Chapter 18: Lord Waryn Eloroan

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Chapter 18: Lord Waryn Eloroan

After taking serum, Afali looked almost plain in my eyes, were it not for her feminine roundness. She did look better after resting and grooming. Her dark hair was woven into a complicated braided chignon that had a mesh of gold string and tiny green emeralds stretched over it. Her face had been powdered, lips coloured red. She wore the same gold stag mask that she did earlier that morning, but this time the look was completed with a flowing gown of bright leafy green that had a pink and gold ribbon tied into a large butterfly at the top of her stay.

I wore am unadorned silk dress the colour of pale blush. It complimented the darker shade of my skin. My hair was allowed to fall down my back with two thin plaits on either side of my head that connected into a type of crown, adorned with a delicate ruby pin. I, too, had had my face powered and lips painted a pale pink to match my dress.

"It's too chilly to dine out," Afali was saying, as we stalked side by side down a long windowed corridor, lit by twilight. Any servant we met along the way, quickly hurried aside, bowing us through. "So I've had them heat the conservatory, since it's such a beautiful evening."

What a conservatory was became evident to me a moment later, when I walked out into a manicured garden of earthenware pots, entrapped inside a large glass structure overlooking the outer gardens. A thick trunked tree that was almost as tall as the ceiling was the centrepiece of the garden. It had bright green leaves as wide as a swan's wing, and strange bluish fruits, the size of apples, growing on its branches.

"See? You're not the only southerner here," said Afali. Meaning, this tree was of the south. It was lucky she spoke first. I had almost asked about it. "Shame autumn doramons are disgusting."

Doramons. That was what those fruits were. The dora tree, Shana had taught me, flowered both in spring and autumn producing sweet, pink fruit in the summer, and astringent blue fruit in winter. Powder produced from wintry doramons was used in dying fabric navy. The doramons, if left on the tree to dry, would become a darker and darker blue with each winter day.

"Don't tell me you actually tried to eat one?" I said.

"Of course I did," Afali replied. "Did you actually believe your nurse's words when she told you not to eat them when you were little? I'm a heiress. Obedience is for laymen."

I didn't rise to the challenge in Afali's words. Dylana didn't seem like she would be quite as disobedient as I made her.

We passed the tree, walking amidst flowering bushes with the gentle twinkling of a small marble fountain to our right. Then we came upon a round, white table, set with golden plates. Through the panes of glass behind it, low hedges and a perfectly sheared lawn dazzled me with its brilliant green.

On ornamental white benches along the glass walls, our three guests were seated, sipping wine from crystal goblets. A servant stood nearby, holding a tray of what looked like prawns in soft cheese upon small, circular savoury biscuits.

They didn't look at us as we approached. I had plenty of time to examine them.

Lady Leah Acavia wore a gold mask that was entirely made out of gold roses granulated together. Inside each rose was a small red beryl, that sparkled when it caught the light. It was expensive craftsmanship, no doubt about it, but something in the design lacked spirit in my eyes.

The wearer of the mask was a woman with deeply ebony skin and wild coiled hair that rose about her face in a misty halo. She did not need a striking mask, her lips, painted red, were themselves like a flower bud. She had narrow shoulders and her beige gown clung to her hips, making her curving frame evident. She seemed strangely sensual for a lady, as if she enjoyed to provoke with her beauty. Her stare was sharp, and she regarded me with clear animosity.

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