The minstrels began to play a tune for the Lalaith, a lively, merry dance where lines of dancers whirled and spun, changing partners with each reel. Elrohir pulled Arwen to her feet. "Ar. Dance with me?"
She laughed and nodded. "Very well. Come then!" She took his arm and they joined the long chains of dancers weaving across the floor. The hall was packed with visitors from Lasgalen, Lothlórien, and Mithlond, all come for the Ten Year Council and accompanying games.
Elrohir glanced up and down the hall, and pulled her towards a group of woodland warriors from Lórien. He nodded to Haldir and his brothers, and exchanged a laughing glance with a fighter from Lasgalen. “Elrohir, behave!” Arwen hissed at him.
“Of course I will behave, little sister. When do I not?”
Arwen rolled her eyes as the dancers formed two long lines facing each other, male and female. Elrohir bowed to Arwen, who curtseyed; and then with a flurry of notes the dance began.
Elrohir moved towards Arwen. They clapped hands and stamped their feet; skipped back a step, turned on the spot and then came together again before clasping hands, spinning and twirling while a tambourine beat time. At last he returned a breathless Arwen to her own line until with a leaping sidestep they each moved on to face a new partner.
Haldir's young brother was looking a little confused by the complex steps. Elrohir took his shoulders and turned him in the right direction as he slid past. "No, Rúmil, you go that way, you see?”
Rúmil blinked and looked even more confused. “But …”
“There, look: Arwen is your new partner, and I have Taniquel!" Elrohir grinned in triumph and winked at Taniquel, ignoring Arwen’s muttered “Elrohir!”
The next reel began and he stepped, stamped, skipped and turned, then took Taniquel’s hands and whirled her round and round in a breathless circle; her hair whipping out around her. As they moved back into line he took a step back, avoiding his next partner. “Tani – go left!” he whispered. She gave a grin and a quick nod, moved left instead of right, then slid back into place opposite Elrohir again as the dance resumed.
They stayed together throughout the dance, taking an adroit step backwards and sideways at each change, while their potential partners found themselves dancing together without even realising anything was amiss. The pace quickened, the steps and spins and changes coming faster than ever, and some dancers retired, dizzy and defeated but breathless with the laughter for which the dance was named.
Towards the end, the dance became a blur of steps and changes. A shout of laughter and good-natured jeers greeted a madly spinning couple who lost their balance and fell sprawling to the floor, with them laughing loudest of all.
As the last notes sounded Elrohir gave Taniquel a final spin and they turned to face the equally breathless minstrels, applauding their skill.
“What is that dance?” Taniquel asked as they found seats.
“The Lalaith. You have never danced it before?”
“Never.” She grinned. “Are you quite sure we were following the right steps?”
“But of course! How could you doubt me?”
“Because I have danced with you before, remember?”
“Yes, but … oh, no. Look out – Elladan is coming!” he warned in a whisper.
Elladan advanced on them, scowling. “El, you were doing it again! You know you were supposed to dance with all our guests. And you confused poor Rúmil so much he ended up dancing with Thranduil!” He paused, a smile quirking his mouth. “Taniquel, I am sorry if my brother has been making a nuisance of himself.”
Taniquel shook her head. “No, not at all. In fact you must forgive me, Elladan – it was my fault. I was teaching Elrohir a version that is traditionally danced in Lasgalen.” She smiled up at him.
Elrohir managed to contain his mirth as Elladan departed in confusion. “Taniquel, I think I love you!” he declared. He held out his hand as the minstrels struck up again. “Come, will you dance with me?”
She nodded. “Always.”