Riva got to the dancing salle before Bastion did, which was all to the good. She needed time to set up her little device, especially if she wanted to make a good impression. She didn’t realize that she had been followed until Annie wormed her way between her arms to try to lick her face.
“Annie, now is not the time.” She was insistent, licking her face and whining slightly. She sighed and hugged her. “I know. I miss the baby, too. But it’s probably for the best, baby girl. There were moments… there were moments I would forget that he wasn’t mine… that he wasn’t mine to keep.” A few tears fell. She made herself sit up and wipe the tears away. “I don’t have time for this. I have to be lost in the music to make the best impression. I can’t… I can’t be crying over the baby right now.” She set Annie down and pushed her towards the wall. “Stay there, and stay out from under my feet.” Annie looked at her with curious puppy-eyes. “Okay, you can watch all you like, but stay out from under my feet.” Annie yipped as if in agreement and sat back, scratching at her collar. She laughed softly at her and then quickly finished setting the small audio device to repeat a particular song. If this didn’t get Bastion’s attention, nothing would.
— — —
Bastion found the salle where Riva had set up easily enough. It was the only one there was sound coming from. He just wasn’t expecting that particular type of sound to be resonating through the walls. He certainly wasn’t expecting what he saw when he entered the room.
Riva was dancing. But more than that, she was spear-dancing. Somewhere between a kata or practice-routine and a performance, she moved with the spear like it was an extension of herself; thrust, sweep, pull back, leap, twirl. She was a wonder to watch, beauty in motion.
And then he heard the song that she was dancing to and he almost swallowed his tongue.
Not only did he know this song, he knew the movie it came from, but that wasn’t what stunned him. He hadn’t realized until this moment that this particular song was talking about Castellan dreams. Dreaming of a hero, just out of reach, just beyond the horizon, a knight on a white horse.
For one blinding moment, Bastion wished that he dared walk up to her, take the spear from her hand, put his arms around her and kiss her. He wished that she was his Princess, who had run from her brother to find him because of Castellan dreams. But who was he that a Princess should dream of him?
The song drew to a close and Riva noticed him just as it started up again. She smiled and walked over to a small crystal studded device set next to the wall, and knelt next to it. She fiddled with it for a moment and the music stopped. He walked over to her and took the spear, setting it down next to the wall as well.
“That was impressive.” He never knew how he managed to keep his voice that bland.
She grinned at him. “I got bored waiting for you.”
A small brown head looked up at them from beside the crystalline device and he smiled at the dog. “I see you brought a friend.”
“She follows me just about everywhere. I’m kind of surprised that it took her this long to follow me up here.” She looked up at him. “So, have you decided what you wanted to do for a demonstration?”
“I’d rather not completely scandalize them. They still have all the medieval conceits.” Even as he said it, he felt a bit of disappointment. The possibilities were intriguing.
She nodded, looking slightly disappointed, too. “It would probably be best, I suppose. I guess that means no Pasa Doble, no proper Tango, nothing excessively Latin. The waltz is a bit tame, though. I just… I don’t want to be tame, if you know what I mean.”
He nodded. “I do, actually, understand.” He thought a moment. “I’m not so much for the Big Band era, but perhaps a bit later than that. Western Swing?”
She thought a moment and then grinned. “I have just the song, too.” She fiddled with the device for a moment and then it started producing music, an energetic, fiddle-based song glorifying the music of the South. He nodded. It had just the right rhythm, too. She set it to repeat and they began to work on a routine.
— — —
Dalziel wanted to hit something.
Renna watched her brother from across the scarred and pitted wooden table in an anonymous tavern on the far side of the Southern Empire in concern. In an effort to stay ahead of the Northern armies they had taken to flying and sailing through unfamiliar territory. It had been exciting; it had been invigorating; it had left them out of communication with old friends for too long.
They had stopped in at the tavern for a meal and some gossip, hoping to hear news from Castellan. Instead they had found a months-old proclamation from the Northern Empire and Dalziel had set to drinking with a determination that frightened his sister.
The Imperial Princess had been attacked in her chambers by assassins. Her spirit broken by the attempt upon her life she had been secluded for her own safety. But Dalziel knew better. He knew that there was only one place the Emperor would have placed his precious sister, and Dalziel couldn’t simply stand by as a delicate girl was consigned to that place of torture and cruelty.
“He sent her to the Tower.” Dalziel croaked the words out through a throat that burned with heartsick fear that any female would have to suffer as his sister had.
Renna sighed. “She is not your concern. Riva didn’t ask you to look to the protection of the Imperial Princess.”
“She didn’t have to. She gave me something else. And she told me who to take them to. I can’t… I can’t just do nothing. I don’t know the Princess and I probably never will, but I know what you went through, Renna, and I can’t let that happen to someone else.” He looked up at his sister with pleading in his eyes. He needed her to understand. He needed her to agree.
Renna sighed. “Very well. I will see that the Windborne is outfitted for a journey North to Pallantia.”
— — —
The weeks passed quickly.
Riva and Bastion were just putting the finishing touches on their dance routine when he looked up in surprise towards the door of the salle. “Highness?”
Riva turned towards the door and saw her cousin, Keara, standing hesitantly, looking at them. The Castellan princess blushed and looked down. “Please, Captain, please don’t stop. That looks like so much fun.”
Bastion glanced at her and Riva went to the wall to reset the music while he walked quickly over to the Princess. “How long have you been watching us?”
“Not long, Captain. I was curious about your friend.” She looked up at Riva and met her eyes, looking very uncomfortable and nervous.
Bastion looked at Riva and motioned to her to join them, which she did. “Highness, this is Riva, she is one of Castellan’s streetlings associated with the Dwarf, Kodran. Riva, this is the Princess, Lady Keara.”
Riva dropped a curtsey. “Pleased to meet you, Highness.”
Keara felt that all this awkwardness was excruciatingly painful. What she wanted to do was take her cousin back to her chambers, sit her down, and grill her for a couple hours about what it was like to walk freely down Castellan’s streets, and about what it was like to be in the same room with the man she dreamed of. Keara was very interested in Castellan dreams. “P-pleased to meet you, too.” She looked back at Bastion. “Are you going to demonstrate that at the Fall Festival the day after tomorrow?”
He nodded. “Yes, Highness.”
“I celebrate seventeen at the Fall Festival.” It was a momentous occasion for anyone. Seventeen was the age of adulthood. Riva suddenly remembered that she would celebrate sixteen, by the judgments of this world, only two months later.
Bastion smiled at the princess. “I have not forgotten, Highness.”
Keara nodded, flushing red again. “I- I had best leave you, then.” She paused. “When the Festival is done… could I learn to dance like that?”
Riva looked at Bastion in curiosity, and he looked back at her with an infinitesimal shrug. Riva nodded.
Bastion turned back to the Princess. “I see no reason why you couldn’t, Highness.”
After another moment of awkwardness, Keara left them to their practice. She didn’t know why she had asked, it was just that, in her dreams the past night, she had been dancing in just that style with her Seer, and he had promised, yet again, to find her when she was grown.