Disclaimer: Yes, I'm well aware that some of the stuff in here is definitely inconsistent with the history of the Russian Empire. I do intend on fixing that, don't you worry! Also, some of the names used here are blatantly Russian-ized friends names. I must apologise profusely for that and can say that will also be changed.
Also, it should be mentioned that French was the predominantly spoken language in the Russian court during the Napoleonic wars....yes, that is a little strange, but go along with it. Steven's tutored me what he knows. -.-;
And finally.....this entire story is based off of a little observation I made while watching Russian Ark, which was a film work by Alexander Sokurov. So I give him credit for inspiring this sad little creature who sits here typing.
"Antonina! Antonina! Please..."
But his fiancee paid no heed to his cries and the younger woman hurried away from the lieutenant, leaving him suitably abashed with his pride in tatters.
Antonina gathered her skirts and swiftly glided with affable grace toward the ballroom, a single woman amongst a multitude of couples.
She turned around to face the sight of her parents, staring at her in surprise.
"Antonina? Where is Paul?" questioned her father, his brow crumpled in surprise.
Antonina groped for an answer before managing "I saw Iulia earlier with Mathieu. I stopped to say hello and Paul went ahead of me." She knew Iulia would back her up on this and she smiled wanly as her father nodded, accepting the lie.
"I must find him now....Mama, Papa." she kissed her parent's respective cheeks and turned and hurried into the ballroom. The dancing was already underway.
St. Petersburg was renowned for the balls that it played host to. There was none quite like them, and the Tsar and Tsarina welcomed the creme de la creme of Russian aristocracy as well as the glittering European Royal houses to evenings of banquets, balls and the music of some of the finest composers of the day.
One such composer was Mikhail Glinka, and it was this young man who conducted the orchestra tonight. He had composed a suite especially for the Tsar Alexander and tonight with accomplished skill his hands guided the orchestra through the lows and highs of 'A Life for the Tsar'.
Antonina, finding herself well and truly separated from both her parents and Paul, searched for a familiar face and found Anastasia.
"Antonina!" she exclaimed, gesturing her over. "You made it. But where is Paul?"
Antonia smiled, albeit a strained one. "I fear we have become separated."
Anastasia laughed, an oddly light musical sound in comparison with the heaviness of the orchestra. "Well, I am sure you will find him. Have you met Roberto?" she asked, gesturing to the attentive, Mediterranean-looking gentleman beside her. "He is here with a group of Italian artists and sculptors."
Antonina curtseyed to him. "Good evening to you, sir." and he bowed in return, smiling though remaining silent.
"I am afraid he does not speak much French!" Anastasia giggled. "But he is agreeable company."
The girls briefly stopped their conversation to applaud the orchestra before Glinka directed them into the next movement, the mazurka.
"Ah, the mazurka!" Anastasia exclaimed. "My favourite dance." and she lightly tugged at Roberto's arm to guide him among the dancing couples. "Will you be finding a partner and joining us, Antonina?"
Antonina smiled weakly. "I shall see."
She watched the couple adjourn amongst the swirling silk skirts and coattails of the dancers and sighed, looking around for a suitable young gentleman to partner her in the mazurka. There were a number of bachelors here tonight, on leave from the Imperial Army and the brutality of the warfront against the bluecoats.
She peered across the hall, before her brown eyes narrowed upon a young gentleman. He was pale skinned captain with a slim build and seemed to be looking for a partner himself. She gathered her skirts and was about to make her way across to him to ask, when she felt a light tap on her shoulder. Antonina turned around.
"May I have this dance?" a Western European accent (difficult to place, but she recognised as a cross of French and Italian) wafted into her ear.
Standing in front of her was a taller, much older gentleman. Pale haired and blue eyed, he smiled down at her, his white hand offered to her.
Antonina could not take her eyes off him and she simply stared in amazement for a moment. This man was unlike every other man in the room at that precise time. He even stood out amongst the older men. He had no rank. There was no gay red, blue or green embroidered with gold thread. This man simply wore black. A long black coat, trousers, shirt, cravat and boots.
When Antonina found her voice, she knew she would have to say yes.
"Of course." she smiled brightly and allowed him to accept her hand and guide her gracefully amongst the couples.
His hand felt rough, like an artist's and she briefly wondered whether this was one of the Italians that Anastasia had spoken of and that her date had travelled with. He certainly looked like an artist. His hair seemed slightly unkempt, there were faint hollows under his eyes and his complexion hinted that he was a gentleman who spent alot of time indoors.
"You must excuse my clumsiness," he stated as they moved with the other couples to the rhythm of the music. "It has been a while since I've done this!"
"Oh?" Antonina questioned.
"I have not been to a ball in Russia for a very long time. But I have always remembered how wonderful these balls have been! St. Petersburg celebrates the best balls in Europe."
Antonina smiled in response to this and briefly wondered again about his profession. An artist? Or perhaps a diplomat?
He continued. "There must be at least three thousand people here!"
"Yes," Antonina replied "my parents said a number similar to that would be coming."
The conversation continued throughout the course of the four minute mazurka and the more they talked, the more convinced Antonina became that he was a diplomat. He was charming, flirtatious and able to carry a conversation during a dance, a mean feat for the wrong sort of guest.
The dance ended and the stranger bowed low to his curtesying partner.
"Thankyou for the dance, Madamoseille." he smiled congenially, folding his arms behind his back.
"It was my pleasure, Monsieur." she replied, returning the smile.
He turned to leave, but on impulse, Antonina tapped him on the shoulder as he had done before. He turned to her again, his tall figure slightly bent to smile down at her.
"Who are you?"
"Ah," he chuckled, his voice slightly husky. "how rude of me not to introduce myself to you. I am Antonio Canova, the Marquis D'Ischia."
Again, Antonina could not take her eyes off him. A Marquis!
"An artist AND a diplomat." he smiled cleverly. "And who are you? You neither have given me a name to your pretty face."
She curtseyed low. "Antonina Zimovoi."
All I can manage for the moment. That's the third draft of the introduction scene. *passes out* My jaws are feeling incredibly sore right now....need ice. And sleep. x_x