, or speak unflatteringly about anybody.
She had spent years honing this art. There was, she figured, enough unpleasantness in this world without adding her own to it. And when she saw the girl–a poor wan little thing, gripping her slate and chalk as though they were the last things familiar to her on the face of the earth–she felt as though, finally, she understood why she’d been doing it.
She was pretty, this girl. If she ever smiled, she would be ravishingly beautiful. Mercery made it her daily mission to coax as many smiles out of her as possible.
She was having a difficult time.
The girl had gone through the three large closets in Mercery’s room. Mercery had encouraged her as best she could: phrases like ‘that silk looks beautiful on you, honey’, and ‘goodness, that green brings out the pink in your cheeks’ had provoked, at best, little half-smiles. The fabric of Mercery’s wardrobe, satins and silks and laces and damasks, brocades and velvets, printed cottons and vibrant batiks, ran through the girl’s small hands. She never failed to replace a dress on its hanger, straighten it and return it with more care even than Mercery would have paid it. After touching each dress, her eyes saucer wide, the girl wrote on her slate:
After a while, she stopped erasing it and simply showed it to her after each dress. Mercery was beginning to tire of the words thank you and the nimbus of chalk dust that accompanied them. Mercery was kind, dammit. This girl was going to pick a dress.
Seven dresses, Mercery corrected herself. This had become a multi-dress problem.
“But is there nothing you like?” Mercery asked searchingly. “That apple-green silk was certainly pretty on you. I wouldn’t miss it, not a bit. Looks far nicer on you, anyhow.”
The girl blushed, ducked her chin, began scribbling on her slate. Mercery watched, one finely groomed eyebrow raised.
THANK YOU MISTRESS, the girl had written, BUT THESE ARE FAR TOO FINE FOR THE LIKES OF ME. I AM JUST FINE IN WHAT MASTER KOTCH FITTED TO ME. DO NOT WORRY. I AM HAVEING SUCH FUN JUST TRYING THEM ON.
“Koch is spelled without a T,” Mercery said reflexively. “We’ve got to write that name a lot, here, so I’d know. And the E in ‘having’ is silent. I know, it’s funny how some are and some aren’t.”
She shook her head. No, that wasn’t at all what she’d meant to say. What was it about a slate and chalk that brought out Mercery’s schoolmarm tendencies full-force?
“I want you to take a dress,” she said at last. “Take a few of them, as many as you can carry. As you can see, I’m in no need. It would make me happy if you’d take them. You’re a beautiful girl, and you should have something beautiful to wear. Master Koch hasn’t got the dress sense of a cow making pies in a pasture. I mean–” this as her reflexive kindness kicked in– “not that this is a bad thing. Makes him look very–erm. Manly.”
The girl shook her head, eyes luminous. It was getting dark, and they were lighting the lamps in the Yard outside–the effect made the girl’s thin face ghostly.
I COULD NOT DEPRIVE YOU, she wrote.
“By ‘could’,” Mercery said, “you actually mean ‘should’. And I’m saying it’s okay, so why shouldn’t you? No,” Mercery said, as new plans for kindness snapped into place behind her eyes, “wait a minute. The problem here is, you don’t want to take something that belongs to somebody else, right?”
The girl nodded vigorously, glad to be understood.
“Well, there’s only one solution to that. We’ll have to go down to the dressmaker’s and get one made for you. C’mon, they’ll be open until firstbell at eight. We’ve plenty of time.”
The girl gave a toungeless squawk of what Mercery just sort of assumed was unrestrained pleasure. Mercery seized her hand. She was still wearing one of Mercery’s dresses, a black and white damask that was, perhaps, a little too dramatic for her coloring. Mercery hoped very much she forgot all about it, and accidentally wore it out of the city. If not–perhaps Mercery could sew it into the lining of her travelling bag.
No, no. If she was doing that, might as well make it the apple green one that looked so good on her. And the dusky purple that made her hair blaze. Wouldn’t that be a nice surprise?
Mercery was kind. She was going to be kind. As kind, she thought, as humanly fucking possible.