The Undying Lands - (chapter 39)

The dining hall was empty of tables, when the two couples arrived, but full of people. Many were in the centre of the room, dancing together; some were standing at the edge of the hall, talking or watching their children; more were at a large table at the end of the room, taking little bits of food; there were a few in one corner, with instruments, preparing to start another song.
The two girls, accompanied by their partners, stepped onto the dance floor and looked around. The whole community seemed very relaxed and happy, completely content at their pleasant life- no one would have thought that these men were the ones planning to take over Middle Earth.
But Ariengil did not see this when she started dancing, she saw men and women, happy in each others company, and Ariengil even felt quite satisfied where she was. For a little while, she relaxed and thought Tarma to be his twin Harma, this made him very happy as he wrapped his arms around Ariengil's waist and she wrapped her arms around his neck.
Close together, these two danced for hours. Eala and Nieninque seemed quite happy, too, as they danced nearby. Soon, people were tiring and many parents were leaving with their children; the adults soon returned though, but without their little ones.
Tarma began to tire after a while, and asked Ariengil if she would like to sit down with a drink. She agreed, and they drifted to the back of the hall where somebody had now set out a few tables.
Tarma took off his mask and leant towards his partner. Ariengil felt inclined to move back, but decided not to and sat still as Tarma moved his hands to Ariengil's neck. He lifted his hands and untied the silk of the mask, taking it off gently. Tarma saw Ariengil's surprise that he had not touched her differently or kissed her, and felt ashamed at his previous actions.
Shame was a new feeling for Tarma, and he was shocked that he felt that way, and yet he was happy too, that someone made him feel differently. Just as Tarma was about to apologise for his earlier behaviour, Eala approached and asked Ariengil for a dance.
Tarma stood up quickly, knocking over his goblet of wine, but realised his mistake and sat down again as Ariengil accepted the dance. `Thank you, Aglar,' she smiled. `Do not worry,' she turned to Tarma, `I will be back.'
Tarma watched enviously as the two walked to the middle of the dance floor and waltzed to the tune. Nieninque took Ariengil's seat and looked at Tarma. She leant forward and took Ariengil's goblet, taking a sip of wine.
The taste, to Nieninque, was disgusting, but she pretended it was nice and smiled gently, replacing the goblet.
Tarma suddenly stood up and, not wanting to be outdone by Eala, asked Nieninque for a dance. She felt obliged to accept, so the two of them danced beside Ariengil and Eala.
At the end of the tune, both couples walked back to their table and sat down. Tarma called for drinks and they arrived swiftly, stopping all conversation. Nieninque took off her mask and lay it next to Tarma's and Ariengil's. Tarma looked to Eala, as though prompting him to also take off his mask. Eala, however, looked to the dance floor, pretending to not notice.
`Aglar,' called Tarma.
Eala turned back and looked at Tarma. `Yes sir.'
`Be polite and take off your mask. The poor ladies would probably rather see you rather than that wooden mask.'
Tarma seemed not to notice the tension between the other three elves as they sat on the edge of their seats. Eala only replied calmly. `I would rather not, thank you, sir.'
`I said take it off. It is rude.'
`With all due respect, Lord, I would rather wear my mask.'
`Take it off,' snarled Tarma as he stood. Ariengil reached up and put her hand on Tarma's arm, encouraging him to sit down. He shook off her hand and stood up straight, a lot of people were watching now.
`Very well sir,' replied Eala as Nieninque breathed in sharply. `But remember, sir, that there are a lot of people here, all watching, and you want to look good to them.'
Tarma, puzzled by this cryptic code, just snarled again. `Take it off.'
Eala slowly undid his mask and took it off his face, looking at Tarma directly in the eyes. Tarma's eyes showed shock, yet his face did not show it at all. He looked around and noticed nearly everyone watching him. He smiled and sat down very slowly, his eyes every on Eala.
Nothing more was said of the matter, and the couples soon stood to dance again.
As Ariengil and Tarma danced closely, Tarma felt, for the first time in his life, that he was the lucky one out of the twins. He felt his heart surging with happiness and wished the evening would not end. Ariengil felt confused. She knew she was in love with Harma, and she knew she hated Tarma for killing his brother; and yet she also felt some love for Tarma, the murderer of her love.
Tarma confused Ariengil even more when, after the ball, at about midnight, he took her to her bedroom, the one adjoining Nieninque's. Tarma took Ariengil into the room, which was very large and comfortable. The male elf was so kind to Ariengil and she felt so happy that the evening had gone well; so when Tarma leant towards her and kissed her, Ariengil kissed him back before she said goodnight and Tarma left.
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