"To the right! Right! No, CorSec, your other right!" I growled and stamped my foot. "Do I have to do everything around here?"
The brown-haired pilot looked over his shoulder. "You might, if you don't calm down."
Arrgh. Must think of a better tactic. "I'm sorry, Corran. I shouldn't have corralled you into this anyway." I started to leave the ballroom. "I'll call Bror down here. He can probably get the coffin in place."
"Hold it!" I suppressed a grin and turned around. Corran leaned his back against the heavy wooden box and heaved. Miraculously, it slid into place.
An hour later, I stood in the musician's balcony and surveyed my handiwork. Well, mostly Corran and Ooryl's work, but I supervised. Despite Corran's nonstop complaints, he seemed pleased with the results, and even Ooryl had pronounced "I think we have done well."
I felt a rush of gladness that I'd been able to get such a good deal on the castle. To be honest, the owners hadn't driven a hard bargain. I'd seen an ad-- "Faux castle to rent for parties, weddings, conventions..." and I couldn't resist. The price they quoted was more than reasonable, and they'd give us full run of the house and grounds.
After exploring the period-furnished rooms; from the ballroom, to the library and numerous bedchambers, I couldn't imagine why. Built sometime in the late 19th century by an eccentric millionaire, the castle boasted turrets, leaded windows, even a moat. The structure was in great shape-- not one leak and only a few creaky floors that added to the atmosphere.
We'd left most of the house and grounds as is, and concentrated on the ballroom, hallways, and center courtyard. Corran and Ooryl had moved a couple of refreshment tables to the ballroom and placed candelabras in the niches along the wall. We'd set up silly things, too; a creaking coffin and a barrel of apples.
There were even two cauldrons sitting in the huge fireplace. Ooryl had cleverly hidden the heating elements behind carefully placed firewood. One held plain cider, the contents of the other was spiked with brandy.
"Sithspit!" The cauldrons weren't marked. Oh, well. I grabbed a cup and sampled the mixture on the left. Oh, yeah, that definitely had an extra bite. I beelined for the study to grab a marker and paper, hoping that Wedge remembered to tell Gavin that, in the US, he was still underage. The last thing I wanted was to explain to the police exactly why I had a drunken teenage extraterrestrial at the party.
Kell and Runt had been put to work rigging booby traps in the halls and public rooms, and together we'd turned the central courtyard into a cemetery. The other pilots had all been sent to their rooms and told not to set foot downstairs until they heard the doorbell. I wanted everyone to be surprised.
The only thing left was my costume. I bounded up the stairs to the second floor, spying a bored Wes Janson sitting on the landing. He was wearing a parti-colored jester's outfit that fit him entirely too well, and I jingled one of the bells on his hat as I passed. He looked up hopefully. "Can I go down there now?"
"Nope. Wait for the first guest." I heard him sigh as I continued down the hall. I ignored the sounds of Ton Phanan informing Face Loran that he absolutely could not wear Phanan's prosthetic as a costume.
I was almost ready when the doorbell rang. Immediately feet pounded down the hallway, voices shouting. "I'll get it!" "No, me!" Laughing, I tucked a curling feather into my hair and examined my can-can girl costume, then ran downstairs to rescue the first guest.
Continued in Part Two