Trallis: Summer Storm Dancer

byxelliebabex©

It seemed only yesterday that Mowana herself was a small girl standing with her feet buried in sand and willing her body to absorb the electricity of the storm and send it to the sand at her feet. She knew the process as she had been instructed along with her sister and she bent to help her girls remove their shoes as the lightning crashed around them.

"Do not be frightened," she soothed, "Sometimes someone special comes along that calls to the bright hot light, it is special and it is a gift, nothing to be frightened of." She tried to reassure the trembling girls. The rain began to fall as Mowana instructed the girls in how to dance with the storm pulling the energy to them and directing it to the sand at their feet. Mowana's movements were graceful, learned from her early years of training and her daughters easily gained confidence mimicking the dance. The eyes of only one of the girls grew a vibrant blue, each loud crack of lightning seemed came from her hands as she clapped in time to the movements of the storm-dance sending large sparks of white hot light into the sand.

The rain pelted down onto the grasslands and the lake distorting the image of the woman and the girls as they danced with the storm, but the flashes of light were unmistakable as the men rode down to the small lake. Issuing orders most of the men were sent to protect the clan, caring for the frightened horses, women and children. The storm was fast and furious, as quickly as it had hit, it seemed to be over. Within less than an hour it had petered out to a small rainy drizzle.

Wet and exhausted Mowana and her daughters sank to the sand surrounded by a dozen small glowing balls of light. Boots crunched on the sand behind them and Mowana gathered her daughters protectively against her and looked fearfully at the clan chief and her husband. The chief bent over to pick up a ball, but the intense heat it radiated stopped him and he stood again looking back at the woman and the fearful girls.

"Do not fear sea-witch we will not be sending you or your daughters back to your people," Akaton smiled. "This will be a blessing for our clan and open up a market for riches we have only dreamed of. I will have Jaen and Ahern gather the balls and bury them until the morn, they can be trusted." Haydar grunted and nodded his assent. "Take care of your family Haydar, I will send food to your home this evening. We will talk more of this, later." Akaton walked toward the long house without looking back.

Haydar said nothing helping his wife to her feet and picking up Kerys who had slumped weakly in her mother's arms. Mowana helped Dana, the second of the twins, walk back up through the village to their home. Haydar settled the nearly unconscious girl into her bed and stroked the hair from her face, looking at her in wonder before bending his head to place a soft kiss on her forehead then standing and letting his wife see to the child. Picking up his other daughter he looked into her face noting the tiredness there but it was nothing like the near catatonic exhaustion that had seized the other.

"How do you feel sweet child?" Haydar murmured as he pulled Dana close to his body in a fierce embrace.

"I am fine father," the girl answered in a small voice, her head moving to view her sister as she lay in the bed they shared. "I don't know what happened," she whispered, "Why is Kerys not moving?"

"It takes a lot of energy to dance like you did perhaps she used more. Did you feel the power of the storm when you danced Dana?" Haydar probed gently.

"It was like Kerys had the storm lights in her hands when she clapped," Dana whispered, knowing that her hands had lacked the light and sparks of her sisters.

"We mustn't tell anyone about your sister's hands or what happened. Not until we have talked about it. Do you understand me Dana?" Haydar looked at her seriously.

"Yes father," the girl looked up at him equally seriously.

"Good girl now look after your sister while I talk with mother," Haydar placed her on the bed beside her twin and smiled reassuringly as he took his wife's hand and moved away to the other side of the room.

While silent and gruff when out in the village, Haydar was in fact a most attentive husband and father within their small home. He adored his wife and each of their children and had wanted nothing more than for the village to accept them as equals. He was at a loss tonight as to how to deal with this latest development. He had never imagined it possible that one of his own children could be a storm-dancer and he gathered his worried wife into his arms wanting to soothe her but at a loss himself.

"You need to explain to me. I do not understand how this is possible," Haydar said quietly trying to keep the anxiousness from his voice.

"The girls have come of age this summer. The storm was wild and called to Kerys, we could not have known or foretold that she would have a Storm-dancer's power. It is only in the summer storms that come from the sea that it manifests." Mowana looked up at her husband with tears in her eyes, "Don't let them take her away, Haydar. Please, don't let them, my baby."

The door burst open and the couples older children rushed in. Rhys had run from the long house on hearing the news with his brother Baden hot on his heels. They looked around and saw Kerys lying unmoving on the bed and turned to their parents, "Is it true that she was hit by the storm light?" Rhys the younger of the two brothers had fear etched in his face.

"Yes," Haydar replied, "She will live but will need her rest now." Mowana had looked up at her husband acknowledging that she realised this was the story Akaton had told the clan to explain their absence during the storm and from the evening meal in the long house. The brothers both carried baskets containing food from the shared meal of clan for their family and having been satisfied by their parents calmness in the face of such a terrifying occurrence went about setting the meal out.

*****

As time went on, the storms that came from the sea grew in ferocity and the power of the storm-dance that Kerys held within her was, it seemed, the only thing that saved the village from destruction at times. Fact-finding parties had been sent out to the coast to discover the reason for the increased intensity in the storms that reached the grasslands. The news that returned was not well received by any, not only in their own realm but in the other realms as well.

The lord of the sea people, Toka, had not treated the Storm-dancers with the respect they deserved working them to exhaustion so that their powers waned or worse, they expired and left this world for a better place. Children born with the power were being hidden by their parents or sent inland away from the cruelty that would be their fate if they came forward to be trained in how to use the power of the storm.

Branded as runaways, rewards were offered for the return of the families who had left the coastal regions and Lord Toka continued to work those storm dancers he did have in his control to exhaustion. There were few left who could hold back the storms and create the artificial light so highly prized and valuable.

Without out the pressures that the coastal storm-dancers lived with, Kerys grew into a beautiful young woman who took her place in the clan as a healer might. She did not think herself above any of the other women and her sweet nature ensured that any jealousies that arose within the village girls were soon quashed, usually with the help of the overprotective Dana. In fact it was easy for the clan to forget that there was anything special about the girl for most of the year, until the summer storms began again.

Likewise, Dana grew into a sweet natured young woman who was happy for her sisters' successes and fiercely protective of her when out of spite and jealousy the other girls would tease and spread rumours about Kerys and generally about both twins. Like the people of the grassland both girls had long rich dark hair but rather than the deep brown tresses of the others, their hair, thanks to their mothers heritage, glinted with auburn hues which made them stand out from the other girls even more.

Dana joined her sister down on the sand each summer evening and went through the motions of the dance with her even though she could not hold the power of the storm. The boys of the village avoided them, believing that both held the power to obliterate them with the power of the storm. It was the eighteenth summer for the girls, a time when they should be wedding a husband but none were brave enough to court the twins. Kerys turned to Dana and sighed, "Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to live in a place where no one knew about the storm-dance, where I didn't live half the year fighting storms and taking to my bed."

"But it is what makes you so special," Dana disagreed, "There is nothing special about me and still I am treated like a leper. At least you know you are valued, I am just... a lesser version of you." Kerys was horrified. Dana had always been her rock. She had always been there with a smile or a shoulder to cry on, so sensible, so caring so... Dana. Guilt crept over Kerys that she had never considered her sisters feelings about not having the power of the storm, so wrapped up in her own world she was. How had she not seen the lack of self-esteem so evident at this moment in her sister's face?

This is the fourth summer we have been dancing in the storms why didn't you tell me you felt like this?" Kerys asked carefully.

"There was always so much to do and learn and then summer would be here again and you would be exhausted and you needed me, didn't you?" Dana looked at her sister, "You do need me to help you right?" Kerys could see what little self-esteem Dana held tightly to, fading in her eyes as she realised Kerys could do it all alone if she needed to.

"Oh Dana," Kerys hugged her quickly. "I couldn't survive without you to confide in and look after me and dance with and well, everything!" Pushing her sister away from her Kerys spoke seriously, "Have I honestly been such a bad sister that you don't know that? Have I truly never asked you how you felt before about everything? I am such a bitch that I never once considered you felt any different to me?"

"You have had a lot to deal with," Dana said with a lop-sided smile. "I like doing all the things I do with you, truly I do, but you are the special one. It's you that has the power. I could disappear to explore other lands where there are no storms and no one would really mind. If you disappeared there would be a riot!"

"Well I would riot if you went anywhere believe me, I need you. I don't care about anyone else and what they want or think, I love you and couldn't live without you," once again Kerys gathered her sister to her.

"I'd miss you too," a deep voice sounded behind them and the girls turned in unison to see their brother walking toward them. "Hope you're not planning on disappearing on us, Dana, who else would make my bed the way I like it." He teased her with the chore she hated most. She imagined that during the early hours of the morning he purposely pulled all the sheets and blankets around so as to create the biggest tangle he could before getting up and leaving the mess for her to deal with.

"Mother wants you back. A storm is brewing early today," he said glibly but the creases in his forehead told of his worry for the girls. Like his father, Rhys was a quiet gruff young man in the village. He rarely spoke outside of their family but he adored his little sisters and often found the time to spend teasing and talking with them. Their oldest brother Baden on the other hand was easy going and quite popular in the village despite his mixed heritage. He was loud and fun and enjoyed the typically boyish pursuits of hunting game and the clan girls. While their personalities were chalk and cheese they had been mistaken for twins themselves from time to time. Both very tall with dark curly hair their features resembled that of their father almost to a mirror aside of their hair.

Dana stood and helped Kerys to her feet reminding her that she really had no right to complain as it was Kerys who worked so hard during the storm season. Rhys swooped down and picked up Kerys starting off at a light jog calling, "Race you home squeaker!" As if on cue Dana squeaked in surprise and ran after them. Looking up at the sky as she ran Dana could see the dark cloud racing over the horizon with brilliant flashes within. She wondered if her father would get back from the hunt before the storm hit and worried for him as finally out of breath she followed her siblings into their small home. Mowana had prepared two small plates of fruit and cheese with a sweet treat for dessert and they sat happily eating knowing they would probably miss dinner again tonight.

Several merchants frequented the village in late summer and early winter now and the girls were not keen on being in the long house where they would fall under curious eyes. Their occasional appearances after previous absence made them conspicuous when suspicion about the extra light spheres the clan sold discreetly was always the source of rumour and debate. It was better to stay home and remain protected somewhat by their family which of course was why Rhys was not out on the hunt with his father and brother. Baden did not enjoy babysitting duty as he called it but Rhys knew how serious the safety of his sisters was. Raiding parties out of the coast looking for runaways had been spotted within a few leagues of the village and the perpetual slaver raids that occurred in every village from time to time were not to be taken lightly. While Rhys enjoyed the hunt, he would be lost without the girls and heart broken by the grief it would cause his parents, so more often than not it was he that stayed behind as Baden was unreliable at best.

*****

The hunting party had strayed past the edge of the grasslands into the heavily forested hillside that marked the border between the horse lords and the mountain warriors. As if the mountain warriors of Stolle had known they were coming that way the horsemen had been ambushed and all but slaughtered. Baden and two of his friends had been at the rear of the pack and watched in stunned immobility as their clan was attacked. Haydar fought his way free and found his son screaming at him, "Run, return home! Protect the clan and your sisters!"

Baden and his friends saw the arrow pierce Haydar's skull and protrude through his eye a moment before they wheeled their horses and rode from the forest at a run. They did not look back at the horror that had befallen the other men of their village hoping beyond hope that others would escape and make their way home.

Arrows had whizzed past them, one collecting Joaquin who was slumped in his saddle and another hitting Baden in the shoulder. The horses ran as if they knew their own way slowing only when the storm hit and with terrified whinnies reared up at the crash of thunder that rolled over the grasslands unhindered. Seeing his companions fighting their horses as he was Baden rode close to Joaquin and took the reins of his horse signalling to Hohepa to follow.

He found a small mound covered in scrubby grasses and low brush to shelter behind and pulled Joaquin from his saddle. An arrow had pierced his lower back and he had lost a lot of blood. With practised patience Hohepa removed the arrow and staunched the bleeding. Once they had settled their unconscious friend to a sheltered position, Hohepa went about removing the arrow from Baden's shoulder. Baden screamed out into the howling wind as the barbed shaft tore at his flesh and ripped the wound wider.

The storm seemed to be easing, Baden said through gritted teeth, "Stay with Joaquin I need to make sure the girls survived the storm."

"Rhys is there remember, he is the best of all of us at training. There is nothing more you can do tonight. Rest and we will tell our sad tale to the clan in the morning, when the three of us ride home together," Hohepa held Baden's blood covered shirt in an effort to restrain him. "Rest for a while at least, you are injured." In truth, Hohepa needed Baden to stay, he was scared, more so than he had ever been in his life and the tall lanky Baden like his father and brother was the warrior that Hohepa could only dream of being.

Hohepa spent the rest of the storm-tossed night tending the wounds on his friends. His mother was a healer and he knew the ways of the body and wounds inflicted in battle. As a child he had learned his mother's craft as he had played around her feet. She was a strong-minded woman, refusing to let her son join the warriors and end up as one of the wounded she tended. She had held him back from starting his training and his friends had out-stripped him by the time the village chief had intervened on his behalf.

It wouldn't have mattered Hohepa thought, he was not of the warrior breed, his thoughts did not tend to hunting and women. He looked over at Baden again who was fidgeting at his painful shoulder, he loved Baden in a way that warriors should not love one another. He was handsome and strong, the image of his friend working out at training came to Hohepa's mind and he sighed at the amount of times he had had to leave training to assuage his longing.

He had built up over time the self-control required to be Baden's friend without embarrassing himself with the pubescent longing he endured. He felt guilt at keeping his friend from his family but surely Rhys who was stronger and tougher would handle any problems that came to light. Though the guilt at keeping his friend close crushed him and at the end of the storm he relented and agreed to try to make the way home in the dark. Baden grimaced and produced one of the spheres of light his sister created from his saddle bag he lit the path home for them. They rode into the village amongst wails of anguish from the crowd that had set a watch and turned to the long house to lament their loss.

What the returning warriors could not have known was that the loss was greater than they ever imagined. Zira the spiteful wife of the village chief had been promised a new sphere from the girl's night's work in the storm which she had yet to receive. She had grown angry with each passing minute that the storm had raged for an extraordinarily long time and that the hunters had not returned to serve her needs.

"Go see what those stupid bitches are doing down at the lake," she ordered two of the older men who acted as sentries on nights that the hunters returned late. A small time later thinking that the beautiful sea witch Mowana had kept the men dallying with her charm and grace, Zira had sent two more men to retrieve her prize and rebuke the women who made it possible.

Moments later one of the men struggled back through the door gasping and clutching at his blood soaked jerkin, "Their dead, everyone is dead."

The old hunters had rushed for their weapons and set up guards around the long house eventually fanning out to protect the village. So it was that the three young and injured hunters entered the long house to tell their tale of treachery and ambush.

*****

Kerys and Dana had headed to the beach as soon as the storm announced its approach with a loud clap of thunder. Mowana and Rhys had followed shortly after. Removing their shoes and sinking into the sand the girls began to dance together oblivious the large band of mercenaries lining the lake shores to the north and south. The lightning sizzled across the sky and Kerys gathered it to her and pointed to a spot in the sand, the white hot sparks shot from her fingers and melded the sand into a ball of glowing light.

Though focused on the storm Kerys laughed as Dana always threw strange movements into their dance that Kerys would be at peril to follow but delighted to see. The girls whirled into another movement as their mother joined them and Rhys sat upon the lake shore sand close by watching the entertainment and the obvious joy on the faces of his family as each ball presented itself.

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