In the weeks that followed the city slowly succumbed to the Curse of Ash, as it had come to be called. By the next month the city was desolate. Few ever went out and when they did it was in furtive, shaky movements. The Prancing Dragon, the guild’s side business, had lost more and more clientele until only a few scattered regulars remained. One night the ladies made their way down to get the bar ready only to find that there were two regulars and Hepolita who would be drinking that night.
Kaladrax’s family wanted to lift the spirits of the citizens and add a little brightness to the pervasive gloom. They announced the plan’s to have the Winter’s Crown Ball this year in spite of the curse ravaging the area. The city was running out of time for a cure and this was a sort of last good event before the end. They announced that this year it would be open to all sectors and that the Lower District was personally invited to join in.
The Hand of Destiny helped spread the word around King’s Crest and made sure to invite everyone they could find. Kaladrax headed to the college to conduct some research. Naturally, Hepolita and Milo wanted to snoop on him and followed. They intended to use him to enter the college. Kaladrax kept a relaxed pace and though he knew they were there he never quickened his steps. When they reached the gate, Kaladrax passed through with ease. When Hepolita and MIlo got to the same place, however, they slammed into an invisible barrier and bounced back a few feet with a sore feeling spreading through their limbs. No matter what type of method they tried to gain entry, there was no way to do so without hurting themselves. After a few hours of this they gave up and went back to the Prancing Dragon to drink their sorrows away.
The following day Kaladrax headed to the Royal District to visit his family home. Right after her left, Marx showed up with a letter. It was an invitation to visit Glaurunda, Kaladrax’s mother, at their estate. This was strange as it seemed Kaladrax himself was not invited. She got herself ready and headed there with Marx in the lead.
In the days after the The Meteor Fall over the city, Aleera and Kaladrax had developed a romance. She had confronted him about the blue flowers after noticing that they grew in his mother’s garden, which they saw when they visited. No other place grew these flowers. She had asked. She had told him she knew and he had confessed. Neither was sure of where to go from there. Aleera may have been a bard but she was innocent in the ways of love and Kaladrax was even more so, being a sheltered rich boy from the city. They had made a go of it anyway and it had been pretty nice so far.
She arrived at the estate and Marx led her to the greenhouse where Glaurunda waited. She was sitting down on a beautiful wrought iron chair with a similar table and additional chair to match. On the table was an elaborate array of small finger sandwiches, cookies and cakes. There was also a full tea pot to match. She beckoned for Aleera to join her and they ate and drank tea for a bit before talking.
Glaurunda didn’t start off by saying anything but rather by showing Aleera something. She pulled up the left sleeve of her gown and removed some bandaging to reveal a large patch of ash on her white scales. She had the Curse of Ash. If they didn’t find anything to cure it she would die. Aleera gasped in horror and began to make a fuss. Glaurunda stopped her with a gesture and re-wrapped her arm.
She asked that Aleera not tell Kaladrax. She said she wanted to tell Aleera because she wanted to have her help in keeping Kaladrax safe. If she died she wanted to know that someone out there would have his back. She said she felt comfortable with Aleera and approved of their relationship. Aleera was in shock. She had no response except to stammer that they would find a cure. They were in the middle of this unprecedented conversation when Kaladrax came into the room.
He looked surprised and Glaurunda quickly covered Aleera’s nervous jump by letting him know that she was giving Aleera etiquette lessons for how to act and dance at the Winter’s Crown Ball. She took this opportunity to have them practice dancing together to practice. They blushed furiously as they danced in such close proximity to each other. This was the first time he had held her this close and in such an intimate embrace.
Their dance lessons eventually ended and they went home to the guild hall. They had very little time to prepare for the ball and a lot to do. They needed outfits and they were also going to decorate the Drake Mansion for the party. They went to bed that night confused and nervous about the future.