Since Aksinya was introduced at the Advent party, no one except the Abbot and Cardinal have spoken to her. This is just a little too strange. Aksinya has her issues, but she desires to make the acquaintance of someone. Even if it isn't the potential groom her aunt mentioned, she doesn't want to be ignored. She already imagines she is ugly, what does this do for her self-esteem?
Aksinya leaned against the arm of her chair. She put her hand under her chin and gave every indication that she was bored. She was bored. The crowd seemed to move a little further from her. Slowly the party wound down. No one else approached her or her lady-in-waiting. The crowd cleared out a little and Aksinya noted some late arrivals who had not been introduced to her. They didn’t approach her either. They were mostly young men without a female companion or women with an older male escort. Aksinya felt a little piqued that they had not greeted her.
After a while, Aksinya glanced at Natalya, “Lady Natalya, please get me another glass of wine.”
“Would you like something to eat?”
“No, just wine. The very sweet wine Uncle opened just for me. Ask him to open another bottle... or two.”
Natalya smiled then frowned and hurried off.
Almost immediately a young man moved from the ballroom floor and stepped directly up to Aksinya. He dropped to his left knee and bowed his head. He was dressed in finery. Not as fine as the clothing Aksinya wore, but very formal and slightly out of fashion. Aksinya’s Uncle would have approved. His frockcoat was charcoal and his pants were cream colored. His shirt was also cream and everything was pressed to perfection.
Aksinya straightened her back. She couldn’t see anything of his face only the top of his blond head. She wondered if, with such a display, he mocked her. The young man didn’t stand. He lifted his face to hers and reached for her hand. Aksinya was too slow to keep him from taking it. His face was gentle and pleasant. It matched his voice which was almost melodic. Aksinya might have described it as like a snake in a more pointed moment, but it was sweet and calm. His eyes were blue and met hers without apology. He glanced at her hand and then at her face again and smiled, “You are truly the one, Countess.”
Aksinya is bored. No one comes to speak to her (except the least available men at the party). No one asks her to dance. She is stuck in her chair and the protocol of the times doesn't give her any options. Aksinya's main problem is luxuria. Luxuria is the untoward desire (lust) toward anything. Aksinya's desire isn't just peculiarly sexual. It isn't just sorcery. It is also clothing, food, drink (especially wine), furnishings, etc. So, when she is bored, the first thing she desires is to relieve her luxuria. She has been drinking, she sends Natalya for more wine. This is why Natalya smiled then frowned. She realizes Aksinya's problem--at least the luxuria part.
That's when it happens--when Natalya is away. You might have thought it was planned. A young man approaches her and drops to his left knee (that is the way you honor nobility that is at a rank higher than yours). He is well dresses and obviously a gentleman. He is forward, but his manners are impeccable--except when he takes her hand. In polite society, you only take a lady's hand when it is proffered. His words to her: “You are truly the one, Countess.” Tomorrow, who is this gentleman and what does he want?