I glare daggers in the King’s direction as Lord Halsey pulls Kaitlyn away. At least I’m relieved he was there to stop anything from happening, but still, I can’t seem to take my eyes away from her. The finely dressed Lady in front of me tsks her tongue as I spy Kaitlyn waving in my direction.
I sigh, finally able to relax knowing she is okay and turn to face the Lady with a short apology.
“I can tell she is your beloved, but this is a dance, young Lord. You mustn’t stare at only her,” She chastises. I had let my emotions get the better of me and forgot to act appropriately in the court. I should know better, but I find it hard to turn my attentions elsewhere when the Kings of various times seem to only have lustful eyes for her. It makes my blood boil. I shouldn’t be jealous, but I am.
I move through the motions, thinking rather than feeling the rhythm of the dance. The Lady in front of me rolls her eyes as she passes to a new partner and the steps continue.
When the music finally ends, I skip through the crowd toward the musicians with an idea in mind. It shouldn’t be too difficult a task for them. I find my way to the edge of the room and call their attentions. They had been whispering to each other about the next piece, but now, all four pairs of eyes lock onto me.
“Ah-hem, excuse me. I have a special request,” I smile nervously. They lean forward with curious interest and I get the feeling this doesn’t happen often.
“What is it, my Lord?” The Lute player asks.
“Well, forgive me if this is too difficult a request, but could you play something that sounds like this?” I ask, humming a triple meter tune. I wave my hand in a small conducting pattern, marking a three-point waltz. They listen intently, humming the tune and adding harmonies on the spot. They surely are professionals.
They turn to each other with a nod and a smile. “Certainly, My Lord. We will perform this fascinating tune for you,” The Lute player agrees with a smile.
“Good, good. There’s one more thing. I’d like to perform it as sort of a solo dance with my new wife. Could you announce us to the court please?”
The recorder player stands and nods. “Of course, my Lord. This is most fascinating.” I give him our names before I turn away. He calls out over the bumbling voices of the crowd. I feel a grin spread upon my lips as his voice fills the hall.
“My Lords and Ladies, we have a special request for a new song. If you would, please step to the side and turn your attentions to the Lord and Lady Hanganu,” He takes a bow as I cross the hall, extending my hand out elegantly to Kaitlyn. My smirk becomes plainly obvious when she stares at me, horrified. I can tell from the look in her eyes that she wants to murder me, but I can only feel a bubbling excitement at this opportune moment to show how devoted I am to her safety.
“I have requested a special dance for us, M’Lady. If you would do me the honours,” I ask with a slight bow, my eyes trained on hers. It’s not in the fashion of the Renaissance court, I know, but I feel in the mood to break custom. Besides, I know these people, they will be fascinated to learn of a new dance, especially one not from their time.
She hesitates before taking my hand and I pull it forward with insistence. “Don’t worry, M’lady. I will slow down time a bit so as to help you along. Trust me.”
“Is that a good idea?” She hisses skeptically, her eyes wandering over the watching crowd.
“Of course it is. It’s a special dance and I want everyone to know you are mine and mine alone,” I wink at her. She frowns, unconvinced.
At last, I lead her out onto the dance floor, whispering softly to her. “We will do the waltz. I instructed the musicians myself so they will know the tune. Just take a deep breath and follow my lead,” I smile, taking my pose, right hand holding her left up while I wrap my left around her waist. Already, I hear small gasps from the crowd at my direct touch of her waist. I’m not flirting though, I’m cherishing that which is mine, at least in their eyes. No more games.
The lute starts with a three beat waltz and I cast the time bubble around us. “This will give you time to think about the steps as we move in seemingly perfect time to everyone else, okay?” I assure her.
“If you say so,” She murmurs.
I take the first step, counting out loud for her and guiding her to follow me. It takes her just a few counts until she’s in time with my movements. The loop sided tune allows for our steps to glide across the open floor in a circular fashion, spinning. I know the steps might be difficult in this attire, so that is also why I set the time spell around us. I keep my steps small to accommodate for the fashion restrictions.
The music flutters through the air lightly as I lead Kaitlyn around the room, waltzing alone on the dance floor. I wonder as I gaze into her amber eyes, what could possibly be going through her mind. The music sounds slightly different to my ears, coming from a lute and recorder. I am much more accustomed to the waltz being played by a chamber orchestra of strings or on the piano.
“How do you feel?” I ask, eyes locked with hers as we spin.
“It’s hard to describe,” She laughs, and the sound is so pretty, I can’t help but laugh and smile back fondly.
“I’m glad. You seem to be enjoying it,” I remark. The faces of the crowd become a blur as we prance about the hall. They fall away and I feel as though it’s only us, alone, dancing to the sound of Renaissance court musicians playing a tune from the nineteenth century.
“Did you learn this in France?” She asks curiously.
I smile, the memory has a sort of bittersweet taste to it now. “I did. France is where I learned to first dance. The waltz was my favourite. I feel it is the most elegant of dances, don’t you?” I tilt my head as I let go of her waist, leading her out with my hand and into a spin. I hardly hear the gasps of shock at the intricate move as I pull her back in, replacing my hand to her waist.
“I like it more than the ones from this time,” She blushes a little. She’s adorable when she blushes. My heart thumps at the sight.
“Not many of the dances from before this time are recorded. Most arts were orally passed from the master to the student. In England, I read that these dances were the first to be recorded on paper around this time in both France and here. They are simple and easy to learn and perform, but it’s the more difficult ones that draw the eye,” I explain.
I pick up the pace a little, pushing the musicians to keep in time, despite the slow bubble. I feel the swell of the music and the excitement in my chest as I lead her into another spin.
“If you want it to end, I’ll give them a cue. I’m not sure if they know when to stop. I only gave them a quick run-through of the musical format,” I tell her, watching her face closely. I wonder if Kat would like France. The fashion might be more to her liking, and the portion sizes.
“End?” She pouts. “Can I pick never?”
I raise my eyebrow, honestly surprised, “Of course, M’lady. I’ll just make a few adjustments.” I concentrate on the bubble and add another layer of time over that, slowing everything down within the space so that time for everyone is passing slower so that Kat and I can enjoy the moment for as long as she wants.
We glide on for what feels like hours, but to the overall crowd is only sixteen minutes and fourteen seconds. I finally release the bubble and cue the musicians to bring it to a close when I sense that Kat is getting tired.
I pull her into a spin that draws her close to me. I wrap my arms around her and I dip her slightly back, freezing in that position as the music comes to a stop. With the final cadence, I gaze into her eyes, longing to kiss her, but hesitant to display that level of affection in the court, and in front of the King, no less.
I heave a heavy breath, pulling her back up and leading her back to the wall to where the Lord and Lady Halsey stand with wide eyes and a rigid posture. I briefly fear I have overstepped myself again.
“That was… quite impressive, I must say,” The Lord grins. “You must teach us this dance later.”
“I’d be glad to,” I answer proudly. “I hope that wasn’t too forward of me.”
“Sometimes, even the King needs to learn a lesson in manners,” The Lord winks at me.
“Yes, I suppose that is so, but I wouldn’t want to bring his wrath on you for my actions. That was an impulsive move on my part, but it seems to have been worth the risk, seeing as Kaitlyn has finally relaxed,” I smile at her.
“Wrath?” Lady Charlotte chuckles. “Have you learned nothing this night?”
I frown slightly at her insinuating tone. I feel like I’m being insulted, but I’m not sure how. “About what?” I ask. It feels like a stupid question.
She looks at me with her sharp brown eyes, almost disappointed. Her gaze shifts to her husband. “My dear, it is late. We should be getting home, yes?”
“Ah, of course. I will call the carriage,” Lord Halsey nods, slipping away.
I look after him with uncertainty. Did I say something wrong? I get a distinct feeling she is upset with me. I fidget nervously with the cuff on my sleeve until he comes back to tell us the carriage is ready.
Lady Charlotte leads us out as the Lord steps into the hall toward the King. I suppose he will inform him of our departure. We wait for him in the carriage and then we all head home. As we bump along the road, I watch Kaitlyn, still entranced with how she danced tonight. My thoughts swirl on cloud nine as she leans her head on me and starts to doze until we arrive back at the manor.
I find myself reluctant to wake her when we pull up to the manor. I let the Lord and Lady exit before I scoop Katliyn up in my arms. The carriage door is a little narrow so I rely on the magic again to skip me out onto the stones of the path. I feel a little tired from using so many layers of magic tonight, but what is one more, for Kaitlyn’s sake.
I follow them into the manor, Kat still in my arms. I take her straight to our room, skipping through the door and appearing next to the bed. Before I set her down, my eyes settle on the little black dragon curled up on the bed, looking at me with big innocent eyes amidst the torn remnants of the sheets.
I glare hard at the little thing. “Now look what you’ve done. You’re worse than a dog!” I accuse her. She gurgles, crawling over to sniff Kat’s hand. I shake my head, turning to set her down in the chair instead. I set to work, untying her gown.
Her eyes flutter open as Scoria flies over and lands in her lap. Kat rubs her eye, looking down at the dragon. “Hello to you too…”
“She’s destroyed the bed,” I mutter, fumbling with the strings of her bodice.
“Scoria…” Kat sighs. “We weren’t gone that long.” Kat glances back at me. “Maybe we should ask for help… and new sheets?”
I sigh, disappointed with my inability to undo the dress. “Yes, I’ll go find someone. Would you care for a bath? I don’t know about you, but I’m a little sore from all that dancing,” I wink.
She smiles wide, “Me too.”
When I finally finish with the ties, I leave her to finish undressing while I go and find someone to replace the sheets and draw a bath. I find one of the lady’s quite quickly and she hurries off to attend to the tasks. I hurry back, slipping into the room to find her sitting on the chair by the fire, dragon in hand, naked. I freeze on the spot, still taken everytime I see her.
I realise she hasn’t noticed me yet, as she stares into the flickering flames I’m sure she started herself. I watch the light dance on her face, entranced.
“Did you miss me?” I break the silence. I suddenly feel overdressed.
She blinks out of a daze, turning to look at me. Her pink lips curling upward. “Always.” I feel my heart melt as she says so.
“I hope I didn’t make you wait too long. They’ll be here soon with the bath,” I inform her, slipping off my shoes and joining her by the fire.
“That’s good,” She smirks. “Lucky for you, I can keep the water warm as long as you like.”
I blush at the implication of her words. “That’s right,” I hum, recalling our time in Camelot when we bathed all night. “What were you thinking about, while I was gone?” I ask curiously, taking the second chair and turning it to face her flames. I plop down exhaustedly, draping my limbs over the arms like a doll.
Her smile fades and her gaze turns back to the hearth. I immediately regret asking. “I was talking to it.”
I look at her, perplexed. “It? The fire?” I clarify.
“I guess it’s more accurate to say talking at it,” She muses. “It doesn’t really respond much.”
I chuckle. “I know how that feels. Mine just… ticks. Sometimes it makes this grinding noise and I think that means a disagreement. What were you saying to it?”
She glances at me sideways, biting her lip. “I want it to understand… It can’t do whatever it wants when we go home…”
I lose the smile, frowning at the sudden seriousness of the conversation. “Oh, that,” I mumble. I must have forgotten in all my blissful dancing. I kind of don’t want to go back now that she brings that up.
“I don’t know what happened between them, but it has nothing to do with us. It’s not fair to us, or to Heath, and now it’s all messed up,” She purses her lips. “I was wondering if maybe we could ask Lady Charlotte what to do. Maybe she’ll know something, or have advice on how to help him get control back.”
“What could she possibly know that could help us? I’m not saying we shouldn’t, but why do you think she would know?” I ask, picking at the cuff of my shirt.
“I have no idea,” She shrugs, “but we won’t know unless we ask.”
“And you suppose we can trust her with this information?” I look up without moving my head. My hair seems to block my view of her, partly.
Kat raises an eyebrow, “What’s she going to do about it? He’s five hundred years in the future.”
“I meant… We can’t cause a paradox or anything. I don’t suppose this is a huge thing, so we’re probably fine… It just means revealing to her about the Guild and Markus,” I sigh. “That’s a whole can of worms I’d rather avoid if we could.”
“We don’t have to tell them about any of that,” She rolls her eyes. “Heath and the lava have nothing to do with the Guild and Markus.” She’s right… but… there is no but. It’s the most logical solution at this time.
“I get the feeling she doesn’t like me,” I admit, pulling at a loose thread.
Kat tilts her head, “I don’t see why. She seems like a tough woman, but nice.”
“She clearly pointed out that I hadn’t learned anything about whatever I was supposed to know tonight. I don’t get it. She makes me feel… like I’m stupid…” I trail off. Why of all times is my pride hurt now?
Kat snickers, “You said you were worried about bringing down the wrath of the King. I think she was pointing out that if there was going to be any wrath, it would have come down on the Lord when he interrupted him. They told us that the King can’t move against them, because of their alliance.”
“But…” That makes sense now. So why do I feel the need to defend myself? She just explained it to me clearly. I sigh, letting the sentence drop. “Yea, I guess I didn’t have anything to worry about. I’m just not used to the King not being… well… the all mighty and powerful King,” I say. “It’s hard to wrap my head around the Halsey’s being in real control and not King Henry,” I add.
“It makes sense,” She hums, staring wistfully into the fire. “Magic has always been the real power. In our history books, that’s why the humans turned on us. When they invented guns and democracy, suddenly the biggest threat wasn’t each other, but the mages. Humans fear what they don’t understand.”
“But we’re human too. We just happen to be human with magic,” I glance toward her. Something inside me doesn’t see how we’re any different from them, other than the magic part. We were born of them, how are we any different?
“I’m not so sure,” She frowns. “I read something a long time ago that said becoming a Guardian makes you something… more than human.”
I scoff, “Maybe if you’re an airhead philosopher. We still bleed, we’re just harder to kill. If you ever read the comic books, most superheroes are just really trained humans or humans who found magic. Very few of them are actual aliens come to Earth. If magic has been here for millennia, then we’re not any different.”
“What about that creature or person that the others saw when they did the ritual?” She asks, turning to me.
I blink, thinking back to the man with the crystal eyes Caroline described to us months ago. “What about it? I’ve never seen it. Have you? What does it have to do with us?”
“A lot, if that thing is what determines who can become a Guardian,” She retorts. “I may not have seen it because I didn’t take the trials, but everyone who did said they saw it.”
She’s not wrong. Gwen also mentioned it. I assume that means Hitomi did too. “But then, why didn’t we see it? It didn’t determine if we became a Guardian. It’s not consistent.”
“Maybe it did,” She challenges. “Just because we didn’t see it, doesn’t mean it wasn’t involved. You’re assuming that.”
“So is assuming he was involved. There’s no way to prove it. Either way, no one could know. We don’t even know what it was.”
“Exactly. We won’t know unless we find out more about what we are,” She nods thoughtfully. “I think we should. If we can understand what Guardians are, maybe we can find a way to get the upper hand.”
“So, you’re saying, ask the Halsey’s and learn from, and see if there’s a way to help Heath while we’re here,” I state. That’s clearly what she’s suggesting. I watch her skeptically from the chair, the fire casting strange shadows across the room.
She looks about to answer when a knock comes to the door and the serving lady peeks in. “My Lord, My Lady, the tub is arrived,” I nod, jumping to my feet and pulling Kat to hers as I drag her behind the privacy screen in the corner. Two men step in carrying the tub followed by large basins of water which they use to fill it.
When they are finally done setting up the bath, they leave Kat and I to enjoy the steaming water and mull over our plans. This whole having-magic thing just seems to have gotten a whole lot more complicated, if you ask me.
By Kayla West