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Arrow's Dance

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Penelo was a nimble-footed sprite who danced on Estersand slickrock, dodged raindrops during Giza's monsoons. Fran was a tree, rooted to earth and sky.

Fran was so patient. For the fiftieth time, Penelo plucked the string. The arrow went fish-tailing into the grass, burying itself yards before the target.

Fran loped out to retrieve the flight, feeling the grass with her toes. Penelo caught her breath as the Viera bent, baring that view that froze the males in the party. She followed meekly. Their hands touched as the arrows clattered into the quiver.

"Almost," Fran said, stroking the back of Penelo's wrist. "Remember, the arrow is winged and waiting. Release, and it will fly."

Penelo's hand was sweaty in the half-glove, but she nodded, drawing the nock to the hollow of her cheek.

"Breathe out," Fran said. "Let the arrow ride your breath."

Penelo exhaled. Her fingers opened. The shaft flew and struck with a thwack.

"Yes," Fran said. "You have it now."

The campfire flickered on the Salikawood’s trunks. A nearby camp of Moogles was jolly with drink and music. Tiny drums pattered, echoing in their hollow tree. Pipes chased each other like manic mice.

Basch kept watch. Balthier too, although his smile strayed now and then to the campfire.

Penelo whirled and leapt to the beat of Vaan’s improvised canteen drum. She was drunk with dancing, a hummingbird circling the stately Viera. "Your sisters,” Penelo said, breathless. “They don’t dance?"

Bemused yet graceful, Fran let the hume girl spin her around. "The green word is stillness, not movement."

"So that's why you ran away!"

“Perhaps.” Fran caught her around the waist, lifting her. The Viera's long limbs glistened in the firelight, and her palms were slick with sweat. Penelo slipped and caught herself on Fran's shoulders as she tumbled down.

For a moment they were facing each other in a loose embrace. Penelo's breath hitched. She was no boy. Why did she feel a thrill to be so close?

Fran stepped away, lifted her arms and began to dance for the sky. Even Basch was hard-pressed not to gape. Penelo forgot to move, mesmerized.

"Did you Viera make love?" Penelo whispered, embarrassed by the noises coming from Ashe's tent. Balthier again, attending to their princess.

"We visit the Garif," Fran said, "once every five hundred years. But breeding is not love. Among heart-sisters, there is a different song."

Penelo snuggled against her. Phon's nights were cold, yet she was sweating. It was sensible to spoon for warmth, but lately, it had become disconcerting. She tingled wherever velvet-furred curves pressed against her.

“You taught me dancing,” said Fran. “Would you have me show you ours?”

Penelo nodded, tongue-tied.

Starting out slow, the Viera wove a net of silken touches over her flesh until she was quivering, then spun her around, kissing her eyelids, throat, breasts. Lower still, making her arch like a bow.

“Breathe,” Fran said, fingers leaping. “Breathe, and you will fly.”

Penelo danced.