Part 1. Queen of the Nile
Lynn Mimistrobell, Queen of the Nile and Daughter of Egypt, lounged indolently on the soft, luxurious bed. The heady scent of incense wafted throughout the room, while the light from a single lamp flickered softly, casting a warm glow to the sweaty evening.
Her eyes, heavily darkened with kohl, gazed around the room, at the soft silks and other accoutrements and libations needed for this evening. She took a deep breath to compose herself, and smoothed her features to look as regal and as sophisticated as was expected but, since this was a first meeting, she could not completely still the nervous flutter in her stomach.
Her gaze turned then to her appearance. Gold encircled her arms and fingers, a heavy choker lay on her throat and a single delicate circlet sat on her forehead. Her lips were colored a deep carmine; makeup accentuated her high cheekbones. Her dress itself was simple, white…. virginal. It was also not quite opaque, hinting, more than hinting, at her charms. With this, she took courage. She knew her talents, she knew she could convince this man to save her home. She could do this.
The others had been dismissed from the room. Alone, she waited.
Finally, a noise. An older man stepped in, sweating with the heat, clad in the ornate armor of a Roman general. He looked around the room, unusually hesitant for a man of his position. Slowly, she extended one delicate arm out of the bed’s silken canopy, stilled the quaver in her voice, and uttered a single word.
Part 2. A New Life
So this was Steelhead. It looked as good a place as any to start up a new life. It wasn’t like she had much choice; she didn’t have the means to return back east anyway.
Besides, it was probably for the best. Her little sister wasn’t little anymore, and Lynn was worried that she soon would begin to make connections that Lynn didn’t want her to make; not yet anyway. The little nest egg she had left behind for Delilah would cover at least the first year of university if not more, and by the time that ran out she should be set up well enough to begin sending more money back, along with vivid accounts of the roles that she was playing.
Well, at least the ones on stage.
It wasn’t that she was ashamed of what she did. After their parents had died within months of each other, she’d done what she’d needed to do, to survive and to provide for herself and for Delilah. And she was damn good at it, too.
Her mind raced with ideas as she pulled up to the front of the Town Hall; ideas on how she could get set up and back in business. It would be different than it was back east, of that she was certain.
She remembered her first ‘break’, when the theatre owner had personally selected her for the role of Cleopatra in his popularized music-hall version of ‘Anthony and Cleopatra’. She’d done well enough on stage, but she’d done even better at the additional duties that were required of the actresses, reprising their roles in private showings for men the theater owner needed favors from. Even now she laughed to herself remembering the City Councilman sweating in his Roman costume and then later, sweating while out of it. But he’d signed the theater’s zoning papers the next day, and the owner had rewarded her well.
How was he to know that her talents would soon outgrow his little establishment? Intelligence, wit, flirtation, talent and discretion had served her well. Oh, yes, and the costumes. As time went on, her roles and performances in the bedroom got better reviews than those on the stage (and they certainly paid more), and her name slowly got around within the higher social circles of the city
But it was probably best to leave town before her sister made any connection between Lynn Mimistrobell, stage actress, and Lucia Candela, the most notorious courtesan in Philadelphia, the courtesan who could be ‘anyone’ you wanted. She chuckled wryly, she would miss using that name.
She took a breath as she stood before the Town Hall. Perhaps the elegant lady would play well in this building. Elegant, but not imperious. Approachable, yes, definitely approachable. Straightening her back as she entered the building, she approached the clerk, giving him a coy yet distant smile. “I am interested in renting some property here in Steelhead and, oh…”, she leaned forward just a tad intimately, lowering her voice and giving him the slightest of pouts, “… can you tell me where the theater is?” After he stammered out the requested information, she thanked him, lightly touching his arm, letting her fingers linger just a bit, before strolling slowly out the door. You never knew which important people a town clerk may know.
Back on the sidewalk, she took a deep breath as she looked around, and exhaled slowly before smiling to herself.
Ah, Steelhead – a new stage.
Part 3. The Baron’s Dinner, and perhaps another opportunity….
It had been an interesting evening. She had finagled an invitation to the Baron’s dinner party, and sat between Miss Zanya and Mr. Brear. Both had seemed very friendly, though a bit lacking in the social graces. Mr. Brear seemed a bit uncomfortable with ‘high society’, and she had once caught Miss Zanya cutting her food with something that looked appallingly like a bayonet.
It had been good though, meeting various people from all over the Steamlands. The Baron and Frau Lowey had been quite gracious, and the others had all been quite kind. Mrs. Ortega had been glowing after her recent nuptials, and Lynn had been happy to make the contacts that she had there.
Of course, there was also the unpleasantness that went on, such a bother. Frau Lowey had been attacked, and extremely sensitive notes had been stolen. These notes had been kept in, of all places, the Frau’s bodice. Lynn of course would never keep sensitive notes there, too many people had access, but then of course not everyone was quite like her.
Lynn had helped with the search for missing equipment and supplies needed to brew up the cure for the Frau, and in fact had found one or two of the items required. One item had required her climbing down an ice wall, not an easy task in her gown. A gown that was one of her favorites, a form fitting red gown with a plunging back. She also had a temporary tattoo on her back and a small veil – for effect, of course, and for the literary reference it gave. And her hair, it had been done up quite nicely in an elegant updo. It was a bit daring, and she wondered if anyone would understand the reference and what it meant.
But to climb in those heels….?
Oh yes, the unpleasantness. Luckily they had found the items in time to save the Frau – such a nice lady she was – and then faced the unfortunate task of discerning which of the attendees was the culprit. Mrs. Ortega showed herself to be quite shrewd, and then others had found footprints that matched the evil doer’s feet. Of course, the prints had not matched a pair of exquisite Italian stilettos, so no one had suspected Lynn.
The miscreant had tried to escape, but Miss Zanya proved to be quite the markslady, killing him with a single shot to the heart. Quite impressive. In Lynn’s line of work, you never knew when you may need a bodyguard, and Miss Zanya appeared to be an excellent choice.
Speaking of hiring, one last item arose out of the dinner. One of the guests had indeed realized the statement, the literary reference that she had made with her attire, and had discreetly approached her after the dinner. Of course a rendezvous was available. After arranging the details, including the crassness of financial ones, all was agreed upon. Lynn would need to travel a bit, and perhaps a new outfit was in order. She did hear that sand had a tendency to get ‘everywhere’.
4. Marrakesh Mondrago
Well, the sand wasn’t as bad as she had thought, and her business transaction, or should she say transactions, had gone quite well. In addition, she found herself actually loving Marrakesh Mondrago – the quiet peacefulness, the perfume of citrus, the gorgeous sunrises and sunsets – and even the people. She could live here, quite easily, and found herself continually delaying her return to Steelhead. She wondered about living here permanently, but Mondrago did not seem to need a woman of her talents. How could she make a living here?
But still, she continually found herself delaying. She attended some dances in the aptly named Elephant Square (aptly named due to the huge statue of the elephant *in* the square, although she hadn’t quite figured out its significance), and enjoyed picking up a lot of desert wear. She thought it looked divine on her and, besides, she needed the ‘props’!
Then things changed.
Early one evening, she was summoned to meet the Magistrate of Mondrago, a djinni woman named Erehwon Yoshikawa. She didn’t understand the whole ‘djinni’ thing yet (she assumed the appelation explained the different looking ears, but was too diplomatic to ask), but the woman was exquisitely beautiful and seemed kind and honorable, if a bit reserved. After a period of polite courtesies, the Magistrate had begun to ask some probing questions about Lynn’s roles and abilities. Of course, Lynn answered all of her questions about the various roles she played – on stage at least – and had also mentioned the various props she kept – well, the costumes and makeup anyway. She had also intimated about some of her other abilities, but she wasn’t sure if the woman had understood those, at least in the way Lynn had meant.
The Magistrate had asked some interesting questions, however, and after a fairly long pause at which she had almost seemed to study Lynn’s face – luckily Lynn was used to such scrutiny and used the time to study the other woman as well, and her office (there was an interesting looking bottle on a bookshelf in there that was quite noticeable) – she finally got to the point.
It seemed that Mondrago did not have a theater company at the time, which Lynn knew. However, the Magistrate was very interested in Lynn’s varied abilities, and how these abilities could be used in Mondrago’s interests in other ways. Arching an elegant brow, the actress nodded for the Magistrate to continue.
Ms.Yoshikawa wanted Lynn to set up a studio in the city, and she would send some of her most trusted advisors to take lessons from her. True acting lessons, of course… lessons in costuming / disguise, how to fit into scenes and roles discreetly, how to become the role. The Magistrate herself would also take some private lessons in these areas.
“Of course, being in Mondrago and representing our city, the studio would be completely discreet, would it not, Miss Mimistrobell?” The Magistrate gazed at her with her penetrating eyes, causing Lynn to arch a brow, her mind awhirl, wondering what was up the Djinni’s sleeve.
“Oh dear, of course, Magistrate…”, she managed to say, her eyes meeting the Magistrate’s.
The other woman nodded, her eyes still on Lynn’s. “Good. This is an acting studio, you are an actresss who will run it, and teach there. For the good of Mondrago. “
Lynn simply nodded, her thoughts racing.
Then a slow smile slowly played across the Magistrate’s lips, and Lynn realized then that she had sorely underestimated this woman. “Of course, Miss Mimistrobell, I have had my people investigate you, and I realize that you are an actress of peculiar and … shall we say…. varied talents and, by all accounts, a master of your particular art. I would never deny an artist her art.”
The Magistrate paused then, and gave Lynn an indecipherable look. “Indeed, some roles outside the studio could be in the interests of Mondrago and of her Magistrate. Therefore, which roles you wish to pursue on your own, you are free to do so. Perhaps, say…. even a role similar to one Lucia Candela?”