Location: Cate’s family mansion, the Classic city of Orion, Dametreos
A few days after the trio had visited the southern gatehouse, Hans and Adrian were forced to confront their greatest trial yet: dancing lessons.
“I feel like an idiot in these tights.” moaned Adrian from the side of his mouth as the two adolescents hurried down the cobbled streets of Orion.
“Tights are nothing. Trade ya them for this hat.” muttered Hans from beneath a wide-brimmed, lavishly feathered behemoth of a hat.
“Deal.” Adrian snorted, “at least you can hide your face under that monster! I have to return the looks I’m getting…”
And they were certainly getting looks from the local populace. Some were incredulous, others admiring. Adrian gritted his teeth and looked about. He also saw in the faces of the bakers and gong farmers, coachmen and scullery maids everything from jealously to amusement to outright hilarity. He also saw -- and this discomforted him the most -- lustful looks from some of the females -- young and old alike.
“Tyco these tights.” he swore, “Can’t see why’d they’re allowed… tipping toward indecent exposure, they are…”
“The ladies seem to like it.” smirked Hans from underneath his hat.
Adrian mumbled something.
“What you say?” asked Hans.
“I said,” Adrian spoke up a little, “I don’t know why Cate insisted we dress up in our Ball finery come to her place today…”
“Dunno.” shrugged Hans, adjust his white gloves, “She said something about lessons…”
“As long as they’re not dancing lessons.” muttered Adrian, “I hate dancing.”
“I say, old fellow, you look none to pleased, wot?” said Hans suddenly, imitating a northern Classic accent.
“How I ever got talked into this, I’ll never know.” sighed Adrian.
“Jolly good, rather.” quipped Hans.
“Will you cut that out?” snapped Adrian as they turned a corner onto 49th Boulevard.
Hans shrugged and tipped his hat graciously to a passing group of giggling girls.
“Cate said that to get a girl, one must have a good accent.” said Hans.
“Maybe I don’t want to get a girl.” said Adrian. He looked at Hans suspiciously.
“You aren’t actually going to try to pick one up, are you, at the ball?”
“Doubt I’ll have a chance. Girls’ nowadays don’t dig scholars.”
“Did they ever?” asked Adrian coyly.
“Prob’ly not. Knights-in-shining-armor always get an unfair advantage.”
“Fine with me. I don’t plan on making an idiot of myself in front of a girl in the middle of Dametreos’ biggest interfactional ball ever.”
They were at last at Slacsentius Manor. Adrian reached forward and yanked on the bell-cord. A tolling of bells could be heard, and the door soon opened. The butler’s face brightened, and both Hans and Adrian could have sworn to one another that the butler had a hard time not breaking out in a laugh.
“Masters Lentawl and Seotjon,” greeted the butler, “Lady Slacs-Sicl has been eagerly awaiting your arrival. Do come in sirs…”
With a slight look of trepidation at one another, Hans and Adrian entered.
“May I take you hat, Master Lentawl?” asked the butler as he shut the ornate door.
Hans was about to eagerly wrench the cumbersome monstrosity off his head with a bundle of gold and crimson burst into the hall.
“No, Hans, keep it on! Thank you, Daniels, that will be all!”
Daniels the butler bowed and slipped away, leaving Hans and Adrian to fend for themselves. Cate, decked out his her ballroom finery, confronted them with a flush grin.
“So you did come in you suits!” she beamed, “Splendid!”
She hopped forward, looking very much like a bird of the jungles of Western Knight’s Kingdom, clucking over their suits up close.
“Adrian, how finely those stockings suit you! Red was always your color…and Hans! You look simply dashing in that hat! All you need is a sword at your side and you’d look like an elite Cavalier!”
“You look…good, too.” said Hans, going beat red. When Cate had leaned forward to inspect Hans’ hat, he had had an ample view of her bust, which had certainly been more than he had been used to seeing, due to the extremely low neckline of her dress.
“I see you decided to go for that gold dress…” Hans continued to fumble, while Adrian stuffed his fist into his mouth to keep himself from cackling out loud.
“Yes!” smiled Cate, stepped back twirling about for them both to see. Both teenagers noted in addition to the low neckline in the front, a good deal of Cate’s back was visible as well.
“The Master Tailor was very adamant -- he said gold complimented my red hair -- looked like a June dawn, he said.”
Adrian and Hans -- especially Hans -- mumbled something in the affirmative. Satisfied, Cate swished around and beckoned, saying, “C’mon! Now that you’ve got the clothes, it’s time you learned how to move in them!”
As they followed the fleeing golden figure, Adrian punched Hans in the arm.
“What you did is exactly what I intend not to do at the ball!” he chortled.
Hans glared and dramatically rubbed his arm.
“Says you. With those tights, you won’t be able to keep the princesses off you.”
As Adrian mulled over that comment they both entered the sitting room, where usually tea was drunk and gossip exchanged. But the room obviously wasn’t going to be used for afternoon tea today. All the plush sofas and loveseats had been pushed up against the walls, leaving a wide, empty space in the middle of the room. Hans and Adrian continued onward uncertainly.
“You might want to consult with your interior designer.” commented Adrian, “I liked the previous setup better.”
Cate wrinkled her nose in a cute mock-glare.
“Adrian, you silly, I did this for this after noon. We need somewhere to dance.”
Both teenagers took a noticeable step back.
“Dancing?” they both exclaimed.
Cate nodded vigorously, her cheeks flushed.
“I don’t dance.” Adrian objected immediately.
Cate sighed dramatically. She turned her attention to Hans.
“Right, then, Hans, then us Classics’ll show Adrian the barbarian Crusader how it’s done.”
“Er,” Hans scratched at his hat, “Er, okay…”
“Jolly good.” smirked Adrian. Hans sent a glare Adrian’s way before stepped forward to Cate.
“Now,” Cate said commandingly, “First, when you approach a girl, you say…”
Cate looked at Hans expectantly, her expression obviously saying, Surely, you know this part. Luckily, for Hans, he did. All his reading had aided him in that. With a dramatic sweep, Hans took the mammoth of a hat from his head and bowed.
“Milady, may I have this dance?” he intoned dramatically, like an actor onstage.
Cate giggled and clapped her hands while Adrian rolled his eyes at the theatrical display.
“Goody!” cried Cate, “That’s very good, Hans!”
Hans stood upright, a grin on his red face, and replaced the weighty hat on his head. Cate curtsied prettily and then advanced upon Hans. Awkwardly, Hans took Cate’s left hand with his right and put his left hand on her waist.
“And, once the music begins…” Cate said, then bent her knees slightly to indicate the beginning of the music, “One, two, three, one, two, three…”
Hans was now out of his element. He could talk the talk, but not walk the walk. At least not very well. As they waltzed around the small confines of the sitting room, Hans was hard pressed not to step on Cate’s toes with his sharply-pointed boots.
“One, two, thee, one, two, three -- keep up, Hans! -- one, two, three…”
After a few minutes of elegant dancing on Cate’s part and awkward dancing on Hans’ part, Cate said, “And when the music ends…”
She broke away from Hans and curtsied again. Hans returned it with another flamboyant bow. They turned, both faces flushed, to see Adrian laughed upon one of the jumbled sofas.
“You’re next.” said Cate slyly. Adrian stopped laughing.
“Now it’s my turn to watch.” Hans grinned, and settled himself on the couch Adrian reluctantly vacated.
While Hans helped himself generously to crumpets, Cate patiently coached the fumbling Adrian in the fine art of ballroom dancing. After many bruised toes and a lucky escape at falling, Adrian slowly but surely improved. Later, Hans was called back up to the ‘dance floor’, and his mediocre skills were honed somewhat. Then, when it was later afternoon, Cate instructed them in finer points of dance etiquette. Around seven o’ clock, as tolled by Orion’s legendary bells, Cate finally released the two tired and hot intellects-turned-dancers, with a jolly, “See you guys tomorrow!”
As Hans and Adrian descended the steps of the Slacs-Sicl manor, Adrian remarked to Hans, “I pity the girl who opts to dance with us.”
“C’mon,” Hans grinned, “We aren’t so bad…with our decent dance skills, your tights and my hat, we might just get a girl each!”
Adrian rolled his eyes. “You and your hat.”
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