I kissed him on his scruff covered cheek, “As am I, retire to the lounge, I will prepare dinner and fetch you when it is ready.” I said, he smiled and nodded, making his way to the lounge.
I knew I would find him there mauling over some papers when I came to fetch him. As our supper cooked I sat at my own desk, beneath the bay window in our kitchen and worked on my correspondence. My uncle had set me a letter, once again asking me to sign over my portion of my father’s estate to his control, when my father had passed away five months ago his company had passed to his only male heir, his younger brother, but he had given me controlling interest in the business, and my uncle was not fond of a woman having so much say in his dealings.
While I have no interest in the company, I will not give away the only thing my loving father left me. I leave the day to day business in your capable hands. Please do not continue to request I set it to you, because this will not happen. If it will put your mind at ease I will pass the holdings to my husband, and you may deal with him in the business.
Your dear niece
I sealed the letter with my wax stamp and moved onto the next letter. There was one from a childhood friend, I replied to her letter, she was about to have her second child, I promised I would visit her next summer. The last letter was addressed to Jon, I slipped it into my apron pocket and finished my chores in the kitchen.
When I had served dinner onto our plates at our simple wooden table, I went to fetch my husband from his office on the second floor of the house. I knocked as was polite, this was his place, I was only allowed in with his permission. He called for me and I pushed the door open. He was standing at the window, looking down at the street below. He barely glanced in my direction as I stepped into the room.
“Jon?” I asked, “I found a letter for you in my mail,” I said, slipping the paper from my pocket and placing it on his desk. His things had not been moved since this morning, he had not done any work for the last hour. “Jon are you all right?” I asked.
He glanced at me from the window, and blinked slowly, as though just noticing me. “Yes dear, just troubled from work,” He said.
“If you would like to speak about it, I will be glad to listen,” I smiled, I might not have his gift with numbers but I was more than capable for a woman.
“Perhaps after dinner,” He mused, “I am not sure it is anything but today was a long day,” He said, he stepped around his desk and took my arm, and escorted me down to our table.
As we ate I recounted my day in the market. I was mid sentence about the draling in the Hatchling’s kitchen when he cut me off. “Darling I have something to tell you,” He said, he reached into his pocket and pulled out what I thought at first was an oval black rock. He set it on the table in front of me. “It is a draling egg,” He said. I picked up the surprisingly warm black stone, its glittered mirroring a gem of jet.
“Where,” I whispered, I looked up at him, his face was solemn.
“It fell from a client’s bag today, and it was not the only one. This one slid under my desk, I saw it this afternoon when I was leaving,” He shook his head.
“This is against royal decree,” I whispered, as though whispering would keep the law from knowing.
“I know, but I cannot give this back to the owner, I would be an accomplice to his crime, nor can we keep this it, I do not know what to do,” He exclaimed, I could see he was getting frustrated, “And now I have brought you into this mess, I am sorry dear, I should have had more sense than to bring this to your attention,” He stood and kissed my forehead, taking the egg from my hand. “I have to return this to its owner, and hope that nothing ill comes of it,” He said, he slipped upstairs and came back without the egg.
It was a struggle to return to a resemblance of normality that evening, as we were both distracted by the thought of the draling egg, laying within Jon’s bag. What if the egg hatched here in our home, what if its owner found out and turned us in, what if our home was raided by the Gold Guard? The questions spun through my mind the rest of the night, I found a restless sleep, and woke with a start at every sound.
In the morning as I fried up a few cockitice eggs for our breakfast, I observed my husband standing nervously at our street view window, in the lounge, he was ringing his hands and fussing with his overcoat. He jumped when I came up behind him with our breakfast, he turned to face me and forced a smile to his face.
“Thank you dear,” He said, taking his plate and sitting at our table.
“I will need to come to the bank after work this afternoon, I need to transfer control of the company to your name, so that my uncle will leave me alone about selling my shares,” I said, he narrowed his eyes.
“Is he still on about that,” I nodded, “Very well, I hate to take that from you, but I will take your council under advisement before I do anything with your father’s company,” He said kindly, it was not required for a man to be so kind to a woman, but I am glad that my husband was the kind of man to care about a woman’s feelings.
“Thank you husband,” I smiled.
We walked in silence to the Hatchling and his kissed my cheek and wished me a good day. I watched him walked stiffly through the market and disappear down the street of gold. I pushed through the door or the shop and greeted Milda.
My day was thankfully uneventful, selling out of the goods in my basket quickly enough and helping Milda run the store front, just as any other day. She let me go early so that I could make my way to the bank. I walked through the empty market square, nodding greeting to stall owners I knew, as they shuttered their shops for the evening. I stopped the pie maker as he was packing up his leftovers.
“Can I purchase one, Mil?” I asked, reaching into my apron for my coins.
“Of course anything for you dear,” He smiled, he lifted a pie from his cart and placed it in my basket, I handed him the silver coin for the pie, and lay my linen cover over the pie.
“Thank you Mil, be well, I will make sure Jon thanks you on his way by tomorrow morning,” The old man nodded and I turned onto the street of gold.
I smiled to the men in their overcoats, as I passed by their offices. The street of gold was full of accounting offices, banks, and creditors. I pushed through the crowd on the street to the bank my husband worked for. All of our accounts were handled through his bank, and they would have my papers on hand to transfer to Jon. I stepped up the wide marble staircase and between the great white pillars without the large bronze doors. I moved into the large hall beyond, my footsteps echoing on the polished marble floor. I smiled at the clerk behind the gold bars across the hall from me. The young woman, Lisa, I had met here when she had started working, she was a light hearted woman, who laughed at the slightest hint of a joke. Today when she saw me her smile faded, her eyes filled with tears.
“Lisa are you well?” I asked, stepping to the counter.
“Oh no, oh no, I’m so sorry,” She sobbed.
My heart dropped, I felt like a pit opened in my stomach, what had happened. “What is the matter Lisa?”
“Mrs. Balaur,” I turned at the deep voice that echoed across the marble, the man was Jensen Jaris, he was the head banker here and rarely left his accounts to come out to the hallway.
“Lord Jaris, how great to see you,” I said, curtsying, the man shook his head sadly.
“Please come with me,” He said flatly.
“My Lord, where is Jon?” I asked.
“That is why I need you to come with me,” He offered his arm, hesitantly I placed my shaking hand on his forearm and he lead me out to the street, he opened a black carriage door and gestured for me to climb in. “Everything will become clear,” He said. I glanced at the driver, a man in a neat dark suit and a frown on his face as he glanced down at me.
I climbed into the cabin and took a seat, Lord Jaris took a seat across from me, and closed the door. The carriage pulled away from the bank and down the street towards the royal district. I kept my eyes down, I was nervous and scared, but I had no right to question a man of authority. The carriage turned towards the bethel, I gawked openly why were we going to the bethel, there were only two reasons someone went there except to worship, a grand wedding or a death.
“No,” I whispered under my breath, the carriage stopped at the base of the staircase, Lord Jaris opened the door and climbed out, I just sat there in the dim light of the carriage cabin, shaking my head. “No,” I whispered again, as I took the Lord’s offered hand and climbed from the cabin. He escorted me up to stairs and through a side entrance I had never used before, the entrance lead to a staircase that descended to a dimly lit corridor below.