The Hall on the Hill was bustling with activity. The energy was hard to ignore and even Adelaide found herself resisting the urge to smile as she made her way through yet another group of boisterous celebrants.
“See, you’re enjoying yourself.” Evie pounced upon the sight of her sister’s curving lips.
“And you forgot that you weren’t talking to me.” Adelaide couldn’t resist pointing out as her own smile grew at the sight of her sister’s expression.
The comical vision of her sister attempting to scowl while also combating the urge to grin drew a laugh that was belly deep and loud. Evie clearly capitulated as she too gave into the urge to laugh and the two young women leaned into each other. The tension from the day melting away in this shared moment.
“Okay, fine. You win. I’m talking to you, although I shouldn’t! I can’t believe you made me work so hard today! And on Festival Day! I have blisters.” Evie pouted as she held up her palm to reveal the angry red skin.
“I can’t believe you thought you could sneak Isaak Parsons into your bed and I wouldn’t find out.” Addie’s smile was quickly vanishing as she was reminded of her sister’s exploits.
The argument was about to begin all over again when a feathered body descended from the sky directly at them. Neither seemed to pay the attacking bird of prey much mind as they readied the next diatribe at each other.
“Oh Addie, don’t you start again, he’s harmless and—“
“Evelyn Lilliara Shard, we have been over this—“
“Ladies.” Endrick reminded them in his quiet rumble.
Both became cognizant of the growing stares around them as well as the imminent arrival of Zabu. Putting her forearm out to allow him a landing post, Adelaide welcomed the distraction of her eagle even as Evie danced backward from them, “Stop it Zabu you’re going to get feathers and dirt all over my dress!”
Adelaide couldn’t argue that her sister made quite a vision in her newly acquired finery. The rose colored hue flattered both form and features and Evie was well aware of how it drew attention to her. But the idea that Zabu was anything but clean drew another barb, “Oh please, Zabu is cleaner than any man you’ve had climb through your bedroom window.”
Evie’s eyes flared and her lips curled, “Oh really?! Just because you can talk to your damn bird Addie doesn’t mean the rest of us—“
“Ladies.” Endrick attempted again. This time shoving two tankards toward them, “Try the mead.”
Stuck with one arm balancing Zabu, Adelaide was left with no free hands once the tankard found her free one. Evie saw the advantage here and was quick to offer a thank you to Endrick before depositing her glare on her sister, “I’m going to go have some fun, why don’t you see if you can’t gloom and doom somewhere I’m not.” She paused in her departure to lean forward and poke Zabu’s feathered breast with a hissed, “Don’t think I don’t know who ratted me out this morning, BIRD.” With a flounce of her skirts she spun about and immediately joined another group of people who welcomed her flirtatious greeting as she moved away quickly.
Zabu, disgruntled by the poking, took to the air in a jerk of powerful talons from her protected forearm, but the resulting motion was enough to jostle her tankard. Dripping mead along her bodice and skirts, Adelaide turned a glare on Endrick who offered a shrug, “Looks like you could use another?”
She scowled, “I think I could use an ale.”
“Sounds like we’re headed to Mait’s.”
An hour later she was on her own. The celebrations had only seemed to pick up pace and Endrick had abandoned her for the solitude of the farm after sharing only one tankard of ale. Adelaide had gifted him with a sleeve of seeds known for their soothing smoke and she knew he was looking forward to a little peace and serenity on this their dedicated day off. Zabu had forsaken her for the hunt. The visions of which were always a bit gory for her tastes. As much as she enjoyed sharing in his experiences, she’d leave him to the capture of his rabbits. That left keeping an eye on Evie. A herculean task if ever there was one. The veritable belle of the ball, her younger sister had begun composing songs and entertaining a large group of people just outside of Maits’ tavern The Proud Horse Inn.
Most of the townsfolk gave Adelaide Shard a bit of a wide berth. It could have been the fact that she was known to have studied with the wizard, Istram, or it could be because she was known to cavort with other races, having hired many a dwarf, Halfling and even the occasional elf to work her farm when that just wasn’t done, but most probably her lack of companions had to do with the man who was even now glaring at her from his own commandeered corner of the tavern, Lil Jossop.
That man could surely hold a grudge. But then again, so could she and that drew a wicked curve to her lips as she lifted her mug to toast his staring countenance. Probably embarrassed to be caught staring he jerked and then sneered before turning to say something to his friends. Subtle, this bunch, they all turned to look at her as the conversation continued. And to think, you could have stayed in bed today. She pushed free from her perch. The folds of her skirts rustling down around her legs and reminding her again that this was a special occasion. Using this reminder she simply returned the glare toward the group instead of heading in their direction. No need to be more of a disruption. In fact, it was probably time she headed home.
Her line of sight was broken by the bobbing golden head of one Asgald Warhammer. The dwarf was making a beeline for the bar and his wide set shoulders didn’t leave much room for negotiation. Always good spirited, he was nodding and smiling and greeting everyone as he passed. It seemed to Adelaide that he didn’t notice nor care if those greetings were returned or spurned. She found pleasure in that and lifted her tankard again, this time in greeting. He lifted a thick hand and waved in return, his grin splitting his beard wide as he shouted, “Adelaide!”. Behind him was another dwarf, one that Adelaide was less familiar with and who seemed entirely focused on the two tankards he held in either hand. His red beard glistened with foam from an earlier swig and he echoed Asgald’s shout. She laughed and returned a, “Well Met!” despite the looks that it garnered her. They were headed toward the bar and Maits who stood with the blacksmith, Val. Anyone dumb enough to remain between the dwarves and their destination soon learned their fate as they were confronted with their sure footed approach that resembled rolling boulders. Quickly people dispersed from their path, Asgald’s good cheer notwithstanding.
Adelaide found those who would offer the dwarves censor distasteful. Asgald’s father was well known in these parts for what he had done for the Hall on the Hill and those who could not look past his race to acknowledge it irked her to no end. Definitely time to head home.
She slipped through the crowd, headed for the door when another familiar figure parted the crowds and brought with her a general sense of unease and disquiet. The cloaked figure of Xyrius the Wild was easily enough spotted as she was one of the only individuals to ever wear her hood up. Distracted by her arrival, Adelaide hadn’t noticed that Lil Jossup and his party was also making their way to the doorway and their arrival coincided. She was just in time to hear him remark, “Maits really will just let anyone or THING in here, won’t he?”
Assuming that he was speaking about the dwarves or Xyrius, Adelaide was just about to unleash a spite filled insult when she realized they were speaking about the stranger who hovered near a corner. His elven countenance was evident in the foreign lift of his features, angular and sharp, the ears a dead giveaway.
“Well, well, Little Jossup, I didn’t know you were inside.” The dulcet tones of her sister drew Adelaide’s attention from her perusal of the strange elf. Evie continued, “I’m sure that’s something a lot of women say though.”
As Jossup’s group stumbled and fawned over Evie (some even had the audacity to laugh at her barb), it was not lost upon most that there was definite enmity between them. Everyone thought they knew the story after all. It was common knowledge that at one point in time they were affianced. A wedding on the Hall on the Hill had been planned for weeks before something catastrophic had occurred. Most of the whispers centered around Evelyn Shard’s inability to keep her skirts down and Jossup helped fan the fires of that story every chance he got. Evelyn hadn’t helped matters by refusing to discount those tales and instead deciding to embrace the position of Town Strumpet. Almost no one knew of Adelaide’s role in the entire fiasco and for that she was thankful.
Adelaide hurried closer, only managing a quick nod toward Xyrius in greeting. She wanted to speak with her about the odd tracks she’d discovered at the edge of her pasture but now wasn’t the time.
Lil Jossup was turning an alarming shade of red when all attention was diverted by the alarmed cries of an older woman who was running up the street, “My Grandson! Please someone HELP! My Gavin!”