Even though it was against her purpose for the night, Bell would gladly admit to fellow servants that she had spent all of her time trying to get away from people. Far from being the sort to spend her time clustered in a knot of people, regardless of wealth and ambition, she much preferred the concept of spending a night with Harp and Lute, sipping from a glass of water and carefully striking her bells as and when prompted until she knew the patterns.
She had been approached by far too many amorous noble sons for her liking already, but the cover of Truth had been more than adequate to keep her from the danger of harmful intention. Slipping away had proven exceedingly difficult, but through persistence and determination Bell had managed to convince everybody around her that she needed a drink of water.
Unfortunately, almost as soon as she had reached the table on which all of the fancy glasses of water for servants and alcohol for the nobility was displayed, Bell noted Truth bearing down on her. Despite being older than him, his height and cold glare made him quite intimidating.
Kindly remind me of your name, he told her quietly as he reached the table beside her. Truth was so close that Bell could smell the lack of wine, though it had been carefully masked by a dabble of perfume on his person. As always, Truth was completely aware of everything that was going on around him.
I'm Bell, sir, she replied, matching his choice of volume. You spoke with me, Lute and Harp about this trip, but I don't think you knew any of our names for it.
So you are the one that I was looking for then, came the smooth reply. I have made note of the disappearance of your friend Lute on some errand that my sister placed him on. I'd like to take advantage of this and ask you a few questions about him. Obviously, you don't have a choice in the matter. Follow me.
There was no hint of a subject matter beyond Lute himself, and no pause for thought, since Truth made a point of never being shown to need thinking time. He strode confidently across the room, well aware that a well drawn face and a lack of smile would clear anybody who wished to communicate with him smoothly out of the way. Bell, stumbling over her broken right shoe and eyes downcast in the hope that nobody would even see her, followed in his wake.
He led her, much more quickly than she was accustomed to, out of the hall where the party was being held. She was taken through a service door, which he was even nice enough to hold open for her, into one of the smaller morning rooms that were usually reserved for ridiculously unimportant or downright unwanted guests. Today, it was vacant but for Wax, who was busily trying to place and light enough candles to maintain at least the current flickering light in the windowless room. With one wave of his hand, Truth directed Bell into one of the plain seats and she followed instantly. In the same motion, Wax was banished from the room. Truth did not hold the door open for him.
It was only after all of this that Bell realised that she was now alone, in a dark and unlikely to be visited room, with the son of a nobleman. In a strange reflex that she had picked up from her mother, she pulled the fabric over her skirts over her hands so as to hide them. It was a nervous reaction, and not one that was likely to make a difference, but it was also a difficult one to explain.
"What is your full name, Bell?" Truth asked, every second of his time in tutoring shown by his enunciation and posture.
Bell stammered quietly for a moment. It had actually been quite a long time since she had used it. "My name is Bell, born of Arlore, of the Lord Avatar."
Patience followed, but Truth seemed quite willing to think things over now that he was in private with somebody. He spent a moment looking straight into her eyes, and for a moment, it was as though he knew all of her secrets. All of her thoughts and dreams were laid bare before him and, as though she had suddenly been caught unclothed, Bell blushed like a young maid in the spring.
"I want to know what connection this friend of yours believes that he has with my sister," Truth said bluntly. "I have little interest in the small intricacies of his life, or yours in fact, but he's becoming quite a nuisance due to this delusional of importance that he seems to have garnered from this invitation."
"Erm...I don't really think you've been told the story right," Bell managed to push out. "I mean, obviously, I don't know all the facts and I'm sure you know more than me. I'm not trying to say that, but I was told a bit of a different story."
She would have stopped there, but the demanding gaze of her owner was a clear indication that he was not happy with what he had. "I don't know, really. I heard it from Lute before I heard it from anybody else. I don't have the full details; I don't think anybody but Lute and Lady Sincerity do, but from what I've been told it was Lady Sincerity who invited us to come with her, not the other way around. I'm not sure why, but you were the one who gave us the real details."
"Yes, thank you, I'm aware of our debriefing," came the dry response. "You are far from alone in being drastically uninformed. You are also far from alone in being unhappy about it. However, this is not the primary reason that I wished for a discussion with you. I do not require facts; I would prefer opinions. Tell me of this Lute person."
"I...er...well, he's someone I've known for a while," Bell tried to answer. "And...um...he taught me a lot about music and how to make people follow your topic instead of theirs. And he's really dedicated to music. I'm sorry - I don't really know what the question is, I think. Can you maybe be a bit more specific?"
"Yes; I feel certain that I can. If, for even a moment, this friend of yours believes that my sister has even the most slight interest in anything, up to and including his musical disposition, I shall have all three of you taken on to my father's balcony, where you shall all disappear forever. Is that specific enough for you or would you prefer me to be somewhat more clear?"
Shaking a little, Bell tried to pull together some words to show that she had been listening, but, in the end, all that happened was that her lip wobbled almost uncontrollably. He was looking at her expectantly, unflinching and unchanging, but her own face was likely moving closer and closer to tears.
"I daresay my point has been well received," added Truth with a vain smirk.
This did not help matters. Bell did not have the strongest personality, and thus completely unveiled threats did actually manage to bring her to tears. Frozen and feeling almost suffocated, Bell found herself trapped in her seat, her back aching from the wooden surface, and tears streaming silently down her cheeks. Time and again, she tried to come up with something to say that would get those harsh and unforgiving eyes away from her, but nothing was coming out of her at all.
With a brief laugh, Truth pulled open the door that led back into the more brightly lit hall beyond, where people were still twirling and dancing around the floor in their bright dresses and satin shirts.
"You get the point, now get out," he said, leaving no room for either debate or response.
Bell rushed out without a second thought, desperate to get herself as far away from Truth as possible. Entering the party gave her only a stream of people rushing past and dancing around her, even though the only music was a solitary flute player who was there to cover between sets. She cast her eyes around, looking to find at least one friendly face through the blurred vision. Thankfully, she had not gone far before she ran into Harp, evident by the tone of concern and the strong arms that wrapped themselves around her.
"We're in trouble," she told him quickly. "If Lute does what he always does, we're in a lot of trouble."