“Well?” Nvara said.
Alix folded her arms and stared at the mess of gleaming fabric at Nvara’s feet. Cloth-of-gold tangled around bright red and silvery-grey and a yellow so bright it made Alix’s eyes bleed.
“You sure this is right?” she said.
Nvara rubbed her nose and glared back up at Alix.
“Swear to all the gods. This is Vlidwear,” Nvara said.
“Somehow I don’t trust someone who calls them ‘Vlids’ to know,” Alix said. She folded her arms.
“I mean, she’s right,” Svelen said. “Rich Vleylaanders wear this stuff.”
“But… a cape? Really?”
“Yup.” Svelen held up a jacket made of golden cloth, covered in swirling embroidery.
“Is this one for me?” he asked.
Nvara nodded. “Start getting dressed, we don’t have much time.”
Svelen shrugged the jacket on. It fit better than anything Alix had ever seen him wear.
“This stuff is fucking deck,” Alix said.
“Look at you, following the party line.” Nvara raised a shawl, looking at it critically, and tugged at the fabric. The edge of it unraveled into glowing lio. Dark blue light glowed around her hands as she shaped it; the fringe grew an inch, and tassels sprouted from the hem.
“Yeah, well,” Alix said. “There’s a difference between ‘people can’t have nice things’ and ‘this is too many nice things, put some back’.”
She put the cape on anyway. It weighed on her shoulders like a shroud. The hem grazed the ground.
“You got something for my face?” Svelen asked.
“There’s a veil.” Nvara picked it up and tossed it at him. He caught it.
“…We’re really doing this,” she said.
“Is it that strange?” Svelen wrapped his hair up in a loose turban. It was bright orange- the same shade as his freckles.
“It doesn’t feel real,” Alix said.
“Welcome to our vexin’ life,” Nvara said. She snorted.
“Oh! Did you tell Alix about the time thing?” Svelen asked.
He glanced down at the ground.
“Time thing?” Alix said.
“Forgot,” Nvara said. “We don’t have that much lio, so I’ve got to recycle what we do have. So these clothes have a time limit.”
“…You’re saying they’re gonna disappear.”
“No. They’ll turn back into lio. There’s a difference.”
“Doesn’t seem like it.” Alix frowned. This was like something right out of a fairy tale- Tattershoes running from her prince’s party as her dress turned to rags and her footmen to fish.
“It’ll last for eight hours, that should be enough time.” Nvara sounded offended. “Get dressed, Vashe’s gonna be here any minute.”
Alix unclipped the cape and grabbed a robe from the pile. It went down to her ankles and it was deep red- the same colour as her sweater. She threw it over her other clothes- there was no way she was going to trust lio-clothing to keep her warm.
Vashe opened the door.
“You fuckers get a move on,” he said. “Party starts in ten minutes.”
Alix scrambled to finish dressing. Nvara put out the fire.
The four of them left. Alix lagged behind, looking back at the bunker.
She wondered if she’d ever see it again.