The room was full except two seats on the dais that waited. Noise rose as murmurs became conversations became shouts. Each person tried to greet and speak with another. Lirssa tested the locks and wraps of her descent. The fabric wrapped around her torso and twined in pressure locks around her feet. Her hair was flowing free. Normally she would have bound it, but Mr. Dunlap wanted it streaming out from behind her during her routine. For her own part, Lirssa would have to fight for sightlines when the strawberry blond locks would block her vision. Still, it could be done and would be.
Music began. It was not her music. It was the music of an important entrance. The shut-up and sit down music. The gathering obediently, if slowly, obeyed the implied command. Seats were claimed at the tables arranged around the unmarked circle that was her place to perform.
Lirssa stretched a few more times, breathing slowly to get into her performance mind. Her face felt tight, but she dare not stretch it out. Mr. Dunlap had evidently found her own makeup not up to his standards, and now her face was painted and jeweled by the hands of an artist. And it itched. Another deep breath, drawing her thoughts away from her face and to the routine.
The music swelled, strings and brass in chorus to mark the arrival of the guest of honor. Lirssa did not know where Duke Robert Sorith?s duchy was, she had never heard of him before, but considering the price of such an event on a ship like Dionysos, his duchy was doing very well.
From the height of the rafters, it was hard to tell if he was anything of the typical fabled dukes with their aristocratic features always in handsome combination. The lady on his arm was the Duchess, and she was little more than a walking glow with the way the lights struck her golden orange dress and tiara. Lirssa fought the urge to make a snarky comment as she would have if they had been at a tourney. She was a silent performer this evening. It was her physical talents, not her snippy commentary required.
As the Duke and Duchess took their seats, the music altered into a beautiful lyric with the oboe taking prominence. Lirssa drew in a breath and dropped. The material unwrapped, a stream of silken aqua, as she tumbled out of it only to come to a startling stop five feet above the floor as her foot locks held her in a split. The gasps and applause had to be ignored, or she would start grinning like an idiot. Her role was a removed bird in flight, playing between air and water of a forest. She went through her routine, twining the fabric about her, changing her locks as each move required. As the music swelled, she wrapped the fabric in arm locks, took a run across the floor and swung up into flight, circling overhead.
Through the flight, she subtly changed the locks on one arm to let that length of fabric fall free, and turned the flight into a twirl by the other arm. Momentum and the aptitude of her body, she altered her position to slow the twirl and struck a leaping pose. Applause was more like a whisper as she focused on the task. People below became as indistinct to her as pebbles. The routine and the music consumed her. Her body was alive with the strain, the strength, to execute each maneuver in flawless precision.
Into the final minutes of the routine, she bound herself up through the climb, preparing for another freefall, feet in fabric locks. From the top of forty feet of fabric, she waited for the right measure of the music, and started her fall. The swirl of lights and sound, she counted her turns, and prepared for the stop.
A sizzling crack. Pain struck at her side. Screams. Shouts. Two more cracks. A sharp, metallic scent in the air. Music stopped and everything sounded wrong. Lirssa blinked, but all she saw had a halo about it, greying shadows drawing closer. She was upside down. The pressure to her head was increasing. Her foot was still in a fabric lock. She tried to reach up to undo it, but her body screamed in agony. Or maybe she screamed. Her throat felt so dry.
There were faces. Shadowy faces and garbled words. She could not understand them. An image here. An image there. People in anger and fear. Frozen tableaus. Someone spilled a hot drink on her. She felt it spreading across her costume. Mr. Dunlap won?t like that. It was getting harder to see. Oh gods? ?Get me down,? she whispered.