Through the females’ giggling he heard the harmonious chords of an ancient elven song that had existed, if he recalled correctly, since before his father’s time. Actually, the song had been mostly retired and was usually only played at very special occasions. He lifted his head, surprised that a young city such as this would know let alone play such music—
Her movements were fluid but slightly stiff, which could only to be expected with her wounds. She really should not be dancing at all . . . but Kyshri was dancing to the music. It appeared like the right dance, though he had been told that the dance had gone unrecorded and been lost, so another dance had been substituted. Could she possibly know the original?
One of the female elves who had been hovering around him since the beginning of the celebration followed his gaze and sighed. “Sometimes I cannot help but be jealous of her.”
He glanced at her, startled. “. . . Why?”
“She is a wonderful dancer. I would love to dance, but am positively wretched at it. She has tried to teach me, but I simply cannot get it.”
That was odd. Most female elves were decent dancers. “Why?”
“I am from the mountains. When I was sixty-six I slipped off a cliff and broke my back. It was healed, but since then I have never been as flexible as I used to be. But she . . . The gods must have blessed her when she was born. All the battles she has been through and she still dances beautifully.”
“Do not give up.”
“Oh, I will not. Not forever. I will dance if it is the last thing I ever do.” She looked up at him and laughed knowingly. “I would be careful about chasing after her if I were you.”
He started and blushed. “Uh . . . what are . . . are you talking about?”
She dropped to giggles and answered, ” Lord Sulaine is a Patron too. He is rather like Lady Kyshri’s elder brother. When she said she would not become involved with anyone else, he appointed himself her guardian. She does not know it, but the rest of us do. So if you decide to goggle like that, be sure he does not catch you or you may find yourself under interrogation.”
He made a short search for Sulaine, finding the other elf standing on the one side of the dance space, arms crossed victoriously, observing closely all the males–both mortal and elven–watching the dance. Their eyes met and Sulaine gave a slight nod that he returned before refocusing on Kyshri.
I was applauded enthusiastically and inclined my head in thanks before marching off for a drink to ease my aching muscles. I resettled in my previous spot with Gandalf, Aragorn, and Boromir (who seemed on the verge of passing out) and studiously ignored Sulaine.
“I have never seen that dance used with that song,” Aragorn noted. “Did you make it up?”
“I believe it was the lost original,” Gandalf corrected.
I nodded. ” My mother was an expert dancer. She taught it to me when I was fifty-something.”
“You should record it.”
“I have. I keep it in my private records.” I then noticed Aragorn looking behind me, pointing discreetly but insistently at me. I turned to find Legolas wildly waving his arms and shaking his head in a `no’ action. When he saw me watching him he quickly stopped and clasped his hands in front of himself stiffly. I smiled disarmingly. “Finally managed to get away from them, did you?”
“. . . Huh?”
“I saw that you were drawing a . . . crowd.”
He flushed. “Oh . . .” He looked behind me and shook his head a little, his blush deepening.
It was cute. “Am I right in assuming that you are supposed to ask me something?” He opened his mouth to reply, but a dull crash spun me around to discover Boromir toppled over, out cold. “Oh my. Lost him, eh?”
Aragorn, who had been leaning over him curiously, quickly sat up and looked at Legolas. “I need your help.” Appearing relieved, Legolas moved to do so.
“Pikmon will return you to the house,” I informed them. “You may place Boromir in a guest room.”
They nodded and left and I slumped in my seat to relax.
“You are not getting out of it so easily.”
He let out a pained sigh and looked pleadingly at the human. ” Aragorn, how could you force me into this?”
“I am not forcing you. I can tell you want to do it, so I am giving you a little nudge.”
“What if I was merely considering it? If I had wanted to, I would have.”
“Legolas, it is just a dance.”
“My point exactly.”
“Then why are you so afraid to ask her?”
“. . . I am not.”
“You have interesting proof, then. Shying away from her whenever she looks your way, stuttering—“
“I do not stutter!” was the defensive snap.
“Then you are deaf on top of cowardly.”
“Legolas, how can you unflinchingly face a troop of orcs and then behave like a routed child in front of a female elf?”
“Orcs do not fume silently for hours and then suddenly rage like demons!”
“She is not going to try to strangle you for asking her to dance.”
“You are going to dance with her, even if I have to ask her for you.”
“. . . You would not dare!”
“Are you going to test that?”
They set Boromir on the bed in one of the guest rooms and headed back out to where Pikmon was waiting. The greater owl glided them back down to the celebration and let them off.
“Just ask her, Legolas. It may be your only chance. None of us know what we will be facing on our journey or if we will all survive.”
“. . . Fine.”
“What is it about her that frightens you so anyway?”
“I am not frightened of her.”
“Of course not,” was the patronizing response.
He growled. “Look, she is very in-control. She has her wits well about her. Most female elves are still idealistically airheaded at that age.”
“Keep in mind that she knows the world better than the other female elves. She has seen and done more than they perhaps ever will . . . Unless you are saying you would rather have an `idealistically airheaded’ female?”
“It is disconcerting. I am not used to it.”
“Then you will never get used to it if you do not start talking to her in more than sporadic bursts of courage.”
I opened my eyes and looked up at Sulaine. “I could not possibly get a moment’s peace, could I?”
He snorted. “Not while you are still here.”
“What do you want then?”
He glanced over at Gandalf and said in a low voice, ” It is that elf you brought with you. He is acting very odd.”
“So? Are you telling me to rudely demand to know what his problem is?”
“No. I can do that myself. I just want you to watch out for him.”
“He is not going to try to kill me.”
“He is surely presenting that sort of front. Approaching you nervously and such similar things.”
“If he had really wanted to kill me, I am sure he could have done it while we were in the kitchen. He is only shy. Do not read so much into his actions . . . or lack of them.”
“How do you know it is shyness?”
“Because you acted the same way around me when we first met.”
He mused on that a bit. “. . . Why?”
“How should I know?” I waved dismissively at him. “If you are going to treat my guests like assassins, go away.”
He shrugged. “I warned you . . .”
“And I know you are wrong. Shoo.”
I relaxed again, but it was only a moment. Then I heard a scuffling behind me and the sound of something being dragged or pushed. I opened one eye to see Aragorn shoving a furiously resisting Legolas in front of me.
“Stop!” Legolas hissed.
“Ask!” Aragorn hissed back.
“I told you I would ask for you if you would not!”
“Does this have anything to do with the situation we had before Boromir joined Nap Land?” I inquired.
Aragorn turned as Legolas, cheeks faintly pink, looked over at the packed dance area, up at the lit tree houses, anywhere but at me. “He has a question for you,” was the explanation. “. . . Legolas?”
As the next song started, he knelt and held one hand out to me in the traditional invitation of dance. I could not stop the smile that pulled at my lips as I rose. He stood as well, dusting off his shin with his free hand, and led me to the dance area. I could not help teasing him. [Is this what you were so nervous about?]
He looked quickly down at the ground directly in front of him and glanced at me, but said nothing for several moments. Then, finally: [Yes.]
I laughed gently, trying to keep the sting out of it. [I do not bite.]
[I know, but . . .]
[. . . You are different from the others and I am not quite sure how I can not offend you,] he admitted.
[Just for future reference, I am fairly lenient. Go ahead; ask Sulaine.] I paused thoughtfully. [Better yet, do not. He will believe you are stalking me.]
That got a small laugh from him as we stepped onto the dance area. [I was told you were not aware of that.]
[I know everything that goes on in this city. If I want to find something out, I have all the resources I need.] I smiled up at him. [I am surprised you would have the guts to ask me to dance anyway, knowing that.]
He cleared his throat. [. . . I am not afraid of him.]
[Back to being afraid of me, huh?]
[. . .]
I laughed. [I am nothing to be frightened of!]
[I have seen you angry.]
[Are you telling me you cannot handle an angry female?]
[I did not say that! I am saying that I prefer to be cautious until I know you better, even if that means behaving like an awe-struck child.]
I had to give him that. There was nothing wrong with caution. So I closed my mouth and fell into the rhythm of the dance. It ended too soon, though the song itself was several minutes long. I stood still as the musicians did a quick vote on the next tune, which turned out to be one I had not heard for years.
He turned as my immobility prevented him from leaving and tilted his head curiously. [Kyshri?]
[May we dance to this one too?]
He hesitated. [But your wounds . . .]
I clasped his immaculate hand in my scarred ones pleadingly. [Please?] I begged shamelessly. [I will be all right!]
[. . . Are you sure?]
That song went far too quickly. I left the dance area reluctantly, but was unable to hide my smile. [Thank you.]
[Oh. It was nothing.]
[It was something. You are the only one I have met who knows the dance to that song. Sulaine had never even heard of it before he came here. I had to play it for him and teach him.]
[Where did you learn it?]
[My mother was a dancer. She taught me hundreds of dances while my father was gone.]
[The forgotten one too?]
I nodded. [Too, yes. One of my favorites, as a matter of fact.]
He nodded in return. [You must visit my home one day and share your wisdom.]
[I am flattered and honored by the invitation. I would certainly like to see your home.]