A Fox at the Ball

a story
2017-07-20 16:36:32
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It was a familiar scene before the baron, the night of Discovery Day, there at the Inaugural Ball. Faces he’d seen many times since he was a child, delicacies and masterly crafted desserts brought from every corner of Orr. The music of classical Paorrian composers floated about the air, feeding the soul with camaraderie and guise. But there was a feeling altogether unwelcome by those in attendance. This was to be their introduction to what many believed to be the beginning of the end for what remained of their world.

“My old friend,” came a heavily accented voice from behind the baron. The man in the mask with the swishing tail was all too surprised and quickly spun about to see Titanian Council member approaching him with arms open.

Delgado embraced Sigvaldi Skardsson, head of foreign affairs for Titania, and the two shared a smile. Such displays were uncommon among these gatherings and garnered a few glances.

“It’s been too long,” Sigvaldi said with a pat on the baron’s shoulder. “We have so much to catch up on. Please, come to Hjem for a month.”

Sigvaldi did all the talking as the pair migrated towards a quiet part of the room for more private conversation. Beaming smiles of brotherhood quickly fading once out of sight as the conversation turned to more critical matters.

“Unfortunately we haven’t been able to get inside for some time.” The baron knew Sigvaldi spoke of the Technocratic Council. “Have your people been able to turn up anything?” The pair had been masters in the game of secrets for years, but this had been a complete surprise, even to them.

Nester shook his head briefly, and then gave his friend a gesture of uncertainty.

“Ah, so you do know something of this framlin, but you aren’t sure if…”

Sigvaldi was cut short as the two were interrupted by the approach of the man in question.

“Baron, esteemed dignitary, what extraordinary good fortune it is to see you both. Side by side in Gearford once again.”

The Baron Delgado feigned a warm and welcoming smile behind his mask and gave a courteous bow.

“Good fortune,” Sigvaldi began, “would be to see a more familiar coat of arms garnishing the mantle.” He gave a heavy, reluctant sigh before. “But that is simply progress, is it not?” He said with a friendly smile, an olive branch of peace in what could have otherwise been a hostile encounter.

"Indeed," beamed Mordecai. "Gentlemen, we stand at the beginning of a grand new venture for Antiford. I'm so pleased to share this moment with you both. Baron, I understand you usually make an effort to make it to these social functions so I am not surprised to see you here. As for you ambassador, this is a welcome surprise. I was not aware ambassadors would be here. I do hope I look presentable," he chuckled. 

"I was here on business and my good friend the baron suggested I make an appearance before Antiford's Prime Minister," Sigvaldi replied. “The world changes hands and must do our best to keep up.”

The baron snatched two nearby glasses as an attendant strolled by, handed one to Sigvaldi, and the two gestured to toast to Sigvaldi’s words.

“And that you should, should you wish to survive,” Gilbert Wrathchild smirked, strolling up the group with confidence as the friends exchanged an uneasy glance.

“Tonight’s venue serves as both a reminder, and as a warning gentlemen,” the Wrathchild continued. “That time is gone. The Technocracy is law here in Antiford. Soon more than just the mantelpiece here shall change and there will be little left but pages in the history books.  Old diplomatic agreements and, extensions of power, shall be evaluated and reconsidered.”

Mordecai cleared his throat, Nester and Sigvaldi appeared less than enthused.

“We do look forward to visiting your, I mean, Antiford’s estate, Mr. Delgado. I do hope that behemoth of an airship of yours is top shape. As for you, Mr. Skardsson, we would appreciate you watch where you step. The stench of Norththing scat is so hard to get out of these rugs.”

Sigvaldi tossed his drink upon the floor while Gilbert laughed. The representative of Titania was so infuriated that he stormed out of the ball without another word. The baron meanwhile would be more polite in his departure. He gave the Prime Minister a respectful bow and warm smile, all the while averting his eyes from Wrathchild, before taking his leave. He would remember those in attendance. Those who rose their glasses to the seeds of revolution.