The ball was spectacular. Niqi had managed to convince Mehe to come, and she could not stop smiling at Anas’s face. It was so obvious that no matter how many gowns he had made, he had never been in the center of it all. The awe in his eyes, even Mehe couldn’t help but show a crack in his usual stoic expression.
Niqi looked out over the grand room, taking in the sparkling decorations, floating through carefully crafted arcane spells. The lights flickered off of them, making the dance floor seem to be full of stars. A great many people had gone to eat as the servers were placing food on the tables.
Niqi nuzzled into Æl’s side as the orchestra started up a gentle dance tune. Nothing overly lively, but wonderfully pleasant to the ears. “Dance with me,” Niqi said, looking up at her husband, her eyes dancing.
Æl chuckled. “You never stop, do you?”
Niqi stuck out her lower lip. “Do I have to? It’s so wonderful!”
“Let me just finish my…” he tried, but she was already up, dragging him out to the very center of the floor. He peered over at Mehe and Anas, both of whom were laughing quietly. “Tiny, couldn’t I at least finish my drink?”
“Nope!” She got into position and waited until he joined hands. Her eyes shone brightly at him, as they stepped into the coordinated court dance. Round the floor they went with the others, gowns swirling in time with one another, looking much like flowers come to life. The song came to a conclusion and everyone applauded the musicians before heading away from the dance floor.
Niqi settled into her chair, as Æl pushed it in for her. “Now you can finish your drink,” she teased. Picking up a bite to eat, she popped it in her mouth with a smile. “Who will dance with me next? Hmm?” She glanced across the table at her chosen brothers. “Mehe? Please?”
The Ren’dorei shook his head. “I’m fine right here, little bird,” he replied, holding on to Anas’s hand beneath the tablecloth and well out of sight of others. “I have a better idea.” He reached beneath the table and withdrew a small box. Placing it in front of her, he indicated with a nod that she should open it.
“What’s this?” She removed the lid and reached in, lifting out a pair of her toe shoes. “Mehe…how did you get these?”
“You left them in the shop,” he answered simply.
“Will you dance for us, little one?” Anas’s eyes crinkled a little at the sides as he offered an encouraging smile.
Niqi chuckled, her cheeks turning a fetching shade of purple. “I forgot them after seeing in the ribbons,” she admitted. Slipping her simpler shoes from her feet, she swiftly placed her toes into the slippers. “I’ll have to wait until they play something more appropriate,” she explained.
Æl stood and walked over to the conductor. She could see him speaking to the woman and then step away. Once he had settled down in his seat, the soft, dulcet tones of “Starlit Meadow” began to fill the room. Almost everyone on the danced floor left for their tables. He gestured for her to go ahead.
Niqi took a breath and stepped out into the center of the room, curtsying low. She rose, bringing herself up onto the tips of her toes and began a graceful routine. She seemed almost to glide on air as she moved around the floor. It didn’t take long for the various conversations in the room to stop, a hush falling over the attendees.
A mage watching from the side mouthed something silently, her hand gesturing towards Niqi. A moment later, there were dancing points of starlight all around the young Ren’dorei, swirling as she moved. A few landed in her hair, sparkling brightly in the sapphire locks. Round and round she went, her body capturing the rolling melody played by the musicians on the stage.
As the song finished, she lowered herself down to the floor, coming to rest with the final note. Everyone in the room sat in silence for a few moments before bursting into applause. Niqi found her way back to her feet, gesturing her gratitude. She made her way back to the table, her cheeks flush, eyes shining. Pulling out her chair, she moved to sit, suddenly losing focus and falling into Ælithil.
“Tiny? Hey…what is it?” He pulled her up and settled her into the chair.
Anas was halfway out of his chair before Mehe’s hand on his chest stopped him. He sat back down, concern overtaking his features.
“I don’t know. I just felt dizzy for a moment,” she murmured.
Mehe poured some water for her quickly as Æl held her steady. Taking the glass, he nodded his thanks. “Here, just sip,” he instructed, holding it to her lips.
She did as he asked, blushing. “I’m ok. You don’t have to fuss over me,” she said, laughing softly.
“I think you ought to listen to your husband, little one,” Anas urged. “Maybe there’s a healer around?”
Æl nodded. “Can you make sure she stays right here? I am going to find Borænin.”
Niqi shook her head. “Æl, I’m fine. Really,” she reassured him. “I’ve probably just danced too much without enough sleep.” She stroked his cheek tenderly.
Anas rose and moved to the chair beside her as Ælithil vacated it. “If you are fine, then there’s no reason for you to worry about someone checking.”
The pale Kal’dorei nodded in agreement. “Just, sit. And sip that water,” he said firmly. He turned and stepped away from the table.
“This really is so silly! I’m fine,” she murmured. Taking another sip of her water, a flash of annoyance crossed her eyes for a moment. She closed them and took a breath, banishing it quickly.
Mehe’s tendril rose to rest on her shoulder. “You two have both been working too hard to prepare for this,” he said, looking at Anas pointedly. “You should close the shop for a couple of days. Get some rest.”
“I can’t. I’ve three orders to complete by next week,” the young woman countered. Turning slightly in her chair, she looked up at him. “I can’t just take a rest when I have obligations.”
“I believe I will be the judge of that,” came a smooth tenor from behind Anas. Borænin stepped around the tall tailor and motioned for him to move. Anas bowed his head and gave the chair to him. He took her chin in his hand, looking at her face. “Well, you are certainly not just fine, as you are protesting. When did you sleep last?” He released her and straightened his uniform before sitting.
Mehe’s lips pursed tight as he eyed the Hierarch with silent suspicion. His tendril remained firmly on her shoulder, coiling into a more protective position.
“I’ve been sleeping every night,” she answered, holding her head high in quiet confidence.
“Not much,” Æl argued. “A few hours at best. You were up most of the night finishing this,” he said, gesturing at her gown.
Niqi’s cheeks filled with color as she turned her gaze from the Hierarch. He simply stared at her impassively. “So. Dizzy, not much sleep. What else? I see your plate has barely been touched.”
“I…I’ve been a little queasy,” she admitted. “But I get that way from stress. And making sure everything was perfect for this…”
He held up a hand, cutting her off. “We have discussed this, Lady Niquisse. Excuses are not tolerated. You must pay attention to your body, much as you did when you studied dance.” He placed a gloved hand over hers, sending a bare tendril of power into her, flowing through. He furrowed his brow for a moment, before smiling slightly. “Well, you aren’t ill,” he said confidently, raising his hand and offering a knowing smile at Ælithil.
“You see? I’m just a little tired,” she replied, sighing in relief in spite of her protestations.
“No, my lady.” He leaned in close, a hint of a twinkle in his eyes, though his other features remained placid. “You are with child.”
Ælithil’s eyes opened wide as he gaped at the Ren’dorei man. “What?”