The fragrance of autumn was in the air. Leaves were garbed in the warm, crisp colors that Serena loved. However, despite the beauty of the scenery around her, Lady Serena Saranac was far too focused on her posture. For the past week, she’d let herself go, and she feared that it would take more than just a little effort to reassert her courtly mannerisms. Coming from a family such as hers, it would not do for her to be slouching and common when finally arriving in town – even if it was a town called Hog Swallow.
As her father often said, “It doesn’t matter where you are as long as you act as whom you are.”
Being a self-made success as he was, he had raised his daughter with as much self-respect and independence as his heart could allow, adding to the thrift and reputation of the Saranac name. No other merchants were as reliable, and no other merchants would find the wares you need.
You see, Serena’s most recent travel companions were gypsies. Regardless of their lively music and colorful garb, they were rather … bold. Or at least, bolder then Serena was accustomed to back at home in Melkredo. She imagined it would be prudent to break herself of any nasty habits she had acquired during the trip. She was all too aware that her posture had become far more casual then was appropriate for her in public.
Serena sighed, smoothing the front of her dress. It was a sturdy fabric, green, with satin trim for comfort. It had been made in the satin looms of Palisada for travelling Ladies, much like herself. At least, such as herself very recently. This was after all, her very first trade route without the company of her father.
Back at home, she had been plagued by chaperons and tutors, and had been viewed merely as a delightful curiosity. A wealthy merchant’s mixed-breed daughter, how adorable she had been! Having received the quirk of her grandmother’s kin, a pair of soft, gray cat ears instead of human ones, Serena had at times felt more like a pet then a daughter. But that had not stopped Serena’s father from playing the role of her protector. And it did not hide the obvious pedestal her father placed her on.
Thinking of her father immediately brought along with it thoughts of home. Serena found herself missing her homeland’s hilly landscape, dotted with tall, narrow trees, and the sprawling, beaten road that led to her father’s estate. She missed the temperate, year-round climate, and the sounds those night-birds made as she was falling asleep.
Not to say she hadn’t been enjoying herself during the trip. In fact, she’d been most surprised to see two fellows in the gypsy caravan with features similar to her own. One gentleman even had a tail, while the other had claws to match! They had all been very agreeable, and had greeted her as a sister! (This, though nice, had been mildly inappropriate.) And though sleeping in a wagon was not what she was accustomed to, it had provided a nice change, reminding her that there was always room to grow and experiences to have. During the trip, Serena had even come to appreciate the owls hooting away in the trees; a very different songbird, but a song from a bird none the less. Oh how at first it had frightened her!
It was no use to fret about it now, however. Especially considering what a persistent little nit she had been. It had taken a lot of negotiation to have a route to herself. Her father, Lord Alban Saranac had absolutely detested the idea of his little kitten going out into the world alone. But unfortunately for her doting father, she had inherited her mother’s charming looks, silver tongue, and stubbornness. And when Serena turned 18 the fact was unavoidable: she would have to go out on her own eventually. Why not sooner rather than later?
However, Serena could see that her father had more reasons for his hesitation than simply wanting her well protected. Perhaps he did not know how his little kitten would react to the world? Perhaps he didn’t think she was ready to finance her own business? Perhaps he was afraid that away from home, she would not have such a nice welcome into the life she’d chosen? Perhaps he feared it would be too rough on her? Or perhaps he simply thought eighteen years was still too young?
The later seemed unlikely though, because whenever she reminded him that he had started his enterprise at a whole year younger then she, he always gave the same response.
“I’m a Man, Serena, it’s different.” He would say, puffing out his chest and scowling without conviction at his spirited daughter. “World will be a hard place for a kitten like you.”
Serena sighed again, this time fondly as she reached up to replace a drifting strand of dark hair. It didn’t matter now. Thankfully, her Uncle Dorvik had also inherited the family tact. When the argument had escalated to a plateau, and neither Serena nor her father could make each other budge, Uncle traipsed in at just the right time. He then presented them with a simple idea which, if successful, would prove Serena’s worth as a business partner, as well as her own will to become an independent woman. And regardless of the asinine concept, it was well known that Uncle Dorvik’s strange ideas had been uncommonly profitable in the past.
The agreement was that Serena would take a smaller shipment, something her father would not be upset losing or being mis-priced. She would then deliver the goods to where she saw fit, in varying prices and quantities. It would be up to her to determine said prices, and as a result of any success, she would be able to keep the profits to go towards her own piece of the business.
That was, of course, if she managed to complete her Uncle’s task.
Her uncle Dorvik was eccentric at best, but overall a very knowledgeable man. He was a constant student, a philosopher of the fanciful; he delighted in cryptic anecdotes, and made things far too complicated. And in order to help Serena accomplish her dreams, all she had to do was find one man and procure from him information for her uncle.
According to Uncle Dorvik, the man in question “knew something very important” and that she would know he was the one she needed the moment she saw him.
There was no mention of apprehending the stranger, which Serena was glad of, but no other description either. The only other hint she had been given was the name of a small fishing town off the southern coast of Zyricon. Hog Swallow.
She imagined that her father saw that as humorous enough to let a woman try and run a business. Fie.
She would show both of them!