Preparation: Chapter Two

Thalia woke at midday, fully alert. Glancing out the window at the castle towers, she smiled to herself and jumped out of bed. So much time had been lost already, and she needed to get ready. The ball was waiting.

The event going on at the Palace was the opportunity of a lifetime for a thief like Thalia. The increased number of Guards at the gate, the large amount of Jewel bedecked nobles, she could walk out of there covered in the Crown Jewels without anyone noticing until she was long gone. It just took a little negotiations, and of course, an ambush, to get what she wanted. In this case, it was a noblewoman named Narissa.

A third cousin twice removed from the king, Narissa had arrived in town four days ago, followed by five servants and enough clothes to wear for a month without repeating a single outfit. She'd settled in an inn near the palace, in a suite of rooms on the third floor. Thalia had been casing the place out the night before, and the verandah doors proved an easy entry. The target, was a midnight blue gown Narissa had worn two nights ago to a dinner at the castle. The gown itself was stunning, and outrageously expensive. The skirt was silk, the bodice velvet, with silk sleeves, off-the-shoulder. Tiny diamonds were scattered along the skirt, concentrated along the waist, then thinning out closer to the hem. The velvet was unadorned, to show off whatever jewelry the wearer would have around her neck and hanging from her ears. Just one of those jewels could feed Thalia for a week, but the diamonds on the dress were not the ultimate goal. The goal was the jewelry found in the palace. Perhaps a ruby the size of an egg, or a sapphire from the prince's belt.

Thalia wrapped herself in her cloak and set out, moving along the rooftops of the city until she neared her target. Dropping into the balcony of Narissa's suite, she tried the door and found it unlocked. As she entered the room, she realized that Narissa was inside, behind a changing screen.

"Oh, Catrine, would you hand me that red one there." The noblewoman said languidly. Glancing around and realizing Narissa must have been addressing her, Thalia hurriedly tossed a red gown that was laying out over the screen. Narissa took it down and there were some rustling sounds as she began to don the dress. "I know lady Aya is the guest of honor, but it doesn't mean that I shouldn't dress to impress. There may be many young nobleman with his eye on a prize tonight. No reason She should get all the attention."

Thalia mumbled a noncommittal "mhmm," and opened up the wardrobe door, spying the dress she was after. Grabbing it she  bundled it under one arm and fled back out the window, coming back down the building the way she came. Heading back home Thalia moved quickly knowing that it was pretty suspicious carrying a diamond encrusted skirt in the poor part of town. Making it home without too much trouble, she dashed straighed to the trunk she kept under her bed. It was her box of treasures and it was where she kept the most precious things that she stolen over years.

One of which was a silver handled brush, tarnished now but it could still do its job. Undoing her braid, she ran the brush through her long dark hair. Thalia worked at it for some time before it began to shine. Braiding it once more into an updo that wrapped the braid around her head and holding it in with a few simple, wooden  hairpins, she'd get fancier ones later, she turned back to the trunk. Digging out a small square of soap from the bottom of the box, Thalia grabbed a bucket from the corner of the room and headed back out to the well, making the trip several times until she'd filled a small tub with the cold water. Pushing a large cobblestone against the door, to prevent unwanted intruders, and closing the shutters on the window, Thalia gingerly she'd her clothes and stepped into the icy water. 

Shivering, she scrubbed the dirt off her body as quickly as she could, unaccustomed to the practice, but knowing it was one she had to get right if she were to pass for noble. When Thalia deemed herself clean, the water was grey and no warmer than it had been when she started. She jumped out of the tub as quickly as she could and dried herself off. As she dressed once more, though not in the midnight blue dress quite yet, she looked around the little house. She'd been here for quite some time, but after tonight, it was probably best she find somewhere else. It was unwise to stay in one place for so long, but this was the best she had found so far.

Sighing, she bundled up the dress again, wrapped it in the sheet from her bed so the bright blue wouldn't stand out, and headed towards the palace. But before she left, she went into her trunk of treasures again and grabbed a small package, wrapped in brown paper. By this time, the sun was beginning to set into late afternoon, and Thalia's stomach grumbles as she realized she'd neglected to eat anything since that slice of bread at dawn, but she shrugged it off. She'd been more hungry than this, and there would be good at the party. Better food than she could steal quickly from a stall. The nobles would be in for a surprise.

Thalia changed into the dress in a shadowy recess of the palace wall, hidden behind a wagon. It fit surprisingly well, though it was a bit loose in the waist area, but she cinched the back as tight as she could, and opened the package.

Inside was a simple silver chain, with a silver star hanging from it, along with two matching hairpins. Sliding the pins into her hair to hold the braid, she took out the wooden ones and tucked them into the bundle of her street clothes, hiding them under the wagon, to return to later. Clasping the necklace around her neck, she strode towards the palace gates, recalling the tale of the present girl who was able to go to the ball. The story made Thalia smile, and she strode into the palace with confidence.

The End

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