"Prince Bartas!" you exclaim. "Just the heir to the throne I was looking for!"
Prince Bartas flinches. "I beg your pardon. I was in the middle of conversation."
"I apologize for my comrade," Orton cuts in, with a gleeful gleam in her eye. "Some Rangers are so thrilled at actually graduating, they can't control themselves."
"Well," Prince Bartas says, turning away, "they had better learn. You seem to manage very well, Orton."
And just like that, you're cut from the conversation. It stings, but not nearly as much as the smirks Orton keeps tossing your way. Squaring your shoulders, you venture back into the crowd.
You take a few more laps of the Great Hall. A few musicians have started to play; delicate strains of harps and flutes fill the air. A few people dance, long skirts whispering across the floor. Conversation flows, low and relaxed.
So Martis makes a bit of a contrast.
Your new partner stands in a corner, rigid as a board, face greenish. Her hands are clenched tight at her sides, and she ducks her head as people pass.
1.I offer Martis support and a quiet conversation.
2.I bring Martis a drink.
3.I drag Martis into a dance.
4.I pretend I see nothing.
"Well met, Martis," you say, settling in beside her. "How are you doing?"
Martis smiles weakly. "There are a lot of people."
"Balls are tricky that way, huh?"
"I…" Martis shakes her head, voice thick with frustration. "It's silly. I'm silly. But…Rosalee, I don't do crowds. There are too many people talking at once, and it jams up my ears. I'm choking on perfume. My skin's crawling because people keep brushing past me…" At last, Martis takes a shuddering breath, utterly spent. "And you didn't need to hear all that."
"You're my partner," you say softly. "I want to help. Look, what would make you feel best, right now?"
"Honestly? Heading down to the stables. Spending time with my dinosaur."
"Then go." Conscious of touching her, you motion toward the door. "Seriously. I'll cover for you. Take all the time you need."
"Of course! Partners, right?"
"Thanks, Rosalee. I appreciate this. More than you know." For a second, it looks like Martis might hug you, but she only smiles tightly and disappears out the door. You watch her go, thinking. Definitely not the partner you expected, but it seems she just needs a little compassion. Good to know, for future.
The ball is starting to wind down. The musicians have packed up; several couples have sneaked away to quieter corners elsewhere; a general air of warmth, sleepiness, and contentment fills the hall. Queen Isobel sits on the dais, still chatting brightly with a small circle of nobles. You watch from a seat of your own across the hall, yawning. Just about time for bed.
But then something catches your eye.
A noble you don't recognize crosses the floor, heading toward the dais. Unlike all the other nobles, his breeches don't fit quite right. His feet slide in his boots, and he moves like he's never had an etiquette lesson in his life. Engrossed in conversation, Queen Isobel has her back to him. You are the only one who's noticed.
1.He's obviously up to no good. I get between him and my queen.
2.I need to be subtle. I accidentally "bump into" him.
3.Looks suspicious! I stall him with a long conversation until I find out what's happening.
4.I slip close behind and pick his pockets.
Your battle instincts are triggered. Silently, you rise from your chair and stride directly toward your queen. Moving quickly, you reach your position just as the mysterious noble reaches under his cloak.
A dagger blade glints. Your mind goes sharp, focused. Ducking low, you close the gap between you and the assailant. Before he can raise his dagger, you've pulled the back of his cloak, twisted, and pulled. A well-placed foot, and down he goes. The dagger skitters across the floor, and the hall erupts into chaos.
"He's trying to kill Queen Isobel!"
You throw yourself upon the attacker, but he wriggles from your grasp. Scrambling to his feet, he charges from the hall and into the waiting night. The dagger lies abandoned in the center of the floor, in mute testimony to the attempt on your queen's life.
"Find him." Queen Isobel doesn't yell. Her voice is steady, controlled. "Find him, if you must search every broom closet in this castle. And Rosalee?" For the first time, fear gleams in her eyes. "Thank you."
The Great Hall buzzes with excitement and fear. Rumors flow as freely as the wine did only moments ago. "Goodness!" Lady Ermessen wails, clutching Pantoufle close to her. "There was an assailant! At our ball! What could they have been plotting?" Prince Bartas is in little better shape. Now that the initial shock has worn off, the heir is slumped in a corner chair, fanning his face furiously.
Meanwhile, the mages have fanned out across the hall, checking and rechecking their protective wards. Through the stained glass windows, you spy Pteranodons swooping across the castle grounds. These winged reptiles are often used as scouts and sentries. But judging by their frustrated screeches, they haven't found anything.
What do you do?
1.I comfort Lady Ermessen.
2.I comfort Prince Bartas.
3.I help the mages with their wards.
4.I find Martis and Brutus and patrol the castle grounds.