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Ian Davion - Golden Lion (Chapter Art)

Ian Davion, Golden Lion[]

Chapter 4 – Green and Gold[]

A Stroll by the Rail Tracks & Unexpected Date[]

07/04/3039 - 13:47 Location – Tracial Steiner Memorial Starport, Tharkad, Lyran Commonwealth

The Fortress-Class Dropship, LCS Iron Gauntlet descended over the vast ferrocrete plains of a sheltered valley in the shadow of Mt Wotan.  Rail and car tunnels cut through the Jotun range toward Tharkad City and the Triad on the far side and the adjacent Olympia City and its smaller Air and Shuttleports that connected this area with the rest of Tharkad on the near side.

The mighty New Danube River originally cut through the mountains to form this valley but had been rerouted through another tunnel to emerge on the other side of the Starport in order to continue its winding trek toward the ocean on its original course.  Great blast trenches were cut throughout the landscape deflecting the superheated plasma from the dozen landing pads and four super long runways for Aerodyne dropships.

As usual the area was busy, Tharkad was if not the, then among the wealthiest planets in the whole of the Inner Sphere and produced thousands of different types of industrial goods. Its wealth and productivity was a source of much pride for its inhabitants and the Steiner Family that ruled over it.

Fortress Class Dropship (HBS Version)

Fortress Class DropShip

Ian was in awe of the size of just the spaceport as he walked along in his Marauder with Bishop’s Penetrator and a company of the LCAF’s 1st Royal Guard toward the Triad along “The Giant’s Passage.”  A slightly depressed walkway that later became an elevated one that led right to the Triad bypassing The Twin Cities and their snarling traffic.  It cut along the buffering wilderness beside the New Danube that separated Olympia and Tharkad while following a railway easement.

Bishop opened a point to point channel between their mechs lest the Royals overhear them, “Ian, I think the Steiner’s have a rail fetish.”

Ian couldn’t help but laugh and almost lost the balance of his machine, “You think they are compensating for something, Bishop?”

Ian looked over at one of the Atlii that was part of their escort group.  The hulking machine was a fearsome beast and his namesake had died in one so it had a special place in his heart.  Most of the other mechs in his escort were equally large, a Banshee, two other Atlii, four Zeuses, and a Longbow and Awesome Assault 'Mechs both likely salvaged from some raid against their perennial enemy, The Free Worlds League.

Awesome (In Mountains by bobthedino)

Awesome Assault 'Mech

“I just think they like the sight of a long powerful machine going into a deep dark tunnel.”

Ian had to stop his Marauder in mid-stride causing the rest of the Guards to pause as well for a long moment, “Don’t tell Melissa or Thomas that, Bishop.  I expect you to be on your best behavior while we are on Tharkad.  Keep the sophomoric antics of a Guard’s Brat just between us.  I guess you could tell Katrina, the woman could sure use some levity.”

“Of course, my Prince.” Bishop responded to him.

One of the Royals came in over the radio, “Is there a problem, Prince Ian?”

“No problem, merely taking in the sights.” Ian told them.

“Of course.  Take your time, we will continue on.  The trail is easy enough to follow.”

The two FedSuns Mechs paused and reestablished the Point to Point grateful for perhaps the last bit of privacy they might have for weeks.  Both were looking out over the skyline of Tharkad and Olympia, “Are you ready for tonight’s party, Ian?”

“As much as possible, Bishop.  I have to admit that the uniforms Jack’s man made for me look mighty sharp.  However ‘Finishing School’ on Gallery was just as hard as my time at Albion.  I don’t know how I will deal with these people, they just seem so alien.”

“I will start by saying be yourself.  You are the son of First Prince Hanse and Dana Davion, you belong there as much as any of these Steiner bluebloods.  Don’t let them intimidate you by making you seem lesser in any way.  Hell you faced down a trio of Wolf’s Dragoons with live weapons.  That’s more combat experience that most of these ‘Generals’ can muster in their entire careers even with their fancy school rags.”

“Thank You, Bishop, that does put me at ease.  Should we catch up to the Royals?”

“With our mechs we could overtake them and beat them to the Triad.  I can’t wait to get to the Suns Annex myself and eat some normal food.  It’s been months since I’ve had decent wings and a beer.  Also I want to see whether the Albion Cavaliers beat the NAIS Knights.  I didn’t want to peek at the score summary when it came in this morning.  The vid should be available on the CommNet soon.”

“Of course the Cavaliers won.  That sounds like a good afternoon Bishop, curse these chains of courtesy that bind me to spend time with other.”

“I know right.  The Knights don’t stand a chance but the Cav’s Striker is my old classmate’s boy.  I want to see him in action.”

“You really want to make me drag my feet to get to the Triad, Major.  Let’s walk and talk.”

The Marauder and Penetrator overtook the slower Guards and made it to the Suns Diplomatic Annex ahead of schedule.  They walked their mechs into the reinforced Mech Bay joining a Griffin, Shadow Hawk, Rifleman, and Wasp.  Both Ian and Bishop disembarked and were greeted by Colonel Alexander Horvat first of the 35th FedSuns Mechanized Rifles, part of the 3rd Davion Guards, Security Commander for the multi-building compound although Ian was to be assigned a token detachment for his own security.

The three men left the Mech Bay and headed toward the Ambassador’s Residence once the home of Alessandro Steiner’s favorite mistress.  The entire place had been renovated more toward Davion Elegance rather than Steiner Opulence. Ambassador Ran Felsner was richly attired in green and gold with his trademark monocle, a relic of his lost eyesight that removed him from active Battlemech piloting.

His preferred Mech, The Griffin, was also a favorite of the Lyran Commonwealth, two Griffins watched over the shoulders of Melissa just as they had watched over her Mother’s and Grand Uncle’s whenever she held court.  His astute observations and focus on logistics as well as his worldliness and humility won him much respect in the Triad with commoners, nobles, and both the Social and Fighting Generals of the LCAF.

“Prince Ian, it is good to see you again after so long.  I last saw you when you were just a fresh’y at Albion.  What a fine looking young man you’ve become.”

“Thank you, Ran.  It is good to see you as well.  How do you like Tharkad?”

“The cold bothers my joints a bit but not enough to be a concern.  My family is quite happy with our assignment, Ian.  One of my grandsons just passed the test to start at Nagelring come September and I couldn’t be prouder.  Being an ambassador is a nice change of pace from my time fighting at your father’s side."

"I’m sorry but, you just missed Ardan Bishop.” said Ran

“He sent me an HPG on the way back to New Avalon.  Too bad he couldn’t route to Gallery on the way back.  I would have liked to see him but Command Circuits are a fickle thing.”

“Massively understated as usual but I’m not going to lecture you on the proper routing of Jumpships though I could.  You have many other things to do as do I.  My butler will show you to your rooms.  We will be seeing plenty of one another in the future and I look forward to helping you however I can.”

Ran’s butler Pietre gave Ian and Bishop a quick tour.  Bishop was housed closer to Colonel Horvat’s men and Ian was given one of the larger rooms in the mansion. All of his clothes had already been placed in closets and drawers.  There was only enough time to grab a quick bite to eat before he had to get ready for the Ball tonight where he would meet Melissa and Thomas for the first time.  An hour before he was due to depart a brown haired woman around his age dressed in a green and gold ball gown knocked at his door, “Who are you, Miss?”

“I’m your date.” woman said to him

“I was not informed that I would be having a date.” Ian responded

“Neither was I until three hours ago unfortunately I was free.  Though I don’t think my father would have cared if I weren’t.  I’m Tess Felsner, and your tie is all wrong.”

Ian grabbed the tie, “It most assuredly is not. This is how Albion and my mother taught me to do it.”

“Yes, well we are not on New Avalon.  Let me fix it.”

“Very well.”  She artfully retied it in a more elaborate configuration.  Ian looked in the mirror again and barely repressed the feelings he had for the look.  “That looks ridiculous.”

“I’ve seen far worse, my Prince.  You will too.  Well let’s go then.  I need a drink.”

Prepping for the Ball[]

Ian and Tess worked their way through the Triad, the massive multi-building government complex that stood out like a vast acropolis above Tharkad City.  Easily isolated for VIP events and never taken by an outside enemy power.  The Federated Suns Embassy Annex was closer to the Royal Palace than many of the others but it was still a bit of a walk but a pleasant one.

“So you know all about me, Tess, but I don't know anything about you.” he asked his date

“I suppose that's fair, we didn't get properly introduced.” Tess said

She paused and sat down on the edge of a faintly illuminated fountain dedicated to the heroes of some battle fought long ago.  The trickle of water and faint multicolored light illuminating her features made for a pleasant atmosphere.

“We have some time I guess, have to be fashionable late after all.  I'm a Protocol Officer, PR Rep, and Translator.  Went to NAIS for Political Science and have served on my father's staff since he was assigned here three years ago.”

Ian sat down next to her, “You went to NAIS?”

“Yes, and the Knights beat the Cavaliers, Three to Two in case you were wondering.” she told him

“What?  How?” astonished Ian asked

“Malru pulled a hamstring and Baker scored a goal in the last thirty seconds.”

Meanwhile at the Embassy's Officer's Mess, Major Bishop Sortek, Colonel Alexander Horvat, and most of the off-duty officers of the 35th Federated Suns Mechanized Rifles were standing or sitting on couches or chairs watching the Tri-Vid feed right off CommNet. “And Baker shoots and...


Amazing and with only thirty seconds left on the clock, three points to two!”

A minute passed, “Final score, NAIS Knights Three against the Albion Cavalier's Two.  What an upset, I'm sure the bookmakers on Solaris are sweating this one out Jean.”

“Oi! the all-star Malru being absent today really messed up the Albion's offense.  I'm sure he'll be kicking himself when his hamstring is healthy again.  That's it folks, NAIS Knights clinch the Championship. Good night everyone.”

Multiple crumbled beer cans were thrown in the direction of the TV, “Bull!”

Major Sortek was wearing his Red and Gold Albion sweater, “It went right past his fingertips, Banzai Blitz my...”

The Ball Begins[]

Back at the fountain Ian had a surprised look on his face, “Bishop will not be happy about that.”

“So what can you tell me about today's party?  I read the dossiers Ran forwarded in transit but, you've actually talked to these people.  What was left off the Dossier?”

“Well you are familiar with Ryan Steiner fortunately for both of us he will not be attending today he's probably plotting something devious back on Skye.  Melissa is well aware of the threat he poses, I expect him to be iced if he makes any moves against her.”

“Well that's a relief, I would like to stay out of any Steiner family drama.”

“Wouldn't we all.  The next biggest person to worry about is Tormano Liao, he's dangerous and angry with Candace since she cast him out.  She blames him for a few attempts on her husband Justin's life.  One of which nearly succeeded, I don't know whether it was his fault or not but it doesn't matter, he works for Chancellor Romano now.  He has been whispering poison into Melissa's ear and Romano's anti-League stance has found fertile ground here among the Bolan, Skye, and Alarion regions.”

“Well that's not good, I'll have to keep an eye out for them.” commented Ian

“It’s a good thing your enemies and allies are mostly obvious here, it's the undecided ones that I am most concerned about.” said Tess

“Like our hosts?”

Her shoulders' slumped slightly, “Yes, actually and unfortunately.  Count Bradford has really stepped up in the past couple of months since their engagement was made public.  His reassignment to the 10th Lyran Guard made it fairly obvious what was going to happen if you were paying attention regardless it has been the talk of the town ever since.  He's dangerous though, he killed six people on the dueling field last year, now they probably deserved it but still.  He pilots a Banshee, brand new 3S, calls it “The Painted Lady,” what you might not know is that the Banshee is what they assign officers with a killer instinct.  Thomas probably won't like you but that can't be helped, he sees you as a threat to his position.”

“What!  He already put a ring on it.  He and Melissa are together.” Ian said with surprise

“Yeah well that was never a sure thing.  If Katrina could have got the Estates General to agree she would have wed you together in a heartbeat.  He's been working on getting this to happen for years and has the scars to prove it, Melissa might have been getting married to you this year instead of him.  I'm certain he won't do anything unless you give him reason though, so please don't.”

“I will be on my best behavior, Tess, I swear.  I've heard that the trust in the Federated Suns is at an all-time low on Tharkad though.  Why?  We've honored all of our pledges.”

“The Lyrans have begun to wonder about our conviction to a continued peace.  The defection of the St Ives Commonality and the invasion into the Victoria Commonality and failed invasion of Tikonov has many of them thinking we are just as bad as the Dracs.”

“It’s not enough that my uncle’s treachery ended up with a nearly successful attempt to double my father.  Or consider Romano’s multiple attempts on my father and her sister’s family sufficient cause?”

“You don’t have to justify the Suns’ actions for me.  I understand what Hanse is trying to do.  It’s just that not enough people agree on Tharkad, the Estates General will continue to honor Katrina’s accords as long as Melissa supports them as well.”

“Is there a chance she might not and support the Confederation instead?” Ian asked

Tess didn’t look certain, “I’ve never talked to her alone and she prefers to speak French to my Dad so I don’t need to translate for him.  She’s tough to read.  I think she sees the benefits of our continued relations but she is not as committed to the plan as her mother.”

“Well I hope we can convince her that the Suns are better than the Capellans.” commented Ian

“That is why you are here after all, Ian.”  She checked her watch, a fine delicate golden piece, “We should be fashionable late now if you want to head out.”

The pair stood up and continued to the Palace standing outside to get their picture taken by paparazzi.  They entered and a pair of olive skinned guards formed a human wall behind them.  They stood at the top of the stairs alongside the Master of Ceremonies.  “Introducing Prince Ian Davion of the Federated Suns and his escort Miss Tessera Felsner, Daughter to the Honorable Ambassador Ran Felsner.”

All two thousand attendees looked up to see the Foreign Prince that just dropped into today and was already hitting the party circuit.  As they cleared the initial entryway they went off to a side, a group of women was waving to Tess.  “This is where I leave you, Ian.  I’ll be in the Gal Gallery getting that drink.”

“Gal Gallery?” he asked

“Yes, it’s better than some of the other things I’ve heard it called.” Ian said

“What do you do up there?” Ian asked

“Gossip, admire cute guys in their tight uniforms, play ‘who wore it best,’ you know girl stuff.” Tess commented

“So you get to party while I have to work.  That hardly seems fair.” Ian commented

Tess crossed her arms with a drawn out exhale, “We’ll both be plenty busy working.  You won’t be able to get any work done surrounded by blood sucking baronesses.  I’ll keep them occupied while you work your handsome princely charm and win more allies in the Estates General, most of them are present tonight.”

She looked at him with barely concealed humor, “Don’t worry though I will keep an eye on you in your tight uniform.”

Ian was momentarily embarrassed as his realized just how much tighter fitting this uniform was then his originally issued one, “If you need my help just rub your head three times and I’ll try to rescue you.”

“Well are you going to be there all night?  What if I want a dance later?” he commented

Tess blushed slightly at the offer, “That sounds fun!  It will show those haughty ladies that I will have to deal with all night.  See you later Ian.”  Tess departed and Ian took a moment to watch her go.  She joined the group of ladies that were waving to her and he heard a quick laugh from them before they went upstairs.

Ian left and circulated through the ballroom quite visible in his green and gold uniform against a sea of other dark colors.  There were only thirty Federation nobles among the party, most of the Suns citizens were widely dispersed across the vast Commonwealth engaging in their various assigned duties across the Inner Sphere from their home-worlds.

Eventually he staked out a position on one of the elevated sections of the ballroom the main floor of which was in the middle of two Vs and decorated with brilliant under-lit mosaics.  Many people eventually found him but even with his breeding and years of attending these sorts of events he could barely keep track of them only remembering their colorful or eccentric attire.

After recalibrating his eyes he realized that there were men in dark suits dressed like the staff who were circulating through the crowd following him.  He also saw a flash of Liao Jade Green across the ballroom, Tormano, who was also clearly being followed through the room by similar men.  Then he realized he was marked as soon as he walked in here by the LIC’s Diplomatic Guards, the polite version of the Lyran Special Forces but no less ruthless in their tasks.  It was something he would clearly have to get used to being on Tharkad but it still gave him shivers.

Seeking reassurance he looked up at the Gallery across the hall and saw Tess standing and talking with a group of young women all of whom had wine glasses perched on the stone railing.  Some of the other women waved or subtly blew kisses in his direction after they realized he was looking their way.  He wasn’t sure which terrified him more Diplomatic Guards or fangirls both might bring him down in equal measure.

Regardless he continued working, introducing himself to nobles from the across the Commonwealth that were fans of his father’s or saw great benefit from the Federated Suns’ partnership with the Lyran Commonwealth.  Mostly in economic terms but they saw the revisions to the LCAF as positive and didn’t want the Commonwealth and Confederation to become closer.  It wasn’t enough for him to know his friends though, not tonight, nothing of consequence would happen here but he needed to know more about what might happen outside.

Ian worked his way toward the Liao Green he saw earlier, along the way one of the dark suited men bumped into him with a loud apology.  However, the man lingered and barred his progress, “Don’t go starting trouble with Liao tonight, Prince or not we will eject you.  Melissa’s party, our rules.  Be civil.”

“Of course, I’m merely a guest here after all.  I wouldn’t do anything to offend my hostess.”

“See to it that you don’t.  Keep it friendly, smile.”

The man disappeared back into the crowd with eerie efficiency, perfectly timed movements and social control to make people part for him.  Ian was impressed but again concerned, if any of these LIC operatives could escape and blend that easily they could always be watching him.  The LIC was one of the finest Intelligence and Special Ops services in the Inner Sphere, it was one of the strongest power players in the whole of the Commonwealth.  Well if they were going to be watching him he endeavored to make it a good show at least.

Finding his way into the ring of courtiers that surrounded Mandrinn Tormano Liao the middle aged man looked regal and in his element dressed in a black Zhongshan suit.  His wife, Hanya No Cha, dressed in a bright green Qipao, looked a little bored but was still engaging in conversation with the wives/escorts of the men that Tormano was talking to.

The Mandrinn was a known political operator that had fallen out of favor with his father, “Mad” Maximillian Liao, for an entirely innocent reason, he married a commoner out of love.  His sister Candace, Duchess of St Ives, had defected to Hanse Davion nearly ten years ago after a brilliant double operation and taken her St Ives Commonality with her making it a protectorate of the Federated Suns.

The other sister Romano, the current Chancellor, and her were engaged in a fierce civil war.  This war was still mostly fought in the shadows with only limited support by the Federated Suns Director of Intelligence and Candace’s father-in-law Quintus Allard.  However, Romano didn’t follow any rules and that made her particularly dangerous.  Tormano had apparently been quite content to work with his sister Candace but after the near death of her husband blamed him and ordered his capture.  Tormano and his family escaped however and reappeared on Tharkad as part of the Capellan Confederation’s diplomatic mission.

Tormano bowed ever so slightly and Ian did the same, they were technically at the same noble ranking despite their age difference or relative power of their noble Houses, “Greetings, Prince Ian.  I understand that you just landed this afternoon.  Would you like a personal tour of the Triad?”

“No, Mandrinn Tormano, I already have one scheduled for tomorrow unfortunately but thank you for the offer.  I was thinking of visiting the botanical gardens perhaps you and your wife would like to join me?”  The Botanical Gardens were closer to the Federated Sun’s Embassy than the Confederation’s, requiring them to come to him even if it was in a neutral location.  Hanya looked toward Tormano after hearing that, as a botanist she loved plants.

“Apologies, I believe that Hanya and I are quite busy.  If you will excuse me Ian, I have many people to see.  However, I am certain this will not be the last time we will have a chance to speak to one another.  Enjoy the ball.”

Ian departed he had looked the man in the eye and seen his fear.  He was motivated by his sister’s and his own ambitions and that made him more dangerous than Ian feared.  His father was massively understating how important his own mission was to the future of the Federated Suns.  A motivated Liao is among the most dangerous creatures in the Inner Sphere.

The Prince worked his way through the crowd which seemed to be thinning.  Upon returning to his stake out point he definitely saw that there were fewer people around as the men in dark suits were politely escorting people out of the ballroom.  He wasn’t sure why that was as he had forgotten his watch in the haste to get dressed.  Then he heard the band that had been warming up begin the Commonwealth’s Anthem.  He looked at the now illuminated balcony opposite the one he entered from, “It is my great pleasure to present her highness Archon Melissa Steiner and her husband to be, Hauptmann Thomas Bradford, Graf von Veracruz."

Social Engagement[]

Ian watched Melissa and Thomas stand on the steps, their personal guards taking up positions behind and out of the spotlight on the balcony.  Thomas was fit and handsome with some dueling scars marking his face but it worked for him.  His dress whites were pressed and every one of his medals were shining brightly, his hair close cut in the distinctive style of Steiner front-line Mechwarriors whose helmets were unique in their operation, the trodes riding down the neck to increase signal gain rather than networked nodes built into the helmet.

Melissa was gorgeous and regal holding her neck high not that there was much choice with her choice of a high-necked light blue dress, accented with diamond jewelry, her blonde hair up, makeup immaculate, and her engagement ring, a sapphire set in platinum custom made by the finest jeweler in the Magistracy of Canopus, was blinding under the bright light as she put her hand on her fiancée’s chest.

“Thank you all for attending this evening.  It is my great pleasure to host such fine guests, please return to your revelries.”

They descended and a ring of security kept the courtiers from crushing in on the couple while allowing privacy.  Ian approached a path opened ever so slightly for him and sooner than he thought he was standing before Melissa and Thomas.

Greetings were exchanged in proper Commonwealth fashion just as he had practiced with Katrina, “Greetings Prince Ian, I’m glad you’ve decided to join us this evening.  I apologize if you were inconvenienced in any way by the rapid turnaround.”

“Enchanté Melissa, it was no trouble I assure you.  I appreciate your hospitality, I’ve met many interesting people thus far and I’ve not even been on Tharkad for half a day.”

“By the way your tie is very handsome, Ian, I do hope it becomes the new fashion trend.  Far better than when Ambassador Felsner first arrived on Tharkad right, Thomas?”

“Ja.  So many broken monocles, it was disastrous, no iced drinks at all on the floor for fear of glass.  Welcome to Tharkad. Ian, I heard you defeated a pair of Dragoons in single combat with live fire.  Is there any truth to this?”

“Yes, Thomas. It was a training exercise my Marauder on a Panther and Vindicator.  Like the Dragoons say there is no substitute for the real thing.  I would however like to confine my time in a Mech to being prepared to use it rather than being forced to. Perhaps we can practice together sometime in the future?”

Thomas looked very thrilled for the opportunity but, Melissa looked at both of them, “without live weapons of course, Archon.”  Melissa relaxed slightly while Thomas remained focused on Ian, both men sizing each other up.

“However, this party is not about me.  Archon, my family would like to personally extend our congratulations on your upcoming marriage.  I won’t be the only Davion in attendance but I’m afraid my parents, brother, and sister’s duties require them to remain in the Federated Suns.”

“Thank you, Ian. I appreciate that and am pleased that you asked to escort my mother to my wedding.  She has said nothing but, good things about your character today and during correspondence while you were on Gallery.  It is our honor to have you in a front row seat.”

“I look forward to it.  If this is but a fraction of the party it shall be one for the ages.  Your mother is an exceptional woman and you worthy of her legacy.  I trust in your ability to lead the Commonwealth into a brighter future.” Ian told her

Thomas looked at him again and Ian excused himself allowing the soon to be first couple to continue their meet and greet.  He found Tess and managed to escape the grasping hands of the Baronesses that were keeping her company.  They grabbed something to eat before returning after the social warmups were completed before the dance section of the Ball.

Ian nonchalantly said, “Can you Tango, Tess?”

She almost choked out the water she was drinking, “What!?”

A little blush came to her cheeks, she checked her brand new green dress to ensure nothing spilled on it, “I mean, yes.  Are you already going to keep showing off every day you are on Tharkad?  Because you’re not going to make many friends if you keep that up.”

“Well I do like to leave an impression more than make friends sometimes.  I also want to see if Thomas is a better lover than fighter because otherwise I might be in trouble.” Ian told her

“You didn’t make him angry did you?” questioned Tess

“No, but I didn’t exactly get him to like me either.” responded Ian

“So you think potentially showing him up on the dance floor is a good idea?” Tess asked

“It’s better than either of us duking it out on the dueling fields.  Don’t you agree?” Ian asked her

Tess was thinking about this racking her head trying to deal with this, it did sound like fun but it could go horribly wrong just as easily.  “Ian, this is a terrible idea, but I’m in, at least in this moment.  I can’t promise anything beyond that.”

The Dance Off[]

Who do you think taught him how to Tango? - Comment from Patrick "Playboy" Kell

Begin Part I

The Royal Ballroom of Tharkad’s lower section had been cleared exposing its colorful geometric mosaics. The staff had swept it during the interlude to ensure it was suitable for dancing and sometimes they even polished it slightly.  The chandeliers were adjusted for proper lighting, the orchestra was assembled on the wide entrance stairs, and many other things backstage were handled.  All of this setup was well-rehearsed, this room hosted more than eighty full capacity balls every year.  Every couple that was interested in dancing was paired up. Ladies in dresses with bright sparkling accents and the men in suits or uniforms whose medals shone under the lights.

Observers crowed along the upper section and the Gallery above, there was an intricate order to it all and Tess knew every step and ensured that Ian and her where they should be.  It was not quite the fairy tale balls hosted by Castle Davion much to Ian’s disappointment.  The Commonwealth dress code was much too formal compared to the more fanciful costumes and shorter hemlines of the Federated Suns.

His partner was lovely though nervous, he could tell by the way she looked. Her shoulders and jaw tense with anticipation that wouldn’t do. Ian whispered to her, “You’ll be great, Tess, don’t worry.”  She squeezed his hand in appreciation and relaxed slightly, it wouldn’t do for her to be tense.  He was putting a lot of pressure on her and he hoped she wouldn’t hold it against him if it went wrong.

Melissa Steiner occupied the middle of the Ballroom, Thomas standing at her side. She had removed her neck piece but her diamond necklace and bright accents in her blonde hair sparkled in the spotlight.  “Thank you all for being here tonight to celebrate the return of my mother and your Archon Emeritus to Tharkad after a year of absence.  I am quite pleased with your chosen order of dance this evening. We shall have a grand time.  Our conductor this evening is Klaus Viken with the Conservatory of Tharkad’s orchestra.  A great round of applause for our performers this evening.”

The dancers all clapped in appreciation as the conductor looked toward them and bowed deeply.  The orchestra was faintly illuminated under their own lights while Klaus had a bright light shining on him.  Melissa clapped her gloved hands then stopped as did everyone else, “We shall begin with a Waltz.  Klaus darling, Schlange die Band ein!”

“Ich wäre dir ein Vergnügen, deine hoheit.” Klaus turned and began waving his baton calling fourth a melody inspired by Strauss from the orchestra.

The dancers followed one another twirling in a grand circle.  Ian and Tess stayed in a close embrace throughout the dance, Tess was not wearing gloves in the Davion fashion while most of the Lyran women wore them. It made their connection of only a few hours very intimate.  He could feel her soft skin against his hands, made rough with combat practice.  The faint aroma of her flowery perfume diffused out of her freshly redone wavy chestnut brown hair that flowed elegantly with each motion.  She seemed to blend into him as he guided her across the whole of the dance floor with a practiced grace.  The golden accents of her dress and the few medals on Ian’s hunter green uniform shone under the lights.

“You're really good, Ian.  Who taught you how to dance?”

“My mother taught me most of the steps.” Ian told her

He twirled her round and pulled her back toward him in a tight embrace, their arms crossed before them, as they walked closely side to side, “Then she made me teach and practice with my sister.  She was a…eager learner and I didn't get much rest until it began to affect my performance at Albion then Dad put an end to it.  The woman refuses to sit or stay in one place for long. She was a menace to the staff then.”

He spun her out and with a pull of his arm brought her back to their original position right arm extended, left on her back, “I later figured out Mom stuck us together so they could get a break.  I was relieved when Yvonne left for Sakhara though I feel bad for Tancred sometimes. Then again he chose her not me so it's his own fault for not looking before he leapt.  I cannot wait to see how she takes her first deployment.”

They were cheek to cheek but separated as the music ended for a moment, “I will have to send a letter of appreciation to her on the next HPG to New Avalon then.”

“I'm certain she would welcome the compliment and you will have a very dedicated pen-pal for as long as you flatter her.”

Kommandant Thomas Hogarth’s request of a Ländler was next.  The man was apparently eager to impress the Countess of Mesa Verde, Valentina von Mesaldra.  The woman was an exotic Italian beauty, dark featured and sensually sculpted, while Thomas was rather plain looking, nearing on portly from far too much rich food and little exercise though his uniform and presentation were immaculate.  The man had a dedicated following in social circles and was a regular in the tabloids and magazines just not on the training grounds according to the dossier Ian had read.

Ian looked around for him and her after the dance but could not find either, “I cannot believe that man.  He is the walking embodiment of the phrase, ‘It’s better to be lucky than good.’”

Tess giggled in amusement behind her fan, “He must have an amazing sense of humor or something else extraordinary.  I’ve never seen him without a partner at any of the balls I have attended nor have I rarely seen him leave without at least two.”

'“At least two? I really must find out the man’s secret.”

Tess punched him softly while laughing, “That’s not very princely Ian.”

Ian bowed slightly toward her, “Please forgive me, my lady.”

She lightly tapped his head with her fan before returning it to her side, “You are forgiven, my charming, silly Prince.”

They returned to the floor and continued with dances from all across the Commonwealth, some couples retired from the floor for a time or the night but two danced every one of the ten slots.  As they neared the end of the dance card Tess caught a glimpse of the Baronesses that always looked down on her for being a commoner even if her father was Hero.

A commoner that was now dancing in the arms with the most eligible bachelor in the Inner Sphere.  Their glares were evident but fleeting behind fans and polite gestures. It was clear to anyone that they were spiteful witches that wouldn’t hesitate to make her life difficult but at this moment they wished they were her.  She whispered, “Everyone is looking at me, Ian.”

“Of course they are, you’re beautiful.”  He spun her out again and brought her close drawing his clean shaven face across her neck which sent a chill down her spine, “I regret that I didn’t tell you that when we first meet.  Every lady that I see here is literally green with envy.  Even if you are the only one wearing the color on the outside.”

Tess smiled at the realization that she was literally the only one wearing green while nearly all the other women still present had some manner of blue or white dress.  She spied Melissa and Thomas as they looked toward them as well.  The couples had managed to keep within sight of one another the whole ball.  Melissa whispered something to Thomas who stared intently at Ian. “Thomas definitely knows your game and Melissa has put him on the hook for it since they know what is coming up for the last dance.”

Ian whispering, “I was kind of hoping for another later tonight.  Why stop the fun?” right into her ear.

Tess’s eyes lit up and she gently rubbed back into him, “I don’t know if I’ll be able to wait that long.”

Ian stroked her arms beyond the embrace, whispering again, “All we need to do is call the car…and get inside.”  Tess glowed and the music paused but she didn’t let go instead staying very close as they faced Melissa and Thomas.  Every other couple had left the dance floor to spectate in the shadows at her body language.

Both women unbuttoned one side of their skirt showing off a leg, an intentional design that made (un)dressing easier and accented this sort of dance, a risqué thing to do in polite society within the Commonwealth.  Melissa removed her opera gloves tossing them to the stairs and let her hair down, its ringlets perfectly framing her face.  She wasn’t about to be upstaged by a jumped up commoner and a just arrived Princeling at her own party in front of an audience.

Party Concludes with a Limo Drive for Two[]

Part II Begin

Thomas and Ian stood with their backs to one other in shadow as their partners got into position, both were roughly similar in height which actually made the ratio the same between their partners, the audience was quiet in anticipation of what promised to be a good show.

“Twenty paces, Thomas?”

“Two Four steps Ian, we’re on a dance floor not at a dueling field tonight.  As much as you seem to want it to be so.  Perhaps you will honor me with one later. I’m free tomorrow evening.”

“How dreadful for your fiancée then. Surely you don’t begrudge some friendly competition.”

“I don’t, but you tread on dangerous ground.”

“Good. I think I would hate being bored and certainly like keeping on my toes.  Speaking of which.”

The lights turned back on with Melissa and Tess opposite their partners hands raised, the men did the same and clapped. Both couples completing a single orbit of rhythmic sashaying from the ladies and stomping from the men before the orchestra began its song, starting slow and melodic with a single guitar but it sped up gradually eventually encompassing fourteen different players.

The couples walked toward one another settling less than three meters from each other under the lights.  The gold heels of Tess and Melissa’s white ones much more visible as they danced to the music occasionally getting lost against their partner’s uniforms.

During the leg hold Ian was holding her bare leg further up than the dance called for. He and Tess were near kissing with their heads down toward each other, “You’re amazing. Where did you learn to dance?”

“I host dances all the time, but no one ever asks me to do something like this. I think they’re afraid they might hurt me.” she told him

He leaned even closer, “Well does it hurt?”

She fluttered her eyelashes, “Anything but”

Ian spun her around before bringing her back down to a low hold over his knee with her leg raised. Her wavy hair draped over his arm and nearly touched the floor, “The only thing I’m afraid of is that I might lose time or have to end this dance before the music stops.”

Thomas and Melissa were putting on their performance alongside, their contrasting outfits were far more colorful for the spectators than the matching green and gold of their competitors.  The Archon managed to sneak in some looks Tess’s way during the holds.

She had to admit the woman was good.  But she was the Archon and would not be upstaged by a common tramp. In front of members of Estates General within Her Royal Ballroom of all places!  She sharply whispered something to her partner who began to work the patterns to a flourish, wrapping Melissa around his waist, before spinning, and dropping her to a deep fall backwards held only by her arms before pulling her back up to a kissing embrace with her legs around him.

Ian and Tess worked an intricate pattern of intertwined legs but didn’t go for a grand flourish before the music ended allowing Melissa the proper applause deserved of the hostess instead.  The audience clapped wildly at the display and the couples bowed and clapped for the orchestra, “We could have done something more dramatic Ian.  We could have won the night.”

“No it’s fine, I’m sorry Tess but they win tonight.  We’ll beat them at the Embassy’s Ball.”

Tess wrapped her leg around his as they stood together, “I still feel like I won the night.”

“Me too but we can’t leave yet that would be rude.”

Melissa took a moment to unwind herself and catch her breath, “Party’s over!  Gute Nacht!”

She grabbed Thomas’ arm and politely pushed him up the stairs, before they passed through the door with his tie in her hands and pulled him past, her mic was still on and “Du wirst das beenden, was du auf der Tanzfläche angefangen hast” came in over the speakers followed by what sounded like a crash impact before the feed dropped.

The guests quickly departed among them Ian and Tess who were first out and into the waiting Federated Sun’s Embassy Limo.  The slick black haired chauffer stood outside holding the door as Tess entered however before Ian followed he whispered to the man, “Take the long way round.”

“The Triad, your highness?” the driver asked

He shook the man’s hand passing him some Suns that just so happened to randomly show up in his palm, “All of Tharkad City. This could take a while.”

The man looked down at his hand and nonchalantly put the bills in his pocket, “Of course, sir.”

“What’s your name?”

“Torsten, sir” he responded to Ian

Ian clapped the man on the back, “Torsten, you’re a good man.  Don’t tell the ambassador about this.  Okay? I'll put you in for a medal.”

“Of course not sir.  I will be discrete. Enjoy your ride Prince Ian, but be sure to buckle up. It might get bumpy.”

“You do your nation proud.”

“It is my pleasure to serve House Davion.”

Ian went into the door and Torsten got behind the wheel taking the long way round the whole of Tharkad City.  Of course there was a database error and they arrived precisely 15 minutes after departure with none the wiser.

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