Prophecy Story Index
"The music will do you good."
--Hinarme, Lilies of the Field
Smiling politely, Kell nodded at the elderly council member as he expressed his thankful happiness that she and her parents had returned once again to rule Rillanda. A few moments later, he finally left and Kell blew out a quiet sigh of relief that no one stepped forward to immediately replace him. Alone at last...or at least not being talked at. The banquet, the second in two months, was still going strong after two hours with no sign of stopping. She'd rather be elsewhere, but she'd promised her mother that she would stay for all of it, dress and all. She pinched the bridge of her nose, barely refraining from rubbing her weary eyes. If I hear one more variation of 'I'm so glad you are okay, that you're here, that you're safe,' I just may scream. I'd rather face an army by myself than hear it again.
Her fingers itched to be doing something useful, more useful than sitting daintily in a padded chair, drinking some frothy fruit concoction and playing nice with the council members, foreign dignitaries, and common folk alike. It didn't help that she'd had to leave Lachiellian in her room. She felt ... naked without the great sword strapped on her back, not that it would've gone well with her current outfit. Glancing downward at herself, she sighed quietly. The swirly blue dress felt odd and at the same time familiar. At least it gave her the freedom to hide daggers in a few places on her body. And what Raven didn't know... Dorien had commiserated with her on their way down to the banquet earlier, saying how he was so used to having a staff in hand that going without would take some getting used to.
The bard had gotten separated from her as soon as she walked into the ballroom. Where did he go? Her eyes searched for him in the vast crowd of people drifting in and out of the great ballroom via several different adjoining hallways. One of the few rooms that had survived Seth's occupation nearly intact, it had been the only choice of locations for the banquet. Decorative wall hangings and royal standards had been re-discovered from their hiding places (thanks to Camella and her group) and used to brighten up the marble walls, hiding the occasional scar or crack. A group of musicians, all chosen by Dorien, played a selection of Rillandan music in one corner. Long tables of finger food and various drinks stood against the opposite wall. In between, clusters of people talked and laughed and even danced.
Kell smiled genuinely as she saw her father draw her only mildly protesting mother onto the dance floor as a slow waltz began. Their crowns, the lighter ones, glinted brightly in the glow given off by the candlescones. Raven's long dark green dress flowed around her ankles as she moved, still as graceful as she had been when she first met Stefan. Kell couldn't tell what they were saying to each other, but the looks of love on their faces didn't need interpretation or even words. After a few slow turns, Raven laid her head down on Stefan's shoulder and closed her eyes, a small smile still on her face. Stefan held her closer, guiding them in their quiet movements. At first, they danced alone, but soon other couples joined them, not that Stefan and Raven even noticed.
Stillness and peace settled over Kell and for a few moments, giving up her lifestyle of roaming the country as a swordswoman was all worth it. Just to see her parents safe and in love and finally able to live as they should... A hidden part of her acknowledged that while she had strived so long to save her country and its people, her greatest goal had been to give her parents back their lives. She closed her eyes and let the soft romantic music wash over her, filling her senses, muffling that itch to go out and do rather than simply be, finding that small part of her that still was Linet, princess and heir, and encouraging it to grow.
"May I have this dance?"
Kell's eyes flew open at the familiar voice, and she looked up to see Dorien watching her, a smile on his face. His green eyes spoke of gentle amusement, soft concern, and half-shadowed deeper feelings that Kell couldn't begin to name. With one hand behind his back, he held out the other, palm up, waiting for her reply. She placed her hand in his and let him pull her up. "I was looking for you, minstrel."
Dorien's smile deepened as he released her hand. "And here I am." With a flourish, he brought the other hand out and handed her a long-stemmed pink rose. "For you, my lady Linet."
She blinked in surprise and hesitantly took the rose, staring first at it then at Dorien before lifting the flower slightly to inhale the delicate scent. "I..." Pausing, she bit her lip, not knowing what to say. Finally, she settled on a simple, "Thank you."
He eyed her curiously. "No one's given you flowers before, have they?"
The corners of Kell's mouth lifted in an impish grin and she whispered, "I've spent nearly all of my adult years as a mercenary, Dorien. There was little time for ... romance. Or flowers." Lowering her eyes, she touched a finger to the soft petals of the rose. Absently she noted that the stem had been de-thorned.
Dorien didn't say anything in response and Kell raised her eyes to find him watching her, his forehead creased in thought. He shook away whatever thoughts had gripped him and held out his hand again. "You never answered my question. May I have this dance, my lady?"
"I don't..." She hesitated in a moment of un-Kell-like insecurity, then plunged onward. "I learned how to dance as a child, but I haven't danced in years, Dorien. I'm not sure I remember how to anymore."
"Trust me." Dorien smiled at her, entreaty filling his green eyes. "Trust yourself. Please?"
Slowly, Kell took his hand and let him lead her to the edge of the dance floor. He kept one her hand in his and nodded at her as she placed her other hand, rose still in its grasp, just behind his shoulder. His other hand rested at her waist and slowly, he began moving them gracefully to the gentle beat of the soft, romantic waltz. Kell's mercenary senses felt the eyes of others watching them, but she ignored them, concentrating instead on not stepping on Dorien's toes. After she was sure she'd found the right rhythm, she looked up, catching Dorien's eyes upon her.
Kell's eyebrows rose in question. "What? Am I doing it wrong?"
A smile broke out on his features and his eyes twinkled in merriment. "Hardly. I think you remember more than you thought."
She smiled broadly in return. "I have a good dance partner."
"That is true."
Laughter bubbled upward at Dorien's not-so-humble reply, and she stepped closer to him, ducking her head to hide the huge grin decorating her features. Dorien's low chuckles echoed her own amusement.
"The music will do you good."
Hinarme's words from two months earlier resounded loudly -- and suddenly -- in Kell's ears, momentarily drowning out the music. Her laughter cut off with a quick inhalation. Dorien stiffened slightly in reaction and gently pushed her back to look at her in concern.
"K--Linet? Is something wrong?"
Distracted, she shook her head, restraining the urge to turn and search the ballroom for her magery teacher. His voice was so clear! So close! When he'd spoken the words to her in reference to Dorien two months ago, she'd accepted them, but really hadn't them much thought. But now...with Dorien...and the music...and what I feel, might feel...what I think I see in Dorien's eyes... Those thoughts brought to mind what Dorien had said to her just a few days before the assault on Seth's forces in Brightstar.
"I have come to ... care for you a great deal. I don't know how or why it happened. I only know that it did."
A hand touched her cheek and Kell blinked back to reality, surprised to find herself on one of the small balconies attached to the great ballroom. The half-curtained doors had been shut which explained why the music was muffled. A few decorative lanterns sent shards of low light out to dance on the stone walls. Overhead, a quarter moon brightened the ebony starry sky.
"Kell?" Dorien's voice came quietly and she blinked again, registering the concern and question in Dorien's voice. His hand still rested lightly on her face and she reflexively lifted her own hand to cover it as her eyes met his. She didn't say anything, just looked at him, searching his eyes.
Another memory of words returned to her, this time spoken by the Lightsisters through Dorien on the very eve of the great battle. Spoken to reassure her of her duties during the battle, the words had also held a revelation.
"Not even this one who has shown such strength in the face of darkness, and who, in the name of love, has given and will give much of himself to shield you."
Dorien frowned and his forehead creased with worry. He took a breath to say something, but Kell spoke first in a soft, half-dazed voice.
"Hinarme told me that the music would do me good."
"What?" Dorien's worry gave way to confusion. "What music?"
"I...he..." Abruptly coming to herself, Kell snapped her mouth shut, then shook her head in sudden discomfort. Pulling away from Dorien's arms, she walked to the far corner of the small balcony, focusing on the distant palace gates and the city beyond. "It's nothing," she said sharply as she laid the rose on the balcony wall and crossed her arms over her chest . "Just something Hinarme told me."
Silence followed her statement and Kell wondered if her harsh words would stay Dorien's curiosity.
"I wish you wouldn't do that."
"You know what, Kell." Dorien joined her at the balcony's edge, leaving a several feet of space between them. He didn't look at her; instead he stared out in the same direction as her. "Withdrawing. Blocking me. Not letting me in. I thought..." He tightened his jaw. "I thought there was something happening between us. I thought you wanted it to happen." The bard paused again, then finished quietly. "Maybe I was wrong."
Kell replied in a soft but unyielding voice, "I don't know what you want from me, Dorien. I can only be what and who I am." She couldn't help but remember the only other time she'd nearly let a man into her heart; she'd had to push Jydan away because of who she really was. Later when Dorien, knowing who she really was, had told her how he felt, she'd told him she couldn't afford the distraction, not then. She'd promised to remember his words when the time was right. And now, when the timing was right, she found herself hesitating.
Dorien blew out a heavy breath. "I'm not asking you to be someone you're not. I just... Look." He stepped over to her and grasped her gently by one arm. She turned slightly in response, meeting his eyes coolly. Refusing to look away from her intimidating glare, Dorien said carefully, "Every time I think we're going forward, you step back. And while I'm willing to wait until you're ready, I have to know that someday you will be ready. So if you're not ever going to be, then tell me now." After a moment of silence, Dorien released her and let his arm fall to his side. "It's up to you, my lady."
Blue eyes wide and surprised at Dorien's blunt words, Kell had no idea what she should say. She opened her mouth to say something, but nothing seemed right, so she closed it again, hiding behind her silence. Dorien's even gaze flickered and his body began to shift in preparation for leaving. Some small part of her yelled "no!", and words poured from her mouth even before she realized she was talking. "When we saw Hinarme at River's End a few months ago, I told him a little about you. That you were a minstrel...a bard. My friend. And...and maybe more?" Feeling a blush appearing on her cheeks at the words, she plunged onward, finishing. "He told me that 'the music will do you good.'" She raised a hand and cupped it against his cheek. "Please. Don't go."
Covering her hand with his, Dorien twined his fingers through hers and brought her palm to his lips to gently press a kiss into it. "I'll stay."
A perverse need to make sure Dorien really would stay made Kell talkative. "I do want to have a ... relationship with you, Dorien. I just don't know how to. I'm a warrior, not a country girl looking for a boyfriend. I'm not good at this stuff. I'm stubborn. I get angry. And frustrated. I can hurt people. I don't ... I still don't feel like I belong here." Stepping away, she waved her hand jerkily in the air to encompass the entire palace. "Not like my parents. It's only been a few months, but they're already at home again. I don't know that I'll ever be at home here. I barely remember being here as a child. It was so long ago. And so much as happened since then. I'm not even sure I know who I am anymore."
Dorien moved forward and claimed one of her hands, holding it in both of his as he pressed it against his chest. "I know. It's hard. But I know you can do it. It's just gonna take time." He chuckled at the face she made. "Not your favorite thing to hear, I'm sure." Letting the smile remain on his face, he added, "And you know what? I'm not without faults. I'm insecure and unsure about myself outside of my bard duties. And even in those duties, I wonder if I can ever fill Tulan's place. And I get angry just as much as you do. Together, we're quite a pair."
Kell relaxed and a smile slowly lit her face. "I guess we are." She lowered her eyes to stare at his hands holding her hand captive against his chest. "So...now where do we go?"
She looked up as he stepped closer to her. "Forward?"
"Yes." He moved one hand to touch her cheek. "Close your eyes."
Kell blinked at the request. "What? Why?"
Dorien only smiled. "Just close your eyes." He paused and added, "Trust me."
Slowly, she did as he asked. His fingers stroked her cheek twice, then she felt his lips touching hers ever so softly in a first kiss. Her free hand slid up and rested on his shoulder, fingers curling into his tunic. He pulled back after only a few seconds, leaving his hand on her cheek.
She opened her eyes and smiled at him. "Forward has a good sound to it."
Moving his hand to tuck one blonde ringlet of hair behind her ear, he grinned back at her. "Yes, it does." He added after a few moments, "Do you want to go back inside?"
Kell pursed her lips, then shook her head. "No, I think I'd like to stay here, for awhile anyway." The muffled strains of another slow waltz drifted through the closed balcony doors. Eyes softening and speaking things she could not yet put in words, Kell asked softly, "Dance with me?"
Dorien smiled and raised her still captive hand to his lips. "Always."
Above them, the Warrior and the Minstrel constellations glittered as a shooting star streaked across them in the expanse of night sky. Later it would be written that "...the Minstrel did offer a gift to the Warrior. A gift of music. A gift of heart. And a gift of love. The Warrior, no longer alone in her journey, rejoiced, for the music did her good."
Prophecy Story Index