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People began arriving for the King’s ball as early as seven thirty; grand carriages pulled by well trained horses drew up along the main entrance of the Palace and Lords and Ladies stepped out, resplendent in velvets and silks and furs and jewels. One such woman, Lady Morgaine, stepped lightly from her carriage and glided up the stairs that led to a pair of large, thick wooden doors, now opened invitingly wide.
As she drew closer, the warm golden glow of hundreds of candles in crystal chandeliers poured out through the doorway and turned the dark velvet of her cape into a thick, forest green curtain. As she entered, a servant dressed in royal blue and gold took the cape, revealing a dress of crimson velvet and a dozen smooth silver chains tied loosely around Morgaine’s waist. Silver combs set with garnets held her long, gently curling copper colored hair back from her face, and a garnet shaped like an inverted teardrop hung from a silver chain around her neck.
At eight forty-three, in the brightly lit Ballroom of the Royal Palace, Lady Morgaine stood talking to Lord and Lady Ashton when she happened to glance up at the Grand Staircase. As grey-blue eyes the color of a stormy sea scanned the faces looking for people she knew, one face caught her attention. Where have I seen him before? she thought to herself. Certainly not as he was now, in brown velvet and cream silk, and his shining, golden-brown hair in a short braid tied with a black ribbon. Automatically, she fingered the tiny silver dragon whose wings circled her left ring finger. Her lips moved silently as she mouthed the words of a remembrance spell, and then her body went rigid as the enchantment took hold, and images began to appear before her eyes...
She sat in her carriage, the horses moving carefully through the muddy, churned-up snow. As she looked out the window, one of the commoners looked up at her. His brown eyes were clear and intelligent, and though his cloak hung in tatters around his shoulders and his hair and face were caked with mud, she could see that under different circumstances he would be strikingly handsome.
The spell released her as suddenly as it had swept her up, and for a moment all she could do was wonder, But then what is he doing here? A moment later, though, when the shock had worn off, she murmured a distracted, “Please excuse me,” to Lord and Lady Ashton before striding across the ballroom. By the time she’d navigated the sea of conversations and pairs of dancers, the young man was already looking around. He’s searching for something, Morgaine thought to herself, and was surprised at how certain she felt. Once again, her fingers strayed to the dragon ring, but this time she whispered a single Word of Command and the ring slipped into invisibility.
She started forward, the crimson velvet of her dress swishing inaudibly, when a dark-haired man walked directly into her. “I beg your pardon,” he murmured distractedly in a low, deep voice, and continued onward without stopping. Morgaine turned to watched him go and felt her vision shift so that the air surrounding the strange man was distorted, like the air around a fire, and a snake of similar distortion hung everywhere the man had walked that night. “Oh, my...” she breathed as she glanced around the ballroom and saw a twisting, seemingly unending trail of bent reality. Looking back at the golden-haired young man, she could see that he looked uncertain, as though he were trying to hear the notes of a song played far away, and then he, too, caught sight of the dark-haired man.


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