Blood of Dragons

The 'A Song of Ice and Fire' MUSH


The Masked Ball
IC Date: Day 23 of Month 8, 161 AC
RL Date: May 06, 2010.
Participants: Ariana Nymeros Martell (Raven), Corrent Gargalen (Fox, emitted by Joleta), Elmer Crakehall (The Direwolf), Luthor Rivers (The Fool), Obany Darklyn (Stars), Pennei Massey (Merling Maiden), Quenton Rosby (Pirate King, emitted by Pennei) Reyna Saltcliffe (Winter), and Tancred Baratheon (Moon). Lady Tully, Tall Tom and Royals (emitted by Luthor)
Locations: Red Keep: Old Keep .

Summary: Lady Tully hosts a masked ball for her day of feasting.

The Great Hall is alive with light and color. Lanterns every shade of the rainbow, have been hung from the rafters, and the nobles below them, are a riot of color themselves. Even the food laid out to be sampled on tables throughout the great hall, is as decorative as it is tasty, served by men and women dressed in the Tully red and blue, with simple masks across their eyes.

Wine flows freely, and the musicians hired for the evening play light hearted, and familiar tunes, for the guests with a mind to dance. Already there are quite a few couples on the floor, dancing the intricate patterns of latest courtly dances. It’s a godly ball, it seems, as many, clearly expecting the king, are dressed in a religious theme and many Fathers, Warriors, and Smiths dance with Mothers and Maidens tonight.

However, those who had hoped a religious costume might impress their new pious king, are to be disappointed. King Baelor is not present tonight, only his Queen. Though Queen Daena, is not Queen Daena this evening, but Queen Visenya, one of Aegon I’s two sister-wives. She is clad in dark mail, which hugs her curves under a silken robe of black, with sleeves done in the image of red and gold flames. To complete the illusion, a sword, made in the image of Dark Sister, sits sheathed on her lap. Beside her is her sister Elaena dressed as Queen Rhaenys, Aegon’s other queen, resplendent in a gown of red black and gold, a little crown perched upon her brow.

The two sisters are seated in a place of honor upon a raised dais at the end of the hall, whispering and laughing together. With them are Lady Tully, and Prince Viserys who seem to be in deep discussion. The lady of Riverrun is dressed in a gown of Tully red and white, while a mask of silver, sits across her eyes, decorated with leaping trout, and other river scenes. Viserys, is dressed as he always is, a simple black silk mask across his eyes his only nod to the night’s festivities. By the casks of wine, is the other royal presence, Aegon, dressed as his namesake, the Conquorer, surrounded by his cronies, as always. Their rude laughter, and ribald jokes carrying far across the Hall.

Elsewhere, the King’s fool, the dwarf Tall Tom, capers about in the garb of the High Septon, blessing those who pass too close, with a swat from his fool’s bladder. On his heads is a crown of brass and crystal that clinks with his every step and movement. The mood is merry and light, and the many costumed nobles that fill the room seem to be well pleased to be rid of the gloom of mourning, and indulge wholeheartedly in the spirit of the night, happy of the safety of anonymity.

Among the first to arrive are a match pair this evening, both clad in black and silver, the male looking form wearing the mask of a crescent moon. He stops as he surveys the great hall, his arm out for his female partner to hold onto. He spies the room, and makes a motion to the Queen. “Now that costume gives me many ideas, something to remember for the next masque mayhap?”

Walking brazenly amoung the nobles, The Fool, dressed in a riotous motley of a number seemingly random colors, prowls through his betters, dark eyes glancing out beyond his pale grinning mask. Happening to pass by Tall Tom, his eyes flash with a bit of good humor and he kneels piously before dwarf, and recieves a blessing about the head with the bladder before chuckling, rising, and carrying on. Scooping a goblet of wine off the tray of a passing serving man before carrying on towards where the guests are entering, keen to see if he can spot any familiar faces among the masks.

The lady next to the Moon wears a mask of crystals resembling stars, her black and dark blue gown resplendent in the same. She grasps the Moon’s arm as she looks around, a small smile on her face as she surveys the room. “I suppose that would be interesting enough, my Moon, depending on just what you mean by it.” Noticing the Fool being bonked on the head by the bladder, “Oh, we should be blessed by the High Septon, my lord. For good luck.” She giggles softly.

A small fortune looks to have gone into the costume of the next arrival, who comes flanked by two men in black leather, with matching masks that cover the whole of their faces. Winter is come to stride among the revelers with pallid flesh and a wand topped by a crystal rose. Winter is all pearls and crystals and silver beads and embroidery, resplendent and suggestive of the Wall far to the north—a thing of ice entirely.

Before the door opens again a long and powerful howl can be heard, making the more twitchy guests jump up and soon afterwards a large Direwolf walks into the ballroom with long strides, an open mouth with huge fance covering the face of the man wearing the disguise. from behind the savage eyeslits, dark eyes watch and the huge beast makes its way through a group of frightened ladies.

The Moon lets a smile grace his face. “As you wish my love. I am here to serve as your entertainment and pleasure, for as I am the moon, you are my stars that guide me along my way and chart my course.”

The Merling Maiden comes escorted by a Pirate King. The Merling is resplendent in deep blue and purple, her sea-blue eyes peering from behind her fish-scaled mask. The Pirate King is a thin and physically unimpressive man, but moves through the crowd as if he is accustomed to such events. By contrast, the Merling is a bit shy and doesn’t stray too far away.

Stars laughs quietly, “Such a way with words. Let us go before that wolf decides to eat me!” She giggles softly, looking over at the Merling maiden and the pirate king as they enter, clearly marvelling in all of the fantastical costumes of the evening. “This is a feast for the eyes as well as the mind… such imagination on display!”

A quad of clever creatures are the next to arrive. A pair of red foxes, a dog fox and a vixen, walk side by side in very similar laquer masks. Clad in red sandsilk the foxes even have a similar way of movement that suggests they are related. The Vixen appears amused, looking at the pagentry in the ballroom. Her companion’s mask, however, hides a sneer. The foxes are joined by a pair of ravens, male and female, wearing black sandsilk. The Red Vixen leans close to the Lady Raven and drawls, “Quite a display, don’t you think.” She does, however, notice the presence of Prince Aegon and frowns faintly.

The Direwolf grins toothily as he hears the Star express such fears and his booming laughter fills the room. “Do not worry, pretty stars..I only eat maidens when there’s no moon about.” his eyes laugh too and his large teeth move again in laughter as he sees some fellow beasts come into the room.

The Fool watches the new arrivals, as each enter, bowing deeply to the Moon and Stars. “The heavens descend tonight!” he calls out. Then smiles brightly as Winter blows into the hall, she too gets a bow. As to the Direwolf, that earns a chuckle from the Fool that sets his bells to jingling, which only intensifies as the Direwolf makes his way through a pack of startled maidens.

Though it is the Merling Maiden, who catches his eyes the most, he stares openly for a moment, then inclines his head to her. The Pirate King, however is ignored, before the fool raises his cup to his lips only to realize that these lips do nothing more than grin. He chuckles to himself, and tossing it aside, he approaches the newest arrivals bowing deeply, with a jingling of bells. “May a fool join you clever beasts?” he asks them as he rises.

No one speaks to Winter, but she seems not alarmed. She moves through the throng, speaking here and there, smiling, laughing, and eventually comes to where the Hand and the Queen sit to make her curtsy there. Then she moves off again, taking a cup of wine and passing near the knot of beasts and fool and celestial beings.

The Moon chuckles as he moves on with his Star. “Soon it shall be me doing the feasting my love.” He gives a nod of acknowledgement to the Dire Wolf. “It is indeed a visual feast, but I will admit to a certain bias and having only eyes to the Stars.”

The Raven moves delicately, slim and graceful with her arm on the matched ballgoer beside her. She looks up and around at all the colorful lanterns, then admiringly at all the costumes. “Ooooh, this is quite wonderful.” She breathes to the Vixen, “So beautiful.” That booming voice catches her attention and there’s a grin. “I know that voice…”

Kneeling before the “Septon” carefully so as not to upset her balance or muss her gown, she patiently waits to be beaned in the head. “Your lips form words that belie you, Moon! Pace yourself.” Despite the scolding words, her lips form a grin as she bows her head. Out of the corner of her eye, she takes note of the sandsilk, and wonders which of the guests it is.

The Direwolf moves on and takes a cup from a tray, draining it in one gulp as he looks around, those fierce eyes seemingly a bit bewildered. His identity isn’t hard to guess, but other have done a much better job.

Merling Maiden looks around her, no less awed by her surroundings than the lady Raven. The Pirate King pats her hand in a comforting, if somewhat condensending fashion and leads her over to make their submissions to the Queen, the Hand and the other royals. The Merling Maiden seems to recover, perhaps taking refuge in the anonymity of the masks, and curtseys gracefully. She speaks her courtesies as what might be expected of a highborn lady, with refinement and poise.

Red Vixen follows the gaze of the Raven, to where the Direwolf drains his cup. “Oh?” Then The Fool grabs her attention and she favors him with an incline of her head. “Beware, Fool,” comes the Dornish accented voice, “We are liable to steal the stars from the sky before the moon turns.” She chuckles, then notes the solitary and lovely presence of the coming Winter and dips her chin, acknowledging the extravagant costume.

There is a cheerful light in The Fool’s eyes as he replies to the Red Vixen. “That, is the Moon’s concern, not mine,” he says. Then glancing behind him at the wondrous costume of Winter, he turns to the clever beasts and smiles. “I feel like a Stark, for Winter is coming,” he jokes with a chuckle and the jingle of bells.

The Moon chuckles. “When have I even been one to pace myself when I see something that I desire? Speaking of my heartfelt desires, are you coming to the Tournament at weeks end? Do I get to wear your favor once more?”

“Never forget it,” says Winter with poorly-rendered solemnity. “The cold wind doth blow to chill the soul.” She intones this as gravely as she might, but there is a twinkle to her eyes in their splendid mask. She bends her head to all of them in their turn, examining each costume and exclaiming over each one in sincere praise.

She stands after being bonked on the head by Tiny Tom, fixing her mask. “I do hope to be there… but enough of that for now. Let us pay our respects to the queen… er, queens.” She greets Winter as they pass, “May that you be mild in the coming years!”

The Raven is still looking around with a smile of wonderment, but as Vixen engages in conversation the girl turns her attention to those that approached. There’s a curtsey for each and friendly smile. “You all have such lovely costumes.” She says warmly from behind a feathered black mask.

The Direwolf walks forward, and nods towards the Raven. “As is yours, my Lady…the wings of a raven often follow a wolf’s howl.” he laughs, lifting a cup towards her then making his way through the room once more.” He chuckles to himself as he takes a stand in a corner, and some people might recognize him by that alone

The Moon bows to Lady Winter. “I hope she is not too mild, the costume does fit her very well, and I am sure there is some hearty male knights that will be disappointed if she is too meek and mild.”

“You seem to be on your game tonight. A veritable moon gone rogue,” Stars quips, her pale blue eyes peering up through her mask pertly. “Beware the Winter, for as beautiful the crystalline ice may be, it may be the death of you.” She looks to Winter, “By no fault of yours, of course.” Her lips curve into a mischevious smile, her tone amiable.

“Are there any other sort of knight than male?” Winter asks of the Moon in mild surprise. “In any event, it matters little if they are disappointed, for I have a knight of my own already.”

She bends her head to the Stars then, and smiles. “Of course not,” she says with a laugh. “Let them love me and despair, shall I?”

The Direwolf watches the abundance of love shared and shown, and it seems that his fanged mouth curls in an evil grin, the huge beast moving from his stand to look at people. Some might be troubled since the sparkling black eyes behind the cut out wolf ones would fit any direwolf.

After making their submissions to the Targaryens, the Pirate King steers the Merling Maid toward other costumed lords and ladies, other personages of note were they not hidden behind masks, to be sure.

There’s a blush behind the black feathers of the Raven’s mask, dark complexion reddening at the Direwolf’s suggestion. She looks to respond, but he’s already moving away and the young woman watches his progress.

That’s when her gaze falls upon Aegon and there’s a sharp intake of breath, the young ballgoer stiffening as rigid as a statue.

“A fine costume, a Fool.” The Red Vixen remarks, “Being free to say what you want about whomever you want. I might be curious as to what you would do, Fool.” The Fox next to her chuckles at that, not exactly a pleasant sound. But both foxes note the sudden change in the lady Raven and the reason for it is quickly identified. The Vixen leans close to whisper to the frightened Raven, “Be strong. Never appear less than what you are.”

The Direwolf turns on his heels, as if taken by a sudden inspiration and his large hand is offered to the dark Raven. “Let us hunt together, as long as we are simply wold and raven..” his voice is strangely mild, not wolfish at all anymore. “Even if dragons soar above..”

The Moon bows to Lady Winter. “I stand corrected then. A find evening to you, Lady Winter.” He holds out an arm to the Stars and starts to circulate. “Do you want some wine, my love?”

Winter is an observant thing, and she follows the Raven’s gaze to Aegon. “Ah,” she says quietly. “Been trifling with you, has he? A very difficult man to put off, but it can be done.” She glances at the Vixen as well, and behind her mask her eyes narrow. “What’s all this, then?”

She bends her head again to the Moon, the light of the torches flashing off the ornaments of her costume. “And to you,” she says in a sweet voice.

“I intend to prosper, Lady Vixen,” replies The Fool with an extravegant bow. “As it seems only fools may do so here.” There is wicked laughter in his eyes as he says this. “Though while I wait for gold and glory to be flung at me, perhaps we could dance?” he offers the Vixen.

“That sounds divine, my Moon.” Stars says, taking his arm and following where he leads, greeting and making small talk with whomever crosses their path.

There’s a rapid shake of Raven’s head, the young woman’s fear palpable. She’s not much encouraged by Vixen’s words. Paralyzed, the young bird is, even when the Direwolf offers his hand. “I want to go…” She whispers, then looks at the tall man offering his hand, terror in those dark eyes behind the mask.

The Direwolf nods. “I can understand that, my lady Raven.” his vocie growing in power. “We are creatures of the night and of the woods. Let us find a place where…only the moon and stars can watch over us..’ he says, his hand still offered to her.

Winter’s face goes as cold as the season behind her mask as she watches this change in Raven. “Tell me now what he has done, and it will be made right,” she says in a low, even voice. “He -will- learn to keep his bloody hands to himself.”

“A dance with a Fool. That sounds like an interesting prospect.” The Vixen reflects, but the distress of the Raven is more pressing. “The night is young yet, sweet Fool. My gentle and clever Raven needs me just now.” Red Vixen lowers her voice to speak once more to the frightened bird, “The Hand is here. He’ll mind his manners in the presence of Prince Viserys.”

All the people suddenly pressing in with words and questions seem to be doing little to ease the Raven’s distress. She takes a shaking breath and shakes her head at Winter, then looks to the Direwolf. “Let.. let us dance? Will you share a dance with me, ser?” She reaches for his offered hand now, finding some comfort in the large, muscled man’s presence.

Presently, the Merling Maid and the Pirate King move to dance. Of the two, the Merling is actually the better dancer and glides through the steps with a swirl of purple and blue silks.

The Direwolf puts an arm around Raven’s slender waist. “it would be my pleasure.’ he says, leading her to the dance floor, and his eyes look into hers. “i am sorry I was not here then…” he whispers to her, as he seems to be moving suprinsingly graceful into the dance, dip and glide, and step and dip…

Winter leans in close to the Raven and lifts her mask so that only the other lady might see her face. “... am ... Saltcliffe,” she says quietly. “... ... ... I ... ... do ... ... place, ... he’ll…” But then the lady and her partner are dancing, leaving Winter alone.

The Fool nods. “Of course,” he says. “Take heart little Raven, for that Dragon is the true Fool, and you have your Direwolf to protect you,” he offers the scared raven, before he turns and departs. Watching the Merling Maiden for a time as she dances with the Pirate King.

The Raven looks back at Winter, but before she can respond, the Direwolf is guiding her away. Amongst the many people that are moving and dancing, she slowly relaxes to something less wooden of a stance. “It is no fault of yours, ser.” She whispers in response, still shaking, but drawing strength slowly from the tall knight in wolf’s costume. “I should not have come to the ball.” She murmurs.

The Direwolf shakes his massive, fanged head. “I am glad you did, my Lady..” his arms pull her closer than he might be able to without those masks. “Who knows if I shall have the honour and pleasure of seeing you much longer before away?” his dark, un-wolfish eyes seems sad as he leads her through the dance.

Red Vixen watches the Raven move off with the Direwolf. With the mask in place, it is difficult for an expression to be discerned. The Fox slips off to find a cup of strongwine and soon is dancing with one of the several versions of the Maiden to be found in the Hall. The Vixen meanwhile, finds a cup of wine herself to sip.
The current song slowly winds to a close and when the last note is struck all eyes turn to the dais as the Queen and her sister rise, hand in hand to descend to the dance floor. Pausing at the foot of the dais the two sisters unclasp each other’s hands and gaze about the men gathered on the floor. The queen and her sister both wear mischievous expressions, and seem to be daring the men in the room to boldly ask for the privilege of a dance.

Under less stressful circumstances, the Raven is an excellent dancer. However, tonight she’s too upset to move with much grace, and the Direwolf is doing the majority of the leading. As the song ends, she glances nervously towards Aegon again, keeping close tabs on his whereabouts, then responds softly, “I do not know…”

The Direwolf takes her back to the corner of the room most remote from..certain eyes, and he leans down to kiss her hand respectfully. “Thank you for the dance, my lady.” he then stands straight, a guardsman’s position, or that of a guard dog more likely.
The Pirate King and the Merling Maiden separate after the end of the dance, the lordling bows while the lady curtseys. The Pirate King moves off to speak with other, obviously important, lords.

Ever bold and often brash, the Fox almost swaggers to the Targaryen sisters. He bows, murmuring something witty and clever, asking for the honor of a dance. One, or the other, or even both.

The Vixen, meanwhile, watches, suddenly very alert.

Winter stands with a cup of wine in one hand and her crystal-topped wand in the other, watching the dragons at play while she stays aloof from the dancing. 5r
Seeing his chance The Fool, moves forward, but unlike so many others, moving towards the dance floor his destination is not the Queens but the Merling Maiden. He clears his throat as he approaches. “Care to dance with a Fool?” he offers the creature of the sea. Brown eyes dancing with mirth, as befit a fool.

The Fox’s offer to dance with the Queen draws some dark looks from the masked nobles. One man even moves to forcibly remove the Fox from the Queen’s presence. However, Queen Daena raises a delicate hand, and the man stops. Smiling, she passes the false Dark Sister, off to one of the servants, and extends her hand to the Fox, inclining her head ever so slightly.

The Queen though is not the only Dragon to stretch their wings, Aegon, and his knot of companions detatch themselves from their place by the casks and head towards the dance floor the Prince’s violet eyes scanning the crowd, looking at only the ladies, caring nothing for their escorts.

The Merling Maiden’s blue eyes smile from behind the mask and she dips a graceful curtsey. “I would be delighted,” She replies sweetly, eager to be back dancing once more.

The kiss to her fingers is rewarded with a brief smile and the Raven offers a gentle, “Thank you, kind ser,” in return. “I think that I might like to go outside for some air.” She says, watching as the Targaryen’s take to the dance floor, her nerves rising again. “But I do not wish to detract from your evening.”

“He’d better behave himself.” The Vixen murmurs to the remaining Lord Raven, a young man, if his size and voice are any indication. But soon, the Vixen and the Lord Raven have taken the dance floor themselves, performing the intricate steps with grace and elegance.

Crystals flash and catch the light as Winter crosses Aegon’s path. She does not look at him; indeed, she seems bound for a table groaning with dainties for eating when one grows faint.

The Fool’s eyes smile in return, as he bows elegantly, with the soft tinkle of his belled cap. He extends his hand to the Merling Maiden. “You shall have to go easy, I only just learned the steps,” he warns her, eyes glinting with amusement, as he eagerly leads her out onto the floor.

The Direwolf shakes his head. “Some fresh air… might be just the thing.” he says, and offering his arm wallks with her, careful to take a trajectory that would not intersect the Targaryens’. “I feel like I need to breather too…come with me, m’lady.”

There is a moment before there is some recognition of the woman dressed as the coldest of seasons flashing in Aegon’s eyes. There is a wry twist to his lips, as he moves across her path in return. “Winter should be coming, not going,” he says eyes glinting with amusement. “We should dance.”

From the dais, Viserys stirs a little, his attention taken from the hostess for a moment to watch his son across the crowd, a faint frown on his lips.

Winter pauses, and then turns to make Aegon a curtsy. “Your Grace does me honor,” she says in polite, polished court tones. “But my lord husband is a jealous man, I fear, and does not permit me to dance without his leave.”

The Raven is all too happy to go with the Direwolf and flee. She caught a glimpse of the look in Aegon’s eye and shivers run through her, her hand trembling where it rests on the knight’s arm.

Merling_Maiden giggles softly, a pleasing sound. “Have no fear, I will go slowly. The steps are not so hard and if you stumble, well, you are a Fool. Perhaps you will create a new dance.” For her part, mythical creatures from beneath the sea must have their own dances, for the Merling Maiden is a graceful and skilled dancer, indeed.

The Direwolf leads the Raven out…into the night. What they might say there… remains unheard by the others.

The amused gleam is no longer so amused as dangerous as he continues to smile for the sake of those who are watching. “Is that so,” he says after a moment, noticing his father’s gaze.
“Perhaps I will have to ask him for the honor sometime,” he says and then bows with all courtly grace and moves away, cutting in with Elaena’s partner, for a lack of other options with his father’s eyes upon him.

The Direwolf returns to stand in the doorway, like a guard dog again. Has he just helped the Raven fly from the party? Or will she return. yet it would be hard for one to pass through the big wolfish figure at the door…at least not without significant delay.

The Fool could well believe the Merling Maiden is a thing of the sea, as her movements flow like with the ease of water. Those who might be watching them however could well believe The Fool, to be a fool in truth. For while he possesses a natural grace, he stumbles from time to time, and misses steps, still it seems to hardly matter, as he can be heard to laugh at his own mistakes, as he tries to keep up with the Merling Maiden. As the dance brings them together he asks. “Are you enjoying yourself?” he asks quietly, then whispers something else.

The Moon is by himself for the moment, his Stars off mingling with the other guests. The Moon wanders the crowd and it seems his feet are not as sure as he gaze about as he stumbles and stumbles into the Red Vixen. his hands going up to stop his fall and regain his balance. One hand upon her shoulder, the other, well, is not on her shoulder. It seems the Moon is now a Blood Moon with the flush of his skin as his hands drop. He starts to stammer out an apology, but then merely says. “Shall we dance, m’Lady?”

The Merling Maiden cants her head to the side, listening. She smiles, behind the mask and perhaps blushes a bit. “I am, good Fool. It has been a long time since I have danced.”
The Red Vixen is jostled by the wandering Moon, though she recovers her balance with the grace in what might be expected from a clever and nimble creature. She does pull back when his hands find themselves where they don’t belong, hawkish eyes narrowing as she tries to decide if this was by accident or design. Deciding on the former, “I’d say you owe me at least a dance, Inconstant Moon.” She drawls, with dark amusement.

The Moon offers an arm. “You say that now, but I do hope you are as nimble as you are beautiful dear Vixen, for you will need all that skill to avoid my feet as we dance.”

There is an amused chuckle from The Fool, and his hands tighten briefly on the Merling Maiden’s as they dance. “I know it to be true, but it’s still hard to believe,” he says then he stumbles a step, almost bumping into her. He laughs. “For myself however, entirely plausible,” he jokes.

The Merling Maiden giggles, good-naturedly at the self-depreciating humor. “The tourney is only a few days away, sweet Fool, perhaps it is best that your stumbling happens now, so there will be none left for later. Of course, without your motley, I will not recognize you, I’m sure.”

“I am so warned, my good Moon.” The Vixen inclines her head, peering down at the Moon’s rather large boots. “Fortunately, your feet must announce their presence first and mine make for smaller targets.” She turns and steps lightly to the music. “Are you enjoying the festivities?”

The Moon turns and puts one hand at the small of the the Vixen’s back, the other upon her shoulder, keeping a respectable distance between them. Despite his warning, the Moon’s feet seem to glide with some grace, but he is hopeless at keeping with the music, or leading. “I am, and trying to contain my excitement and impatience at the same time.”

“Indeed, though on the tourney, field, my stumbles are my own to bear, here though I fear for your feet,” he jokes. “And I shall be easy enough to find my lady, besides the fact that I look well and truly foolish with or without my motley. I’ll be the one wearing the crystal at the end,” he says eyes gleaming with bold good humor.

While the dancing continues, more than a few lords, dressed in all manner of costumes approach Winter, braving her chill, to bid the chance to dance with her. Though, from the floor, Aegon does keep watch, to see if she takes a partner or not.

“Impatience and excitement are hard to contain, and are especially dangerous when taken together.” The Vixen tries to gently guide the Moon, if not precisely leading him. “You must be a very loyal man, if it is the king’s coronation that has you so impatient and excited.”

“A humble fool, to be sure!” The Merling Maiden laughs, shaking her head. “Then I shall look for you, when the crystal is presented.”

Winter is indeed a cold one, for she turns away every single lord who comes her way. She smiles sweetly, flatters and coquettes with them, but does not dance with a single one. And eventually, she joins a tall, lean man in black leather whose only nod to a mask is a cloth one tied over his eyes. And it is something to see, how the man’s hard face seems almost to soften in her presence. Something to see as well how the slight woman goes from passing pretty to nearly beautiful when she smiles at him. Not long after, the pair take their leave, without ever having danced at all.

The Moon chuckles, and like a youthful kid, wags a finger slowly. “No no, while I am a loyal King’a man, and do indeed look forward to his coronation, there is other news that has me more than a bit excited, but you will not find out what that is till tomorrow.”

“Indeed, as I shall look for you,” he promises. “Though without that fine mask, and lovely gown, how shall I know you?” he teases.

“Oh, you will make me wait. How rude.” The Vixen’s amused tone belies her chastisement. “Then tomorrow, I will hear this news that has you so impatient and excited.”

“Merlings must return to the sea,” The lady in the scaled mask replies, with mock solemnity. “Alas, a tourney would be no place for a denizen of the deep water.”

The Moon grins and spins the Vixen out and pull her back in an rather impressive dance move. “It could be worse, I could make you wait till after the tournament to announce the news.”

The Fool considers this problem for a moment, eyes thoughtful behind the grinning mask. “Then perhaps some token, so that when you return to the sea, I might know your thoughts are with this boastful fool,” he suggests gently, as he spins her, and brings her back into his arms; all without a misstep, for once.

“That would be cruel, Gentle Moon, and foxes are creatures not to be trifled with.” The Vixen warns, with a chuckle. She spins easily, gracefully, in a swirl of sandsilk. “If we are teased, we may be provoked to tease back. And teasing, for a fox, is a thing to be taken with dire seriousness.”

The Merling Maid glances to where the Pirate King is absorbed with his peers. She spins and steps with the motion of the dance, one hand stealing to her decorated hair to remove one of the tiny carved starfish. Covering the exchange with a dance move, she presses the starfish into the palm of the Fool’s hand. “Perhaps a token, before the Merling must return to the sea.” For this particular Merling intends to be gone before the unmasking.

The Moon inclines his head. “Oh if my heart and yours were not already taken, dear Vixen, I think I would enjoy indeed being teased by you, dear Vixen.”

The Fool clutches the token, and slides it away, quietly. “Indeed, this Fool must too disappear, for while it is a fool’s privilege to say and do as he likes, it is not so for knights,” he says with quiet good humor. “But I enjoyed tonight. And /seeing/ you,” he says. However the dance is winding to a close now, and Lady Tully begins to stir from her seat, a clear sign that the unmasking is nigh.

“Would you, sweet Moon?” The Vixen coos, then chuckles. “Perhaps you are fortunate then. For the clever beasts will return to their dens soon.” Seeing Lady Tully rise, the Vixen waits for the hostess to announce the unmasking.

And the sign of Lady Tully rising is the cue for the Merling Maiden to return to the sea. The Pirate King is waiting for her, as if a somewhat premature departure was already discussed and acquiesced. The two quietly escape, while all attention is on Lady Tully.

The Fool, watches the Merling Maiden depart with the Pirate King, and then, giving them a few moments more for distance, is soon to disappear as well.

While on the dais, Lady Tully rises and is joined by the Queen and Princess. After a brief moment of deliberation, and some searching of masked faces it is declared that Winter, was indeed the best of the costumes. However, with her already gone, and a few jests made in hopes that the season will come and go just as quickly, the purse is set aside, and Lady Tully, calls for all masks to be removed. When they are she leads the guests in a toast to the health of the Queen and her absent King, before the party winds to its eventual end.