#1

Part One | An Auspicious & Luxurious Evening


It is an uncharacteristically terrible, dark, and cold night, even for winter – but inside the palace walls, the world is golden and dazzling.

A masquerade for the new year seems like a strange choice for as stern a man as the king, but who can complain about the result? The castle looks even more striking than usual. The ballroom is full of light and laughter, and decorations that cost more than most of us might dare to imagine. Dresses bloom in impossibly rich hues, dazzled with ornate metallic highlights, and gentlemen show off the season’s latest fashions; I suspect that most of guests are crowded in there. In spite of the cold weather, there are flowers growing in the gardens; they must be the work of some particularly entrepreneurial fae. A sizable buffet is set up in the great hall, full of tantalizing dishes from all across Drekhjarta. Although most of the palace is blocked off by guards, it seems plausible that you could explore it, as well…but whether or not you might want to is another matter entirely.

And you, dear traveler, what brings you to the winter ball? I suppose it could be any number of things – perhaps you’re here to network, to curry a bit of favor…with so many of Drekhjarta’s most prominent figures in attendance, it would be an ideal place to garner some attention for yourself, should you be able to work around the fact that all of the parties in attendance are masked. Or perhaps you are plotting some sort of mischief? Don’t worry, I won’t say a word. If you’re suitably unrecognizable, it would be a good occasion to snoop around the palace…I suppose it all depends on how malevolent your intentions might be. Or perhaps you are simply here to see the party, dance a few rounds…I can’t blame you at all. There is nothing particularly relaxing about a masquerade at the palace, particularly in such tumultuous times, but it is a wonderful way to escape the dullness of everyday life. Consider it a bit of an adventure. Appreciate the luxury, the fleeting illusion of peace and cheer that lingers on the ball’s glimmering surface.

I won’t attempt to presume your motivations. At any rate, you are here, somehow or another. I assume you have an invitation? The restrictions were not terribly strenuous. I imagine that most individuals of reasonably high rank, and those who work directly for the king, such as the hunters, would be able to obtain them with relative ease. The king is even allowing his trainers to attend, along with their captive dragons, though this is largely for show. It certainly adds a factor of intimidation to such an otherwise-festive event.

If you were, however, unable to secure an invitation to such a prestigious event, no matter. Security seems to be surprisingly lax – it would probably be possible to sneak into the palace, and no one, no matter how low their station might be, will look out-of-place at a costume party. So long as you procure a mask, you should be able to escape the notice of the patrolling guards, whose senses are likely dulled by their own reveling anyways. Certainly, if you are captured, there might be unfortunate consequences…but none more unfortunate than missing what you have been assured is the event of the century.

And what if you happen to be one of Drekhjarta’s more bestial inhabitants? Well, it is perhaps a foolhardy venture to present yourself before the King, but if you pretend that you are a bonded dragon or some noble’s particularly dangerous pet, you might be able to avoid attracting any negative attention. So long as you keep your head down and your toothy maw shut, you should be able to escape the attention of the king and his hunters, but you have certainly put yourself in a precarious position. At least the palace is relatively spacious. Architecture has been adapting, however slowly, to the increasing presence of dragons in our daily life.

Well. However you got here, here you are. Now – I suppose I should tell you to enjoy yourself, but it would be wise to be cautious. A ball among the nobility is never quite so lovely as it might appear on the surface.



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Cordially,THOD Staff