Alcide and Marie Perrault had spared no expense for the Spring Equinox. The night had come on early underneath a sheaf of rain-heavy clouds; despite the warmer temperatures – the first in months – a sharp wind rattled the windowpanes against their creaking frames, and a humid chill clung to the bones. Nevertheless, the inside of the Perraults’ fine, three-story Uptown home was warm and cheerily-lit, and the great ground-floor ballroom was a flock of vibrant dresses and flushed faces, clinking toasts, gaggles of finely-dressed men one minute arguing and the next bursting into cascades of laughter.
Incumbent Perrault and his wife were welcoming local officials, diplomats, and judges from each of the Six Kingdoms, and so a panoply of fashions could be observed in the ballroom, and one could even hear smatterings of Heshath and Mugrobi and more. Even the ambassador from Hox was present for the season's convention of the Vyrdag, looking somber and ascetic in black; a few representatives from Gior moved about, tall and pale and resplendent in white. Servants hurried here and there through the sea of galdori, hefting trays heavy-laden with apéritifs and assorted dainties. The Perraults must have been proud: the event could have been a painter’s rendition of a successful, respectable party, and if international tensions occasionally reared their heads, everyone was at least content to get along for the night.
Nevertheless, Incumbent Thaddeus Crawley found all of this insufficient.
He had just snatched another glass of port from a nearby servant, and it was already halfway-drunk; he had already had two, but even had he drunk everything in the Perraults’ cellar, it would not have been enough to transport him from the misery of the evening.
Truth be told, he did not want to be in Vienda. Each year, he tired more and more of the rainy season’s stuffy meeting halls full of judges, grasping crows perched in their black robes – parties and fundraisers – endless fawning. He felt a hundred arrows pressing at him from each side, though particularly from the southeast. The last place he wanted to be was here, at the head of the kingdom, when its phosphor-veined heart in the north lay so heavy on his mind.
“They’re all waiting for me to die.”
“Beg your pardon?”
Incumbent Crawley was tall for an Anaxi, and not even slightly bent despite his very advanced age. He had a spine like a ramrod, and he kept his chin raised. The fellow beside him, some Viendan incumbent with a weak, irritatingly erratic field, was a few heads shorter, and Crawley did not deign to look down. “Don’t play the fool. I’m too old for this liars’ game. Fawning and more godsbedamned fawning.”
The Viendan incumbent said nothing.
Crawley’s lips pulled into an even more sour frown, the spider’s web of creases on his face deepening. “I’ve represented Cerolyn on the Vyrdag for four decades, but everyone knows the Tors are in my pocket. Look around you. I would wager that every merry phosphor light in this accursed house owes its life to one of my mines. Where is the money in Anaxas? What are we to be known for, when we pass off the Symvoul?”
He heard an incoherent mumble, and for the first time, he turned to his neighbor. The redheaded incumbent peered up at him, brows furrowed; his mouth was moving, but nothing seemed to be coming out. His hand was twitching around his empty glass, in any case, and he looked as if he were itching to get away.
Crawley felt a burst of rage. “You’re going to have to speak up,” he snapped. He saw no point in hiding the red-shift that bled through the mona in his field, and it seethed even redder as the other man paused to stare at him. “By the Circle, man,” he continued, “I did not devote my life to the study of Perceptive conversation, thus ruining the fine ears the gods so graciously gave me in my youth, so that I could be standing here, straining to hear your mumbling.”
Rather than shrinking back from the press of his ramscott, the idiot’s field continued to buzz against it, unmoved and unchanged. “Of course,” he replied, louder, leaning a little closer. “I apologize. I—”
“Never mind. I don’t want to hear it anymore.” Crawley peered down his long nose at the other galdor, eyes narrowing, then grunted and turned away. He finished off his glass of port smoothly and handed it off to a passing servant, the mona in his field still quivering with irritation. “I knew Incumbent Perrault when he was in swaddling-clothes,” he started again, “and his father would never have stood for this travesty of an event. What is this swill that’s being passed off as port?” He bit off the words, turning to his companion—
The Viendan incumbent was gone. As a matter of fact, despite the dizzying press of fields and moving bodies that was the rest of the ballroom, the area around Incumbent Crawley was devoid of galdori.
Clasping his hands behind his back and huffing under his breath, he wandered toward the nearest of the hall’s high, narrow windows. Usually, they gave out on the Perraults’ well-tended garden, with its creatively-trimmed shrubs and winding stone paths, but this evening, they were clouded with fog.
In the rest of the hall, the party went on.
The Perraults’ party for the Spring Equinox is open to any politically-involved galdor in Uptown Vienda. Feel free to enter and mingle as you will (and even approach Incumbent Crawley, if you dare). However, keep in mind that as the night draws on and events unfold, the party may prove to be unexpectedly tense – and dangerous.
The next post goes to Raksha, but after that, the floor is open. There will be no posting order, but we'll be posting updates regularly.
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