Part Fifteen of the Sonata in Red series.
Part One: A Song of Glory
Part Two: A Choir of Intrigue
Part Three: Etude in the Sun
Part Four: A Requiem in the Dark
Part Five: Hymns of Terror
Part Six: Refrain from the Past
Part Seven: Refrain from the Past (pt. 2)
Part Eight: A Fugue in Three Parts
Part Nine: Rondo Alla Contrattempo
Part Ten: Interlude
Part Eleven: A Fool’s Masquerade
Part Twelve: A Reprised Duet
Part Thirteen: Dancing with the Devil
Part Fourteen: Adagio under Lantern’s Glow
Scarlett’s shift doesn’t start at the estate until after midnight, leaving me with more time to spend waiting even though I now have everything I need to begin my infiltration. I have no interest in spending more time at the festival, my mind has already shifted its focus towards what I would do when I saw her.
After all these years spent trying to find her, even with this past month knowing that she was in my reach I still didn’t know what I was going to say to her. After chasing her for so long I still don’t know anything about her. I don’t know why she was at the library that night, nor who had hired her. I don’t know if either of Ava or Sophia is her real name. I don’t even know if I actually care about the answers, or if finder her has become some meaningless competition with myself.
I pass the Twilight Wall, handing Aiden Elijah’s writ before continuing along the familiar path towards the cathedral. The decorations for The Royal Moon festival are far subtler and refined here in The Day. Instead of the sprawl of red lanterns and floral decorations, each home bears a symbolic token of the season that references their House and its achievements.
The aristocracy are famous for their elaborate and extravagant attempts to outdo one another at every opportunity. The Baronetess’ display at the festival being a fitting example. This fact makes the refined elegance of the House symbols all the more striking to me.
Symbolism is the all encompassing language of the aristocracy with everything meaning something else. Following the same fundamental formula as every other house so far, the Baronet’s estate has flown their flag of heraldry from a ceremonial spear. A chain of vibrant flowers wind the shaft and from the bottom of the flag four amber gemstones inlaid on golden stars hang prominently from the base of the flag.
The spear represents the house as receiving crusade commendations. The flowers and amber represent the maiden houses of the women married into the house. And the four stars represent the current generation of the Lord of the House.
For the remaining hours leading up to midnight I watch the stars from vantage in the bell tower. I’ve never felt that the heavens have had a plan for me, but tonight I take the moment to pray for their blessing when I meet Sophia.
I watch the fireworks with a detached interest, they are an uncommon site even here in Caelestis and these ones in particular are exceptional. Covering the sky with a blanket of colour received by cheers from the crowds in Night Town.
Before long they have passed and I am left to watch the stars in quiet isolation. I wonder if Avery is somewhere watching me at now. I hadn’t noticed her once since being released, for whatever that is worth. The temperate night air backed by the distant music of the River Sol’s flowing water is soothing enough that I could fall asleep any moment if I wasn’t careful. The serenity that surrounded me was helpful at quieting the nervous excitement that was growing within me the longer I was forced to wait.
The deafening tolling of the enormous bell that shared my tower made certain I could not have slept through midnight even if I had wanted too. With the thundering noise suddenly the reality of the moment strikes me, the realisation that finally I would reach the point I’ve been chasing for years. Whether the answers satisfy me, or not, tonight represented a milestone that felt significant in a way I couldn’t entirely understand. Uncorking the vial I gulp down the vile concoction as quickly as I can, grimacing, my body heaving instinctively willing me to regurgitate.
I manage to keep it down and all at once my body explodes in agony. My bones pulverise and reform themselves, my cartilage, tendons and muscles re-knitting themselves across my new skeleton feels like I am being carved with thousands of burning hot blades and pummelled by microscopic hammers. I double over, tasting blood in my mouth under my jaw clamped like an iron trap.
After seconds that feel like hours the change is complete. I rise clumsily to my feet, the distributions of weight in Scarlett’s body is unfamiliar. After dressing in the uniform I’d borrowed from Scarlett I draw cautiously on the grey. The ephemeral weightlessness fills me and I leap from the belfry utilising the protrusions from the tower to control my descent. I meet the ground after a less than perfect execution and a heavier landing than I would have liked. I brush the dust from my hands and make my way towards the servant entrance.
Inside the estate is as it had been during my entrance under the grey, seeing it clearly through my real senses gives a greater appreciation of the decadence adorning everything. Wealth over taste seems the goal with House Thierris, enormous gold and scarlet tapestries and portraits that tower over everyone cover the walls.
Passing through the main serving rooms I mirror the routine I had studied Scarlett following during her work. I perform a small trick of the grey to dissuade notice away from myself. Subtler than the eye glazing obfuscation, this technique simply discourages any of Scarlett’s friends from sincerely pursuing conversation with me. Unfortunately it would draw the attention of the skilled guards, so I could only use it to avoid confrontation here in the early rooms.
Requiring all of my discipline to stop myself from hurrying as I walk the hall towards the inner section of the estate. I lower the grey veil at first sight of the stationed guards. Beyond this point I’m going blind, having been unable to pass these guards under the grey. Greeting the guards with the friendly smile I have seen her give them many times, they let me pass without a second glance. Following the hall I round the corner and am forced to step immediately out of the path of James Thierris as he rushes past me towards the entrance to the estate looking flustered and very well dressed for this time of night. My curiosity is immediately piqued, but my goal is further into the estate and with James’ departure this is likely the best opportunity I may ever have to get Sophia alone.