Leopold stepped outside. Despite the late hour, there was still the odd person scurrying about the palace's grounds; mostly they were servants running errands for their masters or guards on patrol. Yet it was still relatively peaceful in comparison to the palace's busy atmosphere during the daytime.
He took a deep breath, inhaling its coolness. It calmed him. Inside the dining hall it had been too stuffy and too hot. Now he began to feel his eyelids grow heavy and his mind hazy, like when he chased the dragon.
The prince wandered over to one of the well-groomed rose bushes and plucked a single white rose. He twirled it in his fingers for a moment, before bringing it to his nose and smelling its freshness.
Nieneve will be wearing a dress this colour on our wedding day. The thought came to him on the night's breeze, unbidden and causing him to blush. He should not have such thoughts because he did not wish her his wife. Or did he?
He clenched his fists, crushing the rose and crumbling its soft petals. Then he released it and it spiralled to the ground. Resisting the urge to stamp on it too, he walked away.
Nevertheless, he found himself by Nieneve's room again. When he saw her stood there on the balcony, wearing only a nightgown, he found himself fixed on the spot. He gazed up at her. The silk of the gown the same white as the rose, the same white as her wedding dress would be, flowed as though it was made of liquid.
"Are you not cold, my lady?" he called up to her. Up until then she had stood as still as stone. Her head snapped in his direction and she gasped, trying to cover herself from him with her bare arms.
"Would you like to take that walk now, perhaps?" He said, grinning. "Surely a woman who wears nothing but her nightgown for the whole palace to see would not care for petty rumours?"
"I, I thought I was alone." Her cheeks were flushed a vibrant crimson, evidently embarrassed.
"You are never alone in the palace," Leopold replied. "Come, walk with me? By the time I arrive at your door you will be... more appropriately dressed. And we will not be unattended." He gestured behind him to the Shadow. Silver was so silent it was easy to forget.
Nieneve blushed again with renewed embarrassment and shook her head. "I couldn't." She turned to re-enter her bedroom and the prince could see his opportunity slipping away, so he lay down his last card.
"Come with me and I guarantee that no one will speak about tonight. The walk or your balcony attire." His voice sounded completely innocent, but he knew that a clever woman such as Nieneve would hear the unspoken threat in his voice.