posted Jun.25.17 at 03:00 pm

"Vlad!!" Yoshi exclaimed, as they stepped into the glow of the room, which turned out to be a small coatroom that appeared to open onto something else at one end.

"Mm?" Vlad answered, removing his scarf. Liya followed suit, pulling off her earmuffs and the scarf she'd borrowed from Yoshi. Yoshi, meanwhile, was staring at Vlad with a mixture of surprise and awe.

"You're a du Cuppra??" he asked.

"Yeah," Vlad replied, and put a finger to his lips, grinning. "But hush up about it, okay? We try to keep that on the down-low."

"Oh, yes!" Yoshi agreed.

Liya set the scarf and earmuffs on the little table and cast a look at the masks hanging from the coathooks. They were mostly featureless, except for stitched-on mouths and large eye holes, but they still brought to mind--what? A smudge of color in a haze of bright lights, the shape of jagged jaws full of noise over the silhouette of a more human face...she frowned.

The murmuring from the next room had stopped, and now a face appeared around the corner. It was a spirit with a narrow jaw and a crooked smile, and longish dark hair that flopped over to one side.

"Ah!" they said. "It's Vlad. Hello, Vlad."

"Hey, Milou," Vlad greeted them, as Yoshi continued to stare at him with a look of wonder.

"Ooh!" Milou exclaimed, seeing Liya. "And Liliya, from the night by the fountain--"

Liya hadn't recognized this spirit without the cowl, and in a different light, but now shrank with embarrassment. "Oh. Hi."

"--And--" Milou studied Yoshi. "Were we not introduced?"

"Y-Yoshi," he said, and added, "aren't you one of the Palace blacksmiths?"

"Yes!" Milou agreed, crossing their arms and leaning against the wall easily. "Are you here to 'join up?'"

"Absolutely not, Milou," Vlad said sharply, heading for the entrance to the next room, past Milou. "They're kids. Have we talked about the Assembly hearing yet?"

"We were just about to."

Yoshi and Liya exchanged looks again--his taken off guard, hers somewhat skeptical.