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A Social Evening at the Opera

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A Social Evening at the Opera

Post  Eddick the Steady (XIV) on Fri Feb 14, 2014 8:18 pm

30th of Rova, 4712

Zaistrun spent forty minutes comparing the colors of various waistcoats. His robes, which were traditional, roomy and practical for sorcery were hardly proper attire for escorting a lady to the opera. Besides, this was to be a special occasion and that required special raiment. He finally settled on the striped one with the wagon wheel buttons which he magically altered to have seven spokes instead of eight. The clothes should fit the man after all.

He trimmed his facial hair with magic as well since he did not want to get any stray hairs on his jacket, dashed himself with a small bottle of cologne similar but not identical to the one preferred by his father and checked himself out in a mirror. It had been a long time since he had gone to these lengths, but he was pleased with his ability to carry it out. Perhaps he should have been more attendant to his appearance at previous times, but it was inevitable that when he went all out like this he had been the unfortunate object of flirtation by ambitious women. But this time he would be escorted by a lady above them all, and in truth she was the only reason he was willing to subject himself to this much preparation.

The walk to Sarala’s room was just as long as it was to any other tower in the castle, and he sometimes would shorten a walk with his magic, he wasn’t quite prepared for what he would say upon his arrival. Also he may need it later so it was not a good idea to spend it frivolously. His footsteps echoed against the walls and servants made way for his determined and brisk movement spilling into whispers in his wake.

He checked the sun, making sure of the time not being too late and knocked firmly on the heavy oak.

Sarala came to the door wearing a simple wine colored wool dress with teal-green sleeves. The only thing that set it apart from the garb of the common folk was the intricate embroidery that trimmed every edge. It wasn’t overly fancy, but it was nice and she was comfortable in it which was more than she could expect for the rest of the evening. She noted with surprise that Zaistrun had eschewed his usual robes for something much more courtly. It was the first time she could remember seeing him dress in such a way and it took her aback.

“Are your robes in dire need of repairs?” she quipped, trying to regain control of the situation.

Pleased that his appearance had at least affected her in some way, he rejoined. “Indeed. They were woefully inadequate for the task, so these would have to do. Do they meet your approval?”

“Do they need to?” she looked at the young sorcerer with a hint of stubborn mischief in her eyes. “As long as you approve and are not an embarrassment then I suppose I shall let myself be seen with you.”

He saw the light in her eyes and it kept his mood light. “I should blend in quite well at the Crown Theatre, while you should gather the attention you deserve with that dress.”

Sarala surveyed what she had hoped to be simple evening attire and let out a sigh. “I don’t suppose I have time to change, then, do I? Oh well, let us be off.”

Zaistrun’s mouth slightly curled in a manner somewhat similar to a smirk as he offered her his arm. “I do not desire for you to change. I am sure that in a month the style will have changed to match you.”

Sarala glanced at her companion in an attempt to judge his sincerity but it was too hard to tell. She let the comment pass, unsure what to say to Zaistrun’s newfound delight for flattery. She was used to her brother’s wholesome compliments as well as the often misguided fawnings of lesser men, but not such high praise from the stoic sorcerer.

“So, what are we about to be entertained with tonight at the Crown?” She asked in an attempt to change the topic of conversation. “I blush to say that I haven’t the foggiest idea of what they’ve been performing over there since the place was built. Though I don’t expect much from our small city I have to wonder if they are any good.”

“The players had a slow start from what I have heard, but a traveling Deva from Cheliax who had not heard of the war to the north until she arrived here has done wonders in the last few months. The opera we are to partake of tonight was specifically requested by myself before midsummer, and although they lost a tenor to the war, the understudy is remarkably adept and is coming along quite well. I have not seen it yet, but it should be an entertaining and lighthearted tale of disguise, deceit and drunkenness entitled ‘The Flying Mouse.’ Have you heard it before?”

Sarala raised an eyebrow at the description Zaistrun had given her. “It sounds… unique. No, I can’t say that I have heard it before. I confess I am curious how disguise, deceit and drunkenness will be lighthearted and entertaining. If anything, it certainly doesn’t sound boring, so you have kept your word in that respect and for that I thank you.”

He nodded as they passed through the ballroom to the front gate of the castle. The Theatre was not very far from the castle and he had entreated the street sweepers to clear the road between that the king’s sister did not have to endure the smell of road apples on the way to the theater. He did not want anything to sour her mood, and this was hopefully going to be a night of good memories, not bad.

The Magister continued his explanation. “It is certainly one of the most humorous operas I know and I have yet to find someone who did not enjoy most of it. Even my father laughed when we first saw it.” His tone seemed to leave something out as a pause lingered longer than he desired. “And such is a rare thing indeed.” That line was not likely to keep things light, he would have to avoid such references in the future. He turned to look at her for a moment and did not notice any concern on her expression, so he let it slide and he guided her.

He escorted her across the street as many people were collecting there at the entrance of the theater. “If you find it too crowded, I can spirit you directly to our box. But I find the whole atmosphere is part of the experience.”

Sarala looked at him astonished when she realized he wasn’t joking. It must be some effect of his ever growing magical ability. “Walking there should be sufficient… ‘Spiriting’ me away may not be the best thing to do on our first outing together… and I have a feeling my brother would have something to say about it if he were to find out.

“I do not mind waiting out here if that is what one does at the theatre.” And as she said it Sarala’s face became a touch more serene as she felt herself melt into the crowd, hearing snatches of passing gossip and knowing, despite Zaistrun’s adulations that she was going almost completely unnoticed.

They floated through the crowd anonymously somehow. Perhaps his unique style of dress for his character had effectively disguised him. But he couldn’t puzzle why no one noticed Sarala. She was quite distinctively tall and elegant in every movement. No one stopped their progress as they went up the stairs. The crowd was lively and expectant, but it was as if they were hardly there. The dreamlike atmosphere took him back to a more carefree time when the theatre seemed magical. His hardened exterior began to soften amidst the buzz and excitement..

By and by they made it to the King’s box, it was called. It was reserved for the most important visitors and had an excellent view to the stage. Zaistrun led her to her seat, ready to take her wrap but it was so warm out she did not bring one so he sat next to her. She smelled like a spring breeze, a breath of fresh air. The sound from the orchestra pit was cacophonous and melodious as the instrumentalists warmed up. The young man turned to the young woman next to him and spoke excitedly with a light curl of his lip. “You are going to love this.” he predicted, looking as if he was almost a different man than she had seen for the past two years.

Sarala stared in wonderment at the heightened level of emotion that Zaistrun was exhibiting. This was the most animated she had seen him in… ever! A sudden swell from the orchestra pit drew her attention away and she found relief in the fact that the opera was starting. She had betrayed too much feeling already. She didn’t mind being somewhat friends with the young sorcerer but she didn’t want to lead him on. Sarala knew that she felt little romance and love for the young man even though the opposite was true for him. She needed to be careful, on her guard.

The Flying Mouse captivated her, from start to finish. The sylph found herself laughing so hard at times that there were tears trickling down her cheeks. The story was ridiculous and fantastic, so different from the operas her mother had made her learn about when she was a young girl. Those were full of woe and melodrama and shrill songs sung by women who had no right to still be living so annoying were they to Sarala’s sensibilities. This opera was different, better… and most importantly, not boring. She was so caught up in the plot that she failed to notice all the times that Zaistrun would lean in closer to her to explain some archaic idiosyncrasy or simply to share a laugh with her, their heads mere inches away from each other. She didn’t flinch at the touch of his breath on her skin. Somewhere in her subconscious identified his breath to smell vaguely of lemon and mint. It was pleasant.

The opera was sublime. One would normally think that a well established opera house would have a better rendition, but several things worked in the favor of the newly established Crown Theatre. Zaistrun had prepared six reasons through speculation and listening to several art critics, including his cousin’s distinguished ear.

But she was there, right there next to him and enjoying herself. He couldn’t help but lose himself in the moment. Her laugh was so carefree and contagious he joined in several times without realizing it. It had been so long since he had laughed, it hurt a little. In some parts he also found himself humming along, and although he was able to keep the tune, he decided to keep the volume quite low as to not spoil her enjoyment. Although, watching her throughout the show, he found that it did not really make a difference.

And then with a lighthearted moral of “Don’t leave your drunken friends passed out in the town square in a bat costume”, it was over. A thunderous standing ovation assailed the players and flowers were thrown upon the stage by the audience while the whole cast came out and bowed. Zaistrun used the moment to pull out a half dozen roses out of his tight sleeve, tossing a couple toward the stage and handing the rest to Sarala with a gesture that suggested she could throw a few if she would like.

Sarala looked at Zaistrun with eyebrows raised incredulously. “I should have know you would have something up your sleeve…” she sighed in mock annoyance as she took the roses from his hand. After deftly plucking a petal during the exchange (a move she hoped would remain unseen) she then threw the flowers toward the stage. The secret petal was quietly tucked away in her own sleeve to be taken care of later. Sarala was rarely sentimental but she felt that somehow this night at the opera needed a memento, even just a small one. And roses were special to her anyway.

Turning to her escort Sarala smiled graciously. “Well, that was quite enjoyable, Zaistrun,” she said. “Thank you. And yet it is done. Shall we be off for home?”

Zaistrun spied the petal but said nothing. “If you are tired already, I suppose I can escort you back presently. But after all the trouble of getting ready, it would be a shame if we did not get to show it off a little more. I have two options available to you and you have the choice of either, neither or both. We can go backstage to converse with the talent, congratulating them and learning more about them and I have a connection to an excellent restaurant here in the castle district for a late repast.”

Sarala chuckled. “Oh I see how it is. Somewhat loath to have a certain jewel leave our arm, are we? Well then,” taking his elbow she continued, “lead on, O magic man, this is your night. For I have set forth my delights at the auction and now ‘tis your turn. What else do you have up those ornate sleeves of yours?”

A small chuckle accompanied her quip and a slight tightening of his arm muscle accompanied her touch. “At least my arms are up my sleeves yet, but I don’t usually take them out in public.” His eyes twinkled a little as he gazed at her. “Come then fair jewel and we shall greet the players.”
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Eddick the Steady (XIV)

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Re: A Social Evening at the Opera

Post  Eddick the Steady (XIV) on Sun Feb 16, 2014 9:32 pm

He escorted her down the staircase through the crowd as they buzzed excitedly about, filled with gossip and frivolity. Their movement was still not well noted by anyone which seemed still odd and yet dreamlike. Zaistrun thought for a moment he might have been dreaming and thought to wake himself before he stopped. If it were a dream, it was a good one and it would be worth it to stay asleep for a while longer.

They came to the stage door and with a nod to the guard, he passed on through with his jewel in tow. The backstage was a flurry of activity still as dancers and grips mingled with the cast and chorus. They did make it a bit slower going to reach the leads’ dressing rooms as space behind the stage always seemed to be at a premium. Finally they reached a door with a bright yellow star painted on it and he rapped twice quickly with a pause in between. It was met with a musical “Entre” from the inside before he led them in.

It was a smallish room, but private. Inside there were two people in various states of dress. There was a younger man in his late teens who had already shed his costume for a pair of overalls and some work boots which seemed exceptionally out of place with his costume makeup and white wig that he wore for the performance. It was the new tenor Zaistrun had pointed out earlier who had been the understudy. There was a shorter curvaceous lady with raven hair in her prime who wore confidence and experience along with her dress from the opera. Her wig was gone and her makeup as well and upon their entrance was right up next to the sorcerer, although not from lack of space.

“Zaistrun Darling! I’m so glad to see you I could kiss you if I had a ladder.” She seemed to completely ignore Sarala as she pawed at his jacket. “You clean up so nicely too! You should join us in the Theatre so I could dress you up every day!”

“It’s good to see you as well Madame, but as usual I will refrain from impropriety.” She squealed in delight at this like a young maiden who was delighted to see soldiers in uniform while the young man simply rolled his eyes and sighed in relief that someone else had taken her attention away from him for the time being. “I have someone to introduce to you.” He continued, dismissing their nonverbal cues as inconsequential. “Lady Sarala Medvyed, the King’s sister, This is Madame Coppola of Cheliax, deva, and woman of many talents and few scruples and Thom Vassant, former pig farmer and overnight sensation here at the Theatre.”

Sarala inclined her head at the introductions. Both of these performers had done well in the opera but at present only one of them held her attention. Madame Coppola, the deva, though seemingly superficial and flighty held a wondrous gravity behind her laughing eyes. Such a juxtaposition of character intrigued the sylph greatly. Madame Coppola was more than she let on.

“Your performance this evening was phenomenal!” Sarala extended a dainty hand to the deva as she addressed her. “I do hope you are enjoying your stay with us in Novastasia. I am sure your talents have been well received! We must have you up at the castle one of these nights when you aren’t busy at the theatre. A private performance would be most enjoyable, don’t you think, Zaistrun?” the sylph smiled demurely.

The deva interrupted as the sorcerer opened his mouth to speak. “I’ve been trying to get a private performance with this one for months.” She pouted, fiddling with his oversized buttons. “But he’s such a tough nut to crack. I’d sing any song for you as long as you’d like if you could give a few pointers on that.”

“Careful, Madame,” interjected the magister in a playful tone, playful for him anyhow. “The king’s sister isn’t one to give up state secrets. And grappling with her would only get you injured. I’ve seen her knock out an owlbear.”

“Alas, I have little say in the matter of the magister’s personal schedule. I can, however, invite him to a small private concert with the king and a handful of nobles at the castle. I dearly look forward to seeing you there.”

Zaistrun nodded. “If the King’s sister invites me I’ll have to rearrange my schedule.” To which the Deva glowed.

“If it is a closer proximity to Lord Garess that you desire then maybe you should volunteer to teach singing at the his school in the library. I hear that is the surest way to get into his good graces.” Sarala winked conspiratorially at the flirtatious deva.

“I can see you understand me quite well already!” Said the deva, mockingly shocked. “But you haven’t seen that I’ve no patience for teaching. If I had, I could have half a dozen children by now with at least as many fathers to help me raise them. But alas, such a life isn’t for me. I love the road and excitement too much.”

“A life on the road,” the sylph mused, “sounds fascinating! I am sure you have some entertaining stories to tell. One day, when time permits, I would love to hear a few of them. Perhaps over a glass of wine. Though I believe we have taken up too much of your precious time this evening already. It was a pleasure meeting you, Madame Coppola.” And Sarala dipped her head once more to the singer in hopes that Zaistrun would take this as the cue that she wished to move on.

“My congratulations to you both. Madame, you have done well in whipping this troupe into shape to pull off an exceptional opera, and Mr. Vassant, you have grown immensely in your abilities since we’ve first met. I hope this encourages you to seek greater heights.”

“Oh look how good he is to his students! Such a proud papa! Oh Sarala, it was wonderful meeting you, do take care of him. He requires such maintenance.” With that, she did a respectful courtesy, while Thom took his wig off and bowed deeply, obviously moved with such praise from a hard man.

“Farewell, and may your next performance be even better,” said the magister with a slight bow of his head in deference to their skills and talent, and then he ushered his jewel out the door.

There was in the back stage, an open door into the night air that offered ventilation to the cast, and Zaistrun exited through it upon his intended path which he had timed the street sweepers again to take care of road apples. He thought about having the guardsmen stop traffic entirely, but thought better of it as it would be a little pompous. He had enough preparation for a carefree stroll through the city at night. The sky was cloudless and the stars dazzled above them.
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Eddick the Steady (XIV)

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Re: A Social Evening at the Opera

Post  Eddick the Steady (XIV) on Sun Feb 16, 2014 11:07 pm

It was not a terribly long walk past the arena and the castle to the exotic craftsman district near the wall. It had only light damage from the war, and despite being near the gate where the Kobold force held the line, it was virtually untouched. Back a few alleys to where the roads were narrow and the aromas lingered that garnered attention for the various shops that lined the streets, there was a strange sign in flowing script that merely stated “Le Canard Nauséabonde”.

“This is it.” He stated with pride, “our dinner should be nearly ready, but there is always time for some some appetizers as well.” He led her inside to be met immediately by a maitre d with a thin moustache. The Magister pointed a finger directly into the nose of the man in front of him. “The Galtan people are rude, murderous and insane backstabbing brigands whose only accomplishments are not committing self-genocide and their food. We are here for the latter.”

The maitre d grabbed the finger of the sorcerer in front of him as if it were a piece of garbage and flung it away from his face. “Ze Brevoyan people are a barbarous lot zat put ze Kellids to shame and have no appreciation or contributions for ze arts or civilization in general. Zey are so bland even their neighbors forget about zem, and zeir food is atrocious and I understand why you are here. Your table awaits.” He led them to another room to a table in the corner, arrayed with dishes and candles. From the other side of the room, a man played a haunting tune on a violin that seemed to produce much more sound than a simple instrument could play.

Zaistrun pulled out her chair and allowed her to be seated before settling down himself. Hot bread and cheese floated through the air to their table and settled themselves within easy reach. “We’ll have the house wine, 4697 if you have any left,” said the young man to no visible person.

“I had heard there was small Galtan establishment here in Akiros,” Sarala commented with a comical expression, “but I never knew they were quite this… colorful…” She raised a questioning eyebrow at Zaistrun. “Are you sure they won’t slit our throats after we finish our plates?”

Sarala winked at the servant who brought them their wine. She knew well enough that these Galtans had come to Akrios for the peace and a new start which is exactly what the city provided. She had watched them closely from arrival through to the establishment of their own restaurant in the castle district, until she was satisfied that they wouldn’t cause any trouble for Novastasia. They always paid their taxes without complaint and on time and they even seemed well liked by those who worked with and around them. She had always wanted to try their food hearing that it was indeed exceptional by a few other sources and now she had been granted the opportunity to do so. And as long as Zaistrun intended to keep up this charming persona this might even turn out to be a wonderful meal.

“No, I don’t think so.” The sorcerer nodded also at the girl who brought the wine as a bit of an afterthought. “The Galtans really only kill people who aspire to political power.” He picked up the bottle and popped the cork, pouring the deep red liquid into Sarala’s cup. “Nevertheless, I am teaching their daughter the art of sorcery and I doubt they want that tutelage to stop as it was the source of some frustration to them before I began.”

“I am glad to know that at least your neck is secure, then.”

Sarala let her eyes wander about the dimly lit room. Small candelabras made of brass were attached to richly stained wooden walls. One wall was graced with a large painting, of what Sarala could not tell. The floors were made of deep red stone polished to a high glossy shine and matched the velvet on the cushioned chairs. Upon each small round table lay crimson tablecloths, simple yet elegant dishes and centered with another brass candlestick and a stocky blown glass vase holding a single flower.

In her failure to find any indication of a menu anywhere Sarala posed the question to Zaistrun. “Do you know what we will be dining on tonight? It seems to me that they like to leave their guests guessing…”

Zaistrun tasted his own glass and nodded his approval. “I took the liberty of pre-ordering our food. The menus are not translated as an insult to people who don’t understand Galtan. My student told me to be prepared the first time I came, so I brought those translating glasses. I’ve tried a good portion of the menu, but there is a dish that would be too much for one and it looked good to me so I ordered it for us to be ready when the opera was over. Brandied Roast Goose with Fruit Sauce, and Confit Byaldi a caramelized vegetable dish with balsamic Vinaigrette. I’ve had the latter before, and I am sure you will find it quite good.”

He picked up bread and dipped it into the melted cheese and took a bite before continuing. “They are probably waiting to see us partake of the appetizers first.”

Sarala followed suite. The cheese had a wonderful creamy flavor with earthy tones. Something like, maybe, mushrooms. It was stronger than she’d expected for a cheese but she didn’t mind.

True to form, after she had partook of the appetizers, the dinner platters were presented by a young girl with mousy brown hair and eyes. She was flushed, probably due to the heat of the kitchen, and set down the feast before them. The goose was a golden brown with a maroon sauce on the side, and the multicolored vegetables were on the side like a garnish. The aroma was also quite appetizing.

With naught a word, they dug in to the food, consumed by their appetites and in what seemed like seconds the meal had vanished. It was a comfortable silence though punctuated with the sounds of polite eating and silverware on plates. They had long since grown comfortable with each other’s company after many days on the road. But as the meal came to a close the sorcerer found himself compelled to speak.

“They are preparing another opera in about six weeks. Would you like to attend with me freely or should I find some way to purchase your company before I ask?”

“Depends on the opera,” Sarala mumbled absentmindedly through her bite of roast goose. She took a moment to swallow. “Though bribery goes a long way in the enjoyment of many fine arts..”

She looked up at the sorcerer catching a trace of disappointment cross his face. “Oh, you were serious, weren’t you?” She stopped eating for a moment to consider her next words.

“Zaistrun, I am not a person who generally appreciates the fine arts, like opera… and the other things nobles like to fritter away their time on. Tonight was an exception. The story wasn’t stodgy or dripping with unnecessary dramatic plot devices. You did well, but I don’t think I’m up for any more entertainment of that sort.”

Sarala wiped her hands gently on her napkin then contemplated what she would eat next. There wasn’t that much left on her plate but it all suddenly looked very unappetizing. Why hadn’t she thought about the possibility that Zaistrun would want to escort her to another opera. She had hoped that this evening would be enough to appease him for a while, but it seemed now that she had been much too congenial. Something she had told herself she was going to be careful not to do. And more was the pity, since she really had been having a good time.

“Serious is something I am quite a bit of the time. I don’t like doing things that are not worth my time. If you do not wish to attend something similar to what you obviously enjoyed, who am I to argue. But just attending an opera isn’t all of what I’m doing here, and you have already picked up on that.” He tented his fingers in front of him, slightly unsure of how to proceed.

“I know people in this town in a different way than you do. Through the school, I’ve become acquainted with a variety of skilled people that wouldn’t do well in my line of authority. The deva, the Maitre D, and a few others that you may be aware of but haven’t been in contact with yet can be contacted and known with your discerning eye in a format that seems perfectly innocent to anyone watching.

“I hope that you might be able to help me as well, of course. I’m currently on the lookout for persons of great arcane power to teach at the academy I am building. And as you probably already have guessed, I am not a terribly good judge of character, and having someone get to know the people close to me and whether or not I can trust them with certain things would be a great advantage to me.

“I know you find me personally repulsive, but perhaps you can at least find me useful to be around. I also know that it is more advantageous for us to spend time together for me because I enjoy having you about. But you did say you wanted to learn to work together, and as such I have prepared several events for that to happen outside of our regular intervals.”

Sarala tried her best to retain a stoic expression as Zaistrun spoke. She wanted to protest when he asserted his assumption that she found him repulsive but thought it best to just keep her mouth shut. She didn’t dislike him, but she was fairly certain she would never have the same level of regard for him that he had for her.

“I will… consider your proposition. I’m not sure about giving the townsfolk any ideas, but I suppose some ideas are more easily dealt with than others.” She gritted her teeth in thought. “It is true, though, that I need to move forward with some of my plans and having another excuse to observe things would be useful.

“I’m not sure how useful I could be to your plans in building up staff for the academy, though. I’m not at all attune to the ways of magic, nor do I have an eye for teachers, as you saw with my blunder toward the deva earlier. But I am sure you have something in mind for me to do that I haven’t thought up yet.”

“My evil machinations have not yet reached their apex.” He said this flatly, but a curl of the lip betrayed his joke just in case. She wasn’t a mind reader after all.

“Magic users are often socially ostracized and secretive individuals, of which I’m sure you have a list. I am trying to use the school to open up understanding between arcane philosophies but it is hard to get them together until I know who they are. That and I need you to help me figure out if they can be trusted.

“On the matter of rumors, I’m sure you could quell them if you wanted. But wouldn’t such a rumor be of some advantage to you? You shun most every suitor, and I have a certain degree of reputation that can be used as a deterrent against such advances. The less people pay attention to you, the easier your job might be.”

“True, true,” Sarala nodded. She was more than slightly annoyed that he had brought up the ‘problem’ of her singleness in such a manner but she could also see that he was right. It was maddening to admit it to herself but there was no way around it. So it was to be a courtship of convenience. She had given this concept quite a bit of thought lately, though she never expected Zaistrun to agree to it, much less to propose it himself. Yet there it was. Who was she to disagree.

“Well then, I suppose I have an opera to look forward to in six weeks. May the next one be as enchanting as the first!” And she flashed a beguiling smile to cover up the knot that had begun to tie itself in her stomach.

“It wouldn’t be a good social evening without a little enchantment.” He smiled at her in a way that few had seen before; genuine, warm, and dazzling. And as her mind was reeling from that blow he took her hand gently and the two of them disappeared from the restaurant completely, leaving behind a generous tip.
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Eddick the Steady (XIV)

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Zaistrun's Coat

Post  Eddick the Steady (XIV) on Mon Feb 17, 2014 6:58 pm

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Sarala's Dress

Post  Eddick the Steady (XIV) on Mon Feb 17, 2014 7:00 pm

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