To call the gathering a bore was, perhaps, doing a disservice to the many bores Leenah had endured during her score (or so) of years. The music was dreary, the entertainment simply the handful of acts currently in favour with court and who would, history suggested, be wheeled out over and over until even the dreariest of her companions were just about ready to gouge out their eyes and ears. Mindful of her familial obligations and the homicidal thoughts she was beginning to harbour for one particular performer whose vibrato was setting her teeth on edge, she pushed herself up from the ottoman she had been languishing upon and set about taking a tour of the party. At worst, her father would be well pleased with her and, at best, there was always the possibility of finding a pleasant distraction with whom to while away an hour or two. Diplomacy, as her mother had schooled her some decade or so earlier, was about far more than simply shaking the right hands and could be significantly more engaging, given the right circumstances.
After circling twice, smiling and exchanging artfully crafted pleasantries with all the right people and civil, snubbing nods with those currently out of favour, Leenah found herself taking a spell of refuge at the buffet table. No one really ate at these things, it was currently considered unbecoming (or, as Leenah suspected, a leftover symptom of more hostile times when rival families had not been above poisoning one another), rather it was a chance for hosts to demonstrate their power, influence and grasp on what was currently popular. A farce, like everything else.
“And here I thought you had sworn off attending another of Carinah’s little carousals,” the familiar voice, while a touch teasing, left no doubt that its owner was pleased to have happened across her.
“You know me, ever the dutiful daughter,” Leenah replied, pointedly continuing to survey the spread of delicacies currently considered to be fashionable and, like the rest of the evening, finding it wanting. “Besides, where else was I likely to have you sneak up on me, Iri? You never drop by anymore, you don’t write and how long has it been since you’ve dropped off one of your delightful little packages, hm?” There was a smirk in her voice and yet an uncomfortable silence followed her words.
“You know that our parents found the amount of time we were spending alone together to be...indelicate, Leenah,” the use of her name, even whispered as it was, was a reprimand.
“Oh I don’t know about all that, Iri, I think it was the amount of dhasi you were plying me with that my mother found particularly troubling,” She turned, abruptly and enjoyed watching Iri scramble to put a little more space between them. It had been some months since their occupation with one another had begun to unsettle the other families, apparent and blatantly flaunted favouritism ran the risk of unsettling the fragile balance of life in the sky and at least six weeks since the pair had last crossed paths. More than long enough for the whispers of court to have been distracted by two dozen more interesting scandals.
At the sight of the self-satisfied smirk on Leenah’s face, Iri laughed even as she shook her head, drawing closer as she reached for a floral scented fruit of some description, close enough that Leenah could catch the scent of the other woman’s perfume, different from the one she remembered and yet still infused with something that was just undeniably Iri. Their eyes met, close enough that she could pick out the strange flecks of amber in the younger woman’s eyes as she licked the juice of the fruit clean from her lips. It was an uncharacteristically bold move on Iri’s part and, despite the fact that this was obviously some political maneuver on the part of one of both sets of their parents, Leenah felt some part of her stir. Someone had clearly been giving Iri some extra lessons.
“Do you have -”
“Dhasi?” Iri laughed, tracing a finger lightly down Leenah’s left arm. “Do you really think I’d have approached you without any? Not too much tonight though, okay? We both need to be in a respectable state for tomorrow.”
Leenah wasn’t sure which of their fathers’ voices it was she heard coming from Iri’s lips but also found that she really didn’t care.
“Not too much,” she murmured affably, knowing full well that while their parents may control this playing field, that after a few minutes alone together and a few hits of dhasi that the only person with any sway over Iri (and, more importantly, the supply that made her oh so desirable) would be her. With a smile, she brushed a lock of hair back from Iri’s face, mindless of who might be watching (that was the point after all, was it not), tracing the line of her jaw, neck, shoulder blade until eventually their fingers interlinked.
“Best to give them something to whisper about,” she murmured, enjoying the scandalised look that crossed Iri’s features that she would dare speak so openly about the games in which they were little more than pawns and, with that, the two women left hand in hand, whispers following them all the way and lingering long after they had passed.