He had always enjoyed the performance that came immediately after any party that Trust would host. The change in audience, coupled with the complete re-write of atmosphere, made for the easiest, simplest and most enjoyable situations of his life. Lute had left not because he had not been enjoying himself, but, instead, he simply had something else to do.
His instrument safely strapped to his shoulder, Lute had slipped out of the gathering purposefully; intent on finding out something extra about his new home. He had only been sold four days before, and most of that time had been spent in rehearsal and preparation. If their first show had been a let down then Truth would quite likely have simply had them executed. Although, an execution was over grandiose for a servant. Servants just vanished one day; offered the end of a knife in the dead of the night and never seen again.
Exploration was one of his favourite parts of coming to a new home, whether manor, palace or, in his youth, a small and untidy town hall. While most servants were generally free to go about the manor at any time, Lute was the only one who wanted to do so outside of the endless simplicity of work, sleep and more work. He had been shown the basics, from the kitchens to the backhouses, when he had first arrived, but he had an itch to see the gardens, the courtyard and the three grand halls that were the arranged meeting rooms of Truth, the Lord Avatar and, of course, the Lady Sincerity.
He slipped out of the manor quickly, since he knew where he was going for that. The gardens held a special fascination due to the enormous effort that was taken in maintaining them. Even now, in the dead of night, two of the manor servants were hard at work by the smallest of candle light. These were Weed and Soil. The third caretaker, Root, would be taking his shift in bed. After coming through the finely carved and oversized oak double doors, a wide and neat little garden path lead carefully through the planted roses and chrysanthemums. A wooden archway, patiently constructed and engulfed in ivy, acted as a gateway between the organised brick constructions that kept the world outside. Through there, tall trees and a little bridge over a calm and soothing stream made for a near idyllic setting. The moonlight overhead illuminated the world below.
Lute spent a few moments exploring the outer garden. He would have gone farther, but the guards at the outer gates, yet another set of oak double doors, defeated this intent. This greatly damaged his urge to explore, but, instead of going back into the manor, he simply went back through the archway and wandered down the little path that encircled the manor. The gardens around the back were no particular display of power and, as such, they were nowhere near as extravagant, as organised or as well-tended.
In the relative darkness beneath the sea of stars, a light caught his eye from up on the top floor of the manor. The ground floor was for guests and functions, while the first floor was primarily for servants and Truth's distraction rooms'. The second floor, at the top of the building, was dedicated entirely to the three owners of the manor. Each one of them had a balcony overlooking the back of the building. This was so that traffic in and out could be monitored from the front without interrupting their sleep. Lute wasn't sure which balcony belonged to which owner, but he believed that he could work it out with a little logic. The central balcony would, without a doubt, belong to the Lord Avatar himself. From that, family dynamic made it clear that Sincerity would be on the right and Truth would be on the left. This meant that Sincerity had a lit candle on her balcony.
Drawing closer, due to his curiosity, Lute took to almost hugging the manor wall in order to hide himself away from anybody who might be there. Curiosity was always best satisfied without external notice.
The first voice that he heard was undoubtedly that of Truth, the young lord-in-waiting. It could have been much improved, he was saying in the typical almost regal tones, but all in all I would consider it a successful experience. Father was approached by many of our noble brethren concerning trade relations and the usual offers to join the court. You might have an approach or two offered to Father, but I shall make sure that his mind wanders sufficiently that you have no cause for stress.
Would be nice, replied Sincerity in a much more common voice. Can't say I'm a fan of being sold off, but you have to keep the old man in check, don't you?
He is not the man that he used to be, Truth stated slowly. I'd like to say that he's getting a little desperate in his age, but that would be a kindness too far. His mind is simply not up to the task of maintaining his lands anymore. If not for myself then the disrepair would likely be much more visible. Our Father is simply hoping that your suitor will be a respectable gentleman who might accept my dominion and still allow us his domain to swell our own.
I don't get why it all reverts to you, continued Sincerity. Lute had no idea of her expressions, but his mind had wandered enough for him to make it up. I'm the older child, so surely I should end up taking over now that he's gone odd.
Truth's first response was only to offer her a sarcastic laugh. I think you might have been spending a little too much time with the servants, he told her afterwards. You have to consider the logic of the lands foremost. Eventually, love or otherwise, you would have found somebody whom you wished to marry. Due to that, considering the rules of the land, all of our Father's holdings would revert to your husband's ownership. It is the most logic reaction to allow myself to become the heir.
And my job in all this is to get married off for as much as possible, is it? Sincerity asked, speaking now in notes of fury.
That is the way of the world, my sister, Truth answered, and now I shall be aiming for my own room and a good night. I would suggest that you maintain the correct lingual decorum where it pertains to our Father.
Yeah, I know the story, don't p--- off the old man, Sincerity threw out flippantly. I'll be good; he's my Father too you know.
They exchanged their parting pleasantries briskly before Truth seemingly departed. Sincerity remained on the balcony, as evidenced by the light of her solitary candle. Just as Lute was about ready to return to the party, should any party remain for him to partake of, the windless night offered him the sound of the lady of the manor humming to herself. One of his own songs had apparently stuck in her head perfectly. A broad smile overtook his face at the idea that, even now, she might well be thinking about him.
As quietly as he could, displaying a stealth that he didn't even know that he possessed, Lute slipped his instrument around to his front, leant back against the manor wall and slid down so that he could sit down. He had been on his feet most of the day, and was starting to feel very tired, but something about the scene that he seemed to be living in was simply too pleasurable. Intoxicating almost.
Sincerity humming three stories above him, Lute let his fingers fake the song that she had picked up on. The tips of the fingers of his right hand played their parts just out of reach of the strings that they would usually be playing. His left hand did what it always did; moving back and forth between the basic chords that he would use while singing and the more intricate ones that he would use at other times. Harp played the fancy music anyway - Lute was the backing guy.
He lost track of time there, consumed by the motions to the point where he didn't even notice that Sincerity had stopped humming. In fact, she was now making no noise whatsoever. There was some sound though. Lute, as careful as he was being, was not being even slightly careful enough. Distracted by the very thing that he wasn't meant to be doing, Lute quickly became consumed in what started as miniscule vibrations from his strings, but soon became wider and louder without him even realising it.
It wasn't until he heard the confused voice of the lady Sincerity that he realised what had happened. Who's there? she asked of the night, fairly loudly.
There was a latent anger in her voice. Not wanting to make his move too soon, Lute silently cursed his own mind for distracting him and stole away using cover of darkness. He was not quiet - she knew he was there, and she was laughing at him as he departed. This would likely make the hunt a little different to how Lute had first envisioned it.