He seemed bored as he followed, his dark Barbarian brows fixed in a dark Barbarian scowl as I danced over the stone path as it rose higher, into the tops of the trees. I felt an answer in each step, a thrum as my foot touched stone and the stone touched me, suspended over the earth. I hummed as I moved, quickly over the stone bridges and through the tunnels of green, where they passed trees. If he was going to be bored then Maybe I could at least increase his stamina in the meanwhile.
“Statue of Stallius, he was notorious for archery and good eyesight. He could see very well, which no doubt helped his archery, to the left, the beautiful statue of… someone beautiful,” I said as we emerged from a long, twisting tunnel that left him blinking when we emerged into the twilight. The beautiful woman was my namesake Haedra, a notable scholar and healer.
I focused on dancing faster, skipping up and kicking my legs before I came down with a bustle and rush of gauze. I spun around and caught the sidelong glance of the gardener. He gazed curiously at me. What was I doing? I hesitated on my next step, stumbling to the base of the one armed Centaurs statue.
My chest rose and fell as I looked at the two, contrasting sharply with each other clearly distinguished in spite of the dim lights that sprung up along the path.
"Gardener, who do you think the Viceroy should meet?"
I cast a glance at the Viceroy who took a position with his muscular arms across his chest, looking like he wanted a mace or something like to embrace. He looked a soldier, patiently waiting for an irritation to dissipate.
“Whoever is willing to meet the Ambassador I suppose, Lady,” the gardener said, reminding me that he didn't approve of the Barbarian, and that I kept using the wrong title.
I frowned fiercely at the gardener, but he simply waited with his arms over his chest, in a similar pose as the Barbarian neither of which seemed remotely repentant. I knew perfectly well that my fame came far more from being a madwoman than a lady. Dancing randomly along the sky stones lacked dignity, but they both had enough dignity for all of us. No one seemed inclined to ensure that I stayed well behaved.
“Well then, Viceroy, you’re in luck. All the young ladies are certain to want to meet you. When you dance be careful not to trod on any toes. The toes of our people are very delicate.”
"Ambassador," he grunted, but that was all. Good. Grunting was exactly what one expected of a Barbarian. We continued on our way, passing the statues rising out of darkness in silence.
“I suppose you'll lead the dance,” the Barbarian said as we passed next to an extremely fragrant white blooming tree that smelled too sweet. Sickly sweet. I preferred the grunting.
“Dancing is for young ladies,” I said as primly as I could.
The gardener snorted, and I gave him a glare that he ignored, well, since it was getting dark and my face was veiled it would be hard for him not to ignore it, but it still bothered me. I walked the next hundred feet or so as sedately as a mourner.
“I would prefer not to dance with young ladies.” He sounded grouchy, like a battle hardened captain who’d been sent to go dancing instead of fighting.
I looked over my shoulder at him and caught in a flash of glowlight a frown that looked more concerned than grumpy. I raised my hand as if to brush the frown away then fisted my fingers, forcing myself to behave as a diplomat should.
In the close darkness, the smell of Cinnarron seemed to bloom from the Barbarian like a fragrant crushed herb, pungent and spicy. I felt my heart thump with a beat like a drum, calling the warriors home. When the trail of lights grew closer and closer as we neared the High Palace, I straightened up and adjusted the gauze around my face. Maybe the gardener was right about not springing the Barbarian on the High Precept. I felt reluctant to take the Viceroy in to be passed around by the ladies with their lovely arms. Who was I trying to protect, them or him? I muttered words that not even I could quite make out, a curse or a prayer, maybe the two mingling on my cool breath into the night air.