Yisturdai’s first annual Valentine Ball was a grand success. The room was filled with music and laughter as couples swirled around the room. Ceylenne Ventuire’s ladle hit the bottom of the punch bowl as she refilled a glass. She would have to make more. But as she handed the full glass back to its owner, she found herself staring into a pair of brilliant blue eyes.
“It’s Valentine’s Day, Lady Ceylenne. You should be dancing.” It was Sir Dondine Levord Monfount. And he had called her by name!
She flushed. “Someone needs to tend to the punch.” Besides, the intimacy of dancing was not something Ceylenne was comfortable with.
But Dondine bowed. “Will you dance with me?”
Ceylenne almost dropped the ladle. For a minute she could picture them swirling around the room, many envious eyes watching. But no. “Thank you, Sir Dondine, but I must decline.”
“You think I’ll take advantage of you?” He was amused. “I never take advantage of ladies! I prefer to charm them.”
“Perhaps that’s what concerns me,” her voice was barely discernable.
He actually laughed. “So you’re attracted to me, but won’t dance!”
“Ceylenne!” Her friend, Taylona Petterun grabbed her arm. “I can’t believe you!”
“Perhaps your friend will dance.” Dondine held out his hand to Taylona. She squealed.
Sighing, Ceylenne trudged to the kitchen to refill the punch bowl. She was halfway back with the full bowl when she suddenly felt firm hands take hold of it.
“May I help?” the young man asked. Carrying the heavy bowl to the table, he said, “I am Kilon Sangaior. Your father and mine are friends, I believe.” Kilon glanced around. “I haven’t seen your father tonight.”
“No,” Ceylenne explained. “He injured his ankle and cannot walk.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. Is he still able to do his carving?” Kilon frowned. “May I fetch the load of wood pieces from the woodcutter’s for him?”
Surprised, Ceylenne hesitated. “Well, that would be helpful. They are very heavy.”
He smiled. “I’ll see you Monday, then.”
Just then Taylona rushed up. “Ceylenne! Sir Dondine asked to walk me home!”
Ceylenne frowned. “Taylona, to Sir Dondine you are just another pretty face to play with.”
“Oh, you’re so sweet to call me pretty!” She traipsed off, giggling.
Monday morning Kilon brought the wood just as promised. As he left, he offered to carry Sir Ventuire’s exquisite carvings to the marketplace. From then on Kilon came each week to exchange the raw wood for the finished pieces. Often Lady Ventuire would invite him in for a piece of pie, or if Ceylenne had an errand in town she would accompany him to market.
One morning as they returned, Lady Petterun rushed out of her house with old Sir Petterun hobbling after. “Oh, Lady Ceylenne! Taylona went with Sir Dondine last night and they haven’t returned. I’m certain they must be dreadfully hurt!”
“Or maybe they eloped,” Sir Petterun muttered.
“We were coming to ask you for help!” She waved feebly toward a pair of waiting horses and turned toward Ceylenne as Kilon swung into a saddle. “Perhaps your father--”
“He still can’t ride,” Ceylenne interrupted. “I’ll go.”
Before anyone could protest, Ceylenne had mounted and joined Kilon.
As they took the road out of town Kilon glanced at her. “They didn’t elope.”
“I know.” She looked sick. “Sir Dondine would never make a commitment like that.”
At that moment a weary figure appeared, stumbling around the bend of the road.
“It’s Taylona!” Ceylenne spurred her horse forward. “Thank God!”
As they reached her, Taylona began sobbing. “Dondine brought me out last night. He was so romantic and kind. He even kissed me.” She looked down. “But he didn’t want to stop there. I slapped him and he grew angry. I was so afraid!” Shuddering, she covered her face. “But finally he left me alone and rode away.”
Kilon lifted her gently onto his horse and they started for home.
Lady Petterun rushed out, crying with relief. As Kilon and the Ceylenne left them in privacy, Taylona poured out the story.
Lady Petterun soothed, “I’m sure the next beau will be more gentlemanly.”
“I should have listened to Ceylenne,” Taylona moaned.
“Ceylenne!” Lady Petterun snorted. “She hasn’t had a single beau her whole life!”
But Taylona was watching as Sir Kilon offered his arm to Ceylenne. “Perhaps one man to whom you can trust your very soul is better than all the beaux in the world."
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