Disclaimer: I don't own Narnia or any characters you may recognize from the books or the movies, I wish I did but I don't...
Summary: It was finally time to ask her one very important question.
A/N: This story is part of my A Light in the Darkness universe. Enjoy!
Part Two: The Reaction
It was a challenge to keep myself from drawing immediate attention to the fact that Alambiel now wore a betrothal ring. We had spent most of the last three hours together playing chess (Alambiel only forgot once that she preferred to cheat and consequently trounced me at the game… I feigned great chagrin over this fact) and discussing many things about our future. Now, however, it was teatime and Alambiel was quick to remind me that I was obliged to see the new colt.
As soon as we knocked, Ardon opened the door. Alambiel was right. He did have a ridiculous grin firmly in place. "I am a da."
Alambiel snickered and I smirked even as I grasped Ardon's forearm. "Congratulations, my friend." Ardon did not move back, still grinning. Alambiel's soft laugh sounded beside me but I resisted looking at her just yet. Instead, I arched an eyebrow. "Are you not receiving visitors, Ardon?"
He abruptly released my forearm. "Of course, come in. Come in. Alithia is awake as is our colt." He waved us in then paused. "Allow me to see if she's ready for visitors."
As soon as Ardon disappeared behind the bedroom door, Alambiel turned to me with a grin. "Told you so."
I chuckled. "Behave, Minx."
Her eyes glinted with mischief but Ardon opened the doors before she could offer a retort. He waved us in. My gaze went immediately to the little colt snuggling his dam's side. Dark eyes blinked sleepily at us and I could not help smiling as his small mouth opened in a yawn. Ardon, grinning even more proudly than he had when he first informed me of the coming foal, leaned down and carefully gathered his son into his arms. The little one squeaked then nestled against his sire. I reached one hand out to lightly touch his downy hair. "So this is Solon."
"Yes. I think my cousin would have approved of such a colt being his namesake."
I remembered a Centaur barely out of his colthood when he and his brother perished. I remembered a Centaur who had a ready smile and preferred to set up pranks on the rest of us whenever he thought he could get away with it…or get Ardon to protect him. I gave a curt nod. "He would."
"Finally." Alithia's soft exclamation made both of us look at her. She was holding Alambiel's hand, examining the ring. "Have you chosen a date yet?"
Alambiel shook her head. "Not yet."
Ardon chuckled as he turned back to me. "It seems I should be congratulating you as well."
Perhaps the conversation would have lasted longer had little Solon not decided he was weary of being ignored. Alambiel and I left, now walking hand-in-hand. "Will you accompany me to the Sweethearts' Day ball tonight?"
She glanced up at me with a cheeky smile. "Why?"
"So I might have the honor of escorting the loveliest lady to the ball, of course."
Alambiel laughed. "One, you're as biased as you can be. Two, every man will think his lady is the fairest. Three, don't you usually bribe me to go with you?"
"I am biased. I do believe you are the loveliest creature I've ever seen. But, I do not bribe you."
"That's not what I remember. If you bribe me to stop me from carrying out amusing coups, you obviously bribe me to get me to go to balls."
I snorted. "And how do you come to this conclusion, Milis Cantalach?"
She glanced up at me, suddenly quite demure. That was the look that preceded most of her more outrageous stunts. "My dear Kentauri, I should think the conclusion is quite obvious since I have immediately caused or threatened to cause a coup after being required to attend a ball or some other boring formal event."
"I see," I glanced around then leaned down to breathe in her ear, "I also know it is not so cold that I mightn't toss you into the sea as you deserve for being a cheeky little pest and then send you for a survival run. The Northern Marshes seem to motivate you to accomplish great feats during survival runs."
"Oh, well-played. Completely underhanded but well-played." Alambiel twisted so she could walk backwards. "Now, why should I go to this ball? Leeta and most likely Tuulea will be insisting I wear an extremely formal gown and it will be crowded. Not the most appealing combination in the world."
I was surprised she remembered this game. Surprised and pleased. "You will have the pleasure of my company and I would very much enjoy taking you. We did miss the last Sweethearts' Day ball, after all."
"Hmmm, and if I were to agree to go, how long would this excursion last?"
"You do realize that you are going to fall if you do not walk the right way around, do you not?"
She merely laughed. "You won't let me fall. Now answer the question, Oreius."
I stroked my beard, attempting to at least partially conceal my amusement as I pretended to give the subject grave consideration. "Four dances, one for each of our Sovereigns and then," I caught her elbow before she tripped over her own skirts and brought her around to my side, "we may leave."
Alambiel laughed again but this time she nodded. "Deal."
There was a brief beat of wings and I spied a Bird, Magpie by its markings, making its way swiftly down the corridor we were crossing. A page, most likely. I returned my attention to my cheeky betrothed who still looked as though she were plotting some vexation.
Susan adjusted the delicate crystal vase full of pink and white rosebuds. She eyed the arrangement, comparing it to the rest of the room, and then gave a quick nod. Lucy appeared at her side, bright-eyed and fair bouncing with giddiness. "Do you really think this will work, Susan?"
"I hope so, Lu. This is the solarium where Oreius and Kat have been coming to talk since Christmas." She examined the room again. Every vase was perfectly in place on heart-shaped lace doilies and some elegant red, pink, and white ribbons formed garlands hanging from the high shelf. She had arranged for chocolates and hot cocoa to be placed on one of the tables as soon as it drew closer to the ball (just in case Oreius did not bring Kat to the ball first). "We've done all we can to make the atmosphere just right."
"Your Majesties! Your Majesties!" With a flutter of wings, a Magpie landed on the table directly in front of Susan. She tilted her head, feathers puffed out as she flapped her wings again, shrilly crying, "Seen it! Seen it!"
Susan exchanged a glance with Lucy then gave the Magpie a gracious smile. It would be easier to get the information once Sarika was somewhat calmer. "What is it? What have you seen?"
The Magpie fluttered her wings. "It! I've seen it! It's silver and oh so pretty!"
"What is it? Where is it?"
"On her hand!" Sarika let out a chattering laugh as she strut across the table. "On her hand! Seen it! I've seen it!"
Eyes widening, Susan looked around the room. All of the ladies had stopped and most of them, including Thalia, had drawn nearer. She quickly turned back to the Magpie. "Whose hand, Sarika?"
"The Princess Royal!" Sarika fluttered her wings and hopped sideways. "The Princess Royal is wearing a pretty silver ring on her left hand. Never worn a ring on that finger before, Majesties! Never! It was so pretty and silver!"
"Which finger?" Lucy cried, grasping Susan's hand so hard she couldn't feel her fingers.
"First finger, Your Majesties! The first finger!"
Susan's brow furrowed then she turned to the others. Deianeira, Caia, and three other ladies were beaming. Deianeira laughed. "The betrothal ring, My Queens! It is tradition among Centaurs for it to be placed on the first finger of the left hand."
Lucy grabbed her arm. Susan whirled to face her. "He asked her!"
Thalia giggled. "They're betrothed!"
Then they shrieked and began jumping up and down. "They're engaged! They're engaged!" The other ladies laughed and chattered, smiling, clapping or stamping their hooves and paws or flapping their wings. "He asked her! They're engaged!"
Deianeira suddenly stopped then curtsied. "If you will pardon me, Your Majesties, I must inform Tuulea."
"And we need to see the ring," Lucy added.
Susan laughed. "Oh and we'll have to start planning the wedding!"
"We must tell Tuulea!"
I grabbed Leeta's wrist and kept her from running out the door. "Oh no, we don't."
Leeta raised her eyebrows. "No? But, it is Tuulea."
"I know." I could only imagine how Tuulea would react when she learned Oreius proposed. We hadn't even discussed the date yet…we definitely needed that settled before we told Tuulea…and Susan and Lucy. I gave Leeta a stern look. "Oreius and I will inform Tuulea tomorrow. Besides, she's not even going to be at the ball this year due to being up all of last night with Alithia and her new foal."
"You should not be so certain, My Lady. After all, my aunt rarely misses an opportunity to see how her planned matches are getting along."
I really hoped that wasn't going to be true. Because facing Tuulea without a wedding date (and a plan beyond Oreius and me showing up) would be like facing a pack of Werewolves while wearing clothes made out of raw meat. You probably won't come out of it alive. Maybe we should have talked about when we wanted to get married… "Leeta, you have to promise not to tell Tuulea tonight."
Black eyes glimmered with an all-too-familiar calculation as she considered. I wasn't going to enjoy whatever terms she was about to announce. Leeta smiled like the cat that ate the canary then she went to my wardrobe. Oh I was going to regret this…. Didn't I used to be able to win the arguments over what I wore and if I went to balls? I was almost positive I used to but apparently that has changed. When did that happen? It was tied to either courting Oreius or having my heritage as the Princess Royal become public knowledge…possibly both.
Leeta dug through the dresses until she plucked one from the back of the wardrobe. She turned to me, holding up a formal gown of burgundy silk with delicate gold embroidery forming slender budding leaves and forget-me-nots along the hem as well as scrolling across the top of the bodice, leaving the off-the-shoulder sleeves unadorned. Why did she have to have good taste? There was the smug smile again. "I will not tell Tuulea tonight provided you attend the ball wearing this gown."
I sighed. "Oh all right." If it kept Tuulea from finding out before we, all right, I was ready, I could tolerate it. Fortunately, Leeta didn't insist on my hair hanging free this time (apparently I scared her even more than I scared myself when I had a flashback-induced panic attack the last time she tried to leave my hair loose). Instead, it was swept up into an elegant chignon and then wavy curls were pulled free and arranged to fall over my left shoulder just brushing against the bodice of my dress.
The look on Oreius' face when he first saw me was an excellent reminder of the other reason I caved more readily to dressing up now. All right, maybe going to the ball wouldn't be that bad. As long as we left after four dances.
"They're staring at us. Again." Alambiel's smile was not quite as sincere as it had been when we first danced.
I forced myself to look away from her and observed the Great Hall. A number of the ladies present were watching us with great interest. Caia, Deianeira, Salome, Thalia and the Queens among others. The High King and his wife were currently the closest to us. I smiled down at Alambiel. "Enjoy the dance, Alambiel. Or am I so poor a dance partner?"
That coaxed a true smile from my beloved. I twirled her then brought her close once more, my hands resting on her waist while she placed her hands on my biceps as we danced in a figure eight. This dance seemed the most appropriate for our last one of the eve since it was the same one we had danced in Zelaia.
Coming to the end of the dance, I spun her one last time before bringing her back to face me as we stopped, my hands on her waist and her hands resting on my arms. Her expression had softened and I could not resist. Ignoring the fact that we were still being watched quite closely, I brushed a kiss against her lips. It was Sweethearts' Day, after all.
A moment later, Queen Lucy and Tarrin Peridanson bumped into us. I sighed and annoyance flashed in Alambiel's eyes. Then Queen Lucy squealed, "Oh you're wearing a ring! Congratulations!"
As soon as those words rang out, everyone's attention turned to us. Alambiel mumbled in her Irish, "Ní raibh a dhéanamh fiú sé amach ar an urlár rince. Ba cheart dúinn a d'fhág ag dhá." (Didn't even make it off the dance floor. We should have left at two.)
I could only squeeze her hand in response as the Queens quickly ushered us toward the dais where a line of well-wishers (under Tuulea's direction) was already forming. It seemed we had no retreat available. The matchmakers were very clever tacticians in such matters.
My cheeks were hurting from keeping a smile in place by the time the long, long, and very long line of well-wishers ended. The Four, with Thalia on Peter's arm, and Tuulea converged on us once again. I wondered if everyone but Peter and Edmund were about to start bouncing and shrieking again. Susan and Tuulea looked very determined, in any case. I forced myself to keep smiling. Susan took my free hand, still with that determined look in place. "Well, when shall we set the wedding?"
Oreius and I looked at each other. I tried to think of a month that was close enough to restrain the wedding planners' timeframe without getting us in too much trouble. I always did like the idea of an early spring wedding. "Quickening." Oreius gave the slightest of nods. I turned back to them and managed a more sincere smile than the one I had worn for the last two hours. "We would like to wed in Quickening."
"On the tenth," Oreius added.
I watched Susan and Tuulea exchange looks. Then I decided to slip in an escape route for Oreius and me. "We can discuss it further tomorrow, of course. After Oreius and I have a chance to talk things over some more."
They nodded, even if it was somewhat reluctant, and Oreius bowed before ushering me out of the Great Hall. We stopped at my quarters so I could grab a warm cloak then we ventured out of the Cair and up onto the bluff overlooking the Eastern Sea. I leaned back into Oreius' embrace as he wrapped his arms around me then pressed a kiss against my temple. "You do know that even with the wedding set for Quickening, it will take a lot of work to keep Susan and Tuulea from going overboard, right?"
He chuckled. "No matter how enthusiastic they are, I believe they will honor our wishes, Chéadsearc."
I twisted around to face him. "Well, if I thought we could get away with it, I'd say we should elope. Although, Caia and Illusin pretty much made that impossible with their elopement and Tuulea's very much on guard against such antics now." I ignored his rumbling laugh as I mused in my best sincere voice, "And I suspect Susan and Tuulea would work together to kill us if we did such a thing."
"A very reasonable assumption." Oreius smiled. "The best strategy would be to allow them to create a fuss over the wedding instead of provoking them with an elopement."
"Oh how terrifying."
I laughed aloud when he dipped me then brushed his lips against mine before righting me. He hugged me and then breathed in my ear, "I love you, my Alambiel."
"I love you too." I could not wait to marry Oreius. And if all went well, we would be wed in just under two months. Aslan had blessed me beyond all expectation when He brought Oreius into my life…or perhaps He brought me into Oreius' life. Either way, I couldn't wait for the wedding.
A/N: Please Read and Review! I guess all we really need is the wedding now...well, and at least one or two stories building up to it. There is a poll on my profile where you can chime in and let me know how you think the wedding will turn out. Please leave a review and let me know what y'all thought about this one.