Refreshed from his bath and a change of clothes, Nándor gazed out the window at the darkening panorama. A knock sounded on his door. “Enter.”
A young man entered. “Sir, dinner is imminent. I was sent to escort you.”
Nándor nodded. “Yes, Lady Ruya said someone would come. Lead the way.”
After a short and relatively easy route to the dining hall, Nándor was shown to his seat. Another servant poured wine in his goblet. A dulcet harp and flute duet filtered from the gallery above the diners.
He studied the people at the various tables. He saw envoys from almost every great house and nation. Tapestries for each standard were suspended from the ceiling. Only they did not place him under his country’s banner, which happened to be three tables away.
No, he had been placed at a table with the Aerie standard above. He wondered why, but his assumption was he and his fellow tablemates were here on disparate business from those at the country tables.
Nándor pushed away his musings as a hush enveloped the hall. He stood with the others as Lady Ruya entered on the arm of a man. At a guess, that had to be Doyen Cem. They took their seats at the high table, signaling the meal was served.
A daedal magician entertained the hall with his illusions after the meal. Miniature dragons flew overhead in an aerial dance, spinning and diving in dexterous feats before dissipating.
Flowers grew from the stones and they opened to reveal tiny pixies. They fluttered their wings then took off in an explosion of shimmering dust. Streaking across the hall, they sped through the gathered people and left multicolored trails winding throughout the crowd.
It was his imps that caused no end of diablerie. Hunched over with long pointed ears and sharp nails, they grinned evilly. Bouncing with the speed of a raging river, they pounced on tables and guests alike. They poked noses, pulled hair, and knocked over goblets as they gave off high-pitched giggles at their mischief.
As the last illusion vanished, Nándor clapped along with the cheering crowd. He caught a glimpse of the high table from the corner of his eye. Ruya fled the room in a flurry of diaphanous skirts. The Doyen’s face fell in a dolorous expression before resuming a stony demeanor once again.
He stood, nodding goodbye to his companions. The young man that escorted him from before appeared beside him.
When they left the dining hall, he asked to be taken to Tesni. He wanted to check on the stallion before he turned in for the night.
Nándor saw that the horse had been well taken care of and wanted for nothing. He spoke to the horse and rubbed the muzzle. Giving Tesni a goodnight pat, he turned to leave, but a shuffling noise stopped him. Walking farther down the stable, he stopped and sidled to the corner.
He shifted just enough to peer down the shadowed aisle and descried something unexpected.