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Old 06-23-2011, 12:13 PM   #338
Anguirel
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Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: The 1590s
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Echsichil's villa, interior

Both of the conspiratorial pairs of conversationalists in the garden had, just about, managed to obey the stern dictat of their hostess's gong. Neither were prepared for the ricocheting, incomparably, majestically more sonorous report that followed it; with a blast, too, from somewhere behind the house and to its west, that looked like the legendary dragonfire that had once strafed Erebor.

One of Lady Ecsichil's closest, most sympathetic and submissive friends, the young wife of a respectable old merchant, contributed an echo of her own, as her fainting form hit the marble with a light clunk. Reacting as much on fashion as instinct, the ladies around the hostess began to sink down likewise, as serving-men in variegated liveries scurried about to distribute salt and scents.

Aldarion and Sador, with Gloredhel and Aerwen closely following each respectively, had entered at opposite corners of the great ball-room, but each was a keen-sighted man, and at this moment some preternatural suspicion enabled each of their pairs of eyes to find the other. Both men simultaneously displayed, and concealed. I know your paltry players are behind this, Sador thought and consciously tried not to show. But Aldarion would be sharp enough to know he knew now; this Sador knew in turn, despite his delusive pride, as their glances parted.

On one of the rare occasions allotted to him by fate to take charge of the situation in his own house, it was now Lord Ecsichil who captured and reshaped the spirit of the moment. His eyes and mouth had popped open; his jaws were rising and falling, like a fish's, as was his consistent habit at moments of consternation. As he watched his wife's circle imitate ninepins - though the lady herself stayed as placid as ever - Ecsichil could contain his feelings no longer.

He burst into a rich, and long-unexercised vein of appreciative laughter.

"Sador!" he cried out heartily. "Why, you wag! This is your doing, isn't it, you and your player friend, no doubt," he chuckled, nodding courteously in Aldarion's direction, really as if he were seeing the younger man for the first time. "Come over here at once and tell me how you did it, you...you pair of egregious knaves!"

The frantic pallor with which Sador greeted his brother's first exclamation gave way to a rapid frown, a quicker yet blush, and then absolute and apparently automatic composure.

"I thought a surprise would serve us best this evening, dear brother," he appeared to admit, even having the gall to look sheepish. "The execution of the plan was all Aldarion's. He is a skilful fellow."

"So I can see," Ecsichil replied sagely. "Fella has a clever nose, saw that at once. Calm down, ladies! It's only a dragon! Ha, ha, ha..."

Ecsichil's laughter, while genuine, was always oddly phonetically precise. In his mirth as in his other attributes, he was a literal kind of man.

"Your brother may think it funny," his wife spoke up, unwittingly and automatically surrendering the serenity which had assured her high place in Minas Anor society, "but the alarm his little joke has caused our servants has quite ruined our preparations for dinner."

"Do you feel like dinner immediately after such an exciting starter?" Circilie rejoined.

"Quite right, Sissy," the elder brother agreed with equal spirit. "Let the supper be damned. Get your play going, Sador! If that's the start of the performance, I'd like the rest of it to tickle my empty stomach, not overturn a full one. Ha, ha!"

He did not often make jokes, and treasured those he produced accordingly.

"Very well," Sador answered evenly. "Sissy - Aldarion - Lady Gloredhel - would you come aside into the music room with me for a minute?"

***

The Second Circle

VŽandur was looking into the wild eyes and distraught face of his uncharacteristically ruffled looking great uncle, who seemed to have recently ridden rather faster than was good for him.

"I've acquired a spare steed," he rasped out, quicker than the mariner had ever heard the old man talk before. "I've gathered you have troubles you did not see fit to mention to me - and I, too, have cares that only now do I feel I must tell to you. Come with me to Ecsichil's, to my eldest boy's, right now. Don't bother to change. All that matters is talk, no, speed, yes, fast talk."

And with that the old lord whirled his untamed beard around, and hurtled down the creaking stares that spined that cheap lodging's length...at his own pace, but only just.
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