Ghost arranges to attend a ball and has a tiff with Goldilocks.
Ghost ate in silence, enjoying the taste of the omelet and listening to Axe and Goldilocks’ conversation. It didn’t make a lot of sense to her, lots of names she had never heard and things left half-said, but the general feel was of talking through various problems in a calm search for solutions. Axe tended to advocate conversation and Goldilocks action, but they agreed more than they disagreed.
At a lull in the conversation Ghost asked “Goldilocks, how did Lady Timora Bellmerry know that it was you who asked me to summon her and not Lazarus himself?”
Goldilocks shrugged, but Axe laughed. “Methinks the Lady knoweth thee too well,” he said in affected high speech.
“Sometimes Lazarus doesn’t know what’s good for him,” said Goldilocks. “Lady Timora Bellmerry is good for him.” Axe raised his brows quizically. “They’ve been talking for over an hour and you haven’t heard any upset voices, have you?”
That seemed to be all that was going to be said on that subject, so Ghost chimed in again “What’s ‘the rose red orb’?”
There was a momentary look of confusion on their faces before Axe said “You mean the Rose Red ball?”
“I guess,” Ghost replied.
“A ball is a kind of dance, though not like the dancing of Dryads. Groups of people in fancy clothes walk in circles and say complimentary nothings with veiled challenges beneath. The Rose Red is one of the finer balls, fairly exclusive. Who told you about the Rose Red ball?”
“Some centaur I met on the street,” replied Ghost. There was a pause while they waited for her to say more. “I’m going to go,” she said to fill the silence. The goblin had not explicitly forbidden her telling people her activities but she somehow felt that sharing too freely was unwise.
“Go where?” asked the musical voice of Lady Timora Bellmerry as she and Lazarus emerged from his curtained apartment.
“The Rose Red ball,” replied Ghost. “You really brighten up this place,” she added admiringly. “It needs a bit more elf to it.”
Lazarus scowled at this, but Lady Timora laughed. “You’re quite the visual garnish yourself,” she said. “And I understand you’ll actually be staying. Maybe you can prevail on the boys”—she gave Goldilocks a meaningful glance as she said the word “boys” but what the meaning was was beyond Ghost’s ken—“to make the place a bit more cheerful.”
“Why the Rose Red ball?” asked Lazarus.
Ghost shrugged. “I just want to.”
“And go you shall,” said Lady Timora. “Come by my place this evening just ere twilight and we shall get you adorned properly before the dancing begins. The rest of you are welcome to come too,” she added but the latter invitation it sounded more perfunctory than sincere. And rightly so: Lazarus made a scoffing snort, Goldilocks face said “are you crazy?” as clear as words, and Axe said “Thank you, Lady, but balls and I don’t get on very well.”
Lady Timora shrugged her shapely shoulders and said “Ah, well, Ghost and I shall have a lovely time then.” She then turned and kissed Lazarus on the cheek, said farewell, and departed. Ghost observed with interest that where she had touched Lazarus’s cheek the skin gained a healthy chocolate luster which faded slowly over the next minute.
Lazarus sat down on the far side of Goldilocks and Axe handed him a plate heaped with omelets. “Who was the Goblin’s messenger?” Lazarus asked before taking his first mouthful.
A look of understanding crossed Axe’s face. “Some centaur” said Goldilocks.
Lazarus ate a few bites in silence, then said “If you are going to do something dangerous it’d be better to tell me beforehand.”
“Nothing dangerous,” replied Ghost. “What do you think about adding some lace curtains? I saw some at an inn were I stopped to ask directions this morning and thought they added a nice feel to the place.”
This comment was met with silence as Lazarus chewed. The other two seemed to be having a silent conversation with their eyes. “Keep it under wraps for now,” said Lazarus at length, “it’s safer that way. But in a few days I’ll need a full report if I am to figure out what’s going on and how to stop it.”
“I know how to stop it,” inserted Goldilocks.
“You do?” Lazarus sounded more amused than intrigued.
“Sure. She wrote her own escape clause. We just need the goblin to ask her to do something she likes less than her tree.”
“There is nothing,” said Ghost with a fervor that surprised even herself, “Absolutely nothing worse than that… that… wooden putrescence!” She found her blade in her hand and pointed it at Goldilocks as she added “And if you ever call it ‘mine’ again I shall…” here she trailed off, paused for a moment, and then banished the blade.
After an awkward silence Lazarus said “Well, that was exciting wasn’t it?” Then, pushing a piece of paper down the bar he said “Ghost, would you mind going down to the market and picking up a few things before your dance this evening? I’ve got a list right here…”