The ‘transport’ had turned out to be a handcart pulled by two burly men, and it was only big enough for Callindra to ride. Since the rest of her friends were posing as her guards, she thought it was fitting that they walk, regardless of how much Reed grumbled about it. Besides, there was no way she could have walked that far in the gown and shoes. Even if it wasn’t so tight she could barely breathe, she would be worried about soiling her hem in the dirt of the street.
Following the winding wooden platforms that connected the dirt and cobblestone streets, they arrived at Ellen Eth ‘Orien’s mansion. It was three stories tall, each story made of a different color of marble. The courtyard was paved with gold coins instead of gravel, and guards in matching jet black livery stood at the polished blackwood doors.
Callindra stepped from the cart, gratefully accepting Reed’s hand to steady herself when her bloody skirts nearly tripped her. Now she understood why Ladies had attendants. Approaching the guards at the door, she gave them a slight inclination of her head and walked through the door. The ballroom was so breathtaking it took her a moment to notice her companions hadn’t entered behind her.
A man in black livery with a staff of office stepped from behind a podium, looking at her appraisingly. “And you are?” He inquired in a voice that suggested she was dressed in strips of rotting meat.
Her temper flared, and a gust of wind swirled around her before blowing an inkwell over onto a stack of paper before also blowing the documents to the floor. “Invited.” She said shortly, gliding past him as he jumped to try and save the parchment.
“My attendants should be joining me shortly,” Callindra said over her shoulder, and then she had to focus on her surroundings. The arched entrance led down to a floor inlaid with gold and jade in intricate swirling patterns. Richly dressed men and women stood in groups, talking and listening to an orchestra playing in a minor key.
As she walked through the archway, a gentle chime sounded, and the assembled folk turned to look in her direction. A light above illuminated her as she walked down a wide staircase, and a servant in white livery came to offer escort. A man in a perfectly tailored suit of dark red satin with lace ruffles at the cuffs and collar approached and bowed.
“Delgrin did not introduce you, but I gather you must be Lady Sol’Estin?” He took her hand and brushed it with his lips. “I am Count Drake Ardent.”
Callindra took her hand back to curtsey as Rrayu had taught her, “I am indeed, it is a pleasure to meet you, Count Ardent.”