34- meeting at a masquerade ball au
Note: This is not set within the story to Six of Crows, but the universe is somewhat based off of the Grishaverse.
“Prince Wylan van Eck of Ketterdam,” the herald announced loudly over the general din of the ballroom. Wylan stiffened, holding his chin up just as he’d been taught over years of unpleasant etiquette lessons, and began to descend down the central, large set of stairs. He wasn’t fond of parties. The social customs and polite small talk, the awkward dances with royalty from other kingdoms and of course his father’s unpleasant insistence that he find someone to marry.
The ballroom was crowded, a brisk waltz being played by a grand orchestra, happy couples whirling about in the center of the room. Along the sidelines, well-dressed people were talking animatedly, clinking crystalline champagne glasses together and laughing. The sparkling chandeliers of the palace cast a glimmering, bright light over the entire proceedings.
Wylan adjusted the masquerade mask he was wearing the minute he cleared the stairs and felt certain he was out of the spotlight. The mask was unpleasantly heavy, Wylan thought regretfully, thinking of the gold inlay that had made it such an opulent piece to wear.
“Your highness,” a familiar voice called happily. Wylan turned, recognizing one of his father’s senior advisors. There was no escaping social interaction now, Wylan grimaced, noting that the man was doing his best to cross over to where Wylan was standing.
“And how are you, Lord Rollins.”
“Quite chipper, quite chipper. But why are you not dancing, my prince? Certainly there are plenty of fine folks around,” the man picked up a champagne glass from a passing servant and raised it towards Wylan in a salute. “Well, I do hope you’ll grace us with the presence of your dancing. I am certain that it is most elegant.”
Wylan didn’t have the heart to tell him that it was anything but.
Jesper Fahey loved going to balls. It wasn’t just balls, really. He loved the suave parties held by upper class commoners and the hectic street festivals held in rural towns. Jesper’s court position as first an apprentice sharpshooter and then an actual knight and protector of the king had become a reality when he was still fairly young, affording him a couple nights off here and there, along with exclusive invites to parties often only for those of high social standing.
“Thank you for this dance, m'lady,” Jesper bowed to his partner from the dance as the girl curtsied. It was then that he glimpsed a boy in a golden mask standing in a corner of the ballroom. Intrigued, Jesper moved towards the boy, dodging dancing couples and groups of people chatting.
The boy was clearly royalty, a dour look on his face, golden detailing on his light blue jacket shimmering in the light. He was tapping his foot to the beat of the music playing, but was otherwise standing stock still.
“Hello good sir,” Jesper greeted the boy with a half bow and a smile.
“It’s a fine night for a ball, is it not?”
“I’m Jesper, knight in service of the King,” Jesper bowed again, deeper than the first time. “And you are?”
“Wylan,” the boy said with a slight smile. He was cute, golden curls of hair falling over his masquerade mask and slight freckles gracing his cheeks. Jesper wanted to get to know him better, to talk endlessly of anything and everything.
“You are a knight?”
“Yes, I am.”
“Well, you know what they say about knights, don’t you?”
“That a knight is always as hard as his armor,” Jesper joked with a wink that he hoped showed despite his mask. Wylan’s face colored significantly, changing from a pale skin tone to bright red, but he laughed, giving Jesper a shy grin.
“I was going to say that they’re brash,” Wylan glanced at Jesper, “but I suppose that it isn’t untrue.”
“Shall we go somewhere else where we can really talk?” Wylan asked. “I know just the place.”
Before Jesper could respond, Wylan grabbed the knight’s hand, praying that he hadn’t misread the situation. He was happily surprised to find that Jesper squeezed his hand tightly as Wylan led him through the crowded ballroom.
The pair slipped behind a sweeping staircase, exiting the ballroom through a side door that led them outside.
“Would you like to see the gardens?”
It was a quiet night, cicadas chirping peacefully, a full moon casting a brilliant white light over the castle grounds. Wylan’s fancy shoes tapped on the cobblestone path as he led Jesper towards a small gazebo that was surrounded by flowering rose bushes.
“Fine night for a ball,” Jesper commented off-handedly as he took a seat on a marble bench beneath the shade of the gazebo. Wylan nodded.
They both leaned in, as if to kiss.
“Oops,” Jesper pulled back abruptly as their masks collided. The pair began to laugh.
“Well that certainly makes it more difficult,” Wylan smiled at Jesper, feeling somewhat disappointed. When their laughter had subsided, Jesper leaned in again, his knee pressing up against Wylan’s.
“May I, my prince?” Jesper asked, sliding his hands through Wylan’s hair until he reached the ribbon that held on Wylan’s mask. Jesper untied the bow, watching silently as Wylan’s face was revealed.
The mask was a piece of art in and of itself, but the face underneath was more so.
Wylan stared at Jesper, the soft dusting of freckles that stretched across his cheeks standing out in the moonlight.
“It seems hardly fair that you’re still wearing your mask,” Wylan commented with a slight pout.
Jesper smirked, moving to untie his own mask. “Well if you’re so keen to see.”
The minute the mask was away from Jesper’s face, he leaned in and pressed his lips to Wylan’s.