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Welcome to White River: Part Three


by hzoo_26

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     "Portia." Charrie's voice drifted to her from the other room.

     "Yes sir?" She stood, making her way to the doorway of his office.

     "There's going to be a town event in a few nights, a minor celebration if you will."

     "And?"

     "And...all of the town council will be there, and members of the mayor's office are expected to attend."

     She took a look around the room, turning back to Charrie with a smirk.

     "What members of the mayor's office?" She said, chuckling.

     "I'm guessing that means you and me."

     "I guess so." She replied, turning away.

     "Portia."

     "Yes sir?"

     "You'll need to get a dress or something semi-formal for the occasion."

     

—————————————————————————————————

     The bell above the shop door rang as Enid Allaway stabbed one more pin into her latest creation, modeled lovingly by her rickety twenty year old mannequin. She paused to look up towards the door, and tried to hold back a snort of disapproval. It was that Ursian girl.

     "Excuse me?" Portia curtsied, the formal Meridellian greeting earning a slight nod of approval from Enid.

     "How may I assist you?" She asked.

     "I need an outfit for an event. Perhaps a dress?"

     "I assume you're going with something Meridellian in style." Enid remarked.

     "Preferably."

     "I don't think you should."

     Portia stalled for a moment, prepared to retort.

     Enid held her hands up in surrender for a moment, then smiled.

     "All I'm saying is that you come from a country that's proud of it's heritage lassie. No sense in hiding it. You've done a find job of trying to act Meridellian, and that's admirable. But you do need to remember your roots on occasion." Enid smirked, then remarked "I mean, being an Ursian is part of you. Just as my heritage is part of me."

     "I was about to ask about your cloth headband. It's a tartan pattern, right?"

     "Aye. Aye. I'm related to one of the clans in the far south. The Calder clan. Each clan has it's own tartan. You'll learn more about 'em as time goes on. A lot of southern Meridell culture is borrowed from them. Not that we mind."

     Portia chuckled at this. She liked this strange and snot-covered seamstress.

     "I'm Portia."

     "Enid's my name. Welcome to town lassie. And..." she paused for a moment, speaking low.

     "I may not know much about Ursian clothing, but if you give me some good descriptions, I'll make whatever you need. You need to wear your tartan proudly."

     Portia gave her a wobbly smile, then nodded.

     

—————————————————————————————————

     Ian Darrow's old barn stood at the outskirts of the town at the far edge of his land. He'd had a new one built closer to his home just a year after the last war, and decided to deed the old barn over to the town. Charrie had made the arrangements shortly after to turn it into a town meeting area, a place to gather during the cold winter months for important discussions or events.

     It was outside this barn that Portia stood, dressed in a bright blue sarafan dress, embroidered with floral designs on the sleeves. Music drifted on the wind from inside, and she heard the low hum of chatter. She had Enid had worked together on her outfit many hours, and she loved the way it looked on her. "Nicholai would scold me for wearing a peasant dress." She muttered to herself, smiling inwardly at the thought of him. The warm woolen material kept her warm against the autumn air as she tried to prepare. She breathed in slowly, steeling herself as she entered.

     She could feel the change in the air as she entered, as heads slowly began to turn and stare. She spotted Enid, wearing a kilt and a dark brown shirt, a long swath of tartan fabric draping down her shoulder across her chest. She smiled, and gave Portia a thumbs up. She glided along the floor and finally found Charrie talking to Leeanna.

     "Hello Leeanna. Can I steal Charrie for a moment? I need him to teach me how to dance a reel." She said, looping his arm in hers.

     Leanna chuckled, then replied "Aye. Aye. Step on his toes a few times for me too. Fyora knows he deserves it."

     "You want to learn how to dance a reel?" Charrie admonished, his eyebrow raised.

     "Yep."

     "And what makes you think I'm a good teacher?"

     "Well, you taught me how to file the paperwork."

     "Incorrectly, I'm sure." Charrie remarked dryly.

     She gave him a mock scowl as she continued to drag him towards the dance floor.

     He lead her down the floor furthest down the line, and began to explain the basic steps.

     They had little time to talk as they danced, but Portia proved herself more than worthy of being his partner. After they had bowed, he lost sight of her in the crowd. It was for the best, he reasoned. He had preparations to make.

     

—————————————————————————————————

     Portia was in the middle of a confusing conversation with Shaylan when she saw Charrie get up on the small wooden platform at the front of the room. "Ay! Quiet down now!" He shouted, as heads slowly started to turn towards him. He smiled lazily at the crowd before he began to speak. "Charrie's got such a smile on 'im, even makes this old lassie's heart a'flutter." Miranda commented beside her. Portia snorted. "Or makes the cogs in your mind turn wondering what he's got up his sleeve." she replied back.

     "...And it's with great pride that I announce the council has come to a decision on a candidate for mayor!" Portia's head snapped up as she heard Charrie's announcement. The room began to fill with excited murmurs. "Miss Provoskia, will you please come forward?" Charrie asked. She made her way, wading through the crowd towards the stage, unsure of what was being asked of her.

     "Charrie. If you're expecting me to produce some sort of envelope or packet..." she began as she made her way up the wooden steps leading to the stage. “No. No Portia. I know that I didn't give you any forewarning about this. Bare with me please." He put his hand on her shoulder lightly, reassuring her.

     "Now, Portia. We had a discussion in my office a few days ago about the new mayor, did we not?"

     "Well sir, we discussed the qualifications, yes. Not the person."

     "Yes. I recall that too Portia. Now, what did you say about what was needed for this person to accept the job of Mayor?"

     "Well, they would need to be accepted by the town. It makes no sense for someone to lead a town they feel they do not belong to."

     "Quite right Portia. Quite right. Now, I guess the most obvious question to ask next is..." he paused, then looked out towards the crowd.

     "Does anyone here not accept Miss Provoskia as a member of White River?" No hands were raised, the room became silent. Portia turned and looked over at Charrie with a confused expression on her face.

     "What's goin-" she began right as he interrupted her.

     "Does anyone accept Miss Provoskia as a good candidate for the office of Provost of White River?"

     "Aye!" Shaylan bellowed, and many other voices followed as hands all around the room began to raise. Finally all of the voices quieted down as Portia held back tears. However, before Charrie spoke again, another voice broke the silence.

     "Da."

     Portia's gaze swept back towards the corner of the room, where a pirate colored gnorbu stood with his back to the wall, his long shaggy hair and scarred face standing in contrast to the well groomed appearance of the partygoers.

     "Nicholai." She whispered, her expression frozen in shock.

     He began to walk towards her, and the crowd parted before him.

     "W-why are you here?" She asked, trembling. She felt Charrie's arm around her shoulders, trying to hold her steady.

     "My best friend left without even saying goodbye. I thought it odd." He spoke calmly, his accent betraying his heritage.

     "Portia. Will you introduce me to your friend?" Charrie stated calmly.

     "Forgive me sir, as I did not come to this party properly dressed. I have been traveling for some distance." Nicholai replied, offering Charrie a stiff bow.

     "I am Nicholai, Tsar of Urus. Childhood friend of Portia."

     "Are ye gonna take her 'ome then?" Shaylan barked, before Miranda clapped a wing over his mouth.

     Nicholai chuckled, shaking his head. Hair fell into his eyes for a moment before he spoke.

     "I just came to make sure my friend was well and happy."

     "I-I am Nicholai. I have made friends." Portia managed to stammer.

     Nicholai looked her up and down, smiling. He looked around the room then, at all of the people there.

     "A fine place to settle down as any, I suppose. Are you sure that you do not wish to return to Ursus? I hear the men are missing your leadership."

     Portia nodded.

     "A finer mayor in all of Meridell will not be found then." He smiled.

     "Nicholai?"

     "Yes Portia?"

     "Will you dance with me? Just like the old days?"

     "I'd be honored, that is if your friends will agree." He looked up towards Charrie, who threw up his hands and smiled.

     "Well then Miss Provoskia, let's show these Meridellian how Ursians have a good time." He lead her down the platform as those around the room began to cheer.

     

—————————————————————————————————

     Although Nicholai had not been invited to the party, the town was more than willing to let him join in. He was asked many questions about Ursus by curious town members, and Portia eventually introduced him to many of her friends.

     He was surprised to find that he liked how the town had changed her. He could tell that she had become one of them. She did not act entirely like an Ursian anymore. Little bits of Meridell were creeping into her speech and actions.

     He managed to get away from her for a second, and made his way over to Charrie.

     "I assume that you are the one in charge of this event." Nicholai began.

     The halloween ixi nodded, and offered him his hand.

     "Charrie Riddle."

     "I know who you are, and I know what you do." Nicholai stated.

     Charrie shrugged, unconcerned.

     "Mister Riddle, I cannot say that I approve of your business or the reputation you have garnered. But..." he paused, meeting Charrie's eyes.

     "Portia obviously holds you in regard. That does mean something. She is no fool, Mister Riddle. And she has her secrets, just as much as you have yours."

     "I understand, Tsar Nicholai."

     "I have not...seen her happy in a long time. When she left us, she was not well in spirit. It is not my story to tell, but I wish to give you one warning."

     Nicholai gripped Charrie's hand tightly, and put his other hand on the ixi's shoulder.

     "You must protect her from harm. Harm that can come from you, or the town. She has seen enough already." He let go of Charrie and turned heel without another word.

     

—————————————————————————————————

     They met up outside the barn as the party was winding down. Two ixi standing under the light of the pale Meridellian moon.

     "How long will he be staying?" Charrie asked.

     "A few days, just to make sure I'm happy. Then he'll head home. He cannot be away from Ursus for long." Portia replied.

     "Are you happy here?"

     "Yes. Happier than I've been...in a while."

     "Why did you leave?"

     "Many reasons. But one in particular."

     "And that was?"

     "I had a friend. He was in an accident. It wasn't...his fault. But he's gone now."

     "I'm sorry Portia."

     "Alexi was a childhood friend of mine. Nicholai never knew him. He was...a servant boy. My father and mother were nobles. When my father went to talk to Nicholai's father, I would play with Nicholai. It was long before he came to the throne as the current Tsar."

     Charrie nodded.

     She took a breath in, then continued. "Alexi's mother worked for my family. He would help too, shining shoes, running errands. Sometimes we would play. He was the one who taught me how to fish. "

     "Did you enjoy time with him?"

     "Da. We would always play soldier, pretending to go off and serve our tsar and country. We'd make play forts, pretend to shoot cannons. The usual games of a tomboy and her friend. When I was older, he left to go join the military. I guess he wished to play those games for real. I wished to go to school. It was then that my parents got sick."

     "Did you get sick at all?"

     "No. But they did not recover. I could have stayed at the school I was at, but I didn't want to any longer. I turned to the only thing I could. I transferred to the Military Academy, much to the dislike of Nicholai and his father. I soon became an officer, and rose up through the ranks from there."

     "Until Alexi."

     She nodded.

     "We were crossing a pond in the middle of winter. The ice cracked. He fished him out but...our medics couldn't help him."

     A lone tear slipped out of the corner of her eye then, and made it's way down her face. Charrie offered her a handkerchief, and she wiped it away.

     "I am sorry Portia."

     "It is not your fault Charrie. I left to get away from the memories. I did not expect to find such a wonderful place as this."

     "You know, there will still need to be an official vote. Although your candidacy is a sure thing."

     Portia smiled, then slapped him lightly on the arm.

     "Well then, I'm going to make you the head of my election committee."

     "You're on."

     

     To be continued…

 
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» Welcome to White River
» Welcome to White River: Part Two



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