Book III Chapter 17: ...A Few Preparations
The Laps Grande Ballroom
A grand carriage crafted of a shining metal and white drapes pulled to a halt before the gates of the Laps Grande Ballroom, followed by a parade of prrbs and leupaks carrying supply boxes-- tied to their backs for the former, or grasped in their forepaws for the latter.
The carriage's driver slipped from his seat, opening the door for his passengers with a bow and flourish.
"Well, here we are. There's lots that needs doing before tomorrow evening."
"And we waited until the night before to do this... why?"
Nefirian Dreamscar gingerly stepped down into the street, tossing his hair back over his shoulders and pausing a moment to stroke the manes of the twin unicorns that had pulled the contraption. They were Anshe Proudhornes, a strong and sturdy breed domesticated by his ancestors ages before even he was born.
All of the legends about only female virgins riding unicorns-- and of course, they were always depicted as rather slender ones, at that-- only existed because the silly humans were jealous and needed an excuse as to why the single-horned equines were ill-mannered towards them.
Unicorns were meant to be servants of the fae, and they knew it; it was just that simple.
As Bast leapt unceremoniously from the carriage after him, the Doctor gave the larger of the two beasts a kiss on the snout; it snorted and stamped the ground, curling its long, leonine tail in response before rearing in display.
"Oh, Baroque... you are an insufferable showoff, you know that? ... And at any rate, we have today and until tomorrow afternoon," He said, finally responding to the other elf's remark. "It won't take that long to hang the streamers, set up the booths, all that sort of thing. The decorations are the easy part-- the sheer brilliance of this is that most of the people showing their various things off will do their own work, or pay us handsomely to do it for them!"
As Nef began to unpack, Bastion headed towards the front door of of the massive building to peek in, setting his box down on the floor and frowning. "It still needs cleaning, though... look at all of this dust! I'd help, you know, but..."
A pause. "I have allergies."
Accompanied by two prrbs and a rather large leupak, Nef paused to eye his husband standing in the dusty grand ballroom, carefully adjusting his monocle.
He was most certainly not sneezing.
"Oh, do you, now.... since when? Not that it's an issue-- here."
Handing the blonde a small paper facemask, the scientist slipped one on and set about directing the leupak into the huge, empty room. The creature was nearly twice as tall as Nefirian himself, with waxy, mottled blue and white scales and a puff of soft fur running the length of its tail.
It settled in the middle of the room, waiting patiently as the doctor began to open the windows. As Bast adjusted his mask-- wrinkling his nose a bit, as the things were so disproportionately uncomfortable for a bit of paper-- he watched as a small parade of prrbs made their way inside, carrying boxes atop their backs and pushing heavier ones in with their paws and heads.
The prrbs were as prone to exerting themselves for work as Bast was, but they seemed to have made a sort of game of it.
Finished and a bit exhausted, they gathered eagerly around their friend as he opened a bag of dried fruits and cereal to share with them, all wet noses and happy faces.
The last window opened with a slam. "There... now, give it a go!"
The mottled leupak grinned, closing its eyes and drawing in a breath of air that seemed larger than itself-- before releasing it in a great bellow of wind, lifting the dust from floor and walls like a gale.
Bast stuck out his tongue behind it. "That's cheating."
The blonde elf's husband threw his head back and cackled-- before catching a mouthful of lingering dust, gasping, then coughing for a moment.
Pleased after a few puffs, the leupak meticulously buffed the floor to a shine with the end of its tail before dipping its head in a bow and making its way back out with a wave-- stopping to pat Bast gently on the shoulder as it went.
"...I wonder if he's ever had an existential crisis," Bast muttered.
The room fell perfectly silent for a moment.
"Bast, darling..." Nefirian whispered to him. "...your intellect is showing."
"...Is it?" Bastion made a show of glancing around and behind himself for it.
Nef smiled, satisfied.
"Now, let's see... that's dusting done. Time to hang the streamers!" Nefirian announced.
"...What, we don't have a box unpacking leup?"
Digging through the boxes to unpack several rolls of shimmering white and golden fabric and a pile of balloons, Nefirian paused, raising an eyebrow. "Oh, come on, now. Don't tempt me."
"No, I want one! I'm tempting you!" Bast cried.
Pulling himself slowly from the crowd of happy, munching prrbs, Bast made his way over to help unpack, neatly piling things up for Nef to decide what to do with them.
Inflating the balloons for the displays, the scientist gently tossed a few over to the curious bears, smiling as they scampered to paw and bump them about.
"You're excited about this, aren't you?"
"I am. There are going to be lots of interesting people with interesting things, and it'll be fun-- and, well, it's just a little necessary. Revelry makes it harder for people to focus on suspicions for a while, and with people the world over coming for this, it'll buy us some more friendly time with everyone while we... prepare."
Grinning ominously with a balloon between his sharp teeth, he opened a ladder, propping it against the nearby wall.
"Besides, Selarion and Ecleco will be here."
"What, he's performing? I thought maybe you'd get Lyri to do something... or did he do it last year? I don't remember. ...And Selarion won't even dress up, fft."
"He may perform a bit, he may just mingle. I'm leaving it up to him what he'd prefer... I did want Lyric to come and play," Nef admitted, "but... He's busy in Soril at the moment."
Bastion pouted, folding his arms across his chest with a sigh as Nef clambered up the ladder to hang the streamers and balloons as they spoke.
"...And oh, nonsense on Selarion, by the way. He dresses up every year!" the doctor added.
"As a "gentleman". He's such a smartass."
"Oh, c'mon! It's brilliant--I love his sense of humor."
Nef leaned backwards, balancing carefully to peer down at his husband. "Well, what are you going as this year, huh?"
Bastion dug around in a box for a moment before pointedly revealing a headband with two little bear ears attached.
"Of course-- how silly of me."
Grinning, Bast wiggled the ears at a nearby prrb who returned the gesture.
Nefirian turned, perching on one of the ladder steps with a pleased expression, dusting his hands. "There we go-- look at that! Lovely, hm?"
"Mmmhmm," Bast agreed.
Climbing down, Nefirian pushed the empty boxes aside on his way to the storage closets; something behind him gave a soft little whumph-- followed by the shuffling of big, clumsy paws and a shrill whine.
"Oh, no! Naughty prrb!"
The doctor turned to find one of the prrbs beneath a fallen streamer with its rump sticking out, confusedly prrbing and trying to remove itself.
"...well, it's not a Ball until a prrb knocks something down, is it?"
Next Chapter: Book III Chapter XVIII
Category: Book III | Story