“Well Ms. Umpta, what do you think?” Olivia asked as her
latest client came out of the dressing room.
“My, but it so modern, I will be the talk of the town!”
Olivia smiled modestly while admiring her own work. Her latest trend was fitted shrug jackets
with a bit of lace on the sleeves for a feminine touch to complete the
look. And of course the fabric for the
jacket was made from the most luxurious of materials. The fashionable of Antiford and Titania came
to Olivia not just for her ingenious fashions, but also because she seemed to
be the only shop these days that could procure quality fabrics in such vibrant
Olivia herself wore a ruffled blouse made of a fine cream
silk and a high-waisted skirt which had a bell shape to it. The fashions that Olivia wore were often
considered eccentric by her customers.
But being an eccentric designer seemed to add to her popularity
among certain fashionable circles.
As Ms. Umpta was Olivia’s last client of the day, she
decided to close up shop. After locking
the front door with a large brass key, she headed to her workroom to check on
her assistant, Genevieve, and to sort which orders she needed to prioritize for
the next day.
“How did Ms. Umpta like her new jacket?”
“She quite adored it, actually.”
She spent the next hour working on a few odds and ends
before heading out. “I’m going to pick
up our fabric order, how is the embroidery coming along?”
“I will finish it up tonight, tomorrow at the latest.”
“Very good. That should give me enough time to finish the
dress for the diplomat’s wife on Cielday.”
Leaving her shop in the Saks
district, Olivia headed toward the mills of the Barrett district. The streets were quite crowded with shoppers
at this hour. Of course, this meant
those who preyed on unwary passerby were also about. But Olivia was street smart, and knew how to avoid
unsavory types. She was not usually
targeted, the locals being familiar with her as a shop owner, but she did sense
herself being followed today. She
quickened her step and slid her hand into her pocket where she could access the
knife in her chatelaine bag - one could never be too
careful. But her furtive glance back
did not reveal an obvious foe. She kept
on guard as she weaved in and out of the crowd, then hopped into a carriage to
take her the rest of the way.
The cab dropped her off at
Adams Textile, a smaller factory close to the river. She went in the back entrance to pick up her
“Hello Ms. Adams,” said the man
behind the counter.
“Good afternoon, Jake” she
“You are a bit early, your
order won’t be ready for another hour, maybe two.”
“Make it two” she said
“All right then, I’ll go check
on the status.” Jake nodded, then exited the room.
She went to inspect some fabric
on the back wall, which lead to a darkened corner out of the sight from the
door, then silently disappeared behind a hidden door leading to the basement of
the mill. Today she was procuring
fabric, but only Jake, her uncles, and a few others knew the true source
of the luxury silk fabrics which her dress shop was known for.
When the Technocracy had
created Antiford Texiles from the largest three mills of Gearford, Olivia and
her uncles had acted quickly to keep their famous fabric processing techniques
secret by sealing up her uncle’s laboratory in the basement, unsure of the
future of their own factory. In the end,
it did not matter that their mill was not taken over by Antiford Textiles. Since they were a smaller mill, they procured
the yarn to make the majority of their fabrics from Mr. Bartlett and Ms.
Harcourt, who had owned two of the largest mills. The fibers were now being provided by the
government controlled Antiford Textiles, and managers had been sent to help
‘facilitate’ the transactions and supervise production – “in order to ensure
quality,” they were told. Her family
still technically managed the mill, but in rebellion to the government’s new
regulations and taxes, they kept their most lucrative productions secret.
While their yarn was purchased
from Antiford Textiles, her uncle William was able to buy raw silk from a few
contacts he had made in his youth on Nyxiana and in southern Kuu. William visited these contacts while making
his fabric deliveries to Kuu, Clarusia, and Kantebury. Her uncle Ben, a chemist who had discovered a
dying process which saturated the silk fibers, worked with his assistants in
the laboratory under their mill in secret, producing the boldly colored silks
that Antiford Textiles could not figure out how to replicate. This is where Olivia headed now, to obtain fabric and to check in on the production.
It was business after all, and
by outwitting their new production ‘partners’ Olivia and her family were able
to make quite a bit of money secretly selling the silks to their trading
partners in Titania and Paorr.
Olivia had always had a knack for business, which she inherited from her
father’s family. She had started her
first business at the tender age of 11.
It all began when she met Jake Boydman.
As a child, Olivia split her days between her mother, her
father, and her grandmother. Her mother,
a music teacher, taught her to play several instruments and the formal dances
all proper young ladies should know.
Olivia did not really enjoy these lessons, but did love hearing her
mother play. Her father sometimes let
her join him at the family factory, Adams Textile. He was the manager of the small factory,
working with his brothers to produce fabric and silks which were shipped all
over Orr. She enjoyed her time with her
father, but her favorite place to spend her day was with her grandmother. Her grandmother was a dressmaker and owned a
shop in the Saks District. From a young
age, Olivia learned to sew and began to help her grandmother with simpler
projects. As she grew older, she spent
more and more time helping at her grandmother’s shop and learning the ins and
outs of designing clothes, working with clients, and managing a business.
One day at the shop, while waiting to get her next project,
Olivia met Jake, a boy about her age with a mop of dirty blonde hair and dirt
smudged, well just about everywhere. Jake
was a street rat. Olivia did not know
what this meant at the time, but he seemed hungry and she had some extra food
left over from lunch. She shared with
him and struck up a conversation which led to a fast friendship. Meeting Jake opened her eyes to the world of
the poorest of the city. Olivia had a
big heart and decided she could do something to help Jake and his friends so
they would not be reduced to becoming pickpockets or mill rats in order to help
support their families, neither being particularly safe enterprises.
Inspired by the women who complained about carrying their
parcels while shopping the Saks district, she organized a group of three boys
to carry parcels, using her grandmother’s shop as a base. Her grandmother agreed to supervise since it
was unheard of for an 11 year old to be running her own business. Within two months she had organized a group
of eight girls and boys to carry the day’s shopping for the wealthy of
1895, a few weeks
Olivia entered the Black Leaf and Earl. She found Jake already seated and waiting
with a cup of tea. After ordering a
green tea, she joined him near the back of the room.
“What’s this about Olivia?”
“I think I’m being followed.
And I may need some help.”
It had been a few weeks since she acquired her latest fabric
order. On that day, and several days
since, she had a feeling of being watched.
What she had attributed to being pegged by a street thief, she now
believed to be something more sinister. But
whoever was targeting her was smart. She
had not been able to identify them and as yet did not know their intentions –
which most likely meant they were dangerous.
“What do you need me to do,” Jake asked sincerely. He always had her back.
“I’ve heard that our old friend Theo is still enjoying an
illegal lifestyle. I thought that you
may still know how to contact him.”
Jake looked at her sharply.
“You know he isn’t just a simple street thief anymore?”
“Which is why he may be able to track my stalker. Or at least have the connections to do
“I don’t think this is a good idea, Olivia.” He paused, seeing that she would not back
down on the matter. “I’ll set up a
meeting,” he said after finishing his tea.
“I should get back to work.”
She sighed. It probably wasn’t a very good idea. It had been over a decade since she and Theo
had known each other - who knew what he would be like now.
It was inevitable that Olivia’s shopping assistants would be
targeted by street thieves. They were
kids carrying often expensive purchases.
The first time it happened, little Cory was blamed for the missing
jewelry that Madame Tremont had purchased.
Jake fetched Olivia as quickly as possible,
but by that point it was impossible for the 12 year old girl to diffuse the
situation. Harmont, the owner of the
shop which sold jewelry, was holding Cory, and he had called the bobbies. She knew she needed to act quickly if she
wanted the continued trust of her patrons in her service. A service which was quite successful at the
moment and made a neat little profit for Olivia and her young workforce.
She fetched Malcolm, the largest of her crew, and went in
search of the thieves with him and Jake.
A few blocks away Jake recognized a boy who he knew to be a local
pickpocket. The three of them backed the
boy into a corner.
“Do you know who stole from me today?” Olivia questioned
“I know little rich girls should mind their own business in
these parts.” He tried to push past.
Malcolm and Jake stepped in his way. Olivia pulled out a small but wicked looking
“My uncle gave me this when he got back from Kuu. He also taught me how to use it.” She watched the cowering boy. Her uncle had also taught her that getting
the upper hand by intimating your opponent was often enough to prevent a fight
in the first place. It seemed to be
working well. “Well?” she asked, “Where
can I find the stolen packages?”
“Matty brought them to Theo.”
“Alright, then you can bring us to Theo.”
Malcolm and Jake exchanged a skeptical glance which did not
go unnoticed by Olivia. She nodded them
forward, and as they began walking she turned to Jake to get more
information. Apparently Theo was an enterprising
pickpocket, a few years older than them, and he ran a group of younger thieves
in the Saks District. He rejected anyone
not good enough. Jake reluctantly admitted
to considering working with Theo before Olivia had offered him another
“How are you going to get Cory’s stuff back from him?”
“I’ll figure it out,” she said, her mind racing through
ideas which might keep her out of trouble and keep her business running.
The pickpocket took them to a ramshackle doorway which led
to a stairway heading down beyond sight. Leaving Malcolm as lookout, Olivia and Jake
proceeded down into the darkness.
They heard some muffled laughter before they emerged into
the basement. A few boys were milling
around and looked up as they entered.
A boy came up and knocked over the thief that had led them
in. “What the hell is this? You rob little girls, you don’t bring ‘em
here.” He started approaching
menacingly. “You best have –“
He was stopped short when a boy, about sixteen with dark
hair and dark eyes, came over surveying Jake and Olivia. “That’s enough
Matty. Well, what have we here?”
Olivia was nervous, but knew she could not show it. “I’m here to take back what was stolen from me.”
“Is that so?” Theo
was impressed the small girl before him had come all this way to get the purchases
back. He had no intention of letting
them go so easily though. The boy Matty
was about to interrupt, but Theo cut him off.
“I will need fair payment for them of course.”
Olivia narrowed her eyes.
Then quickly said, “Of course,” surprising everyone around her. Thinking quickly she said, “I do not have
enough to cover the cost of the purchase on me now. I will go get it and meet you back here. I want this finished with as quickly as
“And what is to prevent you from grabbing some bobbies
Olivia considered her options. “I’ll leave you with this knife from Kuu that
my uncle gave to me. It is very precious
to me, and so I won’t turn on you so I can get it back safely.” Olivia held out the bone knife
Theo and Olivia measured each other. Then Theo grabbed the knife. “Alright,” he said, “Hurry back.”
Olivia grabbed Jake and rushed out, her mind already working
out a plan.
She started running, shouting orders to Malcolm to tell
Harmont she was going to bring him the thief and to meet her back outside the
thieves den when he was done.
Jake kept pace with her, asking what her plan was, but
Olivia kept it to herself, knowing it relied on her having judged Theo, and his
gang of thieves, correctly. He had
seemed too well educated to be an ordinary street thief, and she was hoping he
would understand the potential behind her budding idea. If not, then she might have gotten herself
into a very dangerous situation.
About twenty minutes passed before they made it back to the
dingy basement, Jake with a hidden pouch of simos and a few ciams, and Olivia
carrying a medium sized bag.
“So you did come back.”
Theo held out a hand to Matty, who glared and passed him a coin. He then returned Olivia her knife.
“Now to business.
I’ve judged your items to be worth about twenty ciams, so pay up.”
Haggling was second nature to her now between her observations of her
father’s and grandmother’s business transactions. “I know you are a thief, but for that chintzy
jewelry, my customer surely did not pay more than four ciams -” Theo started to
glare “– So I suppose I will pay you six for holding onto for it me.”
“Six ciams is what I would get for selling at the cheapest
of dealers, and that would be at a loss of the total value. You will pay me sixteen.” It went back and forth until they settled on
ten ciams, which was probably slightly more than it was worth. They shook on it.
Olivia started to reach into her bag then stopped, looking
Theo straight in the eye. “Also, your
thieves are not to steal from me again.”
Theo smiled, “That was not part of our deal. I can’t help it if my boys find an easy
victim. Though perhaps we can work something
out to ensure they are not bothered in the future.” He rubbed his fingers
together. Jake scowled at him.
“First let’s deal with the payment for what was already
stolen,” and she pulled out five silk handkerchiefs from her bag. Her latest project at her grandmother’s shop
was learning to sew silk. She had
started making the handkerchiefs from the leftover fabric scraps, so she knew
the material she had would not be missed.
Some of the boys started murmuring angrily as they realized
what she was about, but Theo gave her a curious look. “Explain.”
“This is ridiculous,” Matty interjected. But Theo silenced him with a look.
“This is a very fine silk, and an especially well made
handkerchief. We sell these in the shop
for three ciams. You could get about two
ciams for it I expect, wherever you sell your … goods.” She looked at him
“One and half, on a good day.” Olivia nodded and pulled out two more. Theo inspected them. Finally, he nodded to himself, knowing he was
making out well and could probably get good deal on such a well-made
product. He started to grab them, but
Olivia stopped him.
“Now, I don’t know the ins and outs of selling items
illegally, but I do know business.” Theo
put the handkerchiefs down. The little
girl was clever and had surprised him - he decided to hear her out.
“Let’s say I pay you in silk handkerchiefs to ensure my
customers are not robbed. Then you sell
them directly to people you know for one ciam.”
“That’s dumb, we wouldn’t be making as much,” Matty said,
tired of this whole thing. This time
Theo nodded, not following the logic.
“If you give me ten minutes, I will explain.”
“Fine,” Theo replied, taking her to a back room.
“People like to have nice things, but it often costs too
much. You would provide the luxury of
silk handkerchiefs at a price people in Barrett and Mayberry can afford. If they are affordable people will buy more.”
Theo thought it over, and realized there was merit to the
idea. Olivia brought out three more
pieces of silk. “This is equal to ten
ciams if you sell them my way. Much more
if you decide against my idea. But I
recommend you test it out, see if there is interest. And if there is, I will sell you more for ten
simos apiece. You make ten simos for
each one you sell in the future. If I
judge correctly, you could stand to make quite a bit of money.”
“And you are not losing money by paying us not to steal from
you,” Theo said catching on. He shook
his head in amazement. This little girl
was very bold. But he could not deny
that her idea could work well for both of them.
Seeing that he would probably agree, Olivia laid one last
idea on the table. “There is one more
thing.” She paused nervously, “In order to set things right for the stolen
jewelry, we will probably need a scapegoat.
It seems to me that Matty is a thorn in your side…”
“You want me to turn Matty in?” Theo’s eyes flashed with anger at her
presumption, but also anger at the knowledge that she was correct – Matty too
often caused a ruckus and was more trouble than he was worth.
Olivia started to take back her words, but Theo cut her
short saying he would send Matty with them, and what happened was up to
“Now let’s shake on this little deal of ours.” Theo grabbed
a knife and cut shallowly into his hand.
Olivia was taken aback, not expecting this.
“Are you afraid of a little blood? You are making a deal with a thief. We finalize our deals in blood.”
Olivia gulped, thinking that the older boy was doing this to
throw her off. But with his steely eyes
staring her down, she gingerly ran the knife over her palm, wincing as blood
started to drip. The two shook hands,
mixing their blood and completing their pact.
As the two left, Theo told Matty to watch them as they left. In the meantime, Olivia sent Malcolm to run
ahead and tell the bobbies the true thief was found.
As Olivia and Jake made their way back to Harmont’s shop,
Olivia put the stolen goods down to tie her shoe. Matty ran by and grabbed the bags, turned a
corner and ran directly into a pair of bobbies led by Malcolm.
The results of the chaotic day were that Cory was set free,
Olivia’s crew continued to successfully serve the Saks District patrons, and
Olivia and Theo began a profitable business of selling silk handkerchiefs to
the poorer citizens of Optilocus. It was
probably one of the happiest times in Olivia’s life.
1895, a few days
Olivia unlaced her boots after returning home from a long
day at her shop. The silk fabric had
been put to good use, and many of the dresses, blouses, and jackets which were
crafted from the silks had already been sold.
She was about to head upstairs when a movement from the
living room caught her eye. Grabbing a
candle she noticed a window was open – and that someone was seated on a chair
in the corner, hidden by the shadows.
“Hello, Olivia. I
heard you wanted to meet.” It was
When setting up the meeting, she knew it was safest to not
change her routine, thereby not alerting her stalker that she may be on to
them. Letting Theo meet her at her home
made the most sense, but actually having him here was unnerving - especially
given the circumstances of his entrance.
His skills as a master thief were made apparent by his ability to enter
her third floor apartment, through a locked window, and evidently without disturbing
her old, irritable cat, Cheschie.
She went around the room, slowly lighting the lamps, and
giving her nerves a chance to calm. Then
she turned, evaluating this man that was once a close friend and partner, and
found that he was watching her as well.
“Yes, I believe you can help me.” She closed the open window, and finally took
a seat across from Theo. He waited for
her to continue.
“Someone has been following me for the past few weeks. I
want to know who, and I want to know why.
And I want it done discreetly.
I’m not sure if this falls within your line of work, but if not, hire
someone who meets the bill. I will of
course pay well for this favor.”
Theo smirked. “Yes,
I’m not concerned about your ability to pay.
Quite the business you’ve been running in Saks.”
“Can you get it done?” She was tense, still unsure where
they stood. The years had changed both
of them she was sure, but his relaxed attitude kept her on edge.
“It shouldn’t be too hard.” He smiled casually. “And I can
take on this assignment myself. But have
you considered who may be taking in interest in you, or why? It might be useful in solving your mystery.”
“I have a few ideas – it might be related to my family.”
Theo smirked. “Is that right, princess?”
She looked at him sharply,
suddenly afraid. No one should know about
Olivia was about to leave the thieves den after catching up
with Theo and delivering her order. He
had shown her a rather fancy pocket watch he had ‘procured’ earlier in the day.
“You know you really don’t need to steal anymore, we could
expand this business, make an honorable gentleman out of you,” she said with a
“There’s no such thing as an honorable gentleman,” he said a bit too
forcefully. “Besides, I enjoy being a
thief.” He smirked as he closed the pocket watch with a snap. Olivia shrugged, giving up her attempts to
get Theo to turn a new leaf. For today
After checking in with Jake about their shopping crew, she
helped her grandmother close up shop, and together they walked home.
At dinner, her father asked after her business, while her
mother shook her head. “I don’t
understand why you continue to work with thieves.”
“You liked Theo when you met him, mom.”
“He did have good manners, but honestly you are going to
find yourself in trouble someday.”
Olivia had kept the truth about her second business a secret as long as
possible. But eventually her parents
found out. Her father thought it was
hilarious, while her mother had been concerned about her well-being. Now it was an old conversation around the
Their evening was interrupted by an urgent knock on the
door. A man, dressed in a castle guard’s
uniform, and seeming somewhat familiar to Olivia, talked hurriedly with her
parents. After a few tense minutes, her
mother started sobbing. Olivia came up
to the door, but her father told her to pack a bag, and to hurry. She looked at him confused. “Do as your father says child,” her
grandmother told her, fear in her eyes.
The rest of the evening was chaos. Olivia and her parents headed out into the
night, escorted by the guardsman. Olivia
tried to understand what was going on, but her father only said that they were
taking a trip, and not to worry.
They made their way to the docks, down to her Uncle
William’s ship. She knew he was due to
head out with a shipment later in the week.
While the adults were conversing, she noticed fires in the distance,
near the castle. She turned back to her
father, wanting to know what was happening, but he led her onboard the
That first night she was told they would be taking the
shipment to Titania. She knew something
was wrong, but was told her questions would have to wait. Over the 2 day trip to Titania, she tried to
enjoy her first time on a ship, but was constantly worried about what was to
Her Uncle William dropped them off with the fabric shipment
in Hjem, then made his way to Paorr.
That evening, Olivia’s father finally explained why they had
left – the Technocratic Salvation Front had led a coup, and the royal family
“What does that have to do with us?” Olivia asked confused.
“I am a member of the royal family,” her mother whispered,
the tear stains still visible on her face.
After her mother had gone to bed, Olivia’s father explained
Alice and Daniel had fallen in love after meeting by chance
when Daniel was working at his mother’s shop.
But since he was a commoner, their marriage could not be approved by the
royal family. Instead, the court was
told that Alice wed a prince from a remote corner of the Kantebury Empire. In truth, she renounced her titles, and
married Daniel. Few knew of the true
arrangement. The guardsman, a confidant
of Olivia’s royal grandmother Bethany, knew the truth and was able to flee the
castle to warn them - after having witnessed the slaughter of Alice’s sisters
and most their children. Thankfully,
Princess Bethany was still on holiday at her manor in Titania with three of her
grandchildren. That is where Olivia’s
parents had decided to go until they could decide their next move.
Olivia hoped this would mean returning to Antiford within a
few weeks. Instead, it was soon clear
that any member of the royal family was marked for death if they were to return,
and Olivia’s family could not take that chance.
Theo saw Olivia’s immediate distrust, and realized he had mis-stepped.
“Let me explain” he said quickly. She watched him carefully, considering her options. She nodded, not
knowing what else to do.
“My father was a guardsman at the castle before he was sent
out to the Prush War,” he said hurriedly.
“You always told me your father died, a drunk in a bar.”
“He did,” his eyes taking on their usual anger when mention of
his father occurred. “Before that, he
disgraced himself as a soldier by leaving Prush against orders. But when he was still working in the castle –
I must have been 6 or 7 – he would let me join sometimes. Anyway, that’s why I suspected your mother was
a royal when I met her – there was a portrait of her in the castle. So when your family left abruptly after the
revolution, I asked your grandmother if my suspicions were correct, if that was
the reason you had left. She made me
swear to never tell a soul. And I
Olivia closed her eyes, trying to decide if she could trust
him. His story was plausible, but the
shock of him knowing her secret – of anyone knowing – made her wary. He gazed at her intently, waiting while she
made up her mind.
“You were my closest friend, Olivia. It never mattered to me that you were a
little rich girl, why would it matter that you were royalty?” He held open his palm, a thin scar marking
Olivia looked at her own hand. Theo was rarely sentimental, but his plea
took her back to the time when they were thick as thieves.
She gave him a hard stare.
“Alright then, if I’m your closest friend, I should be getting a
discount on your services.”
A few seconds passed before he burst into laughter. “There’s the Olivia I know, always getting
The tension of the room eased as
the two continued to laugh. Olivia
pulled out a bottle of whiskey, and the two fell to reminiscing and discussing
where their lives had taken them over the past decade.
1883 - 1889
The royal family was no more save the few remnants of
Bethany’s family, and Prince Lucius and his two sons who had been hunting in
Kuu at the time. Thankfully, Titania let
the survivors remain unharmed. Olivia had hoped that meant she could return to her normal life soon. Her hopes did not survive long after word came of the fallout from the Revolution and the subsequent government changes in Antiford.
During her teenage years, she was introduced to everything
she was supposed to have learned as a young princess. She absolutely loathed it. She had been used to quite a bit of freedom,
while now she was confined to the manor, spending most of her days with her
grandmother and rather unbearable cousins.
Her grandmother was kind to her, but insisted on calling her
by her middle name – Annette. At 76, the
shock of having her entire family murdered was too much, and her memory lapsed
frequently. Annette was her eldest
daughter’s name, and Olivia assumed it made it easier for her to remember.
The name helped her somewhat. She was Princess Annette by day, but at night
she could be Olivia, writing letters to her old friends (that would never be
sent) and plotting her escape.
She made it to Hjem a few times. Her father had set up a store there to sell
their fabrics and keep up the pretense that his move had not been prompted by
the revolution. Each time, he let her
hang around the shop until the end of the day, then brought her back to the
“You know your mother gets worried sick when you do this?”
“Mom left the castle and didn’t have to be a princess
anymore. Why do I have to be one now?”
“Your mother did not leave her family because she did not
want to be a princess. She loved her
family very much. But she decided that
her love for me was greater, and she wanted us to start a family together.”
Olivia was taken aback by this information, having assumed
that no one would want to be a princess, unless they were the prissy sort like
her cousin Caroline.
“But all they want me to do is sit around and learn about the
royal family and practice royal manners.
When I’m old enough I want to run my own business, not be married off to
a foreign prince. I don’t want to upset
mom, but I really can’t stand it there.”
Her father thought a moment. “Well, running a country and
running a business have a lot in common.
Instead of rebelling against everything they are trying to teach you,
why don’t you consider this an opportunity to learn a new business – the
business of politics.”
Olivia still did not enjoy her time in the manor, but her
father’s suggestion helped alleviate some of her boredom.
When she turned 18, ‘Princess Annette’ was sent with her
cousin Caroline to Kantebury to mingle in respectable society – which actually
meant they were there to find highly placed husbands. After suffering through the formalities, and playing
second fiddle to her cousin, she had had enough. She finally convinced her family to let her
have her freedom again, and joined her Uncle William for a year, sailing around
the world, delivering the shipments for Adams Textile. She
then apprenticed to a designer in Titania, before setting up her own business
and gaining popularity for her fashions.
She finally felt like Olivia again.
When her grandmother in Antiford took ill a few years later,
she decided it was time to return to the city where she grew up. She moved her business to Gearford, and after her grandmother's death, began
using her business savvy to help her uncles run the factory in her place.
1895, two weeks later
Olivia sat in her office at the back of the shop,
considering the file in front of her. Theo
had come through rather quickly and she was now staring at a picture of her
stalker – Gertrude Alabast, the most recent addition to the Technocracy’s
Bureau of Investigation and Order according to Theo. Her fears were confirmed, and she assumed
someone had finally decided to take notice that the fabrics sold in her shop
were not produced by any factory in Antiford – any factory that produced
legally at least.
The most galling part was that this Gertrude woman had
purchased a skirt in the shop several weeks ago. Olivia realized that it was probably to
examine the fabric quality.
She was frustrated by not being able to know how much the
investigator had put together.
Obviously, she must suspect a connection to the mill. But would she do more damage by trying to
conceal the lab’s output now?
When he had passed on the file, Theo had told her to be
careful. It seemed there were rumors of the
Technocracy trying to gain more power over the people, to the detriment of
most. Infringing on one of their newest
sources of income by producing and selling fabric under their noses would
probably not be taken to kindly.
She sighed. All these issues would have to wait until
later. At the moment, she needed to steam
her latest creation so it would be ready for pick up in an hour. One of her favorite, and most demanding, customers
was coming that afternoon.
She called out to Genevieve to
bring the dress to her office, knowing it had to be perfect before she could
present it to Abigail.
Abigail Beatrice Cormack had visited Olivia’s shop in
Gearford soon after it opened. The woman
was dressed in a style Olivia had not seen before, but fell in love with
immediately – the fashion style she now often wore herself.
Olivia was about to ask the woman about her unique outfit,
but Abigail interrupted, “I heard a rumor that a talented fashion designer from
Titania was moving to Gearford. So let’s
see what you have.”
After bringing out some dresses and blouses, Abigail spent
the next few minutes carefully inspecting the fabric quality and
construction. Olivia was always sure in
the quality of her work, but the woman’s careful attention to every detail, in
addition to her unreadable reaction, made Olivia anxious to know what the woman
“Not bad,” Abigail finally concluded curtly. “And what do you think of my style?” She presented herself for inspection.
Olivia immediately gushed, “I have never seen such a unique
and gorgeous dress. The way your petticoats
shape the dress – well it just looks like so much fun to wear.”
Abigail seemed surprised by her praise. Not many people in Antiford were so effusive about
her doll-like style.
“I do look most charming, don’t I?” She admired herself in the mirror, before
getting back to business. “Excellent. I would like to see what you have in mind for
me to wear that fits this style. I will
return the day after tomorrow to approve the sketch and swatches. I expect to be impressed.” And with that she turned and left.
Olivia was excited for the challenge, but also perplexed by
the strange woman. When Abigail returned
two days later, she approved Olivia’s design – a floral fabric with soft
chiffon and bows along the bottom with a cream blouse and adorned mini top hat
to match. She set Olivia to complete it
for the following week. After watching
the harsh inspection she gave before, Olivia knew the construction for this
dress had to be perfect. Abigail’s
subtle smile upon delivery seemed very high praise after their previous
Abigail continued to order from Olivia’s
shop every few months or so, while Olivia began to adopt the doll-like style
Olivia just finished her work when she heard a knock on the
door. Confused, she set down the
steaming device and turned to answer when a woman strode into the room – a
woman that was not Abigail as she expected.
Olivia quickly composed her features, and made her way to her desk.
“Good afternoon, madam.
I believe you purchased a skirt last week. The teal one, yes?” the woman nodded. “I do not believe I caught your name before.”
“I am Gertrude Alabast.”
“A pleasure, Ms. Alabast.
Won’t you take a seat? Let me
clear off a few things here – I’ve had a busy day and was not expecting a
private consultation.” Olivia smiled as
she cleared away the file from Theo, which was thankfully closed, and a few
other papers then sat behind her desk.
Gertrude did not sit.
“You are a very curious person, Olivia Adams.”
“I am a member of the Bureau of Investigation and Order.” She flashed a badge of some sort before
continuing, watching Olivia intently. “I
was assigned to find out the source of your fabrics, since they are not
anything the mills in Antiford can currently produce. It did not take long to learn that the mill
your uncles run used to produce such fabric, so they must be the source, but I
still have not figured out how.”
Olivia waited, knowing it would be dangerous to say anything
“After some more digging, I found that you have helped run
the mill yourself – a strange position for a young fashion designer from
Titania, even with your family’s connection. But there was something curious about you…”
Gertrude’s intent stare increased – Olivia felt the hairs
raise on the back of her neck.
“I could not place my suspicions though until I found the
key. You were born Olivia Annette Adams.
I could not believe it. You see,
my previous position was keeping track of the remnants of the royal family, to
make sure they did not pose a threat. A
boring job since there was no chance of them taking back the throne. Except during that time, we learned of that
some distant cousins who could trace a path to the throne were making
connections in the Kantebury Empire, and their names were Princess Caroline and
Princess Annette. There was only one
Annette in the family tree, but she was confirmed dead during the revolution. I thought it was peculiar then, but have
since revived my interest.”
Olivia tried to keep her face passive as Gertrude explained her revelation. She truly tried.
Gertrude eyes widened in amazement. “I see by the fear in your eyes that I was
right,” she said eagerly. “I thought it
must be crazy, but it’s true! Wait until
I tell –“
Two gunshots cut off the excited woman. Olivia was standing, holding a gun she had
stored in her desk, disbelief in her eyes at her own action. Gertrude grasped her chest, but before she
could even assess what had happened she slumped to the floor, her eyes
Olivia collapsed in her chair in shock, the gun still held
in her hand. In the back of her mind she
knew she should be doing something but she couldn’t quite think of what. It seemed important, too. Distantly, she heard sharp footsteps coming
down the hallway.
Abigail peered into the room. "Oh my, what a little mess we have here. Olivia, do you care to explain?"
1895, 2 days later
The newspaper this morning included a story about the death
of Gertrude Alabast in a back alley in Mayberry.
‘’ Ms. Alabast, an investigator in the government, was
following up on a lead when an unknown assailant attacked in the early hours
yesterday morning. If anyone has further
information on this tragic event, please relay the details to the Police.’’
Olivia was still in shock from the event. Abigail had quickly taken control of the
situation and promised her that everything would be taken care of. She did not know how it had been managed, but
from the evidence of not being questioned by any authorities, she knew Abigail
was true to her word. Perhaps she had
paid people off to drop any suspicion against Olivia; perhaps Gertrude had
never shared her investigation with anyone in the first place. Whatever the reason did not matter. What did matter was her debt to Abigail. Olivia had had the presence of mind to ask
Abigail how she could ever repay her.
She had smiled saying, ‘Don’t worry about that just now – you can owe me
a favor in the future.’ The gleam in her
eye did make Olivia worry however.
The next few days were a blur. Olivia maintained a façade of normalcy, but
at night she could still see the shocked face of Gertrude as she fell, blood
welling up from her chest.
One night Theo came by, knocking on the locked window of her
sitting room. She knew he would check in
sooner or later. Part of her wanted to
confess everything to him, to say the words that she dare not tell anyone
else. But she had rehearsed to herself a
plausible story – how shocked she was at the turn of events, how Gertrude
Alabast must have decided to drop her case for something more dangerous in the
seedy parts of Mayberry. He seemed buy
to it, though by the look he gave her while leaving, she knew he had
That night, she decided she could no longer stay in
Gearford. A change was needed if she
wanted to maintain her sanity. She did
not leave hastily, as one guilty of a crime.
Over the next few weeks, she discussed with her uncles the idea of
reviewing their business abroad, as well as gaining new inspiration for her
shop and taking on some foreign commissions.
It was certainly plausible. She
had some dedicated customers in Titania who would be more than happy to have
her. After settling most of her business
in Gearford, and setting up plans for travel, Olivia set her departure date for
the end of the year. Genevieve would run
her shop and was skilled enough to complete the remaining commissions.
Her last appointment on the day before she departed was to
have tea with Abigail. She had a feeling
Abigail knew she was leaving Antiford, but wanted to make sure it did not seem
as if she was running away. The two had
a pleasant meal together, Abigail saying how good a breath of fresh air would
be for her creativity. But as they were
saying their goodbyes, Abigail gave that smile of hers and said how she would
‘be in contact if your services are needed, Olivia dear.’ Olivia shuddered, knowing she was not
referring to her dressmaking services.
With everything settled, Olivia set out the next morning on
a ship to Titania containing a delivery of fabric. Feeling the sea breeze against her skin,
Olivia felt free and finally the weight of the last few weeks began to lift
from her shoulders.