Squires Edward and Zachary stroll along the feasting tables
along the edges of the octagonal commons (the plot of ground
the people of Granordhail own). Smoke from the common fire pits
carries the scents of roasting the remainder of the winter
meats. Aromas drift off of the platters of baked rolls and of
candied-fruit pies and cobblers arriving from the bakery.
Zachary’s father, one of the two Brew Masters, calls over
volunteers to unload kegs of winter ale, the last of the stores.
We feast today and then fast until the first buds of spring
appear, Edward reminds himself. His mouth waters at the
food being laid out, and his stomach growls at the thought of
Zachary elbows him. “Who are you going to bond with?”
Edward stupidly shakes his head. Everything seems so very
different on this edge of the world. “I’m betrothed.”
Zachary laughs with that dark, haunted grunt of his. "Nay. Not
like that. It’s just for the year. You pick one this year. Pick
one next year. And when Rolland, Father of Edward, sends for
you, you need only wait a few months before doing your Family
Duty and complete the arranged marriage. Besides, my sisters
want to dance with you."
Edward fails to correct Zachary – his father’s name isn’t
Rolland; just one more difference between the ends of the world.
He feels his throat close up. “Which one?”
Zachary laughs again, “All of them.” He turns and leads up onto
the green where the bards are beginning to play dancing music.
Edward quickly scans the gathering with men wearing tunics
barely laced at the belt and women in bustiers showing far more
than throat. This Celebration of Lunas held many similarities
as the ones of his youth at home but tilted into the really
strange. Four … five … six, he counts. Only the
youngest of his sisters … Snow, who is three, isn’t here.
“Remember,” Zachary continues on oblivious to Edward’s
discomfort, "The point of the dance is to determine who you
want to bond with. You only have until the fullness of Lunas
reaches His Zenith to decide. So, you need to get out there and
And, then Edward finds himself propelled into Kaelo who is
walking beside Zachary’s twin, Zeph. And true to form, Edward’s
tongue twists itself into knots and attempts to stuff itself
down his throat. Not for any of the reasons people would think.
There is something different about Kaelo, and by that, he
means surrounds her. She carries something that is neither
light nor law. Her aura whispers that she knows secrets. And in
the end, it is this otherness that scatters his thoughts,
garbles his tongue, and twines his limbs together.
Of course, Kaelo is the eldest sister to Zachary and Zeph. The
one who inherits all the land and money of her wealthy family.
And the worst kept secret in town is that their mother wants
noble ties to go along with that money.
“Come, Edward, I know you can dance. I have seen it. Untangle
your fingers and take my hands. You need not talk… just
dance…" Kaelo smiles gently, placing her hand on Edward’s arm,
and waits for him to lead her to the pavilion’s dance floor.
“I only dance with those that at worthy of my attention, and no
one is worthy of my attention," Edward says in a tone of voice
that is stating a fact. "You should find someone else to dance
“And there is no one here worthy of my attention either. You
choose then, stand here and be accosted by many or dance with
me, your friend, and not have to deal with those beneath you."
“That, my friend, is a good idea. Let’s Dance.” He leads her to
the dance floor.
Rafferty finds himself at the edge of the Commons along with
those who might advance to be little more than charlatans, con
artists, and hucksters – or better known as his fellow
apprentices. And as the group moves into the Commons, the first
of the entertainment items they find has the bard students
performing a romantic tragedy.
Celeste whimpers as the baby kicks. She rolls over in a vain
attempt to find a comfortable position on the birthing mat that
her mother and aunts had woven.She tries her side and stares
into the fire. The kicking and other pain ease. It is not yet
her turn to be chained to the statue of Chakras, the god of
fertility. And that act will be the first binding for her child
to follow the path of Chakras. She drifts asleep once more.
“It is thy time,” the priestess says as she shakes Celeste
She shakes her head. "There must be another who is further
along than I."
The priestess smiles. “Thou art the last.”
Celeste looks wildly about the temple cave. She is indeed alone
with the priestess. Even the dozens of other mats have been
taken away to be burned to send the family’s prayers to the
setting Chakras. “But,” she whispers. "His father has not
The priestess nods with sadness and caresses the bulging belly.
“Thou canst wait no longer. Thy child is ripe. We must act now
lest he begin to rot within you."
“But, without a father….”
“He must find his own path to honor Chakras.”
“But, what if he rejects Chakras?”
The priestess remains silent for a time. She turns and faces
the fire. "Some must be banished. Some have found homes among
the humans and the other lesser races. A rare few have even
fallen in with the dwarves and now be bound to serve the giants."
Then she turns back to Celeste. "We will do everything we can
to keep that from happening." She kneels to aid Celeste up.
“Come. It is thy time.”
Rafferty turns away as “Celeste” screams during the play’s
portrayal of childbirth. Like all elven children, he has the
hundred official variations of The Day the Giants Fell
memorized. While it is too early to determine which version is
being performed, the local bard students are likely to pick a
version which is uncontroversial, and plays well to the races
huddled about Granordhail. They will probably follow this play
up with a dwarven play about “The Escape.” As if two plays will
explain why the two eldest cultures failed to get along for
vast tracks of history: "Oh! Initially they were on opposite
sides of the war" really failed to cover their differences.
Fortunately things have changed since Chakras died, he
thinks of the play. Even if we have kept the birthing caves
“Will you dance with me?” Sierra asks as she blinks rapidly at
him as if she has something in her eye while exposing the
reason for her name, a long jagged chain of sharp, uneven, and
chipped teeth. Hiding behind her dumpy exterior which more
often than not is surprisingly clumsy, she keeps a keen mind
for magic. While not graceful nor no more subtle than a bolt of
lightning in the middle of a clear night, she enjoys all of the
arts practiced by Chakras: War, Torture, Suffering, and
Fertility. She holds out her hand to him.
He smiles thinly as he remembers that Chakras rises in the
Planting House – the peak of the dying ember’s gift of
fertility – upon the eve. Lunas, the Angel of Moon and
Fertility, rises full and ripe with its promises. And, the new
eve is the Spring Equinox which is better known as the
Celebration of Lunas, and during which time creatures all
around the world find a partner and work to invoke Lunas’
blessings. In all, the most fertile night in centuries.
Rafferty ponders her hand for a moment, and nods. "I will dance
a dance with you, Sierra." He takes her hand and moves toward
the pavilion with the bards and music.
As Rafferty sets off across the Commons with Sierra, he
realizes how grave an error he made in acquiescing to her
The bard on drums lays out a strong dance beat while the bard
on the mandolin strums one of the sickly tunes that passes for
a love ballad. As the unfortunate lyrics spill forth, Rafferty
recognizes them as a horrifying translation of an ancient elven
battle march. While the original poem speaks of loving thy
weapons, the song moans more like an orgy of rutting orcs.
Mercifully, the song staggers to an abrupt ending – like a
drunkard walking along the edge of a cliff. Thankfully, it cut
short the hours of stanzas describing the thrusting of swords,
the rhythmic rising and falling of shields, and the shifting of
spear formations for better penetration.
The dwarves, for whom dancing is not about grace and lines but
instead is about athletic prowess, hoot loudly in approval of
the song as they swing their dance partners once more to
finally land upon the pavilion’s floor. Of course the next
stanza of the ill-advised poem celebrates all the dwarves that
will be punctured with the elven arrows. The
not-particularly-bright bard probably realized the lyrical
meaning just before inciting the dwarves to demonstrate their
physical prowess on him.
As Rafferty and Sierra arrive at the pavilion, a new mandolin
playing bard comes out to replace the other. The drummer pounds
out a strange counter beat as the lyrics call upon a poem which
Rafferty doesn’t know. It speaks of a troubled love affair, and
the cords actually stir some emotion.
“That’s the Squire’s brother, Zepher,” Sierra whispers in his
ear as he takes her hand and places his other upon the small of
“Am I a pawn in a Greater dance Sierra?” Rafferty asks, as he
tries to keep a space between them during the dance.
She arches an eyebrow at him. "Oh, please. There are
requirements for playing ‘hard to get.’" Her face becomes
thoughtful and the gears of unpleasant thoughts begin to spin.
“Although… if you take an interest in him, I know how you can
get his attention." A bone chilling smile flirts across her
lips. “That might be exceptionally entertaining to watch.”