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Dec 11, 2018 1:14 PM
a new character is test-driven
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Hazaira smiles, humming softly. Getting to the capital had been a bother, but it was going to be worth it. She'd heard things about these parties, from enough sources to have fair confidence in the main points. She knows it's going to be worth it. She doesn't have much in the way of marketable skills; not anything special, at least. Outside the capital, being pretty didn't count. Not in any way she cared to pursue. It's risky, sure, but hey, the more people who show up, the less risk per. 

She's going to have such a marvelous time. 

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The next party at the lakeside palace is a quarter-moon day, the eighth of Amber. But the staff are available to take applications any evening of the week, and when she shows up they welcome her to the capital and authorize her to claim a spot at the party, and a room in the palace beforehand if she needs a place to stay.

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Ooh! A place to stay would be lovely.

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Well, they have this lovely lakeside palace whose entire purpose is to make these parties happen, and she is free to stay there if she likes. Of course, being a guest of the palace comes with all the same warnings even outside of the parties themselves; but the Emperor almost never shows up on an off day, so she'll probably be safe until the quarter-moon.

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She'll take her probably. Palace! Loveliness! 

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It is an exquisitely lovely palace. All the northwest-facing windows have a gorgeous view of the city, all the south-facing windows have a gorgeous view of the lake, all the west-facing windows have a gorgeous view of the mountains, the decor is stunning, the staff is helpful and polite, and the food is nationally renowned.

There's just the one problem, really.

But, well, he probably won't visit during the week. Probably won't even come to the quarter-moon party. He often doesn't.

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And even if he does come to the party, there will be plenty of other pretty people around to choose from. Her odds are good. She's not really stressed out about it. If he does show up, she can be scared then.

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The week goes by; the day of the party arrives. Other guests trickle in as the shadows slide across the floor from morning into afternoon. The only thing they all have in common is that they're well-dressed and attractive; if you can't manage the well-dressed part by yourself, the palace staff are available to help out. There is music, and dancing, and even more delicious food. Afternoon fades into evening, and it's at that point that people begin to worry.

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She lets the ambient tension in the room carry her own nerves along with it. Wouldn't do to stand out if he does show up, after all.

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There are entertainers on staff, musicians and dancers and poets and other assorted professionals whose job it is to make sure that the guests can relax and have a good time if at all possible. In the main banquet hall there is food and drink and dancing; other areas of the palace have other entertainments to offer.

He probably won't show up, even now. Probably. Rumours among the other guests suggest that it's been a while since he last visited, but even so, any given night isn't likely to be the one that sees him.

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She has a lovely time, nerves and all. The food is delicious, the drink is superb, and the dancing is divine. The nerves are nice, actually, bubbling together with the wine in her stomach to give her a delightfully high-strung sensation that goes marvelously with the excitement of fast-paced dances. 

When the music changes to a slower tune, then, she retires from the dance floor for the moment, face flushed and breathing hard from the exertion. She considers the--other amenities--and decides against, leaning against the wall and enjoying watching the dancers and biting her lip to keep from giggling as though far more inebriated than her mildly tipsy state.

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And then—

At the far end of the hall, there is a set of wide double doors leading out onto a rooftop garden that overlooks the lake. They've been standing open since sunset, with curtains in the doorway to discourage the breeze.

A shadow descends from the sky, landing in the garden in a swirl of smoke and cinders. The curtains blow inward on a wind driven by vast black wings, carrying the scent of unearthly fire into the room.

Everyone freezes. The curtains settle back into place, and people gradually resume whatever they were doing, first the staff and then a few of the guests. The atmosphere as the Emperor finally walks in is hushed but not silent, wary but not terrified.

If he had wings when he landed, he doesn't now. He is tall and beautiful and graceful, dressed in rich fabrics and dark colours, and there's no mistaking him for a mere guest even though nothing about him is definitely inhuman. He moves with the kind of confidence appropriate to an immortal godlike figure who has ruled the world unopposed for thousands of years.

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Oh no he's hot.

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If anyone else is reacting similarly, they're very good at hiding it.

He makes his way across the room, examining guests as he passes them. (The staff, of course, are safe.) A few people shrink back or turn away, and he lets them, for now. There will be time to come back for them later if he likes.

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She is far too scared and turned on both to move a muscle. 

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He pauses in front of her, studying her thoughtfully; it's the most direct attention he's given to any one guest so far.

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Her heart rate picks up. Is she hyperventilating? She's probably hyperventilating. She is, distantly, glad that she's frozen in place; none of the things it can even vaguely occur to her to do are remotely good ideas.

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"What's your name, dear?"

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"What a lovely name." He reaches out and runs his fingertips down the side of her face. "Pleased to meet you, Hazaira."

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She bites her lip and makes a faint squeaky noise. 

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He smiles slightly, and scoops her up into a bridal carry and turns and walks back out into the garden.

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Fuck this is hot.

Also terrifying! 

But so, so hot. The way he can just pick her up, aaaaaaaaaah.

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A cloak of black flame flows out from his shoulders, and he takes to the air and flies, carrying her with him. Travel by Emperor is dizzying, and smells like fire. The landscape swirls past in an unsettlingly nonlinear blur.

Then he lands, and his wings fade to dark smoky flickers and then to nothing at all, and before she has a chance to do more than glimpse the stunning view down the mountain he sets her on her feet and kisses her.

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Mmmmm.

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