Kallijas and I were both on the Presentation Balcony watching the end of the Kofabilgan ritual dances on Anae 20. Kall was in the full Regent's regalia and sat on the throne while I stood. It had been two years that I had been standing next to him but to some part of me it was always the first time. I kept having to shake myself mentally, look to what was different, because of the sheer number of times I’d been forced to stand calmly next to the fat guy while we watched something. Sometimes it had been horrific but sometimes it had just been ritual like this.
I watched the two groups of men, each wearing the elaborate costumes for the dance, with a different eye now. It was a symbolic struggle danced on green painted cloths laid out on the white marble, broken into five separate dances. A sacred ‘half-ten’ I supposed.
I glanced sideways at Kall who leaned on one elbow his chin on his hand. It was his war-training look. He'd never analysed this particular ritual before, but merely watched it. Very different from the boredom the fat guy had always showed at this dance. “It's very different watched from above. When I was home on leave I only saw it from the ground and it was never so clear. You can see that it must have originally been some kind of war-game or training. The two sides the way they face each other. That one on both sides...” He indicated with his chin. “Is obviously the Imperator/general and each of the dancers plays out his part in the war.”
I could see it once it was pointed out and nodded. The dancer’s bells and the long straight horns that droned from the characters dancing around the edges drowned out any chance of either of us saying any more for a short while. I indicated a lithe dancer sliding patterns through the deflinas, the larger dancers with sweeping wing-sleeves representing foot solas. “The slobas dancer carries the icon through the opposing dancers, then they switch. A formalized war.”
“Interesting that the dances are performed in certain moons through the year.”
“I wonder who came up with it? Has the Fenjitzas mentioned anything?” Since it was always male dancers I was assuming it was him who would have any idea.
“No, but it could be—“ he cast his eye back to the underchamberlain. “Minis, the first of your wedding guests is arriving. They are about a bead out. It’s Sukala. I shall be staying to see the end of this dance, as is proper, though I’m covered in far too much ego to greet her.” He grinned. “To be honest, you’re fine as you are too. It’s not as if we have to match our guests in status.”
I grinned back at him. Also very very different from any kind of state reception my father held. A huge relief. “To match Sukala I’d have to give my servants bleeding eyes from the clashing colours and styles.”
“She’ll out-do you in heartbeat lad, just by being herself. So do you need to go get yourself set?”
“No. This next dance is the last and is the last tenth. I should give it my careful attention.”
“Good.” He’d been testing me, even now. I suppressed a minor twinge of irritation. If he was good at tweaking my tendency to any kind of puffed up self-importance, I reminded myself that his teacher at ego-tweaking was just arriving. And the most of my emotion was a glow of gratitude that I’d learned enough to do the right thing that he hadn’t tripped me up with his test. His ‘good’ was worth an entire book of Tobeas’s fruity ‘Excellent, Spark of the Sun’s Rays!’.
I straightened up and picked up the bell sitting on the table to hand so I could add my part to the sound of the dance, since the last one of the five always had everyone making some kind of noise; shouting, should they not be able to afford even wooden bells or rattles, at the appropriate moments.