#Nanowrimo The Dare
Prince Draeden, Alasdair's father, has a terrible fear of talking to women; he thinks most of them are much too beautiful to be approached with any semblance of composure, and he envies anyone else who is able to walk up and talk to them without any hesitation.
One song ended and another began, and Draeden returned to the upper end of the table with many good things to devour and demolish. Women warbled and wassailed, men crooned and crowed, Draeden was still eating, the king joined in the song, and the whole of the Great Hall was in a tumult of bustle and confusion, half the occupants dancing, the other singing, Bryeison and Vyrdin nursing their teas, and Draeden humming over the fidget pie he had just finished.
“Are you satisfied?” Bryeison laughed.
“Yes,” Draeden languished, leaning back and rubbing his stomach, the simulacrum of satiation, “I think I have done. I don't think I shall be hungry until midnight at least.”
“There is some of the venison left.”
Draeden made an interested “Ooh!” and consumed the last few slices of venison from Bryeison’s plate only to descry a few Karnwyl pasties not yet eaten on the table adjoining.
“Leave those for the others,” Bryeison advised.
“But everyone else is dancing.”
“And they will sit again with time.”
“If they’ve left them there, it means they do not want them, and they shall go to waste if someone doesn’t eat them.”
Bryeison looked as though his resolution was not to be questioned, and Draeden pouted and folded his arms.
Everyone at the celebration must return to their seats at one time or other, but when the king was entreated to play a few reels, nobody had a thought of sitting down. Dorrin took up his fiddle and began playing a few of the ancient melodies, garnering resounding applause and clattering feet in time with the four-four rhythm. The hall glowed with a lively mirth, the children skipped about, men and women whirled one another around, and the longer the king played, the more people he gathered into the fulcrum of his melodies.
His lamentation of the cold pasties over, Draeden could only find other employment by hearing his father’s recital. His enjoyment of his father’s music was always as great as it was Dorrin’s pleasure to play, and thought he wondered why he did not play oftener, he owned that his own failure at music was partially to blame; they had played together when he was young, but his love of the sword overcame his adoration of music, and his father’s playing became reserved for celebrations and private representation. He did, however, follow his father in his adoration of dance, but Draeden’s ability to play was always wanting. A few simple songs were all he could remember from his lessons, but it was the time that he and his father spent together which was his principle delight. Seeing him play with exquisite accompaniment and watching everyone dance about him was Draeden’s chief joy in the holiday. His father never smiled so much or laughed so freely as he did while his fiddle was resting under his chin, bringing the keep in a gala-day of high spirits. With his modest crown on his head, his long mantle undulating every which way, and exuberance radiating from his aspect, Dorrin was indeed master of all he surveyed. Everyone stepped in time and boxed and jumped, circling round to the Ceiliegh tunes, whooping and hollering, falling into the next melody and the next with premeditated grace, all orchestrated by the king’s trilling notes.
Draeden tapped his hands to his knees in time with the music, lilting and diddling the melody until he could sit no longer. He must join the festivities, he must dance, but when the thought of whom he should take for a partner assailed him, he sat down again, and turned to Bryeison, who was watching the Ceiliegh lines with immovable interest. He then turned to Vyrdin, whose eyes wandered over every face, every returned glance, every ceaseless step. “Do you mean to sit down the whole night, Vyrdin?”
“I might,” Vyrdin shrugged, looking nervously about. “Are you dancing?”
“If Draeden dances,” said Bryeison, observing the whirling saunter of the lines, “he’ll be hungry again when the dancing is over.”
Draeden chirped his tongue and waved a dismissive hand near Bryeison’s face.“I would ask you to stand up with me-”
“And that is all I will do.”
Draeden gasped, and turning to Vyrdin, he said, “Do you see how horrendous he is to me?” in a complaining voice. “I am only asking him to dance in the line with me so I don’t have to embarrass myself by asking anyone else, and he says no without a moment’s consideration.”
“I did consider it,” Bryeison attested.
“For all of two seconds.”
“That was as much time as I needed to say no.”
Draeden scoffed and grumbled something about how much enjoyment Bryeison took in disconcerting him.
“Have you ever danced, Bryeison?” asked Vyrdin, wondering what a few lively steps for a creature so immense could produce besides unmitigated upheaval of the keep entire.
Bryeison turned to Vyrdin and shook his head. “Have you?
“Then we can stand up with each other and stay there.”
Vyrdin almost laughed, and Draeden made professions of cruelty against his sensibilities.
“Why don’t you ask a woman to dance with you?” Bryeison asked.
“A woman? By the Gods, no. They’re horrifying even to speak to, let alone dance with. They’re always judging and smiling and blushing and looking so well with their fine gowns and their soft eyes and tinkling giggles and fluttering lashes. I cannot bear when they flutter their lashes at me. I lose all concentration and forget immediately what I am saying.” He humphed and sulked. “Nobody asked them to be so beautiful. If they were all hideous, I daresay I might find a few to talk to. They do everything to trick our senses and entice us, and they do it on purpose. Men don’t ask them to curl their hair- all that confounded bouncing and brilliancy- or wear enhancing bodices and fine draping silks. It’s insufferable, I tell you! How any man can even approach to them is a wonder to me. We would all have to be Gods just to look at them.” He fleered and looked at his friend. “You should do very well, Bryeison, with all those muscles of yours. Go on, then. Speak to one. There is Fallana looking at you very slyly. I’m sure she should like to talk to you.”
It was said as a lark, meant to avenge Draeden’s wounded feelings, but Bryeison, without hesitation and without another word, stood from his seat and went toward the woman whom Draeden had selected. The requisite gapes succeeded, Draeden appalled at how his friend could even return their salacious and entrancing looks, and the prince pined for his jape to be ruined most grievously. “I hate it when he undermines my confidence,” he sighed. “Remind me never to challenge him to do anything half so terrifying again.” He made a prolonged and wistful exhalation. “I despise his miserable and unanswerable dignity. Look at him. Look how he speaks to her as though he has nothing at all to worry about. Look how her knees are shaking. She must be half in love with him already.”
Vyrdin looked askance. “I think she’s intimidated by him.”
“What? Intimidated by Bryeison?” Draeden chuffed. “Nonsense! Who should be intimidated by him? He’s the most self-governing, the most unaffected, the most atrociously divine man in the room. She cannot be afraid of him.”
“Have you ever spoken to a woman before, Draeden?”
“None whom I was interested in, or interested in me. It’s all very well as a hello and how are you, but the instant they glance at me with their glistening eyes, all ability to converse ceases and I become a bumbling imbecile.” He huffed and flouted. “Look at him. His confidence is disgusting. He is probably talking to her about his enormous muscles and thinking of all the different ways he can pageant them.”
“I think he’s talking to her about you.”
“What?” Draeden cried, in a sudden fever of agitation. “How can you tell? Can you see what he’s saying? By the Gods, he will ruin me. Bryeison,” in terrified whisper, “stop that this moment! What do you mean by gabbing away about me? Come back here and stand in your corner and don’t talk to any more women.”
Bryeison excused himself and returned to their place at the table to be met with accusation of, “What did you think you were doing?”
“You said she wanted to speak to me,” was Bryeison’s unconcerned reply.
“I did not ask you to talk about me. What were you telling her? Tell me this moment what you said.”
“ I said that you want to dance and that were trying to persuade me to join you.”
“And what did she say?”
“That I probably would dance better than you.”
Draeden was all aghast. “She did not.”
“That fancying trollpe. An insult when I have always been nothing but pleasant to her!”
“She was making an observation-“
“Very well, then. I shall make one in return: Fallana is a plump slattern, and I forbid you from ever dancing with her. Do you hear me? Absolutely never.”
Bryeison could not help laughing.
“And you are never to speak to another woman who professes to know that you to dance better than me.” Draeden huffed through his nose.”That is the end of it- the absolute end! I’m dancing, and you can stand about and intimidate with your remarkable chin and your stunning eyes and rot with your garrulous and pulchritudinous slag.” He threw his hands up and thundered away with an acrimonious stride to join the old men dancing in the far corner, who were tittuping about on rickety feet.
Vyrdin was astonished at the fluctuations in Draeden’s countenance. With so striking an alteration, he had little idea if the prince had meant his aspersions or had merely said them in the throes of his remonstrance. He watched his features change again to those of unembarrassed felicity as he greeted the old men and asked if he could join them. “He won’t dance with the women?”
Bryeison shook his head. “He is too afraid,” he said laughingly, wiping the tears of mirth from his eyes.
“Afraid? But Draeden is the prince. He can ask for any partner he wants.”
Bryeison’s mirthfulness subdued, and he gave Vyrdin a conscious look. “Not all of us are able to ask.” There was a pause, and then, in a more serious hue, Bryeison added, “We all have our uncertainties.” He looked down, deliberated for a moment, and then resumed his usual air, studying the tapping steps of the old men as they taught them to Draeden.