Earth Chapter 4: Duty 3
Find the rest at https://tinyurl.com/EarthFisk
They followed the song of the rising music down the tightly knit alleys of the market.
Merchants called wares to them as they passed. Rafters were hung with laurels and strands of the golden Cor Blossoms waved passively in the twilight breeze. The two laughed and smiled, caught up with each other, eager to emerge from the maze and into the center of the old crossroads town where men and women and boys and girls alike, all adorned in colors of spring, would be dancing upon the raised square. Flowers in their hair and upon their lapels, faces made warm by fine foods and sweet meads, elite and commoner, rich and poor, they would move and mingle unhindered as they danced with each other under the reeling gaze of a starlit sky.
They came upon it all in a moment and rushed to join the fray, basking in the gleefully orchestrated tomfoolery. After a time, the bugle call for the Champions’ Dance went up, and the floor was cleared as people pressed to the sides. Earth and Synu descended from the dancing platform while the contestants to present themselves before the judge, then took up a place in line at an open-air grill selling hot-smoked kebabs and sugar-charred peapods
In the meantime, several of the soldiers who had been merrily lounging in the corners of the festivities were commandeered to help lift the great Cor Blossom trunk onto a set of massive axles also being carried to the dais. Old Philmon himself, the smithy who had first crafted the Champions’ Pillar many years before, stepped forward and drove the iron crank into tree’s base, then stood beside it waiting.
Fifteen men and youths presented themselves, each blinded with garland-hoods woven of Cor Blossoms. The eldest were given the advantage of beginning the dance already standing on the trunk, five abreast, while the others stood in line behind two short flights of wooden steps. Chimes rang, the bugle called again, and the band struck up the challenging tones of the Champions’ Dance. The people all around took up the melody, cheering and calling as Philmon’s massive arms turned the crank, slowly at the start, but ever faster to match the hastening beat of the song.
It did not take long for the first contestant to fall, pulling a second with him as he flung his arms wildly about. The younger challengers in line were then prodded by the judge to step from the well-placed stairs onto the already moving beam, risking all for glory in one fateful leap. The first to do so slipped directly off, plummeting face first onto the hardwood floor of the landing to the cacophony of cheers and groans from the crowd. The second, a sturdy and acrobatic youth, landed his mount and joined the dance, even as the contestant beside him rocked the platform with his rump and collapsed backwards into the group of those waiting their chances to do better. The laughter and singing alike crescendoed more and more with each new demonstration of slapstick, until only two remained upon the beam - that same young acrobatic challenger and one of the original contestants, a gray-bearded fellow who all the while pranced along with a broad smile beaming from his hoary head.
All the while the bugler called the melody of the dance, the hastiest tarantella of merry, bursting passion. Faster and faster the music played. Philmon’s arms and face coated with glistening sweat as he labored to keep pace. Cheers swelled to deafening proportions. Earth was beside themselves with mirth, half laughing, half watching his sister’s wonderful smile with relish and joy.
Then the frolic was broken. Something was wrong. This was not the way it was supposed to be. A trumpet call. Clear and crying. No the village bugle. Not the dance. This was richer, wider, deeper. Then it was not alone, but a harmony of brass peeling over all, laying claim to all attentions, poignant, unearthly, weighty, regal.
The band and the bugle cut out. The final contestants went down at once, knocked from their places by the unexpected energies of the nervous crowd. The entire square was silent but for the a few hushed voices that rippled from the northwest corner. First a murmur, then something more like an earthquake shooting out from its epicenter, whispers from mouth to mouth became shouts until soon the entire crowd was shouting over each other to be heard.
“It is the Shadowsun!”
“Could it really be?”
“It is, for certain.”
“He doesn’t exist.”
“That’s a stupid thing to say.”
“But its true!
“Yes, it is.”
“The Bastardking of Ambra?”
“That’s what I said.”
“I told you so.”
“Is it true?”
“I can see no better than you.”
“But there, look!”
“The Shadowsun rises from the City of Dark Walls again!”
To be continued…
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