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I would have expected the castle staff to feel slightly put upon at the need to arrange a ball in the middle of digging out from a blizzard. I should have known better, they clearly regarded it as an opportunity to show how very good they are.
Everyone is here, even Alan and Mynar. I believe father threatened to dump the chest in the ocean if they didn’t shut down their translation attempts for the evening. I also had a talk with Mynar about the reality that he was going to have to dance with all of mother’s new junior Ladies, so he might as well just do it. I was his partner for the first dance. If that doesn’t signal that being his dancing partner doesn’t mean anything, then nothing will. This is the first real ball since spring, and father has only danced with mother, and is sitting beside her when they don’t dance. Mynar has actually listened to me, and is asking one of mothers protégé’s for a dance. I told him to start with the one seated the farthest from mother, and move up the line. His pattern should be obvious enough to signal there is no significance in the order that he invites them to dance. There will be rumors anyway, but I didn’t tell him that.
I may start some rumors myself, at least I hope so. My gown is gold, my shoes are gold and my heavy necklace is gold. My hair is lightly confined by thin gold chains. Very unlike me.
Two of my ladies have Jes in a corner, teaching him to dance. I watch for a moment, but he doesn’t seem to be minding it, so I don’t go rescue him.
Alan has shown up, dressed in deep blue and looking extremely handsome. Pity someone who looks like that is determined on a career path that will probably blow up, literally, in his face. There has been time for rumor to inform everyone Alan had fought beside me, so he has become socially acceptable, even though still believed to be a Sorcerer. Yeah, he believes it too. Going to have to have another talk with him about that.
He has three or four of our most beautiful unattached women clustered around him, but I know I can have his attention in mere seconds, even though they are all much more beautiful than I am. Not because I am a Princess, but because I can whisper in his ear, ‘Would you like to hear about the invisible assassin that attacked me’.
He and Mynar keep working on the decoding, and coming up with things that make no sense. They are concerned there might be a newer form of the code. I have tried pointing out that maybe they are translating it correctly, and it just doesn’t make sense. Neither of them appreciated that suggestion.
I find Lord Taver at the punch bowl, and hint until he asks me to dance. Well, maybe what I said was ‘dance with me, Lord Taver’. He is one of the best dancers in the court, perhaps because of all of the practice with different types of swords. Despite that, he rarely dances anymore. He has three daughters who are determined that their dead mother is not going to be replaced. If he were less of a doting father, he would have married someone just to spite them for all of their meddling.
Mynar is dancing with the third of his obligatory partners, and is still managing to smile. Alan hasn’t danced with anyone yet, not that I am watching.
I dance with a younger son, and a minor lord, and a Master of the leatherworkers guild. Mynar drifts next to Alan, and they are deep in conversation. I join them, and discretely pinch my brother and whisper in his ear, “Don’t you realize you need to dance with other people too? At least two other young women—three or four would be better.”
Mynar glares at me, and I roll my eyes at him. “You’re probably right.” He has the good sense not to ask any of the women clustered around Alan.
“Right about what, Princess Adava?” Lady Dena asks.
“Everything.” I tell her. If I weren’t absolutely certain Dena would never risk breaking her long nails by wielding a Sword, I would put her name on the list of possible traitors. Too many men have made fools of themselves over her, and she enjoys it. For a few months, when she was nineteen, she was having fun getting men to fight over her. Mother put an end to that.
“May I have this dance?” Alan ignores her to ask me.
As Alan and I glide across the floor, I don’t have to be able to read minds to know Dena is telling the others Alan only asked me to dance because I’m a Princess. I could easily cast her as the betrothed of the traitor, except that she isn’t betrothed to anyone—this week, at least. I stopped counting the number of betrothals she broke when she hit three.
Alan dances well, not as good as Lord Taver, but still well enough for it to be enjoyable. “Why do you keep telling people I’m not a Sorcerer?”
“Because you aren’t.” I hadn’t planned to have this discussion on the dance floor, but then as soon as he and my brother are liberated from the ball they will go back to the endless translations.
“I throw spells. I work magic. You have seen me do this.”
“Yes, confusing isn’t it.”
Alan makes it clear that he doesn’t like to be confused.
“One of the powers my Sword gives me is recognizing Sorcerers.” That shuts him up. We move around the room for a while in silence. I have to remind Alan to stop when the music stops. I don’t think it’s an accident that we end up on the other side of the room from Dena.
“Will you tell me what other powers?”
“No.” He doesn’t look surprised; he didn’t expect me to say yes, but he had to try. There is something to learn that he doesn’t know. “But if you get us a drink, I will tell you about the invisible assassin who tried to kill me.”
I lead him to two chairs near mother and father, knowing that will keep Dena away, and tell him about the three assassins with magical tattoos. He is enthralled.