The Capitol buzzed and hummed with rumors as swiftly as a bee to a budding rose, but the arrival of the Tuchean Princess had been days of celebration with much more to come. Debauchery and hedonism served on a variety of plates from wood, ceramic, or metal to silk and leather. And Xandre’s eyes were on the golden plates, silver spoons, and begemmed cups that a certain, unimportant patrician had before his chubby fingers. The mutton and a bird leg of some sort, served on that glimmering plate were turning the rich man into a greasy vision of disgust that made Xandre cringe from the shadows. With a whistle and a swivel of long, muscular legs, Xandre simply took himself down the large hall, his bronze-toed boots leaving a sing-song echo behind him.
Unbeknownst to Xandre was that he had caught her eye, the princess that wore so many colors even though her skin was porcelain. Sforza had watched the tall, strapping man blend into a darkened corner of the hall and watched him stumble out with the same sort of grace. Accident or not, he seemed to dance when the light of the sky took to his sandalwood face with lapis eyes, only covered when he blinked those impossibly long lashes. She wanted to chase him down the chamber hall, but this ball was for her, and on the throne, saddled next to her mother, she was stuck. The likelihood of her seeing him again was slim, but he was the first thing that had truly excited her during their Nation’s tour.
Xandre finally managed to reach the cobblestones of the road and with one last peek over his shoulder; he gave his cloak a shake. “I did damn well, all considerin’.” he thought. A couple of solid sens, a fork of silver, a spoon of gold, and an earring made of silver with a tiny garnet charm. The last was a bit of luck on his end. It was on the ground when he arrived. While most people watch the road ahead or the people within the crowd, Xandre always inspected the ground first. It was a trick he learned while he was just another orphan. Examine ground, then the crowd. And then you can admire your surroundings.
Pickpocketing was the natural profession for a harbor urchin, but also something he had picked up so that the children he called siblings could eat more than bread and drink more than water. That’s not to say that Xandre did not have vices of his own but such was the way of the Capitol. Whether it was gambling, or brandy, or the brothels, there was no excuse for a man to be bored, here.
Sforza sat on her perch for more candle marks than she could count, having numerous sets of lips greasing the back of her hand and the usual empty praise from strangers. Her short, lissome frame was aching in pain while pins and needles stabbed her at the same time. Her father, the King, disallowed her from cutting her mahogany locks since the day she was born. Thus it swayed below her narrow waist. Today, she was told to wear it down, which meant always avoiding sitting on it and pulling her roots cleanly out. When it was time for her to finally retire to her cubiculum, she was more than ready to get out of her multi-jeweled gown, her constraining, tightly tied boots, the crown that bore as many stones as her chiton and dug cruelly into her scalp, and finally, her breast band and subligar. When she was able to slip into her indigo, muslin tunic, she all but fell face first, her jewelry dinging its weary song, onto the canopy bed. Without even bothering with a lift of the blanket or a pillow under her heart-shaped face, Sforza was eeping out little snores, dreaming of the man in the corner with loosely cropped copper hair and blue eyes that stood out so starkly in his dark face.
Xandre sank into a squat when he found a new shadow in the courtyard to conceal himself. The prime time to garner the goodies was as the drunken fools left the ball, generally not with the person with whom they came, such was the way of the Capitol. When the last of the Senators, Patricians, and chosen first class plebians finally made their way out of the villa and the attached courtyard, Xandre made his way inside. The procedure was always the same at these sort of functions, the double doors were not locked until every room got checked, and discarded items placed so they could be returned when the patrons sobered up. Keeping close to the walls where statues stood like quiet attendees and paintings the size of his hovel hung, Xandre checked the ground, then behind, and finally ahead of him. He called this the slinking game when he was merely an urchin learning to live in the streets, and he and his friends would see who got caught first. It was never him.