Meriah sat at one of the busy tables of her workshop hurriedly stitching up the shoulder seam of a deep blue surcoat. She stood back from her work delighted that it sat so evenly on the modeling dummy.
She smiled at the busy hands around her. Twenty one women sewed various pieces of clothing as contracted by the public, all under her employ. Stopping for a moment, she took a deep breath, stretching her shoulders before retying her long silver and black hair into a ponytail. She smiled at the toiling women with needle and thread in hand. They were good workers, all of them, and kept the quality of the clothing to a standard she had already set. In less than ten years she had risen to become seamstress to the king.
“Not bad for a widow,” she smirked to herself.
And brought up two children as well, she thought.
“I have brought the orange cloth as you asked, mother,” said a female voice from behind.
A roll of flaming orange was placed on her table.
“Thankyou dear,” she said, clutching her hands fondly.
She looked up at the woman with a dress of flames embroidered into it, some of which was made from the same orange cloth; her favorite. Jiolin was everything a mother wished her daughter would be, taller, beautiful and although from humble beginnings, carried herself as a woman of elegance. As she expected, she was already betrothed to a good young man, a stone-mason from the next village and looked forward to attending the wedding next year.
Jiolin’s eyes flashed to the surcoat.
“Is that what the orange cloth is for,” she asked incredulously.
“Aye,” beamed her mother, “I have been commissioned by the king to make a surcoat for one of his elite; the Blue River Guardsmen and you are to help me; you will already find the template of the snarling dog to trace around in front of you.”
“You must be so proud to have this honor,” said Jiolin, smoothing out the orange cloth and marking it out.
“Doubly so,” said Meriah, “When you learn who it is for.”
“Was father ever a member of the guard,” her daughter asked, as she set the scissors to the bright orange cloth.
“No,” guffawed Meriah, “He was a common axe-man, of the king’s forces; still, I was told that he gave his life dearly in the mercenary wars of Dabal B’aque against the sand tribes. I was given enough compensation to start my seamstress shop,” she said, rolling her eyes around her. “I would have preferred to have your father of course,” she said with a tinge of regret, “Still, we have done alright. Have you finished cutting out the orange cloth yet?”
“Not yet,” yelped Jiolin.
“Oh hopeless,” admonished Meriah, smiling.
“There,” said Jiolin, snipping off the last of it.
Meriah stretched the orange cloth out in her hands to inspect the shape.
“Fine cutting,” she said, taking up pins to secure it to the blue surcoat. “It seems I taught you well. Now stitch up the hemline of the surcoat while I embroider the orange emblem into place.”
“Why is the king’s crest that of a snarling dog, mother,” Jiolin asked, kneeling to work on the hemline.
“As I was told, it was because our first king, Tonunda the Savage, was of the Dog tribe.”
“But why orange, like flames?”
“I do not know,” said Meriah, “Perhaps it is a flaming mystery,” she finished, ushering both women into laughter.
They labored on the garment for hours to make it perfect, going over it to ensure that not so much as a loose thread showed. When next she saw the orange cloth, it was worn proudly in the king’s parade by its newest recruit. To Meriah, he was a son, to Jiolin, a brother. Like his father, he too was once a common axe-man, but had passed the training to become a Blue River Guardsman. To further add to the honor, he was the first of their family to join the ranks of the guard for several generations, and as she was informed, the only man to pass from an intake of a hundred.
A tear of joy rolled down Meriah’s cheek, as her son’s rank marched past her in a collection of orange snarling dogs.
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