I shakily leapt off the tethered skiff, muscles still a little bunched up from the gruelling trip. The sea up here was so clean it cut my gills as I had my first lungful of the Upper Levels. So much for the warnings the Masters had given me. I looked at the city below me. From here the terraformed seabed stretched for miles, divided into multiple rings, expanding beyond the reach of my vision. It had been called the 'Jewel of Oceanides' for a good reason; simply put, if you looked caught a glimpse of it from the surface, it'd look like a shiny coin on a roll of azure velvet. Most of the inner districts were covered in reflective metals, so that whenever the suns rays touched down they simply bounced off, the effects feathering towards the sparser outer rings, bathing the city in a heavenly glow. Though the daylight was already fading, the city was still incandescent, now by the pinpoints of lights from its numerous buildings, a cluster of stars in the endless cobalt.
Having my fill of the stunning view I began to weave my way past the crowd of onlookers, heading down by from the tethers towards the edge of mooring platforms, where the toll gates awaited all who wanted access to the city. Creatures of all manner rushed about, some only just arriving as I was, some leaving, some just wandering about in the organised chaos, too occupied to notice the wiry girl with a massive pack on those broad shoulders. All around me rang the never-ending babble of a port, punctuated by the occasional merchant loudly hawking goods. . I moved with the flow, inching towards my destination, joining the steadily shortening line. The gatekeepers were incredibly efficient, not even looking up from their work as they stamped our passes and beckoned us forward. Instinctively I blocked out the sounds, feeling my features melt into a mask of nonchalance and waved for a carriage. It took me through the pockmarked streets of the outer ring, past the backlit alleys of the middle ring then straight to the backdoor of the merchant's manor. On the way I swapped my ratty blouse and cargo pants for a simple work shift and tucked my mousy hair (which was shaved on both sides) under short wig to hide the buzzed sides of my head, then covered the whole thing with a bonnet. I then got off and paid. Finding the simple wooden door open, I tried to enter as casually as possible.
It lead to a open yard, where maids rushed about with baskets of dirty and clean laundry. Some were busy scrubbing lavish garments while others hung freshly washed clothes on lines to dry. I immediately spotted the plump selkie headmaid, Miriam, my smuggler. Who also happens to be the one who found me on the streets and gave me to the assassin's guild Black Haze. Despite the stares I was receiving I calmly approached the bossy woman. One look at me and her eyes lit up. Abandoning her work she dragged me into the stifling kitchen, then closed the door. Miriam huffed, the started on her lecture. "Young lady, explain to me why you did not come through the front door as we discussed? And why are you in such garb? You need to change." Miriam pushed me through another door, this one to the maid's quarters. Up a hatch in ceiling, then some ladders, we entered a small dressing room. From a dusty closet Miriam produced a small box, which contained a lavish dress which left little to the imagination. "What's this?" I asked, tentatively poking the sheer garment. "Did they not tell you?" Miriam replied, the irritation apparent in her voice " Those Masters and their little schemes. Well, then, I'll have to tell you m'self." My brows rose higher and higher with each of her words. "Your disguise has changed, little lady. You are no longer a sweet maid seeking work in the palace, but a concubine from this manor's owner."