A shiver ran down her spine. The smile on Lotye’s face began to crumble. At first it just was a little annoyance when he called her a student of the Purifying Lake and the corners of her mouth twitched. But as Lord Nightwise spoke on about the nature of the cards, her annoyance became dismay and fear clouded her eyes for a moment, just like a cloud of darkness seemed to waft behind Jeneyeru. Her eyes could not lie in this moment, she was afraid of what she heard. The muscles of her face and the parts of herself controlling them on the other hand did not seem to agree and tried to keep up the smile. Her tongue flippantly followed in denial:
“I guess there’s not much to worry about, then. After all, I still seem to be pretty well. I didn’t notice any effects. It’s not as if there’s much to corrupt in a lowly cutpurse like me, anyway, is it?”
While she spoke, her mind was already racing to other, opposite conclusions. To make your soul rotten and foul and ripe for harvesting … Maybe Lotye wasn’t able to care about the fate of the world, but this could affect her. A sharp blade hanging over her head. I don’t really understand what this all is about, but it certainly sounds bad. She felt as if she had been staring at the cards for the whole three days they had been in her possession, lured by their strange beauty, by their unspoken promises. Was she already in danger? Or was the wizard just playing tricks on her? But the way he sat there, contemplating, his eyes not seeing the room in front of him but hanging in memories made her believe that he would not joke on this matter. … How strong you will prove to be. What exactly did he mean by that? How strong do I have to be? Am I strong enough or will I be lost?
She was thankful for the chance to get away from him, from the cards, from everything for now. As the valet announced, the bath was ready. Maybe her fate was doomed, but taking a bath still sounded very appealing. Probably more so, as it provided her with distraction from all the pressing issues at hand: Finding the place where she had stolen the cards, dealing with the cards and getting through after that. A tub of warm water on the contrary promised a temporary rest, relaxation and a way to get rid of the dirt under her fingernails.
“I suppose I will cleanse myself then.” Lotye stood up and let Thimble lead her to the bathroom.
There she stood for a moment, looking around with wide open eyes. It was luxurious, at least to her. She never had had a chance to bathe in a place like this. Once again she realised that she was in an embassy, a place she normally wouldn’t even have had the chance to come close to, much less to enter. Fine wall coverings, the marble floor tiles, even a big mirror, all told of wealth not even her old master had had. A claw footed, brazen tub of hot water awaited her and the slight smell of scented soap greeted her nose.
Lotye took a look at herself in the mirror. I guess I’m really due for a bath. She took off her dirty, battered dress, folded it neatly and then slipped out of her undergarments. Nude as she was, she took a second look in the mirror Whether Thimble was still watching her didn’t matter to her, she didn’t care what he looked like now or where his eyes rested. She had lived on the streets, amongst circus people and vagabonds. Prudery wasn’t among the qualities one acquired in that life. A sense of care for one’s own belongings on the other hand was. Which was why she proceeded to fold her cloths and placed them on a nearby stool.
Cautiously she held her big toe into the water, but found it very much to her content. A warm bath was luxury to one who had cleaned herself by dipping into ponds and streams most of the time and even in the bathhouses and inns the water often had been used for more than just one guest. Not much later her whole body followed with a small splash. A few moments long, Lotye simply lay in the warm water up to her chin, her long hair flowing around her. After these minutes of just relaxing, forgetting about all her troubles, she picked up a sponge and began to clean herself. She wanted to wash it all off her skin, the stench of prison, the doubts and insecurities, the fear. After that, she stayed in the tub until the water was cold and the skin on her hands was wrinkled.
Out of the tub, she grabbed herself a terry cloth towel and began to dry her body and hair diligently. When she was done, she wrapped the towel around her small body, positioned herself in front of the mirror and took a beautiful hairbrush that lay on drawer. I’m sure his Lordship doesn’t mind. If he does, bad luck for him. She brushed her hair with long, steady strokes, spending a great deal of effort on even the last strand, until her magnificent head of hair nearly began to glow. And every stroke was thoroughly enjoyed by her and she continued to do so until the fitter brought her new clothes.