Alerie has suspicious eyes.
Beau noticed that immediately: narrowed brown eyes, defensive posture, the way the half-elf girl was ready to spring—to fight, to flee—at any given moment. Alerie probably thought Beau didn’t know there was a dagger stashed in her boot, but Beau saw the way her left hand kept twitching towards it.
On one hand, Beau approves: those were the kind of reflexes that a Cobalt Soul operative would need.
On the other: Alerie was eleven years old , too young to have those reflexes.
“This is where you’ll be sleeping,” Yasha says, a trifle nervously, opening the door to Alerie’s room. “There’s an en suite bathroom, and there’s your closet. It has towels if you need any, and, um…”
Alerie steps through, cautiously, little brown hand tightening on her knapsack. Brown eyes scan it quickly, and Beau notices the way she’s looking for exits—large window, door that led to the bathroom. Then her eyes fall on the single bed, with the blue sheets embroidered with flowers.
“I don’t have to…share with anyone?”
“Nah, kid,” Beau says. “Well, if you wanted your friends over I guess you would have to, but otherwise, go nuts.”
“I’m allowed visitors?”
“Of course you are,” Yasha says. “Is there anyone from the monastery you’d like to have visit?”
Alerie’s entire body stiffens imperceptibly. “Not…the Soul,” she says. Then she raises her chin defiantly. “I want to see my Sisters, but the monks won’t let me.”
Beau very carefully keeps her face neutral. On the surface, the Sisterhood of the Eclipse was a textile guild from Port Damali that took in female orphans and taught them a trade. Which was true. But they also had a side business running crime, with young girls and women as operatives.
A few months ago, some Sisters tried to sneak into the Nicodranas Cobalt Soul libraries, presumably to steal something. All but one, Alerie, got away, and it was said that she deliberately stayed behind to cover their escape.
The Cobalt Soul monks, seeing Alerie’s talent, decided to put her in training. She excelled, but was angry and standoffish and never stopped planning her escape—
—much like Beauregard Lionett had been, as a child.
And so, the monks had asked Beau to mentor the girl. “Maybe you can connect with her,” they’d said. And Beau had responded by inviting the girl to stay for the winter break.
“Are your, uh, Sisters in the area?” Yasha probes.
Alerie’s mouth firms. “These aren’t the Lunar Sisters,” she says. “They’re the Solar ones. The ones who work in the textile guild. I was with them when I was a kid, but then they put me in Lunar training instead.”
Yasha looks confused, and Beau tells her, “The Lunar operations are the crime ones, babe. The Solar operations are the legit ones.”
Alerie nods. “They aren’t going to steal your shit. They just…want to see me.”
Yasha smiles. “Even if they were going to try and steal our shit, Alerie,” she says, “your friends are welcome in our home.”
Beau smirks. “They couldn’t steal any of our shit anyway.”
Alerie looks around: the costly, well-made dark wood furniture; the carved bowl full of summer flowers (summer flowers! In the middle of winter!) set on the little desk near the window; the gilt-framed painting hanging on the wall; the clearly expensive sheets on the bed.
Her entire expression screams You’re easy marks.
Beau keeps the smirk on her face.
“I guess,” she says. She sits down on the bed and puts her knapsack on the floor. And then her eyes stray to the painting on the wall.
It’s a painting of Beau, Yasha, Nott, Caleb (and Frumpkin), and Jester, and it never fails to give Beau a warm feeling in her ribcage.
“Is that— Queen Jester ?” Alerie breathes.
“Yep,” Beau says, grinning. “Well, she was still a princess then, but yeah, that’s Jessie.”
“And is that— you ?” Alerie stands up, walks closer to the painting, eyes wide in wonder—a little brown finger reaches out, as if to trace the paint on canvas.
“Yeah,” Beau says smugly. “Me and Yasha and Jess, we’re tight.”
Alerie doesn’t respond, eyes still hungrily tracing the lines of the laughing people in the painting.
It’s not a serious portrait, not like the many paintings that are up in the castle—Jester is laughing, hand-in-hand with Caleb. Her full-skirted green dress flares out—Jester always did like poofs and frills—and her opal diadem sparkles brightly in the afternoon light. Nott perches on Caleb’s shoulder, hair plaited full of flowers, her yellow dress standing out against Caleb’s lovely purple coat. Frumpkin is on Caleb’s other shoulder, licking his paw daintily and disdainfully.
Caleb on the other hand is smiling, a smile as warm and real as the warm red-orange of his ponytail, as Beau and Yasha stand slightly behind all of them. They wear the insignia of the Lavorre family’s personal guards, but their posture is loose and relaxed and happy. This is a portrait of them with friends, not them with their charges.
Behind them, the palace of Nicodranas is lit up with the glow of a thousand floating lanterns.
“How do you know Queen Jester?” Alerie asks, turning awed eyes on Beau and Yasha.
Yasha grins brightly. “I’ve been her bodyguard since she was a little girl.”
Beau shrugs. “Oh, she ran away, found the love of her life, ran into me at a sleazy establishment—you know how princess stories go, don’t you?”
Alerie shakes her head, eyes wide.
Beau grins. Connect with the girl, huh? She points at the bed. “Can I sit?”
Beau sits, and says, “All right, kid. This is the story of how Queen Jester—well, she was still a princess then—of how Princess Jester killed a man.”