Servants wore a deep midnight blue, and guests were ushered down the long corridor, panelled again in dark stained and intricately carved wood. Drinks of mulled wine and spiced warm cider were offered as guests came in from a bitter evening.
At the end of the corridor, guests would enter a room large enough to hold a hundred. It boasted a high wooden ceiling, carved again with details highlighted in careful accents of colour. The supports that held the wooden rafters could have been mistaken for the figureheads of ancient boats and they might have been. The wooden panels covered the first eight feet of the walls, which were then painted the pale blue of a calm sea in summer.
Anyone who entered the hall was given an opportunity to cast aside their cloaks, coats and hood and their name taken. Only to be announced to the gathering and applauded with welcome.
Musicians were gathered on a small stage. Lively music on strings and pipes rising over the chatter of the gathered group. Nobles, commoners and a large collection of the Iron Hand invited for an evening of celebration. The Iron Hand had promoted a number of its members and they were to be celebrated, efforts in the civil war rewarded. The music sometimes escaped the main room and wound its way through narrow corridors to a number of smaller areas, set aside with soft furnishings and roaring fires for those who preferred quieter and less excitable company than those who wanted to dance in the larger hall.
Pavoo Burhan had long since escaped the festivities to a quieter room with a brandy, but Cealan was in full swing as her husband described, determined to bring some warmth and happiness to a city facing a long, dark winter. Perfectly quaffed victory curls and a midnight blue dress that was so dark it was almost black. Perhaps it would have been easy to accuse the Burhan Baron and his wife of trying to curry favour after Veljorns attempt at seizing the crown. Perhaps it was a public apology for the actions of a young brother led astray by a broken heart. Perhaps it was simply a chance to recognise the hard work of their daughter, recently promoted to Captain with the Skyriders.
Elyna hadn’t argued against the ball. There was no point. She had however, insisted that her name was not announced. Lurking was the best description of how the Skyrider stood in the main hall. Her Mother had forbidden her from leaving the main room until at least most of the guests had arrived. The dress she wore was a rich, dark burgundy that brushed the curves of her frame in gentle caresses. Velvet, it was enough to keep her warm and soft. Her Mother had been thrilled with the vision created and Elyna wanted the floor to swallow her. The dress had low sleeves that sat beneath her shoulders. The neckline too, was daring, scooping low and then across her chest leaving an expanse of creamy skin on display. Unable to wear her chain, and therefore the ring Malcolm had given her, she felt naked. As though she was missing something important, and not only the weapons belt she long to wrap around her hips. It had been more than a few trials since she’d lifted a blade or bow and her body had changed. The hard callouses lost all together and she felt like a fool. Honour for her work as a Skyrider she could stand, just about. However she could understand the confusion of the guests who glanced in her direction. She didn’t look like a Skyrider. With her hair loose and cascading down her back, she felt she looked too young to be a Captain, too inexperienced.
Emily had recently abandoned her to dance with a handsome friend. Elyna had every intention of quizzing the Sargeant as soon as she had the chance. She watched her Mother, flitting like a bee from flower to flower with kind comments and gestures. Caelan was a graceful beauty, even though age approached.
There was a crowd of young woman beside her, jostling and giggling and finally a tall blonde beauty turned around with a smile, “Lady Burhan?”
Elyna felt her heart sink but smiled in return, “I don’t believe we’ve met?”
The woman extended a hand, “Mia Sayed, I have to apologise…we were just so excited to meet you!”
Unsure how to respond to the enthusiasm Elyna felt the butterflies dance in her stomach, as she extended her own hand in turn “are you members of the Iron Hand?” The hand was coarser than she had expected.
“Yes,” the other young woman closed in. Three of them in various colours of brown and deep red. Hair pinned in a victory curls to a one, “This is Kesick, Anabelle and Tara, we’ve joined the Skyriders. Thank you for your invitation, we were delighted to come.”
“You’re very welcome,” she replied politely. All but a few invitations had been extended by her Parents. She wondered if anyone in the entire city hadn’t been invited.