The next day, Ilona stepped onto the castle walls, shading her eyes against the bright sun. A breeze gusted around her, lifting tendrils of her hair to flash gold in the light. Feeling a spring in her step, she strolled along the wall until she overlooked the tournament fields. In the distance, she could see men assembling rings for the fencing competition, but, in the garden below her, she could see Detlef playing a game of Blindman’s Bluff with a group of children.
How they talked Detlef into it, she didn’t know; but he appeared to be having as much fun as they were. She laughed as she saw the game dissolve into some type of wrestling that involved shrieks of laughter. Detlef looked up and waved to her. Ilona waved back.
“Who is this queen of the coming autumn, surveying her domain?” Emil appeared at her elbow. “May I escort so noble a personage to the tournament?”
“Announcing your presence with a compliment again?” She took his offered hand with a smile.
“You seem to inspire them in me – enough for a lifetime.”
“Will I still inspire them when I am old and gray, I wonder,” she teased.
He shook his head. “Some women are beautiful forever, and I firmly believe you to be of that special class.” He nodded a respectful homage to her great beauty.
A burst of giggles interrupted them, and Ilona looked down to see that Blindman’s Bluff had resumed. A little girl in the circle saw Ilona and beckoned her to join.
“Noisy group, aren’t they?” Emil peered over the wall. “Look at Detlef! He doesn’t look like a prince anymore, does he?” He filled the word “prince” with as much scorn as possible as he took Ilona’s arm, steering her toward the stairs.
Something in his tone irritated Ilona and she pulled her arm free of Emil’s. “He’s a prince in THEIR eyes.”
“But it’s only your eyes that I care about.” Emil ducked to see her face, doubling his focus and attention, and his voice became softer. “Your eyes are like the sky for me.” He reached for her arm again. “Don’t cover my world with clouds.”
She let him take her arm, but her mind was not at ease. At first, she didn’t even know why. But then she realized that, at that moment, she would have traded all the compliments in the world for a game of Blindman’s Bluff.
(by Esther Brooksmith)