Here's a short story special for Valentine's day! My favourite day of the year! It won't be more than 3 chapters long. Give me lots of reveiws and I might update quicker ;)

Who can guess who Evan is?

Masquerade: Chapter 1

A Valentine's Day masquerade, how fitting. Ironic because the young Queen of Dalmasca was doomed to be the only wall flower at her own ball. Ashe was living a masquerade every day of her life. The polite smiles, the pleasant conversations with dignitaries... It was all a mask. On the inside, she felt hollow.

Each day was another drip in an ocean of tears. Dalmasca was wearing her Queen thin.

Ashe glanced at her costume laid garishly over her bed. Admittedly, it was beautiful. A slim fitting pink dress flounced with lace and a matching pearl mask. A Dalmascan rose in full bloom was laced to the neckline.

A soft tap interrupted the silence.

"Lady Ashe, the ball begins in twenty minutes. Please hurry your highness!" Her maid urged from beyond the door.

Ashe sighed heavily, she slipped the dress over her shoulders. She smoother her hands other the none-existent creases. "Isolde, I'm dressed. You may come in now."

A spritely young woman bustled into Ashe's chambers. She was already dressed in her ballroom regalia; a full length crimson dress that matched perfectly with the amber of her eyes. Her gaze caught with Ashe and she smiled brighter than the sun cryst.

"Oh Lady Ashe you look beautiful!" Isolde gushed, "The color matches perfectly with your eyes. I'll have to bring a crowbar to pry all the men from you by the end of the night! Aren't you excited? This is the first ball I've ever been to!"

Isolde Silva Rivera-Dalmasca, second cousin and faithful maid to Dalmasca's Queen was her pillar. She lived up to the small amount of royal blood in her veins; she was pretty, but not stunningly beautiful. She seemed like a fairytale princess with her swept bronze hair and happy-go-lucky halo. One would wonder why she did not live in luxury with her reinstated wealthy family; she'd always answer with a smile, asking how Ashe would survive without her.

She couldn't. Isolde was Ashe's only friend, she needed her more than she would say.

Isolde giggled and rushed to her lady's side. She snatched a brush, and then ran it slowly through the young Queen's hair. "So how do you want your hair done tonight Lady Ashe? I was thinking a Princess sweep complete with some loose curls and—"


"Oh! What about make up? Some cherry eye shadow will go perfectly with you're dress. You'll be wanting some matching lipstick Lady Ashe, eye liner too!" The maid chittered away, she scrambled to pick up all of the tubes of make up from Ashe's dresser.

Ashe rolled her eyes. It was no use, like dropping pebbles into a stream. Time to pick up the boulders.

"Isolde Please! We're family. We've known each other for years now. My name is Ashe."

Isolde paused from where she was beginning to pin Ashe's hair. "You're right. Friends don't address each other as ladies. We're friends aren't we? That's why we're going to the ball together."

"You're one of the few friends I have. I wouldn't trust anyone else to escort me."

"Ashe, you know I'm only there so you're not torn apart by the population of your fanboys. Someone has to make sure our Queen remains decent at her own ball," Isolde winked, remarking in an exaggerated scandalous tone.

"How silly of me to forget. Someone has to ensure that our widow Queen remains innocent for her next figurehead husband." Ashe added, overstating every syllable, "For the honour of the kingdom of course."

Isolde laughed like a pixie. "C'mon Ashe. Let's get you ready for the masquerade ball!"

Three hairstyles and a misplaced lipstick scandal later, Ashe entered the ball like a normal hume; through the overly decorated front lobbies. The grand hall of the Royal Palace of Dalmasca was a kaleidoscope of reds and golds. The normally solemn walls were painted with scenes of hearts, streamers flared from the ceiling, people rushed past her laughing and giggling. It was so different from the gray room Ashe remembered from yesterday.

Everyone was wearing a mask. They were gaudy accessories with dyed Chocobo feathers and synthetic gems. They waltzed to the melody of the Royal orchestra, dresses spinning with every color of the rainbow. It's beautiful.

"Where to first then? I can't wait till someone asks me to dance!" Faithful Isolde linked arms with Ashe. She urged the young Queen forward.

"Let's grab something to eat. No one will want to dance with you if you've passed out from dehydration."

Isolde and Ashe stepped past the revellers and into the dining hall. There Dalmascans of all races and class dined from tables of lavishing cuisine. Guests nibbled on golden sticky cakes, strawberry filled truffles, ladyfingers; Ashe even spied a coveted plate of Banora White dumplings.

"Ashe, try some of these sun cakes. They're delicious!" Isolde bit into the flaking pastry, carefully swallowing the red filling without ruining her ruby lipstick.

Ashe selected for herself a sago tart drizzled with raspberry sauce. "Remember Isolde, my name is Amalia and we are sisters and distant cousins to the Queen visiting from Nalbina."

"Aha," Isolde murmured while she stuffed food into her mouth. She made a dash for another chocolate éclair.

Ashe smiled wirily.

"Hello ladies. I couldn't help but notice you're arrival." A young man with a sparkly half-mask bowed to Isolde and Ashe in turn. He was clearly Rozarrian; graceful slurs of words rolled of his tongue as easily as flattery. The half of his face that was visible was painted with a cheeky grin. "You may call me Duque Javier Fernandez Margrace."

Well, that clarifies everything. He's related to Al-Cid.

Isolde was almost bouncing on her feet with excitement. "It's a pleasure to meet you Javier. My name is Isolde Rivera-Dalmasca and this is my sister Amalia."

"The pleasure's all mine," He slanted low and kissed the back of Isolde's hand, "You look every bit as beautiful as the paintings in the Rozarrian Royal Palace. Would you do me the honour of accompanying me for the next dance?"

Isolde turned to Ashe, "You'll be alright without me, won't you?"

"I'll be fine."

"I'll be back soon," With that Isolde and Javier disappeared into the patches of moving rainbows.

Ashe settled herself against a wall. She distracted herself by sweeping the skirts of her dress back into place. She glanced to the grand clock on the adjacent wall.

I wanted to change the world... Yet I never found what I was looking for.

"May I have this dance?"

She jolted awake.

A man appeared in front Ashe. She glanced to his eyes, and she was caught. Her heart fairly tried to leap out of her chest with a single thump. It was the oddest sensation. The young man's eyes were a startling cornflower blue, his features concealed beneath an ivory mask. He smiled roguishly. Who...?

"Who are you?"

"Ah...No one of importance. I'm Evan," the young man's voice was light like a sunny spring breeze. It past over Ashe, leaving her wondering deep those tenor undertones could go.

Evan bowed low, he surfaced wearing another smirk. Ashe noted his impeccable sense of fashion. His tailored ebony suit fitted like a glove over his lean figure, he wasn't heavily muscled, but his broad shoulders and tapered waist outlined his pleasing 'v' shaped frame.

Evan... Who? There was something all too familiar about that smile. She couldn't help but notice how his eyes sparkled like champagne when he looked at her. Ashe mentally chided herself when she realised she was staring, her lips wide in a very unbecoming way for a Queen. His smile spread.

"I asked if you would care to dance. What's your name milady?" He asked in a sing-song way, almost laughing within his words.

"Amalia Rivera-Dalmasca."

"Amalia, huh? Nice to meet you."

Her partner pulled the young Queen onto the marble dance floor. The music started. The Royal Orchestra began swooning out the low cords of a waltz. Evan pulled Ashe into his embrace, he grasped her right hand. His other hand slid around her waist to settle on the small of her back. He led her in time of the music.

Ashe could almost cry out at the beauty of it all. They danced like autumn leaves falling softly onto grass. Their liquid movement flowed from one too the next, rendering Ashe speechless. She watched his eyes. Their warm gaze never left her once.

"Where did you learn to dance like this?" Ashe breathed.

"My sister taught me. I've been dancing for most of my life."

There wasn't a ballroom filled with people, nor was there the beautiful music that floated into the background.

Just them. And the dance.

"So where about are you from then? I haven't seen you around Rabanastre," his voice was low and enquiring in her ear. Ashe suddenly noticed how he slyly closed the distance between their bodies. She moved away (slightly), wondering that if she looked up she would see his smirk.

"Nalbina. I'm visiting Rabanastre with my sister. We're second cousins to Queen Ashelia."

He chuckled, it was airy like a tumbling wind. "The Queen, huh? I've heard she's quite the spitfire."

"Excuse me! Our Queen is a benevolent and just ruler. I will not hear of her name sullied in my presence."

Evan smiled strangely. Ashe wondered if there was a deeper meaning behind his smirk. "If you say so."

I almost gave myself away. I have to be more careful!

She sensed the need to turn the conversation. "Enough about me, tell me more about yourself. What are you occupied as? Where are you from?"

"I'm a nethicite merchant. Born, breed and raised here in Rabanastre."

Ashe figured that he couldn't be an aristocrat. Although his dress sense spoke against this, Evan's posture was far too relax (yet refined) to be that of a member of the courts. Even while dancing he held her smoothly, unlike those women paired with men holding their spines as straight as a spear. She did not envy their partners.

The song ended with the last notes of a violin. Ashe was almost disappointed. The members of the orchestra brushed of their suits and dresses, laid their instruments aside and broke up into a short intermission.

Evan grasped Ashe's hand and led her off to the side. "Let me get you something to drink. Wait right here."

He moved away towards to bowl of punch. Isolde spotted Ashe, she made her way over with Javier connected to her arm.

"I see you have a date Amalia. Do you know him?"

"No, but I have a strange feeling I do. I don't recognise him."

"He looks pretty handsome to me!" Isolde giggled. Javier pouted, "Oh stop it, you're not so bad either."

"I should say so!"

"If you could excuse us for a moment Javier," The Rozarrian nodded. Isolde and Ashe walked into the entrance to a deserted corridor.

"Ashe, you're fairly glowing! You must be in love!" Isolde gasped scandalously.

"Don't be a child Isolde."

"But he is handsome, isn't he? I bet under those clothes he has a glorious backside," She giggled through her hands.

Ashe rolled her eyes

"You should marry him," She whispered with sparkling eyes.

Ashe sighed, "Not likely. You read too many fairytales dear cousin. I'm afraid that the only thing we have in common with Cinderella is that we'll turn back to out respective professions at midnight."

Isolde ignored everything Ashe said, she swooned like a proper princess, "I hope Javier will elope with me to Rozarria. Can you imagine how wonderful it would be to live in a proper Palace?"

"You already live in—"

"Oh! Looks like my man is waving. Be good Ashelia!" She ran of with a wink.

I... Sometimes wish I could be as bubbly and as carefree as Isolde. I feel so empty.

"Hey there lonely. What're you doing over here by yourself?"

Ashe turned. Evan was standing there with a drink in each hand, he handed one to Ashe. She smiled It would seem I'm not alone anymore...