Let’s kick off my first writing exercise of the new year. I am on letter C this week, and the name randomly selected from the first ‘C’ page of my naming book is:
Cadence: a feminine first name meaning rhythmic.
Not only do I love this name, but the meaning has offered me some intriguing inspiration…
Grandfather slams his hands on the table. “For the last two hundred and fifty years, each generation of this family has birthed a Dancer. Where is our Dancer?” His voice is almost at ear splitting volume. “One of you should have received your markings by now. My mother was thirteen when she was blessed, and I was fourteen when I took my turn.” He turns to me. “Your mother was fifteen when she first felt her fate. You are seventeen, Cadence.”
“Who says it should be me? It could be Lyall or Ivanna. Just because Mum is a Dancer, it doesn’t give me privilege. It can happen to anyone in the new blood line.”
I was told the story of our family destiny many times as a child. The kingdom’s elders were all blessed, or cursed depending on how you see it, by Goddess Irina with the power of magic through dance. The magic kept the kingdom alive and was essential during the rituals. The elders would pass the gift onto a member of each new generation, or new blood line as we call it. My ancestor, whom we call Grandmother Dance, birthed the first of our blood line over two hundred and fifty years ago. She was a married woman with six children to a humble farmer. If she hadn’t allowed Elder Cohl to bed her, who knows where our family would be? In the gutters, fighting for scraps no doubt. When that child came of age, the kingdom knew of her infidelity, and that of Elder Cohl, but the child was worshiped for that child meant life.
My mother was the last to be blessed as a Dancer. Just like myself and my cousins, she and her sisters were vigorously trained from a young age in the art of dance in preparation for a possible marking. Grandfather was a dictator of dance; a cruel tutor.
Over the past year, all five Dancers from the other bloodlines have gained there markings; intricate, black patterns that cover their entire bodies. The kingdom is surviving, but without the sixth Dancer the magic will only last so long. This length of time without a sixth Dancer taking the markings is unprecedented.
“I have no idea what this could mean. The kingdom needs a Dancer and you are all of age. If you bring disgrace to this family I shall disown you all. I shall ensure your own mothers spurn you, and you shall be cast out into the gutters.”
Ivanna starts to cry. At thirteen, she is too young to deal with this pressure. We’ve all felt Grandfather’s wrath, but lately he’s focused on her. He never really had her pegged as the next Dancer, but now that it is a real possibility, he is training her for at least twelve hours a day. Her toe nails were bleeding last night and I had to tend to them.
“I shall be happy to leave this house,” I blurt. “You make out that it is our doing. We are not marked, but that is the will of the Goddess.”
His hand meets my face with a resounding slap, and I clutch at my tender cheek. “How dare you blaspheme in this house. You, child, better hope you are marked, because if not, you will be cast out- you and your mother. She never wanted the markings anyway, perhaps that’s why we have been cursed with this shame.”
“Mother didn’t want to be marked because she wanted an escape from you,” I scream at him. I’ve never stood up to Grandfather before, and now, I can’t control myself.
Another blow to my head sends me toppling from my chair. The air is knocked from my lungs, and I splutter through the blood spilling from my lip. “You are an ill-tempered man with a loose fist. If anyone is to blame it is you. It is your sickening behaviour that has cursed this family. The Goddess is ashamed of you.”
With that, a light bursts from my chest. Grandfather and my cousins shield their eyes with their forearms. My body soars into the air, hanging like a rag doll in a child’s hand. My hands sear with an intense heat as more light emits from my finger tips. Black and gold scrawl appears on my palms and stretches the length of my arms. The power coursing through my veins is all consuming and I could burst with the energy.
I drop to my feet, examining my new markings. I have never seen anything so beautiful. No one has been marked in such a way. Grandfather snatches my wrist, his nose just centimeters from my skin as he studies me. I wrench my arm free. “Do not touch me,” I snarl.
A scream outside cuts through the tension. I rush into the street to see Matteo on the ground, his mother screaming his name over and over. Matteo was the fourth Dancer marked. At just thirteen he is the youngest of the new bloodlines. I race closer, the blood seeping like tears from his eyes is horrific, but that’s not what stops me- his markings have disappeared. When his mother sees me she recoils. Other passers by stare at me with both fear and wonder etched on their faces.
“What is she?” calls one man. “What has happened to the boy Dancer?”
Another man runs towards us, flailing his arms in the air. He’s the one they call ‘The Seeing Eye’. “Two Dancers dead! Two Dancers dead! Vaughn and Taya have perished.” His screams stop when he sees Matteo’s lifeless body. “It has begun,” he whispers.
“What has?” I ask.
As soon as he sees me, he clasps a hand to his mouth, and drops into a low bow. “Goddess,” he announces.
“No, I’m Cadence. The sixth Dancer marked.”
The Seeing Eye, gingerly approaches me, taking my hands like I’m made of the most precious metal. “You have been marked, my dear one, but not as a Dancer. The Goddess herself has made you a deity. You are the living Goddess written about in the old texts. You must dance, my dear one. Quickly, quickly.”
I don’t question him; the fear in his eyes speaks volumes. As I extend my arm, spindles of light reach from my fingers. Each move feels blessed, magical. The onlookers gasp as the light envelops them, and I dance until I can feel the softness of their souls. What a glorious sensation.
Matteo takes a deep, gulping breath. I watch his mother cradle him in her arms, and still I dance. I dance until I can feel all the souls of the fallen Dancers return to their bodies. This is the will of Irina. The people bow to me for I have given life.
“Life is not easily given,” says a melodic voice in my head. “One must be sacrificed.” I don’t say a word. My choice was made when I stood up to the cruel man that called himself my Grandfather. “Wise choice,” says the voice, Irina’s voice, and Grandfather drops down dead.
I don’t feel sorrow for the wicked soul Irina has claimed. All I feel is power.
All written works are the property of K.J.Chapman