The ball was at its height with scores and scores of couples dancing on the waxed floors of the grand ballroom to the music of the violins, and outside in the royal gardens, under the trees were more couples moving, listening to the fountains and inhaling the sweet fragrances of the flowers.
The Prince and Princess were walking among their guests when the Chamberlain brought news of a new arrival.
"Your royal highnesseseses, highnessessssses-"
"Still haven't mastered it have you Xander? What can we do for you?" said the prince with a smile on his face.
"Prince, Princess," started the Chamberlain, pleased at having found a way around his speech problem, "we have a new guest. No one knows who she is and she won't say her name, but by the way she is dressed I would say that she is a Princess of very high standing."
It was at this point that the King appeared as if from nowhere and proceeded to whisk away his daughter leaving the Prince to meet the new arrival.
Tara was nervous as the coach started to pull up to the gates of the Palace. These nerves trebled when she realised that it was the Prince himself who was there to meet her.
"Good evening fair maiden, I am Prince Riley, welcome."
"G-good evening your h-highness" Said Tara ducking her head, automatically trying to hide her face behind her hair.
Taking her hand, the Prince led Tara into the grand ballroom, where upon entering everyone stopped dancing and turned to the couple.
"W-what are they looking at?" Tara whispered to her host after perhaps a full minute under the watchful gaze of the other guests.
"The loveliness of you" replied a quiet voice from behind.
Jumping slightly and turning slowly, for she had not heard anyone approach, Tara was greeted to the sight of shocking red hair and piercing green eyes. As her eyes locked with the ones in front of her Tara felt as if the rest of the room had disappeared.
The owner of the eyes was not faring much better. The Princess had seen her brother's entrance with the beautiful stranger and had immediately become entranced. She had spent but a minute debating with herself as to whether or not she should approach, unconsciously her feet already leading her in that direction. When she had heard the blonde stranger's question, the answer had risen unbidden to her lips.
"Um, Hi. I erm don't usually, you know, go around sneaking up on people. I didn't scare you did I? I'm sorry, I did, I scared you. I didn't mean to, scare you that is. I was just talking to my father and then everyone stopped what they were doing so I turned and I saw you and I thought, 'I know, I'll go and introduce myself'. Wouldn't be much of a hostess if I didn't introduce myself to my guests now would I? And if I waited for my brother here, well who knows how long it could have been before-"
Her words were cut short by said brother gently placing his hand over his sister's mouth, the gesture causing Tara to giggle softly.
"Please excuse my sister." said the Prince. "She knows a lot of words and for some reason insists on trying to use them all at the same time!"
Slowly removing his hand from the Princess's mouth a large grin covered his face as he noticed another figure standing off to the left.
"If you will excuse me ladies, I must continue to meet and greet." Turning to Tara he continued, "It was a pleasure to meet you and now I will leave you in the capable hands of my sister." Taking her hand and placing a gentle kiss upon her knuckles he then faced his sister. "Willow. Look after our guest," he said as he placed a kiss on her cheek and made his way across the room.
Following him with her eyes, Willow saw exactly whom her brother was meeting and greeting in a somewhat friendly manner.
"Buffy?" Willow said in a questioning voice, again unaware she had spoken aloud.
"Um, w-who's Buffy?"
Having momentarily forgotten about the beauty standing next to her, Willow started at the question, however, and it is to her credit, she did recover quickly.
"Buffy? Oh she's, um, officially she's my, uh, Handmaiden, which I personally find is a silly word that doesn't actually mean anything because I look after my own hands and well, unofficially, she's my best friend whom it would seem has captured the heart of my brother." A soft smiled appeared as she said this. Turning back to her guest she continued.
"So, may I ask your name? No, don't worry I shouldn't ask, you have already stated that you wish to remain anonymous and tonight I shall respect that wish. Um, would you like to dance?"
"I d-don't really dance," Tara finally managed to reply. She was starting to feel a little flushed and the proximity of the redhead was starting to ignite feelings in her to which she was unaccustomed.
"Right, right, you wouldn't want to dance with me anyway, I mean, I'm probably the worst dancer in the Kingdom, or even the country, and I'm really not sure I want all these people staring at you cause I kinda like something that's you know mine, and I'm making assumptions and starting to ramble again, so," the Princess paused to take a breath and noticed the smile that graced the blonde's features. "Would you like to take a walk with me?"
Hesitating merely a second Tara responded with a whispered "I'd love to."