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Longest night 1186, Cereus House

 Below the cut is the events of the Cereus House Longest Night Masque. Enjoy!

The longest night, the showcase of the houses and the penultimate party on the hill. Each house has thier own, but nothing compares to Cereus house. Certainly not yet. White swags of sheer cloth, boughs of pine and floating oil lamps in shallow glass baths that hang from the ballroom ceiling lend festivity to the night. Those bearing tokens already present and mingling when from the entrance into the fete is thrown open and the procession of the houses start. Dahlia, Eglantine, Jasmine, Orchis, on and on they come till there's only a few left, and everyone is on baited breath to see which house will appear the triumphant winner of the costumes this year.

They are heard before they are seen. Upraised voices, some sweet soprano, some soothing alto, delicate tenors and rich baritones, they all contribute to a harmonious and gentle lullabye to soothe the body and spirit. And then come a-tumbling are the children of Balm, all dressed as little sheep, here and there a tinkling, shiny bell or bright bow tied to a collar. They let out occaisional declarations of 'Baaaah!' in piping voices, and after them come the novices, adepts, and courtesans of Balm, all dressed as shepherds and shepherdesses. Some clutch flutes, others have crooks with which they gather their little ship, or even tease the audience with the possibility of hooking them and drawing them in.

Heliotropes entrance this year is a departure from last years. Somewhat. In single file a good half of thier courtesans dressed as aragonian bull fighters pouring when it is thier turn in the processional. High waisted pants of luxurious fabrics every color under the sun and as bright as the sun. Matching sashes tied about thier high waists, black slippers and white tights. Male or female alike dressed to shine and reflect under the lights of the Cereus ballroom off the silver and gold thread on the costumes, the braiding, beads and metallic accents. The dowyne is the tallest, and hi costume has red beads of glass and jewels here and there. They turn, unhook bright yellow and magenta capes from their shoulders with an outline of house Heliotrope on the capes front and brandish them towards the entrance as there seems to come a roar. In rushes what seems the rest of heliotrope, rich brown velvets and satins, domino's with bronze horns. The woman with swirling skirts of the brown fabric, ribbons of copper and bronze intertwined with rough brown loosely spun wool down thier back. The men in matching earthy breeches and Domino's. The bulls have arrived. They rush at the matadors but stop, only to do a little pasadoble dance with the matadors moving amoung them before the whole of the group bows so that the next house can enter.

They were supposed to come in costume... right? When the doors open, at first it looks like a few of Cereus' own adepts and novices are maybe trying to slip inside. But they're followed a few footsteps later by a pair of Dahlia in proud and royal purple; a trio of brightly colored Eglantine wearing tights and jonguleur's bells; some few in stiff and starched silver and gold, with Camellia flowers artfully tucked into their hair; Jasmine slithering along in clouds of incense and swaying hips, even a Bryony or two, all cloth-of-gold and glittering rings. All of Mont Nuit, every House except for Mandrake and Valerian, and each of them only obviously Mandrake when a glimpse is caught of their backs, in the hints of fletchette hiding amoung the bells, the dangling whip tucked into a knot of hair to hold it in place at the nape of the neck. This then is Mandrake tonight, masquerading as their brothers and sisters in service. Last of all, walking alone with her head tipped down in faux-modesty (her blue eyes are steadfast on the crowd despite the angle), is the Dowayne: the lone Alyssum.

Somewhere amidst the procession, the sheer white and silver splash of Camellia enters the room, winter cloaking the feathers and furs of the house's animal spirits. A white wolf here, a winter peacock there, the group advances together in a dance that is as primal as perfect. They don't bring their own music this time but rather match those that already fill the room, mixing them into a counterpoint that only enhances each part. All alike and yet not two identical, Camellia seems to bring something entirely different this year. They mingle among the sheep and the bulls, laughing merrily and shifting from the gamut of those present to mingle rather than separate. Starting early it seems. The Silver Hawk enters last, losing himself between a pair of red-and-silver Camellias to take a scent of their worn flowers. "Perfect" he states, pressing a kiss to each pair of lips before moving onwards. Yes, extremelly stiff tonight.

All a-flutter come the courtesans of Valerian House, dressed as birds of some sort. The children come first, their voices in song that seems to act as high counterpart to the melody sung by those of Balm, each small figure disguised as a golden songbird. The birds move in two lines, holding hands with their partner, before moving apart, moving to form an aisle for those who follow. Twirling and spinning in graceful dance come the novices, adepts and courtesans, feathers of bright hues, dark hues, pure white and midnight black. The dancers twine together and move apart, arms uplifted so that wings can flutter out behind them, or in some cases, sleeves that seem to act like wings. Each bird seems to be of the more docile sort, finches, peacocks, and blue jays abound, yet not a single bird of prey can be seen in their number. The voices of the children rise to a sweet crescendo, then fall silent as the dancers come to a stop, each sinking briefly to one knee, all in one moment, heads bowed. Silence and stillness reigns, then Valerian rises as one and moves on into the room.

Gliding like water over stones, the members of House Alyssum make their entrance nearly silently, costumes fluttering as they move. The theme of their costumes is a common enough one for this night, with men and women garbed as the exotic Akkadian dancers one might see in a hareem. Common enough, except not for Alyssum House, the servants of which blush furiously in the revealing costumes. Younger adepts dance and twirl along the edges of the group, every step honed with bashful grace. When the ethereal courtesans pause, the adepts move out to surround them, twirling and whirling in a cascade of bells. Most of the costumes consist of layers of colored chiffon scaves, fastened in strategic places so that the blushing adepts and shrinking courtesans are well covered. Yet as they break their formation to swirl among the crowd, it suddenly becomes clear how the smallest of breezes, the lightest of touches, can sweep away the thin fabric and reveal bare skin beneath. No wonder their cheeks are so flushed! 

And so the procession ends, Cereus house's ballroom is filled to the brim with Courtesans and guests alike. People oohing and ahhing over lambs and bulls, jokes about 'shearing' a few balms. Fake birdcalls to try and woo a valerian or two. The young novices of Cereus house walk around in thier white shifts and ivy in the hair balancing small trays of clear glasses filled with Joie. Tables of food to pick at line one wall, the musical acocmpaniment for the evening is sitting adjacent to the stage. The cereus dowayne plucks a glass from a passing tray and lifts it up for the first toast of the evening. "To the Night Court. Joie to you, this longest night. Naamah's graces upon you all" Before she tips the glass of cold but firey liquid down her throat. And so starts the evening.

A shepherdess reaches out to snare a shepherd with her crook, and the low laughter makes her identity evident to those nearby and in the know - Eva's made an unobtrusive entrance with Balm. There's been no confirmation of her rejoining the Night Court, so perhaps this is by the grace of higher powers. Or perhaps it /is/ confirmation. Who knows?

One of Heliotropes Bulls separates from the Dowayne after a quick conversation. A glass of Joie procured and the two toast with the Cereus Dowayne. Down it goes, a smile on her face before the bull is off, darting around the room, her skirts swirl in her wake and the fresh shorn hair slicked back.

Dove doesn't so much break away from her fellow Valerian's as she is playfully pushed by some of her elders, shoving her out of the nest, so to speak, and into the crowd of reveller's. The white dove laughs, shaking her head, and moves off, snagging a glass of joie in passing and lifting it up in response to the toast of the dowayne before taking a long sip of the potent liquid. Dark eyes peer out from beneath the mask as she drifts through the crowd. The lack of visible marque on her back, which would have been visible through her sheer garment, marks this one as a novice.

The aforementioned shepherd, clad in a cleverly wrought but understated costume of finery fashioned to appear as tattered homespun at a passing glance, laughs and turns toward the shepherdess in the rarely raised voice of Pascal, whose posture is evocative of surrender even while mischief glints in the dark eyes visible beneath his hood. He throws his head back to discard that obstruction, and glances sidelong toward a straying sheep, gently goading her out of the path of a server with his own crook even as he remains captured by the other's.

One more Alyssum amoung the rest, that's Genevieve. Well. maybe not. She's not blushing, and the steady gaze is certainly obviously not of that particular House. She lifts her small glass and toasts along with the others before she joins the crowds to mingle. No smiles, no more than usual, but what can be seen of the solemn line of her mouth under her veil is far less severe than is her usual, so she's obviously celebrating.

The low laughter attracts the attention of one silver hawk after he disentangles from the kissed Mandrake (it may have taken a little longer than necessary, really) "A beautiful shepherdess" he comments, plucking a glass of joie and lifting it in silent toast before stopping a few inches from her. "And matching companion. Joie.. and congratulations" he dawns it then, looking around himself in thought. A small group of white animals, novices by the sight of it, spread away from the group to join the Cereus' ones in serving as custom indicates. "Now, that is a proud alyssum" he comments, just loud enough.

Eveline's there, as a member of the guests, and not, as one might think, with Cereus house. Tonight, it seems, she's declared her venture as an indepedent servent of Naamah. Her costume is one not often seen; it depicts the female royalty of the Island of Kriti. Her skirt is pleated, expanding slightly outwards in interchanging bands of Gold and Blue fabric. The bodice is tight and fitted, comming to a close beneath her breasts- which, are pratically bared, save for a thin sheet of transparent fabric fitted on top. The afforementied fitted bodice continues anew on her shoulders, made of a fine burgandy hue. A young child then stops, lifting a tray to the woman with a smile. "Joie." Accepting a glass, Eveline downs it, and moves into the crowd to mingle.

"Joie to you, sir." Eva offers lightly, even as she plays at tangles with her fellow fine shepherd and adds lightly, "It was by invitation." Nothing, it would seem, has been decided yet. Just looking lightly.

A few of the Akkadian-clad Alyssums notice the Dowayne Mandrake's costume, nodding in her direction and whispering. Perhaps there are a few snickers behind the veils, but surely it would be impolite if they were loud enough to hear. It is hard to tell among the group who is who, though one lanky blonde's costume seems a bit more revealing than the rest, her blush just a tiny bit deeper.

"Joie," the captive Pascal echoes, offering a dip of his head as he raises his glass, and then tilts it back. "We are certainly hoping, though," he says to follow Eva's admission. Well, he's hoping.

The bull comes up behind the not so alyssum Alyssum, plonking a kiss on the veiled cheek. "How are you Dowayne?" The voice familiar if the hair wasn't already. Back and forth the Heliotrope Bull rocking, skirts swish in return.

Dove pauses a moment to murmur with a group of veiled Alyssum novices, kissing several of them on the cheek and hugging another after peering more closely through the veil. The group murmurs quietly, then the Dove detaches herself and moves on, billowing sleeves floating behind her like a pair of ghostly wings.

While he doesn't wear a masque, the Ambassador did come in a costume this evening, if not too terribly original, it is still fine in both its quality and accuracy of a Tiberium Magistrate, his snow white robes near gleaming in the light of the room that contrasts nicely with the black trim that denotes his office and station, black enough to drink the light around. In his hands he holds several bundled lays, the ends trimmed and split as he swishes it through the air, a hiss of displaced air as he does before giving it an artful and skillful twirl and spin so it rests once more in the crook of his arm. His eyes and smile show his easy attitude to tonight's festivities.

"The night is young. Ask me again in a few hours," Genevieve answers the Bull with amusement written plain acruss what little can be seen of her face. She slants a sidelong glance at the just-loud-enough comment from the Hawk, then informs the Bull, also just-that-loud, "Will you go tell that odious old man to come give me a kiss?" It's only barely a request, and the amusement remains clear.

"Let's all hope together" the Hawk agrees with a mask-shifting smile. His eyes pause upon the shepherd for a little longer before he pulls himself away, instead finding his talons falling upon a dove's shoulder, briefly tracing the length of gauzy fabric as it passes through. A mere brush, really, but taunting enough. While he perfectly hears the Mandrake's request, it is blatantly ignored for the time being, giving the bull long enough to decide whether to obey or not.

Eveline lifts her head, scanning the room for familar faces in a sea of masks; one, however, forgoes a mask. Though, she's positive she'd reconizge him with one all the same. Winding her way through the throng, she comes upon the Ambassador, gesturing to a ready-lifted plate of Joie. Grabbing two, she hands one out to the Magistrate smiling behind a mask of gold. "Joie, My Lord Magistrate."

"Are you telling me Dowayne, that just by wearing the veil, you have completely forgotten how to demand he get over here?" The bull asks as she rests her chin on the womans shoulder. "besides, Bulls don't chase hawks" There's another kiss. "You'll just have to be very un-Alyssum and make him come to you like you normally make him" Oh the bulls got balls tonight and quiet possibly, something to drink before the party.

Dove shivers, feeling the talon of a bird who is most definitely not part of the Valerian group moving against her through the thin, unprotective fabric of her gown. She turns and lifts her chin to look up at the h awk, eyes first widening, then sparkling with amusement. "I do hope you dined before heading out this evening, sir hawk," the white bird offers in a musical voice with faint Aragonian tones to it. "Otherwise, I fear I might be in danger of becoming a light snack."

"I am afraid you are too small a dove to satisfy my palate tonight" the Hawk conveys with matching amusement. "Perhaps in a year or three." Eyes flicker from behind the mask, beaklike nose almost hiding the feral grin on his lips. He must have been drinking already as well.. or it just may be something else. He pulls away from the young one thus, plucking another glass of joie and stopping in front of the closest veiled alyssum. "I heard an Alyssum was looking for a kiss, but I can't tell which it was any longer" he complains to it.  Taking the offered glass the Joie and smiles. "And Joie to you my dear, and happy times on this, the Longest Night."

The closest veiled Alyssum giggles shyly to the question, turning just enough so that the scarved covering her back part to reveal her half-finished marque. "I am honored to help you, Monsieur Bird! Let us see, which one was it?" Bashfulness and playful at once, the dark brown eyes above her veil look from person to person. "I think that one!" She points to the slender blonde a few feet away whose face is covered by brightly colored veils. More giggles ensue.

Dove sighs softly as the hawk moves off into the crowd, but it is not a sad, or even a wistful sigh, but rather one that sounds downright dreamy, and is accompanied by a happy smile. She downs the rest of her joie and hands the glass off just as a little golden finch runs up to her and tugs on the sleeve of her gown. "Lil," comes the piping voice. "Did you see the bulls? They're so pretty!" The dove crouches down to hug the child, laughing and nodding, then points out the bull standing with the "Alyssum". "Especially that one, don't you think?"

When the Bull refuses, Genevieve reaches out - she has to push her sleeve back a little - to tweak the broad, mask-nose. "I must have forgotten, because you aren't doing what I say," she complains, though the tone suggests she's not really upset. "I'll get to him sooner or later." And with that, she turns to continue her mingling, a new glass in hand.

"Well. I am a bull" The grinning bull notes back as the ALyssum turns. She readjusts her masque as as she does so, spots the dove pointing. So over to the dove goes the bull, and makes a show of it, lowering her head, making as if to gore the small girl with her, but instead only really rubbing her head against the young childs stomach while making snorting sounds.

Having slipped into the anteroom on the heels of a rather-handsome Dahlia, the fair-haired Queen of Hearts reenters the ballroom some fifteen minutes later, with two empty joie glasses in hand and an unabashed grin on her face. Her locks done up in an opulent coronet and adorned with rubies, and her revealing dress crafted of the very finest red and black satin, this one is the very picture of regal revelry. Bright green eyes scan the room from behind a black velvet domino, sensuous scarlet lips curving into a smile beneath it as she searches for her next heart to break.

"That one?" the silver hawk follows the indication to the other alyssum, taking a few steps to take the blonde into his arms and turn her around to face him. If there is recognition there it doesn't show in his face, but masked as it is it could be hard to tell. A light pull to hold her to himself and then he speaks again, talons straight along the barely covered back so as not to press too hard into the skin. A kiss is pressed atop the veil, perhaps more teasing for its chastity.

The little girl in the finch costume squeals with delight and mock-fear and throws up her arms as she scoots around to stand behind the Dove, apparently for protection, though she also peeks out from around filmy white skirts with twinkling blue eyes. The dove smiles at the Bull, laughing quietly, herself. "I always thought it was red that attracted the bulls, not gold," she says in a light, almost teasing tone. "But I have to agree with Jolie, here, you do look very lovely."

He had little idea just what he was doing here tonight. He had wanted to sleep, to ignore it... And yet, he had been invitied, and after many hours, persuaded to come. Something about it, too, being his blood. To a Ball. With -courteseans-. The Caerdiccian plasteres himself against the farthest wall, wathcing behind a sad little mask- and, no costume, though one might call his Tiberium scholar robes such. Lucivar felt downright sick. Half-naked men and women, falling upon one another with drinks and kisses. Just then a young girl offers him a tray of...what? Taking once, she waits for him to drownd it. With a sigh, Lucivar does so- only to cough, dropping the glass to the floor where it hits with a resounding shatter. He didn't belong here.

Evangeline's head turns at the sound of glass shattering, and is unable to resist rehooking her shepherd - more safely by the hip, and tugging him toward the nervous young man. "Good sir," she greets in a honeyed tone, "Are you at ease? And joie to you, as well."
The blonde Alyssum turns around, pale eyes startled for a brief second before the Hawk bestows his chaste kiss. The flush already painted on her cheeks deepens, but it brings with it a smile. "Joie to you, Monseiur Hawk." she murmurs softly, scarves teasing against the skin with her slight movements.

"And you are a very beautiful dove" The bull answers with a wave of her fingers to the finch. THe shattered glass also draws her attention, but it looks as if he's being tended to, so with a little curtsy to the dove and finch, her skirts swirling, the BUll ventures off again to see who she can find now.

It's safe to assume that the shattering glass gets everyone's attention. It undoubtedly draws the notice of the shepherd and shepherdess. The former, tugged along quite contentedly by the latter, takes the matter of his destination under his own volition without straying from the course he was directed in before. He offers his crook to someone, it doesn't matter who-his smile is persuasive enough, they're sure to hold onto it for him for the nonce, to approach Lucivar with his hands folded. "I don't wish to presume," Pascal says, tilting his head toward Eva even as he focuses his attention upon the troubled scholar, "But you seem to be rather..not at ease, hm?"

Lucivar presses himself to the wall, paling behind the stalk black ebony of his mask. "I..." He blushes then, furiously in front of the beautiful woman, and, beside her, the handsome man. "I.. No.." Sweat breaks out on his brow, fresh hair dampening with his apparent nervousness. "I .. wel... I.. uh.. " Words fall to mumbles beneath his breath, and then, mumbles in Caerdiccian, loosing all but his most basic of knowledge in wake of such a frontal approach by the pair.

"And Joie indeed" the Hawk remarks as he lets the dancer go, grinning broadly. "But your surprise tells me perhaps you were not the one to ask for it" he looks around suspiciously, considering the giggling adepts nearby. "I must have been mistaken" He smiles, twirling her around playfully as he takes a step back, watching shepherd and scholar to burst into mirthful laughter at the sight.

Dove lifts her fingers to her deep red lips to blow a kiss to the Bull, then turns to the finch. After a whispered consultation, the little girl is lifted up onto the Dove's shoulders for a moment so the child can look around. However, the Dove is not tall or strong, and after a few moments, she has to crouch down so the girl can slide off again. Making a shooing gesture to send the tiny finch off, Dove straightens and wanders into the crowd, herself, nimbly avoiding the attempt of a Shepherd to hook her in, though she does wink at him from behind her mask.

"Signor," Evangeline begins, her tone gentle and soothing, as if she were talking to a spooked horse. And also in excellent, if accented Caerdiccan, "It is an honor to welcome you to our Longest Night, of that I have no doubt, but be assured that here, no one is asked to do anything that is contrary to their desires. No one will accost you, and if you are approached, will not be put off if you were to decline." She lapses back into D'Angeline. "Please feel at ease under Naamah's grace this evening."

The Hawk feels a but against his lower back, two little horns digging in between the wings and then hands wrap around his waist from behind as the horns drag up till the bull's chin is resting on his shoulder. THe whispers though are hard for any to hear.

Dread turns in part to anger, then. Unknowing what to do next, the man snaps- though, to anyone normal, it would merely sound like a disgrunlted response. To Lucivar, who seldom rose his voice, it was a near rant. "My Lady. I will -never- feel at ease under Naamah. I wont play whore to a lie." His voice cracks on the last part, whispering just faintly to the female in Caerdiccan. He feels ill, then, clutching his head in realization of what he's said. To, no less, a professional Courtesean. "I..." He moves to exit, quickly, but finds his escape route crowded by dozens of various costumed men and women. "I.. Sorry... I.." Flushing a deep burgandy, the scholar makes for an unused grotto, only to bump into, on the way a young girl of Cereus. In her unbalance, she drops her tray of Joie, the glasses nearly all shattering into a pile of glass on the floor. Lucivar, for his part, stands in shock, his face devoid of all emotion as he looks to what he just caused. Truly, he did -not- belong here.

Still mingling with the crowd is what must now surely be the Dowayne of Alyssum, dressed in the same sheer costume as the rest of her House, and yet somehow standing apart. She is deep in quiet conversation with a quiet Dahlia, a mostly untouched goblet of joie in her hand.

Dove is approached by a Valerian peacock whose costume leaves his back bar to show his completed marque. He murmurs quietly to her, and she nods obediently, then turns to drift out into the middle of the ballroom, where some have already begun to dance. She finds a clear space, but makes no attempt to find a partner. Instead, she lifts her arms up over her head and begins to dance, mostly moving hips and arms, though tiny movements of her feet cause the silver bells she wears at each ankle to chime in rhythm to the music. It is her job this night to be seen and noticed, and so she dances in an undeniably sensual and downright suggestive manner, starting to slowly spin so that her gossamer-thin gown billows out around her like mist.

"Forgive the intrusion," Pascal requests of Lucivar, following Evangeline's comforting words, offering a slight bow and taking a demonstrative step back to afford him that much more breathing room. "It is simply not Balm's way to let someone suffer discomfort if we've the means to soothe-" the words are cut off by the Caerdiccan's tirade, which the shepherd endures with an apologetic smile he turns toward the shepherdess as the man makes his escape. With a shrug, he gently and wordlessly requests his crook back, and sighs contentedly. It looks as though Lucivar is going to find comfort in solitude, although the incident with the server's tray may complicate matters.

Evangeline just stands there, stock still, completely and utterly shocked. She takes a breath and says mildly, "Pascal, I think I need more joie. Shall we go find some?"

It is hard to surprise a hawk, really, but when it happens this time it is a sight to see the large man freeze even as he lets the alyssum woman fully go free. When the whisper comes his hands go to the bull's own, pressing tight before pulling on one and letting go of the other, so as to make the bull turn around himself rather than turning. Whatever it is pauses, though, looking at the conmotion near the entrance. "Where is she?" He asks instead.

Gathering himself, Lucivar swears beneath his breath- though the words, uttered in Hanzu, are unlikely detected there- and turns, fleeing. Blindly he makes his way through the press of bodies and flesh, his nerves returning, in force. Near the entrance, he doubles over, and, in the eyes of Night Court, spills his supper upon the polished floors. He stays for not even a moment after his sickness, but rather- and quite litterly- runs from the Cereus Ballroom, leaving as he says beneath his breath, "The whores to do as they want."

A black-cloaked figure enters the ballroom, his clothing and features mostly obscured behind layers of velvet. Dark brown eyes glare from behind the slits of his black mask, and his expression looks surly at best. Shoulders square as he looks around the room, and its clear to any eye that he's not at all used to the environment. A few choice words in thick Aragonian are muttered, and then a few inquiries made to various costumed revelers. He seems to be looking for something, or someone.

An uncharacteristic concern clouds Pascal's placid expression, muting his smile steadily out of existence as he blinks at Eva. Their offer of comfort declined most forcefully, and the serenity of the proceedings jarred by the disruption, he finds himself at a loss to do aught but gently settle a hand at the small of Evangeline's back and presume to lead her away, stiffening as Lucivar makes a further spectacle of himself. "It seems a necessity now," he agrees in a trembling voice.

Novices move quickly to clean the mess left behind, while someone comments somewhat amusedly "We should be more careful to whom we give tokens next time"

The Bull frowns, not disentangling herself from the Hawk. "I do not know. She sent me to look for you, but I told her that she could do as she normally did and call you over herself" her next words are quiet.

Approaching the small group that had gathered around the shy Caerdiccan man, the Queen of Hearts slips in to Evangeline's right, offering a genuine smile, at once amicable and cunning. "For one of the loveliest couples this eve," the pretty blonde muses, green eyes gazing from behind her dark domino. She hands them each a full glass of joie. "Pay small mind to those whose minds are small, I say." And plucking a third glass of joie for herself from a passing tray, the Queen throws it back in one swift movement, smiling with the burn of it afterwards.

Evangeline flutters a hand, having gotten her composure back. "It's no matter. You were leading me to joie! And ahh...majesty," Eva says playfully, offering the Queen a curtsey. "Joie to you, on this eve."

Mutter mutter mutter. This black-clad stranger is all about the muttering. It seems impossible to be so very cranky on this of all nights, yet he pulls it off. With heavily accented and mostly broken D'Angeline he asks one patron after another "Doh-Wayne Brie On Nee?! Where that one?" Occasionally he attempts to figure it out for himself, but one masked woman after another leaves him befuddled.

Silver Hawk kisses the bull's hand, shaking his head in reply to whatever question was asked and looking around himself to find the not-quite-alyssum from before and makes his way towards her, pulling the other one behind. On his way he pauses by the black-clad stranger, stopping there. "Can I help you?"

With the Queen's intervention, Pascal's sunny disposition is restored. Of course, the fresh glass of joie helps in that regard, once it's been emptied. "Joie to you, majesty," he replies. He nods slowly to her, beaming with pride at the compliment and the reassurance, and offers a deep bow even as he chuckles warmly.

Dove continues to dance in the midst of the floor, all alone though the sensuality of her dance has attracted some attention. She seems oblivious to the commotion caused by the departing man, or by the arrival of one of her countrymen. Her own Aragonian heritage is quite obvious, even with the mask covering most of her face. Dusky skin that is the hallmark of those of that country can be seen both through her translucent gown, and in those places that it leaves bare. The novice spins and twirls, now, hips swaying as her feet flash in time to the music.

Someone reaches towards the stranger with a glass of Joie, and he shrugs, grabbing it with thick fingers and giving it a sniff. His nose wrinkles. Just then the Silvery Hawk approaches all helpful like, and the stranger seems to understand enough to reply. "I look for Doh-Wayne Brie-On-Knee. I have message. From Aragonia. Must deliver it. You know which one she?" He is awkwardly hopeful.

The bull glances up at the Aragonian, it takes her a few moment sbut she's looking about the room from her spot beide the hawk then gestures to the queen of hearts. "That is her, I believe, beside the shepard and shepardes Monsieur"

"I do not" the silver hawk replies, "We are all masked for a reason, and it would probably not be wise to give an...." then the bull speaks and his hand tightens before letting her go. "In either case, it might be best if you left the message for her at her house"

The sixth glass of the night down and gone, the lovely playing card incarnation affords the couple a reciprocating curtsy, grinning with the humor of it. "Joie, indeed!" the blonde cries over the waltz being played, quickly recovering her posture. "Perhaps after this evening's festivities, the two of you might deign to retire to Bryony? We've a lovely game involving wine and a naked..." Her words trail off as she briefly notices the black-garbed man, and a pretty bull pointing in her direction. The Queen of revelry seems to sober a bit.

Scowling at first, the stranger breaks into a dirty grin as the bull points him in the right direction. "Gracias!" he tells her with enthusiasm. To the Hawk's dissuading he merely replies. "No, No. Must give just to her." And then he starts to make his way across the room towards the Queen of Hearts, joie in hand.

There's a whimper from the bull as her hand is released, suddenly very quiet. Soberingly quiet as well, a hard swallow as the aragonian stalks away, and she grabs a glass of Joie from a tray and downs.

Evangeline peers sidelong to her fellow shepherd. "Bryony tonight, you think?" she inquires, but then her attention turns to the man approaching the Queen of Hearts, and she becomes curious.

Dove finishes her dance as the song in progress also comes to an end, dipping into a curtsey to those who have been watching. However, she notices that many faces have turned, and so she also turns, and finds herself looking towards the Aragonian. Her dark eyes widen a bit behind her owl mask, and the Aragonian Valerian moves in that direction, coming to a stop a few feet away from his intended target, a worried frown on her face. "Senor?" she asks., than continues, speaking in perfect Aragonian. "Is there a problem?"

The faux-Alyssum that is the Dowayne Mandrake steps out of the crowds in front of the Aragonian gentleman. Her gaze is steady on him, one hand rising to rest on his arm. "My lord, may I see your token? I'd like to give it a kiss for joie." The other hand comes to rest on the Dove's shoulder, turning her away just a little. Not once does she look away from him.

Reaching over a courtier's head for another glass of joie, the golden-haired Queen affords Evangeline and Pascal a cordial cant of her coronated head, her fair skin having acquired a reddish tinge all of a sudden. "The offer is always open," she murmurs with a half-smile and then, with a swish of black and scarlet satin, she is on her way towards the small confrontation near the center of the ballroom, sidling in behind the formidable Dowayne of Mandrake. She gazes at the Aragonian over one of the Dowayne's shoulders, her lips pursed in perplexity.

The shepherd's brightly smiling countenance perks into an intrigued expression in the wake of the Queen's invitation, and then settles into a vaguely feline look of delight. "Indeed," Pascal agrees, blinking his way belatedly toward acknowledgement of the Aragonian stranger. The weight of the Balm courtesan's curiosity settles gently upon the man as he approaches.

Just about now the Aragonian begins to look frustrated, shaking his head as he answers the little Dove in their own language. "No. Not anymore." When the Dowayne Alyssum/Mandrake asks about his token he throws up his hand (the free one, without the joie) "I give at door when they ask! They have, they have!" Approaching him while he protests his innocence would reveal a heavy scent of alcohol on his breath, one far -far- cheaper than Joie.

The shyer, less faux Dowayne Alyssum is staring wide-eyed by now, watching the interaction between the Aragonian and those surrounding him with an apprehensive kind of curiosity. She does her best to fade into the background, and it seems to work very well.
The bull is left behind as the silver hawk moves to follow the dark-clad man's progress, who just so happen to be on his way to the alyssum-clad mandrake in any case. He stops when he does, offering an alternative then. "Is madame Bryony expecting a message?" he asks. "If so, perhaps we could take this to a less public venue." If his hand comes to rest atop the Aragonian's shoulder.. well, that is just a friendly gesture.

"How lovely! Then you'll take me to see who you gave it to, so I can give it and you a proper kiss for the delight of the Longest Night." Genevieve doesn't smile. She isn't asking, she's informing him of a fact of life. The hand on his arm slides down and becomes a hand at his elbow, fingers closing Just-Like-That. "I wouldn't feel right about the evening if I gave you anything less." Her gaze flickers then, landing on the Hawk for a moment before attention returns to the Aragonian.

The bull is suddenly making herself very scarce, off to try and fade into the background like the true Alyssum is, cheeks the red of embaressment and shame.

Dove backs away a few steps at the silent bidding of the Mandrake, hands fiddling with he ruby hanging from the silver chain about her waist. Worried dark eyes look on, however, a frown curling her lips downwards as she hovers, looking uncertain.

Evangeline murmurs something faint to her shepherd companion, and they quietly withdraw from the Queen of Hearts. Perhaps they will in fact, show up at Bryony later. In the meantime, the two meander off, perhaps to seek further celebration.
.
Strong shoulders shrug, attempting to get the prying mitts of Hawk and Whatever-the-Mandrake-is-dressed-as off of his arms. "I dunno which!" he says of the Cereus adepts taking tokens at the manors doors. "All look..." but the means for the word 'alike' escapes him, so he mutters in Aragonian again. He looks then to the Queen of Hearts herself, clearly grasping. "Message for you Lady. From Malaga." He puts a hand to his pocket, as if some part of it might be contained there.

Moving a few steps around to Genevieve's side, the Queen reaches a hand up to unmask herself, her identity already compromised. Her free hand resting lightly on her waist, Golda affords the Aragonian a look of pure resentment, her nose wrinkled in distaste. However, as loathe as she might be to acknowledge this man in any way, obvious recognition and interest alight in her green eyes as the name escapes his lips. Stepping forward, she finally addresses the drunk. "Give it to me." Hardly a request.

Dove goes tense as she sees that hand moving to the pocket, and she seems to almost coil herself as though to spring. "do -not- dishonour our country," she snaps in Aragonian, suddenly sounding very un-Valerian indeed. "do you want to start a war?" Dark eyes are narrowed. Of course, only those who know the language would understand her words, but her anger... or is that fear?... is easily picked up.
When Golda approaches and asks for the message the silver Hawk takes a step to the side, waiting without quite letting go of his new friend's shoulder.

"Clearly, we're going to have to have this conversation somewhere private, just as the Hawk says." Genevieve uses her grasp on the Aragonian's elbow to twist him to one side - clearly she trusts the Hawk will assist with his own grasp. "Golda, please come with us to one of the rooms to the side. Lilias, have another glass of joie, and keep one ready to share with me, hmm." And that seems to be What's Going To Happen, if her tone is any clue.

The Aragonian glances at the Dove as if her costume was that of a Small Annoying Fly, and snorts to himself rather inelegantly. Instead of replying, he just looks back to the Queen, waiting to see if she agrees with the assessment of her peers or instead would prefer to proceed on her own terms.

Dove is again obedient, though it is quite obvious that the girl is both horrified and angered by the behavior of her countryman. She mutters something under her breath, but starts to back further away and hushes after a moment. A deep breath is taken and the Valerian seems to recover her poise for the most part, though her eyes remain troubled. "Of course, Madame," she replies to the Dowayne of Mandrake once she has her voice back under some semblance of control. She turns away and accepts a glass from a nearby tray, though can't help but glance back over her shoulder.

The petite bull remains quiet, watching the scene with wary eyes from behind her masque, another glass of Joie in her hand and keeps her eyes on the scene unfolding with great trepidation.

"Madame Mandrake," Bryony's Dowayne interjects, the curiosity gleaming in her green cat's-eyes becoming more than obvious. Her smile is confident and reassuring, though one might venture to guess that she is more than a little embarassed by the scene. She moves completely around Genevieve now, standing between herself and the foreigner, perhaps making the Dowayne's grip on the man impossible to maintain. "Surely, anything that this man has to say is fit for all the Night Court to hear." Turning her head to settle her gaze on the Aragonian, Golda's brows rise in expectation of the man's reply, exchanging a knowing glance with him. "I have nothing to hide."

Just that easily, Genevieve lets go. "As you wish it," she murmurs and steps away. Without so much as a backwards glance, she turns her attention to the Dove and takes a few steps thataway instead. "You'll drink with me, little bird?"

"Your choice, Dowayne" the silver hawk states, turning around himself to dismiss the situation. A pliant Jasmine is found in the way and he takes him aside for a word or three.

Dove's hand reaches out almost automatically to scoop up another glass of joie, and she turns to offer it to the Mandrake, dipping her head as she lifts the glass. "Forgive me,' she murmurs. "The sight of my own countryman behaving so badly in this situation... angered me. I must learn to control my reactions." Still, she casts a worried glance towards Golda and the Aragonian, still seeming a bit tense. "I thought he was... well, never mind, it was foolish."

The Bryony's last statement, combined with her knowing glance, send a fire of fury blazing in the Aragonian's eyes. Shoulders shrug as they are let free, and he takes another step towards her. His chubby fingers lift his glass of joie as if to give a mock toast and then he tosses it right across the front of her dress. The other hand is pulled back in a fist which he throws all his weight behind, aiming for her jaw. "Slut! Whore! (And other Aragonian words he never learned to translate). He wants you dead!" It's a clumsy, drunken message to say the least.

If the joie glass shattering at her feet wasn't enough to frighten Golda, the sight of the Aragonian's fist flying for her face is. The blonde Dowayne makes an instinctive move to put herself out of his reach, but she is caught off-guard, and instead, the blow lands squarely against her lower jaw, knocking her back and to the right. It's enough to floor the Bryony, who lands roughly on her side, sprawled at the feet of a few courtiers circled about them. Holding her face in one hand, Golda gazes up at the man increduously, anger not even registering in her expression yet. She finally manages to speak, a trickle of blood at her lip. "And this is what he sends: nothing more than a drunken arse! Looks as if he'll have to come do it himself."

"Not so foolish," Genevieve murmurs as she accepts the glass. She turns a bit then, just in time to catch the punch from the corner of her eye. She... well, she doesn't look surprised. A flicker of fingers and a low, winding whistle cut through the room: like proverbial magic, some of the heftier of the Mandrake (even dressed in Eglantine's finest, they look like sons of their House) start through the crowds towards the source. They're bright enough: they converge on the gentleman, blocking off sight of the fallen woman.

The silver hawk turns to watch the pummeling, but doesn't intervene right away, actually. In fact his words with the jasmine continue for a few more seconds, letting the mandrake take care of the mess and well.. let the party move on. "Look" he points out (loudly) towards the northern entrance (and coincidentally away from the commotion) "The winter Queen!"

The Aragonian dives (or maybe falls) after Golda, and probably would have been attempting another blow or two if not for the swarming Mandrakes who come upon him like a herd of well-dressed vultures. There's more cursing and yelling, very little of it in D'Angeline, and the sounds of a struggle ensue.

Well if there is some akwards moments the Cereus Dowayne is trying to fix that, and pull attention from the ongoings as she moves for a door off to the side a motion to some white garbed novices by the door. Three loud successive knocks with a staff on a door that marks the arrival of the winter Crone moments after the Silver hawk calls it out, who hobbles her way into the room, the aged masque on her face, the raggedy clothing, her weight on the gnarled blackthorn staff as it thumps down solidly with each step.

Dove goes pale, and very nearly adds another shattered glass to the tally. It isn't a good night for the glassware of Cereus, but in this case, the little bird manages to -just- hold onto her own glass. She quickly downs the rest of the fiery contents as she stares, then turns her head away, shame written on the part of her that can be seen. "Please excuse me, Madame," she murmurs. "I fear the joy has left this night for me. I should return to my House."

A careful slap of hand here (practiced), a bit of a blow there (also practiced) mean the Mandrake are able to drag the drunk Aragonian away without much in the way of further noise or chaos. Getting someone struggling to move, and quickly, is rather one of their specialities, after all.

The Aragonian probably enjoys it far less than most whom Mandrake practice on, though really who can say? Regardless, he's soon dragged away to wherever it is they decide to take him, and probably very few of the Valerian's following with their eyes are jealous.
Helped up by the grasping hands of a few flustered bystanders, Bryony's Dowayne regains her footing, though none of her composure. She seethes in silent fury as she watches the capable Mandrake courtesans man-handle the drunken fool into submission and out of the ballroom. Only when he's gone from sight does she wipe the blood from her mouth with a glove, and move across the small space which was cleared during the scuffle towards Genevieve. "My thanks," Golda murmurs ruefully to the Dowayne, before slipping quickly through the crowd (who part willingly for her to pass) and into the anteroom, all without meeting a single eye.

By the time both Mandrake and Bryony are out of the area, the silver hawk returns to stand by the side of the faux-alyssum, eyes still upon the winter crone. "Yes, Madame Mandrake. Very nice of you indeed." If the corner of his mouth twitches slightly it just might be hard to tell.
Finished with her blending with the wallpaper act, the non-faux Dowayne Alyssum slinks out of the corner she's been lingering in to find another glass of joie. Her cheeks are still flushed a rich pink, though whether its from all the commotion or just part of the outfit is a matter of debate.

Quietly, without anyone noticing those white robed novices who are older than the Joie tray bearing ones are moving to key places, capped rods in thier hands, anticipating the moment when, with another signal from the cerus Dowayne and the winter crone parked in the center of the floor, the scuffle now ended, and the midnight hour moments away, the room is plunged into darkness in seeming synchornicity save the two lamps that light either side of large closed double doors. Three heavy resounding thumps before the doors are thrown open and there riding in on chariot, in his cloth of gold finery, crown and golden spear is the sun prince. People parting for him and the white horses that guide him. The crone stands her ground. The room still dark save for dim lighting so all can see the goings on.

Dove turns from the faux Alyssum Dowayne and makes her way into the crowd, not seeming to care that the all important midnight hour has arrived, nor even that the lights have gone out for the most part. She makes her way to the doors as best as she can and slips from the room. This midwinter festival has not gone as she might have wished, it seems.

With gold leaf mask, smiling youth, the prince dismounts from his chariot, and his 'horses' clerverly Cereus courtesans with masks and strides towards the winter crone. He pauses before her Spear planted on the floor and bends to knee, bowing to her.

Somewhen between the dimming of the lights and the planting of the spear, the Silver Hawk steals a kiss from the faux-alyssum woman, a sweet and gentle one of all things, and disappears into the shadows.. and out. Maybe he does have somewhere else to be.

Genevieve accepts the kiss with a bit of distraction. Most of her attention is on the stage-play in the center, and for the first time this evening, she looks... rapt.

The winter crone in her rags just stands, accepting the obscience till the sun prince rises. when he does, the spear is brought forwar,d a brush to her breast. With that movement the winter crone reaches up, shrugs off the rags and pulls the wig from her hair, the aubern locks beneath. Off comes the mask and it is the winter queen in all her youth and beauty from Cereus house. The lights all seem to turn back on, clever little cereus dwellers, throwing the room back into brilliance in time to see the sun prince drop to his knee again and take the golden ring from off his hand and place it with great revernce on the winter queen's finger before he too rises and unmasks, an Eglantine filling the role of the sun prince. A gong is struck, trumpets blow to mark the end of it all and suddenly the music is back in full swing.

The petite bull as well has disappeared through it all, having succeeded where the alyssum dowayne didn't, in melting into the walls.
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