Writing

Snippet: Solstice Trick

Hi there, readers! Remember Eclectic Alli’s story blog parties? There’s another one going on right now, loosely centered around April 1 and “things are not what they seem.” Last Halloween’s story about the masquerade ball was an early exploration of a larger story, and for this event, I’ve got a short snippet continuing where I left off. But wait, there’s more! Check out Alli’s post for a crossover snippet with her character, Taliana. Thanks, Alli!

Solstice Trick

The Masquerade crowd had thinned. Solstice tradition demanded that reverlers move from house to house, keeping themselves awake and checking on their friends. New guests were arriving at every moment, though, delayed by the long walk from town, but not for long enough — no one Sesen asked remembered a woman in a devil costume. She could’ve joined any little group of people and disappeared an hour ago, and each new guest made it harder for Sesen to keep track. He wasn’t even sure how to describe her, now that he wore her red devil mask himself. But he still had the sense that he shouldn’t leave, that answers were somewhere in this house…

He turned, and came face to face with another demon. No, two of them — a tall man in orange with a bushy beard underneath his mask, and a woman behind a purple sculpted devil’s face. He’d swear he hadn’t seen either of them in his circuit of the crowd.

“Good evening,” said the woman. “We’ve been looking for you.”

How had they recognized him in his borrowed mask? Or did they think it was his? What if wearing it was some kind of signal? We mustn’t forget who we are on Solstice Night. That will protect you, if you come looking for me. Was it a warning, to go unmasked? Why couldn’t she have given him more instructions!

“Are you… friends of Leae’s?” he asked, hating the quaver in his voice.

“You could say that. We’re here for you,” the man intoned. “Come with us, and we’ll show you how to see through the veil of night, into the other side…”

Sesen straightened his back and nodded. He could leave now, but he had no choice, not really. He had to know.

The devils moved to either side of him and escorted him to a small side door. Anyone looking at them would assume they were a group of friends headed out for some air, or moving on to the next party, but the two stopped him beyond the door and moved away. Sesen turned in place twice, trying to get his bearings in the light — a small side porch, dripping with candles for the holiday. Nothing but shadows beyond. He whirled to look behind again, but the two devils were closing the door.

He straightened, let his breath out slowly, and drew it in again. “What do I do?”

The two looked at each other. Did they even know?

“Take two candles,” the man said, and Sesen went to the railing to find them.

“Hold them out to either side, and turn in a perfect circle.”

He did, and when he came back around to look at them, the woman was laughing. “Now cluck like a chicken!”

“What?!” He set the candles down.

“Oh, come on,” the man said, taking off his mask. The woman followed suit. Sesen knew both of them, Dani and Henrietta, a builder and a merchant from town, a couple he’d spent time with and liked.

The woman rolled her eyes and smiled to Sesen. “We thought you’d laugh as soon as you saw us. What’s going on?”

Sesen just stared at them blankly. He thought he should be angry, but of course he knew them… Why hadn’t he recognized them? He just felt drained, like he’d been here for weeks instead of hours. He found a bench and sat down.

“I’ll tell you everything, just give me a moment…”

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3 thoughts on “Snippet: Solstice Trick

  1. Reblogged this on Eclectic Alli and commented:
    This segment of Taliana’s adventure co-written with Hannah Givens.

    Taliana blinked, looking around the familiar room.  She had been here before, in this very place if not this exact moment.  Shaking her head she smiled to herself, glancing down to realize that her dress had shifted to fit the need.  Her plain travel dress would not have served to be at a room in the Masquerade.
    Sesen looked for Leae over the first mezzanine, and his heart jumped at the swish of a red brocade dress — but no, not her. He needed to be smart tonight, take a minute to think before he jumped in over his head. A quick question to another guest sent him in the direction of their host.
    Taliana briefly wondering how many versions of herself there might be at the Masque.  It was a dizzying question and she shuffled it from her mind, smiling at the approaching young man.  He had a determined look on his face, so she skipped the usual pleasantries.  “How can I help you?”
    Sesen tried to modulate himself into a friendlier, less paranoid state of mind. “Excuse me. I’m looking for a woman, about so tall. In a demon dress that matches this mask.” He gestured to his own face.
    She searched her memories for a woman who would meet that description, but many of her memories of the Masque already seemed ages away.  She remembered this man, watching him from across the room, but had he seen the woman he was speaking of after that?  Taliana frowned, shaking her head, “I’m sorry… there are so many people here I am not sure I have seen her.  Perhaps, though, if you go to the balcony?  Up the entry stairs, turn right and there is a perfect view of a few of the ballrooms from above.”  More than once she had used that very spot to spy on the party as a child.
    He sighed. “Thank you. I’ll try that. I… I have to find her, but she may already be gone.”
    “People can come and go from here pretty quickly, unfortunately.”  Taliana nodded, “let me know if I can help in any way.”
    He thanked her again and started to turn away, then looked back at her. He felt like an idiot, but something about wearing the mask made things seem less strange. He wouldn’t see the host again, and he expected she’d already be telling a story about some nut who lost his girlfriend. He might as well make it an interesting story. “You’re the host, aren’t you? I’m sorry for not bringing a gift, and being very rude, but… Would you know if there was magic at your party?”
    Taliana couldn’t help but laugh slightly, “You aren’t being rude.  You haven’t destroyed one of my rooms yet, so you’re well ahead of some of the guests in that regard.” She grinned, “Yes.. there is a fair amount of magic here tonight.”  She looked a moment at the threads around him, trying to understand the world he was from.
    Sesen tilted his head, watching her look into space.
    “Aha!” Taliana grinned as she watched the dancing threads, she turned her attention back to her guest, “This person you are looking for, she went that way,” Taliana pointed in the direction of the thread just as it seemed to shift, “or… at least she was that way.  Huh.  She’s a unique individual isn’t she?”
    “Yes, yes she is,” Sesen aswered, touching his mask involuntarily. He gave a slight, wry smile. “You have no idea.”
    “Indeed,” Taliana smiled at him, looking back to the thread, “Well, I can’t promise she’ll still be there when you get there, but I would suggest heading the direction of the East Parlor.”  Taliana gave him as simple directions as she could, watching as he hurried after his mystery woman.

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