“So, they are all going to be there at this big party the Conglomerate leadership is throwing for the Academy, but your target is Lamira Yarden. You strike at midnight, precisely. They are hiring a whole troupe of dancers, it’s going to be extremely formal and all that bullshit, so we arranged for you to pose as one of those dancers. That solves the access issue, now, for the payment…”
“… but your target is Clabben Ordh. Remember, right at midnight. They are…”
“… is Tren Saniri. At midnight, alright? It’s important…”
“… Waqash Blacktree …”
“… Roanna Vard …”
“… Griff Tchada …”
“… midnight …”
“… midnight …”
“… midnight …”
— Day of Silver.48/4835EE —
The Samoldenh Academy Banquet Hall looked grandiose. Silks on the floor, flowing tapestries on the walls, hundreds of servants around, incredible amounts of food and drink. The Conglomerate was not shy about spending for this affair. Two people were standing on the balcony overlooking the entire Banquet Hall.
“They must really want our support, colleague.” An older gentleman in Magister robes smirks, confident and wry. He looks at the young woman beside him, also wearing Magister robes, shakes her hand and crosses his arms on his chest.
“I wondered when the Conglomerate would acknowledge us as the source for their access to the northern markets. It is about time. I’m sure McFarren understands this partnership will turn out to be profitable for both sides. She gets her economic assets and political influence, we get our funding and research opportunities.”
The woman turns, nods to the older man, takes his hand, and they slowly exit the balcony, closing the door behind them.
“All present, your attention for a moment, please!”
Everyone in the Banquet Hall turns around, noticing the herald.
“On behalf of the Conglomerate trading guild, Prin D’Or Astrenn McFarren, and every member of the guild, we would like to announce the First Annual Banquet of Unity! Now, a few words from Prin D’Or herself!”
The herald steps back, bows and waits for Astrenn to come in. And she does, if after a few moments, open the balcony doors and step onto the balcony itself, overlooking the entirety of the Banquet Hall here at the Samoldenh Academy. She is, as always, wearing simple clothes, a plain haircut and a wary smile. One would not be able to recognize her for a leader of the largest economic power on the continent, not ever.
Immediately, a wave of applause fills the Hall, but Astrenn stops it with a wave of her hand and prepares to speak.
“I am delighted to be here today. It took us a long time to arrange all this (and a lot of money)…” She gets a chuckle from the crowd. “But it is an incredible opportunity for us to be united under the banner of cooperation and trust. Now, let’s celebrate. To midnight and beyond.”
Astrenn waves once again and leaves the balcony amidst heavy applause.
That is when everything starts. Servants flood the Hall from all corners, carrying trays full of wine, lobster, honeyed pickle, expensive bread, and some even more exotic stuff. The mages gathered here are from all corners of Eria, but each one of them was rendered speechless with just the sheer amount of what was offered at the tables. They let themselves go. They ate, they drank, they sang songs, they danced, and they revelled. They were happy at those moments.
Astrenn McFarren came down, walked among the guests, greeted people individually, exchanged pleasantries, as if she was the host here – at the seat of the Academy’s power, in their city, amongst their most powerful mages and their network of guarding spells. She behaved as if she owned everyone and everything here.
“And now, ten minutes before midnight, it is time for the Midnight dance!” The herald proclaimed loudly. “Each of our guests will be provided a partner for this ceremonial dance, as is tradition!” Suddenly, few hundred people enter the Banquet Hall in a long line, gradually leaving the line to join their assigned pair. As soon as the pairs are made, the music starts. It is a haunting melody, with notes of loss and regret, feelings of anxiousness and something ending.
But it is beautiful.
A beauty of true sadness.
A beauty of lost love.
At the moment of culmination, when the clock hit midnight, when the dance is supposed to end with an extravagant flourish, it did not. It ended abruptly with hundreds of blades simultaneously slashing the throats of every mage in Eria. It ended with the screams of musicians, trying to run away, only to be shot down with arrows and crossbow bolts. It ended with servants, realizing what is happening, attempting to sneak out only to be cut down by mercenaries’ blades.
Ultimately, it ended with a sigh of relief from Astrenn McFarren, standing on the balcony overlooking the entire Banquet Hall.
By Yurii “Shahor” Bisyk