river_meimei: (outlaw in training)
The kitchen: ruled by a plump and autocratic cook with a horde of scurrying servants.

The hallways: lit by gas and sunlight, wallpapered, lined with classrooms. (River's shoulders are tight and hunched every time she looks in one of these rooms. She looks in every one anyway. Every room; every corner.)

The cellar: damp, dim, full of shelves and barrels and glass jars. Pickles, blanched vegetables, potatoes and parsnips and onions. Coal and wood for fires.

The attic: dusty, dim as the cellar, and full of papers and stored paintings rather than root vegetables. A few servants' bedrooms, tiny and spare, with the kind of desperate cleanliness that's meant to make up for a lack of actual possessions.

Hardly anyone notices one more servant girl, especially one who keeps well out of the way of other servants. A few people -- a portly teacher with a bluff avuncular face, the cook, an imperious young teenager -- give her orders, barked or distractedly mumbled. River nods, tries not to flinch and not to glower, and scurries on with the proper cowed air. She ignores the orders once she's out of sight, of course.

Mostly, she keeps to the shadows. The corners, the back stairways, the closets; even fewer people look there.

She listens for whispers said and unsaid, for secrets and plans and screams. She looks at the walls: the cracks, the spaces, measuring dimensions with her eyes while her fingers tick and twist through mental calculations at her side.

(Whatever else may be said of the Academy, River learned there. Learned well.)

River watches, and River listens, and what River finds is: everything matches. Everything adds up.

There's a discreet back stairwell for servants' usage, but no hidden passages. There are trapdoors -- for laundry. There are rooms the students aren't allowed in -- for the faculty, or the servants.

But there's nothing sinister, in the building or lurking in anyone's thoughts. Nothing but the usual, petty human venalities.

It's an Edwardian girls' school.
river_meimei: (ships passing in the night)
From Bar, the clothing: drab, ruthlessly clean, much-mended with skill and tidiness. A dress, an apron and cap, stockings and button-down shoes with anachronistically soft and silent soles. Servants can go anywhere on the right person's orders, unlike rich students.

Built by Kaylee: a small silver-backed hairbrush concealing a tiny piece of decidedly non-Edwardian technology, down at the bottom of a pocket. One button sends a silent alarm to Simon's 'pocketwatch,' the device's twin; the small switch, when flipped by both people, makes it a two-way comm device.

If everything goes well, Mary will get the hairbrush to keep at the bottom of her trunk, and the pocketwatch will go to the joint possession of Dickon Sowerby and Colin Craven. Just in case.

River's hair has been brushed and tied back under a smartly ruffled cap. She's managed to keep from plucking absently at it so far, but this isn't likely to last.

Neither River nor Simon can open the door to Mary's Yorkshire, of course. But that doesn't matter with Galadan here. They disappear from Milliways to a rolling bit of moorland, River holding Galadan and Simon each by the hand. The andain leans on her for a moment, but no longer; teleporting between worlds is hard work, far from Fionavar, but he recovers fast. He's their guarantee of getting back, too, no matter what Milliways doors decide to open or not.

"Be careful, meimei," Simon says, tucking back a loose strand of her hair, when they're still out of sight of the school. Galadan lifts an eyebrow ironically.

"You too," she tells her brother, with half a smile, and turns away.

They split up: Simon to the front door at his most stiffly aristocratic, Galadan to the staff entrance, River to slip in her own way.


river_meimei: (Default)
River Tam

August 2010



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