#12: It’s Refreshing

“Are you sure it’s not too much, Auntie?” I asked my Auntie Lisel, knowing full well that it was too much. She had dressed me in a three-piece suit with a very loud vest. It was blue and sparkly, which I liked, but not in a stuffy suit. When you have a name like Star, let’s just say dressing like the night sky is kinda my thing. The suit jacket was brown and very long (With TAILS!?!), and the shirt was plain white. The tie matched the suit jacket, a deep brown. She said wearing dark clothes would highlight my dark skin color. I wasn’t so convinced.

“Don’t be silly, Star. You’re going to a ball. You have to look fancy! This is your first ball, and you have to dress to impress.” Auntie Lisel reassured me. 

“I’ve been to balls before . . . . “ I began.

“I’m not talking about as talent, sweetheart. You’re a guest this time. That’s a big deal!” Auntie Lisel beamed.

“You’re right,” I lied. I thought going to a ball as talent was a pretty big deal when you’re trying to make it as a musician. “I’ll trust your judgment.”

“You’ve always been such a good boy, Star. Your mom would be proud of you,” Lisel concluded.

“I’m pretty sure she is proud,” I reminded her. “She’s not dead, ya’ know. She is just out adventuring or whatever.”

“Oh, I know, honey,” Auntie Lisel said. “I just meant she would be proud if she were here now.”

“Uh-Huh,” I skeptically agreed.

“Now get out there. When did you say it starts,” she asked, pushing me out of her room.

“Uh, I’m pretty sure the invitation said 5:36. I left the invitation at my apartment, but I should probably get going.”

“Are you sure? Thirty-six minutes into an hour is a weird time to start anything.” Lisel questioned.

“Can’t you trust me?” I asked. “I pay attention sometimes.”

“Of course, sweetheart. You know best,” Auntie Lisel concluded.

I was going to believe her on that because I was definitely going to change out of these clothes. Once I got outside, I used my space magic to teleport the jacket and tie back into her closet. If I were going to go to my first ball, I would go as myself. I undid the cufflinks and put them in my pocket. Then I rolled my sleeves all the way up to my bicep. I wanted to show off my toned arms. Killing monsters has to be good for something. I unbuttoned the first few buttons of the shirt and let my chest hair show. 

I was starting to feel like myself again. I think of my style as a slightly slutty circus performer. It vibed with my whole brand of being a Chosen One that was also a musician. At least, I was pretty sure it did. Whatever, it’s my style.

I hopped on the next train and headed to North Anglachel. That’s where all the rich people lived and where all the fancy parties were held. My regular employer, Anthony Magister, had gotten me on the guestlist for a fundraiser to help homeless kobolds. It was very niche, but I always appreciated helping the homeless. He also said I would meet other wealthy people who might hire me as a house musician. That was exciting. As a Chosen One, I was always going to be an adventurer that saved the day every now and again, but I really wanted to be able to pay the bills with my music. Then I could be a little pickier with the Chosen One jobs that I accept. I found myself at the gates of the fundraiser when a halfling woman approached. She had tight-cropped blonde hair, light cream-colored skin, and a permanent smile on her face. She was holding a clipboard.

“Hi, are you here to volunteer with Coins for Lizards?” She asked.

“You know that kobolds aren’t lizards, right? They are smaller dragonkin. Basically the dragonkin version of halflings,” I questioned.

“Right, but our organizers thought it sounded better than ‘Coins for Kobolds,’” she said.

“Are you kidding me?” I asked, clearly appalled. “That’s so much better! There’s even alliteration!”

“Right . . . “ she said. “So, are you here to volunteer?”

“Oh, right. Sorry, I got a bit distracted there. No, I’m on the guest list,” I said, standing a little bit straighter.

“I’m sorry, sir, but you’re pretty early. The fundraiser doesn’t start for another hour,” The halfling woman said apologetically. 

“No, the invitation said 5:36,” I said, starting to doubt myself.

“That doesn’t make any sense, sir; the invitations said 6:35,” she explained.

Of course, I was wrong. I can never get anything right. 

“Thanks,” I said, dejected. I walked to the curb and sat down.

I hated it when this happened. I can never do anything by myself. I always get it wrong. Auntie Lisel even told me that I was probably wrong, but I didn’t want to listen to her. I felt like such an idiot.

“Excuse me, Mr. Flashy Elf Man,” I heard another feminine voice call behind me. “We need to put the red carpet down, and your kind of exactly in our way.”

Of course, I was. It was just like me to inconvenience someone else.

“Sorry, I’m sorry,” I stammered and stood up.

I was stunned by the human figure before me when I turned around. She was about a head shorter than me and had deep, chocolate-colored skin. Her thick hair was tied into a bouquet of curls on the top of her head. She wore a textured blue dress that seemed to mimic dragon scales across her full-figured body. She wore long, white gloves with the same draconic design. A very on-brand choice, I respected it. She was also looking at me appraisingly.

“Hi, I’m Star Satar,” I said, offering my hand.

“You’re Star Satar?” she asked.

“Right, you must be a fan,” I was a little disappointed. “I can sign something if you want.”

“No, I’m just surprised with what you’re wearing. The way my father described you, I thought you’d look a little wilder,” she said.

“I felt like this look was the appropriate amount of wild for an event like this,” I countered. “Who is your father again?”

“Right, sorry,” she said, a little flustered. It was pretty cute. “I’m Celeste Magister. Anthony is my father. He conned me into organizing this event for the charitable wing of Magister Industries.”

“Celeste? I didn’t realize Anthony had a daughter. Especially not one so beautiful,” I said, taking a chance. It didn’t come out as confidently as I’d hoped. She gave a hearty laugh.

“You’re funny, Star. I’ve never met someone that didn’t know about me. It is a little refreshing,” she said.

“Honestly, likewise. You really didn’t know I was a Chosen One?” I asked.

“It may have come up. I’ve mostly heard about you in my father’s stories,” Celeste said.

“Sorry that you had to see me like this. I was busy beating myself up,” I explained.

“Oh, I’m only too familiar,” Celeste replied. She looked up at the sun and muttered something to the halfling woman. “Would you want to check the quality of the food at the buffet with me?”

“Can I? I’m not signed up to volunteer,” I explained.

“I’m in charge of organizing this whole thing. I think it’ll be o.k.,” Celeste stage-whispered to me.

“Then how could I refuse?” I said.

Celeste walked me through the event and led me through some side hallways clearly meant for the staff. For someone who spends a lot of his time digging through dungeons and killing monsters, I was impressed that Celeste made me feel like I was breaking the rules. It was pretty thrilling.

She led me to the end of a long hallway, and we entered a vast, stunning ballroom. There were magic crystals on the floor, projecting lights on the ceiling. There were cracks of light running across it. It looked like we were inside of an egg. The walls had been covered with illusion magic that made it look like the walls of a cave. Everything had been made to honor the kobolds that this event was meant to support.

“This looks incredible!” I said, almost instinctively.

“I know,” Celeste smiled back at me. I had never met any as outwardly confident as me.

We reached the buffet, and it was filled with all different kinds of Anglachelean cuisines.

“I’m surprised you didn’t want the food to match the room. Why not have Daragonian food?” I asked.

“Honestly, it is impressive that you noticed. There are very few people in Anglachel that even know what Daragonian food is,” Celeste said.

“I lived with a Dragonkin for about a year when I was seven on the West Side of Angalchel,” I explained.

“Wow, you might be even more interesting than I had thought,” Celeste commented.

“Thanks? So why the more common foods?” I pressed again.

“I’ve organized a number of these for my father, and I have learned that the patrons tend to donate more when they’re not concerned with their sensitive tummies,” she said.

“That makes sense,” I conceded.

“You can eat anything; just don’t mess up the aesthetic. I don’t want to have to make anyone rearrange it all,” Celeste said.

“Sure, I can do that,” I said. I noticed a platter of fruit tarts on the side closest to us. They were stacked in a pyramid-like pattern. However, there were two on top instead of one. I lightly picked up one of the tarts and used a very light touch of space magic to shift the remaining tart into the center of the pyramid.

“Perfect,” Celeste commended. “I’ve never seen anyone use spatial magic so freely. It’s usually a whole production and usually takes a lot of energy out of the caster.”

“Benefits of being a Chosen One,” I explained, with a mouthful of tart. I swallowed what I’d been chewing and flashed Celeste a grin. I started levitating the other half of my tart to impress her.

“I’m envious,” she said. “All I’ve ever been able to do is make magic stop working.”

“That’s impressive!” I exclaimed. “I would love to be able to use dispell magic whenever I wanted! That would be so useful on adventures!”

“It’s not very useful to live a normal life in a magical city,” she said sadly. She removed one of her gloves and moved her hand closer to the levitating tart. It immediately fell from its floating position. I quickly moved my hand to catch it. I did, but it smashed in my grip, and I got jellied fruit all over my hand.

“Sorry,” Celeste said.

“No, it’s great. I love jelly!” I said, trying to make her feel better. I began licking the fruit off my hand.

Celeste giggled again and picked up a napkin from the buffet. She grabbed my arm and pulled my hand down to clean it off. While she wiped at my hand, I felt blood begin to creep into my cheeks.

“Would you want to get out of here, Star?” Celeste asked, looking up at me.

I was immediately torn. I really wanted to spend more time with Celeste. She was great, and we were really starting to get along. It seemed like a fun idea to see where the night would take us. On the other hand, this was my first ball. Not only that, but Anthony said he would help me make some music contacts. I couldn’t just blow it off. I didn’t know when this sort of opportunity would happen again.

“I would love to,” I admitted. “But I can’t. This is the first time Anthony invited me to something like this. I don’t want to let him down.”

Her face fell, and I already regretted my decision.

“Right, of course, he would get in the way. Why did I expect anything different?” Celeste said under her breath.

“I’m really sorry,” I said. “I would love to hang out at the ball. Or maybe we could get together some other time?”
“I’m sure our paths will cross again,” Celeste said. “Have fun at the ball.”

Celeste dropped the napkin into the trash at the end of the buffet table (it was shaped like a dragon claw, so cool!) and pulled her glove back onto her hand.

“I’ll see you around,” she said as she turned around and disappeared through the service door we’d entered. 

I thought about chasing after her. That’s what any normal guy would do. But just about that time, other guests began filtering in through the main doors. The ball was starting, and I’d already made my choice. I would have to make the most of it.

I took a moment to look down at my hand that Celeste had just been cleaning, then I straightened myself and began looking for Anthony. I hoped she was right. I really wanted our paths to cross again.


These stories serve as inspiration for the upcoming short story collection, Tyranny of the Fey. The collection will be released in Fall 2023. You can get a $1 preview now!


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