Lord Yash stood stock still, hands crossed behind his back; shocked eyes staring unbelievingly at the man entering his foyer. Was that really him? My, God! So he had survived the war! His thoughts moved rapidly, emotions becoming erratic as he processed the fantastic discovery. The two men looked at each other, Yash was sure that the Cheshire-cat grin on the visitor's face mirrored his own. Lord Yash, coat tails flapping, rushed to the visitor forgetting all signs of courtly etiquette, and ignoring the presence of his very surprised attendants. Hearty laughter reverberated as lord and friend clasped each other in a tight bear hug. An exuberant exclamation escaped the lips of the normally controlled lord Yash.
"My, God! Sir P! Is that really you? I thought we had lost you in the great battle of Pota-con!"
Lord Yash held the tanned, healthy appearance of his friend at arms' length. Four years ago, Sir P, had fought beside a buoyant, newly titled Duke of Caf Delightain. They had met one year after the annihilation of Aaryanburg, an incident which had sparked a bitter four year war throughout the DCian Antiquities. CONland had survived the worst of it, the three male heirs and their father, His Majesty King Casanova Pratap Scindia, bringing some semblance of peace to the DCian Antiquities. In the process, lord Yash had come close to losing his life, and Sir P, a commoner who had become his friend and brother during the war, had been the one to save his life. Strangely enough the two men had never spoken of the incident, nor seen each other after the war honours had been distributed. For a moment lord Yash wondered why that was. It slowly dawned on him that the Duchess Arpita had died of childbirth complications on the last eve of the war. Not soon after he had gone into a state of delirium from the fever brought on by his battle wounds, and the loss of lady Arpita. He shook his head, erasing the memories of those feverish nightmares.
"So my lord Yash, it seems we meet again. My God I've missed you! Your pranks were the talk of the war camp every eve!" Sir P winked at lord Yash, and the two men yelled one word, "Pankrap!" Both doubled over, laughing uproariously, remembering the time lord Yash had tricked an unsuspecting Prince Pankaj into jumping into the camp cesspool. Prince Pankaj had come away smelling of human excrement, horse crap and decaying food for a week. The poor prince had promptly been nicknamed Pankrap by his brothers. No one on camp had been willing to go near him, and quite a few servants earned themselves resounding smacks on the ear by retching in Prince Pankrap's hearing. To this day no one in the royal family was allowed to utter the word "crap".
Jovial tears streaming from their eyes, the two men straightened up, remembering the presence of the others in the room. Lord Yash looked expectantly at Sir P, waiting for him to introduce the woman standing beside him. She had beautiful almond shaped eyes, surrounded by long lashes. Her skin was of that alabaster tone, the sort that burned red quite easily under the sun. Lord Yash did not bother to further his observations, thoroughly uninterested by the young girl before him. She could not have been less than seventeen, perhaps twenty at most and was on the petite side.
"Lord Yash, might I present to you my sister, Miss Tilashini Prakash Singh."
The young lass raised her eyes, peeking from beneath her eyelashes. A lovely blush spread across her fair cheeks. Lord Yash, sensing her dilemma, leaned over her hand, placing a light, perfunctory kiss on her knuckles.
"My pleasure to have the honour of meeting such a beautiful young lady, Miss Tilashini; any family of Sir P is most certainly a family of mine." He watched her lower her eyes in disappointment, catching the firm hint at the end of his statement. The look quickly left her face as he turned on his charm, beaming a bright, harmless smile in her direction. Lord Yash chuckled lightly, letting go of her soft hand.
"Sir P, It's been so long! And I don't believe you've even met my daughters. How could I not introduce them to their affable uncle P?" Lord Yash queried jocularly.
"Ram, have the nursemaid bring the children in to the sitting room. The rest of you, you're dismissed until I ring the bell for your presence."
Everyone fled the room, glad to have another tidbit to add to the ever-present rumour mill of the royal Scindia family heritage. Nothing like royalty to liven up a monotonous task.
Aarti looked up from her position in the kitchen. She had been helping Sanju prepare a small quantity of homemade ice-cream for the children. Both ladies completely flustered and irritated, sat cursing the creators of the contraption under their breath in the most unlady-like fashion. Aarti's hair fell in an unkempt manner about her face, and perspiration added a light sheen to her forehead. Pushing a few strands away, she listened to the banter of the scurrying footmen and maids. Everyone had chosen the warmly heated kitchen to mill about; apparently some visitor had come to the castle. Aman, standing nearby, was regaling his uninformed friends with the spectacle of the foyer encounter. Aarti's hands ceased their motion. What was that?!
"Aman! Could you please repeat that?" she said in shock.
Aman looked at her curiously before responding, "There's a Sir P here to see lord Yash, and some woman with him. Apparently Sir P was in the army with lord Yash and they're now meeting after four years!"
Sanju looked calmly at her friend, but before she could tell Aarti not to over think matters, Ram appeared.
"Mrs. Dubey, lord Yash requests that you bring the children to see Sir P."
Aarti's heart faltered, then restarted."Oh God! Was it Mr. P? She hadn't known that he and lord Yash were good friends! She jumped to her feet clumsily, upsetting a tray of ice, and knocking over her chair. Some of the pieces flew into the air, landing in her gown, and sliding down her bosom. She froze, embarrassed by the looks everyone cast in her direction. Why was everything happening to her today?
"Mrs. Dubey", Ram interjected into her harried thoughts, "lord Yash is waiting on the children?"
Blinking blankly, Aarti rushed to the playroom to gather the children together, slipping on a runaway piece of ice. It was only as she entered the sitting room, children in tow that she realised there were more runaway ice bits in her corset. The chilly effect of the ice caused her skin to curl pleasantly, resulting in her squirming mildly at the sensation. There was no time to contemplate that now, at any moment she would once again be face to face with the Dark One. A ball of fear settled in her throat as she stood in the entrance of the sitting room with the children.
Lord Yash stood beside the gentleman, both of their backs turned toward her. Aarti lowered her eyes and performed a curtsey, remaining in that position, afraid to vocally announce her presence. The nervous children stood like a small brood around her. Without a glance at the anxious group, the gentleman left the room quickly, a woman trailing out behind him. Aarti held her breath, glad that neither she nor he had gotten a glimpse of each other. Crisis averted, Aarti, now overcome with momentary relief, began to shake uncontrollably. The matter was further compounded by the ice still within her corset. Soon all thoughts of fear fled her mind as the discomfort of the ice bits really began to set in. Her fingers itched to remove them, but she could not move until the lord had dismissed her. "Oh lord! Urrgh!! I mean God!" she shouted in her mind.
Lord Yash approached her, a troubled look written across his face.
"Hello my darlings," he murmured as he patted the silent children, "I had so wanted you to meet your Uncle Sir P, but something urgent came up. The poor chap got some very bad news and left in a rush with his sister. Perhaps next time he'll be back while you're in."
Lord Yash looked up from the children and finally addressed the nursemaid.
"My apologies for making you rush out here on such short notice with...", he began before his eyes registered her trembling figure.
"Nursemaid, whatever is the matter with you? Why are you shaking like some falling leaf? Are you ill? Do you have the chills?I don't want you giving the children any dangerous illnesses, so you had better hand them over to Mrinalini until you get better."
He looked on, confused by the blush spreading across her cheeks. He waited patiently for her to speak, lessening the distance between them unconsciously.
"M...m...my lord...it's not an illness." She whispered in embarrassment.
"Not an illness? Then speak maiden so that I can know whether or not the children are in any danger!" came the impatient response.
"W...w...we...well...ice...my...some...I...'" her words stumbled out brokenly.
"For the love of dear God! Stop mumbling. Just say something," Yash broke in through clenched teeth. "What do the eyes have to do with anything?"
Her eyes met his before dipping to the top of her gown and back up...and again...down...up.
Lord Yash, taking her manner to be coquettish, looked at her in disbelief. What in the name of Great Almighty is the vixen up to now? Why is she gesturing thus? What the..? There she is doing it again? And squirming too...as if in pleasure...as I dreamt her that night...? (shaking himself from his wanton reverie) Focus...Yash...focus. The minx needs to be halted. Cannot the little fool see that the children are in witness here?
"Cannot you see the children are in witness here, you...you...?" For all the names he had called her in his mind, he couldn't bring out an appropriate one that would admonish her without harming the children's sensibilities. Shaking in visible anger and agitation, Lord Yash bellowed, "Stop those big, round eyes from..."
"But they are square...and not round," came a little voice from behind the nursemaid's skirt folds.
"What? Is that your little boy? What are you saying lad?" Lord Yash's tone softened in surprise.
"I said, they are square...and not round. Ice is square in shape...always. My mumma has taught me. And she is always right. See..." so saying, an indignant Ansh stepped forward holding an ice cube in hand, which to his surprise he had found magically peeping out of his mumma's skirt rim.
"Yes poppa...Ansh is right. Ice is!" Palak too stepped forward in her Mrs. D's defense.
"Yes..yes...I know. Square." Not his little girls too. Yash sighed, and looked at the one who started all this and was now staring at him with those voluminous eyes as if he was the one who had lost his marbles. She was no more trembling, but her cheeks had reddened more. The children scampered away-- leaving a bewildered lord Yash and nervous Aarti.
Aarti, glad that the ice had finally melted completely was now in complete control of her thoughts. She had no idea what had brought out the sudden anger in My Lord. "Really...all he does these days is either stare at me or shout. Now, how could I tell him about the ice in my corset without the children asking awkward questions? How was I supposed to discuss such an inappropriate topic? Couldn't the man take a hint even? Lord Dunce!!!"
"What did you just say?" Yash was about to walk out of the room, in sudden need of escape, when he had heard her mutter.
"Dear God, have mercy on me, did I say that out loud?" she closed her eyes in resignation for another round of yelling, and then was hit by a sudden brainwave.
"Dance...My Lord...dance...I said dance," she said merrily, and her whole face lit up, cheeks aglow with a hidden radiance, a small smile playing around her lush cherry lips, a twinkle in her eyes. Lord Yash stood transfixed. His breath stuck in his throat at seeing the beauty unfold before him. She was an angel...his angel!!! The very next moment her eyes clouded over with far-off memories...and just as suddenly they glistened with unshed tears. He had followed the play of emotions and as on the previous occasion, the pearly dew drops did him in.
"Dance? Do you want to dance?" he asked gently.
The sound of his voice brought her back to the present. She looked up at him, with a sadness that shook his very being, "No...no, My Lord!! I know my place. Please forgive me...Actually I was teaching Palak and Payal some dance steps...when they expressed a desire to behold what a Ball is. I was only trying to suggest that since the castle hasn't hosted a Ball in years, maybe we can have one...especially since your friends are here."
Aarti had to know if he had really come to the castle...and she thought this would be the best way to seek the knowledge. Gathering her skirts, she smiled up at lord Yash, fearing the dark clouds of the coming past.
Edited by Kittya_Cullen - 16 June 2013 at 11:41am