The Mad Elve
We walked up the wide steps while flowers cascaded overhead filling the air with heavenly scent, that couldn’t quite cover the smell of decay that was bone deep in the city. I didn’t mind the decay; it was appropriate. It matched my hat.
Inside I didn’t pause at the door to gaze in awe at the beautiful scene that must have stunned the Barbarian . I glanced over at him, but he looked back dully, the same flat expression on his face. I looked back at the pink colored room where the very air was tinged in pink. The ladies, all equally beautiful motion, perfection in the arms of the immaculately dressed men moved in perfect time with the music, everything the precise rhythm of Head Precept’s heart beat.
The musicians took up the space to the left of the Precept's dais. I edged along the curved, pink wall in their direction instead of walking through the dancers. The words of the gardener came back to me, the warning about the fruits of my course of action. The Barbarian was the enemy, but he was also my guest.
A couple swayed near me and the male, the moss wearing Elve hissed at the sight of the Viceroy. When I stopped suddenly the Barbarian stepped on the back of my Great Aunt's dress forcing me to lose my balance as too much weight fell on my recently wounded ankle.
I heard the rip of my hem as the Barbarian gripped my waist, keeping me from falling on my face at the feet of the hissing Elve, a distant cousin who'd always expressed his disdain for my family's political views.
The rough hands pulled me upright while he stepped to my side in a classic clas-de-bough, turning me away from the offensive couple and into the dizzy whirling of the dance. He kept his hand on my waist as we moved until he moved to the more traditional quartre-fore position in front of me. His grace in the dance was surprising for someone who ripped people's dresses.
“What are you doing?” I asked, too loudly, but I was too surprised to think of manners.
“Dancing.” He spun me under his arm in a rush that had me stumbling towards him when I came out of it until my hands were resting on his shoulders. I meant to push against him, but his hands were promptly on my waist in a firm grasp that made me think I wasn’t going anywhere. Barbarians were so firm once they had you in their grip.
“You said you weren’t interested in dancing.”
“I’d rather dance with the shroud than with one of those creatures. Those teeth are positively frightening.”
I sniffed, and leaned away from him, but he only used my position as all the better for spinning me around dizzyingly, no doubt causing quite a sight with the flapping of my veil.
“I believe I mentioned that I don’t participate in the dancing.”
“I cannot believe that after your display on the trip. If you do not dance, I’m sure that’s simply for lack of partners. If I’m willing to humor myself, I don’t see why you shouldn’t show your gratitude,” he said with an aloof nod that had my mouth dropping open.
I tripped over his foot, sending a twinge through my ankle. I was glad to see the smile flicker. “I do beg your pardon sir. I’m not accustomed to being humored.”
“Excuse me,” the gardener’s voice broke in. “Head Precept would like you to introduce the viceroy to the court.”I looked up at the fierce and furious Elve and felt a slight tightening of the Barbarians arms around me before he withdrew and nodded with polite boredom. I should have wondered what happened to him, but other than my still painful ankle, I'd forgotten everything in the dance.