Hi! Peace Angel here. Some of you might know me as Mistress Kotoko from my CD fansite Fellowship of the Tower. Or you may not. But anyway, after about a year-long hiatus, my muse came by and thwacked me on the head with an idea for a CD fanfic. Isn't that nice? ;

Many, many thanks to my beta reader, ShannonLynn! After such a long period of not writing, it feels incredibly strange to be posting something on again, and after writing the first draft of this story, I was very unsure of myself. Was it worth putting up for others to read, or did it deserve the Recycling Bin? Shannon helped me a lot by giving me some good honest-to-goodness comments and criticism. What you can see below is the edited version, and I must say, I think it's better than the first draft thanks to Shannon

Anyway, enough of my pointless talking (typing?). Enjoy the story!

Disclaimer: Although I truly adore Crown Duel, its characters, and its many lands and cultures, I don't own any of it. They all were created by Sherwood Smith and they all belong to her. I'm simply borrowing them

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Nimiar stands alone, watching the other nobles glide across the dance floor in pairs. She sips her punch and takes tiny bites of a dainty pastry dusted with sugar but she isn't really hungry. It is simply something for her hands to do.

She spots the elegant Duke of Savona engaged in a friendly dance with Lady Trishe. Nimiar wonders for a moment where Tamara is if she isn't with the duke, but then spots her cousin a little way away, dancing quite contentedly with Vidanric in her stunning blue gown. Nimiar notes with a small amount of distaste that it is their second dance together tonight.

But it is really none of her business, she reminds herself for what must be the tenth time that night. She should be happy. She should be celebrating with the others now that Galdran is gone. But she wishes she had someone to talk to.

She wishes Elenet were here, but the heiress is still in Grumareth, smoothing out the many issues that came up after Galdran's defeat. Nimiar received a short letter from her just yesterday, and she remembers that Elenet's writing seemed unusually hurried, as if she didn't have much time to spare to write letters to childhood friends. Elenet reported that, with Galdran gone, she could start rebuilding Grumareth and bring back its former glory – before her great-uncle had squandered much of its money and before Galdran forced severe taxes on his citizens. In addition to that, Elenet has been communicating with other nobles in Remalna, re-establishing diplomatic ties and connections that were severed due to Galdran's stranglehold over the various territories within the kingdom.

Without Elenet, Nimiar feels very much alone, but Elenet has business to attend to. Grumareth needs Elenet more than Nimiar does, after all. At least, that's what Nimiar keeps telling herself. But she still feels undeniably lonely.

Nimiar recalls that the two of them spent several balls and parties together, chatting and drinking tea and hot chocolate. Occasionally, they were asked for a dance by some of the lords, but because of their minor statuses, they remained mostly in the background. Now that it is just Nimiar and not Nimiar and Elenet, Nimiar is strangely isolated and still in the background – this time, by herself.

Nimiar sighs and takes another bite of her pastry.

"Excellent ball, isn't it?" Lady Arasa asks, stepping up beside Nimiar. She has an bright sparkle in her eye and can hardly remain still, always peering at the people swirling round and round on the dance floor. She even cranes her neck to see all the dancers better.

Nimiar, without thinking, nods and smiles politely. Her court mask appears again. "Yes, it is."

"I just finished speaking with Deric," Arasa continues, grinning. "It seems the infamous Count of Tlanth has been learning to dance, yet I haven't seen him on the dance floor tonight. Have you?"

Nimiar shakes her head, for it is the truth. However, she only half listens. She knows that Arasa's mouth can sometimes say more than it should, and also things that are only partly true. But, diplomatic as always, Nimiar lets the other lady finish speaking without interruption.

"I heard Trishe danced with him at Savona's last ball. I couldn't make it myself because I had a fever…"

Nimiar suppresses a smile at this. She remembers spotting Arasa flirting with one of the lords in the gardens that night. But Nimiar keeps quiet as Arasa continues chattering away.

"…Poor Trishe had trouble walking for two entire days afterwards. I caught her limping, so I saw it with my own eyes. I'm surprised she can dance at all tonight, but the person I'm just dying to behold is that count! You'll let me know if you see him dance, won't you, Nee?"

Nimiar hesitates for a fraction of a second before replying, "Of course," even though she will definitely try to avoid such a conversation in the future.

Arasa's face shines with excitement and she glides away to join a small group of gossiping ladies, all bright-eyed and sneaking looks at the dancing figures of Tamara and Vidanric.

Then Nimiar is alone again, left to reflect on the newly-arrived Count of Tlanth. The few times she had spotted him in the past at various social gatherings, she had seen him only from a distance as he was always surrounded by those of much higher ranks than hers. Nevertheless, by what she has seen, Nimiar can conjure up an image of a tall, red-haired man with a loud yet care-free voice and a laugh that can ease the tension whenever someone says the wrong thing or whenever Tamara has the nerve to flirt with Vidanric in Savona's presence. Nimiar has never spoken to him, but she watches and listens to him carefully when she can.

Suddenly, something large blocks the light and throws a shadow across Nimiar's face. She pauses and looks up and feels the heat of embarrassment creeping into her cheeks, although she tries to suppress it as much as she can.

Standing in front of her is the Count of Tlanth, holding out a gloved hand towards her, although somewhat awkwardly.

"Er…I noticed you were alone. Would you like to dance?" he asks, his voice a little uncertain.

Nimiar does not really know what to say, and tries her best to maintain her court mask. Time seems to stand still as several thoughts and emotions rush through her at once.

He's asking her, Nimiar Argaliar, even though she holds no special rank or is particularly popular…

He is a poor dancer…

He is a count, a hero…

He was asking her

What will Arasa say?

What will Elenet think?

This must be a dream…

Or a hallucination…

Before she knows it, Nimiar's hand is in his and she is being led onto the dance floor as the musicians strike up a new song. She automatically takes up the proper position, and the dance begins.

At first, the dance feels strange. The count holds his arms stiffly around her and more than once, his feet lose the beat and he stumbles a little, trying to get back into rhythm. Nimiar can read his face quite easily. She can tell that he is still feeling the newness to court life, and to ease him a little, Nimiar attempts a small smile.

The change on his face is noticeable. He smiles back – a wide grin – and his arms lose some of their stiffness. Nimiar is relieved.

Then she feels a sharp pain in her foot and she winces, just barely avoiding losing track of the dance. As she continues dancing with difficulty, the count appears apologetic.

"Sorry. I'm not a great dancer."

Despite the throbbing in her foot, Nimiar can't help but laugh at such a blunt and honest comment. Such a dancing mistake and a following statement are unheard of in court, and sound absurd to Nimiar. The count is mystified but laughs along with her. The pair relax in time for the dance's closing cadence.

The count, still smiling, speaks first. "I'm afraid I don't know your name, although I'm sure I've seen you before."

"My name is Nimiar. Nimiar Argaliar," she replies. Then she gives him a small curtsy. "Thank you for the dance, Count Branaric."

"Please, just call me Bran."

"Then just call me Nee."

However, before Bran can make up an answer, the musicians begin another song yet they are still standing in the middle of the dance floor. Shrugging, Bran holds out his hand again.

"Would you like to dance again, Nee?"

Nimiar smiles as brightly as he does. "I'd love to, Bran."

End

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Don't you just love happy endings? I hope I didn't give you any cavities with all the sweetness involved and everything. I don't usually write romance-type stuff.

Oh yeah. Before I forget, this is a one-shot (a.k.a. a stand-alone), short as it is. You don't really need a sequel for this because:

1) We already know what happens to Bran and Nee in the end and

2) If I make this a multi-chapter story, chances are, I will never get around to finishing it.

Anyway, please do drop a review to tell me what you think. Remember, no flames. Critiques are welcome. If you decide not to review, I hope you enjoyed reading anyway