Open Main Event: The Party

Dearest family and guests,

I will be holding an impromptu costume party in the upstairs parlour, beginning at eight o' clock. I have dismissed all staff for this day, out of the goodness of my heart. Wine will be served in bowls like the Greeks. It will surely be a thing to remember.

Lady Violetta Muzuran
All she had asked was for Mrs. Benbow to ask the cook to send wine and food upstairs. After the footman had brought the trays, she patted one sportingly on the shoulder and offered her largest smile. It was very difficult to do, but there was something in her heart that felt in want of outreach; to, dare she say it? Give to others?

She hoped Dr. Dietrich would be there, only so that she could make it known that she was still grateful for his keeping her alive. Her arm was still weak, but she no longer wore the sling. She wore the red gown that she and Julienne had dug up from the strange basement cavern. It had contained chests and wardrobes full of fancy dress and baubles. Many seemed quite cheap and tawdry, while others surely were heirlooms of the family. But to hell with it, if Kelvin wanted it he should have done further excavation of the damn property. He was far too gone to even remember his own name half the time. Surely nothing would be missed, or amiss when he and Colette returned home.

The gown was tight to fit, but it allowed her to create a fuller decolletage, which was all for the better. She'd been stuck mourning the fakery of a ghost husband for so long, it was high time she was courted again. And if not, she would court someone herself. Fie to the lady conventions. Surely women past the 'marrigeable' age were still creatures of nature?

Violetta sat on the long parlour sofa, sipping the wine from the bowl, hoping the strange old hat she had found covered in a terribly taxidermied vulture would stay on her head, and trying to look dignified while doing so. She had the gramophone playing...something? It had a nasty scratch down the middle so it would sometimes jump about and make a deafening tone every now and again. But at least she'd planned it all on her own...
When the invitation arrived on his door, the doctor read it like a threat. His sense of propriety, and sense of obligation for his hosts held precedent, however. It would seem terribly rude of him to depart before such an event, and so he left his belongings packed up in his quarters, and inquired around town for a costume. As much as he would prefer discretion, Oliver considered rules as rules. Costumed, he would be.

Fortunately, he found a secondhand Naval officer’s uniform in a nearby boutique. The shopkeeper had to take in the sleeves and slim the fit, but when he put it on Oliver couldn’t help but feel a little giddy. What a life that could have been… sailing across the world, seeing the different corners of the empire for which the sun never sets.

The doctor slipped into the parlour quietly, and tipped his cap at Violetta. “Lady Violetta, you look lovely this evening.” She looked positively gaudy, though his own dusty, stuffy uniform probably did nothing to cut the mustiness of the affair. At least she had dismissed the servants for the evening, so Oliver didn’t mind turning to the wine- getting a little toasted in front of Felix would just be embarrassing.
She peered over her bowl at the Doctor most unbecomingly. "This looks to be your own disguise, Doctor." Standing up, placing the bowl haphazardly on the end table near the sofa and smoothing down her skirts, which puffed up some dust in the process. "Not one from the little treasure trove I found with the Chastain girl..." She scrutinized his attire rather dubiously. Was he a sailor in his off time? Or was this some vestment of his youth in the navy? She only half-cared, and was soon bored enough to look about elsewhere before even getting an answer.
Philly was quite pleased with the effect which she had created. With no trepidation at all (lies – she felt quite daring in this costume) she entered the upstairs parlor with a light step and a glow of satisfaction (and a tiny bit of mischief) on her round cheeks. It had taken the entire day – her stitchery left much to be desired (normally she had nothing but contempt for the ‘womanly’ art of needlecraft and so she had much neglected any instruction and practice of it). But she had ultimately triumphed over thread and fabric and the linen bedsheet was now reincarnated as a Greek peplum. Oh yes, it was daring!

Not as daring as anything one might see on the stage, though. No, no – titillation was not her goal. When she’d read her sister’s note, and she had given a cursory thought to a costume for this small fete, she had at first concluded that such foolishness was for those of a vapid nature and she would attend dressed in her normal sober attire. But then an idea struck her, and like Athena popping out of her father’s head complete, she knew what she would wear. There needed only to be the constructing of it, which, seemingly, would be a simple matter. She had been surprised, and frustrated, with how often the thread had knotted and how difficult the large swath of linen was being, but finally, she had sewn one long seam, turning the sheet into a tube of sorts.

She had fixed her hair up in what might have been some semblance of the Greek style, the natural curl allowing her to pin (many pins for her hair was heavy) it up, and then pull down a strand or two about her curved face. Next, she stepped into the tube, patented safety pins (standing in place of fibulae) at the ready. Of course, no need to point out that she would have never considered stepping into that tube of fabric deshabille, or even in her undergarments. No, Philly wasn’t that insane! She was dressed in a simple linen frock suitable for a day outdoors, designed for comfort on hot days, with cap sleeves, which left the arms almost totally bare. The tube came up, and she gathered it front and back and pinned it in place, above each shoulder. She looked like she was wearing a very high quality flour sack. If she hadn’t the constraints of the dress below, it would have been quite comfortable.

The remedy to this was a belt – one of her head scarves twisted into a band doing duty – which she tied under her bosom. To create the Greek matronly look, she pulled the fabric up about her hips some few inches, and deployed yet another belt (this one requiring two scarves tied together to allow for her hips) with the extra material allowed to flow over. Now came the daring part – she put nothing on her feet, and she had descended to the parlor with her bare, pink toes peeping out from the hem of her peplum with every step. She entered and moved to where her sister and Doctor Dietrich were apparently conversing. ”Good evening,” she said to both, with a nod, feeling the cold already seeping into her naked extremities.
In contrast to the enamouring entrance of Lady Philomena, Professor Maksimov bumped into the edge of the door frame due to the poor vision afforded him by his ancient Scaramuccia mask. He righted himself in due time though, and stepped into the rather sparse beginning of the party.

"Lady, ladies. My ladies. And Doctor. How lovely everyone looks and to see tonight." He made a little bow, then pulled the mask up to view things properly. To his relief, he and Himal had not indeed been the only ones to pick up on the costume aspect. For a moment he was horrified by the bird on Lady Violetta's head, but hastened to the wine table to lessen the effect. He didn't drink, but tonight he thought perhaps he should, if only to stay his nerves until the end. The bowls were very odd, and he looked down at them nonplussed.
“No, I picked this up from a tailor in town.” The doctor looked down at the uniform, starting to pick out particular details. “This particular cut is from… I’d say the late-seventies. I think it was ornamental only, there is very little wear, and I believe the man’s rank was lieutenant? Second lieutenant?” He hadn’t looked up to see that Violetta had stopped listening or caring some time ago. It was only when Philomena joined, did he look up.

“Good to see you.” Dr. Dietrich nodded. “Your costume looks particularly Athenian.” He observed, though he meant it entirely as a compliment. After enough talks with Henry over the years, some of the man’s enthusiasm for ancient cultures managed to rub off on him. “Did you also find that in the, erm…” He glanced at Violetta. “Treasure trove?” He described using her words.

Oliver tipped his hat to Ezra, and kept watch on him out of the corner of his eye. He seemed a bit out of sorts.
At least the assortment of costumes chosen by the other guests provided some mild amusement . It appeared as though Lady Violetta was using her own event to attract attention to herself – it was difficult to believe she had ever managed to do so in the first place, but Himal did not have more than the slightest interest or full knowledge of Lady Violetta’s story. - For a moment he considered exactly what effect the younger Muzuran sister was going for, but Ezra’s behavior drew his attention away from the women. “Perhaps the mask is unnecessary?” he suggested, giving Dietrich a curt nod before turning back to Maksimov. “Has the doctor served in the navy?”
He ladled wine into the kylix, careful not to spill (too much) and turned round again when he heard Himal's voice behind him, holding the cup in both hands as if he were ready to take it to an offering shrine.

"Yes. Perhaps." Thought he had no free hands to remove it now and was too focused on not dropping anything. "I do not know his history. Doctor," He raised his voice a little to address Dietrich, "Is this uniform of your youth?"
"Phil!" Violetta was startled by the outfit, one which looked to be mainly of her sister's own creation. "You look like a Grecian tart." Admonishing sourly, as she clutched a hand to her own amply compressed and elevated bosom, "But no matter, it is hardly a night for propriety." She watched the strange professors enter like twin flightless birds with a grimace, not deigning to acknowledge them with a greeting at all.
She was sure it had begun its existence intended for a costume party in the days when Madswitte Castle had done more entertaining, but Claudia had been unable to resist the high-waisted, deep blue "Juliet" gown with the gold thread - even in spite of the fact that it was rather faded, slightly moth-eaten, and a few of the threads had come loose with time. This was the state of most of the garments that had been found, though, so Claudia was not overly concerned.

What did trouble her, at least at first, was René's absolute refusal to play Romeo to her Juliet. Or even just finally take his head out of his arse and start paying attention to her! These woes were alleviated somewhat by Harriet Kempa's agreeing to do so, it was so nice to have a friend here, so she hoped no one would truly mind that she had invited Harriet to attend the party.

The night before, one of the maids had put her hair up in a wet braid; so she could wear her hair lose in soft waves over her shoulders. Claudia was more than a little excited, even if if was a fairly modest affair so far as parties went. Philomena Muzuran's costume drew her attention, and she gave the other young woman a sympathetic smile as Lady Violetta scolded her, before looking around. Was René even present?!
Ophelia hadn’t any costume and for someone so quiet, the idea of a party did not quite suit her but to maintain some form of sociability, she managed to find herself a costume and went into the parlour around eight o’clock.

Usually dressed in simple grey dresses, Ophelia was instead in a dark peacock green frock coat, a vest, and matching trousers, and her bright red locks were braided back from her face. She felt quite comfortable in the masculine attire and for a moment, thought she had gone beyond reason until she had eyed what the others were dressed in or as. Moorland was quite a madhouse.
Dr. Dietrich grimaced visibly at Violetta’s observation of Philomena’s costume. The woman could be downright rude, but he was in no hurry to jump into the middle of a sibling quarrel. Matters of family were always strange to the outside observer, lord knew he wouldn’t want someone stumbling in on a row with Felix.

In any case, the oxford boys were looking for his attention. “Oh, no.” Oliver shifted in the costume uncomfortably, feeling a bit now like he hadn’t properly earned it. “I’m just an enthusiast, it was for consignment down in the village. He glanced at Himal. “The closest I’ve come to the Navy myself is the rowing team.”

Oliver glanced around, looking for something to make small talk about. He always felt particularly bad at this sort of thing, if he wasn’t in the company of other doctors. “They certainly managed to bring some liveliness to the old place.” He remarked. As if on queue, the old gramophone skipped and scratched before creaking out music once again.
Philomena bestowed one of her nicest smiles on the good doctor – a rarity, and one reserved for only ‘special’ people on her relatively short list of those she admired and had affection for. It was a sad smile too, though, having been in receipt of what she labelled a disastrous communication. Was he truly going to desert her? She could hardly think on it without feeling a certain wilting inside of her breast. Her good friend and mentor – gone – how could she endure when there was no-one else about who would both listen and instruct, in the way that Oliver Dietrich had?

She bowed her head in acknowledgment of what she took exactly in the way it was intended. ”Thank you, Doctor.” Her eyes dropped as her fingers fidgeted with the fold of material at her hips. ”I – I didn’t find it anywhere - except for in the linen closet, I guess you could say.” She smiled, with a hint of smugness. ”It is the product of my own effort. I’m afraid I’m fairly hopeless as a tailor, but I do think it came out well.”

Apparently, she was now close enough for Violetta to have caught sight of her costume, and at her sister’s exclamation – which was rude but not wholly unexpected – Philly only grimaced, and said acerbically, ”Your hat is amazing, Vi. It really suits you.”

Others were trickling in, the two young professors, Miss Gillingham and Miss Oddley. Philly, having no wish to suffer the company of her sister, moved away. She intended to later engage Dr. Dietrich in further conversation about an idea which she had been pondering concerning the mummy. But that could wait. For now, she approached Miss Gillingham – Claudia – who was closest, with a less sincere smile plastered on her heart shaped face.

”What a lovely frock, Miss Gillingham!” she exclaimed. Philly was definitely the more gracious of the two older Muzuran sisters, even if her courtesy was often forced. ”The color suits you so well. And your hair – you look like one of Raphael’s angels.” Her gaze swiveled to take in Miss Oddley, and Philly struggled for words. This one was going to be harder.

”And Miss Oddley – you are looking quite…quite…the gentleman.” She let out a slightly nervous laugh.
The whole affair was rather nostalgic for him. Hearkening back to his days in the choir troupe. They were almost, very nearly, a theatre group. Very almost had full seats of audiences too. But his favourite nights had been when they had enough money to rent from the real theatres their wonderfully silly costumes. It was quite unusual to see Lady Violetta doing childish things with Lady Julienne, but it made him feel endeared to the both of them immensely. Perhaps it wasn't so dry and quiet and boring here as he'd become used to after all.

His outfit was not an artful combination - A flowing banyan that he'd sworn was a women's robe but had been assured that it was the highest of fashion for the lounging man in the Enlightenment. He wore but his own dinner clothes underneath, and nothing more in adornment, for he was woeful at coming up with his own idea despite enjoying the concept so. Anatole had wandered the empty halls alone for a while, content to listen to silence, and perhaps snoop about in some of the unused rooms, peering at the odd, intimidating portraits of the Madswitte forebears along the way.

As he reached the parlour, he could hear a terrible sound - was that really a phonograph? The cylinder was damaged. Who organized this?

Ah, Violetta. He tried to keep good thoughts surrounding her. He rushed in and found the device in question, and took from his pocket a cylinder of his own, one that played Bach and Vivaldi by turns.

"Oh, I hope nobody minds, I think this one is rather broken, yes?" He glanced around at everyone, and grinned when he took in all the wonderful and creative get-ups. "How lovely everyone looks tonight!"

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