The “Let’s Talk” Blogfest – Steam Palace
Thanks to Roni Griffin for hosting The “Let’s Talk” Blogfest. Click to check out all the other entries. The idea is to post your most “sparkly” dialog. Well, I think I used my most sparkly dialog for the Baking Scene Blogfest, but I’ll try to find something worthy.
For those who have read bits of Steam Palace, in this scene, “Bad Girl” Viola is helping fit Sophia into a dress. Beatrice, Sophia’s aunt, has left them to their own devices. I’ve edited down the original for length.
Sophia pirouetted and returned to face the woman, arms covering her chest.
Viola placed her long-nailed hand on her chin, a vulture savoring her prey. “Inconceivable. A perfect figure. Unlike me. I’m a little too—saucy. The downside of ale, as they say.”
Viola manipulated delicate fingers that worked through the lacing of a red and black sateen corset she retrieved from a pile.
She wrapped Sophia into the corset and then used her foot as leverage against Sophia’s back and hind quarters to tie the laces. She stuffed Sophia into the blue Cobbs dress, stood back, and nodded. “You’re almost a lady now.”
Sophia stared down at her protruding bosom and bustle. “I feel like a peacock on display. I dread to consult the looking-glass. Shouldn’t my chest be covered?” She placed her hand on her bare sternum.
“You are so precious! You look most ravishing, darling.” Viola led Sophia to the glass.
Sophia sucked in a breath upon seeing her reflection. Her hand flew to her mouth. Indeed, a lady stared back. “Oh my. Yes, I do.” A smile flicked her lips. A smile which descended into sadness. “But I have no means to finance such finery. I lost the full sum of my savings upon my journey.”
Voila laid an arm on her shoulder and her face appeared next to hers, a leering grin slashing her visage. “You don’t say, you poor thing. You know, I might have just the opportunity for you. If you allow me, I shall pay for everything. The dress, the corset, and while we’re at it, how about some boots, a hat or two, gloves, undergarments, and a coat? And I know of a fine jeweler nearby.”
Sophia shook her head. Accept money from this woman? Never.
Viola examined a slick pair of black boots. “I suspect we wear the same size, too. We could be such good friends, me and you. And with my help, you could earn the money back in no time.”
A hand crept along Sophia’s face and turned her head so they stood eye-to-eye. “Well, you enjoy the company of refined gentlemen, correct? And Beatrice mentioned the other day that you were seeking a husband. Well, I know the perfect form of employment for you. I manage an exclusive gentlemen’s club, and it just so happens we have a new opening for someone with special qualities. If you possess a strong intellect and excellent conversation skills, you’d fit right in. You already exude the beauty we desire. These men pay handsomely for attentive escorts.”
Sophia couldn’t imagine a more charming snake. But…men of refinement? Conversation? All things she longed for.
“You look so beautiful—and desirable, my sweet Sophia,” she continued, turning back to the glass. “You want to be sought by men, fought over, even. You didn’t come to Hartford to be ordinary, did you?”
Sophia bristled. “Of course not. If I wished for ordinary I would have married some pig trapper in Podunk.”
Viola grinned wide, her canines flashing. “Well then. I believe we are in agreement, yes? I can provide you with a life that is far from ordinary, full of wealth and beauty and everything a beautiful woman could desire. And if in the process you secure a match—so much the better. Let’s choose a few more items, if we can find any worthy of your beauty. Leave the bargaining with the store wench to me. You are going to love the Steam Palace.”
Sophia froze. “What!? The Steam Palace? My friend elucidated me upon what transpires on that wretched floating city—gambling and harlotry.”
“Filthy lies! Listen, Miss Podunk. Tell you what.” Viola leaned close. “I like you. I really do. You’re a strong, independent woman. You’re no simple country girl. Someone has taught you culture, a love of the finer things. All I ask is one night. If you don’t love it, then walk away, and keep everything I buy you. One night. One night can’t corrupt you, can it? Look at how pretty you are. With my makeup artistry, you will become irresistible. Think of all the fine things you could afford. Dresses. Shoes. Fine dining. Servants. Your own residence. Just by engaging in pleasant conversation with the cream of New Britannian society. Don’t you deserve the better things in life?”
Yes. She did deserve fine things after seven years of hard labor with nothing to show for it. She had sacrificed everything to get here, her job, her mechohorse, perhaps even her final moments with her mother. This strange woman with her silver tongue spoke true—what harm could one night do to her soul? Viola was right—Sophia was strong, she was independent, and she was not one to turn down such an opportunity.
“I shall require a matching parasol or two, a fine riding cloak, a wristwatch, new brass goggles, and I want Lady Beatrice’s larder fully stocked. Is that acceptable?”
Viola snickered. “Whatever you want, my dear, whatever you want. Shall we?”
For more Steam Palace, check out the first few chapters now up Authonomy.