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  • Home > Anne Bishop > Black Jewels > Shalador's Lady (Chapter 132)      Page
  • Shalador's Lady(Black Jewels,Book 8)(132) by Anne Bishop
  • “Janos is dancing tonight,” Reyhana said.

    Cassidy looked at Shira, who looked at Reyhana and smiled, but then said, “Remember, you go nowhere tonight without a chaperon.”

    “But . . .”


    “Is there a problem?” Cassidy asked.

    Reyhana looked away. Shira sighed and said, “Heated blood can eliminate good sense, and sometimes young people do things they regret the next day—or make mistakes they can’t live with.”

    Reyhana’s face blazed with color, but she held her head up. “I know my duty to my people.”

    “And to yourself,” Cassidy added softly.

    Reyhana met her eyes and nodded. “And to myself. That’s why Janos asked Darkmist to act as our chaperon tonight.”

    “Oh.” Shira pressed a hand against her mouth to stifle a laugh. “In that case, I apologize for treading where I had no reason to tread.”

    “As the court’s Healer, you had a right to express concern,” Cassidy said.

    *In that case,* Shira said, *I’ll ask if you’ve been drinking the contraceptive brew since your last moontime.*

    Cassidy felt the heat rising in her face. *Yes, I have.*

    *Good.* Shira sat on her stool and placed her smaller drum between her knees. “Ah, the Priestess is giving the signal. The rest of us will join the drumming in a minute.”

    Cassidy took her place and got her own drum in position. They had practiced for these dances over the past few weeks. Yairen had declared her ready to join the drumming for all but the Fire Dance.

    The Shalador women were gathering. Many stopped at a small stone altar and opened a vein over a large silver chalice—the blood the Priestess would use to cast the circle for the dance.

    Two more drums joined the first two drummers. Then two more, and two more. A simple rhythm that would split into something more demanding. Cassidy had been assigned the simpler beat, and Shira and Reyhana had chosen to stay with her instead of doing the more complex beat. She appreciated that when her turn came to join the drummers. There was plenty to think about, and when the drums were suddenly enhanced with Craft and the sound flowed out of The Dance, she felt the seduction and the power of this tradition.

    As the last drummer took up the beat, the Priestess’s voice rose in wordless song, calling the men to the dance. Another voice joined hers. Then another. And another.

    The first men arrived. Some were fathers with sons who were old enough for the Boys’ Dance. Most were older men, including Ranon’s grandfather Yairen, who would begin the celebration with the Wisdom Dance.

    The Priestess cast the circle with blood and Craft as the women’s voices quieted until it was only her voice and the drums calling, calling, calling.

    Cassidy drummed, grateful for the simple beat she could maintain and still observe the people.

    The Priestess extended her hand and brought Yairen across the circle. Then they both extended their hands to bring two more men into the dance. As she took the hand of the last elder who was participating in the dance, she stepped out of the circle.

    All the drummers except the lead drummer stopped and shook out their hands as the lead drummer made the transition to the new beat. Then the rest of the drummers joined in again, along with the musicians playing fiddles and flutes.

    A blur of images and sounds. Cassidy focused on the drumming, catching glimpses of the men as they danced the same formal steps their ancestors had performed centuries ago.

    She lost her rhythm through part of the Boys’ Dance because the younger ones—those who had recently gone through their Birthright Ceremony—turned into brainless puppies, forgetting most of what they had learned so they ended up bouncing along with the older boys. And more than a few of them stopped dancing altogether to wave at their mothers, which caused tangles as the boys still dancing tried to move around unplanned obstacles.

    Despite Shira’s earlier assurance that drummers dropped out of the music, Cassidy felt embarrassed that she’d lost the rhythm after so many weeks of practice. Then the Boys’ Dance gave way to the Youths’ Dance, and Reyhana lost all ability to drum because she was laughing so hard at Janos’s antics. Hearing other bursts of laughter followed by a stumble in the beat, Cassidy suddenly understood that perfection wasn’t expected during this joyous celebration. So she watched Janos and laughed with Reyhana.

    He performed the steps exactly as he should, but Cassidy learned a great deal about attitude. Most of the young men who were within a year or two of making the Offering and being considered adults were fiercely serious as they performed the dance. Janos gave the steps a lightheartedness, making fun of himself and the others who were on the cusp of manhood.

    Cassidy felt more than heard Shira’s sigh of relief and understood the feeling even while she laughed. Janos knew there were lines he couldn’t cross, and he’d done what he could to keep himself—and Reyhana—from temptation.

    The Youths stepped out of the circle as they brought over the last group of dancers. The adult men walked in a quiet circle as all but the lead drummer once again went silent.

    “Well done, Janos,” Cassidy said. Then she noticed Reyhana vanishing her drum and stool. “Aren’t you staying to see the last dance?”

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire