The Folly in Extremis Manor was lit from top to bottom, with phoenix lights and red and silver banners in honour of the new Imperator Regent Elect and the new Imperator Elect. Red and phoenix rose trees lined the carriageway.
“How in the earthsphere did he get all this set up so quickly?” I said in a momentary lull in the noise of our escort. I was coasting beside Ky’s chair while the Dyers howled up and down around us.
“If it were I, I would have had a set of decorations for everyone... and the household primed to begin setting up the moment things were announced,” she said serenely. The dog had finally stopped barking at the drums.
I reminded myself that she had managed my whole campaign. “It seems to me, to be a bit like organizing a war.”
She grinned at me. “I suppose. I have never been called upon to do such a thing.”
“And I hope you never are called upon to do that.” How do I get into such awkward conversations all the time with her? Implying things could fall apart enough to make her do war logistics? Idiot. Idiot.
“Ah, here we are!” Obvious. I decided the best thing for me to do would be to just keep my mouth shut. Perhaps she would mistake my hiding of stupidity for being ‘grave’ and ‘reserved’. I hate it that I don’t know why she’s giggling like that.
Everyone who was anyone was arriving and our whooping crowd caused a certain amount of chaos as very proper elderly Sera’s laughed or screamed or waved their fans at the boys swooping around them as they disembarked from their chairs. While the Sers, who could afford to keep horses in the city, shouted at them for disrupting things.
“You ought to be ashamed of yourselves!” One portly Aitzas man cried as his equally portly horse tossed its head.
The whole gang neatly lined themselves up under his horse’s nose and, even Doob with Riala clinging to his back, did a skate version of the abject bow to a superior and cried... “WE ARE NOT WORTHY EVEN OF YOUR DISPARAGEMENT AND CENSURE! FORGIVE US FOR WE ARE HORRIBLE, EVIL CHILDREN!” Then they scattered giggling as he tried to figure out whether to take the words at face value or realize that he was being mocked.
We were immediately behind and I handed Ky out of her chair and she set Socks down to follow her at heel, choosing to stroll the last of the way to the entry stairs rather than wait for the old fellow to get sorted out. Resh offered Riala an elbow off Doob’s back as if she were a great lady alighting from her chair.
The butler took one look at Ky and I and our outrageous entourage and bowed us in. “Serins, Serinas, please be welcome at The Folly.”
“Thank you Ser.” Ky said sweetly and a servant led us through to the ballroom entrance, where Mil stood.
“Welcome! Welcome! Oh wait... look...” Ser Itzan waved over the balcony and down in the middle of the crowd in a space cleared mostly by people getting far closer than was normal and in some cases climbing upon the furniture, Chevenga and Kallijas faced off with canapé platters strapped onto their wrists and forearms with silk sashes, holding roses as if they were swords. “They’re enacting parts of their most famous duel,” Mil whispered as they circled below. “Quarter speed so we can see.”
“And so they don’t just smash those whippy roses they’re pretending are swords,” I whispered back.
It was elegant as a dance and only because they were good enough to slow down their moves could we even see what had happened. Because they were moving slower, Kall had to give Che a boost half way through a move because he would have needed the speed to get him all the way around originally.
Someone out of the crowd said. “That didn’t look that hard.”
Even as my jaw dropped, a clear voice answered. “If you think that’s so easy, YOU try it.”
It was a girl’s voice and even as the crowd parted in front of her Ky caught my elbow and said, “That’s Laisa’s voice!” in my ear. Her father stood like a stone-faced statue and other Sers around her laughed as she was revealed in the crowd, hand over her mouth.
“Please, forgive this one’s daughter for speaking out of turn, Exalteds,” Ser Si Rusa rumbled. He was old school solas in every line of him.
“No, not at all,” Chevenga said, smiling at her as if she hadn’t just revealed that she knew more about fighting than she should. “You’re right, Serina...”
“...Si Rusa,” her father supplied.
“The Serina is correct, Ser,” Kall said to the original heckler, his deep voice carrying up to us. “If you should care to attempt this move with me at a later date...”
“Oh, no no no... Ser... I... ahem... no I believe you.”
“Serina Si Rusa,” Kallijas said, handing his rose and his platter shield off to a servant. I could see him start to blush from all the way up here. “Perhaps the Serina would like to... um... er... take a... um... walk... yes, a walk with me on the terrace? We could discuss... well...”
“You two could talk about what we just demonstrated!” Chevenga cut in. He threw his arm around Kallijas and offered his elbow to Laisa and practically force-marched them to the garden doors through the crowd.
“Heh.” Mil snorted. “He’s not a bad matchmaker himself!” He turned back to us. “Lovely that you came as you promised! Here, let me peace-bond your sword, Serin! My butler has house shoes for you if you wish?” He waved the Dyer messengers on, without trying to get the faib skates off their feet. “Serinas, Serins... please feel free to add your particular spice to my little gathering, hmmm? There are more buffet tables in the Cryselephantine ballroom!”
Gan and Farasha and her whole clan showed up after we did, bringing with them the caravan jugglers and acrobats, contortionists and magician/readers. Magician/readers would read aloud passages from books and then illustrate them in the air with magic. Fireballs and cascades of sparks flying from people’s fingertips.
Someone backed into a candelabra and the back of his hair melted but he was doused mercifully quickly. I should give him Faben’s name for replacement extensions to hide the damage.
Kin Kazien proved that his horsemanship extended past the passive and demonstrated he had complete control of his animals by riding his favourite stallion into the house and down the marble stairs without the animal slipping or balking, and in the garden tore up one of the dancing lawns with a riding display that had me gawking. He was certainly better than many trainers I had had.
It was an astonishing party that drew a great deal from Jitzmitthra traditions and even though the city would normally have been tired out from the six day celebrations this year... it was as though someone had added another day to vanish, another Diem Carnal Licentiousness, another Diem Epicurus.
Kyriala persuaded me to actually try the Oysters Itzan and the oyster fork was, indeed, necessary to pull the steaming hot cheese and garlic coated creature out of it’s shell neatly. It was good.
I persuaded her to dance several falisas with me and even one or two of the wilder Gybir dances. She could do it modestly because of her wonderful dress.
Gannara and a dozen of the Gybir, showed me how to do the drunken-line dance that their bachelors do. I ended up with my one arm over Benthasas Monnen’s shoulders on one side and Gan’s on the other, stamping and hopping and howling at the girls with them... all in a safe line, until one girl... Sheeree I think... darted out and dragged her boy out of the line. Then a few more Gybir girls picked their favourite dancers out of the line.
Then Farasha pulled Gan out and it was just us Arkans and then an Arkan girl... giggling... edged up and put her fan on another boy’s arm and he went off with her. Ky tapped me and I gladly let go the sweaty line and followed her to the bench under the rose arbour to get my breath back and have something else to drink.
It was a trifle quieter here and Ky leaned forward to see out at a burst of noise. She froze and then sank right down on the floor of the arbour while Socks charged out barking to defend his mistress, then sank right down on his belly, whining. “Oh. My. Goodness! Oh my Goddess... Oh... I never thought... ITS so BIG!”
I had to put my hand on her back to lean out far enough to see. “Are you all right? Oh. My. Great. God.” I was staggered by the true size of the thing. It raised its nose-snake and the noise it made drowned the orchestra inside. “Where in the Earthsphere did he get a red and silver dyed mamoka?” The thing's head overtopped the upper balcony over the ballroom and the long teeth had been sawed shorter and capped with a band of some kind. It's fur or hair was indeed dyed in streaks of red and silver and it had a red painted riding platform on its back that would easily hold five people at once.
“It really is a mamoka? They really are that big? Oh. Oh. That is terrifying.”
“I don't ever want to face one set against me,” I said. “He must have gotten one from the King of Laka.”
And a naked mahu?” Kyriala said quietly.
“I've read that they come as a team. Do you want to ride one?”
She stared at me, appalled, I was sure. Why on earth do I assume these things? Just because I do, I assume she would want to? “Yes, Minis, I do. Come on.”