Deep breaths. Relax. All you have to do is walk around and make nice. You can avoid the dancing.
Balthazar took another deep breath to try and calm his nerves but he thought a drink might be better for it. He didn't get one though because he refused to show up to the event reeking of alcohol. Who knew who he might meet? That was the point of going. A little break from everything to enjoy the best of Rharne before he went home. Try not to look like a freak.
Balthazar banged his hand on his mattress and stood up, walking over to the chest in his tavern room where he stored most of the belongings he carried around with him. He pulled out the chest plate of his grave gold armor and looked at his reflection in the golden surface.
His age was the least of his concerns. He didn't have to worry about wrinkles or leathery skin- no he had larger concerns. Etheric cracks ran down his cheeks from his eyes that glowed like blue flames. Similar cracks spider-webbed up his hands to his elbows with a faint glow that shined through most clothing. He couldn't touch anything without shocking it and he couldn't get angry with generating more sparks that a lightning storm. He glowed. He didn't even know what spark it was that made him glow anymore. Defiance? Probably. He was hot to the touch as well but the jokes that could be made about that were some small relief. When he walked to the Mummer's Ball through the rain it would cling to him and drench whatever he wore. At least he'd had the good sense to plan ahead for that and send the new suit he intended to wear to the Ball ahead of time. Nothing could save his hair so what was the point of trying?
He knew he had to try. Balthazar set the grave gold chest plate upright on the edge of his bed and sat in front of it with his legs crossed and his hands resting gently on his knees. He took another deep breath and closed his eyes. He only held a few active attunements; Isabella, Nimue, Victor and a few possessions. He had the capacity and the practice but he hated the feeling that he was hiding. He wasn't hiding, it was just easier without- alright he was hiding... but he was tired of being judged as a mage first. With each breath he tried to clear his mind and reach inward, digging through his own frequency for the sparks inside. More now than when he'd left Scalvoris and as a result more effort to calm. Yet he didn't have to calm them all, just two.
Balthazar began humming gently between slow breaths in and out through his nose as he began to soothe his Rupturing and Defiance sparks. Like meditating, with every breath the glow
"What are you doing?"
Nimue asked as she materialized across the room and picked up her dagger from the table Balthazar had set it on.
"Getting ready for the Ball."
Balthazar replied with as he examined his golden reflection in the chest plate. His eyes still glowed but it wasn't as bad as it had been and now you could see his face- no etheric cracks. Balthazar slowly ran his fingers along the skin on his cheek where the cracks had been and he could swear he felt a wrinkle but he could not see it in the reflection. Maybe it was in his head? All the same he decided he could work with glowing eyes if it meant that everything else was under control... well not everything
"Was that tonight?"
Nimue asked as she sauntered over to the edge of the bed and looked at Balthazar. "Why the change? I thought it helped you see better at night?"
Fair point. He did still have the walk ahead of him.
"I don't think it compliments the suit we got."
Balthazar replied and Nimue shrugged. What did she know about fashion? Balthazar grabbed his chest plate and slipped off his bed to put it back in the chest. "I have to go, I'm going to be late."
"I doubt that."
Nimue laid back on the bed and looked at her dagger as if it was a novel. Balthazar gave her a slight wave and cast a glance towards his weapons sitting beside the chest. He'd never needed them but it felt strange to leave without them now. Then again, who needed weapons at a dance? Just as he was about to step out the door, a little flaming rock dashed between Balthazar's feet to get out before him. Fuego was on the move and so Balthazar didn't linger, setting off to the Mummer's Ball.
--- --- ---
Nimue was right, Balthazar had arrived on time. He walked quickly through the Earth Quarter into the Glass Quarter beneath a sky that would not stop pouring on him. He had an umbrella which he'd bought solely because people tended to have a problem with a mage walking around with an invisible one pushing the rain around him. It kept his hair dry but not his boots or the lower end of his pants which irritated Balthazar to no end. He knew that it didn't matter because he'd be changing when he arrived but he still didn't like the feeling. He was used to the elements being his close companions... it kind of hurt to have them treating him like everyone else.
He should have used one of the carriages that had been offered but he felt independent and he didn't want to end up stuck in a small box with a bunch of pompous strangers. He was going to spend plenty of time around strangers at the Ball. He didn't need to meet and greet on the way- or at least he thought he wouldn't need to. He certainly felt underdressed when he arrived and saw the incredible outfits everyone else was wearing and no matter how many times he reminded himself that he had bought a suit just as nice, he couldn't shake the feeling it wouldn't look as good on him as everyone else's outfits looked on them.
For the first time ever, Fuego seemed the more confident of the duo. Balthazar found himself standing just outside Miss Austere’s School of Movement and Music, staring into the entrance as other filed through it. Fuego looked up at the mage, waiting for some sign to advance that Balthazar never gave. Instead the mage took a step backwards- away from the school. It's not too late. Go home. Forget about the dance. Don't embarrass yourself.
But Balthazar quickly resolved that it was too late. He'd already bought the suit and sent it ahead, he couldn't just leave it at the school. They'd know he didn't show up.
So he went in with the next wave of people he saw, trying to blend in as best he could while standing out like a sore thumb. White hair and golden, glowing eyes did not make for a stealthy individual. Balthazar noticed, first and foremost, that two of the five people he was walking in with smelled of the very alcohol Balthazar had resisted drinking before setting out to the Ball. Damn it, this is Rharne. Live a little next time.
Balthazar chastised himself silently in his head but those thoughts were quickly drowned out by a small sense of awe at the interior of the school the Ball was being held at. A beautiful place full of beautiful people and Balthazar was in black with more mud on his shoe than he was comfortable with- which didn't turn out to be much mud at all.
A woman, one of the Graduates though Balthazar did not know it, began providing the attendees with basic rules and directions to help them all get situated. She mentioned the changing rooms and Balthazar's head perked up, looking to the far side of the room at the spot Betsy had mentioned. From there, the news only grew more and more dire. It seemed he would have to dance, sooner or later. He either had to dance with someone he could convince to take the risk or someone provided from the school which he honestly felt would go worse. At least if he found someone else who didn't know how to dance they could fumble through it together. If he ended up with someone who did know... well that would be embarrassing. How many times could a man apologize for stepping on your foot? Then an even more frightening thought occurred to him- what if he couldn't find anyone who wanted to dance with him at all?
Balthazar's eyes began nervously looking around the room as an entirely imagined pressure settled on him. A familiar redhead asked Betsy about what sorts of games they could be expecting later but Balthazar's mind was miles away. Games? He had to dance first. He could deal with games when it got to that. Where was his suit? He wanted to know that, but he didn't ask. He figured he could find it near the dressing room because the Ball seemed more than organized enough not to have lost it. The moment they were free to do so, Balthazar made his way to the male dressing room and checked in.
When it was his turn, Balthazar went in and changed into his suit as quickly as he could. One by one he pulled off the rain-tainted garments he'd worn with him and in the privacy of the dressing room he conjured a little breeze to further dry himself off. It was strange with his spark soothed but a little pushing did the trick and once he was dry again, Balthazar began slipping into his fine attire. He was not used to dressing up but the clothing he had made it easy to feel confident. Within bits, Balthazar found himself standing in a nice, three-piece suit. The suit was, predictably, black but it was made of a fine and soft fabric that made it feel lighter than the clothing Balthazar had worn through the rain. Balthazar twisted slightly as he looked down at himself in his suit. As far as he could tell each piece was black except the shirt itself which was a darker blue for the moment. The vest and the jacket that stretched down just a hair before his knee were both black when he looked at them and the pants were the same. Like Yeva, he'd made the mistake of not considering his shoes and as a result he spent a few moments cleaning off the boots he'd worn in before slipping them back on and putting his pant leg over them. No one would notice right? Who cared about shoes? Probably the same people who cared about formal attire to begin with.
He was not used to wearing a vest but he liked the way it felt around his abdomen. It was like being hugged by a blanket and it looked damn
decent on the white haired mage. He slipped the jacket on and gave a small twirl to see how the fabric moved. His arms felt more restricted with it on but that was probably the point. Balthazar took a deep breath which he blew out through his lips making a gentle throttle-like sound. He'd taken up long enough in the dressing room so with another deep breath to help put him in his happy place, Balthazar left to get in the line leading to the ballroom. It was there, where he could hear the names of everyone being announced, that Balthazar began to recognize more than a few faces.
The Hero of Faldrass
. Yeva. Matchstick. Blushes. She deserved all the titles and more but Balthazar was just surprised to see her there. He didn't know why he was surprised- she'd mentioned Rharne was her home before, but he was. The surprise settled into a little joy. He knew her. He wasn't surrounded by strangers. Then the joy slipped when he realized she was going to see him dance.
How he had become a master in Defiance without learning to really dance escaped him but he'd done it. When he saw her cross into the Ball room in her gown, whatever he had been thinking was replaced by surprise again. Damn, Matchstick, nice dress.
But then the next name was called out. Professor Doran Thetys. Balthazar knew him as well and cast a glance at the man who always made him feel just a little... strange. What was the professor doing here so far away from his office in Viden? What was Balthazar doing here? Find him later, catch up.
They always had the most interesting conversations and now Balthazar was more like Doran than before- a transmuter. Balthazar made a mental note for himself and turned his attention to the next person being announced- foolishly not spending his time thinking of what he'd be called. Balthazar did not know Vega or Arlo well enough to think much of their introductions which gave him some time to consider his own but when he heard Elisabeth's name his head popped up slightly in surprise. He knew a lot of people here.
Then, to his sudden realization, it was Balthazar's turn to be announced. "Oh no..."
The words escaped beneath Balthazar breath as the man looked towards him, expecting an answer. What did he say? Yeva was the Hero of Faldrass and he couldn't exactly say Fire Forged. Master of the Four Elements? No, too pretentious. Hero of Quacia? Not necessarily true. Element? Would they understand that? Flame Trooper of Scalvoris? Wannabe-Militant? No, no, no no, no, no. He just couldn't decide. "Balthazar Black."
"Mister Balthazar Black!"
As his named was called out he crossed into the ballroom, trying to stand as straight as he could. It was uncomfortable and his posture shifted back to normal the moment the next name was called out. He looked around the ballroom nervously as Betsy's threat echoed in his head. Find a partner or get kicked out. He felt more self conscious about his glowing eyes now than ever but he couldn't let it distract him. Partner.
Partner. Balthazar kept slowly scanning the room like a seasoned detective scanning for a suspect. It helped to think of it that way. He saw Doran- he did not know why he thought to go to Doran as a dancing partner, but regardless the professor seemed occupied speaking with the woman who had been introduced as Vega. Vega.
There was something about the way the air moved around her. Something... familiar. Yet two people made a pair and so Balthazar's gaze moved on.
Then he saw Elisabeth from earlier in Vhalar and thought about approaching her but he had no idea what he would say. The first time they'd met she'd seen him shirtless in the middle of a brawling tournament. He thought that- all and all, that was a fairly good picture of him. Did he really want her to see him fumble through a dance? She seemed to be eyeing a man across the room who was speaking with a few women. Did she fancy
him? He couldn't really tell but all the same he moved on, keeping Elisa in the back of his mind. There were more men, some women, and Yeva. His face got a little red when he saw her and he looked away quickly.
Fuego, basking in his ability to be invisible, looked up at Balthazar curiously and Balthazar gently shooed Fuego away with his foot. Shut up.
Balthazar telepathically said to Fuego before looking at the people around
Yeva. Why not her?... Balthazar kept looking around but he was still thinking about Yeva. She was Fire Forged, she'd been to Scalvoris which gave them plenty to talk about, she'd seen him at his worst already- she was perfect! But she was probably there courting men and he didn't want to get in the way of that. His eyes slipped down to her feet where he saw that she'd made a practical choice. Maybe it wouldn't hurt as much if he stepped on her feet? No that probably hurt no matter what. He took a deep breath and drummed his fingers along his sides. Relax, breathe, keep looking around. Don't stare at anyone.