Learning to Dance
Tey’ven had never seen such a procession into his section of the forest, especially just after the Winter Ceremony. Usually he would be set to escort families and guests back to the border of the Mind-borne’s land, but now he was showing even more into it. They were all dressed for what seemed like a formal affair, and had large packs strapped to the backs of their mounts. Of course, he knew why they were gathering. Tarragon’s leader himself had sent out messages to each clan, asking for the support of any who would fight both for and against the humans. The Mind-borne territory was set on the edges of Tarragon that lay closest to the human kingdom of White Phoenix, so using it as a gathering place was a given. Ta’llevny had not said as much, but if he had sent out such a call, he must have seen something in his mind’s eye. He had put enough detail into the message that he saw a battle in the future. Many of those coming in had strong opinions on the matter, but all were willing to fight as the message had asked.
As he wondered how many had stayed behind, Tey’ven heard whispers of a possible war, and found himself brooding under his white cloak. Silna was in the very depths of human lands, and though there had been no word of trouble, something told him that she was risking herself by being there. This did not leave him in a good mood as he escorted some of the eldest beings he had ever met into the Mind-borne territory.
“How does he mean, fight both for and against?” Tey’ven heard a soft voice ask.
He was currently riding parallel to a line of dark clad Blade-borne, very few of which he knew, since he had spent the majority of his young adulthood in training.
“I imagine the humans have split in their opinions. We will fight for those who mean to side with us, and against those who do not,” a female voice answered, though this one seemed more enunciated.
Tey’ven could tell that it was an elder answering a younger’s question, possibly a mother and son.
“I thought we were enemies with the humans,” the younger one queried.
It was not normal for any two within the procession to speak in such a way. Usually, such conversations were either held in the barest of whispers, or kept on hold until the speakers were in private. The the younger male seemed to have forgotten Tey’ven’s presence, even as he rode not ten feet from their place in the procession. The esteemed rider allowed himself a smirk at his own skills.
“We are never enemies with those who wish to keep our home safe. Ta’llevny was clear that there will be a battle over that very issue. Whether it be soon or later, we must be prepared.”
“What if it takes until spring?” the younger voice asked.
This one was definitely younger, for his impatience was obvious. Elves generally learned patience as they grew to realize the amount of time they would spend on this plane.
“We follow our leader’s example,” the female answered. “He has given us a place to gather and make our home. If it takes until spring, we will wait.”
Tey’ven set his jaw and looked forward, letting the female’s last few words pass through his mind. It made sense to wait, to plan, and be patient. His allegiance was to one being, and he was well past his immature stage. Even if every fiber of his being urged him to follow Silna’s trail, he would wait.
- - - - - - - - - - -
The council meeting was played out like a game. Rowena watched silently as Ferin took his time dealing with menial problems. He spoke in an exaggerated tone, as if he was somehow trying to show off or prove his worth. She would not put it past him to use such maneuvers, especially after all of the other shows he had put on that day. Even his dress was meant to say something about him. It was as if he had raided his father’s closet. The cloak he wore had a high collar that seemed to cup his head, and Rowena knew that it was a fashion that only the very royal kept. Everything was embroidered or laced with shining gold or silver thread, and his hair was slicked back in a formal fashion. On top of it all, it looked as if he were trying to grow a beard.
Vance was dressed to standard well. His clothing was not so extravagant as his brother’s, but he looked the part of a prince. Dolen and Silna were both dressed in clothing that was very dull for the elves. Still, sitting amongst the elder humans with their shining white hair and ethereal faces, they were getting glances. Some of those eyes held enough malice to make Rowena nervous.
“May we discuss the topic that most concerns us?” Vance finally cut in after a pointed glance out the window.
The sun was beginning to fall beneath the horizon. Ferin gave his brother a sideways glance and sat back, smiling and nodding as if Vance’s suggestion was his own.
“Shall we?” he directed his gray eyes between Silna and Dolen.
Silna nodded and Dolen simply stared. Rowena was starting to think that it was not his lack of language skills, but a severe dislike for Ferin that kept him so unresponsive.
“My brother has made a discovery in the existence of a new people within the borders of Tarragon forest. He has brought back with him three examples of their breed, as well as a signed treaty. As it reads, it seems that Tarragon’s...king... has refused several of my father’s offers,” Ferin stated, pulling the revised copy of the treaty from a pile of papers that were set in front of him. Ta’llevny’s flowing script glinted in the orange light.
“You cannot expect another king to simply bow to father’s every whim, Ferin. They have agreed to trade and come to arms if the need arises,” Vance cut in, keeping his cool, despite Ferin’s tone.
“In order to gain our equal assistance, they will need to swear fealty to our king. This Tarragon leader did not agree to that, nor did he agree to taxation, equal militia, and several of my father’s other request,.” Ferin stated, placing the treaty back on the table and tapping his fingers over it, his eyes grazing the surrounding table. He carefully avoided both Dolen and Silna’s gazes.
“The king of one people and one land should not be forced to swear fealty to another king,” Vance protested, still looking cool and calm.
Rowena did her best to hide her own thoughts as she wondered about him. He had spoken with his father before the meeting, and she hoped that something good had happened. Vance certainly seemed well composed.
“The second prince brings a good point,” an elder man, (whom Rowena did not recognize), spoke up.
“Yes, but to be brought on as an ally, a kingdom should agree to equal militia, in the least,” Another council member spoke.
Rowena did recognize this one from the original meeting she had attended. Dolen tensed at her side just before Silna spoke.
“My leader has agreed to provide help in the case of a battle that would surely defeat your people. We cannot be responsible for simple border arguments or petty thieves and criminals,” she said carefully, her accent adding a different timbre to her words.
Her mind was working easily with this conversation, and Rowena did her best not to blush as she added to Silna’s statement.
“We cannot fight your wars for you, but we will gladly aid you if and when your land and its people are threatened,” she felt her face flush, but she kept herself as composed as possible.
Her composure nearly broke when she felt Dolen’s fingers entwine with hers between them, but she took it as a supportive gesture. She gripped his hand harder when she realized that the entire room was silent. Ferin’s face literally quivered, as if he was doing his best not to lose his temper. He quickly recovered though, nodding intelligently toward both Rowena and Silna.
“We do plan to honor the agreement. However, there are some things that my father will not allow to go unpaid on a treaty.”
“Father stated that there should be a vote in his absence,” Vance said, and the words hung heavily in the silence.
Rowena guessed that nothing had been done with votes in a very long time.
Ferin chuckled. “Vance, father is on several medications. I doubt that his word can mean much this day.”
“I find it a well suited proposition,” another man spoke up.
This voice carried some power. It was obvious not only from the way he spoke, but the way he dressed. His clothing would have fit easily into Ferin’s wardrobe.
“Medication or not, our father is still the king,” Vance added.
Ferin nearly lost his temper at that. It was a pointed reminder that though he sat at the head of the table and wore a king’s garb, Ferin was not yet king. Still, the gray eyed prince nodded once and pursed his lips.
“As he wishes, then. We will vote on whether to consider this... edited version of my father’s treaty.”
Rowena watched with an anxious gaze as they all voted. It was a strange ceremony involving words that must have meant yes or no, and hand gestures. The meeting was called to an end before she knew what decision they had even come to, and Rowena shifted only after she felt Dolen slide his hand from hers. The simple feeling caused her mind to fill with even more confusing thoughts. Was he aware what such a gesture meant to a human, or was it just his way of comforting her as he had when she was younger?
“Come with me, I will explain,” Vance’s voice carried over her to both Dolen and Silna.
It took Rowena a moment to realize that he was speaking of the council’s decision. She followed at a length, looking over her shoulder once more to see Ferin staring right back at her. He was standing with three other men who were talking furiously around him.
Rowena picked up her pace and moved after Vance, refusing to let that harsh gray stare unnerve her.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Vance moved down the hallway at a steady pace, his mind whirling with the events of the day. The sunken, pale face of his father had haunted him throughout the meeting, but his words had given him faith. Though still set in his own ways, Vance’s father had made it very clear that he was to step up to his duty as prince. Whether or not he sat the throne, he would be depended on, and now was the time to form alliances and trust. It had been as if the king was setting up a battle between his sons, but Vance took it as a challenge. He honestly had not expected his father to say such things, medication or not.
“They have voted for the treaty, and we will revise it once more,” Vance stated, turning to make sure that he was being followed.
Silna, Dolen, and finally Rowena did follow, all seeming to pay attention to his words.
“We will need to come up with trade lists with your leader, and bring them to council once again.”
“Is everything such a dance in this place?” Silna asked, seemingly exasperated.
Vance sighed and shook his head.
“Unfortunately, yes. But the fact that they voted against Ferin is a step in the right direction, trust me,” he said, unable to keep the contentment from his voice.
The group walked further from the council meeting room and Vance made sure to nod and smile at the right people as he passed. He noticed somewhere along the way that the eyes were no longer staying on him. Instead, those who passed seemed magnetized by Silna and Dolen. This could turn out to be a problem, especially if they meant to make an appearance at the ball that evening. Thoughts of the ball reminded him of yet another issue.
Vance turned and went down a more deserted hall, his eyes and ears checking for signs of anyone nearby. When he only heard the footsteps of his companions, he turned and lifted his brows.
“Did you receive Lora’s message?” he asked.
Rowena nodded and smiled. “We saw her this morning while Kenzy was drawing up our ball clothing. She mentioned that we need to stay near you tonight because we’ll need to meet with her father.”
Nodding, Vance sighed. Apparently they were to attend the ball, if Kenzy was preparing a wardrobe for them. He could hardly imagine Silna in a corset.
“I will find a way to signal you all if Lora hasn’t already thought of it.”
When they acknowledged the plan, he turned and moved further down the hall, taking notice that the light coming through the far window was reddened by the sunset.
“Ah. You all may need to meet with Kenzy then, if you’re to be dressed for the ball,” Vance said.
“How are we to get away from the ball without being noticed?” Silna asked. “Dolen and I have drawn many eyes just by walking.”
Vance’s eyebrows drew down in thought as he stopped in his tracks once more.
“I will figure it out. Or Lora,” he cursed and shook his head again. “You lot probably don’t even know the way back to your rooms, do you?” he asked, and got the expected negative replies. “Come on then. Maybe Lora will be up there already.”
He hoped she would. Vance had not seen Lora since their arrival, and though it had only been a day, he worried for her. She had taken a few hard blows, and the ghost of her unconscious face had haunted him the night before. That, and after the short meeting he had had with his father, he felt a strange need to be near someone who he felt comfortable with. The notion kept his pace swift, but the three behind him seemed fine with it. Living in a forest probably kept them well in shape. He ascended several staircases, turned three of four corners, and passed many differently carved doorways. These were things he knew by heart, so he did not think to even look before he opened the door to the guest rooms and walked in.
“Vance!” Lora’s voice filled the room and he looked in to find her grinning at him.
She was dressed in the same gray servant’s robes that he saw every day, but the light caught her hair from behind and framed her form in a becoming way. He grinned back. It was a reflex, and the grin did not fade until he saw the seamstress, Kenzy, looking at Lora as though she had grown another head. Lora followed his gaze and quelled her emotions quickly, her dark green eyes averting to the floor. She had not used his title.
All was silent in the room for a span of a few seconds. To Vance, and likely Lora, they seemed like hours. Finally, Kenzy chuckled and waved her hand in the air lightly, pointing between the two of them.
“Well, I see yer back from the meeting. Must’ve been a long one, eh?” Kenzy asked.
Rowena, Dolen and Silna came around him and took various places around the room. Rowena was the one who took the time to answer her. Vance stood awkwardly in the corner and looked up as Kenzy approached him, a knowing look glinting in her dark eyes.
“Best be careful not to act so familiar in front of yer brother, Lord Vance,” she said. He nodded, and she grinned back. “Then again,” she spoke more loudly. “I’m not yer brother, and I sure as light don’ bother with ’im.”
Vance found himself relaxing under her wide smile, and she moved off to the side. She had essentially given him permission to be himself, which was more of a gift than she knew. Only then did he notice the look of the room. There were strips of fabric and sewing supplies strewn about the place, and he watched as Rowena smiled hopefully over a light colored gown. One that was unlike anything he had seen at one of the castle’s gatherings.
“Rowena and Silna asked if they could change the dresses, and she didn’t deny them,” Lora explained, coming to stand by his side. “She seemed more excited at the prospect of making something new.”
Vance smirked and nodded slowly, noting Silna’s pleased look as she watched the red haired woman run her hands over the fabric of another dress.
“It will cause a stir, that’s for sure,” he looked to her as he finished and lost the smirk, watching her face carefully. “You’re not still sore?”
Lora gave him a reassuring smile and shook her head. “Barely. I can handle it.”
“Enough to attend the ball yourself, then?” he asked, not bothering to think before he spoke. Lora had that effect on him.
She started, but shook her head again. “I will be there. I’m to attend Rowena and Silna.”
Vance lowered his gaze and leaned a bit more closely to her. “What if I asked you to attend yourself?”
“What?” she whispered, and he glanced up to catch the ghost of a blush on her cheeks.
“Kenzy can surely make another of those for you,” he said softly, letting the louder conversation between Rowena and Kenzy go on. “What if I asked you to dance with me, Lora?”
He stood up again and leaned back against the wall, keeping his face serious even as she blushed and shifted herself to the side. It was as if she were trying to hide herself from the rest of the room, all the while looking at him in a disbelieving way.
“You cannot be serious, Vance. That will not go over well. You are vying for the respect of the people.”
He felt his nerve wilting at her words, being replaced by a dread that stole over his hopes like a rain cloud. It reminded him too much of the way he spent his youth. Vance fixed her with a serious gaze and nodded.
“I am vying for respect, and I will achieve it by doing nothing but being myself. I do not have to dance with highborn ladies and submit to the lectures of the elder council members. I need to be myself, Lora. And in doing so, I wish to be with you,” the last part was whispered, and he felt his own face heating at the words he dared let be spoken aloud.
Still, he felt a proud resolve that would not be shaken. She moved further behind him to a point where he had to turn. His back faced the room and Lora leaned heavily on the wall in front of him. Her cheeks were fully red, but her eyes showed something akin to sadness.
“I have jobs to attend, Vance. Especially those that are meant to be handled behind the flashy colors and pretty music.”
That fact was a hard one to contend with. He found himself sighing out the breath he had held and lifting his hand to take hers lightly. She did not pull away.
“Alright,” he gave in. “Alright. But,” and he looked up to catch and hold her gaze, “I will dance with you,” he said louder, a smile drifting to his lips.
At once, he stood and turned on the room.
“Do any of you even know how to dance?” he asked.
The blank stares confirmed it.
“Oh, Lord Vance! A grand idea. I’ll need to adjust the young man’s vest and I should be finished.” Kenzy put in.
“I suggest you work with Silna, Kenzy. We’re all paired off otherwise,” he said, looking to Lora first, and then between Rowena and Dolen.
Somehow it did not surprise him to see Rowena blushing in much the same manner that Lora had moments earlier.
As the sun dipped below the horizon, the group was lined up. Vance and Lora stood close, hand to hand in the formal dancing position. Kenzy and Silna, and Rowena and Dolen awkwardly mocked their motions until Vance himself moved to correct them. Though he knew there would only be a few more hours before the ball, he was determined to teach them at least one dance before the ball began.
That, and he was thoroughly enjoying being himself.