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[Social] The Princess and the Pilot; Hallister
Topic Started: Jan 28 2014, 09:41 AM (2,305 Views)
Estella
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poisonous elegance.
Date: 46th Day, Season of Osyra, 500 AS

Location: Winter Ball, House Fortis-Blain, Tyrene

Every Tyrenean that meant anything now gathered in House Fortis-Blain. The darkest alcoves of the house's corridors and halls were awash in the spectrous light of storm lanterns, flickering, like the silhouettes of a multitude of dancers. Estella slid past a cluster of cackling women, and with an outreached hand, grabbed the stem of a champagne glass from a moving waiter's tray.

So many men and women of influence filled the room. Somewhere, beyond the crowds, a troupe of Dolcen played music. Not quite beautiful, slightly ornery at points, jumping in great crescendos. How the people managed to dance to it, she didn't know. She glanced around for Mei, her Rokeling maid, but the girl was nowhere to be seen. Probably tarrying somewhere.

Tonight she would take some riches from these crowds. Tonight she would gather rings, necklaces and coin - anything that took her fancy. Her fingers tightened around the stem of the glass. The hunger was waxing. But there was something bigger. Something she had heard whispers about. Something even more valuable than the petty jewellry and coin.

Something she would take before the night was over.
Edited by Cobalt, Jan 28 2014, 09:48 AM.

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Hallister
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Blue eyes cut this way and that, brighter for the focus that the mask gave them. Not everyone had gone in for the conventions of the masquerade ball, but for some people it was entirely necessary. Though he belonged here by right of birth and blood, he wanted to be gone. And yet this was the place his contact had decided would be best to meet and make their exchange. Hallister hadn't agreed, but there hadn't been a way to alter this plan. He was really going to have to work on his covert communication schemes. It had been years since his face, even masked, had been seen in these parts, and there was the mask, embellished even with paint on his face to further obfuscate his identity; still, he would rather not be here at this party or here in the upper tier.

At least the party wasn't at House Angevin, though he had seen some of its members among the guests.

There was a flute of champagne dangling from his fingers. It was half-empty, or half-full according to the onlooker's perspective, and it was the same one he had been nursing since he arrived. The taste of it was on his lips should they be inspected, but with only a gulp of it being passed through his system, his inhibitions were hardly compromised. He couldn't afford to be a lush right now, though he might get black out drunk later in the privacy of his own rooms when all was successfully completed. Or, better yet, when he was flying out of here on the Adrasteia.

He shifted from one foot to the other, leaning against the jamb of a door wide enough for six people to walk through side by side without having to squeeze. Well, he could pull off the rakish nonchalance even if his insides were knotted up and his body was awash with whatever made a man feel like fight or flight were the only options.
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Estella
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poisonous elegance.
Still she couldn't find Mei. Crossing Estella would be that maids folly one day, and when she found herself cast from House Fortis-Blain, where would she go? The terraces would not welcome her back. No one would. Her fingers tightened around the glass. In her heart she knew the bitter truth - Mei would never be cast away so long as her father lived.

Realising she needed to compose herself, she glanced up and began to stride back across the hall. She recognised many regular attendees - the rich and important families of the Upper Tier. Life aboard this floating city was starkly divided into two: those who lived on top, and the bottom dwellers who lived below, choked in coal and smog. People like Mei would live down there if not for the charity of families like House Fortis-Blain.

But even they were not the worst. The surface dwellers, far below this city... contaminated. Wild. Savage. And dangerous. She had heard so many tales, so many accounts from those who had traversed the Dry Sea, or sailed the Cinnabar Peninsula. Such strange peoples, with cultures totally alien to Tyrene. This was the hub of civilisation, and as far as Estella was concerned, the only hub of civilisation.

As she neared one of the large, ornate doors that led into the hall, she noticed the figure slouching against its frame. A drink in hand, and elaborate masque adorning his face. Her head tilted in curiosity. There was something off about him that she couldn't quite put her finger on. She sauntered toward him, taking another sip of her liquid confidence.

Now was not the time for her plan to commence, now was the time to play.

"And who might you be?"

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Hallister
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He saw her coming, sharp as a shark fin plying the water. Something about her eyes put him off. Did he recognize her? He wasn't sure. His mind flipped through its remembered portraits. Time had passed, and he hadn't been the most social of boys since his kidnapping. He prided himself on never forgetting a face, but a great deal of his former life was blurred. In any case, she was upon him before he could recall for certain.

But if his guts twisted any tighter within his belly, he gave no sign of it.

Raising his glass in salute despite its warm contents, he smiled. His teeth were too straight and bright to be in the head of a downworlder.

"Another man in a mask at a ball," he said, knowing the cadence and accent of a courtier well. "No one of importance among the important."
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Estella
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poisonous elegance.
The raised glass and clean, porcelain smile told Estella the man was somewhat used to high society. But still the mask concealed a countenance that Estella longed to see with such curiosity.

"Oh but you are wrong," she said with a sparkle, "everyone in this building is important. Even the Rokelings, at the dregs of society, have their own importance. I am not ignorant enough to ignore this fact."

Her mouth twisted into a gentle smile as the music seemed to relax slightly. The fervent Dolcen musical sagas dropped into a gentle melody.

"You are in my father's house. I am Estella Fortis-Blain. I shall ask again, what is your name?"

There was a forcefulness to her words, blanketed in honeyed cadence, but forceful all the same.

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Hallister
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"And does your father know of your penchant for interrogating his guests?" he asked lightly. "Or am I just a lucky fellow?"

He raised his glass to his smile, but forwent a sip to continue speaking.

"Not that I mind a little interrogation, of course, but isn't it more fun to leave a few mysteries to life?"

His peripheral vision was on alert for someone approaching him, drawn to the red silk ribbon tied around his upper arm that his contact might recognize him. He didn't want to seem rude, but there was always the chance she was scaring the contact off. Or she could be the contact. He eyed her, a smile still lighting up his eyes. These games were fun, if nerve-wracking.
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Estella
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poisonous elegance.
OOC


She smiled at his response. The red ribbon had not eluded her, but she was never one to make things simple.

"Mysteries certainly keep one interested. I am always game for a little intrigue myself. As are you, I see."

She finally gestured to the ribbon subtly.

"The house shines brightly, doesn't it," she whispered coyly, "but I wonder. Are you ready to join the game tonight? It will not be easy. Games have two outcomes. You win. Or you lose. And when you lose, there is no chance to try again. And we will never speak like this again."

She waited for his response behind the mask, taking another measured sip of her drink while she did so.

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Hallister
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"The way I learned game theory," he replied evenly, "with two players, there are four possible outcomes: lose-lose, lose-win, win-lose, and win-win. Whether I'm game for a game should be obvious as here I am. The pertinent questions, I think, are whether I'm trustworthy and whether I can be content with everyone winning."

And whether you are, he mused. A beautiful Fortis-Blain was not a flower to be trifled with, he knew.

But his smile was steady and he bowed to her as if he had identified himself properly. Truth be told, so long as he got out with what he came for and his freedom (and bodily parts), he had no problem with her winning as well. It was tricky, though, was game theory.
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Estella
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poisonous elegance.
"Interesting..." she mused, "I never thought about it like that."

She twisted her head lightly towards a corridor; one of the winding passageways that came back round the house's vast kitchens. The gesture was enough, and so she sauntered out of the main hall, dropping her glass on a table in the doorway.

Shadows played in the corridor. She stepped into one and awaited her accomplice for the night, so that she could relay the plan to him.


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Hallister
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Follow he did, finally, with only a sip of his tepid drink. But his social mask as well as his physical mask were secure enough that nobody saw a wrinkle of nose or lip to let on that it was merely a prop. And then, with only one drink, there was only the one chance he could be poisoned, whether he was the target or landed in the crosshairs of some bumbling would-be assassin. No, these ballrooms were as dangerous as the great wide beyond, for certes.

It was best to look like one knew where one was going, confident that one's feet were on one's path. And so nobody seemed to notice him following, and then he was with her in the shadows, whether for dark deeds or darker deeds...

"That surprises me," he said quietly. "You seem like someone who would have thought of everything and from every angle."
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