01 – Cyril’s Soirée, I

Roanoke City. Many of the Concilium’s scholars have debated on when, and how, ‘City’ came to become the official title of their island-nation—as it was, in fact, a country with borders that stretched from coast to coast, and with no land that had not yet been settled and built upon. Some scholars would argue that it is the only nation outside of the World Tower. Even more would argue it to be the only nation to have ever existed. But all would agree that it stands at the forefront of alchemic pursuit and that there is no better place for a learned man to practice his craft—especially within the city’s innermost ring, the Primis District.

The night was young, and so were the folk who roamed the busy streets of the Primis District. Tall buildings of brick and copper on either side loomed overhead. Gas-fuelled signs jutted out from the walls, enticing pedestrians to enter their stores. The men were lavishly adorned in neurotically clean white shirts with high standing collars that tickled their chins; layered with tailor-fitted frock coats, silken scarfs and breeches that clung to their legs. Some held walking sticks crafted with heraldic motifs that were less for walking and more for announcing their presence. Others opted for smoking pipes of various sizes that hung perpetually out from under their many flavours of facial hair. The women were more varied in their dress but equally as ostentatious. Some donned the more traditional nonsensically layered bustle skirt, tightly topped with a corset. Then you had those who took a liking to the dress of men, and so did so themselves, yet none would bat an eye their way as any whimsy was encouraged within the Primis District.

They all walked with a quickened stride; narrowly dodging steam-powered automobiles as they crossed cobblestone roads, eager to get to their destinations—usually being a soirée of sorts. To most, an evening gathering would be of little importance. But to those within the Primis District, it was the most important event of the night. It is where connections are made, how alchemic pursuits are funded, when tales are woven and most importantly, it is a chance to parade the newest fashionable trend.

One such soirée was currently being hosted in the residence of the young alchemist, Cyril Aumont, who had been making rounds throughout the community due to his recent engagement to the eldest daughter of the De León family, one of the nine Archons of the Concilium. Many considered this to be an impressive feat, of course, and were eager to start building relations with the up-and-coming alchemist.

Cyril stood alone in the lobby, re-curling his moustache before a large ornate mirror. It hung from a wall that was, along with the rest of the room, wallpapered with subdued paisley patterns, leaving the sight with a garish vision. Pervading the space around him were potted plants and wrought statues depicting archaic and indigenous cultures from within the World Tower. A soft hum emanated from the brassy chandelier, which illuminated the lobby in a warm yellow glow. He could hear the distant noise of live music and laughter coming from the floor above. The party is in full swing, he thought to himself.

Actually, the party had been in full swing for over an hour, yet Cyril had—up until now—refused to attend as he had concluded that being late to his own party was the most fashionable thing he could do; a trend that would soon catch on and spread like wildfire over the next few nights. With a final curl of his moustache and a quick tuff of his collar, he spun on his heels, quickly entered the elevator, and stood patiently as the golden lattice gate fell before him and the elevator stuttered and rose upwards.

“Well, you took your time.”

As Cyril stepped out of the elevator and into the busy parlour room, he was immediately greeted—or confronted, he wasn’t sure—by a woman in a pristine white lace dress that draped loosely over her shoulders and fell weightlessly to her feet. Her neck was accentuated with the large ringlets of her golden hair, crowned by a thin braid. It was his soon-to-be-wife, Lenore De León.

“And you look beautiful—as always,” Cyril replied. “Is that l’absolu I smell?”

“Soap, actually. You know I dislike heavy scents—but enough of that. You’re late, and the people are waiting.”

“Ah, exactly! Waiting makes them eager.” Cyril smiled and puffed out his chest a little with pride.

“They were eager when they arrived,” Lenore turned her head, scanning the parlour room with her turquoise eyes, watching as people of all manners of eccentric dress huddled and conversed in groups of threes and fours, “Now, they’re just ravenous.” She let out a soft sigh before continuing. “We’ll have to forgo the usual pleasantries. I fear that if even one of these leeches latches onto you, you’ll be trapped in useless prattle for the rest of the night and we’ll never meet our mark.”

“I see…” Cyril’s smile dropped, and his chest deflated. “And who is our mark then?”

Lenore gestured her head to the back of the room and said, “Do you see that man over there?”

Cyril’s eyes followed her point and fell upon a stout man, shorter than those around him who he eagerly conversed with and barely contained within his clothes. He wore all black, contrasted by his red face, tormented by a permanent red blush.

“The one who appears to be one bonbon away from a double-width grave?” Cyril said with slight disgust, watching the man reach for a puff-pastry mid-conversation from a server who-so-happened to wander near.

“Don’t be mean,” Lenore reprimanded him with a quick slap across the arm. “That is Nikoli Kuznetsov, department head of Alchemic and Theoretical Sciences for Occasum College. And, if the whispers in the halls are to be believed, he is currently in search of an apprentice.”

“You don’t say!” Cyril’s chest once again puffed up, “This is fantastic news. We must speak to him at once!”

“Of course, my love. Come, give me your arm and let us regale him with your excellency.”

Cyril, with a tender smile, held his arm out and Lenore linked hers with a kiss on his cheek. Together they walked with pride in their steps, through the parlour room while slipping between the crowds; once noticed, space was immediately given to the two and all who were near greeted Lenore with a respectful Mademoiselle or a stiff M’lady, but none dared to carry the conversation any further than that for fear of seeming impudent. She was, after all, a De León; and it was due to this fact that they were able to stride from one end of the parlour to the other, directly to Nikoli, uninterrupted.

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