Mirror, Mirror!: Part One
Beauty provoketh more thieves than gold...
“Take a good look around you.”
The whisper was scarce against the cold cobblestone floors and walls. Footsteps from patrolling guardsmen echoed around the dark room, but this whisper did not. Drawing the cloak tighter, the Zafara Double Agent mused to herself, “It’s here—somewhere...”
Her voice trailed off as she spied it, grinning in the motes of vanishing sunlight. The long, arced mirror, silvery pale and snuggled between the dusty ornate side tables. At each corner of the beautiful glasswork fluttered silver, motionless faeries, holding up the silvery border against the glittering scheme of reflections in the polished, dated glass. The Zafara sighed aloud- and caught her breath quickly, the only sound it made adding to the windy atmosphere of the Citadel’s highest tower.
There were rumors about this tower, this room, this mirror. Long before the citadel had risen, as every good child knew the story began, it had simply been a city with a castle that stretched high above the clouds, spiraling ever upward in splendor. This, the tallest tower, was rumored to hold a divine princess- What else do towers hold, anyway? As it went, the legend could never decide what sort of princess she was. She was a Kougra in some, a Grundo in others, a Lupe, an Aisha; It didn’t matter what she was. The stories all agreed that she had been beautiful, and stunningly so. She lived in this tower always, and only saw the world through her mirror, all her life was there in the beautiful reflections, and woven beside her into a golden, draping tapestry. It was her blessing, a beautiful talent of magicked threads to portray her shimmering life, but her curse to live her life through only her mirror.
One day, as the story followed, the beautiful princess, who was always content and fulfilled, looked away. Beautiful people are rarely happy, aren’t they?, mothers would warn their children, for one should never put everything into mere appearance. And thus, with this single glance of unhappiness from the princess’s life, the mirror shattered. That beautiful tapestry of gold and wonder unraveled and fell into dust, the princess went blind, and vanished, never to be seen again.
Yet here sat the mirror, that shimmering catalyst, still tall and proud, like a pond with only a thin layer of ice. The Zafara chuckled. “Sometimes stories are just stories...”
She slid from her hiding place and moved the mirror ever-so-slightly, facing the glass with both gloved paws resting on either side of the ornate border. Her reflection gazed back with a faint little smile, one of a job to be completed, and of pay to be cashed. Without so much as a thought to the act, she moved her hair from her eyes, losing herself in her reflection’s own smile. In the reflection, everything loomed, drab and dusty, a depressing gloom overhanging the rest of the room. Surely, she frowned, the mirror would brighten up such a place—and here, it did not.
Beyond that odd spectacle, she could certainly understand why her client wanted such an object! Ordinarily, she’d rather not have deferred herself to being a petty thief, but her name was out. Times were hard and winter cold, money needed for food was scarce, and she wouldn’t stoop to beg. Not again; that was something she had left behind. Thievery was above begging, surely—and this was no pickpocket job, as it were—!
Footsteps! There had been no guards on this floor, but the changing guards might rotate up here to keep an eye on things, as it were. She scowled suddenly, her thoughts wrenched from her, and turned from the mirror—there was nothing behind her. Kass’s foot! Looking around quickly, she realized there was only one course of action:
She was going to have to hide behind the mirror.
The guard, being a wary orange Ogrin, peered behind the door as he entered, mumbling to himself, “I hate this room patrol...” He shuffled in, clinging to his spear, “Stupid old stories filled with ghosts—I’m glad there ain’t much up here anymore.” He crossed the floor, still clinging to his spear, and found himself pausing by the mirror. He frowned. “You’re usually covered.” The Double Agent held her breath, as the Ogrin fumbled with the sheet crumpled at the base of the mirror. Finally, after what seemed an eternity to the poor agent, he replaced the sheet, which lightly grazed her ear. She held back a gasp, drawing back slightly, but he took no notice. She shut her eyes and waited until his footsteps receded from the room, and the heavy door shut. Emerging from her silvery shadow, she exhaled deeply, glancing to the sheet covering the divine masterpiece of glasswork. Even in its thick veil, it glistened.
With a hesitant reserve, she moved to put her paw on one side. The sheet remained in place, however, and she sighed. She’d have to look again later. For now, the oafish thing needed moving...
Evening fell, and a shrouded figure crawled off the back of a cart as it click-clacked down a Citadel alley, the figure stealing away with its back hunched. The figure, a silvery haired old maid at first glance, waved her thanks to the driver as she ambled away, carrying a large, sheet-covered parcel.
Across the lane, wheeling the cart by the strength of her own arms, the agent moved into a back alley and lifted the mirror carefully, hindered only vaguely by its weight. It was fortunate that she was stronger than she looked, but also that a pulley-moved lift sat, unused and creaking temptingly by her right paw. She smiled, nodding her appreciation to the Faeries of Foresight, and carefully deposited the mirror in its embrace. She scaled the building on her own, and slid through the window to the sparse temporary hideout, before calling the mirror up alongside her. As she pulled it through, the sheet seemed to sigh as it fell away, and the mirror hummed as it was placed against the wall, reverberating from the drafty quarters.
The Agent sighed inaudibly as she moved to sit down before the gleaming treasure, finding herself somewhat exhausted from her excursion, and glanced in passing to the sheet on the floor. She supposed she ought to have kept the sheet on for the client, as the mirror was something worth keeping in pristine condition, but they wouldn’t be around for some hours. She drew a sharp breath and bit her lip, glancing into the silvery, reflective surface, and found herself irresistibly drawn into the reflection within. Her face reflected wear and the woes of a life long lived – the room, its dirt and scandal. But the silver that reflected the gritty, dreary world shone like a beacon to a beautiful, pristine world of happiness, and she found she could not look away.
The room darkened instantly behind her. Hurriedly, she scrambled to light a match, fumbling in the dark to find a candle.
“That’s the trouble with being so close to the sky,” she grumbled to herself, catching a quick glance out the window as she located a candle to her left. A shiver ran down her spine, and the match sputtered in her paws. The sky hadn’t changed—it had lightened. The darkness of the room folded in on her, making her tremble. She shut her eyes.
“This is stupid. I’m not afraid of the dark! It’s just darker than it should be, is all. It is the Citadel, so, t-there you go...”
But her reassurances did little to help her shaking hand as the candle finally lit. The flames ate at the wick hungrily, and hot wax began crawling towards her paws. She quickly set it down, and hugged her arms. In the shrouded candlelight the shadows only served to grow longer, and the mirror shone with an almost hypnotic dazzle, the surface looming like an ever-present box of chocolates: the temptation was enormous. Wordlessly, she moved to look into it, eyes wide, and found herself sighing forlornly. Magic, indeed! It was only silver over a long plate of glass. The lack of magical circumstance around her weighted on her mind, and she sat back on her paws. Something in the corner caught her eye—
...Had—Had those faeries been smiling like that earlier?
She swallowed. Oh course they had! Her eyes and the candlelight, combined with ragged homespun superstition and lore were making her jump to silly conclusions. She let herself laugh aloud, if only to relieve the vague panic in the pit of her stomach. Yet, as she looked back into the cold glass, she had to smile a little. Uncloaked and alone to herself, she had a name and a purpose beyond those of the Zafara Double Agent. It was a reassuring sense of self, one that lived away from the names of thief and traitor. Perhaps, she considered, it would be nice to go back to being seen as ‘Alana Wellstone’ again. Even the half-hearted thought of her given name sent a surge of nostalgic joy through her, her smile broadened.
“Yes,” she whispered, “I had been... happy.”
The mirror glimmered at her, and she hugged her arms, unable to look away.
To be continued...
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