While Goald of Zahl, bard extraordinaire, preferred the night, he did not like the fact that he was currently running for his life. The agile Drow could easily navigate through the mist-heavy, cobbled streets of Krandebergh, but his current outfit made it hard to do so. He leapt over a low wall, where his fine shoes skidded on the mossy surface and he barely landed on his feet on the other side. It would have been deeply embarrassing to have been caught flat on his rear. He shuddered at the thought. Then continued to run as fast as he could. Dwarven guards were notorious for catching their prey and he needed to get out of the Krandebergh’s borders as fast as possible. Perhaps steal a horse or hide in an unlikely place until all this nonsense blew over. And really, it was nonsense. So what if she happened to be the Duke’s daughter…
The full-body length mirror that Goald was staring into didn’t do the handsome Drow any justice. Perhaps it was the time of day. His skin never looked its best in too much sun, even as it was setting. His skin was at its most dramatic when his natural dark hues took on hints of light, so that the contrast made his features sharper and his pure, white hair come alive on its own. Either way, he thought while pulling his waistcoat across his well-defined chest, he looked good. No. He looked great.
Goald picked up a crystal bottle that sat on a gilded table and spritzed the content into his throat. The sweet rosewater gently prepared his vocal chords for the performance that was to come. He was the special guest of the Duke of Krandebergh, there to recount his great exploits as the famed dragon slayer of the Blade Mountains.
After returning to Roseoak soaring on the back of a great eagle, announcing his glorious victory against the vicious Red Dragon that threatened them all, Goald had enjoyed a revival of sorts. He was unanimously admired by anyone who knew his tale (and he made sure everyone knew it) and was instantly welcomed into the dizzy heights of high society in Roseoak and beyond.
He flicked a stray strand of white hair from his shoulder and then nodded. He was ready. Stepping into the great hallway of Krande Mannor, the Duke’s summer residence, was not intimidating for Goald. It’s fine marble floors and luxurious paintings worth more than people’s entire homes did not phase him. Goald belonged here, after all. He entered the great ballroom where he was expected at least an hour prior.
No-one was prepared for the great doors to swing open and a majestic, silky smooth voice bellow, “Greetings, my most esteemed hosts.” Goald bowed, he could hear the delighted cries and giggles of his audience. When he stood up-right again, he flashed them all his most devastating smile. The crowd of finely dressed gentlemen and ladies were lowering their exquisite, elaborate masks to get a better look at him.
“I hear he only bathes in purified mountain water and he insists on TWO baths a day!” Whispered one guest to her friend.
“His voice – it just does something to me.” Swooned another.
“Was he not engaged to the Countess of Frandelal?” One confused guest asked his companion.
“Really Cuthbert, why can’t you ever look like that in a waist-coat.” Fussed another, staring at their partner in disapproval.
Goald heard every single, little murmur and basked in the attention. He walked forward, greeting his masked guests with his usual charm, letting his flattering audience continue to shower him with affection.
One lady, with the most beautiful umber skin and wearing a sumptuous red gown, pushed her way through the crowd and offered him her hand. She lowered her emerald encrusted mask, bright green eyes met his and a teasing smile adorned her lips. This lady was certainly one of the most beautiful Goald had met (and he had met many). “My lady, you are resplendent today.” Goald said, knowing that many would be staring daggers at the one who inspired his comment. He took her hand and gently kissed it. She giggled.
“Ser, I am told that you are a person of great… talent.” Her eyes flicked up and down his figure.
Goald’s smile widened. “I am indeed.”
The great booming voice of the Duke of Kranenbergh disrupted everyone. “Now, now Anabella, do not hog our guest, he is here for all of us!”
“I am sorry father,” Came her honied voice, “I simply wanted to meet this famed hero.” She let the word linger in her mouth, turning and melting back into the crowd, giving him one last glance before she held her mask to her eyes again.
Goald made his way to the grand piano waiting for him where a young man waited.
“Sir I would just like to say, it is an honour to perform with you today.” He said breathlessly.
Goald gave him a little wink. “Shall we blow this audience away then young-”
“Jonathan sir, Jonathan Montgomery.” The young man was standing up and bowing awkwardly over and over.
“Come now young Jonathan, let us show these guests just how talented I am.”
The audience was enraptured for the full two hours that Goald performed. They laughed and cried with him and finally, they erupted into loud applause and cries of ‘Encore!’ The rest of the evening, Goald joked, charmed and flirted with his guests, delighting them all. But he could see no sign of Anabelle, the lady whom he really wanted to speak to. Eventually, he spotted her sashaying away and out of the ballroom, giving him one last look before she did so. Goald humbly declared, ‘My friends, none of this would have been possible without my pianist companion here, Jonathan Montgomery. Please, Jonathan, come and meet everyone.” And with that, Goald used his great skill at disappearing from large crowds to sneak away after the lady.
He felt a hand grab at him and pull him. It was Anabelle, her lips pressed gently, silently into his. It was a heavenly few minutes before the Duke loudly and rudely, in Goald’s opinion, interrupted them.
“What’s this?! Goald of Zahl, how dare you? Get your filthy low-born hands off my daughter!” He roared. Goald pulled away from Anabelle in shock. She was giggling.
“Quickly, leave that way!” She whispered to him, pointing to a window that led to the main lawn and onto the manor grounds. She then turned to placate her father. “Please Father, what will the guests think!”
The Duke did not seem to care. Soon, he sent his personal guard after the Drow.
Goald could hear them keep pace with him. Those blasted guards. They were a lot quicker than he’d first estimated. Their footsteps echoed on the cobbled streets. And there was another noise, the clop clop of a horse and the loud churning of a carriage. Great. This was all he needed. He began to slow down and act as if nothing was the matter at all. But the guards were closing the gap quickly.
As he predicted, a carriage sped past him and then came to a stop right before his path. He took a deep breath and prepared his most fetching smile. The door to the carriage flew open and Anabelle gave him a knowing grin. She was dressed in her evening gown, looking resplendent as the moonlight hit her lovely features. She inclined her head into the carriage and as the guards rounded the corner of the street, he dashed in and she shut the carriage door behind them, ordering her driver to go on ahead. They sat in silence as the carriage rolled away. The young lady was risking her father’s wrath. Well, thought Goald, it’s simply impossible to resist this much talent.