As she scampered down the hall, a half-dressed girl ran into her. Since Bingham wore nothing to indicate her rank as nobility, the girl emitted a lengthy giggle –her breath smelling of brandy and mead- and said something unintelligible in a familiar, yet unfamiliar language. When Bingham didn’t respond the girl rolled eyes that seemed to almost snap out of her head. Scoffing, the girl blew past her.
Bingham proceeded at a wary pace through the narrow entryway towards the firepit. The reception area was only used in summer, and could easily be mistaken for an amphitheater. The blaze burned in the center of a circular clay pit, when illuminated it became a light tan on nights like these. Around the pit four pillars held the dome roof that protected the flame from the tears of heaven. From there easy, gradual steps rose out from the ground level. All guests saw each other, all guards watched all guests. A comforting structure at the average summit.
But it was on these steps that Devan now sat leaning, eyes pink with wine, staring up at a daughter of the family Lasheale. To his right and left more of the daughters sat, giggling to each other as the girl in the hall had giggled at Bingham. One of them found it particularly entertaining to twirl his tangled golden locks in her fingers. The girl above Devan was dressed in what could only be assumed a costume, and was feeding him from something hidden from view.
Jaeron stood in a corner -he had not seen her yet- and smiled at a scantily-clad brunette as she passed by. Bruce helped another in the opposite corner off the ground. When she collapsed again he reluctantly scooped her off the ground. Three female guardians stood in the corner, shrouded in the fabric of their cloaks. They looked unbearably exhausted, both in actuality and in response to the scene in front of them. Bingham realized only now that she had mindlessly wandered in front of the fire, across from Devan and the girl. Wondering why the hairs on the back of her neck began to rise, she remembered; Lipus’ husband was the only brother to the family Lasheale. Here, these women danced freely only days after her rescue from their brother's palace.
Devan smiled at a girl dancing in front of him. Before Bingham could run he saw her. The revelry around him deteriorated as his face fell. Instead of shame Bingham saw relief wash over him. He leapt across to meet her, shoving the girl out of his way with a bit too much force. Before Bingham could open her mouth to speak he wrapped his arms around her desperately, crushing her under his shoulders.
“You’re alive.” He whispered into her ear. When he pulled back she could see moisture had brushed his eyes, “I never thought I’d see you again. I have much to thank our protectors for.”
He turned towards his guests, most of whom could barely stand let alone find his voice in the maze that was now their cognition.
“The night is over, ladies. See you in the morning.”