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Mar 2, 2007

Excerpt from The Faery's Maze

Chapter 1
First Row, First Column


A stately veil of birch hid Dindi from those she stalked. The trees encircled a wide clearing of stamped down reddish earth where the Tavaedis, the Chroma Dancers, practiced their Patterns. They began every day in the misty rose twilight before sunrise and ended when the noonday sunshine poured down molten gold.

Dindi roused herself earlier still, to hide in the woods before they arrived, and she dared not leave until after they were gone. She went there to watch them, to envy them, and, in shameful secrecy behind the trees, to imitate them. Her mimicry was clumsy beside their grace, she knew, but she could not help herself. Though she did not have the Chroma magic and never would have it, she loved to dance.

The Tavaedis performed at births, weddings, fairs, exorcisms, charmings -- in fact at any event of importance in the clanholds of the Corn Hills. These occasions kept them busy most afternoons. There were dance patterns effective for healing, for fertility, for fortune, for conflict. There was a dance for every stage of the community’s life.

Summer was drawing to a close, so the Pattern they were working on now would weave the magic to ensure a good harvest. They would perform it in its full bloom on the night of the Harvest Festival, with families from three clans in the audience. For now they had sprinkled salt on the ground to dampen any magic roused by the movements of their practice. Dindi had sprinkled salt around the ground in the woods where she danced too. Of course, Dindi herself had no magic worth dampening. But she'd found that salt also kept the pixies, sprites and willawisps away. Dindi liked the fae well enough. In fact, she bribed some to do her daily chores for her back on the clanhold while she was out here. It was just that their constant pranks made it difficult to concentrate. The fae had no respect whatsoever for human magic.

Today, Dindi had chosen to follow the steps of Marita, who danced Yellow. The Harvest Pattern called for several Yellows, which was good, since seven of the group's twenty-two Tavaedis danced Yellow. A true Tavaedi could only dance his or her Chroma. Since Dindi wasn't a true Tavaedi and it didn't matter what part she took, she had set herself to learning all of the parts. Every day she chose a different role model.

In two weaving rows, the Yellows traced boxes with their feet, stepping forward, leftward, backward, rightward. Their right hands plucked the air, their left hands opened to welcome guests. Abiono, the Leader of the Dance, yelled out the steps in a big bass voice that was only slightly warbled by age: “Pick the corn! Pick the corn! Now, circle, circle, left hand under, right hand over, and grind it, grind it, grind the corn! You must dance Yellow as carefully as a rich auntie counts the baskets she takes to barter at the market. Lads, take your corn maids and lift them by the waist…”

The Yellows were working up a good sweat coordinating their section. Dindi was sweating right along with them, when Kemla, a Red, interrupted them with her screeching.

“He does this on purpose to humiliate me!” Kemla brandished a scythe. It was a sacred object, with a precious obsidian blade, crucial to her part in the dance, but she flailed it about like a dangerous toy. “Why don't you do something about it? If you won't, I will! I don't care if he is the only Purple we have! I can't work with him!”

In his prime, Abiono, a Zavaedi as well as the troops’ Leader of the Dance, had trained for seven years in the Rainbow Labyrinth, tamed a horse and a wife from the Aurochs Plains, and proven himself in dance and battle as a warrior dancer with a Shining Name. Now, though, he was an aged man whose mind skipped more than his legs. He was a good teacher of the Patterns, but he was not equal to the temper of his diva.

Although Kemla and Tamio had only been Tavaedis for a year, they had proved themselves to be extraordinary dancers in the same test that Dindi had failed. Kemla was the only one out of all the clans in the Corn Hills who could dance Red. This talent made her the pride of Full Basket clan. Unfortunately, the obvious one to partner her was Tamio. To convince a cat to swim would have been easier. Born of Broken Basket Clan and a long line of Horse Tamers, he danced a powerful Purple and had already lured back a wild horse from the roaming herds last spring. He preferred breaking in his horse to spending time with Kemla, and Dindi couldn’t blame him.
From where Dindi stood, still panting, she couldn't hear Abiono's reply, but Dindi imagined it well enough. This was the third day in a row that Tamio had been late arriving at practice.

“He has no right to make the rest of us wait!” Kemla screamed in response to Abiono. Abiono muttered something else, which only set her off again.

“Why should I care if the Yellows need practice?” Kemla slashed at the air with her scythe. “By the Seven Faeries, they should know their steps by now, a sow could do those steps. It's the duet between Red and Purple that ensures our harvests are twice as plentiful as those of any other clanholds this or that side of the hills!”

Dindi sighed. She knew what was coming. Although Dindi felt sorry for the Yellows, she also felt a little thrill, because the simple truth was that Kemla was by far and away the best Tavaedi of them all. Dindi longed to dance even a sliver as well as Kemla. Every time Kemla danced, Dindi focused on Kemla as her role model. She had a stick ready to use as her own “scythe.”

Sure enough, Abiono decided to appease Kemla by giving the Yellows a break and going over her steps with her by herself. Kemla smiled in triumph. Tossing her long black braid over her shoulder, she strode to the center of the clearing where she gripped the scythe and started her steps. Abiono called them as she danced them.

“Red begins in a fall!”

Kemla dove headfirst to the ground and rolled smoothly and leaped back to her feet.

Oh, but those rolls were hard. Dindi’s arms and shoulders had erected a bruise as memorial to every mistake she’d made in learning to fall. Eventually, her rolls had smoothed. However, Dindi had discovered that the best way to avoid any pebbles was to not touch the ground at all. If she rolled fast and high enough, the earth forgot to grab her before she was flipped and up on her feet.

“Red rises like a flame!”

Kemla leaped into the air, scythe held parallel over her head, her legs forming a split parallel to the ground. In the woods, Dindi did the same move.

“Red cuts down, Red destroys!” shouted Abiono. Kemla slashed the scythe, right, left, over her head. She whirled it and passed it around her waist. She slashed the air; she punched it. “You must dance Red as if you are beating your most hated enemy to death!”

Every color had its own mode, its own moves and mood. You cannot dance Red, Abiono often said. You must burn Red.

Kemla burned.

Screened by the woods, Dindi mirrored each fiery movement. The climax of the dance built to a complex series of handless cartwheels and round kicks.

“Fa-la, what have we here?” burst out a boy’s voice over barely suppressed laughter. “Can it be that there are two Red Tavaedis in the Corn Hills?”

Dindi whirled around, and not because it was a move in the dance.

There stood Tamio.

*

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I rather like this story. Having a love for dance, I find the dance moves and interpretation very interesting and a useful metaphor for "belonging." Where can I find the rest of this story?

By the way, I like the title Rainbow Dancer, but I guess I would have to read the whole thing to know for sure.

Sandy

Tara Maya said...

Thanks. I've actually rewritten the entire novel, so that scene, considerably revised, is now in Book 2.