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An Ending and an Ending

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The great carnival of Braavos, famed throughout the world, drew towards its end with the traditional grand ball in the Sealord’s Palace. A thousand masked men and women entered in, to celebrate the ancient Unmasking of Utheros when the Secret City revealed itself to the world, and it was a grand time. From common merchants to the highest keyholders and lords, the revelers enjoyed the hospitality of the Sealord who was rumored to be among them unheralded and unremarked, perhaps in the plain mask of a commoner, perhaps the more ostentatious mask of a merchant-captain, perhaps even as a servant masked in black velvet.

Guests from far away realms—as distant as Qarth and the Summer Isles, and allegedly even the isle of Leng—were present, as were those from nearer places: the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, for one, and Dorne for another. Prince Rhodry Martell and his Dornishmen were easily noted, for their robes and their Dornish way of speaking, despite the masks, and they made no pretense that they were not other than who they were. As to the Targaryen embassy, the dragon-masked Prince Aegon and his wealthy, fair Lyseni host Tybio Erosenes wearing the mask of a beautiful youth were surrounded by a more-than-usual complement of knights and guards, perhaps in recognition of their brush with danger during the riot on the Green Canal. Neither party—rivals when it comes to the disposition of Braavos in the conflict between Lys and Pentos—deigned to speak to one another, and that may be just as well; violence is usually the result of such conversations.

The festive ball continued towards its joyous conclusion, when the Titan roared the end of the carnival at midnight. The wine had flowed freely, and with it brought good cheer. None could fault the ball, and the entertainers, and the Sealord, and indeed, some said it was the finest such celebration in a decade. Servants brought forth trays laden with the cakes that tradition demanded be eaten when the masks were removed at midnight. A thousand men and women readied themselves…

... but in the revelry, there was a note of disquiet: the cough of one of the revelers, the cough that grew suddenly more desperate, more desperate still. A cry went up that a man was choking, and others called for wine for the poor soul, for a healer of the House of the Red Hands—but it was a thought far too late, as the golden-haired scion in the dragon mask collapsed, men pounding at his back, and the first screams started as the breath choked in his throat, and he died. The knights about Tybio Erosenes in his beautiful youth mask closed around him, ushered him away suddenly as the Sealord’s palace guard swept in. There were shouts of murder, shouts of an accident, tears. A healer from the House of the Red Hands at last appeared among the celebrants, taking off his mask, seeing to the body, to see if there was more that could be done; but with death, he could not contend.

With so many at the ball, the disquiet over the death was localized, and did not spread widely save as rumor, as report of someone having choked on a fish bone, or having collapsed from too much drink, and it would only be later, well after midnight, that the full tale was widely known of the prince who died most suddenly, most unfortunately. When his dragon mask was removed, the face beneath was almost black, eyes bulging, tongue thick and lolling. It was an unsightly death, for such a handsome man with the blood of Valyria in his lineage.

So ended Tybio Erosenes, a merchant-prince of Lys, an envoy to the Sealord of Braavos, a host to Prince Aegon Targaryen, that worthy who had been so charmed and gracious that he had traded masks and costumes alike with the prince.

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