Laughter and music mingled through the air, adding to the already joyous atmosphere. Boys and girls danced across the floors, holding crystal glasses filled slightly with sweet wines. Servants were smiling at guests, offering little pieces of caramel toffee as they flitted through the crowds. Older men sat at glass tables, some in heated discussions, others catching up with news from old friends. Women lined the edges of the square in large groups, giggling and watching as some of the younger men began to dance. Silks of deep red, rich purple and shimmering blue wove through the scene. The smells of honeysuckle and jasmine filled nostrils as they inhaled.
A well-built man watched the proceedings with a large smile at the head table. His wife, the queen, sat to his right, delicately eating tender meat squares as she chatted to her lady-in-waiting. She was a graceful woman, tall, clear blue eyes and light blonde hair. She was dressed in an elegant gown of royal purple with plum undertones. Around her neck was a simple silver chain on which hung one of the rarest gems, a purple diamond. His son sat to his left, watching the scene with clear eyes, occasionally raising his glass to his lips to take a sip. He was dressed in white silk breeches with a turquoise shirt trimmed with silver. His hair shone like gold and on his right hand, a silver ring with a blue diamond rested on a long finger.
The king finally stood up and tapped the ceremonial glass three times. The noise around the square slowly dwindled until silence filled its place. Every pair of eyes was facing the high table, hands clasped together in respect. The king's smile never faded as he looked over at his people. Such a wondrous occasion, with more than one reason to celebrate. His wife and son also stood up, slowly and carefully.
"My people!" the king called out, loud and clear. "Thirty years of peace!"
Cheers filled the area, clapping and laughing joined. The prince was also clapping fiercely, a small smile finally gracing his lips. The queen noticed and tilted her head down to hide her slightly inappropriate smile and twinkle in her eyes.
"We have worked so hard to maintain our peace, our freedom, our love!" the king continued, grasping his drinking glass tightly as he raised it above their heads. His family followed as well as the people of the land hastily copied. "It could not have been done with out you. Your friends, your family, your ancestors. Let us keep our kingdom this way for many, many eras to come, for our descendents. To Silverland!"
The callings of 'To Silverland' echoed around as everyone took a sip from their glasses. The cheering soon started again as the crowd raised their left hands, palm flat down to the high table. The three royals bowed their heads before the king tapped the ceremonial glass thrice again. The guests quietened down again, some of the smaller children leaning forward eagerly to hear the next bit of celebrations.
"If that was not reason enough to celebrate, eighteen years ago, a boy was born," the king said. Glances flew around the square with wide smiles before facing their king again. "In that year we were still struggling to maintain our peace. Wars were raging around our borders and we tried to keep them away from us. This boy became a beacon of hope, of joy, of a better future. This boy filled a prophecy that had been made ten years before by a dear friend of mine. Today, we also celebrate the birthday of your prince!"
For the third time, cheers erupted around the square as glasses were held towards to prince, who had ducked his head down. His father gently nudged his hand, pressing the ceremonial glass in his hand. A young serving boy stepped forward and filled it with the sweetest purple wine in the land. The prince finally raised his head as well as his hand.
"My friends," he called out. The women stifled sighs and giggles into scarves at his voice which many described as the voice of an angel. "I could not have wished to be a royal to another kingdom. Silverland has been so kind to my family, to my bloodline. As my father said, we have struggled to maintain our peace. But we have now, for thirty years. We've done this by staying united and strong with each other. We are one of the few kingdoms that encourage joining of the higher, middle and lower people. And because of this, we have one of the most enjoyable kingdoms on the Earth."
The people were silent as the prince slowly lowered the glass to his lips and took a sip. Sparks filled the open sky as the liquid passed his lips and the crowd parted as an elder made his way through until he stood directly in front of the high table. The king and queen smiled as they looked into the face of their son's mentor. The man slowly raised his own glass as the prince lowered his, a smile twitching at his wrinkled lips. "To the prince." The people echoed his words with strength, power and passion. More sparks filled the air as the faintest traces of stardust fell among the crowds. The elder then turned to face the crowd, a smile now fully pulling his lips. "Let the entertainment begin!"
All the people in the square were seated when a large silver box was rolled in. Excited murmurs filled the air as people recognised the exquisite designs the adorned the box. The prince raised an eyebrow and turned to face his mentor. The elder just smiled and turned his attention back to the box as transparent silver ribbons that held the box closed begun to be pulled slowly by four attendees. The box emitted a soft glow, completely covered in stardust. The crowd fell silent again, groups sitting on the edges of their seats in anticipation.
The king had shared a look of mild surprise with his wife after his son had also leaned forward. The boy was not one that particularly enjoyed large celebrations or gatherings. He would have much rather stay in the palace and read or practice magic. So it was a shock for him to show interest in what was happening now. The king turned his head slightly to observe his son from the corner of his eyes. The faintest pink tinge had spread across his cheeks and nose but whether that was from the wine or excitement he didn't know.
The queen was also watching her son. For eighteen years the boy had been in the palace, rarely wandering outside unless the occasion called for him to be there. He was shy, respectful and courteous. The music from the harp began lifting up into the air as the box was pulled open and the lights softened to a glow. The queen gave a slight smile hearing her son's soft gasp as a young boy tumbled out gracefully. Their friend had chosen a well-known performance company for their entertainment but it seemed this boy was the only one to perform. Well, he was certainly attractive.
The people had seen the way their prince reacted to the way the boy danced. The faintest whispers were carried around the square as the young prince's eyes never left the dancing figure. Dressed in a white costume trimmed with complicated silver designs, the young dancer looked like a god sent from the heavens. And he moved so gracefully and elegantly. If the prince hadn't shown such an interest in him, young women would have swarmed the boy at the end of the night.
It was quiet for a few seconds after the boy finished dancing but soon the square was filled with cheering, clapping and sweet sighs. The boy took a bow before turning to the high table and giving another one. He had a sweet smile on his face and his grey eyes twinkled from excitement. The prince's mentor hobbled down to where the boy stood and slowly led him back up to the table. The pair sat down again and the boy was wrapped in a cloak given by a servant. He smiled his thanks before turning towards the royals.
"Thank you for letting me perform," he said sweetly. "It was fun. My name is Espien. It's a pleasure and an honour to meet you all."
"Well, thank you for performing," the king exclaimed happily. "It was actually a surprise to see you. A very good one I think. And the pleasure is all ours. This is my wife, Sefina and my son, Ristel."
"Can you stay?" Ristel blurted out. Four heads turned to him in surprise. The prince kept his eyes firmly on the boy in front of him. "Can you?"
"I'm sorry…?" Espien asked, confused. "Can I stay where?"
"At the castle. My home. You can perform there. You're much better than the other performers," the prince stated. "And their boring. They do the same thing all the time and they don't like talking to me. They feel they have to be respectful all the time."
"Oh!" The boy turned pink a little bit and tucked a piece of honey blonde hair behind his ear. "I'm not sure if I can stay. After tonight I need to go back to my family…"
"Oh, of course, sorry," the prince rushed to apologise. "I forgot that..."
For the remainder of the night, the two talked comfortably as if they were old friends. The king and queen watched happily, glad that their son was taking his first steps into interacting with others. The men glanced at them, grinning and placing bets on when a wedding might be. The women gave small sighs as they took the pair in, saying they were a match made by the goods themselves. The children giggled and saw who could get the closest to the table to hear what they were talking about before a servant shooed them away with a smile.
It was just before midnight when one of the young boys gasped out loud. He immediately started shrieking with happiness, pointing up to the table.
"They kissed, they kissed, they kissed!" he laughed, jumping up and down. All eyes went to the table's occupants who were staring at the boy with pink cheeks and opened mouths.
"I saw 'em!" the boy continued proudly. "The prince leaned forward and planted one right on the dancer's lips!"
"Ezral!" a woman scolded, running up to the boy and picking him up. The prince's cheeks turned even darker and his eyes turned to the table. Suddenly the king let out a roaring laugh and bounded up to his son.
"Just like a man hey?" he questioned, wrapping his arms around both boys and hauling them up. "No beating around the bush!"
Again, the square erupted into cheers. Plans for weddings flew around and more bottles of wine were opened. Money was passed from hand to hand as the men claimed their bets while more gold and silver pieces were passed up to the table. It was placed in a pile right in front of the two shocked boys. The king rambled on about how they would find a place for Espien's family to stay during the celebrations and if they wanted they could stay permanently. The queen discussed with her lady-in-waiting clothing ideas and what materials they would have to buy.
A small chuckle sounded behind the boys and they both turned. The prince's mentor gave them a large grin.
"Looks like you are going to stay at the castle after all Espien."