Sipping her punch, Anna rested one elbow on the balcony railing, her hip acting as a balance against the stone underneath. There was a slight chill in the air, the wind heavy with the scent of flowers, but the heat from the people crowded in the ballroom combined with the smell of sumptuous meats and sweets prepared by the kingdom’s finest chefs made it so she barely noticed. Happily people watching, she sighed, smiling when she caught sight of Her Majesty, Queen Elsa, taking a dance with the Royal Ice Harvester. Knowing Kristoff had only approached her sister because she’d told him he had to, it was still gratifying to see how well they were actually doing, both still fairly new to the art of dancing with a partner than Anna was, herself.
"Good evening, princess," a young noble from a neighboring kingdom, whose name was currently escaping Anna’s grasp, greeted as he approached, bowing as low and stately as befitted her higher rank, "Tallak of the Northern Fjords. May I take a few moments of your time?"
"Of course." Straightening, Anna turned her smile onto him. Unremarkable, made of fine blond hair and thin mustache, gray eyes and average body and height, she didn’t seem the harm in entertaining him for a little bit. It was, after all, part of what she had to do, being who she was. "Are you enjoying your evening…" She searched her memory, "…Count?"
Tallak’s mouth turned up, and he nodded. “Forgive me for not adequately reintroducing myself. I am sure you have met many people in these past months. And yes, I am, thank you. Arendelle and this castle and its hosts have been perfect.”
His manner was refreshing, and Anna relaxed minutely. She bit her lip, narrowing her eyes, and abruptly asked, “What’s your favorite part?”
Blinking, Tallak’s expression slipped almost as much as Anna’s had, and he suddenly looked more like her own age, if that. “It should be the gracious and… Forgiving manner of the hosts, but,” he sighed, “Forgive me if I’m wrong, but you’re not big on pomp and circumstance…?”
Surprised that he had so easily asked her, Anna found herself grinning. “Ohh, noo,” she laughed, waving her free hand in the air, “No, that’s my sister. I’m.” She looked back and forth conspiratorially before leaning in slightly, Tallak meeting her just as slightly, “I’m pretty new to all of this, actually.”
Tallak’s gloved hand stroked self consciously at his hair, and he laughed. “Oh, tell me about it. This is my first foreign ball – well, first ball, really, ever!”
"No!" Anna gaped at him, "But you so smoothly introduced yourself! And properly."
The count nodded. “Hours and hours of practicing under the watchful eyes of my tutors.”
"Well, give me their addresses; I’d love for them to talk to mine."
Tallak laughed behind his glove, his eyes crinkling. “I shall see about that,” he smiled good naturedly, taking note of how the ending strains of the current song was approaching and turning, shyly offering her his arm, “But first, may I have this dance?” When she paused, he added, eyes twinkling, “See how your dance instructor stacks up to mine?”
He wasn’t as polished as Hans had been, and there was something more sincere about him, that, after studying him, Anna laughed herself, rolled her eyes, set her glass onto the railing beside her, and allowed him to pull her into the ballroom. “Forgive me if I step on your toes,” she warned, “That happens, sometimes.”
"My apologies in advance for the same thing," Tallak answered, respectfully cupping her waist. His other hand gently took hers.
Glancing over his shoulder, Anna met her sister, already standing back in front of her throne’s eyes. Giving her a smile, inclining her head in such a way to let her know she was fine and didn’t need saving, Anna giggled when Elsa made a teasing huffy face. ‘You’re not marrying this one either,’ she mouthed, and, mock glaring at her, Anna somehow still managed to almost expertly move into the first step as soon as the music swelled.
She and Tallak danced in silence for a couple of minutes, smiling whenever their eyes met, but otherwise not really making an effort to do much else. Finally, coughing quietly under his breath, Tallak murmured, “How does my dance teacher appear to have fared?”
Anna elected to respond honestly. “About as well as mine did.”
That elicited a laugh, and Tallak bowed sweepingly as the music trailed off. “It was an honor,” he murmured, blinking at her before he started, his lips parting in an, ‘oh!’, and Anna suddenly found her hand once more swept up in his; brushing his lips across the back of her knuckles, the count smiled at her. “May I escort you back to your sister?”
Craning her head around, seeing said older sister still watching her, barely paying attention to the chatter of the latest delegate of Weselton as Kristoff crunched on the food at the snack table behind her and to the left, Anna smiled. “You know?” she responded, smile stretching across her face, “I’d appreciate that.”
When he dropped her off, ending in another deep bow and expected statement of gratitude, Anna lightly brushed her fingers across his upper arm in goodbye, unable to keep a real smile from reaching her lips. “And you,” she nodded, wishing Tallak a sincere goodbye, “You have, at this time, the favor of the Princess of Arendelle.”
“Was that really a smart decision?” Elsa murmured to her, nodding her head at the leaving count, elegant as always.
Anna lightly hit her hip with hers. “Believe me,” she smiled, going back over her whole encounter with Tallak of the Northern Fjords, “Even though we barely spoke, I can guarantee he is one who would support us.”
And indeed, watching him approach Kristoff, exchanging what looked to be laughing comparisons of the food, Anna smiled. Her hand reached for her sister’s, squeezing her warm palm supportively. “Promise.”
Elsa’s lips quirked up. “Okay,” she whispered back, smiling meaningfully at her and squeezing Anna’s hand as quickly as she could while still lingering before letting go, making Anna’s heart warm and cheeks heat up, “I believe you.”
Anna beamed. “Good,” she laughed, meeting Elsa’s gaze even as she was unable to stop herself from adding before she slipped away to catch up to Kristoff to question him suggestively about the blond count who had just been speaking to him, “About time! It’s not like I’m trying to make it hard for you!”