Festival of Masks Fiction 3

Nayefa woke up in a soft bed in a large marble bedroom. She lay still for a few moments, listening.

The door opened and a servant put a tea tray on the dressing table. “Good morning, Lady Jaskinor.” The servant stared at her with open curiosity before leaving.

A servant led Nayefa downstairs. The royal court reclined on pillows by the reflecting pool. A woman with a necklace of stars and moons glided forward and grasped Nayefa’s arm a good bit more tightly than onlookers could see.

The astrologer steered her towards the central pillow as a warmly smiling man in robes of silken samite stood up.

The sultan clasped Nayefa’s hands and said, “dear lady, I have granted a full and free pardon to Aleyh Jaskinor and any of his descendants who were involved in the… unfortunate incident. Come, be my guest for the Festival of Masks as The Game takes place once more.”

The astrologer said, sotto voce, “though of course Lady Jaskinor shall not take part in The Game.”

“Ah no,” the sultan’s smile dimmed but he quickly added, “she shall sit with me and enjoy the music.”

Nayefa smiled gently, folded her hands in her lap, bowed her head, and was silent.

The music was beautiful. The whispers of the courtiers behind her were also interesting. Nayefa refrained from glancing at the astrologer. She did not even let her hands clench.

Nayefa returned to her bedroom where servants helped her dress in a beautiful gown and offered her a choice of masks. She looked from the deer and bear masks, which would muffle her ears, to the tribal masks, which would narrow her vision, to the handheld mask costumes that would impede her movements. She thought of the astrologer and declined all of the masks.

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