Elven Dance

I was looking through some of my old stuff and I found something that was actually published. Well, barely published, considering it was in a “webzine” back in 2002 that is now defunct. But still. It’s pretty bad, but I’m going to share it with you all anyway. Please be kind, I was very young and just starting this writing thing.

(published in Demensions, 2002)

She was late.

She moved quickly on the forest path, feet automatically falling on the thickest layers of pine needles so that she moved silently. The world was dark, especially here under the trees. Something twinkled in the distance and she immediately looked towards the light. Her sharp eyes saw the flicker of a fire, possibly a campfire, or perhaps another like the one like she was headed toward. Normally, elves did not make a fire for everyone to see, but tonight—well, tonight was different. She was curious, and wished she could investigate whether the fire was the work of careless humans or that of another elven tribe, but she had something more important to do.

The forest was dark around her, but not silent. There was the occasional screech of an owl or the longing song of the nightingale, accompanied by a chorus of crickets and cicadas. Sometimes, she would turn a corner and see a group of fireflies in their mating dance, flashing in the dark like little globes of light. There were fewer of them this year, though—fewer of everything, because of the drought. There had been little rain the year before and practically no snow this last winter. The spring had been the driest in many years. Most of the streams had dried up, and many of the rivers were so low that they were little more than pockets of soupy mud. The carpet of needles on the forest floor was thicker, and the crop of summer fruits and berries incredibly small.

A pair of golden eyes peered out at her from a straggly bush. They were too small to belong to a cougar; it was more likely a bobcat or a lynx. Not wanting to scare it, she stopped, bowing her head respectfully, and waited for it to make a move. Finally, a slim, sleek, adult bobcat emerged to gaze at her, ears pricked forward. Then, as if it realized the importance of her task, it turned and, with a grace only bestowed on felines, slipped into the forest on silent feet.

Once more she headed for her destiny, moving a little faster now. He would not be happy with her for her tardiness. She felt a flash of nervousness, and immediately squashed it. Her hands straightened her leather belt and smoothed her tunic, then reached up to tuck her silver hair behind her ears. She had thought about her outfit carefully. At first, she had chosen a formal gown, but a gown would get caught in her feet and legs during the ceremony. Robes were out for the same reason. She had finally settled on tight brown silk leggings and a loose fitting tunic of fine dark green velvet, a formal outfit normally reserved for hunts with the king. She had decided against wearing a sword, as it would serve no purpose where she was going.

The ceremony was rare. She had only seen it three times in all of her two thousand years of life. Each time, an elven maiden was chosen for her grace and musical talent to perform the Dance and call the Goddess. A male was chosen also, for his ability to

dance and move gracefully, but also for his strength. He had the difficult part of the ceremony.

***

She came around the last turn and saw the meadow before her, wilted grass surrounding a huge bonfire. He was there, waiting for her.

“You’re late,” he said.

“Yes.” She made no excuses, knowing that excuses didn’t matter.

“Come, it is time to start.”

She nodded and moved into the meadow. Looking up, she saw the bright, full moon, its light somewhat dimmed by the fire before her. She could see no stars, so the moon looked like it had been set on a blanket of the finest, darkest velvet. She closed her eyes and felt the crisped grass beneath her feet, the dusty dirt, and the occasional rock. Her breathing slowed and she counted her heartbeats. One. Two. Three. Soon, she could no longer separate her heartbeat from the Earth’s rhythms. She was connected to everything and her body thrummed with natural energy. A hand touched her shoulder lightly and she opened her eyes. He was standing before her and for an instant, she thought he had antlers—antlers like those of the bucks in summer. His eyes shone silver in the moonlight, and she knew that he, too, could feel the Earth breathe.

She knew what to do now, although she had never been taught. Her feet moved of their own accord as she walked around the fire. Three times she circled it, each time repeating the same words:

“Maiden, help us; Mother, heed us; Crone, hear us. Goddess, bless us with Your tears and give the world Your love.”

She stopped. It was his turn. He circled the fire in opposite direction, but he, too, went around three times and said a prayer:

“Horned-One, help us; Great God, heed us; Consort, hear us. Give Your life to us, and fertilize the world with Your love.”

He stopped next to her. Their hands touched, and then, they were dancing. Around the fire they went, feet flickering, hair flying. She began to sing, her voice clear and smooth, rising above the crackling of the fire that provided the beat for her song. It had no words, but conveyed it every emotion. She painted pictures of loss, war, anger, love, sadness, lust, and longing. As she sang and they danced, she felt herself, her soul, being suffused with life. It was as if a part of herself she hadn’t known existed decided to finally show itself. They danced faster and her song became wilder, echoing the feel of a wood during a fire, the fierceness of the predator before a kill.

Suddenly, as if two giant puzzle pieces had finally come together, she was complete.

“I’m whole!” she cried to the heavens, announcing the melding of her soul.

She saw nothing but bliss, so she missed the glint of moonlight on the blade of the ax. She didn’t notice as it was raised above her, or even that she bent her knees and knelt before it. The blade flashed as it came down, and she was welcomed into the arms of her Goddess, her blood soaking the dried earth.

***

He sagged as the god-energy flowed out of him. He saw the still form lying on the ground, saw the ax in his hand, smeared with her blood. He didn’t remember swinging it, but he must have. He raised his face to the moon, brighter now that the fire had flickered and died.

“It is done, Goddess and Horned-One! Hear me!”

Already, the sky had become hazy and the moon seemed surrounded by an aura. Soon, the moon was peeking in and out of white, puffy, clouds. And then it was gone, as black, rain heavy clouds rolled in. After a year of drought, it rained on the Midsummer dawn, following the Ceremony of Sacrifice.

Praise be to the Gods.

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