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The Last Yule in Halabor
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Day 24.3 - The Dance

For disclaimer and further details see Part 1.

Rating: General, for this part.

Author’s notes: The dance “Double wheel is actually one called “Sans Serif” – no kidding! I found it on one of the SCA websites. For visuals: Erendis supposed to look like Isabella from the movie “Braveheart”.

Dedication: Bodkin, this one is for you. I hope you are content with the choice. *g*


Day Twenty-Four – The Dance

After the gift-giving, the long tables were swiftly dismantled and removed, leaving only the one for the lord and his guests standing. The lord’s own musicians came in then and made themselves comfortable in the corner left from the main door, prepared to play ‘til the coming up of the morning star. The noble guests rose from their seats again, and the formed a circle in the middle of the room while the guests of lesser rank did the same a little further down the hall.

Traditionally, the Yule dancing began with a carole – a kind of round dance, in which the dancers joined hand as they sang and circled. The steps varied from simple walking to extremely complicated. This time, the Master of Ceremony (who happened to be Lord Orchald’s steward, the old Sador) chose a moderately difficult variety, to the unspoken relief of some participants.

The home orchestra of the Castle was a small one. it contained two elderly men with rebecs, a woman playing a shawm, two young lads, one of them playing a cymbel and one of the drums, and a girl with a twelve-string harp. They were fairly good, as Rhisiart and Oswin judged, enjoying the rare chance of listening to the music instead of making it.

When the guests had enough of the carole – as it could make one dizzy after a while, more so if one had consumed a considerable amount of wine already – Sador asked the lords present to choose partners for the main dance of the evening, the double wheel. This one was a dance for couples. The men formed a circle facing outwards, while the ladies formed a circle outside them, facing them. The pattern of the double wheel foresaw a repeated change of dance partners, ‘til every lord had danced with every lady and finally returned to his chosen partner.

As always, the choices were awaited with eager anticipation. Married couples were expected to dance with each other, but the choice of a widower or an unwed man was watched with the sharpest eyes, and guesswork was started immediately. The nobles liked to gossip as much as the common folk, after all, and this time, some of the fathers could hope to get their daughters married off soon, so the excitement was even greater than usual.

Lord Orchald began the choosing, as was the right of the host of the feast, extending his hand to the Lady Nimloth, Lord Ulmondil’s widowed sister, who was known as a very good dancer. But again, most people who were allowed to go in and out in the court of Dol Amroth were. Lord Orchald was no exception himself, and all had to admit that he made a striking figure in his gold-embroidered tunic and surcoat of black and dark purple, despite his age. He wore his hair open tonight, with a golden circle studded wit amethysts upon his brow, and it shone like freshly fallen snow upon his broad shoulders.

However – understandably enough – the choice everyone was waiting for was that of young Lord Herumor. He was clad similarly to his father, his wavy dark hair freshly shorn above his shoulder, farming his fine features like spun bronze – the only things he had inherited from his mother were the colour of his hair and the elegant smoothness of his face. Even without his rank and wealth, he would have been a most desirable bachelor indeed.

Being who he was, he counted as the best catch this side of Minas Tirith. One could not blame the young ladies for being anxious and impatient. He had waited long enough to choose a wife, and the news that he was to announce his choice in this very night spread like fire among the guests.

Half the circle for the double wheel was formed already, and everyone waited with bated breath for Herumor to make his choice… mayhap for more than just the next dance. The other eligible bachelors, Meneldir son of Malanthur and Azrubêl’s sons, Íbal and Nimruzîl, had to wait for their turn and were not all too happy about it. But being the son of the host and the heir of the noblest family did have its advantages.

A murmur of surprise went over the great hall when Herumor finally bowed before Erendis, Lord Malanthur’s older daughter, and offered his hand to her. For though Erendis was doubtlessly lovely, with a sweet, heart-shaped face and raven-black hair and eyes that were wide and clear like diamonds, with her twenty-eight years she was considered almost too old for marriage already. Dúnadan lifespan notwithstanding, the lords tended to marry off their daughters as young as possible, while the sons were generally allowed to tumble around for a while first.

Erendis blushed slightly, curtseyed and accepted the hand proffered to her. Clearly, she had not expected to be chosen, not even for this one dance, when there were seven other lovely young ladies, all considerably younger than her. But again, Herumor was said to prefer more… mature partners, so mayhap this choice was not such a big surprise, after all.

Meneldur, Erendis’ brother was quick to ask Faniel for the dance, whose elfin features had caught his fancy for some reason. His other sister, Almarian, was chosen by Nimruzîl – a choice she accepted with some trepidation, for Nimruzîl was known as almost as boring a company as his own father, and only a second son anyway. Which meant that not even rank and wealth could make his self-absorbed manners more desirable.

Nimruzîl’s brother, Íbal, chose Edhellos, shooting his father a challenging look. Íbal did not share his father’s obsession for everything Adûnaic, and he could never forgive Lord Azrubêl for giving him what he considered the most ridiculous name in the whole Gondor. Thus he kept doing things that would irritate his father, and choosing the daughter of Ulmondil, the Elf-fancier, was one of those things. Not that Edhellos would mind, for first, Íbal was a good dancer, second, he was of suitable age, and third, he was the heir of his father and therefore a good match.

Those choices left Peredur’s only daughter, Innogen, in an uncomfortable situation. All remaining youngsters were at least three years her junior and thus unlikely to choose her. Besides, how could she make a sight out of herself, dancing with a thirteen or fourteen years old partner?

She wanted to retreat as gracefully as possible and miss out the most important dance of the Yule feast, when a vision of pride and elegance in black velvet showed up before her with the most polite of bows.

“Niece,” said Odhrain, extending his hand, “I was wondering if you would dance with me? I am not used to the company of such great lords, and the ladies would most likely not give me the shadow of a chance, but I hope I shall not embarrass myself with you.”

Innogen smiled at him in relief. It was most gracious of him to make his offer so as if he would be asking a favour. Besides, he was an imposing sight to behold, even if he was family… and could well be her father.

“Of course I shall dance with you, Uncle,” she replied thankfully. “I am certain that we shall do well enough together.”

“I shall try not to step on your toes,” promised Odhrain earnestly and led her to the circle.

The rest of the couples were made up quickly enough, and now the double wheel could begin. It contained, basically, double turns either to the left or to the right, followed by three kicks, each turn. This they repeated four times, then the lords made a double left turn into the centre of the circle, meeting left shoulder to left shoulder, clapped, and then turned twice to the right, out of the circle, turning over their right shoulder. The ladies did the same, just in the opposite direction, away from the circle and back, in the end facing their dance partner on the same spot they had started from.

Again, they repeated this pattern four times. Then the lords kissed the hand of their dance partner, bowed, and by the fifth repetition of the pattern they also stepped forwards into the place of the man before them. The ladies, once more, did the same in the opposite direction, stepping into the place of the lady before them.

This pattern made each dancer advance one place to their left, skipping the partner of the dancer before them, so that they would dance with the partner two places in front of them. After repeating this four times, the dance continued with the very first pattern again, and lasted as long as everyone was facing their chosen partners again. With fourteen couples in the circle, that was quite a long time, and everyone was hot and flushed when the dance finally came to an end. Especially the young ladies who were hoping to catch Herumor’s eye, as the dance gave each and every one the chance to dance with him for at least one turn.

The Master of the Ceremony called a break, in which both guests and musicians could have some refreshments – mostly in the form of wine. Herumor released Erendis’ hand, after ha had led her back to the table, and looked into her eyes earnestly.

“Lady mine, I would have a world with you if I may. For I have a choice to make tonight, and ere I come to a decision, I need to know your thoughts about the matter.”

My thoughts?” she repeated in surprise. “What can I possibly say that might help you to make your choice?”

“More than you can imagine,” said Herumor. “Would you sit on the gallery with me? There we can have a private conversation while we remain in plain sight as it is proper.”

Erendis glanced up at the small gallery and nodded.

“Very well, my Lord. I shall be waiting for you there. Give me but a moment.”

She gathered the folds of her heavy silken dress and rushed out of the great hall, right to the small spiral stairway that led to the gallery from the outside. Herumor looked after her thoughtfully.

“A reasonable choice,” his father commented softly, “though I would prefer Peredur’s daughter, myself.”

“She is young,” replied Herumor, “she has many years yet to find a suitable husband. “For Erendis, this may be the last chance. ‘Tis only fair, I think.”

“Would she also think so?” asked Lord Orchald gravely.

“That is something I intend to find out,” said Herumor. “I hope she will. But I wish to leave the choice to her.”



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