Chapter Sixteen – continued
Camille briefly glanced over her shoulder and saw Abigail’s bare shoulders tense. She offered a small smile, but her sister was so intent on facing forward her eyes were probably on the fae light hovering just over the entrance to the ballroom, illuminating a painting of James and his intended bride.
“The Count and Countess Olidan and their daughters Lady Camille and Lady Madeline,” the steward announced as they drew near, his voice booming and echoing in the ballroom.
Camille couldn’t see much beyond her father and stepmother, though Muriel’s diminished skirst helped. There was no dancing or mingling yet; just nobles crowded on either side of the room, clearing a path to the dais where the king and queen sat on their thrones and the prince and his princess stood before them, receiving the well wishes of every noble family in attendance. But she could see Madeline, out of the corner of her eye, who suddenly drew herself up and held her head high.
Camille grimaced. It was the first time Madeline was being introduced as a lady. The thought didn’t sit well with her. But she passed over the threshold beside Madeline and walked gracefully, just as her mother had taught her, over to the dais to offer her curtsy and well wishes. She was less pleased to see Muriel carry herself flawlessly, though Lawrence had a firm hand on his wife to guide her. She wanted to snicker, but her breeding kept her in check.
Lawrence was offered a place of honor to the left of the king and queen beside the dais, and he took it with a low bow, pulling Muriel down into a curtsy beside him. Madeline and Camille likewise made their second curtsies and followed Lawrence and Muriel to the side. Camille had to hide the gleeful smile that threatened her lips when Muriel almost gracefully tucked Madeline behind her. Madeline was less pleased and passed by with a glare for her mother, but either Muriel didn’t see or pretended not to. Camille was more than happy to blend into the background, even if Madeline had inserted herself a step in front of her. No need to call attention to herself as Lawrence’s daughter. The less men foisted on Andalissa, the better.
“The Duke Murant escorting Lady Abigail Olidan,” the steward called out. “The Duchess Murant.”
Camille watched from beyond Muriel’s shoulder as Adrian expertly guided Abigail across the floor. She exhaled softly, watching her sister step gracefully, appearing almost to glide. Just as their mother had taught them, she held her chin up and an angelic smile on her face. She watched as Adrian bowed and Abigail curtsied before James spoke a few words and the mermaid princess dipped her head with a smile. Then Adrian guided Abigail to the other side of the dais.
Her sister now situated outside of the spotlight, Camille took a deep breath and settled back, tuning out the few remaining well wishes from Andalissa and her parents. Instead, she took in the rest of the ballroom.
It was bright and copiously lit by fae lights that shimmered and spun high overhead. There were tasteful floral displays and a long, narrow table tucked away in the shadows, presumably for small bites that servers would bring in as soon as the dancing started. There was a balcony above the entrance that was currently full of ten musicians, though only the violinist was currently playing.
The rest of the guests stood quietly and still, too well-mannered to let their feet shuffle as the endless introductions wound on and on. But one young woman caught Camille’s eye. She was dark haired and dressed in a simple blue gown. She hovered just behind the mer king and queen, who sat on the other side of the dais beside King Gray and Queen Coryn. Camille guessed her to be a servant as she bore absolutely no adornments and she kept her head down, but, every so often, Camille caught the flickering looks she was casting at James’s back.
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