An hour later, a figure peeled himself from the shadows of the now-empty room, before slipping through the door, carefully picking his way out of the Elkinhym building. Silent and unheard, he slipped out past the bards, into Poet’s Circle proper. There it was even easier to blend in, as he used the crowds to his advantage, slowly making his way to the proud, staunch Driamusek building. From there it was merely a matter of getting to the right room and slipping inside.
A woman sat on the couch, face comprised of fine angles, skin the pale ivory tone of someone who had never suffered exposure to nor labor under Suk-Krath. Her black tresses cascaded in waves about her face, well-kempt in the way that only those with enough coin to spend water on frivolous things like cleanliness. Everything about her bespoke a careful attention to presentation, to maintenance, grooming and shaping herself to be nothing less than perfect in every outward expression and gesture. Bard Pavallia Driamusek had been waiting for his arrival for some time, but for all that she was impeccably seated, her posture perfect, as she sat.
“Bard Gallion,” she said, formally, as her eyes keenly appraised him. “I trust everything went smoothly?”
“Quite,” he assured her, sweeping off his hood and unwinding his facewrap. He was no less carefully maintained then she was. Every facet was designed to captivate, from the seemingly-careless tousle of his auburn locks, to the way he regarded people with his golden-brown eyes, to his disarming smile. He moved to a seat beside her, letting his slender-fingered hand rest over her own more delicate one where it rested on the couch. “And may I say that while those frivolous Elkinhyms think we possess not a shred of humor, I find the situation delightfully hilarious.”
“A dangerous sentiment,” Pavallia told him. She let her hand stay under his, without any comment.
“Tsk,” Gallion responded, carelessly. “The irony is just delicious. Elkinhym, whose claim to fame is that a member once impersonated a Fale noble for a year, is infiltrated by a southern spy who becomes a Hlum consort. They're the victim of their own joke. How utterly ridiculous, that they didn't have any idea of the traitor in their midst!”
“For a brilliant shadow artist, you are sharply lacking in some areas,” she said, eying him with a cool gaze. “Reasons abound why we don't breathe a word of such happenings. You should know better.”
“Tsk,” he chided her. “You always maintain such a serious outlook. But very well, shall we to business?” Gallion didn't wait for her to respond—They both knew the answer. “Elkinhym has been taken to task by the Faithful. Their position is precarious, despite their efforts to put a happy face on it.”
“Whereas our position is better,” she told him. She slid her hand out from her his on the couch, slowly sliding her arm about his waist. “Do you think the other Circles have even guessed at out grand success?”
He scoffed, even as he slid his arm along the back of the couch, resting his hand on the curve of her far shoulder. “I doubt it even crossed their minds. When something is presented to them, they choose to accept it without a moment's contemplation. They think 'How will the Hlum's fall affect me?' never bothering to consider how it occurred.”
“Yet even so,” she said. “One would presume that someone in the Circles would dwell upon it at least long enough to come to certain realizations. Primarily that the chance of all the Hlum and their families being present and accounted for all at the same time, even in the Estate, was near infinitesimal.”
“Even if they bothered to consider it, I doubt they would attribute it to us. Perhaps they would merely assume it mystery of the Faithful,” Gallion said, dismissively. “All of which shows their lack of connections.” His fingers moved to toy with her a block lock hair, shifting to subtly caress the soft curve of her ear. “Or they would have known how we lured them all in. The whisper of a special event, none would want to miss... Spun in such a way that not a breath would escape to the other Houses.”
“Mmm,” Pavallia said, starting to slowly stroke along his side with her head, tilting her head fractionally to give his stroking fingers better access to her ear. “And as a result, we have further influence with His Faithful, while Elkinhym's influence only wanes...”
“Yes, while ours only increases, and with it the possibilities,” Gallion said, leaning in to brush his lips against the curve of her neck.
“I would say there are some things certainly increasing,” Pavallia said, sliding her hand around to let it rest on his thigh. “Tell me, how are things going with your Irofel lover?”
“Very well,” Gallion told her, between deepening kisses against her neck, tracing a line slowly downwards. “We should be able to use it to our advantage. Elkinhym seeks to approach Irofel for joint events. However, I can use her to instead have Driamusek do joint events, undercutting Elkinhym's efforts.”
“Well... Shouldn't you be going to speak with her, then?” Pavallia arched a brow, voice only a touch breathy.
“A Driamusek is nothing if not properly trained in etiquette. It would be rude to leave things unfinished...”
It was at least an hour later before Gallion left Pavallia, and when he emerged he was perfectly maintained. One would scarce guess that anything had occurred, were it not for the slight, smug little quirk of his lips. He had even been so diligent as to mask her lingering perfume under his own. Adjusting his expression, he casually strolled out of the Driamusek building, making his way to visit a particular Irofel lover of his, Bard Eeya Irofel. It was another hour before they had finished their intimacies together and he slipped away, content with his work.
Heading the opposite direction, Bard Eeya Irofel returned to her Circle’s building. She stopped off at the kitchens, before heading to her room—And bumped into another Irofel Bard, Irenia, in the hallway.
Irenia took one look over Eeya, up and down. “Your Driamusek must have come to you again, hmm? I swear, you're positively glowing!”
“Oh, yes, he came to visit,” Eeya said, with a satisfied little smile, before running. She pushed open the door to her room and gestured for Irenia to come inside.
The room was comfortably sized. One wall was dedicated to a shelf of nick-knacks that Eeya had found on her travels or collected. A halfling skull, a bit of kank shell, little carved statues found in the rubble of Mal Karan, and more besides. A wardrobe held a plethora of clothes, most lovely examples of loose and billowy Tuluki fashions, but some from exotic and obscure places, from the disturbingly tight-fitting fashions of Allanak to the drab and utilitarian pieces from Storm. Eeya’s bed was neatly made in the corner, and a table was in the room’s center, surrounded by a variety of comfortable chairs.
“And what did he want this time?” Irenia asked, as she settled into a seat at the table. “Asides the obvious,” she added, with a smirk.
“To run events with Irofel,” Eeya shrugged, taking the seat across from her. “He plays innocent so well, you'd think he was a Konviwedu. He probably learned it from his Konviwedu lover.”
“Obviously not well enough,” Irenia snickered.
“He has this horrible habit of assuming I'm less than I am, like I can't see through it. I'd find it insulting if it wasn't so useful,” Eeya continued to grumble.
“So what's he really up to?”
“It’s painfully obvious that Driamusek wants to pull us away from Elkinhym.”
“Would that be so bad?” Irenia asked. “I may not like Gallion much, but there's some advantages with what he's proposing. We could benefit from Driamusek's highborn connections. Even slowly whittle them away for ourselves!”
“Well, we're not doing terribly with our elite connections now,” Eeya said. “The Faithful were more than pleased with Irofel's performance at the naming of the new Precentor, and they have a strong interest in making sure Irofel maintains the correct history of the situation.”
Irenia chewed her lip a bit, studying Eeya. “And that doesn’t concern you at all? We’re more than glossing over what actually happened, we’re completely retelling history. I mean, I know what the Faithful say is what goes, but… Doesn’t it bother some part of you? Feel like we’re being unfaithful to history?”
Eeya shook her head. “Some history isn't fit for the public, and right now, the existence of the Hlum is one of those things. You know even among our own, the worst punishment we can give is to expunge a record from history—To take a bard and make them so they never were. This is the same, but on a grander scale. It protects the core, the truth of our culture. I don't have any qualms about it.”
“I know we reserve that as a punishment for our worst, but on this scale…” Irenia sighed. “Well, it’s not something to be discussed. The Faithful have decided that’s best, and that’s how things are.”
“It’s for the best,” Eeya nodded.
“Anyways… If you don't want to go for working with Driamusek, let me guess, you won't go for Elkinhym, either? Pick a middle path?”
“You know me so well! Yes, we can split our efforts,” Eeya said. “Do some events with Elkinhym, some with Driamusek. We have both courting us and can expand our influence in numerous directions, as a result.”
“Can't argue with that, I suppose,” Irenia said. “I just hope the worst of it is over. I don't like these big changes.”
“Well, with any luck, we'll be done with them for a while, and things will stabilize,” Eeya said.