Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed the rigid way the new customer held herself, leaning her entire body away at an awkward angle. The woman was graying and stooped with age, which made the contortion act all the more laughable. She'd pressed herself into the corner of the small shop, carrying on as though she were sharing the space with a rabid animal and not a nineteen-year-old girl.
Unable to help herself, Jasminda closed her eyes and focused on the well of power within her. By itself, her Song was nothing but raw potential, a match waiting for a strike. But when the rush of Earthsong swept over her, the match caught fire, burning bright.
She extended her arms and scrutinized the deep, rich tone of her skin, so different than everyone else in the town, than just about everyone in the entire country of Elsira. The energy rippling through her gave her a deeper connection to her body. She became even more aware of her skin, how it knit together over muscle and bone. Silently, she sang a spell to shift its color to match the muted, less vibrant shade of the astonished women before her.
"Better?" She looked up, wearing a sweet smile as a mask.
The older woman made a sound like a cat struggling with a hairball and stumbled back, grabbing at the doorknob several times before catching hold.
"Grol witch," she muttered, then wrenched the door open and fled. The little bell jingled mercilessly.
The postmistress shot her a murderous glare and backed away, once again retreating behind the curtain separating the front area from the back.
Jasminda's brittle smile crumbled. She released her hold on Earthsong, and her skin changed back to its natural hue. She really shouldn't have wasted her power; she was weak enough as it was. There was no telling what she might meet on the journey home, and she couldn't afford to exhaust herself.
Frowning, she ripped open the unexpected letter from the unknown solicitor. She scanned the text, but the words inside were so formal she could barely make sense of them. A telephone exchange and number were printed on the letterhead. Jasminda had never phoned anyone before—hadn't had anyone to call—but the legal language on the page was gibberish, and she needed to have someone decipher it.
The letter and documents included must have something to do with the tax lien against the farm. Could this be the good news she'd been hoping for? Perhaps the tax bureau had turned the case over to the lawyers for her appeal. She didn't know how these things usually happened.
"How do I phone Rosira?" she called out. The post station had installed a public telephone kiosk six months before. Jasminda approached it warily.
The postmistress fought the dividing curtain in her rush to the front. "Who does someone like you have to call in the capital?" Her deep-set eyes narrowed.
"How. Is. It. Done?" Jasminda pressed her lips together, forming a barrier against other, harsher words she longed to say.
The woman paused, hands on her hips, before relenting. "Pick up the handle and click the lever a few times until the operator comes on. She'll tell you how much it'll be."
"Thank you." Jasminda smiled tightly and followed the postmistress's instructions. The operator's staticky voice announced that the call would be five tenthpieces. Jasminda dumped her change in the slot then waited long minutes for the call to be connected.
Once through to the solicitor's office, she had to wait again to be directed to the man named on the letter she'd received, a Mr. Niqolas Keen.
"It's really very simple, miss." His tone was clipped as if he was in a great hurry. "You sign the paperwork in front of a witness, alert us, and forty thousand pieces will be wired into your bank account."