Taliana was very pleased with how it had all turned out. The staff had followed her specifications perfectly and the Grand Hall looked amazing. Wall sconces and chandelier sparkled brilliantly with candlelight. The air carried a faint scent of pumpkin, apples, and spice, her idle speculations of “wouldn’t it be nice…” turned into a reality. Everything fit the theme of “autumn,” with the festive reds and oranges mimicking the foliage along the driveway — being quite obliging by holding onto their leaves for this event, and being at the peak of their color just in time for guests to arrive.
Running her fingers over the carefully arranged masks that were laid out on a table by the door Taliana took a deep breath. She could do this. She had to remind herself of it constantly, but she knew that she could do this. Moving to the grand stairway Taliana rested for a few moments on the familiar perch of the lower steps. This one moment of familiar action went a long way to help calm her. So much rested on this day.
Every year, as long as she could remember, she had sat on these steps in her fancy dress watching as her parents prepared for the annual Masque. Some of the preparations were different from year to year — her father often saw to those changes making sure the color-scheme, theme, decorations, food and music were just perfect, and unique.
But the other details, those would remain the same. Her mother would carefully cast wards around the entries, drawing together threads of energy to form careful patterns that stretched to cover the entire ceiling.
“Tonight is a night when anything can happen,” she would explain as she rested on the step with Taliana, drawing together the final threads. “It becomes a day when our home is not ours, but simply a root — an anchor for the worlds. This thread,” she would tap a light purple thread that wove through the house, “Is what binds us, it helps us stay rooted in our world. And this one,” a deep maroon thread gets a moment of attention, “this is what opens all bounds, allows for anything to take form.” Every year she explained the threads, each color and thickness holding meaning, the patterns serving different purposes.
As she got older Taliana began to learn the weaving herself, how to draw out the threads and work them together, until she finally was undertaking the task alone, her mother simply supervising. This year she was left to manage them completely alone.
Her father had undertaken a similar training, lending some thought and aid to the design this year, but largely leaving it to Taliana to decide. The party was her responsibility now. One of the final steps in her officially claiming responsibility as the Keeper of the Threads. This, the annual symbol of renewal, a time to ensure that the worlds remained in balance, to allow them moments to mingle and strengthen, was one of the most vital tasks she held.
Her parents had gone away for the party, knowing that they had to give her the time to do this herself. Their notes to her included two simple pieces of information: They were enjoying their vacation, and they knew that she would do just wonderfully tonight. Kind reassurances, but Taliana still felt the nerves coursing through her.
With a deep breath Taliana pushed herself up from the step, soothing her skirts and stepping towards the door. She paused just a moment to weave together the final pattern before pushing open the great doors.
The Masque had begun.