On their return to the Hall, Einarr and Stigander had turned over their skinned prize to the cooks of Kjell and went directly to the sauna to clean up.
At the feast that night, every time Einarr attempted to approach Runa, an older man of the Hall deftly slipped between them – holding her chair here, drowning his offer of tafl with a spontaneous verse there, and casting challenging looks at Einarr the entire time. Runa took all of this with a polite smile that did not touch her eyes. Meanwhile, at every turn he felt the fire in his breast being stoked.
Then the Jarl called for music, and the tables were cleared to allow for dancing. As the drummer and the piper struck up a lively tune and the revelers formed a circle, Runa took her place at her father’s right hand. Without anyone really noticing how he managed it, her new suitor took her other side. Einarr, meanwhile, ended up sandwiched between Erik and the cook he had last seen cleaning their reindeer.
The circle began it’s bouncing step to the beat of the drum. Then the piper and the lyrist launched into the tune itself – a quick number, such that the Hall’s children and those who had already drunk too much were prone to stumbles. This didn’t continue for long, however: within a few bars of the music, Sivid moved to the center of the circle with a clap to the sole of his boot. He was good, one of the best of the Vidofnings, but the hall dance was a competition in its own right. Rather than leave everything on the dance floor then and there, this was a warm-up. He dropped to a bridge and rose again, his hands never touching the floor, and to the rhythm of the drum performed some simple acrobatics. He kicked for the rafters once, and danced out to rejoin the circle at a favorable location.
A man of the was next to enter the circle, and if his agility was lacking he made up for it with spirit. Einarr caught his father’s eye and quirked his head before following the Kjelling into the center. Let’s put on a show…
When the man of the hall danced out, Einarr trotted in at the first acceptable moment. He clicked his heels and slapped his soles once or twice before dropping into a crouch and twirling on the balls of his feet. Before that could bore anyone, Einarr sprang up directly into a backflip and a one-handed cartwheel. He caught sight of the Princess’ face and saw an encouraging smile there. A few scattered cheers rose up from around the circle, and so he made a bouncing circuit inside the wheel before kicking for the rafters himself. Someone a little closer to the Princess let him back into the outer circle, and he was followed by another young man of the Hall. It was poor form, after all, for the guests to try and dominate the Hall dance.
Einarr paid little attention to the new Kjelling. His focus was on the old man with the Jarl’s favor, who had not looked away since he ceded the stage. The rest of the hall seemed to enjoy the performance, however, and Einarr tamped down on his impatience. The only person he cared about besting tonight was the anonymous suitor – a man Einarr expected chosen more for loyalty than any particular skill.
Eventually the greybeard had an opening to slide out onto the stage. He moved immediately into crouching kicks, all the while spinning as he moved around the circle. A bridge into a backflip – no hands – kick the rafters, and then he walked on his hands before springing back to his feet. More cheering – someone called out “Trabbi!” He trotted around the circle once more, quirking his head at Einarr as he passed, and returned to the circle.
Einarr bided his time. The earliest he could return to the floor would be four more dancers, he thought, based on the number on the floor. Much longer than that, though, and it would look like he conceded. He watched, half his brain weighing the other dancers and half determining how best to play on his rival’s performance.
Finally the Hall Dance came back around to where Einarr could step out, and he opened with a prance into a jumping axe kick that clopped against the floor but rattled no-one’s cup. He skipped only a half-circuit before gathering his strength in his thighs. Einarr launched himself in the spinning kick for the rafters, and no sooner had his first foot touched the floor than he hopped up into a hands-free backflip. He heard his crewmates cheering, and probably some of the Kjellings as well, but all that mattered right then was Runa’s smiling eyes. He grinned then: if she liked that, she would love this.
He bent his knees and bounced on his toes, kicking out like Trabbi had done for a time, and motioned to Sivid. The man tossed him a cap. He pulled it over his ears and sprang forward, somersaulting into a headstand. The floor here was a little rough, but it would do: he spun.
The crowd’s delighted laughter turned to excited muttering. Einarr saw another pair of boots step out onto the floor. He knew those boots: they had been a gift from Astrid before the last Ice.
|1.6 – Winter Hunt||1.8 – Dance Fight!|
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