He reached behind himself to switch the song on his ipod from battle music to a waltz, and cleared the battle map.
“Will someone dirty trog-cloth this?” he asked as he sorted through the clinking glass beads behind his dungeon-master’s screen.
“Sure,” said Travis, for once, who reached over everyone. Quickly the grimy docks became a ballroom, the tense of dank, underwater combat melting into chivalry and music. Grand stairways led up the sides of the room to a balcony overlooking the dance floor, and a dazzling array of foreigners arranged themselves on the ground in an array of colored beads representing their places.
“Place yourselves. Oh, the white one is Lady Moonfire.”
“I want to go talk to her!” said Elizabeth, who floated her little paper marker from the doorway to the white bead. Sky more generally set her token down in the appropriate place, flanking Elizabeth. They both described the elaborate gowns their Eladrin characters were wearing, Elizabeth’s in a pale blue gown with silver trim, her black hair in an updo and Sky’s in a bold blue and gold dress suit, her swords highly polished. The boys were less interested in their character’s appearance, but both described themselves in their dress uniforms.
“Could I even be there?” I asked, as I was playing a notorious criminal, not a soldier like the others.
“Sure. I mean, why not?” he said, and I slid my marker into the room to declare that I was lurking, listening to a conversation unfolding before me between an animated halfling pirate and a secretive Najaren (some kind of snake person, I was informed).
Travis, the dwarf paladin of Kellemvor, conversed with the bartender about the quality and origin of the ale while Max, the Genasi warlord, kept an eye out for his arch-rival, Corporal Petrius. Sky and Elizabeth made smalltalk with Lady Moonfire and her Eladrin guests, who, as it turned out, hailed from the Feywilds.
The waltz came to a halt as trumpeters filed into the room, two at a time, playing a theme the adventurous knew only too well- Corporal Petrius had arrived. Max groaned as Lady Moonfire pretended not to notice his entrance.
The Corporal made for the bar, and the dancing resumed. Wanting to hear more conversation, as the dancers were mainly shadowy Netherese or hissing Najaren, I took hold of Corporal Max, and led him around the room, drow’s agility lending to my skill.
We’d barely begun, however, when the smirking Corporal peered over Max’s shoulder and sneered, “Do you mind if I cut in?” I almost did, for all the times he’d called me a criminal (though I was indeed).
“Do you let him?” asked the dungeonmaster.
“Sure,” I shrugged and allowed the Corporal to embrace me, intending to milk him for information. While the soldiers had to maintain an alliance with him, at least on the surface, I had no such motivations. It didn’t take long, however, for Lady Moonfire to abandon her guests to speak with Elizabeth and Sky, and to take Max’s invitation to dance. As they moved onto the dance floor, Corporal Petrius signaled to his musicians, and the steady waltz picked up into a much more aggressive, rural sort of music.
“Better keep up,” he advised, before practically dragging me into a test of endurance and acrobatics that could hardly be called dancing. We were well matched partners, but Max was every part his equal, and while the other dancers cleared off the floor to circle around us, he and Lady Moonfire kept up admirably.
At the peak of the song, the Corporal cast me aside and drew his sword, brandishing it at Max. Lady Moonfire stumbled back as well, and we both knew better than to involve ourselves.
“What do you say, Max? For old time’s sake?” challenged the Corporal.
“Fine. Three strikes,” agreed Max, who drew his sword in response.
Captain Arrowleaf of the Night Watch stepped forward to officiate. Petrius and Max paced to the opposite ends of the circle from each other, and at a signal from the orchestra charged inwards, swords clashing. Petrius dodged away and feinted in, but Max spun out of the way and slashed back at him.
Petrius ignored his wound and continued on, skirting and dodging until he swiped in with a leg to trip Max, and scored a point as he regained his footing. Next, Max punched the ground, his elemental scar burning gold for a second as Petrius toppled and he easily scored his second point. Petrius growled and forced him back, scoring a quick point and bringing the duelists to even.
“And roll again.”
“Oh! Nice. Point, Max. You win.”
The crowd cheered and the orchestra resumed their initial waltz.