A/N: I've been wanting to write a fantasy Odesta AU for a while, so when this plot bunny popped into my head, it had to be written immediately. I suppose that's my roundabout way of saying that I will get back to Metamorphosis, but it might be a while. Anyway, the M rating is for future smut. The cover image is a picture of Neuschwanstein castle in Bavaria. Unfortunately, it does not belong to me, and though I've done a bit of editing on it, image credit goes to Shutterstock.
Disclaimer: In my dreams I own the Hunger Games, but in real life the Hunger Games and anything related to it belongs to Suzanne Collins. Oh well.
"It's going to be a beautiful party," Annie remarked as she handed the next piece of silver to Katniss for polishing. The ball was to be held in a week's time, but preparations had been underway for several days now. Today, she and Katniss were to polish all of the household's silver, a massive undertaking for two women. They had split up the task, with Annie washing the silver in warm water before giving it to Katniss to be dried and polished, so the work was moving quickly, but it was still tedious.
"Don't sound so happy about this. We won't be going. It's just more work for us," grumbled Katniss. Annie's best friend was less than enthusiastic about the masquerade, but Annie was excited. Even if she could not attend, she could still admire the beautiful decorations being put in place, the elegant gowns the seamstresses were preparing, and the banquet the kitchen staff had just begun cooking. Unfortunately, as a lowly serving maid, she would not be attending, even as a servant. Only the most trusted staff who had served Queen Enobaria for decades would be allowed to wait at the event.
"It's just a nice thing to daydream about, I suppose."
Katniss paused for a moment, glancing around the room as if to ensure they were alone before turning to Annie. "Why don't you go?" she asked quietly. Annie almost dropped the piece she was washing in surprise. Surely Katniss was not actually suggesting that she sneak into the party. Her friend certainly had a rebellious side, but an offence like that could easily get Annie thrown out or worse. When Queen Enobaria was particularly angry, heads tended to roll.
After a moment of shock, Annie was finally able to form words. "Are you joking?" she asked. "You know how particular the queen is about this ball. I like my head attached to my body, thank you very much."
"She wouldn't have to know," said Katniss, obviously forming a plan as she spoke. "We could ask for help from just a couple of people to make it work. We could get Primrose to make a dress for you. She could just charm whatever you were wearing into a ball gown easily, I'm sure."
At that, Annie had to stop her. "Katniss, your sister is a servant. Just because she works for the sorceress does not mean she can actually cast spells."
"She's seen Mags do harder magic thousands of times, and I'm pretty sure she's been practicing at night. She should be able to do a simple spell like that." Katniss paused for a moment, and when Annie offered no further argument, she continued, "Also, it wouldn't be hard to fool everyone into thinking that you belong there. It's not as though they'd be watching for serving maids dressed as princesses. Haymitch could drop you off at the gates in one of the carriages, so the guards would assume you were invited. They won't ask as long as you look upper class. It's a masquerade, half the fun is in not knowing exactly who you're dancing with. As long as you slipped away before the unmasking, no one would ever have to know you went."
It sounded so easy when Katniss put it like that. Only four people, including herself and Katniss, would need to know that Annie had gone. She could experience an entire world her low birth had prevented her from entering. Every moment, she was sure, could fuel daydreams for years. Before she fully understood what she was doing, she found herself nodding along, agreeing to this wonderful, crazy idea. Part of her still thought this was a bad idea, but Katniss made it sound so reasonable. Of course she'd be able to slip in unnoticed; why wouldn't she be? It'd be fun.
"I'll have to talk to Prim and Haymitch, of course, but I think they'll both be willing," said Katniss, happy that her friend was going along with her plan. "You'll have to tell me all about it, all right? I feel as though I have spent half my life preparing for this bloody ball. I might as well at least get to know what happens."
Just then, they heard footsteps as someone entered the room. Both women immediately quieted and focused down on the silver that had been ignored for the last several minutes. After a few moments, they looked up at each other and grinned. Neither could wait for next Tuesday.
The next day, Annie showed up to work on time as she always did. By her neat outward appearance no one could have guessed that she had been up half the night, too excited at the prospect of going to the ball to fall asleep. Katniss joined her a few minutes after they were due to start. She nodded subtly and winked at Annie, who barely managed to refrain from jumping up and down in excitement. Haymitch and Primrose had agreed to Katniss's plan. She, Annie Cresta, would be going to the queen's masquerade ball.