Flowers and Firelight: Mutton Island Meetings

Eglantine is dancing, cheeks pink with delight, laughing merrily. They are bedecked with flowers - real flowers! - of many colours, garland upon garland about their neck, their head, their waist, their arms and legs…

They’ve been to Mutton Island before, but never during a festival. All hints of sinister secrets can be forgotten for a time, lost beneath the joys of good food and drink, music and laughter, and real, honest flowers and trees. The glint of moonish light far above could be a true starry sky, when the breeze is blowing and the scent of salt is in the air. This could almost be a surface night, and they could almost forget that they are unable to see such nights again.

So what if the island is strange? So what if everything has changed? Something is familiar again, and it’s so precious they could weep.

And in this riotous celebration, they needn’t feel alone.

Melancholy thoughts fleeing, Eglantine laughs louder, and joins in with a band of zailors as they sing. Their voice rises clear and happy in the smoke-scented air, ringing out joyfully.

Lord Gazter walks through the streets watching the peculiar and entertaining locals and their customs. His lordship appeared entertained and exceptionally merry. The food was exquisite, people entertaining company, and the sights were one to behold. Then Lord Gazter saw something that made his smile wider than it already was. &quotMy dear Eglantine.&quot
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They don’t hear him at first, and a tattooed zailor has to nudge them and point out the approach. Obligingly, Eglantine breaks off their part in the song, and turns, smiling sweetly. “Well, look at you. And here I was thinking I might spend all night without any familiar faces.” Eglantine laughs, and darts forward, kissing Gazter once on each cheek.

“How are you liking Mutton Island? You’ve not been here before, have you?”

&quotNo, I have not been to Mutton Island before, and I have never seen anything like it before.&quot Lord Gazter hears some music and offers his hand. &quotA dance my dear?&quot
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“Sweet boy, you think you can keep up with me? Here and now?” The challenge is delivered with a laugh, and Eglantine’s storm-dark eyes shine with mischief.

Lord Gazter puts his hands in theirs and begins the dance. Twirling and stepping and twisting and turning they move about to the sounds of the musicians. With speed and grace they moved locked in each others embrace and then back and in each others embrace once again.

By the time the two of them are finished dancing Lord Gazter’s face had become a shade of bright red, although from the wine or the dancing the answer was probably both. &quotAh my dear Eglantine, you are charming, lovely, and an now,&quot he chuckles, &quotexcellent dancer. Is there any other who could even be close to as wonderful as you?&quot
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“Not you, at least, sweet boy.” They give him a teasing grin, and slip from his hands to dance alone, leaping and twirling to a new and more energetic tune. Perhaps they are showing off. Perhaps they are simply revelling in movement swift and unhindered.

Either way, they are laughing breathlessly as they move, always just out of reach.

Lord Gazter watches Eglantine move like wind itself. He smiles contentedly. “My legs may not be as firm, but arm should still be sturdy enough. Care for a walk my love?”

Gradually, Eglantine slows, panting. “Oh, I’ll walk, right enough. I could do with that.” They beckon for him to come along, but they do not take his arm, keeping near an arm’s length of distance from him as they set off into the cooler air further from the fires. As their pulse slows, the wildly exultant mood drains away, and their smile diminishes.

Lord Gazter follows Eglantine. “It does feel so nice to get away from London for a while. No worries over all the plotting and scheming that goes on. Just food, entertainment, and good company with not a care in the world.”

“Worries walk on water,” Eglantine replies, obscurely. They find a place in the dim light to stop and sit down. “Who, and what, do you really think I am, Barnabas?” they ask at last. “Spare me the flattery, I want to hear what you actually see.”

&quotAh my dear Eglantine. I remember how you’ve tried to care for me when I needed it. It reminds me of…&quot Lord Gazter stops for a moment. His face has a thoughtful look to it. Lord Gazter tries hard to forget the memory, but yet he wants to remember it. He wants to remember those memories that he held dear to him that had been tucked away for so long.

His face turns to that of a man longing for the past. &quotThe way you acted, when Eli tried to blame for that mess. It… it… it reminded me of dear mother. The way she would look after and care for me no matter what.&quot Lord Gazter pauses and looks Eglantine in the eyes with worry in his voice. &quotI’m… I’m sorry if that offended you.&quot In Lord Gazter’s eyes is something that none have seen in those eyes a for long time.
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Eglantine gives Gazter an almost pitying look. “Your mother?” They shake their head in disbelief. “That’s a… moderately unnerving comparison to make.” There’s a tiny, mostly-stifled snort of laughter. “I’m sorry, I’m sure she was wonderful, but comparing your lovers to her isn’t going to advance your reputation for charm.”

Lord Gazter looks sheepishly at Eglantine for a moment. &quotI’m sorry my dear Eglantine. I don’t know what came over me. It must of been the wine.&quot Lord Gazter chuckles and tries to regain his composure.
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“In any case, I didn’t ask you who I reminded you of.” They stare out toward the oily black waves, without seeing anything in particular. “I asked you who and what you think I am.” This time, their tone is more serious, adding an even greater weight to the question.

“A friend of the Brass Embassy, a persuasive, charming, and compassionate individual, and a member of Flowerdene.” Lord Gazter pauses. “Is there anything I left out of that?”

“Perhaps.” Eglantine regards Gazter, their expression now unreadable. “But we all have our secrets, don’t we?” They gaze at him from under lowered lashes. “Would you like to know me better, sweet boy?” Eglantine whispers. “Would you give your secrets to get mine?”

“What secrets do you want from me my dear Eglantine?”

“Any you choose to give.” At last, Eglantine shifts closer to murmur in Gazter’s ear, and their teeth catch his earlobe lightly for a moment as they lean against him. “Lay them out like treasures, and you will be rewarded in all manner of ways, sweet Barnabas.”

Lord Gazter ponders for a several moments. &quotI find your dangerous qualities fiendishly alluring. Hmm. I know some gentlemen from Watchmaker’s Hill.&quot
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