Wednesday, April 15, 2015

103 - Fire Bird

 Kyriala folded her fan and wrapped both hands around the ivory handle, feeling the thrumming of the old music through her chair.  Where on the earthsphere had Minis found this entertainer? And why is it important that the Fehinnan ‘borrow’ her for a few eight-days? Hmmm.

“That Ambassador likes my looks better than yours,” Farasha whispered in her ear.  “He likes women and women who are his own colour.”

“I’d noticed,” Ky whispered back, and shifted slightly, very glad of the cushion on the dining chair.  Without it, she could just feel that she’d have been in pain before the first course was done. She felt overheated and ungainly and it was tremendously annoying that it always felt as though she had a cold coming on, her head stuffed and nose dripping.  “I’ve seen his entourage. They have very little differentiation between men and women’s status I’ve noticed.”

Farasha nodded and smiled as if Ky had said something amusing.  “He doesn’t understand any caste Arkan other than equal to equal, and not even that if spoken quickly.”

The tiny Zak dancer posed for a moment and then it was as though she lifted herself up and, touching Matthas Mahid once at the knee, once at the shoulder stood suddenly poised on the palm of his hand, lifted straight over his head. She bent backwards, slowly, ‘wings’ trailing over him, till she grasped her supporting ankle with both hands.

“Amazing,” Ky murmured.  “I’m quite jealous of my husband,” she said to the Ambassador. “He’s found this dancer before I did and she’s being debuted at his party first!” She snapped her fan open with a gasp as the woman began to spin on Matthas’s supporting hand, hand/foot/other hand/other foot faster and faster until her wings almost buzzed with the wind of her motion, perfectly timed with the music. Then froze as the music paused, on one toe, balanced on his palm, other leg stretched up over her head, arms curving gently, gracefully, as he began to turn in place.

“Very elegant,” the Ambassador said, and Kyriala caught a fleeting frown on Minis’s face.  The man was bored. He certainly wasn’t terribly interested in either this dancer, or her attendant.

A huff of breath drew her attention back to the entertainment, as the music – another ancient piece of music – began again. This time a gentle old ballad as the dancer was set on the floor and ran lightly straight up the wire holding the slack wire in place.  Farasha gasped as she stag-leapt and caught the upright at what looked like the last instant, spun around the pole like a flag before slipping down to the middle of the slack rope, on her feet, swinging back and forth as comfortable as though she were sitting on one of Ili’s swings.

That apparently caught the Ambassador’s attention and he grew more interested as she increased the arc of her swing until it flung her into the air, arms outstretched wings trailing as though she could fly without a wing, torn loose from the earth. Ky found herself catching her breath as the dancer seemed to hover. There was no net, the rope had fallen back surely she would fall, there was nowhere for her to land.

One outstretched hand caught a loop in a rope that was hooked straight to the ceiling, the long tail now in Matthas’s hand, below.

How did I not notice that rope? Ky thought. And how did she get so far over?

The Fehinnan was now rapt, watching the dancer, eyes narrowed, fingers over his mouth as he watched.

Matthas began to spin the rope so that it bellied out with her as the weight above, faster, and faster, her silks making ripping and crackling noises as she spun, by one hand parallel to the floor.

How on earth is she bearing that? He’s pushing her even faster.

As she spun she seemed to brighten, her silken wings seemed to spread and grow, trailing behind her like the afterimage of a candle blown out, without losing any of the brightness around her. She began to glow as though the speed of her spin was setting her on fire, the woman disappearing into the image of a fire-bird flying round and round the dining hall ceiling, trailing fire. 

Red and gold flames danced as feathers, tipped with blue-white flames, the body of the Fire Bird was too bright to look at, its head flung back seeming to sing the final high, glorious notes of the music.

People had their hands up in front of their faces, their shadows showed stark black behind them in the light streaming from above until with a thunderclap the Fire Bird exploded like a firework, showering everyone with shimmering, glittering stars that faded into mere candle light, revealing the dancer on the floor, once more in the elegant pose she’d started from, but with faint glitters of fading light outlining every feather of her costume.


And then applause as the Zak bounced upright and then down into a deep bow and Matthas, over by the rope, swept the floor with his hand.

“Very nice!” The Ambassador applauded enthusiastically and exclaimed in Enchian. “Nice!  Wonderful light show! Wonderful! You didn’t even set off your fire-pipes!” He gestured at the glasswork on the ceiling.

Minis raised his comb to the dancer and gestured ‘come’ with it.  “Megan Vitlak, please come, sit with us.  Speak with us!” He said in Arkan.  She hesitated and Matthas whispered in her ear.

They straightened and Matthas said. “These ones would be honoured, Imperator.” He went down in the prostration since his presence had been acknowledged by the Son of the Sun.

“Gehit… Come, sit.  The table is open to you!  Ambassador, this dancer and magician is from much further East and North.”

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