I had another two glasses of wine, on the strength of Ailadas’ ode cum lecture on wine, after I stopped laughing hard enough to no longer splutter part of my first cup through my nose. Gannara and I helped him back to the caverns and tucked him into his bedroll, though he protested it was improper that I should serve him. I shut him up by reminding him it was Jitz.
When we went back to everyone else by the stream, the sun was low enough that the evening cool was coming on and we built a fire on the side of the stream to keep everyone warm.
“I don’t want to go back down there. It makes me feel buried,” I announced to no one in particular.
“You too?” Kyriala said quietly. “I’m cold all the time.”
“Even when we have to practice the vigorous reels?”
She laughed. “Having the Mahid to fill out the rows for us is very strange. They have to dance so we can learn how and they dance as though someone were always poking them in the back yelling ‘RELAX!’”
I had to laugh back at that. “And the Mahid harper plays like a mechanism. I’m not good at music, I torture the lap harp, but I think I have a little more feeling than that. Perhaps I shall insist I practice. I’ll bet I could make 2nd Amitzas flee, either from my horrible playing or from my good playing, though for different reasons!” I wanted to make her laugh.
Kaita sat, with Ilesias asleep already across her lap, his hands wrapped tight around her hair and – yes – a long handful from Kyriala. He snorted and smiled in his sleep, cocooned in their hair, the three of them softly lit by the firelight. Binshala was bundled up warm and her face was eased, it seemed, for the first time in days. She still held a cup of the wine in both hands since she was sure she would spill if she tried to hold on with one. It seemed to help the pain in her hands and feet.
“What can you play?” Kyriala asked me, looking across the fire.
“The last thing I practiced, before the sack, was on the Great Harp and it was…” I tried to keep from blushing. “… a Falisas.”
“Really? But that’s for married couples only,” she said.
“My music master thought it appropriate and it was pretty.” I hummed a few bars of it, now that my voice wasn’t breaking every few moments. Then I was seized with a wild, dangerous idea. “Kyriala… might I ask a boon of you? As a kind of birthday present?”
She lowered her head and looked at me through her eyelashes. The firelight gave her an almost teasing look. “Before I agree to anything I’d have to hear it, Minis.” She is teasing me.
“If I can hum that tune… would the serina care to dance a Falisas with me?” It must be the wine that makes me so… forward.
If that was too much, even in this holiday, I was certain Binshala would say something but she just smiled at me as though I’d done something intelligent, and nodded.
“Oh. Well I hardly have my dancing slippers on,” Kyriala wiggled her bare foot at me and I blushed harder.
“I’ll do my best not to step on those unprotected toes then,” I said to her and wiggled bare toes back at her. It was daring, shocking even that two unmarried people would dance a Falisas but it was the right time of year for such things.
She untangled her hair from Ilesias’s clutching fingers and got up to join me on the twilight sward. The stream was louder now, trickling through and over the rocks of the new dam we had built, the water risen almost deep enough to swim behind it. “I’ll make certain we don’t end up in the new pool,” I said, nodding at the deeper part we had created. I smiled… down at her? When had I gotten that tall? She’d been taller than I.
“It would not be comfortable, thank you, ser.” She had a dimple next to her lip that was absolutely riveting for some reason. I cleared my throat, surprisingly like Ailadas, and offered her my hand.
The Falisas is not a line dance with alternate pairs dancing side by side, nor a row dance with a whole group of people, but in pairs. The woman actually touched the man’s outstretched hand and his shoulder on the other side, while the man was allowed to touch his wife’s waist in public. Very shocking.
I had heard that people danced this way in the Masker’s Houses, even touching the sides of their bodies together.
She gathered up her trailing hair in a loop over her one arm so she not stumble over it, laid her cool fingers in mine and it was as though a shock went through me. I let my hand settle on her waist. She’s only wearing night clothes with nothing underneath. Nothing but warm skin. I can feel how warm she is through the cloth. Her other hand on my shoulder felt right there. Some part of me wanted to crush her to me but I shoved that want down into the basement of my soul and chained it up tight.
I cleared my throat again and after a false start or two managed to catch the tune of the Falisas and swung her into the dance. I’m only wearing night things as well. Her hands are bare. Don’t let any of this distract you, you’ll step on her feet or lose the melody.
It was funny but dancing with her so closely was like sparring and I had learned how to do that in the past year. It was like sparring, or wrestling, or… swimming, oddly enough. I imagined it was like what flying would feel like when the song flowed and carried both dancers with it. I wanted to keep on, but the song had a precise finish and I let go her waist right at the end, holding on to her hand so her motion spun her out to a graceful curtsy. My loose hand presented my bow to her at the same time. My dance master would have been proud.
Gannara applauded and Binshala called softly “Nicely done.” So we turned and made our bows to them. I was flushed and warm and felt more drunk than if I had had as much wine as Ailadas. She was pink as well and I didn’t let go her hand when we went back to the fire. She didn’t try to pull away. “Thank you for the gift of the dance, Kyriala.”
“You’re most welcome, Minis.”
It was very strange… a little while later I had Kyriala softly asleep against my one shoulder, and Gannara against the other, with an arm around both of them. I felt so much, so much… Protective? Supportive? I looked up Binshala. “I’m not grown up enough yet to feel this much, I think.”
“Minis, you’re growing up fast. Don’t worry about it. They trust you,” she said softly. “You’ve earned their trust. And you love them.” Her nod took in Ilesias too, and Kaita nodded without disturbing him.
It was almost enough to make me emotional but I didn’t want to disturb either of them. I didn’t care if I got a cramp. We sat until the fire burned down before I moved at all. But it got cold and I woke them both.
Gannara and I carried Binshala’s litter back down into the caverns, Kaita carried the sleepy, half awake, grumpy Ilesias and Kyriala brought the bundled remnants of our Jitzmitthra picnic.