With the feast over, the evening's entertainment was finally able to begin. I couldn't help but smile at the prospect, for I had always had a fondness for these things. Better yet, this would finally give me the opportunity to talk to my mysterious, enchanting rescuer.
The minstrels began playing; their lutes, harps and flutes joining in a soft waltzing melody that drifted through the air on gossamer wings to caress my ears. My smile turned from subtle smirk to wide grin. Although I didn't like to admit it to myself, I'd always had a fondness for dancing. If my brother, or worse, the courtiers, ever found out, I doubted he would ever miss an opportunity to tease me mercilessly about it.
Ella shifted nervously beside me, as if unsure what to do. I avoided her gaze, yet I could not help but notice the way the gentle torchlight shone on her hair, casting flickering shadows around the soft curls and turning the ends to shining gold. I held out my hand to her and cleared my throat,
"My lady Vadrini," I said, "would you do me the honour of a dance?"
Ella turned to me, her crystalline eyes wide and shining in surprise. A small smile tugged at her lips as she took my hand and I lead her out onto the floor where other couples were already gathering to dance. Some of the other dinner guests muttered behind their hands, but I ignored them. They could talk as much as they pleased, I still had the most beautiful woman in the realm on my arm. Evidently being king had it's good points after all.
The dance began, and Ella and I began to dance. She avoided my eyes for much of the time, and I could see a faint blush rising in her cheeks. She was evidently not used to this much attention. Or, perhaps, she had had too much of it? I did not bother to think on such things, but rather let the music guide our dancing feet as we turned and stepped to the ebb and flow of the minstrels' song.
When the dance ended, I lead Ella back to our seats. My face was flushed from dancing, and her hand was hot in mine, although from nervousness or the dancing I was not sure. We sat, and, taking advantage of the momentary privacy, I finally broached the hurdle of conversation.
"Forgive me for asking, my lady," I said, taking care to choose my words, "but I'm afraid I must ask this. Where have you come from? Who are your family? And, forgive me, but how did you come to be in the forest when we were passing?"