Being Friday, tonight was the Fire Lord's weekly ceremony to bring all the members of the Palace and high-ranking Furierite citizens together for "drinking and merriment". Of course, by that the Fire Lord means an excuse to force his slaves to bring him gifts, and then give them wine to loosen their tongues to see if they'll spill any secrets about rebel plots.
As if there were any!
The Fire Lord is a bit paranoid if you ask me, though no one ever does. No one would attempt to plot rebellion against the Fire Lord. The very idea is suicidal. And anyway, the Fire Lord isn't such a terrible ruler. Just a bit controlling is all.
Anyway, back to the evening.
It began much like any other Friday night: my fellow kachinas and I selling everything in sight and begging the spies for a few coins with which to buy the Fire Lord some sort of gift. I can never understand how it's fair for the Fire Lord to demand expensive gifts when we aren't even paid. Where does he expect us to get money to buy him gifts? And on a weekly basis, too!
As usual, we weren't able to get enough coins to buy a suitable gift, so we were forced to steal some fruit and bread from the kitchen. Out of the six of us kachinas, we voted that Comet should be the one to steal the food. Out of all of us, she's the most nondescript. She's not very tall nor very short, not too thin but not fat either. And she has red hair, which is very common among fire fairies. Unfortunately, she's the clumsiest and the most apt to be late, too.
Which brings me to the first problem of the evening.
With only a quarter shadowmark until the ceremony is to begin, Comet was still no where to be seen. The other five of us were all ready for the ceremony and waiting for her in our little kachina chamber. It grew later and later and still Comet did not come. It was a terrible scrape indeed, and we all took the stress out on each other.
Flicker made some inane little comment about the Fire Lord being upset with us if we were late, and I snapped at her, telling her if she couldn't say anything intelligent not to speak at all. The Firefly told me that I had no right telling anyone when they could speak or not. Then Sparkle piped up and pointed out that Flicker's comment had been both unnecissary and untimely. Pretty soon we were bickering something dreadful, and even a couple of fireballs were thrown. We barely noticed when Comet rushed in, long after the ceremony was due to start.
Problem two insued when we burst into the throne room a quarter shadowmark late. Everyone else was already there, and the ceremony was fully underway. The kitchen maids were just presenting their gifts.
When the Fire Lord saw us, his eyes slid briefly from contented blue to irritated red, but he controlled his eyes and the moment passed. We kachinas knew that his rath was far from avoided, though. Casting an anxious glance at Coal, who was standing against the wall with the other high-ranked spies, we took our spots next to the Fire Lord and waited our turn to present him our stolen fruit gift.
Things actually went quite well for a while. We presented our gift, the Fire Lord spoke his cold appreciation, and then after all the gifts were presented, the Fire Lord called for everyone to enjoy themselves for a while. The food and wine was brought out, and everyone began milling around and talking and such.
But just as we kachinas were about to leave the Fire Lord's throneside and join the party, he leaned over to us and said the worst thing imaginable, "You six will remain after the ceremony. I wish to discuss your punctuality." The very sound of his eerily calm voice made my eyes go from their usual blue to the fearful green the Fire Lord always brings out.
"Yes, my Lord," we whispered in unison. The Fire Lord nodded.
"Very good. Feel free to join the party until I desire your entertainment."
We needed no further prodding. With hasty bows, the six of us ran off in different directions, exchanging horrified glances as we split up. Flare and I found our ways to each other within minutes, though, and we stayed together for a while, talking to Star Dancer and hearing the latest gossip. Star Dancer was spreading the most awful story concerning the chief guard, Flame, and a young sparktress maid. Of course, Star Dancer was already quite drunk, which made her tales even more far-fetched than usual. If anything is Star Dancer's true friend, it's wine.
The next "good" thing that happened was an especially exciting game of sparks.
Sparks is a game many of the teenaged sparkers like to play--especially around sparktresses. Two sparkers face each other and each create a spark on his fingertip. On the count of three, both press their sparks to their opponent’s forearm. The goal is to make your opponent surrendered or cry before you do by making your spark as hot as you can while enduring the pain of the spark upon your own arm.
I think it's interesting to watch the sparkers play, and so do Flare and Sparkle and Comet, but Firefly and Flicker think the game is barbaric.
The stakes of this particular game were raised because many of the slaves and villagers were betting on the winners of each round. The round Flare and I caught was between Coal and his best friend, Blaze. I think anyone who bets against Coal in a game of sparks is a fool. He's as resilient as his spark skill is hot.
“Are you ready?” Blaze said, his eyes blue. Coal grinned, eyes equally cerulean.
Of course, both sparkers could have been terribly afraid and their eyes would never have betrayed them. They're spies, and all the Fire Lord’s spies are trained to be able to control their mood ring eyes so as not to give away their feelings at an inopportune moment.
The sparkers pressed their sparks to each other’s forearms and the contest had begun. The two sparkers’ faces turned stoic.
Flare and I watched intently as Blaze gritted his teeth. His eyes waved for a moment, turning green with pain. Coal’s face was unreadable, as usual.
It was only a few seconds later that Blaze jerked away his arm with a frustrated hiss.
“You win,” he muttered. He pressed his fingertips to the small scarlet spot on his arm. His fingertips glowed blue as he activated his cooling shield. Coal nodded, his usual mischievous gleam shining in his eyes. However, he, too, quickly pressed a shielded fingertip to his forearm.
“You did well,” he complimented before walking out of the crowd and toward the food tables. Blaze jogged off in the opposite direction. Although the two were best friends, Blaze was needing to nurse his ego a bit before joining up with Coal.
The rest of the ceremony was equally light-hearted and typical, so I won't bore you with more detail about that. I will say, though, that our entertainment was one of our best preformances yet.
After the ceremony was over and everyone had left, we six kachinas went before the Fire Lord to hear what he had to say, or endure whatever it was he meant to do to us.
"I noted that you came in a bit late, kachinas," he said coldly, staring us down. "Care to offer any explanation?"
"Flicker wasn't feeling well," I said after just enough silence had passed. I'm the best liar out of all of us, though that really isn't saying much. Unfortunately, everyone knows that, including the Fire Lord. Fortunately, Flicker always looks like she might be feeling unwell, so it's a completely plausible explanation.
"I see," the Fire Lord said. "Well, still being late is not exceptable, you understand. How can you expect me to be a good Lord if I don't enforce my rules? A Lord who ignores even the smallest matters cannot be trusted to keep his citizens safe, can he?"
We all answered no, as was expected.
"Well, then I must find a way to discourage you from being untimely again, must I?"
Our response of "yes" was a bit quieter and much more delayed this time.
"Very well," the Fire Lord said, as if that sealed the deal. "Since you were late in coming here, I must insist that you be early for all your duties tomorrow. I plan on wanting entertainment early in the morning, so to avoid being late, you six may stay here all night and wait for me. I'll post alternating gaurds to make sure you don't fall asleep or anything unacceptable like that. Good night."
And he left the throne room to go to his large and comfortable bedchamber. Or at least I suppose it's large and comfortable. Being a lowly kachina, we aren't allowed to enter the Fire Lord's personal living quarters save for his throne room.
And that's why I'm sitting in the throne room on the cold marble floor, writing this down after midnight. We are not to get any sleep tonight, and right now Flame is making sure of that, taunting and threatening us like he always does, the only difference being that this time he has formal permission to do so.
This shall be a long night, and tomorrow will be dreadful I know. I probably won't post tomorrow because I'll be too tired. And if I'm not too tired, I'll probably be in too much pain from the punishment the Fire Lord will likely give me for doing something wrong in my exhausted state.
Sorry. That was a big dramatic, I suppose. Firefly is always telling me to stop being so dramatic.
At any rate, I'm out of room here, and I've posted far too long a post already. I hope you get some sleep.