When the first knock came, Emrys was sitting on his bed, turning the folded square of cloth over in his hands. What did it mean, really? He couldn't just ask her, of course. Shahin had had nothing more definite to go on than he did; she was out for a bit, anyway, talking to some of her other friends.
The words that accompanied the token had been no less cryptic. Agatha was pretty much always on top of things; he'd give her credit for knowing if something was going to be important. Regardless of its meaning, though, how could this simple bit of linen actually help him? Help them, in fact.
Knock, knock, knock!
Oh, the door. Right. Emrys tucked the favor into his pocket and rose to open it, startling Dawfydd, who had clearly been about to knock again. The scrawny boy lowered his hand and executed an overly-dramatic bow.
"Our Mentor sent me with a missive for you," he intoned.
"A missive?" Emrys blinked, and then laughed. "Right, fork it over. What's with the drama?"
Dawfyyd squirmed. "He was very solemn about the whole thing," he admitted, passing two crisp, creamy envelopes over.
"Two?" Emrys asked, before fanning them in his fingers and seeing Shahin's name written on the second in the same spidery calligraphy. "Right. So what's it say?"
"I don't know. They're sealed," he added defensively.
"You didn't get one? Okay, I'll see you later then I guess."
"No." He was sounding more and more defensive. "Just you and her, and Agatha, Mea, Ambrus…" No wonder Dawfyyd was still considered the low man on the totem pole in their cy'ree; he didn't even recognize when he was being dismissed.
"I'm sure he has his reasons."
"I guess. Merry Christmas." Finally, with another overdone bow, he left.
Emrys closed the door, leaning against it and carefully unsealing the envelope bearing his name. Inside was a single sheet of folded parchment, covered in the same silvery scrawl.
You are Cordially Invited to a Celebration of the Winter Holidays, to be held at my place of residence on the Twenty-Fourth of December, Nineteen Ninety-Nine, at Seven P.M.
Professor Feu Drake
P.S. This is a Private Gathering; Hospitality is extended Only to those Specifically Named as Invitees
Well, that was interesting. He glanced at the other envelope, bearing Shahin's name; would it contain the same message? It stood to reason that it would. So, they were invited to a party, at his Mentor's house. At least he knew where Drake's private residence was in the village; he'd been there before, once, although not for such personal business. No directions had been given, so clearly it was expected that everyone invited would either be familiar with the location already, or be capable of finding out from someone else. The list Dawfyyd had mentioned was strange enough; were all of those people receiving the same letter? And who else, that he hadn't mentioned or known about?
He was still contemplating the envelopes as Shahin stepped in, her arms full of packages and an unaccustomedly large smile on her face. He couldn't help his own smile upon seeing her, and he helped take the boxes and maneuver them all safely to the ground. "Welcome back."
"Thank you." She set a small kiss on his lips and turned her attention to the packages. "A couple of these are for you."
"And I have something for you," he replied, taking up the letter and handing it over.
"It's almost like Christmas," she joked, passing him the small box wrapped in the comics section. "What's this?"
"An invitation, unless I miss my guess. I got one too."
"Ah?" She studied it for a moment before opening it with a tiny black knife that seemed new. "What are we being invited to… ah. By the maternal name, really?"
"You too? I haven't been called sh'Rachel in over a year. The whole thing is oddly formal."
"'Oddly formal' just about describes your Mentor. Do you have any idea what this is about?"
"Ostensibly, it's a Christmas party, but it wouldn't be Drake if there was only one reason or meaning to it."
She nodded, tucking the invitation back in its envelope. "Well, it would be in poor form to turn it down, wouldn't it?"
"I wouldn't dream of it. If nothing else, there's almost sure to be a good spread. The only question left, really, is - what on earth do we wear?"
Copyright © 2009-2011 Lyn Thorne-Alder with Elasmo. All rights reserved.
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