Slow. Methodical. Rigid. Brow furrowed in concentration. There was plenty of room around Auros and the maiden he was dancing with, if "dancing" was what one wanted to call it. Farothaur shot him a glance over his own partner's shoulder. Auros could hear his cousins' thought.
Surely that dance isn't as difficult as you make it out to be?
Auros tried not to smirk. I'll have you know it's quite difficult to ---
A tap on Auros' shoulder interrupted his thoughts. "Why don't I cut in for a little bit?"
Auros suppressed a grin. Aldawë to the rescue. The look on Aldawë's face made it clear that's what he thought he was doing.
"Please!" The sound of relief was clear in both Auros' and the maiden's voice as they spoke in unison.
As Aldawë took Auros' place, the maiden shot Auros a sly grin. Auros returned a wink as he turned his attention toward a bench near the door. I wonder which of us Aldawë thinks he was rescuing.
Auros surveyed the room full of people, both dancers and musicians. It was a large hall where important events were typically held. This building would sit empty much of the year if its owner didn't take a personal interest in the arts.
Auros turned his thoughts back to Farothel as he drew nearer the bench. As I was saying, it's quite difficult trying to dance that poorly without stepping on your partner's feet. I'm not sure how much longer I ---
Auros tensed as he stood in front of the bench.
"Don't tell me you're done practicing already?" Dinmir came up behind him before he had a chance to even think of sitting down.
Auros had to plan a retort before he dared to turn around. "I think the maidens have had enough of being my partner for the day. I've imposed upon their patience, and I've had my fill of dancing anyway." True enough. They were carefully selected dance partners. Partners who weren't going to ask for a second dance. I didn't expect that last one to want to dance with Aldawë, but it was an opportunity too good to waste.
Dinmir followed Auros' line of sight and spotted the maiden, who was now dancing with her brother, enveloped in an air of triumph. Dinmir gave Auros a long, suspicious look. "Why Auros, I never thought I'd see you give up on anything so easily." She took Auros' hand. "If all that's stopping you is a willing partner, we can fix that. Let's try again."
Auros found himself moving further away from the bench, fighting to stifle a groan. Taking the proper starting position, Auros and Dinmir began the dance. Auros' steps were precise, methodical, and rigid. As his brow furrowed, Dinmir couldn't help but grin.
"I think I know your problem."
"That I let Aldawë and Farothel talk me into this?" Auros tried to sound like he was joking, but the grimace on his face didn't make it convincing.
Dinmir hadn't lost that look of suspicion. "Not quite."
"Then by all means, don't keep it to yourself." I know that look. She's trying to catch me in something.
"You know the steps. That's painfully obvious." She said it all with a grin.
Auros grimaced again.
"However, your focus is in the wrong place."
"Oh? Where is my focus?" Besides trying to leave.
"Right now, you're thinking '1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3, don't step on her feet.'"
"Would you prefer I step on your feet?" Auros kept a straight face, working to neither confirm nor deny her assertion.
"Auros, I've seen you contort yourself in unbelievable ways to avoid a sword thrust, then recover and retaliate. Yet, the moment someone says 'dance' you move like you're made of wood planks. I'm quite confident you can manage a few small steps without risk to your partner."
Auros was amused in spite of himself. "Dancing's more dangerous." A grin slipped through his stone facade despite his best efforts.
Dinmir's grin seemed to indicate she was in agreement. "Well if that's how you see it, I'm not sure how I can argue, and I certainly hope you properly vetted your previous partner before letting my dear brother face such danger."
Auros shrugged. "She seemed pleasant enough." His eyes narrowed as he thought about what she'd just said. "You were watching?"
Dinmir grinned. "I happened to catch a glimpse while dancing. I noticed you changed partners quite often. I had to excuse myself from my partner ---"
"Yes. Partner. Is it so odd a person might want to dance more than once with someone? Dancing is an art. It's about the journey, not the destination. That's another problem. You get so focused on 'getting there' that you're forgetting someone is travelling with you."
Auros' scowl deepened and his dancing became smoother as he forgot about it. "Who?"
"You know, you do the big brother glare a lot better than Aldawë. Maybe that's because he and I are twins and you got more practice with Farothel."
Auros said nothing, but his glare hadn't softened. He didn't notice they were dancing faster.
Dinmir grinned again. "He was a pleasant enough fellow, but I don't think he understood my sense of humour. He danced well, but it was only a dance. Well, a few dances. How did you manage to get through these last few years without dancing at least a little anyway?"
"Easily. Why make someone else suffer while I practice something I have little use for anyway? That doesn't mean I didn't learn it."
"One day you'll want to be able to dance so that when you attend all those galas you'll be able to sweep the maidens off their feet."
"Good. That's when I'll practice then: 'one day'."
Dinmir almost had a scowl. "You can be quite stubborn, you know."
Auros smirked. "It's served me well so far."
Dinmir fought against the grin forming on her own face. "Well, I'm not sure I can argue with that either. Fine, stay stubborn."
"I will, thank you."
Dinmir lost the fight against the grin. "Now spin me."
Auros drew his hand up and spun Dinmir... and realized what she'd done. A scowl overtook his amusement. "Well played, Dinmir."
"If you're going to indulge in games, don't expect others not to join in the fun. By the way, you are focusing on your feet too much."
"So what now?"
"Well, now that I've won, you can dance with me properly and get some practice, or you can try to sneak out like you were planning to do anyway. It's your choice."
Auros grit his teeth. Like I'm going to walk away now. I haven't lost yet. He spotted Arandil entering the hall from one of the doors at the other end. "Fine, we'll play your game."
Dinmir couldn't hide her amusement. "Actually, I believe this is your game. Am I not understanding the rules?"
Auros signalled the band. A new song began with a quicker tempo. "Let's see if you can keep up."
Suspicion took hold of Dinmir again as they began the new dance. "Now what are you plotting?"
"Me?" Auros made himself an image of honesty. He glanced up from Dinmir long enough to lock eyes with Farothel. Farothel nodded, and Auros turned back to Dinmir. "I don't plot."
"Well, you're no Arandil, but every now and then, you get this look like you're telling your opponent exactly how you're going to beat them, and then something happens."
Auros noticed a certain gleam in Dinmir's eye as she said "Arandil" and had to fight the grin that threatened to form. "Well, it could hardly be considered 'plotting' if everything comes together so quickly, now could it?" Auros couldn't have sounded any more dismissive of the idea as he maneuvered the two of them closer to Arandil, all under the cover of the dance steps. The grin he was trying to force away made it too difficult. "Not that I accept your premise, of course." A spin here, a turn there, a couple of quick flashy sleights of hand and foot to throw her off the trail...
"Well, perhaps you're not a slow schemer, I'll give you that, but you know how to seize an opportunity. I'll also grant you're usually successful."
Auros glanced at Farothel corralling Arandil from the other side. "You think I'm some sort of trickster who sets up his quarry with almost no preparation yet manages to pull it off, and all for my own amusement?"
"Not only for your amusement, no."
Auros feigned surprise. "Why, the insinuation that I would plot..." Auros made one last turn in the dance. Arandil was surprised when Auros's shoulder somehow bumped into his hand... or at least Auros reacted like hand and shoulder had met. "Why Arandil! Of course you can cut in!" He took Arandil's hand and placed Dinmir's hand in it. "Enjoy the journey." Arandil was unreadable, but Dinmir gave her new dance partner a warm, reassuring smile. Auros made his escape with Farothel beside him, speaking low. "Sometimes our friends just need a little encouragement."
Auros made it across the floor, and was almost to the door itself, when a maiden he hadn't danced with approached him. "Excuse me. I thought perhaps you'd like to practice a dance or two? That's why we're here, after all."
Auros turned and shot a glare at Dinmir. Try as hard as he might, he just couldn't bring his eyebrows down into a scowl when he was ready to laugh at himself for walking into another of Dinmir's traps. I should've caught how she said I could "try to" escape. Dinmir spared a moment to smirk at him around Arandil's shoulder. Arandil had recovered enough from the initial surprise to at least glue a smile onto his face. Auros shook his head as he muttered to himself. "Well played."
Farothel stifled a chuckle. "And sometimes our friends think we're the ones who just need a little encouragement." His thought came clear to Auros. That's what you get for letting Dinmir show everyone how well you can really dance. Farothel wandered off to find a new partner of his own.
Auros grinned as he watched Dinmir and Arandil dancing. Look at them. I still count this as my victory. Facing the maiden again, he drew himself up and gave her the most brilliant smile he could muster. "I would be honored." Putting his hand out to accept hers, they walked back onto the dance floor.