Every head in the square was riveted on the Tavaedies. Drum, rattle, and flute flared into dramatic music. The masked men and women leaped into motion. Occasionally, to emphasize the moves, the dancers chanted or shouted as well.
Dancing wove magic. Some ritual dances, or tama, ensured bounty, others averted drought. This tama, Massacre of the Aelfae, recalled history. The Tavaedies only performed it once a year, and as a child, it had been her favorite—until she understood what it was really about.
Half the Tavaedies wore wings. “We are the Aelfae, we are the Aelfae,” they chanted.
The other half of the dancers carried spears. “We are the humans, we are the humans.”
The dance showed a clan of Aelfae, the high faery folk who had lived in the Corn Hills before humans came. High fae were not like low fae, pixies and brownies and sprites and such, but possessed grace and grandeur beyond anything human. In form they were as tall, or taller, than humans, although more beautiful, a strange, glowing people, with wings like swans. There had once been seven races of high fae, and of them all, the Aelfae had been the most beautiful and powerful and wise.
The fake Aelfae took the stage first. They flapped imitation wings. To pretend they were flying, they engaged in numerous acrobatic flips, handsprings, handless cartwheels, and somersaults over each others’ backs. The fake Aelfae flitted about the platform until the “human” dancers with spears arrived.
She had to focus. She had to get this right, every move, every detail. She intended to teach herself everything she could from watching them, so when the time came they would invite her to join their secret society. She wasn’t supposed to know, but she had eavesdropped on enough conversations to learn one secret about the Initiation. Each Initiate would be asked to dance a tama, and only those with magic would perform it correctly.
The two sides began to mock-fight. They punched and kicked and crossed spears, they threw one another and made dramatic vaults over one another’s heads to attack from the rear. The humans began to slaughter the Aelfae. Maybe the dance exaggerated the humans’ prowess, but the Aelfae fled, wailing, across the stage. None escaped the humans.
While they danced, Dindi reproduced tiny imitation movements with her hands and feet—nothing noticeable to anyone watching her—to help her commit the steps to memory so she could practice them on her own later. At first, when Dindi had started observing the dances with the object of learning them, she had missed most of the steps. Every moon, she noticed more.
Lately, as the Tavaedies danced, she had begun to see the most amazing thing. The interactions between the dancers were not random. They formed rows and columns, circles and chevrons, shaped arrangements of dancers. And these patterns glowed. It was as if the dancers created ribbons of living light…