Grace and Conflict

Aislign entered the grand ballroom and had to hold back a gasp. The ostentatious decor was undoubtedly beautiful, but in such a way that it was overwhelming. 

“Good Evening Madam,” the doorman said.

Smiling, Aislign said. “Good evening Thomas-and please-tonight it is Counselor Weaver.”

“Yes, of course Madam. My apologies.” 

He bowed lower than she thought a man of his age could. The glimmer in his eye told her he was up to something.

“If I may be so bold, you look lovely. That dress suits you. I have no doubt of the impact you will make on tonight’s event,”

Aislign snorted. Thomas was an undeniable flirt. She had no doubt that in his younger years he had the pick of any woman he wanted. 

“Now Thomas, I doubt Silvia would appreciate your comments.”

“If my wife were here, Counselor Weaver, she would say the same.” 

“True. Sometimes I think she may be a bigger flirt than you are, old friend.”

He chuckled then leaned closer to whisper in her ear. 

“Give them hell tonight Counselor.”

She had to push down a laugh. Aislign shook her head and stepped to the top of the stairs.

“Please welcome, the honorable Counselor Weaver,” Thomas announced as she began her descent.

As was usual, many turned to watch her. She hated the attention, but did what was expected of her status. She ignored their stares and acted as though she were royalty because in many of their eyes she was. 

When she reached the bottom she headed for the main stage where the Supreme Chancellor, Soran Protaneous, sat with his advisers and most of the ruling government. 

When the Soran spotted her, his gaze slid over her with just a little too much heat. He bent and kissed the soft skin of her hand. She suppressed a shiver at the feel of his lips on her skin.

“My Lady Aislign, good evening,” Soran said.

“Forgive me my lord, but here, I am Counselor Weaver.” She curtsied as she should, then straightened looking him in the eye. “We would not want the visiting dignitaries to misunderstand my position.”

“Yes of course, Counselor Weaver,” Soran chuckled, but it did not reach his eyes. “I hope we find you well this eve.”

“You do, thank you.” Another man approached and she smiled. “Hello Father.” 

Taking her hands in his, he kissed her cheeks.

“You look wonderful daughter. We were worried you would not make it.” His irritation sat in the tightness of his jaw.

“You should know better. The only thing that matters to me is my position within the council. I would not miss this evening for anything.” 

“We are glad to hear it,” Soran said. “Well, now that you are here, I would like to introduce you to our visiting friends. As many have not been back since you were elected, they are very interested to meet you.”

“Even though I have meet them before?” 

“Yes well. You were not important then.” 

Aislign bristled at his words.

“Come,” Soran said. 

Soran took her arm and led her a few feet away to a group of people speaking exuberantly. One of the men said something that made everyone laugh. She thought she recognized the voice, but no. There was just no way. 

“Excuse me for my interruption, but I would like to introduce Miss Aislign Weaver the youngest member to the Imperion government.” 

Aislign kept her face neutral as he spoke. She recognized the Capsidian prince and princess who stood with the Sordonian Emperor, his wife, and their eldest daughter. A few others she didn’t recognize made up the group, but she could guess their identities. She believed were from Borsoba. Excitement shot through her.

“It is my pleasure to meet you all officially. I am excited to be working with you this week as your liaison to the Imperion Summit. Please let me know if there is anything you need,” she said. 

Aislign turned to the Borsoban delegates and repeated the same words in their native tongue. Borsoba was the planet the farthest from theirs culturally, their language nothing like Imperion’s.

The delegate’s mouths dropped before grins spread across all their faces. 

Speaking in Borbosan, one addressed her, “I did not know you spoke Borsoban, Counselor Weaver.”

“Yes, high one. As your honorable people are our newest allies I have studied much of your history and culture so that I may bridge the gap that still exists between our peoples,” Aislign said, with a delicate bow. “I look forward to working with you and hope that you can forgive my, no doubt, ghastly accent.”

The entire Borsoban convoy laughed. Then, the one who had spoken stepped forward. Understanding hit Aislign as he bent and kissed her forehead. This was their customary greeting for those of their own kind. It was a huge honor for her to be welcomed as such. She accepted the kiss, then returned it before touching cheeks. 

He stepped back and said, “Thank you for the honor of your welcome Counselor Weaver. With you here we know this will be an effective summit. Please let me introduce myself. I am Roskayti Mers and these are my companions. I look forward to speaking with you more over the next few days.”

“Thank you,” Aislign said, finally dropping their tongue. 

Soran leaned close and said in a teasing tone, “Please tell me you weren’t plotting an overthrow, my dear.”

“Hardly,” King Niessary said. “She just made friends with Roskayti. Which I have never seen before. Nor have I ever witnessed them welcome someone like that, unless they were born of Borsoba.”

“It is an honor Highness,” Aislign said. She felt a blush sting her cheeks at his praise. 

“That is wonderful news! Now Aislign, You remember Emperor Sterling and Prince Gideon.”

Aislign curtsied again, then rose to smile at them. “Good evening your highnesses. It is my pleasure to see you all again.”

“You grow more beautiful every time I see you.” 

“Thank you, Highness. You become ever more charming.” He chuckled. “But I do say, my lord, that your wife and daughter far exceed me in beauty. I cannot believe that this is the young Starla. She is nearly grown.”

Aislign kissed the cheek of first the Empress then turned to Starla. Breaking all etiquette rules Starla pulled her into a hug before kissing her cheek.

“Oh please Ace, like we need the formality,” Starla said, making those around her laugh. 

Aislign smiled at her old friend then turned to Prince Gideon. His wide grin lit up his face. She’d spent some time with him as children, but it had been years since she’d seen him. 

“You do look striking this evening Counselor Weaver,” Gideon said.

“Well at least someone remembers my title,” Aislign said, shooting an amused glance at Starla. Starla stuck her tongue out. “And this must be your new wife.”

Gideon beamed. “Yes it is. May I present Princes Astoria, the woman of my dreams.” 

Astoria rolled her eyes. Her voice was soft and feminine when she said, “It is a pleasure Counselor. I have heard much about you.”

“Well that’s never a good sign.” She shot a look to Gideon who just grinned wickedly. 

“Don’t worry it was all good. And- I must say- well done. The Borsobans are not easy to impress.”

“Thank you, Princess”

“To be perfectly honest Lady Aislign, Gideon was not the source for the stories,” she explained. She gestured to the man standing nearby. “It was Lord Reydan.”

Shock hit her so fiercely that she thought she’d collapse. Luckily, Aislign had trained harder and for much worse situations than this. 

Soran pressed his hand to her lower back. “Yes! Counselor, I forgot to tell you that my nephew is back from his studies. Of course you remember, Lord Reydan.”

Aislign couldn’t breathe. She didn’t understand how he was here. Why he was here.

“My Lady Aislign, it is so nice to see you again…” Reydan words were cut off when Aislign’s hand made contact with his cheek. The force of the blow snapped his head sideways.

Gasps erupted around them.

“Counselor!” Soran reprimanded.

“Aislign, what is this?” her father asked.

Reydan held up his hand.

“It’s okay. I deserved it,” Reydan said. 

Aislign started in surprise then shook it off. 

“Please excuse me. It seems I need some fresh air.” With that, Aislign turned and exited through a side door that led out to the gardens. Her gown fluttered behind her.

  Published on OBW Blog November 6, 2020 © Tracey Canole 

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