The Ball: Father's Dance

Kendall follows the other guests returning to the ball room after the fireworks, but stops just inside to peruse the crowd, looking for someone in particular. Spotting Briar, he heads over towards her.

She greets him cordially. "Hullo, Professor. How are you enjoying the Ball?"

Kendall considers the question for a heartbeat. "Tis what I expected it to be, very similar to those I have attended in Chaos. They can be quite tiring," he notes. "Would it be possible to visit the stables at this point, or are you still engaged?"

"At the moment, I am not even going steady." She chuckles while Kendall looks nonplussed, but waves off any inquiries this might provoke. "No, never mind, it'd take too long to explain. I am quite unoccupied, and at your disposal. Do you wish to take leave of Their Majesties for the evening, or do you anticipate returning here afterward?"

His pale eyes glance across the room, in the general direction where Brisbane is chatting with some dignitary, then back to Briar. "I am uncertain of the protocol here, but I believe it would be best to give their majesties our regards," he answers finally. "Tis difficult to know how long we will be gone and how much longer the festivities will continue."

Right then, Idwal the aide to Lord Henden, Steward of Castle Amber, approaches with a Page in tow. With a quick bow, he speaks up nervously. "Princess Briar, your father.. the King wishes to have another dance with his daughter before she leaves."

Briar raises an eyebrow and shrugs, clearly a bit annoyed, but resigned. "Very well. I don't suppose the horses will berate us for waiting a few minutes more. I'll be with you shortly," she says to Kendall.

Idwal says turns to page and nods, sending the youngster running off into the crowd. Within seconds, Briar sees Lord Henden strolling to the center of the dance floor, official staff in hand. The bewildered dancers part before him, still weaving with the music. With that, Briar knows her father is up to something. To disturb a waltz without good reason would be poor hospitality, even for a king of Amber. Her father is up to something…

Briar freezes where she stands, her eyes flickering over the scene with a calculating look which quickly turns to one of disbelief and then apprehension. Her hands curl into fists at her sides, and just for a moment, it seems she might actually turn and flee the dance floor.

Then she straightens up and crosses her arms, shaking off her gut reaction, a mask of cool indifference dropping over her face as she waits for whatever will follow… the ball, apparently, is in Eric's court.

Once at the center of the ballroom and Lord Henden taps his staff three times on the stone floor. The musicians lay up their instruments, moving to accommodate a whole new section of strings that file in from the small servant door. The dancers for their part, bow and curtsy to Henden before leaving the floor and like the other guests, wait to see what comes next.

"Nobles, guests and members of the Royal Family," Lord Henden says, his voice filling the room. "His Majesty the King has a special request." With those words, Lord Henden bows to the crowds and then returns to his place amongst the castle staff, passing the King as goes.

Servants dim the lights till only the chandeliers about the dance floor itself and those above the musicians remain lit. King Eric takes center spotlight, head bowed… waiting. But his wait is short for suddenly a harsh note shatters the calm. A violinist dragging his bow across the strings, its cries echoing that of a newborn baby. A muttering is heard among the onlookers, some surprised as others nod in understanding. For no other dance begins this way, no other dance celebrates a father's love for his daughter.

Bleys leaves his wine glass hanging in mid air as he joins his brother on the dance floor. Julian frowns but he too joins his brothers. Soon others join them, nobles and a few guests. The men now in the center of the dance floor link arms and begin to move about in circles, their bodies betraying their impatience and doubts. Even dancing together, they seem alone in their fears. In the shadows, their daughters take their places, awaiting their entrance into the dance… awaiting their birth into the world.

As the music swells, Lady Ariadne helps Juliette find her place in the circle of daughters. The Queen also walks alongside the daughters with no regard to her own station. Briar takes her place as well, though she's gone bloodlessly pale, as though she suddenly doesn't feel well, or has seen a ghost.

With a crash that rings in one's ears, the music bursts in full fury, but its joy also hints of sadness. As the violins scream their last high note, the daughters in the shadows rush into the light and the arms of their respective fathers who lift them high into the air in joy and pride, spinning them about for all the world to see. Juliette seems confused at first, stumbling here and there till her face goes serene and she begins to dance with a grace and precision that amazes the onlookers and brings pride to a mother's heart, Princess Kiara watching and wishing that her own father was here to dance with her. For all know of this rite of passage into womanhood in Amber, rumored to have been begun by Oberon himself and performed for the first time with his daughter Fiona long ago.

As the dance continues, the daughters slowly move farther away from the closeness they once shared with their fathers. Till at last, they're again separated by a gulf of light and shadow that seems unbridgable in a father's eyes. The music now only with a tone of sadness and lost of what once was… for all daughters sooner or later grow up and stop being daddy's little girl. The daughters again walk towards the shadows, their backs turned to their fathers. Each step has both an expectation and a sorrow till they are swallowed by the darkness again.

For the first time since beginning this dance, Briar abruptly breaks tradition — though she doesn't break out of the dance entirely. It almost looks like a mistake, at first; she turns away too soon, moving faster and farther away than protocol calls for. Still in time to the music, more with an aspect of despair than of sorrow, she places herself well beyond the ring formed by the other daughters a few moments later.

Then, stranded by her own recklessness at the very edge of the dance floor, she turns as the crescendo approaches, her eyes meeting Eric's from a distance too great to be bridged in the brief headlong rush prescribed by the dance. None of her customary mockery or cynicism here now; clearly, she is well aware of what she's done. The only way she and Eric can put anything like a proper finish to this dance now is if he too breaks protocol, and comes to meet her halfway.

It's a silent explanation, perhaps an apology, and a question as well — the same question she asked of him hundreds of years ago. A question that had kept her exiled in the Shadows for so long, hidden since her return behind a mask of callous indifference, but open in her face now for anyone to read: I've made a mistake. Will you forgive my foolishness, come out after me, bring me back into the dance? Rescue me?

If he refuses, then once again she'll have no choice but to make her way back belatedly to the center, to whatever sort of awkward reunion they might contrive after the music has ended. Or, of course, not to return at all.

The fathers again dance alone in the center of the room, eyes gazing upward in pain and regret. The music itself mirrors their emotions… drowns in its own sorrow. Then with a joyous crash of sound, the daughters come rushing back into their father's arms to again to be lifted high up to the air in pride and love.

Eric, the King of Amber and all reality, does indeed break protocol and meet his daughter half way. There's neither approval or disapproval on his face, there is only the dance. But this little demand of Briars is indeed noted by both those within the dance and those simply watching in the shadows. Whispers echoing in the darkness.

And yes, Briar too… rushing forward with the fierce abandon of one who has nothing to lose. Or who wishes to believe it is so. Accustomed to whispers, and too incredulous to pay them any heed, Briar finishes the dance almost in a state of shock, half afraid to believe he actually capitulated, or that he really understood what she was trying to tell him.

And in those moments, as the musicians fall silent… Morgana sees only pride in her father's eyes. And Briar? She sees the rarest in her father's eyes, a father's acceptance of who his daughter was and has become.

At the conclusion, Briar drops into a low curtsy that is in no way diminished by lack sweeping skirts. She rises, and suddenly as if on impulse pulls a small cloth-wrapped bundle out of her pocket and thrusts it into Eric's hands. She salutes stiffly and leaves the dance floor at a rapid clip, heading toward the young Chaos Lord waiting in the shadows. If any guests she passes happen to notice her blinking rapidly, well, we can probably chalk that up to astonishment at her own audacity. Or something.

So surprised by his daughter's gift and her rapid exit, Eric doesn't even have time to give Briar a fatherly kiss as the other daddies are doing around him. He looks at the bundle in his hand, wondering just for a second before tucking it away in a pocket and walking over to wait for his wife, still in the arms of her father Bleys.

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