One of my New Year’s Resolutions, at least informally, was to finish one story every month. Now, it’s too early to see if I’m going to be able to maintain that all year long, but January has been going pretty well.
Though, full disclosure: I’ve been focusing on non-Realmgard stuff. I’m hoping to have at least a couple short stories done in time to spend the spring trying to get them published.
I haven’t been completely neglecting Realmgard, though. I’ve done one of these short scenes every weekend so far, Charge of the Lyte Brigade is getting closer to ready (still no definitive ETA, though…), and I’ve started a very preliminary form of the next Realmgard story.
…And I’m writing a manifesto here.
Anyway, this scene was mostly already written, but needed some more context and details. I’m planning on using it as the first scene of the next Lyte Brigade story, though it’s probable the details will yet change further between now and then.
Five of the members of the Lyte Brigade — Nolan, Matilda, Pela, Tancred, and Falcata — have assembled in the inn dining hall that doubles as their headquarters.
“So, Captain?” Matilda asks Nolan, “what’s on the agenda today?”
Nolan shrugs. “I didn’t call this meeting.”
“I did,” Amara says, stepping into the inn’s dining room.
“Is she allowed to do that?” Matilda asks, looking back and forth between her brother and her guildmate.
“Technically, any member of the guild can call any emergency meeting,” Nolan answers.
Yes, well, this is indeed that,” Amara says.
“Oh?” Pela asks. “What happened? The Dock District’s on fire? A small orphan child fell down a well?”
“Is a well on fire?”
“Well, no. It’s not that sort of emergency,” Amara admits. “It’s really more of a social emergency. On the other hand, we find ourselves presented with a golden opportunity.”
Matilda quizzically raises an eyebrow. “Oh?”
“The Guild Authority’s annual springtime gala is coming up at the end of the month. Now, as there is an open invitation extended to every guild operating in the city, I took the liberty to sign the Lyte Brigade up to attend. We will, therefore, be expected to make an appearance,” Amara explains.
“There is nothing quite like a good springtime gala,” Tancred says cheerfully. “Well, except maybe a nice autumn cotillion.”
“What’s a cotillion?” Matilda asks. “Is there cheese in it?”
Nolan looks cautiously at Amara.
“And there will be dancing,” Amara continues. Which brings us to the matter at hand. The gala presents us with the opportunity for the Lyte Brigade to make the right sort of impression upon Porthaven’s best and brightest. Which is why it is of the utmost importance that we master all of the most popular dances.”
“I, uh, I’m not very good at dancing,” Nolan’s protests. “Actually, I’ve never really done it.”
“Fortunately for us,” Amara answers. “I have been quite thoroughly trained. Granted, we haven’t much time, and very little to work with. But I should be able to save you from completely embarrassing us.”
She stares gravely at him.
“But you must do exactly as I tell you.”
He nods nervously as Amara hauls him to his feet.
“First,” Amara instructs, holding up her hand. “Take my hand.”
Nolan reluctantly takes her elegant hand in his.
“Now, put your other hand on my hip,” she continues.
After a long moment of hesitation and nervous trembling, he does so, trying not to notice how soft and warm she feels. Or how shiny her hair is. Or how nice she smells.
What he does notice is that she’s frowning at him.
“That is not my hip!” she indignantly informs him, grabbing his wrist and forcibly shifting his hand forward into its proper position.
“Sorry,” he mutters, diverting his gaze towards the ceiling, and wishing to be anywhere else.
“Now, usually, it’s unbecoming of a lady to lead the dance,” Amara continues. “However, desperate times call for desperate measures, and it would be rather more unbecoming of a lady to be blundered around by a hapless oaf.”
She briefly meets his eye and adds a muttered “No offence.”
“None taken? I think,” he assures her.
“Now, follow my lead,” she instructs.
He tries to follow the steps. He doesn’t think he’s doing very well, though, given the looks that keep crossing Amara’s face.
“You—” She winces. “ —are—” Another wince. “ —stepping on —” Wince. “—my feet.” Wince again. “—Nolan!”
“Oh,” he says, glancing down at his feet.
“Don’t look at your feet. That just makes it worse. Look at me.”
“And stop apologising so much.”
“Sor—” he begins instinctively before the catches himself. “Right.”
“That’s enough for now, I think,” she says, moving to a nearby chair. “My poor feet need a break.”
“I’m sorry,” he says in a meek mumble. “I’m not very good.”
“It’s perfectly understandable. Everybody tramples their partner’s feet when they’re learning to dance. Even I did. Still, you’ll have to get better rather quickly. For both our sakes.”
“Hey,” Pela offers, “at least it’s somebody else getting stepped on this time.”
Sure, they’re dancing. But are they Safety Dancing?