She scanned the bank of the river until she found what she was looking for. A boy, no older than ten, played in the mud created by the lapping water. Asking one the Stone street Orphans to carry a message to anyone without promising payment after the job was complete was always a risk. Siobhan at least had a strong enough relationship with their Foundling house she hoped meant she didn’t have to worry.
“Boy!” she called. The kid stopped playing in the mud and stared at her. “Do you know Ivan?”
The boy nodded. Of course he knew Ivan. Any vagrant in the city knew of him. After the kitchens of his tavern closed for the evening, any starving street rats could gather in the alley behind for the left over scraps. There often weren’t many, but it was still more than they could find scavenging the streets.
Siobhan held up the coin. “Tell him Siobhan’s cart is in the tunnels and in need of storage for a time. This coin is for you and there will be another from him if you do this. Deal?”
The boy licked his lips. His eyes stared at the coin like it was a bar of gold instead of a simple circle of copper. She was positive his mind was whirling over the bread he could buy with that one coin. It was another case of ‘it would never be enough,’ but it would be more than he could gather in a day. He wiped his grimy hands on his equally grimy pants.
“’tis be done,” he said, holding out his hand for a shake. Siobhan nodded and sealed their deal before handing him the coin. He spun on his feet and bolted up the wood stairs leading to Stone street. With another sigh, she returned to the tunnel where Wren was strapping a roll of furs to his horse.
She walked to Zelick where Elias’ bag hung from the saddle. Zelick pounded a hoof against the dirt and huffed. Siobhan rolled her eyes as the horse started to back away.
“Oh relax, I’m not going to be the one riding you.” She didn’t bother to pat the horse for comfort. Zelick would’ve gladly bitten her hand instead. She reached into Elias’ bag and found the leather wrap holding two small, narrow vials filled with a black liquid. Sighing, she grabbed one. Siobhan couldn’t believe she was about to waste it on the moron. But she had no choice. If they couldn’t get out of the city there would be no point in Elias swimming to Firnlan.
“Here.” Siobhan held out the vial to Wren. He arched an eyebrow, staring at the black sloshing inside.
“Trying to poison me?”
“If I want to kill you, I won’t use a method as dainty as poison. Your neck will be sliced, arteries opened, or choked. Not poisoned.” She wiggled her hand to make the black liquid slosh. “This is a changeling potion that will change any part of your appearance you desire. A single sip of this can change anything you want for a week. Drink the entire vial and you’ll have three to four months.”
“Why do I need that?”
“Because we have no time to make you hair dye and no way to change your eye color without this. The Vanguard Generals are looking for two boys, one with brown hair and blue eyes. Thus we need to ensure you do not have brown hair and blue eyes.”
“What about you?”
“They think I’m a boy. They’re technically not looking for me. I’ll simply change from my hunting clothes to something more feminine and problem solved.”
Wren huffed. He grabbed the vial and held it up to his face. Both his thumb and index finger twirled the glass as he continued to stare. With the amount of times she threatened to kill him in the day she’d known him, she didn’t blame him for being leery. If she had to, however, she would force the liquid down his throat.
“What do I do?”
“Take at least a sip that would be enough to get you out of the city before it starts to wear off. When your body starts to tingle, think of what you want to change. It can be anything, but make sure it includes eye and hair color. If you’ve ever wanted long hair, now you can have it. Darker skin? It’s yours. Though it won’t wash the grease out of your hair or cleanse the dirt from your cheeks.”
“And the whole thing lasts three to four months?”
Siobhan winced. If he took the entire vial, she’d have only one left. It would take near two months travel from Scanla to the spire in Wyvernton, and that was if the snow wasn’t terrible. Wren didn’t seem to care about the dangers of the Vanguard Generals, she knew he certainly wouldn’t care traveling in the heart of winter would be a challenge that’s better off being waited out in Firnlan. Of course he would think keeping his changed appearance until Wyvernton would be a wise idea. Maybe he wasn’t quite the moron she thought him to be.
“Aye. Take the whole vial and you might be able to reach Wyvernton without worrying about the Vanguard Generals after you.”
Wren pulled the cork out of the glass and sniffed the rim. “Ugh. It smells like vomit.”
“Tastes like it too.” Siobhan turned away and went to Nyka. She didn’t carry many clothes in her saddlebag, they were extra unneeded weight. There was the hunting gear she currently wore, that was what she wore the most because of the loose fitting shirt and pants. The clincher folded up like paper and could be worn with anything. There was a nightgown for sleeping, a thin decorative cloak and her hooded cowl, and a single dress. Siobhan removed the dress and scowled. With the low cut, tight fitting bodice, the dress was perfect for enticing men with the intention of robbing them blind. However, riding in the dark red-wine colored full-length dress wasn’t comfortable. It barely gave enough give to ride the horse without being sidesaddle.
Siobhan undid her belt, allowing it, her staff, and purse to drop to the ground. She pulled the pants down to her ankles, being careful to leave her undergarments in place.
“What are you doing!” Wren shrieked.
She glanced over her shoulder. His hair was streaking with black through the light brown grease. There was a shimmer to his eyes but they hadn’t yet changed. Even his skin was darkening to near bronze.
“I’m changing, what does it look like?” she asked.
“Here? Right now? Without cover?”
His cheeks reddened as he averted his eyes to stare at the ground. Siobhan pulled off her shirt and allowed it to float to a pile at her feet. Both hands curled on her hips as she turned to face Wren. Only her thin underclothes kept her from being completely naked.
“There won’t be a lot of privacy on the road, Wren. You might as well get used to seeing me in my underclothes. I’m not sleeping in my travel gear and I won’t shy away from changing in front of you nor should you shy from changing in front of me.”
“These are the only clothes I have,” he mumbled, still averting his gaze. His hair stopped growing at shoulder length, curling at the tips. Black killed off the remains of the light brown.
“No wonder they’re becoming so tattered.” She turned away and stepped into the dress. Her hands worked to tie the front of the bodice to hold it in place when she turned back. “I’m covered now, you innocent fool.”
When Wren lifted his eyes, they were no longer blue. They were the same shade of light brown as Siobhan. At first glance, they could pass as brother and sister.
“Really? Picking my colors?”
Wren shrugged. “I didn’t know what else to think of. I’ve never imagined myself looking different. It really worked then?”
“Of course it worked.” She huffed and grabbed the reins of Zelick to tie them to Wren’s scraggly beast of a horse. Mud and dirt and even some grass splattered the horses hide. Twigs decorated the knots in the mane. When they were clear of danger, she’d groom the poor thing herself no matter how many times she’d try to bite her. She sighed and looked back to Wren. “Tuck that ring back under your shirt. Dressed the way you are, nobody will believe you’re nobility. If anyone asks, we’re brother and sister traveling to Firnlan.”
He nodded and mounted his horse. “Are you really going to change in front of me?”
Siobhan laughed, her cackles bounced off the walls of the tunnel as she mounted Nyka and clicked her heels against the horse’s side. For being a moron, he was certainly an adorable one. It would be fun corrupting his innocence.