Chapter 1: The Summer's Eve Ball
Prompt #1 - The Guests
Your character has received a gilded invitation to the event! You are welcome and esteemed– guards and staff alike part before you and the other guests are dying to meet you. Will you use this opportunity to negotiate with your allies and enemies among the elite? Will you savor every single treat the palace has to offer? Or will you simply dance the night away? Draw or write your character as an esteemed guest at the ball. Your piece must include your character at a location inside the palace or an encounter with a guard or gatecrasher. Reach out to your fellow players if you would like to collaborate!
The Summer's Eve Ball
She looked down at the paper in her hand. It wasn't quite an invitation – why would she expect it to be? She'd only just arrived. It was a request for her services – an entertainment set for the guests. A formal event; she was to dress for the occasion. After her set, she would be free to partake in the event herself.
Kiri looked at the pack beside her. She had been living out of her travelling bags for how long now? She didn't really have anything formal. She'd have to find something, and fast. Knotting her brow, she folded the paper and tucked it into the side of her pack, pushing herself off the grass. Last night had been a long one – she didn't really know her way around this strange place, yet. She was definitely interested in it. There were stories to be had here, certainly.
Shouldering her pack, Kiri walked along the path towards the town. Just a few more miles.
She left the dress store having rented a relatively nice gown. She couldn't buy it, but it would surely be fine. She could return it after the event. It wasn't her usual palette, but beggars can't be choosers. The blue was nice, at least, and the gold trim, while simple, was striking. She walked to the town square and pulled out her lyre. She had to start practising her set for the ball. Might as well see if she could pick up a coin or two while she did. As she plucked the strings, and the sweet ringing melodies resonated across the square, Kiri closed her eyes. She was never one to sing anything but what came to her in the moment. A formal ball, though – that was a different backdrop for her music. After a few bars, her voice found it: a song of longing. A song of listless wandering – journeys without an end.
The night of the ball came quickly. Of course, she arrived early. She had to – she had no idea where anything was, or who would be here. Best to make a good impression. The door guard ushered her inside and pointed to a flustered-looking man who held a crumpled scroll. He was muttering something to it and stroking his goatee. Kiri nervously approached him, holding her lyre close to her chest like a security blanket. She took a deep breath – she was meant to be the entertainment, after all. It wouldn't do to appear as shy as she felt.
“Mr. Crumpshanks, I presume?” Kiri strode up to the man, moving her lyre to her side and holding out her other hand in greeting.
The man looked up from his scroll and stared at Kiri, his eyes moving up and down, scrutinizing her appearance.
“Mmm? Yes. And you are?” He took her hand limply, quickly releasing it.
“Kirianne Everness. I received this summons to perform tonight.” Kiri produced her invitation from where it was tucked into her lyre strings.
“Ah! Yes, excellent. You are up first, madam. We expect you to start the evening with a few slower, quieter songs as the guests arrive. Then, once there are enough to fill the dance floor, we'd like you to bring in some more lively beats. Only music tonight – no stories. Your dancing can be done on the floor after your set.”
Kiri nodded, as Mr. Crumpshanks began to lead her backstage. “Familiarize yourself with the area. Guests should be arriving in half an hour.
Kiri looked around and sighed. A simple stool was in the corner. That would do. She walked across the space, bypassing the settee, and pulled out the wooden bar stool. Pulling her dress up and shifting herself, she rested one foot on the crossbar and the other supported her on the floor. Her heart was beating so fast, the felt the laces on her corset strain. This was new. Usually she didn't get stage fright. To be fair, she had never played an event like this – she contemplated as to why she had even been asked to play here. Her forte was taverns and town squares. No use to wonder about that now – she didn't have long. She took another breath and settled herself in, quietly tuning her lyre and considering how best to position herself on that monstrous stage.
Before long, she heard the announcement of the first guests. She pulled herself out of her reverie, and scooped up the stool, making her way through the heavy red curtains to the stage. Setting down her stool, she positioned herself, and began to play. A haunting tune emerged from the lyre. The acoustics here were excellent, and the melody carried across the large room as the guests began to arrive in their finery. Bowing and shuffling towards the edges of the room.
A few songs later, and Kiri looked up to see the room was almost full. Time to bring in something with a bit more energy. She put her hands up to the lyre, and started slowly. Before long, though, she steadied herself on the stool and brought the music into a faster beat – from a waltz, she morphed the tune into a reel. This was the story of the journey through the portal. From familiar areas, whisked into the unknown. Bodies stretched and pulled into the ether, to be catapulted into an area wholly new. The panic of that first moment, as she looked at her alien surroundings and realized that everything she thought she knew was null and void.
As she finished the song, she looked up. The guests had been dancing – smiles on faces across the room. She noticed one figure through the crowd. His rainbow hair sparkled in the light of the chandeliers, as his dark eyes met hers. He smiled, and she found herself smiling back. But she couldn't lose focus. Her next song was a jig. She kept the tempo moving forward. This time her unspoken story was a little happier. She played the music of fire, flames dancing in the darkness, bringing warmth and light to the night. Sparks twirling upwards, upwards towards the stars. This time, when she finished, the rainbow-haired man was standing in front of her at the stage, a cocked grin spread across his handsome features. “Mind if I join you?” He asked. Kiri shrugged. “Why not?” she replied, “There are only a few songs left in my set anyhow.” She stood, and reached her hand towards him to help him up. He didn't need it though – he vaulted onto the platform, ignoring her hand until he shook it in greeting. “Silvyr Rose,” he spoke, as he kissed her hand. Kiri blushed. This was too formal for her. “Kiri Everness. We have to keep the pace up.”
A thumping suddenly started, shaking the stage floor. It was a moment before she realized it was Silvyr, tapping out a beat with his feet in lieu of drums. The pace quickened, and Kiri met his eyes again. This time they nodded in unison, and she began to pluck the strings on her lyre, holding chords and longer resonating harmonies. Silvyr's voice pushed into the melody, almost a yell, but keeping to tune and rhythm. Kiri hadn't heard this type of music before, but she could run with it. She began to laugh in spite of herself, watching Silvyr on the stage as he danced and sang, captivating her with his quick movements and vocal fluctuations, as the guests on the dance floor spun and moved in a whirlwind of colours.
It wasn't long before their set was over, and Kiri made her way backstage with Silvyr, both laughing and smiling, as the next band set up their instruments. “A fruitful collaboration, I think?” Silvyr looked at her. “Let's have a little dance, now, to get you into the festivities.”
So Kiri found herself, for the first time in years, in the arms of another. Mercifully, the new band slowed the pace a little, as she didn't think she would have the courage to let loose with Silvyr's type of music. At least not yet. As they danced, they spoke just a little. Two musicians, brought together by fate, or so it seemed. Kiri was glad to have a friend. But too soon, the dance was over. Silvyr bowed with a flourish, and turned away from Kiri, holding his hand out to another as he was swept away by the more glamorous attendees, all excited to get their hands on the star of the stage.
Kiri looked around the room. Obviously, there were no familiar faces. She sighed lightly, and made her way to the edge of the room. No need to pretend anymore – her stage act was done. She retreated into herself and made her way to a darkened corner, watching the esteemed guests in their pinwheels of colour, spinning like wooden tops in the dance.
As she watched, her smile faded. With no distractions, her thoughts overtook her – the feeling of being surrounded by others, but still being utterly alone. She remembered Finean, and the fear in his eyes when he left her. A tear escaped from the corner of her eye, but quickly evaporated on the heat of her skin. She considered her home, and all she had left behind. Absently she began to toy with the ring on her finger – the last remnant she had of her family. She didn't know if she'd ever see them again. She couldn't go home – she didn't know if the feelings that caused the fire were gone. What if something brought them back, and she hurt someone else? Finean was still there, as far as she knew. He'd made it clear that if she returned, her life would be forfeit. He didn't understand. He never would.
Scooping up her lyre, she wiped the tear from her cheek. This wasn't the place to be wallowing in self-pity. She began to make her way to the exit. It was so far away... As she gingerly slipped past a dancing couple, she ducked her head, narrowly avoiding someone's arm lifted in a toast. She dodged and weaved through the crowd, looking behind her for a brief moment, and ran headlong into something solid. Jumping in alarm, she spun forward and looked up, meeting a gentle face. Golden eyes looked into hers, as her face morphed into a shocked expression. “I'm so sorry! I didn't see you there,” Kiri began, flustered. The stranger held up his hand to silence her, an amused smirk touching his lips. “It's ok. I was looking for you, actually.”
Kiri stammered, her face going almost as red as her hair. “You must be mistaken. I don't know you.”
“I'm aware of that, but you looked alone. I thought you might like to dance.” He reached out his hand towards her with a slight bow. Kiri, completely bewildered, took his hand – how could she not? And moved into her second dance of the evening.
Again, she found herself in the fortunate circumstance of a slow dance. A chance to collect her thoughts. “I really am sorry. I'm not used to so many people in one space.”
“Not to worry. I barely noticed. The name is Bryan. You are?”
“Oh goodness, you must think me such a clod. Kiri. I'm Kiri.”
Bryan looked at her a moment, a glint in his eyes. “Pleased to meet you, Kiri.”
“You are an excellent dancer, by the way. Have you studied?”
“You could say that.” His face was curious, but not offended. Kiri didn't quite know what say. He was being polite. This was small talk.
“I didn't study. I practised a lot, but I wasn't able to study. I watched, and learned, I guess. I've always loved the arts.” Why was she babbling? What was wrong with her?
Bryan nodded, his eyes moving towards to rest of the room, guiding her in the dance. He moved smoothly, turning her in his arms, following the motions like it was second nature to him. Kiri noticed his attention waning. This dance was too simple – too boring for him. An idea came to her.
“Sir, I propose a challenge.”
“What kind of challenge?” Bryan turned back to her, his attention suddenly refocusing.
“A tango. You can obviously dance, and I haven't had a chance to show much of my skill this evening. I challenge you, Bryan, to a dance duel.”
“A... Dance duel?”
“Yes. No cheating – you have to put your all into it!”
“Alright,” Bryan looked at the tiny redhead, wondering how she could be so quick to change from shy and reserved to a tango, of all things. “Challenge accepted.”
When the music finished and the band began to prepare the next song, Bryan reached out a large hand towards Kiri, beckoning her into the dance.
As the first beats of the tempo struck, Kiri struck her pose. Tapping her heel twice, she spun into his outstretched hand, and watched with pleasure as his facade melted, a look of shock passing over his features before he regained his composure. This would be fun.