Two weeks pass while Karl and Ambrose live out their lives out of Hart Manor. ’Master’ Karl tends to the daily business of his orchard. Ambrose, on most days, studies the books Uncle Hart’s library, and once briefly helped the laborers in the almond grove with their chores. One morning, Karl and Ambrose are eating their breakfast in the dining room when they hear a noise from the main entryway. In a moment Gerrick enters the room with a letter in his had proclaiming, “A messenger just delivered this Master Hart. It’s for you and Ambrose.” Ambrose raises his eyebrows in surprise. Karl lazily motions Gerrick to hand the letter to Ambrose who begins to open it.
ON BEHALF OF THE CROWN, COUNCIL, AND CITY OF ILLIVAN,
KARLADRON HART AND AMBROSE FRANCOIS
ARE TO BE HONORED IN CELEBRATION IN THREE DAYS TIME.
IN RECOGNITION OF YOUR SERVICE TO THE CITY,
AND FOR THE ACT OF DRIVING THE WEREWOLF MENACE FROM ILLIVAN,
YOU ARE HEREBY INVITED TO THE QUEEN’S BALL,
QUEEN BELLAMY ALLENGAR
Ambrose seems elated, “Is this an invitation to a noble ball?” Karl sets down his food and groans, “Ow, no more nobles.”
“I take it you’ve had unpleasant encounters with nobles.”
“Ugh, well, on account of the orchard and my uncle’s wealth, the Hart family is considered a ’lesser house’ by the Noble Council. As a result multiple noble families have tried to curry favor with me in exchange for favors.” Gerrick comes to remove their dining plates. “I hate them though, the lot of them; they’re all greedy and selfish,” Karl ends rather tartly. Finished with breakfast the two begin to make their way to the parlor through the front room.
“Well I don’t know about you, but I think I actually like to attend this ball. It would be nice to receive at least some recognition for what we did.” Followed by Karl, Ambrose opens the double doors to the parlor but stops. There is a hooded figure seated in the parlor already. They have pulled one of the armchairs to the small table where Ambrose had left the lantern, sitting in the dark in silence. Frozen in the doorway, Ambrose calls to Karl behind him, “Um, Karl, where you expecting a visitor today?”
“No, why-” The two stand staring and unmoving; the blue-hooded figure perched in the armchair seemingly to large for their frame. Karl begins to push himself in front of Ambrose, “Who are you?” He raises his voice to a butler in another room, “Gerrick, did you let anyone into the manor today?” The figure, almost startled, turns their head slightly towards the two men. They raise their hands to their hood and hesitate for a moment before pulling it back; revealing what appears to be a young girl. Her head is bald and covered in some type of white makeup giving here a ghostly visage in the dark room; her ears come to slight points. Karl and Ambrose are taken aback by their new visitor.
“So you two are the ones who found my lantern,” she says in a slow drawl. Ambrose and Karl are now standing fully in the parlor, light spills into the room from the foyer. Defensive, Ambrose asks, “What do you mean, ’your lantern’?”
She adjusts her head back so that she is again staring directly at the lantern.