Lord of the Dance

COW4 Lord of the Dance Continuing the time-slip story, <em>Can of Worms</em>, a 16 year old girl’s rune-aided hunt for a serial-killer . . . Read on Music. Loud. The drums thrum through me. They stir my blood, they make me move. How can I sit still? But tapping my foot, clapping my hands, that’s not enough. I glance at my mother—No, that’s not my mother! She looks nothing like. But whoever she is, she isn’t looking at me and that pleases. I’m up on my feet and weaving my way to where the others are dancing, away from the fire-pit, the tables and door. I stay away from the mist-wreathed ‘white wasps’: two women, nasty creatures, seductive to men, spiteful to women. How do I know that? And how know their names that reel through me—Atall and Zelina—and that they’re scornful to me and my mother? Regardless, I find a space far from them. But now I’m directly in view of the lord’s high table. That’s not by intent, by Johan and Jove, it is not. For that delivers me plain in sight of my mother-who’s-not-my-mother. Her disapproval plays loud in my head. I ignore it, now music-taken. I care nothing for pipes, it’s the drums. That god-drum, that big drum; it holds me and sways me and lifts up my feet. I jump—I can’t help it. I swirl and stamp. The drums take me to some joyous place, nary a care. I dance, whirling about me the rune-rod. I’ve become unseeing of the men who number most of the dancers; unseeing, too, of those mist-haloed beings that sidle between them. I’m not with them, I’m alone with the music. The music and me. My mother’s discomfit sounds again, doubly thick with disapprobation. I can feel her invisible hands as she forces my head to flex around, to look at Stefan. More memories flood me. Stefan, lord of this feast and this hall, my guardian since Uncle Nihel died eight mournful years back. Stefan, devout and cerebral, more of a cleric than a warrior-lord. How well he and my mother are suited—except, though Stefan tolerates the mist-haloed beings in his hall, he doesn’t approve them. And now he has issued an edict: Within the week, all must be gone. As I turn my face sharply from him I raise up a curtain between us. I have that ability. Ethereal, yet that curtain forms a wall as impenetrable as that raised between this hall and Hindrelagh. Ethereal, yet full-real to me. And I grin, to be no more wound about with their disapproval. This is our last night in the hall, my mother, myself and these others—Stefan at least has the grace to feast us. It’s <em>their</em> last night in the world of men, but not mine. My mother-who’s-not-my-mother won’t allow me to go off with them to their various homelands. <em>She</em> has other plans for us, plans I’ve had no part in the making. Plans I don’t particularly like. And now tears well though I try to stop them. How dare I have tears to ruin this night when all I want is to dance and be happy. Metallic fingers, hard and cold, encircle and close on my arm, unregarding of my flesh. Those fingers drag me from the dance. Pointless to struggle: I know that grip belongs to Hegrea. And I know no one will notice what’s happening here, for Hegrea has powers far beyond me. Away from the crowded fire-warmed hall the night air slaps me. I stumble backwards, released from her grasp and the god-drum’s hold. A stone wall catches me. “Never have I known a more ungrateful child in all my years.” Hegrea now becomes a ghostly vision in the moon’s light. She growls at me, “<em>You</em> should not even exist, begotten after the Oath. And <em>you</em> complain you haven’t a will of your own?” “I’ve said nothing. I’ve kept my complaints to myself. And neither am I a child. Since a few months back I‘ve been of age.” Hegrea has no need to snort her derision, I feel it cutting through me, mocking at my naivety. “Fool! You don’t need to voice words. We all can see them, clear as log-sparks in the night air. Aye, so you don’t want to go to Brittany with your guardian. Well that I do understand and with that I can sympathise. He makes little secret of what he’ll do with you there. Consigned to a convent, out of his way, sorted for life. Aye, unjust, isn’t it, when your brother Edmund is to be made his man, knighted, girded and besworded. Unjust that a Bellinn knight might exist where a Bellinn woman might not. But that’s the world we live in, child. What have I heard you call it? <em>This world of men.</em> Aye, how rightly said. And you know nothing of it, yet.” I try to speak but Hegrea won’t have it. I have memories of knowing her all my years yet I’ve never seen her angry like this. She exudes a light that roars like a fire around her, though within it she remains pale as a moon-kiss. She shakes her head at me, her anger cooling. “Yet you and your mother, you refuse to flee with your nearest kin. There, amongst them, at least you’d be safe. There <em>you</em> could dance—dance till you wear your feet to stumps. But, nay, nay, not her, not you, for you neither like Atall and Zelina, and no doubt many others. I shan’t ask you why. You might have to think of a reason.” I try to cut in a word. Yet even as I open my mouth I’ve forgotten what I would say. “It was your mother gave you life after the Oath,” she says. “<em>We</em> owe you nothing. <em>She</em> is all that you have. Unless you want the life that Stefan offers. Nay—is it nix? Then you’ll accept what your mother has for you. And, for Hlæfdi’s sake, do be careful with that stick!” “It’s a rod,” I snap at her. “A gift from Nihel. Jealous?” “What, you think <em>that</em> compares with what Nihel gave me? How much you’ve to learn, little one. Now, you think on what I’ve said, of your choices.” Choices? Huh! I have none. It seems Hegrea is all angered-out. And now she speaks directly into her head. <em>I, too, find it unjust. I, too, am grieving for Nihel. Grieving, too, that now we must leave what once was your father’s hall. But, child, you know such things must be accepted.</em> “Will it be so tragic to go south with your mother?” she asks, again resorting to mouth-speech. Tenderly, with a pale hand, she strokes my tear-stained cheek. “Though I confess, child, I’ve not her confidence in her family, that they’ll be as willing to take her in as when her own mother took her there in need of shelter. Yet at least there you and she will still be in the ‘world of men’, which seems to be what the both of you want.” She reverts to head-speech. But I have to strain to hear her, her voice now fading. <em>Listen, and remember. As well as your mother’s, you are and always will be Le Roussel’s daughter.</em> . . . A spectral light seeped through the curtains. It was coming on dawn. A dream, but not one I’ve had before. And it had left me with several questions—of the ‘Bellinn’ this Hegrea mentioned; of the mist that haloed the musicians and singers, most of the dancers—my dream-mother, her kinswomen, all aglow with coloured lights like they’re Christmas tree fairies. And there in that dream I was holding a wand; waving it, whirling it around me. I strained to look over my shoulder at my shelf, my cabinet of curiosities. But that wasn’t enough, I had to hold it. For a long, long time, I sat on the edge of my bed, just looking at it. <em>Nyd Is Hægl . Rad . Wynn Rad Eoh Tir Os Nyd</em> N.I.H. Could that be ‘Nihel’? Could this really be the same wand as the one in my dream? I shivered, my stomach churning. For if that dream were in any way real . . . what of that other dream, of being decapitated? LINE Next episode, <em>All This G’Boody</em>, Wednesday 3rd MayContinuing the time-slip story, Can of Worms, a 16 year old girl’s rune-aided hunt for a serial-killer . . . Read on

Music. Loud. The drums thrum through me. They stir my blood, they make me move. How can I sit still? But tapping my foot, clapping my hands, that’s not enough. I glance at my mother—No, that’s not my mother! She looks nothing like. But whoever she is, she isn’t looking at me and that pleases. I’m up on my feet and weaving my way to where the others are dancing, away from the fire-pit, the tables and door.

I stay away from the mist-wreathed ‘white wasps’: two women, nasty creatures, seductive to men, spiteful to women. How do I know that? And how know their names that reel through me—Atall and Zelina—and that they’re scornful to me and my mother? Regardless, I find a space far from them.

But now I’m directly in view of the lord’s high table. That’s not by intent, by Johan and Jove, it is not. For that delivers me plain in sight of my mother-who’s-not-my-mother. Her disapproval plays loud in my head. I ignore it, now music-taken.

I care nothing for pipes, it’s the drums. That god-drum, that big drum; it holds me and sways me and lifts up my feet. I jump—I can’t help it. I swirl and stamp. The drums take me to some joyous place, nary a care. I dance, whirling about me the rune-rod. I’ve become unseeing of the men who number most of the dancers; unseeing, too, of those mist-haloed beings that sidle between them. I’m not with them, I’m alone with the music. The music and me.

My mother’s discomfit sounds again, doubly thick with disapprobation. I can feel her invisible hands as she forces my head to flex around, to look at Stefan. More memories flood me. Stefan, lord of this feast and this hall, my guardian since Uncle Nihel died eight mournful years back. Stefan, devout and cerebral, more of a cleric than a warrior-lord. How well he and my mother are suited—except, though Stefan tolerates the mist-haloed beings in his hall, he doesn’t approve them. And now he has issued an edict: Within the week, all must be gone.

As I turn my face sharply from him I raise up a curtain between us. I have that ability. Ethereal, yet that curtain forms a wall as impenetrable as that raised between this hall and Hindrelagh. Ethereal, yet full-real to me. And I grin, to be no more wound about with their disapproval.

This is our last night in the hall, my mother, myself and these others—Stefan at least has the grace to feast us. It’s their last night in the world of men, but not mine. My mother-who’s-not-my-mother won’t allow me to go off with them to their various homelands. She has other plans for us, plans I’ve had no part in the making. Plans I don’t particularly like. And now tears well though I try to stop them. How dare I have tears to ruin this night when all I want is to dance and be happy.

Metallic fingers, hard and cold, encircle and close on my arm, unregarding of my flesh. Those fingers drag me from the dance. Pointless to struggle: I know that grip belongs to Hegrea. And I know no one will notice what’s happening here, for Hegrea has powers far beyond me.

Away from the crowded fire-warmed hall the night air slaps me. I stumble backwards, released from her grasp and the god-drum’s hold. A stone wall catches me.

“Never have I known a more ungrateful child in all my years.” Hegrea now becomes a ghostly vision in the moon’s light. She growls at me, “You should not even exist, begotten after the Oath. And you complain you haven’t a will of your own?”

“I’ve said nothing. I’ve kept my complaints to myself. And neither am I a child. Since a few months back I‘ve been of age.”

Hegrea has no need to snort her derision, I feel it cutting through me, mocking at my naivety.

“Fool! You don’t need to voice words. We all can see them, clear as log-sparks in the night air. Aye, so you don’t want to go to Brittany with your guardian. Well that I do understand and with that I can sympathise. He makes little secret of what he’ll do with you there. Consigned to a convent, out of his way, sorted for life. Aye, unjust, isn’t it, when your brother Edmund is to be made his man, knighted, girded and besworded. Unjust that a Bellinn knight might exist where a Bellinn woman might not. But that’s the world we live in, child. What have I heard you call it? This world of men. Aye, how rightly said. And you know nothing of it, yet.”

I try to speak but Hegrea won’t have it. I have memories of knowing her all my years yet I’ve never seen her angry like this. She exudes a light that roars like a fire around her, though within it she remains pale as a moon-kiss.

She shakes her head at me, her anger cooling. “Yet you and your mother, you refuse to flee with your nearest kin. There, amongst them, at least you’d be safe. There you could dance—dance till you wear your feet to stumps. But, nay, nay, not her, not you, for you neither like Atall and Zelina, and no doubt many others. I shan’t ask you why. You might have to think of a reason.”

I try to cut in a word. Yet even as I open my mouth I’ve forgotten what I would say.

“It was your mother gave you life after the Oath,” she says. “We owe you nothing. She is all that you have. Unless you want the life that Stefan offers. Nay—is it nix? Then you’ll accept what your mother has for you. And, for Hlæfdi’s sake, do be careful with that stick!”

“It’s a rod,” I snap at her. “A gift from Nihel. Jealous?”

“What, you think that compares with what Nihel gave me? How much you’ve to learn, little one. Now, you think on what I’ve said, of your choices.”

Choices? Huh! I have none.

It seems Hegrea is all angered-out. And now she speaks directly into her head. I, too, find it unjust. I, too, am grieving for Nihel. Grieving, too, that now we must leave what once was your father’s hall. But, child, you know such things must be accepted.

“Will it be so tragic to go south with your mother?” she asks, again resorting to mouth-speech. Tenderly, with a pale hand, she strokes my tear-stained cheek. “Though I confess, child, I’ve not her confidence in her family, that they’ll be as willing to take her in as when her own mother took her there in need of shelter. Yet at least there you and she will still be in the ‘world of men’, which seems to be what the both of you want.”

She reverts to head-speech. But I have to strain to hear her, her voice now fading. Listen, and remember. As well as your mother’s, you are and always will be Le Roussel’s daughter.

. . .

A spectral light seeped through the curtains. It was coming on dawn. A dream, but not one I’ve had before. And it had left me with several questions—of the ‘Bellinn’ this Hegrea mentioned; of the mist that haloed the musicians and singers, most of the dancers—my dream-mother, her kinswomen, all aglow with coloured lights like they’re Christmas tree fairies. And there in that dream I was holding a wand; waving it, whirling it around me.

I strained to look over my shoulder at my shelf, my cabinet of curiosities. But that wasn’t enough, I had to hold it. For a long, long time, I sat on the edge of my bed, just looking at it.

Nyd Is Hægl . Rad . Wynn Rad Eoh Tir Os Nyd N.I.H. Could that be ‘Nihel’? Could this really be the same wand as the one in my dream?

I shivered, my stomach churning. For if that dream were in any way real . . . what of that other dream, of being decapitated?


Next episode, All This G’Boody

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About crimsonprose

After years as a multi-colour octopus in entertainment, now chilling and writing
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28 Responses to Lord of the Dance

  1. Judy says:

    Now I like that term ‘head speech’, now makes it seem completely natural and ordinary among those who can communicate in that manner, those who can both send and receive. Would in fact be great to communicate with thought…well especially with my ears having gone south. Better than a cochlear implant.

    • crimsonprose says:

      It would be convenient, wouldn’t it. And in theory it might be possible. Explanation of the hows and whys are given later, towards the end of the story (though it may not be immediately obvious that it applies to this ‘head speech’.

      • Judy says:

        Hopefully she dreams of someone else, ancestor perhaps, through herself, but not the one actually in the decapitation dream…just seeing it.

      • crimsonprose says:

        Hmm . .. but not the one in the decapitation scene, hey? You know, sometimes bad things have to happen. Otherwise the fiction is pretty naff! But don’t take that to indicate in any way what might, sooner or later, happen. Keep reading.

    • Brian Bixby says:

      Though there are conceptual problems with telepathy. What do you “read” in another person’s mind? Is it like picking up a radio transmission? Or do you think like the person you are reading? If they move, do you move? There are many messy possibilities.

      I had a philosophy professor back in my undergraduate days who pointed out that while telepathy apparently promises to give us direct proof of the minds of others, in fact it is open to the same objections Locke and Hume made about the other senses, that we would only know we have received sense impressions, and that the impressions are not the same as the reality, but only what aspect of that reality is transmitted to us.

      • crimsonprose says:

        There is a growing body of ‘thought’ (or should that be speculation or opinion?) that the brain is not the generator of consciousness, and therefore thought, but the receiver of it. I like this idea, since it explains certain of my own experiences. It also explains telepathy which can thus be seen as receiving consciousness (or only thoughts) broadcast to another person. What it doesn’t explain . . . and I’ve yet to see it answered satisfactorily, is whence these thoughts or consciousness. The Nous-sphere?
        As to content (thought, sense, emotion), in the Asaric Tales I allow all three, yet my own take on this would query the physical senses, these, by definition, belonging to the body.

      • Brian Bixby says:

        Which brings us back to the validity of Cartesian mind-body dualism. I’m becoming less and less convinced with years that dualism can be made to work. Oddly enough, it was the AI debates of the 1970s-90s that began my doubts.

      • crimsonprose says:

        By which you mean what? I ask for clarification so I don’t go careering off at a tangent, as is my wont! 🙂

      • Brian Bixby says:

        WE ARE ALREADY ON A TANGENT. And that’s OK, especially as I’m partly responsible. 😉

        Oh, yeah, the AI debates. The classic case is the computer that gives you reactions that cannot be distinguished from a human. Is it conscious? One of the anti-AI polemicists imagined a computer falling out of a building, displaying the word “HELP!” on its screen as it fell to its death.

        Personally, I’m pretty sure that my laptop is not conscious, at least not in the human sense. Perhaps it’s demonic.

      • crimsonprose says:

        I have big queries about what exactly is meant by ‘conscious’. When I was rushed to hospital with encephalitis and meningitis I am told (by my daughter who accompanied me) that I did not lose consciousness. I was awake . . . However, I was not AWARE. In fact, my experience was of drifting in and out of consciousness, though not quite as if fainting (at which I’m ace). So, what is meant by consciousness? Awareness? But on what level? Is a cat conscious in the way we humans are when it reacts to stimuli? Take that further and ask the same of an amoeba.
        The workings of the brain, and mind (which are no way the same) has always interested me. Almost as if to prepare for the experience of ‘losing awareness’ just prior to my illness I had been reading a book the claimed to clarify what happens in the brain during thought processes, as revealed by the latest head-scans.
        Personally, I’d put it all in a washing machine and see what comes out. 🙂

      • Brian Bixby says:

        I remember having similar reflections when I had a student in one of my classes who suffered from seizures in which she would appear to be normal, except that a) she’d make an odd jerking motion with her head at regular intervals, and b) she would not remember anything that was going on during the seizure. Just what was going on in her consciousness? Anything? Nothing? And I couldn’t ask — that would have violated the contemporary rules of student-teacher interactions.

      • crimsonprose says:

        Chances are high that said student wasn’t aware of anything. Like, nothingness. That’s something that kept repeating in Chris Sizemore’s book; yet while she wasn’t ‘aware’ (like total absence) one of her alter beings was running the show.

      • Judy says:

        Well I guess I’d think of it as direct transmittal of someone else’s reality. You might witness a thing and react a certain way and ‘read’ the way the other person reacted. I guess I do think of it as reading or overhearing rather than sharing the feelings or emotions. It is removed by one.

      • crimsonprose says:

        Removed by one: I like that

  2. Brian Bixby says:

    Hegrea turns up in quite a few of your stories. The shamanistic elements of this story do make it seem an appropriate place for her.

  3. Judy says:

    Well I only recognized the name Hegrea but did not recall which story/ies for sure and I am a Neve fan. I probably should reread it also. It was the first Crimson thing I read.

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