Bury Me Face Down

The capital city of Anaxas and the seat of the government.
User avatar
Niccolette Ibutatu
Posts: 80
Joined: Thu Jul 11, 2019 11:41 pm
Topics: 13
Race: Galdor
Character Sheet: Character Sheet
Plot Notes: Plot Notes
Writer: moralhazard
Contact:

Wed Jul 31, 2019 11:26 pm

Evening, 16 Hamis 2719
The Pawley's Ballroom, Uptown, Vienda
Image
Niccolette turned her head from the mirror, watching the heavy rain patter against the glass, streaking droplets washing it clean again and again.

“It looks lovely, miss, it really does,” the human was chattering again, faintly nervous, smoothing her hands over her skirt. “You can’t even tell they took it in again, truly. You don’t hardly need that corset!” She reached forward, taking another loop of Niccolette's hair and pinning it up, carefully, against the mass already on top of her head. “Good, I think that’s just right. Now, miss, if you’ll just – close your eyes, let me finish with the powder there. A bit more red in your cheeks, perhaps, too.”

Niccolette closed her eyes, slowly, settling her hands in her lap. The woman’s chatter and the rain both were only so much noise, washing over her. She felt the soft whisk of the brush against her cheeks first, tracing faint circles against her skin. Her eyes, next, but she didn’t feel the faintest temptation to open them. The woman had quieted, focusing on her task, the rain was loud but steady, and if Niccolette focused, if she just focused, with her eyes closed, she could almost hear –

“Miss?” The human cleared her throat. “Miss, if you’d just – open your eyes, I’d like to see if the shadow looks all right.”

Niccolette opened her eyes, slowly, and turned her head back to the mirror.

Her gaze drifted – not to her own reflection, but to the dark-skinned figure visible in the doorway behind her.

“Enofe,” Niccolette said. Her voice felt strange in her throat. She looked away, back to the mirror, and reached for the sapphire earrings on the dressing table before her. She let them hang from her ears, glittering beneath her heavy masses of brunette hair.

“Oh! Sir,” the maid took a step back, grasping the sides of her dress and bobbing a practiced curtsy. “I – pardon me,” she stepped back again, looking between the two galdori.

“You look lovely, Niccolette. More beautiful than the waters of the Turga, more beautiful than the night sky,” Enofe stepped forward, slowly; he wasn’t smiling. He wore a long, bright orange Mugrobi style coat, with an elaborate collar, pale yellow silk pants beneath. “Are you sure you want to come tonight?”

“Yes,” Niccolette rose, slowly, brushing her hands over the satin fabric of the dress. Blue, she noticed. Dark blue. The ring on her finger was like a little spark of fire against it, catching the lamplight and shining it over the sheen of the fabric. She stared at it for a long moment, then, slowly, curled her hand up, tucking the fingers away against her palm, and looked back up at Enofe again.

“All right,” Enofe said. “Just – just come down when you’re ready. A few others from the delegation will join us in the carriage. We’ll all – we’ll wait for you.”

Niccolette nodded, once, slowly. She looked at herself in the mirror again, and ran one finger over her too-pale lips. She turned back to the maid, slowly. “Lip color, I think,” she said, sitting back at the table.

“Yes miss,” The maid hurried forward. “Of course.”

Behind her, Enofe watched for a long moment, then turned and walked away, closing the door to the hotel room behind him. Niccolette watched him go in the mirror, watched the light gleaming off the almost-familiar shape of his shaved dark head.

Niccolette knew she spoke to the other members of the delegation; she knew she spoke to them, and that they spoke back to her, but she couldn’t keep hold of the words. They were like the rain outside, steady and constant – a fact of life. She couldn’t stop them, not hers nor theirs. She couldn’t have said how they got through the rain, or how her dress was still dry when she reached the open doors. She couldn’t have traced the path that the carriage followed through the crowded streets.

She was aware of one of the other woman, a Mugrobi, leaning forward and taking her hand, her face soft and her eyes gentle. She was aware of the way the woman squeezed it, of the way her bare arm glistened against the amber fabric of her dress. Niccolette was sure she must have said something – hadn’t she?

The carriage rumbled to a stop, and Nicccolette wished that their hotel might have been a bit further from the party. It was Hamis – it was always humid in Hamis – but Niccolette felt desperately, miserably cold beneath the fabric of her dress; it covered her arms, it covered all of her, but she was as cold as if she were stripped bare beneath the rain. Umbrellas snapped open outside the carriage – the door came open – and then Niccolette was walking with the rest, somehow, over unfamiliar, strangely dry ground, and she couldn’t hear the rain; only the distant patter of drops against the fabric canvas overhead.

Niccolette knew she was meant to be listening, listening to all of it, but she couldn’t hear a thing.

“Niccolette,” Enofe was saying. “Niccolette.”

Niccolette looked up at him – only slightly up; he wasn’t more than an inch or two taller than she was. They were inside, now, she realized. She lifted one hand to her hair, gently, checking the curls. Why was she wearing it up, she wondered. It was better down – Uzoji had always said –

Niccolette snatched her hand away and shuddered. Her other hand tightened around the stem of the wine glass – when had she started drinking? It wasn’t full, and there was a trace of lip color against the glass. It must have been hers; no one else would have drank from her glass. She lifted it and took a long sip, careful not to spill even a drop against her lips, swallowing.

Enofe sighed.

“Nicco!” A voice from the crowd.

Niccolette looked up, eyes searching the mass of people glittering beneath the lights. There were so many colors; she didn’t think she could remember the names of all of them. It took her a moment to find the figure rushing towards her.

“Margaret,” Niccolette said.

“Nicco,” Margaret stopped a foot away, eyes wide. “Oh, sweet lady. I only just heard – I’m so terribly sorry. Uzoji was – he was –” tears glistened in Margaret’s eyes, and she reached a hand forward.

Niccolette extended her hand as well, squeezing the other woman’s gently. “Yes,” she said, quietly. “He was.”

Margaret managed a pale, wan smile. None of the tears, Niccolette noticed, absently, fell. “Come – if you don’t mind, sir?” She smiled at Enofe. “I don’t believe we’ve been introduced…” her gaze flickered back to Niccolette.

“Of course,” Niccolette said. She turned back to Enofe. “This is Enofe pez Okorie,” Niccolette gestured with one hand, and tried not to see the glitter of it in the light. “Uzoji’s brother. Enofe, this is Margaret Lumsden, a friend from Brunnhold.”

“A pleasure to meet you, Miss Lumsden,” Enofe took Margaret’s hand and bowed over it, flawlessly Anaxi in style “Your beauty makes the lamps burn brighter.”

“Oh!” Margaret giggled. “Oh, all you Mugrobi are so – so very!” She paused. “I’m so terribly sorry for your loss. Both of you.”

“Thank you,” Enofe smiled at her. “No one could have asked for a better brother. We can only be envious of those who will next be graced with the presence of his soul.”

Niccolette’s hand tightened on the stem of the wine glass. She finished the wine with another long drink, and set it down, a little too hard and unsteady on the windowsill.

“Nicco, you simply must come and say hello – we’ve quite a little group from the Brunnhold days!” Margaret laughed. “Enofe, of course, you’re welcome to join us.”

“That’s very kind of you,” Enofe said, smiling. “I won’t intrude, of course. Niccolette – I’ll be with the rest of the delegation. You know where to find me, don’t you?”

“Of course,” Niccolette looked away. She let Margaret take her arm, lead her across the ballroom; she stopped only to take another glass of wine. Colors whirled around her; light flashed overhead, the lamplight reflected in the glittering chandeliers, sparkling around the ballroom. They were all, Niccolette thought bitterly, sparkling; nothing more than shine. She looked up at the anxious faces staring wide-eyed at her, and remembered to smile.

Image
word count: 1467

User avatar
Ekain Da Huane
Posts: 23
Joined: Sun Jul 14, 2019 6:20 pm
Topics: 2
Race: Galdor
Character Sheet: Character Sheet
Post Templates: Post Templates
Writer: Graf
Contact:

Fri Aug 02, 2019 3:21 pm

the pawleys ballroom • uptown
evening on the 16th of hamis, year 2719
It is not difficult to imagine how busy you have been during these last few months, what with all the, ah – rumors –”

“Amadi,” murmured Ekain, with only a touch of reprimand in his soft voice. He permitted something like an amused smile to play out across his face, the quizzical half-quirk of a brow, the faint tug of his lips, the barest movements that did not disrupt the smoothness of his features.

Amadi pez Chinedu laughed easily, a deep, genuine laugh from his diaphragm; the smile on his long, handsome face touched his eyes, but only just. “You are right to chide me,” he replied, shaking his head, his gaze wandering out across the ballroom as if his attention wandered with it, “but I cannot pretend that the world does not grow curious. You must excuse an old friend his loose tongue.”

The warm flush of his field, gold-shift, was not unlike that of a man who had taken one too many glasses of champagne to be entirely aware of what he was saying. There was, nevertheless, a sharpness to his glittering hazel eyes, and sometimes he looked up at Ekain Da Huane as though he were weighing him. Sometimes, when an errant hand touched Ekain’s arm, or he leaned in to speak more quietly, shoulders brushing, Ekain caprised the most subtle vibrations of strain through his field.

With a graceful motion, he swept his snifter of Twemlaugh back from the small table beside his chair, taking a sip. He waited a moment to reply, letting his own eyes wander out and move from dress to dress, suit to suit, catching on the sweep of a thin, dark arm, the motion of bangles – the way a little pink hand clutched at a string of pearls over a high-collared, dark blue dress, its wearer shaking with laughter, all painted-red lips and white teeth – the quick side-step of a young, well-dressed man who had just taken a woman’s hand and was leading her, flushed, toward another cluster of chairs on the other side of the room.

Suivre, he thought, letting out a soft cascade of his own laughter, though a little less rich, a little less convincing. “And you must excuse an old friend,” he replied, “for standing firm: the curious world is none of my concern.” He cast a brief, pointed glance toward a cluster of Mugrobi officials not far off, then set his glass aside and folded his hands in his lap. “But you will tell me how you fare, Amadi? I am not the only one who has been busy. The Symvoulio turns, and –”

Amadi let out another warm laugh.

“– I have heard – Onyeka…?”

The diplomat let a pause of his own stretch out a little in the wake of Ekain’s almost-question; then, edged with more laughter: “I am hoping for a son, and she is hoping for a daughter, but I think we will both be happy in the end.”

Ekain inclined his head. He did not smile, but his own field shifted warm, now, to match Amadi’s, and there was something playful about the way the mona at its edges mingled. “Haymokbar,” he said softly, offering Amadi his hand; he pressed it with both of his. “You have thought of a name?”

“Not yet. If I have a son and I do not name him Chinedu, I think my father will die of a broken heart; I think it’s decided for us.” A grin. “But Onyeka comes up with a new name for a little girl every day.”

Ekain withdrew his hands. He spared another glance toward the Mugrobi delegation. “And of course” – he made to hesitate, but not too much – “I see that Enofe pez Okorie is with us, though I have thus far been unable to speak with him. You will tell me how he is?”

Amadi raised his brows. “Ah – you are acquainted.”

“Through his late brother,” he replied. “A finer man I cannot name. His wife, Niccolette, I believe? – is a relation of – Giannina.” There existed only the slightest of spaces between of and her name, not even enough room for a whole breath, and if his tone changed, it was impossible to know how or why.

“A bright-burning soul, Uzoji’s. Yes, Enofe is well,” said Amadi, “and Niccolette Ibutatu, who is here with us as well, tonight.”

Ekain made to raise his eyebrows a fraction. “Indeed? I have not seen her, or I would have paid my respects.”

Amadi shifted in his seat, eyes wandering around the ballroom; then, a light of recognition came into them, and he smiled, gesturing subtly – politely – with a hand. “There she is,” he said, and when Ekain did not immediately find her, “in the deep blue, just beside the woman with long, red hair.”

“Yes, I see.”

Ekain gazed at her for a moment, thoughtful, then turned back to Amadi. To his mild surprise, they had been joined by another man, a slight Mugrobi in a dark blue suit of Anaxi make. Ekain politely caprised him; his field, unlike Amadi’s, was a little weak, and made up almost entirely of clairvoyant mona.

Amadi smiled at Ekain. “I apologize, but I have lingered too long,” he said, leaning again to touch Ekain lightly on the arm. Picking up his own glass, he stood.

The Gioran diplomat reached for his cane, which leaned against the arm of his chair. He moved to the edge of his seat, putting a little weight on the handle, but did not yet rise.

“Olufemi pez Ade,” Amadi said, and the clairvoyant bowed.

Rising to his feet with an effort, Ekain bent in a deep bow of his own. “Aghala eate deuee. Well, Amadi,” and he inclined his head and shoulders again to the other diplomat, “I will not keep you. Blessings of Imaan to you and your family.”

“Ma’ralio,” murmured Olufemi pez Ade.

Turning away, Amadi said, “Stay well, my friend,” and the two of them made their way back across the ballroom.

Ekain stood for a moment, taking a deep breath and a firm hold on the handle of his cane. He cast a glance back toward the seat, thinking he might return to it; then, he thought again about the Bastian in her dark blue dress, smiling, on the arm of the Anaxi woman. He searched for her again in the crowd of galdori, fearing he had lost her among the other blue dresses – a popular color this season, he noted, with something like faint disdain; such an obvious choice on the widow’s part felt somewhat lazy – but found her shortly.

Another deep breath and he had made a decision, but he stood there a moment, attempting to evaluate the state of his balance. His leg was stiff as ever, but he could move it, and despite the poor week he had had, he was walking with as much stability and grace as he ever had. Still, the muscles ached with tension, and a part of him continued to consider sitting down.

Never mind that. Slowly, he began moving, picking his way through the throng toward the Bastian and the Anaxi. Along the way, he exchanged pleasantries with a Hessean who had seen him dance just the once in Mestigia and who was also, unsurprisingly, curious about all that business in Qrieth…? It slowed him down for just a moment, but he kept Giannina’s young cousin in the corner of his eye, and managed to disentangle himself from the encounter rather quickly.

Thankfully, he had no trouble navigating the crowd. If one observed the movements long enough, they were almost like a dance, if erratic, like the rise and fall of the breeze on a windy day; he had no trouble following the gaps and avoiding the press. In any case, his passing attracted enough attention to afford him a polite berth. He was at least two heads above most of the galdori here. While he had come dressed in Anaxi garb for a change, crisp white, gold trim, and a slightly looser, airier cut provided a Gioran twist; and, as ever, he wore his hair up in an elaborate crown of braids.

A complicated weave of heavy gold rings dripped from his ears, glittering in the soft glow of all the phosphor lights, mirroring the chandeliers. A few rings flashed on his fingers as well, though his long nails were unadorned.

As he drew close, he caprised her field politely to warn her of his approach, his own ramscott as even and controlled as ever. “A pleasure to meet you again, Ms. Ibutatu,” he said softly, extending his hand to take hers (still beringed, he noticed) and bow over it, if she would permit him, as he knew was the fashion in Bastia. “My thoughts have been with you.”

She seemed somewhat inebriated; he noticed this with something akin to bemusement, though he did not let it show. His field still had its customary coldness – he could not banish all its chill, not ever – but a subtle blue-shift had crept into it, as if to say, I am sorry for your loss, without really saying anything of the sort.
Image
word count: 1595
User avatar
Niccolette Ibutatu
Posts: 80
Joined: Thu Jul 11, 2019 11:41 pm
Topics: 13
Race: Galdor
Character Sheet: Character Sheet
Plot Notes: Plot Notes
Writer: moralhazard
Contact:

Fri Aug 02, 2019 10:05 pm

Evening, 16 Hamis 2719
The Pawley's Ballroom, Uptown, Vienda
Niccolette felt Margaret’s arm wrapped through hers. Like a hook through a fish, Niccolette thought, vaguely, or perhaps she was bait. She wasn’t sure exactly what Margaret meant to catch, but the other galdor towed her along, chatting.

“And of course dark blue is quite the rage this season, isn’t it?” Margaret laughed, smoothing her free hand over her own glittering green dress. Niccolette couldn't see her face, but she thought she could hear the faint smirk in the other woman's words. Margaret paused; her gaze swept over Niccolette, and she continued, “Not everyone wears it nearly as well as you do, naturally,” her hand patted Niccolette’s, lightly; the last word seemed to stretch out, extra syllables poured into it.

“You do look lovely, of course,” Margaret continued. “Not nearly as tired as I’d expected! But, then, I suppose you’ve had plenty of time to sleep.”

“Yes,” Niccolette murmured. She lifted the glass to her lips again, barely managing a sip of wine as they kept walking.

“There we go,” Margaret lifted her free hand, and waved, smiling brightly at a little clump of red-haired galdori against the wall.

Niccolette looked up as they approached. Smiling, she remembered; she was meant to be smiling. She lifted her free hand to touch her lips, and felt their soft upward curve. The cool glass brushed against her face, and she lowered it again.

“… hardly the behavior one would expect, but I suppose – given the circumstances,” Harold Overton was talking; Niccolette remembered him, half-remembered him, from their year at Brunnhold. He had been a pudgy boy who had not grown out of it. He gestured off to the side, and almost as one the group turned to look. Niccolette let her gaze slide to the side as well – the Mugrobi delegation, she thought, absently.

“And – well,” Harold lowered his voice, raised his eyebrows. “Everyone is saying that –”

“Harold! Darling, none of that now,” Margaret swept up, depositing herself and Niccolette at the edge of the group and deftly unhooking her arm, settling one hand on Niccolette’s back. “Look who I’ve found,” she smiled, brightly.

“Niccolette!” Someone said; Niccolette couldn’t have said who.

There was a rush of words – lapping over her – fields too, pressing at hers, caprising hers, sweeping through her. Niccolette smoothed every last bit of what she felt from her field, again and again; it was like a habit by now, sometimes it was the only thing she could manage to do, but she did it.

“Good of you,” Niccolette lowered her gaze as Marguerite professed how sorry she had been to hear, how truly sorry, how much she had always liked Uzoji.

“Yes, it is.” Aletheia proclaimed, swaying and more than slightly drunk, that the world was a worse place without Uzoji in it, much worse, and hiccupped at the end of it. Marsden caught her by the arm, smiled at Niccolette, and agreed with them both.

“How kind,” Niccolette said, looking at Harold as he expressed his sorrow, told her she looked as lovely as ever.

“Yes, you are right.” Barnstable asked if it had been an airship accident – that was what he had heard, of course, but he just wanted to be sure…

There was a rush, then – airships – so dangerous – was it the mechanic? – he was always such a good pilot, hard to imagine – how could it have happened –

“You weren’t in the airship, were you?” Theodora’s eyes were wide, and she leaned forward intently, sleek red hair curling over her dark blue dress.

The whole group dropped into silence, turning as one to look at Niccolette.

Niccolette was quiet for a long moment. She swept everything from her field, swept it all away and kept it there. She smiled again, and shook her head. “No,” she said. “I had stayed home.”

The noise swept back up – burst over her like a roar – and Niccolette let it drown her out. There was a sudden rush of other conversation, as if they couldn’t wait to get away from the subject, from all of it, the condolences and sorrow swept to the side.

Niccolette drained the last of her wine, and when a waiter came up with a tray, bowing politely, she took another glass of red. She would have to scrub the smile from her face, she thought; she would do it back at the hotel – take a washcloth, press it to her skin, scrub until her lips were bleeding – until this whole terrible face had peeled away – until –

Niccolette felt a faint nudge at the edge of her awareness, a field heavy with physical mona caprising her own. She returned the gesture even before she turned, taking a half-step away from the too-bright, too-loud chatter – but when she turned she froze, wine glass trembling lightly in her hand.

“Heye Da Huane,” Niccolette said. He reached for her hand, and she extended it without thinking, watching him bow over it. She waited for him to release it, and clutched it in a small, curled fist against her dress as she returned the bow. By the time she straightened up again it was loose at her side, fingers soft once more.

“How – ” Niccolette’s breath hitched in her throat, and her eyes slid away from him; the pause wasn’t even half a heartbeat, but it was too long already. No color bled into her field and no emotion either; nothing but a cool, indectal control, and a faint feeling of dampening. “kind,” Niccolette finished, looking back at Ekain Da Huane once more.

She felt something, Niccolette realized; faint, half-buried somewhere deep inside her. She wasn’t sure what it was, but she knew it was something, shifting, seething below the surface. She felt the room all around her, felt a slow crawling of tension over her skin, as if something was walking over her body, as if something had crawled into the space between her dress and her skin.

There was a burst of loud laughter from behind them, too loud. Niccolette flinched, and took a shifting half-step away from them all. Everything inside her ached, and Niccolette was vaguely aware of something like nausea in her stomach. Had she eaten, she wondered, and then – since when? The room was too bright, much too bright, and it seemed to fade and blur at the edges. Ekain Da Huane was clear, though, standing in front of her.

Niccolette’s eyes drifted back to him. Blue-shift, she thought, noticing the color against the white of his clothing. Matches the dresses. She swallowed, hard, then took another sip of her wine, more than half a glass still left in this one. His thoughts had been with her. How kind. Niccolette’s hand tightened on the stem of the glass, slowly.


Image
word count: 1183
User avatar
Ekain Da Huane
Posts: 23
Joined: Sun Jul 14, 2019 6:20 pm
Topics: 2
Race: Galdor
Character Sheet: Character Sheet
Post Templates: Post Templates
Writer: Graf
Contact:

Sat Aug 03, 2019 11:22 pm

the pawleys ballroom • uptown
evening on the 16th of hamis, year 2719
Ekain bent deeply, bowing over her hand like the branches of a willow tree; on any other man so tall, it might have looked preposterous. The tip of his cane wobbled only slightly against the ground as he reached the nadir, though his hand trembled as he pushed himself back up as smoothly as he possibly could. No strain showed on his face. When he rose, he was studying her with his calm, pink eyes, a little hooded but otherwise expressionless.

How – kind.

The faintest of smiles tugged at his lips. Yes, he thought.

Not immediately but slowly, respectfully, he smoothed the blue shift from his field. “You show such strength, Ms. Ibutatu, in this most difficult of times. I admire it,” he said. “It is unfortunate that I did not know him better, by Imaan’s light. And now the Cycle has delivered him to other souls, that they might admire him as we have.”

He waited for a few moments. Then he swirled his glass of Twemlaugh and brought it to his lips, taking a politely small sip.

She looked slightly unwell, he thought. Confused, perhaps. When she had caprised his field, he had felt nearly nothing; he could not tell if she was suppressing her feelings or simply excellent at hiding them. Her choice to mimic the popular fashion of the current political season seemed a lazy one, perhaps born of hastiness, but the rich, dark blue went very well with the spark of fire on her left hand. Very well indeed, he thought. She was well made up, though perhaps not as bold as she could have been. It was almost as if, he thought, she had not had much of a hand in her own dress tonight.

Still, it was true that she was remarkably composed this evening. In his experience, Bastian and Anaxi galdori dealt with death rather poorly in general. Niccolette Ibutatu’s field was calm and indectal, unstirred by emotion.

A burst of laughter broke out behind them, and Niccolette took a quick step away. Ekain followed her, shifting his weight from his left leg, but a light of curiosity came into his eyes for a brief moment. The ballroom was a whirl of jocularity, but there had been something furtive, perhaps, about the way she had stepped away – or had he imagined it? Something irritated. As if it had startled her. Interesting.

There was something about her face, too, and about the dark hair that was pinned up on her head. The pile of it there, and the kohl around her eyes, and the color on her lips – all of these combined with the shape of her face, the subtle chin – it tugged at something in his mind that he could not place.

Not until he thought of Giovanna again. Gia’s cousin was much smaller, yes, with nothing of Gia’s shyness, nothing of her awkwardness. She did not have Gia’s strangely deep voice. But still, something about her facial expression in that instant, when the laughter had sent her a step away, had brought Markos to the front of his mind.

She took another drink of her wine, her fingers tightening on the stem. How much had she had to drink? he wondered with a little amusement.

“And how is your family?” Ekain smiled warmly, a bit sadly; he let it play out across his lips, flicker faint lines on his forehead and his cheeks, as if it had caught him off guard, as if it were natural. “You must tell me, verahay,” he said then, a note of deep concern in his voice, “how fares your cousin – my dear Giovanna, you remember? My dear friend. I have not spoken with her in many years, and I hope she is well. I have heard she is still dancing in Florne, and still as beautiful as she ever was.”
Image
word count: 696
User avatar
Niccolette Ibutatu
Posts: 80
Joined: Thu Jul 11, 2019 11:41 pm
Topics: 13
Race: Galdor
Character Sheet: Character Sheet
Plot Notes: Plot Notes
Writer: moralhazard
Contact:

Sun Aug 04, 2019 1:24 am

Evening, 16 Hamis 2719
The Pawley's Ballroom, Uptown, Vienda
Ekain spoke again, and Niccolette wished he hadn’t. She wished that he would be quiet; she wished that they would all be quiet. She forced herself to keep her gaze on his face. When she looked down at the compliment to her strength, it was a struggle to draw her gaze back up afterwards, but Niccolette controlled herself, and looked up at his face once more.

Ekain expressed his regret that he hadn’t known Uzoji better. Niccolette was abruptly conscious of what the slow, swelling feeling rising in her chest was, as if she had looked down at a book and seen the answer written clear on the page before her, as if a voice had leaned forward to whisper the word into her ear. It was the sort of knowing that rippled through her, that held her whole body together.

Anger.

As if it wasn’t by his own choices, Niccolette thought. The rest of the room seemed to blur worse, half-hidden beneath smears of light, nothing but glitter. But Niccolette’s head tilted, ever so slightly, and she looked more firmly at Ekain Da Huane.

“Of course,” Niccolette agreed, lightly, with Ekain’s proclamation on the fate of Uzoji’s soul. She studied him carefully, taking it all in: the Anaxi style suit with a Gioran twist, crisp and clean and white with gold braid, heavy gold rings echoing it in his ears, dropping from his fingers. The elaborate braids, smooth and sleek without even the faintest concession to the humid rain outside. Even the cane he wielded without the faintest trace of - what, Niccolette wondered. Compassion?

That faint, soft look of contempt on his face - as if he thought himself better than everyone else. As he always had. Niccolette was conscious of a faint heat rising against her skin, of the rapid flutter of her heart. She was conscious of the hot pulse of blood in her veins, rushing through her. She thought of lifting the glass again, but she hesitated.

The burst of laughter cut her off, startled her, and Niccolette was left feeling almost shaken - almost, she thought, as if she had brailed. It was as if something had been gathering inside her but had been shaken apart, leaving her lost and drifting. She was startled; she wanted none of it, none of this place, none of their laughter. Niccolette knew what she wanted, but she knew as well that it was something she could not have. She took the sip of wine she had thought better of.

And Ekain began to speak again.

Niccolette’s jaw tightened; a faint flush rose up on her cheeks, the color suffusing her with a glow a thousand times more natural than the red blush. Her hand tightened once more on the stem of the wine glass, knuckles faintly white, the taut skin of her hand almost translucent beneath the bright lights.

The fury rushed scalding through her veins, bubbled and fizzed through her like champagne; a thousand times better than any drink, Niccolette thought. It made her heart pound, her blood pump. It made her alive.

“You,” Niccolette said, the words fighting to emerge through clenched teeth. Her voice was no louder than it had been as she agreed with his thoughts on the circle, “do not even deserve to speak her name.”

Niccolette was faintly startled to find herself shaking, the half-full liquid sloshing slightly in her glass. She smoothed the anger away from her field, caught the faint red shift before it was more than the slightest hint of color in the air around her. She steadied her grip on the wine glass, looking at Ekain once more.

“You have always,” Niccolette continued, her voice rasping faintly in her throat but smoothing it as she continued, “been an ignorant, self-righteous prick,” Niccolette spat the almost childish curse, scathing. “She loved you despite it and you threw her away.” Niccolette’s voice dropped, harsh and steady on those last four words.

Niccolette took a deep breath, settling herself once more. For all the anger in her voice, all the tension in the lines of her slim body, not another drop of color flickered through her field, not so much as the faintest hint of anger could be felt, even though she stood only a few feet from Ekain. Still, her field was dampened, almost politely.

Niccolette looked up at Ekain Da Huane. “I have no use for your false sympathy,” Niccolette said, the anger smoothed away as well, contained once again beneath the almost polite tones of her voice.

Without the faintest hesitation, the Bastian jerked her hand, and flung the remaining half glass of wine squarely across Ekain’s lovely white outfit. The liquid arced through the air, landing in a bright splash across his chest, droplets flying out to stain his collar, his pants, even his perfect, ornate braids. Niccolette lowered the now-empty wine glass, and took a half-step back, as if to turn and walk away.

Image
word count: 872
User avatar
Ekain Da Huane
Posts: 23
Joined: Sun Jul 14, 2019 6:20 pm
Topics: 2
Race: Galdor
Character Sheet: Character Sheet
Post Templates: Post Templates
Writer: Graf
Contact:

Sun Aug 04, 2019 8:15 pm

the pawleys ballroom • uptown
evening on the 16th of hamis, year 2719
The hint of red-shift. This time, the quirk of Ekain’s eyebrow was unbidden; he could not seem to help the look of bald surprise that flickered across his face, faint, again, but utterly genuine. His pink eyes flicked over Niccolette’s face, then down to her white-knuckled grip on the stem of the glass, then back up to meet her eyes.

His brows drew together; his field shifted again, blooming deep blue, caprising hers with concern. He opened his mouth, an apology on the tip of his tongue.

Ms. Ibutatu – the words might’ve spilled out of his mouth, soft and gentle – if I have offended you somehow, permit me to make amends – no, no – Niccolette, he might say, moving in closer, it was not my intent to make the burden of your grief even heavier; if, yes, that bit was good, if I have offended you somehow, verahay, I shall make it right…

Then he froze, stiffening. The line of his shoulders tightened, the drape of his loose, airy white linen shifting. “I am sorry?” he said, tilting his head as if he’d misunderstood, but his voice was so soft that her next words washed it away.

His own long, pale fingers tightened around his glass, and the ring of brandy jumped nearly to the lip. His throat bobbed delicately in a swallow. He managed to keep his ramscott still and smooth, but he managed this only by the skin of his teeth; he did not redshift, but a shiver ran through the mona, a crackle of strain. He drew away, no longer caprising her field. He forced himself steady. Was there a hint of heat in his cheeks? Did it show against his pale skin? For once, he could not say. But he counted out the seconds between his breaths.

You threw her away.

Ekain was clutching his glass of Twemlaugh, and he could not seem to relax his hand. There was something at work in his heart that he could not entirely understand. He wanted to protest, but he did not know why. For once, he wanted to say something, anything; he wanted to give her words the benefit of arguing with them, and he did not know why, and the feeling made his throat tighten. It was something about her composure, now, something about the way that she had steadied her own hand, and he could not seem to steady his, and –

It happened in an instant. He felt it before he saw it, splattering cold on his face, on his suit. He saw the jerk of her hand and the perfect arc of the liquid from her glass.

He flinched, eyes fluttering shut. He snorted a breath in and out of his nose. There was something, he realized, dripping in his hair, a little running line of something wet on his forehead, a pattering dribble on his shoulder. There was something on his face, but both of his hands were occupied, and he could not wipe it away.

Slowly, he realized that he had lost control of his field. It had shifted red, wild and hot, and he realized now that he could no longer caprise any other field but Niccolette’s. Had the other galdori moved away? Conversation had lulled; the ballroom was not silent, but it was a low burble, and he could hear whispers. He heard the husk of Heye Da Huane in Anaxi and Bastian and Mugrobi throats, the roll of Ms. Ibutatu, the lilt of the word widow in Estuan.

When he opened his eyes, Niccolette was turning her back. The other galdori were giving them a wide berth. An Anaxi woman nearby, clearly deep in her cups, let out a giggle; the man she was with nudged her hard and the giggle trickled off into nothing.

“Ms. Ibutatu,” said Ekain, even more softly than usual.

Carefully, he steadied himself on his right leg, then tucked his cane under one arm. He wiped his face off with that hand, but the wine had been there for too long, and the motion left a faint, rose-colored stain across his nose and right cheek. His face was slack and blank, but slowly, he began to smile.

Putting his cane back on the ground and leaning against it, he continued, “I will forgive your physical outburst, given the strain of your current situation, though it troubles me that you would choose to express yourself in the manner of a dayaghaly.” He took one small, graceful step forward, following her. “But if you wish to work through your anger with me like a galdor, I am perfectly happy to formalize matters.”

There was a quiet gasp from a nearby man.

None of the turmoil in Ekain’s heart showed on his face or his field, but in truth, he had not expected to say those things. On the one hand, it was only natural: he was a galdor, he had sustained a terrible insult, and he would have been a coward not to offer. On the other, the woman was clearly unstable. Why was he doing this?

A specter of Giannina’s face, sad and uncomfortable, had settled over his mind. He could not seem to scrub it out, no matter how hard he tried. It was like a stain he could not wash away.
Image
word count: 942
User avatar
Niccolette Ibutatu
Posts: 80
Joined: Thu Jul 11, 2019 11:41 pm
Topics: 13
Race: Galdor
Character Sheet: Character Sheet
Plot Notes: Plot Notes
Writer: moralhazard
Contact:

Sun Aug 04, 2019 9:06 pm

Evening, 16 Hamis 2719
The Pawley's Ballroom, Uptown, Vienda
Niccolette had turned away from Ekain. His field had withdrawn slightly from hers as she spoke; she had felt it, the gentle pulling back of his caprising. She had seen the fading of his subtle blue-shift from the air. Now his field surged behind her; she felt the heat of his anger at her back, and she could see the tinge of red in the air around her. It mingled with her own field, and Niccolette gritted her teeth, her shoulders trembling, struggling to maintain her hold on herself.

She was not a child, Niccolette told herself, to red-shift at the slightest provocation. She had no regrets for what she had said or done. How could she? Ekain Da Huane deserved those words and worse; she only had to think of Gia, of seeing her a few years ago in Vienda – of the faint, pinched, pained look on her face, the aching strain in her voice. Then, too, there were the tears she had wept onto Niccolette’s shoulder – far more than Ekain Da Huane was worth, in Niccolette’s opinion.

Ekain deserved the wine too, Niccolette thought, bitterly. Let them see him for what he was; let them know he was not as white and clean as he pretended. Let him be marked, as he had marked Gia's heart; for he seemed, otherwise, utterly untouched by it.

Niccolette had done her best to be quiet, at least. It was not for Ekain’s sake; it was for Gia’s. Niccolette would not be the one to drag her beloved cousin’s name through the mud. Let them think what they would as to why she had thrown the wine; Niccolette did not care for her own reputation nearly so much. Without Uzoji here - what did it matter what anyone thought? She could not think to care. For a moment, she could not think why she had come at all.

But – still, she had not expected so many to be watching.

All conversation had stopped among the Anaxi, and their silence had rippled out through the crowd around them; Niccolette could not have said when. Now Harold was staring at her, wide-eyed. Margaret was – smiling. Bitch, Niccolette thought, coldly. Marsden was shushing a giggling Aletheia. Barnstable was taking a half-step back. Theodora was staring, slack-jawed, her small teeth visible, slightly stained with lipstick.

Beyond them, there was a sea of faces, now, staring at Niccolette and Ekain. She had meant to get away, but there was, Niccolette thought, nowhere to go. She would need to shove through the crowd to get away from him.

Ekain’s words seemed to break apart the silence. Niccolette held, still. She heard the soft tap of Ekain’s cane against the ground, once, then again. Niccolette’s jaw clenched at his words, at his forgiveness. Typical, she thought, that reeking graciousness of his no more than a thin veneer over an insult.

Niccolette turned back, slowly, at the offer to formalize. Her field was still calm and still in the air around her; Ekain’s, too, was smooth again, no more red-shifted. Niccolette exhaled, letting herself feel the mona around her. She checked her control, checked it again; it wouldn’t do to slip now.

“Very well,” Niccolette said, calmly. Ritual required that the words be spoken, especially in front of this audience. They were not Brunnholders anymore, although of course they had never been at Brunnhold together. He had all but gone there; let her go the rest of the way. “I challenge you.”

With a careful, deep breath, Niccolette released her dampening of her field. Her emotion stayed out of it; it was as clear as ever, indectal and calm, but abruptly ramscott. She pulsed it outwards to its fullest extent, the bright, vibrant energy of living mona washing from her – six, seven feet. Her field caprised his, deeply, bearing down hard as if to overwhelm him. Niccolette lifted her chin, and met Ekain’s eyes – no tears, no redness, no trembling, now, nothing in her but calm and confidence. Without looking, she reached to the side and set her empty wine glass on a nearby table.

“Niccolette!” Enofe was shoving his way through the crowd, as politely as he could. Niccolette turned and looked at him, watching the Mugrobi as he cleared the last few people around them. She ended her flex, although did not dampen her field again, letting it hold full strength in the air around her.

“Heye Da Huane,” Enofe bowed – perhaps a little hastily, but politely enough, and turned back to Niccolette. “Niccolette – what are you doing?” His eyes were wide, and slightly wild; there was, Niccolette noticed, the faintest sheen of sweat on his forehead.

“It is a matter of honor,” Niccolette said, calmly, looking back at Ekain. Fury still raced through her; she felt it with each and every beat of her heart. There was no space left inside her for anything else, not fear - not even sadness. “Heye Da Huane,” she bowed again, delicately, at the waist, and straightened up, her shoulders set, her sapphire earrings gleaming in the ballroom's lights. The crowd around them had begun to whisper again; Niccolette ignored them all, and focused her gaze directly on the Gioran in front of her.

“If you accept, name your ground and your terms,” Niccolette said, calmly, reverting to galdori custom. By challenging him formally, rather than accepting his implied challenge, Niccolette had given Ekain the right to choose not only the setting of their duel, but also the terms: the maximum extent to which they might damage one another.

“Heye Da Huane,” Enofe began, shaking his head, setting his hand on Niccolette’s shoulder. She shrugged it off, and he clasped both hands behind his back. “Please accept my apologies for my sister-in-law. Her grief is still raw. Please, surely this is not necessary.”

Image
word count: 1024
User avatar
Ekain Da Huane
Posts: 23
Joined: Sun Jul 14, 2019 6:20 pm
Topics: 2
Race: Galdor
Character Sheet: Character Sheet
Post Templates: Post Templates
Writer: Graf
Contact:

Sun Aug 04, 2019 11:24 pm

the pawleys ballroom • uptown
evening on the 16th of hamis, year 2719
Ekain Da Huane was conscious of all the eyes on him.

It was not, as it usually was, because he was Gioran; it was not because anybody was worried that he might fall. He did not, could not, move his eyes from the straight line of Niccolette Ibutatu’s back, but he thought that he could see, in the corner of his eye, the faces of the galdori around them. He certainly saw one little Anaxi take a step back. He kept his ramscott clear, but he did not hide its strength; a confident little pulse shuddered through it. He raised his chin slightly, peering down at her.

Ekain watched her turn, and at her first words, he seemed to feel his heart sing. Conquest, he thought. He had sustained insult; there was nothing profane about taking pleasure in this. Of course, he could not let it show – could not be so undignified. But he felt it nonetheless. When she challenged him, he kept his field smooth and indectal, but he felt a great wash of satisfaction.

Her field met his this time, not a doetoe but a push. It was well within the bounds of custom and respect, but it was a challenge, and he met it with a powerful outward flex of his own. Now, her field was bright and strong: it was a ramscott to match his, if not even more powerful, more practiced at this particular game. He felt the living mona seethe with – life. This was a field that honored the Circle, and this was the appropriate mode of expression.

Conquest, he thought again. This was not a numb, grieving, weak creature. Despite her distasteful outburst, the Bastian widow was more than a worthy opponent. He felt excitement, and he expressed it in the outward push of his field, in the shift of the mona. His field was no longer indectal.

It brimmed bastly against hers: curious and, above all, honored.

Mirroring her motion, Ekain set his own brandy down on the table. At that moment, there came another voice, and another field brushing theirs, and Niccolette ended her flex; reluctantly, he ended his own, drawing the mona back. Still, he felt her field, and it was no longer dampened. It retained that strange, sharp brightness that it had possessed during her flex.

He glanced over, surprised, then returned Uzoji’s brother’s bow. “Enofe pez Okorie,” he replied smoothly, making sure to keep the irritation out of his voice.

He stayed still during the exchange, standing tall with both hands folded over his cane, though he frowned slightly at Enofe’s protest. He seemed distracted; Niccolette’s bow drew his eyes back, and something of that gold-shift sparked in his field once more, but then Enofe spoke again, this time to him.

He turned, fluidly holding up a hand. “Honored son of Okorie, ey yalthady, I hear you,” he began softly, almost conspiratorially; he felt the listening ears all around. “I understand her grief, but Ms. Ibutatu has challenged me, and I would dishonor myself by refusing. Furthermore, if there exists conflict between us, it must be resolved in a civil manner. However, as she has given me the honor of naming the terms…”

Ekain let the words trail off into silence, feeling the collective held breath, the ebb of whispers, the creak of leaning frames. He thought of a lift in confisalto. He had always lifted someone else, even when he danced with men, he thought absently, inappropriately, somewhere in the back of his mind; he had never been lifted.

He stood silent, thinking, then turned back to Niccolette. “I accept, Niccolette Ibutatu.” He bent in a deep bow of his own, mirroring her again, and then rose, lifting his chin.

“A duel at the second level, I think, is appropriate, given the circumstances.” Soft whispers, all around. “Bloodshed is frowned upon, and grievous injury necessitates disqualification. We shall take our leave of each other unscathed, unless one of us wishes to suffer great dishonor.” He cast a glance at Enofe, inclining his head, then looked back to Niccolette. “If our gracious host will permit it, we shall duel on the lawn. It would be distasteful to disrupt this gathering further, but, as always, anyone who wishes to spectate may do so.”

He took a deep breath.

“Is this acceptable?”
Image
word count: 774
User avatar
Niccolette Ibutatu
Posts: 80
Joined: Thu Jul 11, 2019 11:41 pm
Topics: 13
Race: Galdor
Character Sheet: Character Sheet
Plot Notes: Plot Notes
Writer: moralhazard
Contact:

Mon Aug 05, 2019 12:37 am

Evening, 16 Hamis 2719
The Pawley's Ballroom, Uptown, Vienda
Niccolette felt something she hadn’t expected in Ekain’s field. There was a bastly hum to it, a warm almost-pleasure that pulsed through it. His field was no longer cold and indectal; this was, she thought, perhaps the most genuine expression of emotion she had ever seen in it.

In that moment, Niccolette had never hated him more. Nothing of it showed in her field, not the faintest trace, but her small face was hard and set, fury washing through her like a wave. How dare he, she thought. Did it mean nothing to him, what he had done to Gia? Her anger – her words – even the glass of wine – it hadn’t touched him, none of it had.

Niccolette took a deep, slow breath. Soon enough, she promised herself. Conquest; she would face him, and she would conquer him. She would break him; not by pain, Niccolette told herself, but by shame. It was not his body she meant to bruise, but his honor. He knew, now – whatever he had thought before – that she was not weak. She could feel it in the mingling of their fields that she was the stronger, although only just – by a hair, by a fraction. Her victory was not assured, and of that Niccolette was desperately, powerfully glad. To crush a weaker opponent had to it a certain savor; but there would be no shame for him in that loss.

Niccolette listened to Ekain’s terms, her face set and serious. Coward, she thought. She made a little grimace at the end, lips pursing; the question was not rude, as it was common enough to ask one’s opponent to agree – in a friendly duel. If he thought this was friendly, Niccolette thought, then he needed to pay better attention.

“It is not,” Niccolette said, coldly, “my place to agree or disagree.”

Enofe looked oddly pale, for someone with traditional Mugrobi coloring. His hands were shaking faintly; both Niccolette and Ekain could feel the faint, tense fluttering of his field before he smoothed some anxious emotion from it.

“I’ll – inform Mr. Pawley,” Enofe said, finally. There was tension in his voice too. He looked at Niccolette again for a long moment.

Niccolette turned, looking back at him, and met his gaze with as little hesitation as she had met Ekain’s. This too, she thought, was a challenge, but not one her field could win.

After a moment, Enofe shook his head – very slightly – and turned, making his way through the crowd.

As if it had been a signal, the faint bubble of silence around them burst.

“Nicco! Nicco,” Aletheia was stumbling forward; she almost tripped, clasping Nicco’s hand with her own, her eyes bright. “Good lady, it must – it must have been ten years since I saw you duel! No, nearly – eight? Nine? Since Brunnhold, of course!” She babbled more; Niccolette smiled at her, but she didn’t listen to any of it; she couldn’t.

"I'm sorry," Marsden murmured, softly; his hands took Aletheia's arms, and he guided her away, gentle.

Niccolette didn't respond with more than a nod. Her breathing had shifted; there was a deep, rhythmic quality to it, almost meditative in nature. She could smile through it, walk through it; even murmur words here and there, soft and easy. But from that moment forward, Niccolette did not break the even count of her breath, steady, in and out. She let the air flow into her; let the world outside be pulled within, turned it to life within her blood, and exhaled it back out again. She became one with the world and the world became one with her, and the mona hummed through it all – bright, vibrant, beautiful. She felt it, keen and sharp, and it left her awed and very nearly whole.

Uzoji, Niccolette thought, would never have tried to stop her. She felt almost as if she could feel him standing beside her; he would laugh, she thought. He would laugh, and whisper to her that she had better not lose now. The thought ached; it hurt somewhere deep inside her, a place she couldn’t name or reach with anything but pain. At the same time – she still, Niccolette thought, had the wonderful warmth of Uzoji’s confidence. Not even the distance of death could change that.

Her steady, meditative breathing never faltered as she made her way through the wide glass doors of the ballroom, out onto the covered marble terrace of the Pawley’s backyard – and past it, taking a few steps onto the thick, spongey grass, too well-tended to yet be made muddy by the season’s rain. The rain still sheeted down, warm and humid, and Niccolette tilted her head back, ever so slightly.

Abruptly, Niccolette could no longer stand the heavy coils of hair pinned to her head. She closed her eyes, never losing the thread of her breath, and lifted probing fingers to her hair, pulling out the pins that held her hair in place one by one, dropping them into the grass at her feet. One long strand at a time, Niccolette’s hair tumbled loose down her back.

By the time she had finished – by the time the last pin tumbled from her fingers to the grass below – the covered terrace was full of guests, all of them crowding one another to see into the dark lawn beyond. Lanterns, covered from the rain, were being lit by servants, casting faint traces of light across the grass; enough, Niccolette thought, to let the spectators see. Good; she was glad of it. She would not want Ekain Da Huane to lose in private.

Enofe was edging to the front of the crowd; Mr. Pawley was beside him. Niccolette turned to their host, a slender Anaxi galdor with a sleek, well-styled moustache, and bowed.

“Mr. Pawley has offered to be your Arbiter,” Enofe called, his voice more than audible over the heavy patter of the rain. There was a murmur of excitement through the crowd.

Mr. Pawley straightened his back, smoothed his mustache, and drew a substantial looking pocketwatch from his suit, flipping it open and smoothing off the glass with a handkerchief. “First to five, I take it?” His voice was bright, jovial; unlike Enofe, whose face was still and set, he looked decidedly cheerful. “Have you agreed on who shall go first?” He called.

Niccolette turned to Ekain; she watched the rain make the wine stain run like blood, seeping and dripping down his white clothing, and for a moment she was sorry she had not told him she would prefer the first tier – would prefer that they fought with no holds barred. The moment passed, and she flexed her field once more, her breathing smoothing back to normal. She felt the mona all around her, vibrant in the air, and she let herself share with them the rightness of what it was she meant to do here. Conquest, she promised them. Tonight – conquest.

“Let us flip for it,” Niccolette said, voice sharp and clear, raised loud enough to be audible not just to Ekain, standing across from her, but to all the rest as well. There was no raising of her voice at the end of the sentence, nothing like a question in her tone. “If you are ready?” Now her voice lifted upwards at the end, and Niccolette raised an eyebrow at Ekain, hands folding together at her front. But this, too, was not a question; it was a challenge.

Image
word count: 1295
User avatar
Ekain Da Huane
Posts: 23
Joined: Sun Jul 14, 2019 6:20 pm
Topics: 2
Race: Galdor
Character Sheet: Character Sheet
Post Templates: Post Templates
Writer: Graf
Contact:

Mon Aug 05, 2019 5:03 pm

the pawleys lawn • uptown
evening on the 16th of hamis, year 2719
If Ekain was offended by her words, he did not permit it to enter his expression or his field. He stood, in fact, utterly still, like a statue, and regarded her coolly with his chin still raised.

When his gaze finally broke away from hers, it was to meet Enofe’s. The poor man, Ekain thought absently, without much feeling. Were his hands shaking? His field shifted anxious briefly, but then smoothed itself out. He supposed that this was not easy for him, so soon after the passing of his brother, but that was hardly Ekain’s business.

The Mugrobi politician stated his intention to notify Pawley, and Ekain simply nodded. Something seemed to pass between him and Niccolette, but that, too, was of no consequence to Ekain. Finally, he went to fetch their host.

Then, of course – the requisite fawning.

A faint, disdainful smile touched Ekain’s face when a woman appeared from the murmuring crowd and began babbling at Niccolette. It was the same woman, he noticed, that had been giggling, and the man that had shushed her before now took her by the arm and led her away with an apology. Niccolette had not said a word, and she still radiated her clear, vibrant field, uninterrupted, untroubled.

No one approached Ekain, and he did not deign to meet any of the eyes that settled on him, following him as he followed Niccolette toward the tall glass doors. Not even Amadi, who stood nearby, watching, an unreadable look on his face. Many of the party’s guests had already filtered out onto the terrace. With the shroud of grey darkness beyond them, they were like mirrors reflecting the ballroom back at him: he saw a whirl of wavering lights, chandeliers clusters of teardrop stars, crowds of galdori turned to translucent phantoms with hollow eyes and unreadable faces. He saw the blurry shapes of lanterns outside, too.

As he drew near, he saw himself, tall and pale. A tall, dark-haired old dayee approached him with his embroidered cloak. Ekain waved him aside, not even looking at him save through his reflection – not until he moved to open the door for him, whereupon Ekain shot him a viper’s glare and permitted his field to redshift.

He backed up, confused, and Ekain pushed through the doors himself, cane clacking hard on the marble outside. He was not Anaxi; he had no need of an animal to wait on him. He had no desire for his cloak, in any case, either. The chill, wet wind that broke across him was welcome, prickling at his cheeks and tugging at his suit, stirring the hems.

As he moved out from under the canopy, he was pelted by heavy rain; he limped unheedingly across the marshy grass, feeling the covered lanterns bob by him on either side as the evyedy dayee lit them, feeling his clothes and hair soak through. Struggling to maintain his balance on the slick lawn, it took him some time to close the distance, but when he did, he stood ramrod and proud across from Niccolette Ibutatu. He was conscious of the faces that crowded the terrace, the many eyes that were on the two duelists, and they seemed to fuel some burning in his heart.

This was a dance with three dancers: himself, and her, and the mona all around them.

Ekain had seen, he thought, the flickering purse of her lips when he had named his terms. He agreed. Under any other circumstances, he would have suggested the first tier; had they been in Gior, even had her brother-in-law been standing by, the terms would have been very different. Watching her let her hair down, watching each lock and wayward strand tumble down over her shoulders, he wondered what it would be like to duel her properly.

He breathed in deeply and shut his eyes, lifting his face to the sky. The cold water pattered across his forehead, dripped from his brow, streamed through his eyelashes and down his cheeks.

The choice of scenery might have seemed unusual to an onlooker, but Ekain was a physical conversationalist, and he was well aware that her practical knowledge of the living conversation exceeded his experience with his own focus. This rain was a gift; it was a storm of sound and motion, and if his suspicions were correct, it would carry an electric charge. He had, in truth, never dueled before, not even at Brunnhold, and he hoped his choice would serve him. Only time, he supposed, would tell.

When he returned his attention to her, he did not look away, not even as Enofe called down from the terrace, not even as an Anaxi – Pawley, it must have been – spoke in that irritatingly cheerful voice. When Niccolette spoke her challenge, he simply inclined his head.

Ekain’s hand disappeared inside his wet jacket, searching an inside pocket; it emerged with a single halek pinched between its thumb and forefinger, gold inlay glittering in the rain. He held it up, then called, “If it lands with the Huane emblem visible, then I shall take the first turn. Otherwise, on the honor you have afforded me, and on my honor as heyardy, it is yours.”

Again, he shifted his weight to his right side and tucked his cane under his arm; then, with a graceful motion, he flipped the coin, catching it with a clap of his hand. When he uncovered it, he saw only slick, blank obsidian. If this troubled him, it did not show in his field, which remained as bastly as it had been indoors. He tucked it back into his jacket, and then lifted his chin, smiling, to regard Niccolette.

He bowed again over his cane, deeply, as was the custom.
Image
word count: 1013
Post Reply Previous topicNext topic

Return to “Vienda”

  • Information
  • Who is online

    Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests