Mom and dad were still arguing. Actually, it was more like dad was yelling and mom was just trying to keep him from doing something stupid.
“Jake, Daria’s letter said she was fine.”
“Yeah! Her letter said that! But what would Daria say, Helen? Maybe the Sloans made her write that letter! They’re nobles, they can do whatever the hell they want and this whole damn system will let them get away with it!”
Quinn rolled on her side and pressed her pillow over her ears.
“Great going, Daria,” she whispered. “Run off with a noble and leave me with this mess.”
Everything had gone wrong since the pageant! First, it turned out Daria had been having an affair or something with Tomal, Synda’s boyfriend—or ex-boyfriend, now. Then she ran off with him, which was the weirdest thing ever, because Daria was boring.
And now, everyone was fighting each other about it. Dad acted like Daria had been kidnapped, and mom was trying to calm him down while also asking some of the Empire guys in the fort to investigate. Not that they did.
“We’re sorry,” the officer had said, “but the Sloans are friends of the Empire. Given their status, you ought to consider yourself lucky that their son has taken such an interest in your daughter.”
Somehow, Quinn was pretty sure that Daria was safe. The letter sounded too much like her to be a fake. Like who else would live with the richest guy in Morrowind and still find something to complain about? But mom completely flipped when she’d told her that. Quinn understood why, though.
Talking about dating or marrying a noble was one thing, but actually doing it? That could get scary. She remembered how that creep Turimar had threatened her, how helpless she’d felt.
“I’m going over to Moonmoth to have a talk with this Varrus guy tomorrow!” dad bellowed from down below. “See what that squirmy little official has to say to an angry Nord father whose daughter is missing!”
“I don’t care! He didn’t do enough!”
Quinn sighed. She remembered they used to fight like that about Daria, forever ago.
At least Fashion Club meetings let her worry about something else.
“Do you guys remember those fashion seminars we tried to hold like, a year ago? Do you think we should try that again, Muthsera Morgendorffer?”
It was Sundas afternoon at the Glass Crown, and Quinn was trying hard to pay attention.
“Uh, yeah, that sounds great, Satheri,” she said.
“Best of all, we don’t have to worry about Synda anymore!”
“Or her Haute Society,” Treads-on-Ferns added.
“Synda… needed… to keep a better eye… on her… guy…”
Satheri giggled. “And now she’s like, completely disgraced! I don’t have to be nice to her anymore!” She grinned and got so excited she started shaking her fists.
“Good riddance,” Treads said.
“Has anyone seen her?” Quinn asked.
“I randomly saw her with her parents outside Lli’s office last week,” Jeval said. “She looked messed up.”
“Messed up how?” Satheri demanded, looking a little too into the whole thing.
Jeval shrugged. “I dunno. Like she was trying to hide. She had this big hood.”
“Ugh, gross!” Satheri exclaimed.
“Guys, let’s not talk about Synda, okay? She’s basically history, anyway,” Quinn said.
Quinn knew she’d be pretty upset if someone like Daria had stolen a boyfriend from her—but Synda sounded more upset. Like she’d lost everything. Back on Stirk, there had been this sweet old lady, Tivulia, whose husband drowned on a fishing trip. She’d screamed and wailed when his crew came back without him.
Synda had sounded like Tivulia.
No way could a guy be that good. There was always someone else. If you could get one noble guy as a commoner, you could probably figure out how to get a second. Something else had been going on with Synda.
Satheri smiled. “I’m so glad I followed you, Muthsera Morgendorffer.”
“Uh, sure thing,” Quinn said, getting a little creeped out. Ugh, she needed some time to think and get everything straightened out. No wonder Daria hated hanging out with people.
Everyone looked at her like they wanted her to say something. “Sorry guys, what were we talking about?”
“Doing the fashion seminars again,” Treads said.
“Oh, right!” But that was like the last thing she wanted to do right now. Maybe she should like, delegate this. “So what should we talk about? Tiphannia, I’m sure you must have some ideas.”
“I have… tons… of ideas… for fashion…”
At least Quinn could think about something else while she waited for Tiphannia to finish.
Home was the last place Quinn wanted to be, so she walked everyone else home first. Tiphannia and Satheri lived close by, but Jeval lived near the strider port and Treads-on-Ferns lived in Labor Town by the river, so that let her stay out a while longer. She went south along the Odai with them, the late day merchants still making their pitches.
Mom and dad didn’t like her staying out late anymore. The Labor Town protests kept getting bigger, and she’d heard a few had turned into fights.
“Is your sister okay, Quinn?” Treads suddenly asked.
“Huh? Oh. Uh, I think so. She sent this letter where she says she’s living at some manor out in the countryside. I’m pretty sure she’s not in any trouble, but my parents are freaking out because the Sloans are nobles.”
“I’m sorry,” Treads said.
“And it makes me so mad! Like she just ran off and did this without thinking about anyone else!” Quinn threw her hands in the air, wishing Daria was there so she could like, scream at her or something. “It’s what she always does.”
“What did she say in the letter?” Treads asked.
“Just that she was okay. She was still being a jerk about everything, so she was probably telling the truth. I wish I knew for sure.”
“Hey, Jeval,” Treads said. “Your dad’s a courier, right?”
“Do you think he’d take a job to go over to where Quinn is? Maybe he could deliver a message from the rest of the Morgendorffers.”
“Hey, yeah, that’s a good idea!” Jeval said. “My dad’s actually out on delivery right now, but he should be home in a couple of days.”
Quinn suddenly hugged Treads. She had so many good ideas. Daria was right about that, at least. “Ohmigosh, thank you! It’s so scary and weird right now.”
“Hold on a sec,” came Jeval’s voice. “I don’t know my dad’s schedule. He can do it if he’s free, but you might have to wait if he has another assignment lined up.”
Quinn let go of Treads and looked at Jeval. Last year, he and his friends would be competing for her, each one saying he’d deliver the message and bring her some crazy present. And she’d have totally gone for it, too. Or just let them keep fighting each other for the best offer.
Ugh, how had she ever been so silly?
“I get it. But if he’s free, could you let me know?” Quinn asked.
“Sure thing. Do you know where Daria is?” Jeval asked.
“She said she was in Ravil Manor. I don’t know why she isn’t in Sloan Manor, or whatever.”
Jeval stroked his chin like he was thinking about something. “All the rich guys have country homes out in the Ascadian Isles, the manor’s probably there.”
“Would your dad know how to find Ravil Manor?” Quinn asked.
He looked unsure. “I don’t think so. My dad doesn’t work for nobles—those guys all got their own messengers for this kind of thing. They don’t like to advertise where they live, either.”
Plus, Quinn thought, she couldn’t even be sure if the Sloans or Ravils or whatever would take the message.
“Okay. Let me like, think about this for a bit. Jeval, can you tell me when your dad gets back?”
“Thanks. You guys are great friends.”
Dad was yelling again.
“Varro was useless! What the hell are our taxes paying for?”
Mom and dad were down in the kitchen, but Quinn could still hear them upstairs. She turned over in her bed. Her room was way too quiet.
She thought about what Jeval had said. Maybe all she could do was send a letter to the manor and hope that the Sloans were nice enough to accept something from a commoner like her. Her cheeks suddenly burned. What was so bad about being a commoner?
Ugh, this whole system sucked.
She needed a noble to be on her side. Briltasi? Or wait, didn’t Jane work for a noble, now? Maybe Jane could pull some strings or something.
Quinn didn’t know the Dunmer that well. Sure, she knew Satheri like a sister—actually, wait, not like a sister. She barely knew her actual sister. But Satheri was almost a loner with the other Dunmer. Maybe that’s why she was so happy about Synda’s big meltdown.
Maybe Satheri could point her in the right direction.
Everyone knew that Morndas sucked, but it sucked slightly less if you looked your best.
Quinn focused that morning. She put all thoughts of Daria aside and put on her favorite yellow moth-silk gown, the one with the sewn-in lace cuffs, and accessorized for non-formal occasions (so netch leather shoes, a copper necklace that looked gold in the right light, a lapis lazuli brooch, and a few other essentials). For her hair, she decided to go all out like the Nibenese ladies did (or at least, how they did a few years ago, which was current enough in Balmora) by piling her red locks up on top of her scalp, and curling a few of them. She’d need a handmaiden or something to do it properly, but looking right was usually better than being right.
She ran into Satheri on the way to school, which suited her perfectly.
“I was wondering something,” Quinn said. “Do you like, know anyone who knows the Sloans?”
“Me? Oh, no. I’m not important enough for that. I once met Serjo Sloan. The son, I mean. He seemed nice. Daria must be so happy with him!”
Quinn pretended not to be annoyed. “I know! My mom and dad are like super proud of her right now.”
“Oh!” Satheri gasped, clasping her hands together, “I’m sure! My mom says that Serjo Sloan the Younger is one of the most eligible young bachelors in Vvardenfell District. Your sister’s so lucky. But I’m sure you’ll marry a noble too, Muthsera Morgendorffer. And I’m arranged to be married to one, so we’ll be in like the same social circles and can stay best friends forever!”
“I know, I can’t wait!” Quinn said. “It’s just that my mom wants to send Daria a letter of congratulations—and to ask her to tell us, you know, when the wedding will be and all that.”
“That’s such a good idea!”
Time for the real question. “But we’re not sure how to reach her. Can we just like send a letter? Or should we ask someone first?”
Satheri looked down at the ground like she always did when she was trying to figure something out. At least she didn’t furrow her brow anymore—Quinn had trained her out of that. “That could be tough. Briltasi—I mean, Serjo Talori—might know him. I’m not sure, though.”
“I was thinking about asking her. Oh, do you remember Jane? That friend of my sister’s with all the art stuff?”
Satheri nodded. “Yeah?”
“Didn’t some noble lady or something hire her? Do you know who? I think Daria told me, but I forgot.”
“I’m sorry, Muthsera Morgendorffer. I won’t be a noble until marriage, so I don’t know much about what they do. I guess I should start learning so I don’t look like a complete idiot.”
Quinn nodded. Satheri wouldn’t be able to help much.
She ditched Satheri (in a nice way) once she got to school and searched for Briltasi. Not like it was ever hard to find her—just follow the sound of Dunmer girls chatting. Briltasi and her friends hung out under the big emperor parasol that day. Most of the girls who used to be in Synda’s Haute Society had joined Briltasi, which Quinn guessed was an improvement.
Quinn took out her brass hand mirror and pretended to fuss with her hair while she waited for Briltasi to be alone. She knew better than to interrupt a queen at her court, even if the queen was as nice as Briltasi.
She swooped in right when the bell rang. “Hi, Briltasi! How was that party at Sera Llervis’s on Loredas? I wish I could have gone.”
“Oh, hi Quinn! Yeah, it was really fun. I’m surprised you weren’t there.”
“I wanted to go, but there was like this big charity thing to get clothes for poor kids,” Quinn lied. She’d stayed home because, well, things were a mess at home and she had to take care of them!
Briltasi tilted her head. “Aw, you’re so sweet, Quinn!”
“I try to be! Who was at the party?”
Quinn didn’t care that much. But she needed to keep talking about the social stuff before she asked her question. Briltasi went on about it, giving Quinn an idea as to who was in and who was out—the important kinds of things to know about.
“… Rovern Draalo was there, too. He’s like way bigger than his dad, it’s funny!”
“No way! Oh, wait, are the Draalos like nobles?” Quinn asked. That at least got them on the subject.
Briltasi giggled. “No, silly! He’s not important or anything. Though his family is respectable.”
Quinn made a show of putting her palm to her brow like she was embarrassed. “Sorry! These are kind of complicated for an outlander girl like me.”
“Aw, it’s okay! You’re not that important, so you don’t have to worry about it.”
“Speaking of nobles, do you know the Sloans?”
Briltasi shook her head. “Not really. Serjo Sloan the Younger seemed nice. He’s sort of cute—oh, wait, your sister’s dating him, huh?”
“That’s so cool! Anyway, the Sloans just got to Vvardenfell, so no one knows them that well.”
“I’m trying to write a letter to Daria. I figured if she’s dating a noble, maybe she can get me one, too—”
“You could totally get one!”
“—but I’m not sure how to get in touch with the Sloans. I know they’re at Ravil Manor, but I don’t know where that is.”
“I can ask Serjo Driler,” Briltasi said.
“He hosted the Sloans when they were here.”
“Could you?” Quinn made a big show of it, got her eyes to water a bit. “Oh, thank you so much, Briltasi!”
“I’m always happy to help.”
“I owe you big time.”
“Don’t worry about it! I owe Daria a favor, so I’ll repay her by not making you owe me anything. Daria helped me by not telling anyone I’m dating Kavon.” Briltasi’s eyes suddenly got big. “Uh, ‘cause I’m not dating Kavon! And she didn’t tell anyone I wasn’t not dating Kavon, so… uh…”
Quinn just smiled. “Oh, I had one more teensy question: do you know who hired Jane?”
“You know, Daria’s friend? The artist?”
“Oh yeah, the menial!” She looked like she was trying to think. “I can ask Serjo Driler!”
“Thanks again! I gotta run to class, but you’re the best, Briltasi!”
“I am, aren’t I!”
Quinn smiled until Briltasi turned, and then relaxed. Okay, she got this.
Briltasi told Quinn the bad news first: she didn’t know where Ravil Manor was (or Serjo Driler wouldn’t tell her). But she did learn that Serjo Olerlo had hired Jane. The Olerlos had a place in Balmora, but they lived in Vivec, which is where Jane would also be.
And at lunch, Jeval told her that his dad was free for an assignment, but that she had to move fast before he took another job.
Okay, so nobody knew where Ravil Manor was. She did know where Jane was. So what she had to do, was hire Jeval’s dad to take a message to Jane in Vivec City. Since the people who worked for nobles still had to get stuff delivered to them sometimes, right?
Ugh, she wished she had a better plan than this.
But maybe she could get one.
Quinn looked for Jolda at lunch. She wasn’t sure if Jolda could help that much—she wasn’t a noble or a Dunmer. But she did work with like, the government or something, and they had a ton of maps, didn’t they?
She found Jolda in the library with this big scary scroll full of numbers stretched out on the table. As always, she stared at the stuff like her life depended on it. Jolda had really pretty eyes, and Quinn hated to think they’d get bloodshot from all the work she did.
“Hi, Jolda?” Quinn greeted.
Jolda looked up. “Oh, hi Quinn. What’s going on?”
“Not too much.”
“Have you heard from Daria?” Jolda asked.
“I got a letter from her. That’s sort of why I’m here. Daria’s staying with Tomal and we’re all worried.”
Jolda sighed like she’d just heard bad news. “I bet. I feel bad about what happened with her.”
“It’s not your fault, Jolda.”
“I know. I just wish it could have worked out better. What did she say in her letter?”
“She said she’s fine, but I want to know for sure,” Quinn admitted.
“Daria said she’s staying at a place called Ravil Manor. Do you think maybe you could find out where that is? My friend’s dad is a courier, so maybe I can get him to send something there.”
Jolda brightened. “I know where that is! My dad made me intern at the Imperial Cartographic Society office last winter, and we looked over some maps of the Ascadian Isles. Ravil Manor’s a little corkbulb farm five-and-a-half miles east of Pelagiad.”
Well, that was even easier than Quinn had expected. “Oh, that’s great! Thank you so much, Jolda.”
“Sure thing. I don’t like the way nobles run roughshod over people either. I’ve heard that the Sloans are nice—but who knows for sure? The Crowns back in Hammerfell were bad enough…”
“I don’t think Daria’s in any trouble—but I better write the letter and get it sent! Thank you so much again, Jolda!”
Quinn flat-out skipped Sera Ondryn’s afternoon class (because who cared about him?) and walked straight home to tell mom and dad her plan.
“I can’t believe this!” dad raged. “We’re citizens, dammit! These nobles don’t have all the rights. Helen, find me the local Morag Tong office! I’m sure they can track her down for us!”
“I’m not sure that’s a good idea, Jake—”
“Well, I’m all out of good ideas! Time to try some bad ones!”
Quinn imagined what mom and dad would write to Daria. Dad would get super angry, and mom would just lecture Daria until she never wanted to come home.
Clearly, this was up to Quinn.
Quinn crept up to her room and sat down at Daria’s desk. Maybe that’d help her get into the spirit or whatever. She could do this. Letter-writing was for cool people.
But she still wasn’t sure what to say. Usually, all she had to say was how pretty, or handsome, or how cool someone was, and they’d do anything she asked. People loved attention, and they loved it even more when she gave attention to what they thought was a big deal about themselves—even if they actually sucked at it.
Daria was tough. She shot down most compliments. When they were kids, Quinn had tried telling Daria how smart and well-read she was, since that was what Daria cared about. Maybe that way they wouldn’t be so lonely and could play together the way other sisters did. But Daria just got mean and called Quinn a flatterer (which was how she'd learned what flattery meant).
“Concentrate,” she whispered to herself.
Should she take the direct but risky chance with Ravil Manor? Or play it safe with Jane?
Clearly, she had to do both. Ask Jeval's dad to try and deliver to Ravil Manor, and then go to Jane if that didn't work.
“Well, here goes,” she muttered and started writing.
She did the easy part, first: a letter to Jane, asking her to relay a message to Daria, maybe with Serjo Olerlo's personal courier. Then she tackled the letter to her sister.
I hope you get this letter. I’m sure you’re having a lot of fun with Serjo Sloan. Serjo Talori tells me he’s one of the most eligible bachelors in Vvardenfell.
Mom and dad know Serjo Sloan’s a great guy, and that his family is honorable. But you’re their elder daughter and you didn’t even say goodbye! That’s why they’re worried about you. They think they did something to make you run away, and they’d really like to see you.
I want to see you, too. I know we don’t always get along, but you’ve always been like a rock for us. Mom gets so driven and work-obsessed, and you know how dad flies off the handle sometimes. And me, well I’m pretty great, but maybe I do spend too much time and money on stuff like fashion. You’re stable, though. You keep things going.
No one here is mad at you (well, mom is a little, but she’ll get over it). We just want to see you again. If you get this, please come home to say hi. It’d mean a lot.
- Your sister, Quinn
Quinn was crying when she finished. At least she hadn’t worn any kohl that day. Tears made her face all gross and puffy, but she didn’t care. She sobbed into her silk handkerchief, wishing she’d taken more time to get along with her odd, confusing, difficult, and absolutely fantastic sister.
She kept going until she was all out of tears. Then she walked to her cabinet and took out the small sandalwood box where she kept her coins and counted them out. Just eighteen septims short of two deliveries—since she might need Jeval’s dad to visit Ravil Manor and Vivec.
“Ooh,” she uttered, frustrated.
Then she remembered something and smiled. Quinn walked over to Daria’s bookshelf and rifled through the tomes until she found a bulging cloth bag behind some boring history book that wasn’t even written in verse. Opening it up, she took out eighteen septims, and then twenty more.
She totally deserved a gratuity for all this.