The Den Asaan followed the commander's path and found his mate and the king leaning over the castle parapet that overlooked the large courtyard at the opposing end of the main hall. The giant observed that his woman and her king were having a terrific time of surveying the innards of the ball from their distance, leaning their backs against the balcony, and laughing at everything and everyone. The king was well inebriated by this time and therefore easier to make laugh but the Den Asaan knew well of his mate's clever and teasing character and though he remained stern in his countenance, he felt the biting mirth she intended all the same.
Alasdair was lost in a fit of laughter for each poignant comment the commander made and her callous professions forced the king to keep his wine at his side for all the laughter and tears that plagued him. The giant beside him grunted in disapproval of Alasdair's behavior in front of those he was meant to rule but the king cared not for he was laughing too loudly to notice the giant's admonishment.
The commander waited only a moment between cackles for the king to gain command of himself until she began pointing and asserting again. Soon she did not need to single out anyone as the king was asking her questions on selected members of the nobility who he found deserved the compliments only the artful commander could impart.
"What about the Countessa?" the king asked, wiping the tears from his sparkling eyes with the back of his hand.
"By the gods," the commander swore. "Her hair is so large and hat so beribboned it is a wonder there was any view left of her head. Had her accoutrements covered her face, we would have been spared the ugliest part of her outfit."
Alasdair peeked into the royal parlour and noted the Countessa, a young and rich noble from Gallei in Frewyn by marriage, standing near the refreshments. From the back, she was indeed a vision of loveliness but from the front, she could not have been more unsightly as no amount of ribbonry could hide her large teeth and fat cheeks. The king was forced to turn around and lean his face over the balcony to hide his immense laughter. The king freely expelled his mirth at the Countessa's expense and was quite pleased that he would never be asked to attach himself to such an insupportable beast.
The Den Asaan enjoyed his woman's derision and happy disdain for those whose minds were too small and dresses too large, and he quietly inched close to her, pressing his massive arm against her side. She leaned to acknowledge his silent affection and extended her small finger out to fondly stroke the back of his hand with discretion. They exchanged furtive looks of depravity and the giant felt calmed beside his pleasantly embittered woman. He inclined to push his forehead beside hers and when he was certain all other attentions were distracted he pressed his lips against the corner of her eye, exhaling with perpetuities of gratitude that she shared his bed with her.
The commander rubbed her cheek beside his angular nose and was about to confess her continuing adoration for her mate when she noticed Alasdair was suddenly silent. She turned and saw him leaning over the railing, at first believing him to be ill from his drink but when she followed his flickering eyes, she noticed he was gazing at someone far below. The commander looked down and observed a young woman of good height and lean silhouette standing directly beneath the king along the edge of the courtyard. The young woman's milk-white complexion shone in the brilliance of the soft moonlight and her golden curls tumbled over her small shoulders. Her innocent countenance had captivated the king's attention and he was desirous of knowing her name.
The commander was about to interfere in Alasdair's vigilant gawping of the woman with the gold silken hair until her awareness was gathered by the young Captain Liam walking through the courtyard below. The commander signaled for her mate to look as the foolhardy captain snubbed the becoming young woman in favour of greeting another. The young woman's hellos were utterly disregarded and she was pushed to the side, forced to make way for a different woman of lesser consequence and slighter prettiness.
"Captain Liam, you little ponce," the commander murmured, shaking her head.
"Has he been giving you trouble?" asked the king concernedly, hoping the captain had so that he may warrant a fitting punishment for so condemnable an action.
"Not lately, due to a certain giant's convincing and decidedly painful reprimand." The woman eyed the Den Asaan and he grinned at her, relishing the notion of beating his most insolent captain into the ground once more. "However, it seems can still break hearts well enough." She saw that the woman the king had favoured seemed to be distraught and therefore surmised that the captain had been careless with the young woman's affections.
The commander could see that Alasdair as well had marked her unhappy expression and was pained by the captain's inappropriate actions toward the young woman of his selection. The woman decided that Liam had deserved a fitting punishment for such blatant spurning on his part and took her king's wineskin into her hand, waiting for the precise moment when the captain would pass under their position as the perched above the courtyard. As Liam and the inconsequential woman on his arm passed, the commander poured out the contents of the king's cask onto the captain's head and smirked as he swore in his comeuppance. The woman on his arm shrieked that her solider had been sullied and Liam looked up, threatening the person responsible for such conduct to face him immediately so that he may rend them asunder.
The commander laughed that the poor captain would dare to venture a threat to her in her mate's presence and no sooner than she thought it did the giant gather his trappings about him and leap down from the parapets. The Den Asaan landed before the captain with a thunderous din and he slowly rose, growling as his violet eyes glowed with feverish ire for the captain's unwise intimidation. The woman at the captain's side screamed and fled, and the Den Asaan loomed over the captain, the beast prowling toward him as the captain took a step back.
"Commander, sir," said Liam, his voice wavering in terror, "I-" but the captain could not finish his apology for the massive hand tightening about his throat.
The mauve-grey mountain roared in fury, causing the golden-haired woman to stand to the side, and Rautu tightened his commanding hold around the captain's neck as he held him close so that he may better witness the impelled wrath burning in his expression.
"You have threatened my Traala with death and called out words of insolence to your superior," his rumbling voice boomed. "You will challenge me for your crimes and you will lose." The Den Asaan dragged the imprudent captain out of the courtyard and toward the training field so that he may pound his fists into certain breakable portions of his body accordingly.
Alasdair, who had watched the ordeal with great verve, had left his gaze upon the woman with the silken skin and the golden curls. She seemed not as terrified as she should have been and where the other woman had easily fled, this woman had remained watching and quiet. Now that the woman stood closer to his position than before, he noted the telling signs of servitude as she still donned her apron and the skin of her hands were marred from hard work.
The commander greatly enjoyed the king's display of interest and decided to lavish all her understatement upon his heightened sense of attachment to the woman below. "And so our king shall be ensnared by a maid. How scandalous," she exclaimed with a false sense of shock. "I should return to the ball and spread the gossip of your intended marriage to her to ensure the extended length of the event to make certain you are spared from the throes of court tomorrow."
"I'm not ensnared," Alasdair said, making no endeavor to look away.
"And yet you keep looking. Your blushing countenance clearly belies your dismissive sentiment," the commander dryly said.
"The wine is to blame, not any feelings you may think I have for a . . ." Alasdair was silenced by his own words and could not find it within himself to say the word maid as he believed that no one that exquisite in his estimation should be permitted to wait upon others. "I don't believe I've ever seen her before. I would remember her," he said with a quiet fondness.
"Would you? Do you think our maid is a thief merely posing, come to rob you of you wives and riches?" The commander's statements were meant to ruffle the king's composure but he was unmoving in his observation and so she continued. "If she is a rogue, I daresay she will be disappointed on the account of the wives as we all know the most precious gems of all is the ones between a woman's thighs." The young king laughed and had finally blinked away from his regard for the maid below him. "As for the riches," the commander added with a scoff, "King Alasdair is the wealthiest man in Frewyn."
"I think that title falls to Count Ross," the king laughed.
The commander smirked and raised her dark brows. "Money cannot replace other endowments of certain distinction. I believe you triumph against him in that regard. Wealth is nothing in comparison to handsomeness. I'm certain the Countessa can tell you many things on such a subject."
The king laughed and his youthful howlings had caused the woman from below to look up and gauge him. From their equal positions in the dimmed light of the night each could not tell who the other precisely was but when the maid drew closer and beheld the king, she gasped and bowed, lowering her eyes as she leaped away. Alasdair was compelled to call out to her, wishing her not to leave, wanting to beg her into staying if he must, but she was already gone, vanished into the bowels of the keep and the king sighed for the deprivation of her attendance.
Alasdair's momentary sorrow was interrupted by strident sounds of pain emanating from the training yard nearby. "What is that?" he asked the commander.
"The sound of Captain Liam's impending visit to the cleric," she snickered. "I don't believe Bilar has ever been as busy with Rau as the inciter of all his work. My mate is so generous in giving the clerics something to do to whittle away their time. He's so very thoughtful." The commander smiled as she caught the sight of the Den Asaan returning and equally noted Alasdair disenchantment that his lovely maid had parted his presence.
In the quiet echoes of his sobering mind, Alasdair had reconciled to find the mysterious and unfamiliar woman and he agreed that even if she was found to be a mere thief come to steal what little riches he had as king, he would willingly bestow them unto her if she would favor him with her look once again.