The Silver Palace

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Owned by Evaline and Rusley Darrow, the Silver Palace Dance Hall and Saloon is one of the largest buildings in all of Brimstone. In fact, at a hundred feet by a hundred feet and two stories tall the establishment is one of the largest of its kind in the whole western frontier (even if that top spot alluded the owners).The large whitewashed building’s front facade has a sign proudly proclaiming exactly what it is, overlooking a long porch by the hitching post with several chairs in case somebody needs to take a break from dancing and doesn’t want to sit inside with all the hubbub or for the employees to laze about on during a slow day to try to attract patrons, while large windows with glass imported from back east offer an enticing view of the bar, gambling tables, and dance floor. An alley to the right side of the building holds an outhouse and two doors leading from the Palace to said alley for easy access, one on the first floor, and a second directly above it leading to the interior balcony, accessible via an exterior wooden staircase. The left alley of the Palace is narrower by virtue of the dance hall’s kitchen, that juts out of the left side and breaks up what is otherwise a perfect square, a back door allowing for the quick collection of firework from the pile out back and grocery delivery without having to go through the front. Finally, a much smaller back porch, which is almost always guarded during the evening by an ex Bayou Vermilion rail warrior named Cree Thomas, allows for discrete coming and goings for those visiting the back section of the business.

The building’s large batwing front doors lead into the saloon section of the dance hall, an impressive polished oak bar over forty feet long immediately to the left greeting any new arrival. Rusley Darrow, co-owner of the establishment can often be found tending bar, though he can’t be at it 24/7, which is where their secondary bartender Villardo Scormada comes in. Scormada also pulls double duty at the gambling tables when needed, which are located further back, offering roulette, craps, and of course the most popular game in the west, faro. Poker is played too, obviously, that doesn’t require a specific dedicated table. The Palace’s primary dealer is a woman named Zeng Fen who also occasionally serves as a dance partner as well, and either way doubles as a bouncer, a fact that has caught more than one belligerent drunk completely off guard.

Right next to the end of the bar is the doorway leading to Silver Palace’s kitchen. Truthfully, the food at the Palace is decent enough, certainly not bad, but it pales in comparison to the gourmet cuisine one can get at the Diamondback. Early on in the Silver Palace’s life that wasn't the case when Evaline Darrow herself was in charge of the food, but she soon passed the duties over to one Millicent Cockburn in order to focus on other aspects of the business. That being said, people don’t come to the Palace to eat, they come there to dance, and the kitchen is more there to serve the employees and anybody who arrived at an evening on an empty stomach. The latter cases are also why pretty much anything ordered is heavy on the salt, just in case dancing isn’t enough to work up a thirst.

To the right of the bar and casino, separated by a huge wooden sliding door that runs almost the entire length of the front of the building, is a single massive room containing the dance floor. Benches and chairs are there for the people who want to rest or are waiting for a dance partner to become available, but the vast majority of the folks will be found stomping on that wood after long hard days in the mines or on the range. Of course, it’s a lot easier to dance when there’s music, and that’s where a raised platform with a piano on it in one of the corners comes in. Jakob Tosso, a jumpy pianist from New England tickles the ivories every night, frequently supplemented with another performer. As of late the guitarist and singer Lillie Hutchins has become a fixture, and there are mutterings about them hiring a professional fiddle player on full time soon. One oddity about the Silver Palace’s dance floor is a burn mark near the middle of it that just doesn’t seem to want to scrub away. The blackened section was caused by one of the dynamite explosions that went off during Lightning Lenora Langley’s attack during a boxing match between Phineas Calverton and local Shun Qiaohe and has proven remarkably resilient. Some of the more superstitious locals don’t like walking on it, but the Palace’s dance floor is often packed enough that most folk shrug it off as a curiosity and go about their merriment.

By the raised piano platform is an innocuous, discrete door that leads into the back section of the Silver Palace. A small hallway contains eight bedrooms, four on the left and four on the right, split down the middle by another small hallway with a couch for waiting customers and the back door leading outside. The entire area takes up only about one fourth of the business space at most. The Silver Palace employs seven dancing girls and one dancing boy, consisting of Mercedes Pedrossa y Silverio, Laurie Parney, Mathilde Eitzmann, Angel Starr, Octavia Cabal y Pliego, Tula O'Neill, Betty O’Neill, and Elton Sayler, respectively, each who sleeps in one of the rooms on the first floor, and a few of whom do other work in them as well at their and Evaline’s discretion.

The Palace has a second set of four larger rooms as well, but those entrances are fully visible and accessible via the interior balcony that runs along the perimeter of the front section of the establishment. One of the four is the Darrow’s office where they conduct business and manage the paperwork, and another is the couple’s well-appointed bedroom with an additional interior door connecting the two the owner’s convenience while the remaining two tend to serve as lodging for visiting performers using the Palace as a venue. Presently the actress and musician Lillie Hutchins has indefinitely rented a bedroom for herself, while the remainder currently has no long term occupant. It’s from this balcony that the co-owner of the dance hall and the woman who truly runs the show, Ms. Evaline Darrow, can most often be found when she’s not making the rounds to greet people or chat with her employees, surveying her business each night to make sure everything is going smoothly. Evaline prides herself on running a smooth show and relishes acting as a master of ceremonies whenever the establishment is holding some kind of event.

The SIlver Palace is one the most successful entertainment businesses in Brimstone and the Darrows understand the importance of investing profits back into the establishment. Nevertheless, the prices remain affordable (for a boomtown), the furniture quality but not too overly fancy, and they take measures to avoid “Airs of pretension.” The Silver Palace is doubtlessly a nice place, but it’s designed to be a nice place where the working person goes for a night of quality entertainment that’s worth the cost, rather than catering to Brimstone’s rich and elite. Of course, that doesn’t mean they’ll turn down the rich and elite’s business either!

Dramatis Personae

Evaline Darrow nee Wilton is the owner and proprietor of the Silver Palace Dance Hall and Saloon. A 41 year-old African-American woman of above average height, she keeps her long dark hair up in a tight bun and favors high quality dresses in bright, showy colors, though they do tend to be more conservative than the dancing girls’ attire.Evaline was born into slavery in Georgia and like so many newly freed African-Americans went westward for a better life. Evaline was a skilled cook able to make hearty, filling meals with whatever ingredients were available, something that meant she had little trouble finding work out in the frontier, but it was her thriftiness and cleverness that allowed her to slowly build up a little nest egg. When the next big ghost rock strike was revealed to be Brimstone New Mexico she bought a plot of land, a tent, a stove, and a whole bunch of liquor and got to work! Her setup proved popular and attracted a heap of folk, including a rather successful miner by the name of Rusley Darrow who she ended up marrying. They pooled their profits and built the Silver Palace. Evaline did briefly consider a restaurant, but good as her food was she knew that just as much of her money had simply been from hocking liquor and that above anything else what folk wanted after a hard day of mind numbing work was to have a good time, so instead the grand dance hall that the people of Brimstone know today was born.

Evaline started out managing the kitchen with her impeccable cooking skills, but quickly transitioned over to running the floor and all the people therein, finding herself even more suited for that matter, hiring Millicent Cockburn to take over for her. Nowadays Evaline spends most of her time making sure everything is going smoothly and is constantly on the prowl for new talent and entertainment to draw people to the Palace. Mrs. Darrow is protective of her employees, and while she understands miners and cowpokes can get rather rowdy, once a line is crossed she doesn’t hesitate to have one of the bouncers roughly show the offender the door. She’s just as charming off the job as on the job, though her cheerful demeanor seems more genuine. Though she agrees with several other of Brimstone’s prominent social reformers on several issues, the fact she runs a saloon/dance hall and differs in position on a few specific “moral” issues means they often don’t run in the same circles. As one of the wealthiest members of it, Evaline and her husband have also been known to sometimes act as a representative for Brimstone's African American community when their grievances need to be aired.

Rumor has it that Evaline’s considering buying another plot of land to build a proper restaurant as a second business, but is hesitant till she can find managerial staff of the Silver Place that both meets her standards and she can trust. If she ever does though Mama Flore’s Cocina might have some real competition suddenly, though as of now whether she actually intends to do so is unconfirmed.

Rusley Darrow is the Silver Palace Dance’s Hall’s night bartender and Evaline’s husband. Like his wife he’s a former slave, and the moment after the Battle of Washington finally put an end to the Confederacy he got the hell out of the South and went West. He worked as cattle puncher for several years, going up and down the Goodnight-Loving Trail. Fortune favored Rusley, because he was passing back down along the trail through Brimstone when he ran into the very first person to strike ghost rock on their way to town. Realizing just what the rock meant, he rode his horse near death to get to town first and dumped all of his money into a large claim out in the direction the prospector was coming from and mining supplies before the prices skyrocketed. A few hours later they did just that, and the person Darrow bought the claim from, a fella named Allen Banger, is none too happy to this day, but it was all legal-like. Shortly after Rusley began courting the newly arrived Evaline and eventually married her. The cook had a keen business sense, managing the money he brought in, and after a few months convinced the now quite well-off Rusley to stop investing in his mine claim and instead invest in the miners. They built the Silver Palace over the plot of land Evaline had her tent saloon on and the rest is history.

Rusley is a well-built African-American man of 36 years with attentive eyes who likes to slick back his hair. He plays the part of bartender well, engaging in conversation when the customer wants to, and keeping laconic when they’re not in the mood, though his mixed drinks are a bit hit or miss. Luckily for him most folk prefer simple cocktails if that. Off the clock Rusley’s noticeably more easy-going, and is a big fan of friendly lazy, low-stakes games of cards over drinks, cigars. He tends to mostly just play at a table in the Palace during dead hours with other employees and/or a tiny handful of customers, but occasionally heads to the Diamondback for (slightly) more serious games and to sample their quality liquor. Darrow’s understandably none too fond of ex-Grays but doesn’t vocalize the fact unless off-work (he’ll settle for the satisfaction of taking their money) and in the company of like-minded individuals.

It might be cliche but Rusley does indeed keep a shotgun behind the bar in case things get too rowdy, and while not a master gunslinger witnesses can attest that he knows how to use it.

Villardo Scormada-Paz works at the Silver Palace as a bartender, primarily during slow hours or particularly busy ones when more than one bartender is needed to handle the demands, and occasionally runs a gambling table as well. The 19 year old Spaniard's face is marred from a bad case of the pox as a child that he tries to hide with a scraggly, dark beard to little success. Villardo has a bit of reputation for being a space case, frequently drifting off, and while not some kind of great intellectual will read anything and everything he can get his hands on, with a particular fondness for works, be they fiction or nonfiction, involving exotic or historic locales. Folks like to joke they’re where his mind’s at whenever it’s apparently not in Brimstone. Viladro hails from Taos and still has family there.

Zeng Fen is listed as a faro dealer on the Silver Palace Dance Hall’s books, and she’s a damn good one, but she’s also a professional when it comes to throwing belligerent drunks or those with wandering hands out with her own bare hands. Given she’s a tiny, baby-faced Chinese woman of 23 those who haven’t seen her in action before tend to be caught quite off guard by this fact and pay the price for it. Zeng Fen speaks fluent if occasionally slightly slow English, and is known for a polite, charming personality, though she can’t help but give a quick smile whenever the house wins big. Fen doesn’t particularly talk about her past but she has expressed fondness for the west to some of the other employees of the Palace, mentioning she most definitely wouldn’t be running gambling tables back home in China, though a few people have noted what might be faint hints of guilt alongside those statements.

Cree Thomas used to work as an enforcer for the Bayou Vermillion Railroad and is unapologetic about that fact, even if she’s not one to go into the grisly details unless prompted. The thirty-year old woman’s side aches whenever it rains thanks to an old injury from said former job, but it hasn’t impeded her ability with a gun. Though in her current position as the Silver Palace’s security guard she’s mostly just had to point it and only threaten to shoot folk dead, something she’s also very good at. Thomas is as swagering, dark-skinned, lean-looking lady who likes to make sure her elaborately detailed holster and nickel-plated sidearm are always on full display. It’s a known fact she’s willing to act as a part-time hired gun on her off hours as well.

Millicent Cockburn works as the chef for the Silver Palace Dance Hall and Saloon, and it’s a good thing she’s more or less the only person working in its kitchen these days, because she’s notoriously finicky when it comes to making sure everything in it is exactly where she wants it and not a hair out of place. Despite this Cockburn’s actually only an average cook, but if you’re fond of salty cuisine she has you covered. Most of the “pretty waiter girls” of the Silver Palace just wait in the doorway for her to hand them the food rather than risk accidentally brushing against something and earning the widow’s ire. She’s also just as fussy about her own personal space, and tends to disdain physical contact. Still, while she has somewhat of a reputation as a snob (despite not exactly being rich) it’s also known she has a soft spot for the elderly. A tiny 32 year old white woman who bleaches her hair blonde and wears tiny spectacles, Milicent and her deceased husband Gregory Cockburn are Canadian by birth by way of Manitoba. She came down to New Mexico to live with her husband after he established a modestly successful claim, only to find that in the time it took her to complete the long journey he had passed away from a sudden illness. Knowing that what her late husband left her would be enough for a trip back but she’d have little money afterward, the widow Cockburn instead decided to remain in Brimstone, finding employment as the Silver Palace’s cook.

“Professor” Jacob Toso’s pretty young to have earned his doctorate at only 19, but that’s because his job is to tickle the ivories at the Silver Palace Dance Hall every night. Professor is parlance for a piano player you see, hombre, and Jake is a regular virtuoso who hardly ever so much as plays a wrong note. That’s a good thing too, because the Professor’s a jumpy fella and all it takes is a little unexpected noise to get him whipping his head around trying to find the source. He doesn't talk much to anybody besides his co-workers and even then he’s far from a chatterbox. The other employees at the SIlver Palace tend to characterize him as a polite, well-mannered young man who clearly remembers the manners he learned back east (judging by his accent), even if some days it seems like he’s scared of his own shadow. A reedy young man with greasy black hair and an unhealthy pallid complexion, rumor has it that Professor Toso is in the early stages of consumption, something that unnerves a lot of people. Still, he does have lovely green eyes and Jake clearly takes pains to try to keep his worn, once quite nice and now quite patchy, suit and matching gloves as well-maintained as he can.

Mercedes Pedrossa y Silverio is perhaps the most popular dancer/”pretty waiter girl” working at the Silver Palace Dance Hall and Saloon, her only real competition being the O’Neill twins. A curvy, provocatively dressed hispanic woman with curly black hair, large doe eyes, Mercedes’ dance card is very rarely anything but full. The woman wouldn’t look out of place at a high class parlor. She was actually heavily wounded by Lightning Langely and Thunder Santos’ attack on the dance hall, but thanks to the remarkable efforts of Dr. Winston Bishop Pedrossa not only lived, but miraculously recovered with no lingering physical injury or deformation. The fact she briefly flinches at open flame now does show she didn’t escape the incident entirely unscathed, however.

Personality-wise the 29-year-old is witty and charming, quick to put pen at at ease and make them feel like they have her undivided attention, if only for the moment, and she’s quite skilled at using genuine fondness to augment that when she’s not fully faking it, even if it’s exaggerated. Born in New Mexico to working class Mexican parents shortly after it became a U.S territory via war she speaks both fluent English and Spanish and often helps Octavia Cabal y Pliego when she fails to find the words she needs in the former. In general Mercedes is fond and protective of the other dancers, serving as a sort of big sister for most of them, complementing Ealine Darrow’s somewhat motherly figure.

While quite adept at handling herself in most sticky social situations, she’s nevertheless quite thankful to Solomon Mao and Quince Bullen for helping make “Mormon Joe” back down after Sofía Alcabú y Saelices inadvertently caused her to spill a drink on the ill-tempered drunkard.

Laurie Parney is a starry-eyed 19 year old with African American girl with curly brown hair that has dreams of making it big. A dancer at the Silver Palace, she is one of the girls who is most definitely strictly a dancer, and hopes to one day tour the west, then back east, and maybe even Europe someday! She admires Lillie Hutchins and is prone to inquiring about her life, much to the performer’s secret chagrin.

Mathilde Eitzmann works as a waitress/dancing girl at the Silver Palace Dance Hall and Saloon. At only 24 years old the pale blonde has already developed a laudanum addiction thanks to a prescription for her frequent melancholy. Currently the full effects of her opioid problem haven’t shown themselves, and aren’t entirely known from an 1884 medical perspective either, but unless she can somehow shake her addiction it will eventually end badly. At the moment only an observant and/or medically trained individual is likely to pick up on the subtle signs of her new habit’s negative effects.

Angel Starr very obviously wasn’t born with that name, but nobody has ever been able to get her birth one out of her. Rumor has it that it’s because she’s actually the estranged or bastard daughter of a prominent family, but skeptics point out it’s much more likely she simply doesn’t want to use her real name while practicing a disrespectful profession. Regardless, Ms. Starr 26 year old dark-haired woman of somewhat ambiguous ethnicity who is less popular than some of her peers at the Silver Palace, but what following she does have tends to be quite devoted, owing to her unique looks and seemingly lackadaisical, devil may-care personality.

Octavia Cabal y Pliego lost her home and most of her family in the fighting caused by General Santa Anna’s final attempt at seizing power five years ago, with only her and her younger brother Alberto alive. Though she doesn’t talk about it she swears the soldiers she saw marching away after burning her home and murdering her family members weren’t living men. Now 20 and 18 respectively, the young pair have drifted around both sides of the border trying to make ends meet by doing whatever job comes their way. Octavia was originally working as a miner alongside Alberto, but while she’s no great beauty, her enthusiastic and natural skill with dance at local hoedowns caught Evaline Darrow’s eye, who offered her a job dancing at the Silver Palace. Octavia is a tanned skin woman a bit on the tall side who keeps her shoulder length dark hair up in a bun approximately half the time. She appears carefree when on the clock, but in reality is quite serious, and frequently thinks about her and her brother’s future. Octavia’s grasp of English is functional but limited, but being a New Mexican town Brimstone’s not lacking in Spanish speakers, and Mercedes Pedrossa y Silverio is often nearby in the Palace to translate if necessary.

Tula O’Neill alongside her twin sister Bety O’Neill is one of the most popular dancing girls at the Silver Palace Dance Hall, rivaled only by Mercedes Pedrossa y Silverio. Both are 22-year-old beautiful freckled, ivory-skinned, redheads of obvious Irisih descent, and are identical save for the fact that Tula is two or three pounds heavier and they carry themselves slightly differently. In Tula’s case she has a bit more relaxed, playful air to her, and her sardonic wit and clever turns of phrase attract almost as many dance partners as her raw good looks. She’s also got a bit of a temper to her, and while she tries to hold it back she’s unloaded on more than one rude customer. This fact also has made her more popular to some folks as it turns out. If their appearance wasn’t enough to make their heritage obvious Tula and Betty both have Irish accents, though there’s a bit of a hint of the northeastern U.S mixed in there as well. The dancer has been rather frank to the other Palace employees that her father was a “right bastard,” but she doesn’t elaborate beyond that.

A favorite trick of the O’Neill twins is to secretly swap places and see if their dance partners can tell that they’re being tricked. Most fail.

Betty O’Neill, alongside her twin sister Tula O’Neill is one of the most popular dancing girls at the Silver Palace Dance Hall, rivaled only by Mercedes Pedrossa y Silverio. Both are 22-year-old beautiful freckled, ivory-skinned, redheads of obvious Irisih descent, and are identical save for the fact that Tula is two or three pounds heavier and they carry themselves slightly differently. In Betty’s case she has a subtly more rigid posture and moves with a touch more grace, fittingly given she’s the more calm, “lady-like” of the O’Neill sisters. Of course, the reality is that Betty no doubt had a poor upbringing, and she wouldn’t actually fit into upper-class polite society, but the “Irish Rose act is good enough for a whole lot of folk out on the rough and tumble frontier. If their appearance wasn’t enough to make their heritage obvious Tula and Betty both have Irish accents, though there’s a bit of a hint of the northeastern U.S mixed in there as well. Those in the know are aware that Betty is just as fond of being in the company of other women as she is of men.

A favorite trick of the O’Neill twins is to secretly swap places and see if their dance partners can tell that they’re being tricked. Most fail.

Elton Sayler is an example of how the manpower shortage caused by the Civil War’s effect on the sexes, because with the increased number of women in the professional sphere out west came the demand for entertainment tailored to them, and thus the dance hall boy joining the dance hall girl. 20 year old Elton Sayler came to Brimstone from a lower middle class family in Philadelphia to try to make his fortune out west, but found that, while not adverse to hard work, he was particularly sensitive to ghost rock fumes. He considered trying his hand at punching cattle instead after realizing mining would be the death of him, but happened to notice Tula O’Neill stepping out into the alley next to the Silver Palace Dance Hall to catch her breath after a particularly busy night. Realizing just how O’Neill was likely making and understanding that as far as he knew there was a niche the SIlver Palace wasn’t covering, he hit upon an idea and approached Evaline Darrow, asking to enter her employ as the Silver Palace’s first male dancer. He acknowledged that despite gains the gender ratio in Brimstone certainly tended toward the masculine, and an independent woman looking for a dance partner certainly didn’t lack for choice, but he also pointed out that the vast majority of those men bathed only once every few weeks, and were covered in trail dust or rock dust, and Mrs. Darrow wasn’t making a dime off any of them.

He got the job.

Elton Sayler is a young causasian man of average height and a slightly slender build with wavy brown hair and dimples that are particularly prominent when he laughs. He has fastidious hygiene and prefers brightly colored shirts and vests to suits. The dancing boy still gives off a bit of a tenderfoot aura, but the only people who call him a full on tinhorn tend to be jealous of whoever he’s dancing with currently. He tries his best to be polite and gentlemanly but is a bit less formal around people he knows well, and isn’t above the occasional passive aggressive comments towards somebody he doesn’t like.

Brash tomboy Maxine McClane is one of his most frequent partners whenever she and some of the Rocking C crew are in Brimstone for a night on the town. The boisterous cowgirl is a lot to handle and the sight of Elton having to tap out to rest gets a lot of chuckles from Palace regulars. Max’s brothers like to occasionally joke that she’s sweet on Elton. Max’s typical response is to punch the offender in the crotch while blushing and saying “He’s the only option I’ve got!”