I was trying to avoid the Dowayne. He was making certain to catch each adept and give us each a small lecture about making ourselves known to the guests at the Masque since they were all potential patrons. He gave us the same lecture every before every Longest Night. “Actually,” I thought, “the Dowayne’s right. This year, I need to be more aggressive at scouting out patrons. I want to make my marque before spring.” So, when I felt the Dowayne’s presence nearby, I stepped into the hall in front of him.
Kneeling abeyante, I said, “My lord, is there aught I can do to help in the House preparations for the Masque?”
“Celeste,” the Dowayne caressed my cheek. “Rise, child.”
I stood up and the Dowayne took my hand. We smiled at each other and I could sense impatience in him. I waited for him to speak again. He sighed, then said, “We can’t hide anything from each other. We’re both impatient, aren’t we? I’m ready for the Masque to get here, and you know I’ll give you the same talk I give all of my adepts. And you are impatient to get your marque made this year, mm?” He smiled wryly at me.
Caught. No sense in trying to hide anything from a Gentian Dowayne, so I answered honestly. “Yes, my lord. I’d like to have it made by spring and the Midwinter Masque presents the opportunity to make myself known to new potential patrons.”
“Celeste, have you given thought as to what you will do when your marque is made? Are you planning on joining your parents’ salon in the City?”
I shook my head and looked downward. It was a known fact that my parents’ salon did not have the highest repute in town. I answered quietly, “No, my lord. I’m not sure what I want to do, but I do know I’ll not rejoin my parents.”
The Dowayne squeezed my hand. “Child, your parents have strayed too far from Naamah and she is displeased with them. You’re safe here, and know that you are welcome to stay in House Gentian. You’re valuable to your patrons, and to the House. It’s not a bad life here- training adepts, taking a few fosterlings, enjoying the status of the Night Court…” He smiled tiredly at me. “I’ve no doubt your marque will be made by spring. Make merry at the Midwinter Masque, my child. And if you could just continue to help with the preparations, that will be quite enough.” He released my hand and continued down the hall.
As his impatience and fatigue left me, melancholy took its place. In the swirl of all the festive preparations, I went alone to my room for several hours.
What would I do when my marque was made?
And the thought of my parents’ salon made me sad. Ironic, since they were adepts of House Orchis, the joyous house. My parents rebelled against the Night Court’s service of Elua’s scions and opened the doors of their salon to all comers. While the patrons that came there weren’t the assortment of rabble in Night’s Doorstep- no, indeed, if only the patrons were simply poor! My parents’ salon drew wealthy, but ne’er-do-well children of the scions of Elua. Many were addicted to opium. The Dowayne was right- they were far away from truly serving Naamah. The last thing I needed was to go there and have to suffer through the opium-tainted dreams of the idle rich.
A knock at the door startled me out of my gloomy reverie. I opened it to find an adept delivering our House costumes for the Midwinter Masque. He was grinning ear to ear- on top of the box with my costume was a small bouquet. I returned his smile genuinely and accepted both parcels.
The bouquet was a small branch of holly, intertwined with a sprig of ivy and both were twined into a tight stem with a black leather thong. Ivy represents the female, prickly holly is the male. The black leather was a dead giveaway as to the sender: Frederick. I felt much better to know he was thinking of me.
That little bit of beauty lifted my spirits enough to get excited about my costume. Too many years we relied on the old Pasha-and-the-hareem-girls theme. This year, let’s see…