Queen Axala seemed visibly shaken by everything that had just occurred in the ballroom, but to her immense credit, she was able to compose herself with just a breath. She nodded at Angela, finally meeting her eyes for the first time, before turning to the crowded ballroom of titled Axions. As she stepped toward the front of the dais, the conversations slowly stopped as everyone wondered what was about to happen now.
“My People,” Queen Axala said, her voice carrying throughout the room with the obvious ease of practice. “The Fates have spoken and delivered a Sonsara to my beloved son, the Crown Prince Exalon.”
The Queen held her hand out towards Angela, who slowly stepped forward, unsure what was happening. The Queen took Angela’s hand and held it aloft as the High Priestess had.
“May I officially present to you Her Royal Sonsara, Angela of Earth.” Murmurs spread throughout the ballroom as people began to bow or curtsy to Angela. Once everyone had properly shown her the respect her new title demanded, Queen Axala lowered their hands and gestured for Exalon to join them.
“As the Fates have spoken, so shall it be,” the Queen said, keeping any intonation, either positive or negative, from her voice. “Prince Exalon and Sonsara Angela will wed and one day rule over all of Axion. I am sure they will be fair and just, as I have always strived to be in my honored position as your ruler. I would also like to take this opportunity to announce my son’s ambassadorship to the Galactic Union.”
Exalon’s head snapped over to his mother, shock evident before he schooled his features back into the serene mask all the royals seemed to wear. The audience, however, made their shock known with a loud burst of noise. Queen Axala gave the guests a few moments to speak before raising her hand, silencing them.
“We have been in the process of negotiating this ambassadorship for some time. One month from now, His Royal Highness will leave for a six month stay on Alpha Station. It is my hope that Her Royal Sonsara will travel back and forth between here and the Station, learning about both Axion and the Galactic Union before her marriage.”
Exalon didn’t say anything, but Angela could practically feel that anger coming off of him in waves. Before he said or did something stupid, Angela discreetly began running her hand up and down his back to calm him.
“Now, let the Royal Ball commence!” Queen Axala cried, clapping her hands together once. The glittering crystals that were lighting the ballroom all seemed to fade until only the dais and a section of the ballroom floor was illuminated. The people in that area immediately stepped back so there was an open section of the floor visible.
“The ball will, of course, be opened by our traditional Axion dance, performed by His Royal Highness and Her Royal Sonsara,” Queen Axala said, a slight glimmer of spite in her eye. She stepped back, letting Angela and Exalon descend the few steps off the dais and walk to the empty, illuminated area of the ballroom. Maya stepped up to stand with the Queen, a smug smile on her face she wasn’t even trying to hide from her mother. The couple took up the beginning positions of the traditional opening dance right before the music started.
“Stop letting her get to you. She’s just looking for a reason to humiliate you,” Angela murmured to Exalon as they began the traditional dance. Angela looked briefly at the dais and saw Queen Axala scowling. She just mentally rolled her eyes at the Queen’s juvenile behavior, knowing she wanted to publicly humiliate Angela by proving she knew absolutely nothing about high-class Axion culture.
Angela and Exalon moved together with perfect synchronicity, mirroring the other as they danced. While Angela might have only learned the dance yesterday, she was able to perform it flawlessly because she was partnered with Exalon. They seemed to anticipate the other’s movements, knowing exactly where to hit their next mark to make the dance perfect. When it concluded, there was a slow, hesitant clapping that quickly turned into uproarious applause. Angela and Exalon bowed their heads to acknowledge the audience’s appreciation.
Once they had spent a few minutes letting the crowd applaud their performance, Angela and Exalon stepped out of the illuminated circle. The rest of the glittering crystals seemed to come back to life, showcasing the rest of the ornately decorated ballroom, richly covered tapestries, sparkling gems, and complex mosaics decorating the walls. Maya quickly walked off the dais to join them.
“That was fantastic!” Maya squealed excitedly, trying to keep her voice down. “Oh, you should have seen The Dragon’s face, she was furious.”
“Maya, hush,” Angela said gently. “I don’t need anymore rumors spreading about how much she dislikes me.”
“I know, I know,” said Maya resignedly, before breaking out into another grin. “But Angela, you were brilliant! I mean, Ex, you were good too, but Angela just learned the dance and it was flawless!”
“Oh, wow, thank you for the compliment,” Exalon said dryly. Maya winked at her brother before turning back to Angela.
“All right, I’m off to sing your praises to everyone,” Maya said, adjusting the fall of her drape. “You and Ex need to start meeting with some of the more important titled families to reassure them you’re not trying to start some type of untitled coup.”
Maya glided off, smiling and stopping to briefly speak to a number of younger Axions as she went. Angela turned to Exalon.
“Time to start impressing the masses?” she asked. Exalon laughed and gave Angela a quick kiss, causing those around them to quietly gasp.
“You’ll impress them no matter what,” said Exalon, completely ignoring the scandalized looks they were receiving. “After what the High Priestess said, I’m surprised people aren’t bowing at your feet.” Angela let out a surprised laugh.
“I don’t think a single person in this room would lower themselves to that,” Angela said. “Both literally and figuratively.”
Exalon smiled and offered Angela his arm,which she took. They smiled and nodded as they moved through the crowd, everyone bowing as they passed. Exalon’s first stop was a group of middle aged Axion men and women who, while they bowed respectfully, nonetheless looked at Angela with suspicion and anger. Exalon didn’t bother discussing anything too serious, he just introduced Angela and they all had a brief conversation about how lovely the ball was and current news in Axion.
Exalon made it a point to ask Angela’s opinion on matters, which let her demonstrate her knowledge and understanding of Axion culture and the political landscape she was now firmly a part of. By the time they left the group, the older Axions were looking at Angela with curiosity instead of hostility.
“Well, this is going to be exhausting,” Angela whispered to Exalon with a sigh. “Having to prove over and over I actually understand what’s happening on the planet and with the GU is going to get old really fast.”
“I know, my love,” Exalon said reassuringly as they politely smiled and nodded to another group of Axions who were bowing to them. “But it’s important they don’t view you as a threat. And if we manage to speak to some of the older members of the high ranking families, they’ll be reassured you can at least learn to lead, as their prejudice is currently getting in the way of them seeing you as an equal.”
“Yay,” Angela responded sarcastically, already getting sick of this game and these titled idiots who seemed to believe she didn’t possess higher reasoning skills. Exalon pulled her over to a less crowed area of the ballroom and put his hands on her hips, drawing her close to him. He stared down at Angela with his piercing golden eyes and smiled.
“I promise to make it up to you once this infernal ball is over and we’re safely back home,” he whispered in her ear. Angela shivered, her hands rising to rest on Exalon’s chest.
“And how exactly do you plan to do that?” Angela asked, licking her lips and watching Exalon’s eyes dart to her mouth. His smile became almost predatory as he pulled her in closer, his lips practically touching her ear.
“Oh, my love, there are so many things I plan on doing to you to make up for tonight,” Exalon growled into her ear. Angela shivered pleasurably, leaning closer into Exalon’s body. This time, she stood on her tiptoes to whisper into his ear.
“Then hurry the hell up so we can get out of here.”
Exalon laughed, looping an arm around Angela’s lower back to bring her body flush against his.
“As you wish, my love.” Exalon gave Angela a slow, lingering kiss before they pulled away, resting their foreheads together.
“Ex, people are watching,” Angela whispered, blushing. Exalon just grinned and gave her another quick kiss.
“Let them see,” he said fiercely. “Let them all see how much you mean to me. They need to know this isn’t some game. What we have is real and if the High Priestess didn’t convince them, I have no problem doing my part so they know exactly how I feel about you.”
Angela let out a breathy sigh, before gently pulling back from Exalon.
“Take me to meet my future subjects, oh illustrious Prince,” Angela said with a smile. “We can pick this up again later. In private.”
Exalon couldn’t help but laugh. He then offered Angela his arm, leading her back into the gossiping pit of snakes known as the titled.