The Chosen By Chance Dance

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The Sovereign is coming to our town.

We must have entertainments ready.  We must have feats to display.

We must demonstrate the strength and wit and spectacle that she expects from her people.

We must do this all the more because we were not chosen for our merit.  We were chosen by chance. 

***

I was in the twelfth year of my life when I heard that proclamation by our mayor.  I was old enough to understand what it meant to be chosen by chance.  Ours was a small town.  But a proud and merry one.

I have always loved my little town of Fursa.

I was old enough to understand that our challenge was a daunting one.  Even more daunting than the challenge faced by the towns, cities, and villages that were chosen by will.

The Sovereign of our realm was in the fifth and last year of her Sovereignty.  And the fifth and final year of her Cavalcade.  As per custom, she would not travel the realm alone that year.  That year, she would travel the realm with her successor by her side.  As it so happened, the one elected to be the next Sovereign and the one who was still Sovereign were not just fierce rivals, but also good friends.

And so, in that particular year of Cavalcade, the realm was brimming with celebration and excitement.

Our realm was vast.  No Sovereign could visit every city, township, and village, even if the Cavalcade lasted for every day of the Sovereignty.  So wherever the Sovereign chose to visit, that place enjoyed a period of hearty trade and commerce, of renown and respect, and of visits by other dignitaries.  And of course, they enjoyed a place in history.

Larger cities put on great spectacles and were expected to.  But smaller cities, towns, and villages relied upon specific feats and talents to attract the eye of the ruling Sovereign.  The current Sovereign seemed to delight in feats of strength, contests of physical prowess, and illusions.

Fursa had no illusionists.  And the strongest person in town was only strong enough to lift a full-grown donkey.  But we did have two who might impress the Sovereign with physical prowess.

A runner and a swimmer.

Fursa did not know, and could not have known that it would win a visit by the Sovereign by chance.  Only one such chance was given during each Cavalcade season.  And the recipient town, village, or city, was often dismayed to receive the dubious prize.  For others saw it as an undeserved glory.

Unless, of course, that city, town, or village managed to demonstrate it had deserved its placed among the visited all along.  This meant that it must put on a greater spectacle than all the other visited places.  Or else boast at least one person of supreme and incomparable talent—according to the preferences of the Sovereign.

Our town, like any other, aspired to earn a place among the visited.  So whenever a talent matching the preferences of the current Sovereign was discovered among its residents, it was fostered.

But there are talents beyond those preferred by the one who happened to hold the scepter of the Sovereign for the moment.

And our mayor was reminded of this on many an occasion before we were chosen for a Cavalcade.  He was reminded by one who believed that she too should share the spectacle stage with the runner and the swimmer.  She too could demonstrate great physical prowess, she reminded him.  For she was a dancer.

She was also my older sister, Sendra.

***

“The town does not have enough money to give to all those who proclaim a talent worthy of being seen by the Sovereign,” the mayor said, as Sen and I sat across from him in his office one morning. “Dancing is beautiful.  But beauty cannot be measured in the way that speed or stamina can be.  Our Sovereign has her preferences.”

“We can surprise her,” my sister said, smiling.  “No other town will dance for our Sovereign.  For they know as well as you do what her preferences are.  We can dare what they cannot dare.  Because we were chosen by chance.”

A frown flashed across the face of our merry mayor before he recovered himself.  He did not like to be reminded that we were not chosen by will.  “Perhaps in future if another comes—”

“But no Sovereign will ever choose to visit Fursa, my good mayor.”  Sen stopped smiling and my shoulders tensed as she spoke again.    “This may be our only chance to show a Sovereign of our realm that we are as worthy as any other town.”

The mayor sighed deeply and patted her hand.  “Very well, I will consider it.”

And he sent us on our way without another word, all three of us understanding that the mayor would not truly consider Sen’s request.  As he would not be truly considering the requests of the many others who came to his door in those days.  That man who could lift a donkey.  The child who sat by the steps of the market after school hours swindling people of their coins with his playing cards and his clever hands.  The woman who claimed she could sing at a pitch so high that it could not be heard by human ears (she requested that dogs be placed on the stage, so their howling would convince the Sovereign that the singer’s skill was sincere).

If I were mayor of Fursa, I would have let all of them share the stage.  Proudly.

I had not thought of how many talents my fellow townsfolk had until the months before the Cavalcade.  How many talents lay fallow because we did not have the means to foster them?  My sister did not want to do what many others had done before her.  She did not want to leave Fursa for a bigger town or city, where there were dozens, perhaps hundreds of dancers, all as graceful and strong as she was.  She longed for Fursa to be filled with dancers, as it once had been, in a past age.

Sen was friendly with the runner and the swimmer who were chosen to represent the best of our town.  She even convinced them to approach the mayor on her behalf.  This, they did.  They were proud and happy to have been chosen.  And they understood the need to keep their spectacle small and focused upon the preferences of the Sovereign.  But they also understood that they were not the only ones with talents of physical prowess.

***

I was watching my sister dance in the lot behind the eastern school house.  She was wearing scraps of a diaphanous scarf that our mother had given her.  It was a gift from an auntie that my mother did not like.  Mother seemed strangely pleased when Sendra explained that she would be cutting up the scarf to make a dancing costume.  When she twirled, the scraps of scarf followed, and when she stopped, they twisted apart and slowly settled upon her hips.

A group of girls my sister’s age passed by, glancing at her dancing.

“You shouldn’t bother,” one of them said.  And they all stopped.  “The mayor won’t have it.”

Sen twirled away from them and stopped before me.  She winked at me, and twirled back toward the girls.  She bobbed her shoulders, and swayed her hips and arms.  She stopped before them and flourished her hand before bowing deeply to them in one fluid motion.  She rose again and smiled at them.

“Join me,” she said.

The girl who’d spoken shook her head.  “Have you heard what this year’s Gift of Gratitude is?  Five gold coins to each person in the spectacle.  And a silver coin to everyone who helps with the feast.”

“We’re going to submit our names for the feast-workers,” another girl said.  “So we can get our silver coin.”

You should join us,” the first girl said.  She glanced over at me.  “You too, little sister.  You’re old enough.”

Sen turned her head back to look at me.  She tilted her head just a bit toward the girls.  I understood.  She was giving me leave to join them.

I hopped off the bench I was sitting on and marched toward my sister.  I stood beside her.  “Thank you, but no.  I am helping Sen.” Once I spoke the words, I realized they were not true.  I hadn’t been much help just sitting there and watching.

The girl looked down at me.  “Don’t you know, little sister, that we must do what the Sovereign prefers?”

“It is we who say we must do what the Sovereign prefers,” Sendra said, “not the Sovereign.”

The girl glanced away from me and looked at Sen.  “True enough, but I have letters from my cousin in East Darhana.  The Sovereign visited there in her first year.  My cousin says that they tried to put on little play-acts, between the main spectacle.  The Sovereign was so bored, she fell asleep.  And none were brave enough to wake her.  She missed the entire last half of the spectacle.”

I crossed my arms.  “Well, it can’t be easy to be Sovereign, especially when you are just starting.”

“Was your cousin there,” Sen asked, “at the spectacle?”

“No, but she had the news from a friend whose uncle went.”

Sen too now crossed her arms.  “Then it must be true.”

The girls all giggled.

“Perhaps we will join you when the Sovereign has left.  When the town is prosperous, the mayor can be more generous.”

Sen leapt away and continued dancing as she spoke.  “Prosperity does not come as quickly for those places that were chosen by chance,” she said.  “Unless there is news of some greater spectacle than is expected.  We have no such news now.  But perhaps if you joined me…”

My sister’s long hair was tied high behind her head, and it swung to and fro like the tail of a pony.  One moment she stood in place, flicking her hands in a rhythmic patterns.  The next, she continued flicking her hands, as she bobbed and stepped backwards.

The girls laughed again and waved goodbye to her as they left.

I ran to my sister.  “I’m sorry they won’t join you,” I said.

Sen raised a leg behind her and bent at the waist toward me until her head was level to mine.  “No matter,” she said.  “I have you.”

I beamed at her and nodded.  “Yes.”

***

But after that day, I realized that I wanted to do more than clap and cheer for my sister as she practiced.  I knew she wanted others to join her.  Sen’s school hours were longer than mine.  So while I waited for her to be done, I began to search.  I started first with the school, asking everyone, even the small children, if they would dance with my sister.

There were many who chose to try their hand at being festival-workers instead.  The rumor—or perhaps the truth—about the silver coins had reached far.

When I found no one in the school, I ventured farther out, going next to the marketplace.  It was there where I found the elder, Alma. Rather, she found me.  After only a few days of searching the marketplace, and failing to find any who were interested, I sat at on my usual bench, waiting for Sen.

I watched all the passing students and teachers, searching for a face I had not yet spoken to.  And so I saw her glide toward me.  The elder woman whose silver-gray hair peeked from under the silken gray scarf she wore loosely over her head.

“Are you Sen?” she asked as she approached me.

“I am her sister.”

“May I wait here with you, for her?”

I nodded, and though I knew it was rude to do so, I stared at the woman as she settled beside me, her back straight, and her thin-fingered hands folded elegantly in her lap.

“It was not always so,” she said without any prompt, “that Fursa was devoid of dancers.”  She tilted her face toward mine.  “Did you know that?”

I shook my head.

She told me her name then, and continued telling me things I had not known.  There was a time, Alma said, when our town valued the art of dancing.  Small as our town was, and far from the capital and the seat of the Sovereign, our dancers were so skilled that we sent them to join the greatest troupes in the realm, including the Troupe Laureate, the company who performed for the Sovereign of the realm.  I had never heard of the Troupe Laureate.

Alma pointed a finger to the sky.  “That is because each Sovereign may choose to disband them.  A later Sovereign can always re-form them, but many years ago, when there was not even a whisper of gray on my head, one Sovereign disbanded the Troupe Laureate.  And no Sovereign who came after even spoke of re-forming them, though they still may.”  She pulled the scarf down from her head.  “Perhaps this new one will do so, though we don’t yet know what his preferences are, do we?”

I could see Sendra approaching then, and I hopped off the bench, excited for her to meet someone who thought as she did about dance.

I doubted my excitement when I saw Sen’s eyes grow wide as she gaped at Alma.  I wondered for a moment if she would be displeased with me for searching for supporters without her knowledge, for only finding one, and for only finding one who would not be able to dance with her.  At least, I did not think that Alma could dance.

But Sen dropped her books and immediately grasped hands with the elder.

“Madam Alma, what an honor.  What a great honor,” Sen said.  And she caught her breath and only then seemed to notice me standing beside the elder.

As was our way, Sen understood what the toothy smile on my face meant.  “You wonderful scoundrel,” she said.

Sen, of course, knew who Madam Alma was, though she proclaimed she had never dreamed of approaching the esteemed elder.  For Sen had studied all that she could about dance from books.  And she had come across some histories of the town that spoke of the great dancer Alma, who was to be sent to the capital to join the Troupe Laureate.  She would never know if she would have been accepted or not, for word arrived that the troupe was disbanded before she ever set foot outside the town’s borders.

Dancing fell out of favor throughout the realm, at least in smaller towns and villagers.  In such places, the only dancing that was done was done during festivals, or weddings, or other such celebrations.  And it was well and good that it should remain a part of celebrations.  But dancing for spectacles was only taught and learned in great cities after a while.

Alma tried to keep dancing and dancers in the town.  But both fled to other places.  None in town were opposed to dancing.  But neither did any care to revive it or nourish it, as we began to nourish other talents, talents that were favored by a new line of Sovereigns.

“Feats of strength, illusions.”  Alma scoffed.  “These new Sovereigns and their narrow preferences.  I fear it will weaken the realm in the end.”

Alma had heard of the girl who marched into the mayor’s office and requested that a dancer be allowed on the spectacle stage as well as the runner and the swimmer.  And she had been curious, but also reluctant to seek Sen out.  For she feared seeing a reflection of her own disappointment in my sister’s face.  But when she heard that I was looking for help, she felt compelled to heed the call.

“I can help you to learn all the things I once knew,” Madam Alma said.  “And I will seek out more supporters for you—ones who have the mayor’s ear.  But you must understand that we do this in vain.”

Sen grinned at the elder.  “No time I spend learning from you will be spent in vain.  But I understand that we may fail to convince the mayor.”

“We will fail, darling child.  Our poor mayor has far too many worries to be concerned with restoring the prowess of dancing in his town.”

Sen nodded.  “We will fail.”

I too nodded, and scratched my head as I pretended to understand.

***

From that day on, I watched them both.  Sen as she danced and practiced, and Madam Alma as she directed my sister, encouraging, admonishing, and suggesting.  She would make Sen take a pose and hold it while she adjusted Sen’s limbs, and tilted her head this way or that.

I’d always thought Sen’s dancing was beautiful.  But now, with Madam Alma’s teaching, Sen began to glide even when she walked.  Just like Madam Alma.  Sen began to flow from one pose to another without hesitation, as if her muscles remembered the movements.

On occasion, that group of girls would pass by and cast curious glances our way.  Though Sen always smiled and waved if she saw them, I knew, in that way that we always knew about each other, that my sister was dismayed and sad that no one was joining her.

So off I went again, this time with her knowledge, to find more supporters.

***

I visited the marketplace every day for a fortnight before I found another, a mother who was buying peaches for her fidgety little daughter.

Darmera and her daughter, Jam, had moved with their family to Fursa after she inherited the house of her grandmother.  Even before she came, she had noticed that her daughter was dazzled by dance, and had some talent.  She had not thought to check if the little town’s teachers could teach dance.  When she found they did not, she hoped her daughter’s fascination would pass.  But when it did not, she too began wondering how she might find a way to nurture her daughter’s gift.  But she had never known of Madam Alma until I told her.

I told her where to meet us the next day, so that she and her daughter could see Sen dance.

“I can tell—nay, goad—the other mothers in my circle,” Darmera said, “to find dancers to join you.”

“Preparation for the Cavalcade is too far advanced,” Sen said.  “No one who is hoping for a silver coin would have the time to spare to learn and practice a dance, even if we design a routine.”

I put my hands on my hips, for I’d just had an idea.  “What if we tell everyone that they’ll get five golden pieces if they join us on the spectacle stage?”

Sen sighed.  She crossed her arms and smiled at me fondly.  “It’s gold pieces, not golden.  And it would be a wonderful idea.  Except, I don’t think that’s how it works.  Our mayor would have already submitted the names of those who would be on the stage.  Their reward will have been allotted and accounted for in the treasury of the realm before the Sovereign even arrives here.”

“It’s a shame they won’t accept that the dancing itself as a reward,” Madam Alma said.

“But it’s not just dancing by itself,” I said.  “It’s dancing for the Sovereign.  For our realm.”

When everyone turned their heads to look at me, I thought I had said something wrong.  But then my sister’s lips and cheeks rose, and her eyes brightened, and she beamed at me.  I glanced at Madam Alma.  Her eyes were narrowed, but she too was smiling.  Darmera was chuckling.

Sen slapped a hand to her forehead.  “I should have thought of it.”

“Could it work?” Madam Alma asked, her eyes still narrowed, her gaze still on me.

“What?” I asked.

Darmera put a hand on my shoulder.  “Perhaps it could.  Everyone is concerned about earning a silver coin, because they think it is all they can earn.  And everyone believes that we must not stray from the Sovereign’s preferences.  But perhaps they could be convinced that the prize of having the Sovereign’s attention, her eyes upon them, is worth forfeiting a silver coin.”

“And not just the ruling Sovereign’s eyes,” Sen said.  “But the succeeding Sovereign too.  No one knows his preferences yet.”

“That is all well and good,” Madam Alma said.  “But we will convince no one to join us unless we first have the mayor’s permission to perform upon the spectacle stage.”

“I am of no use here in this dance yard,” Darmera said, glancing around at the dirt yard in which Sen was practicing.  “I will go to entreat the mayor.  Every day, if need be, until he agrees.”

***

So Darmera went to try and meet with the mayor.  In common times, he was available for any citizen to find or meet with most days.  But in the uncommon present times, when the entire town was preparing for the Sovereign’s Cavalcade, the mayor was too busy.  He agreed to meet with Darmera, but never found the time.

After a week, I grew impatient, and I declared that I would find people to join us with or without the mayor’s approval of our plan.

I visited the marketplace.  I visited all the rooms of the school house.  I knocked on the doors of all the mothers whom Darmera sent me to entreat.  I even went to the runner and the swimmer and asked them if they would join.  They seemed charmed by the idea.  They were nervous now about being the only two people to represent Fursa, in front of two Sovereigns, no less.  But they were all the more reluctant than any others I spoke to.  They did not want to ruin their town’s chance of appearing worthy.

No one wanted to join.  And I grew dismayed.

“Did anyone say ‘no’?” Madam Alma asked, when next we met.

“No,” I said.  “But they didn’t say ‘yes’ either.”

“Perhaps they still might,” Darmera said.  She was holding her daughter’s arms out to help her learn how to keep them straight.  Jam had begun to heed Madam Alma’s lesson.

I realized that the little girl was the first and only person to truly join Sen.

When Sen took a break and patted her sweaty face with the towel I handed her, I ducked my head and said, “I’ll join you.”  I looked up and saw her staring at me.

“But you’re shy about dancing in front of people,” Sen said.

I shrugged.  “Maybe I can be behind you mostly.”

Sen laughed.  “Then why do it?”

“So you won’t be alone.”

My sister stopped laughing.  She offered me her hand.  “I am honored to have you in my company.”

“You, me, and Jam,” I said.

“And me.”  Darmera stepped toward us.  “I’ll join too.  Maybe we can all just sway behind you, while you do all the work.”

“If you need someone to stand like a stone, I might offer myself up as well,” Madam Alma said.

I giggled, but when I looked at Sen, she was peering at Madam Alma.  And I knew in the way that we know each other, that my sister had another idea.

***

From that day forward, it was not just Sen who was twirling and swirling around the yard.  Jam, Darmera, and I sprinted and swayed, then turned and flourished our arms, and sprinted and swayed again.

And the girls still passed by us, casting curious glances.  And I could not be sure, but I thought they passed by much slower than before.

And sometimes others came to watch us and to wonder what we were doing, and why, for we still did not have the mayor’s permission.

The day of the Sovereign’s visit approached.  It was only weeks away.

Darmera was practicing with us now.  She did not have time to pester the mayor with our request.

But it would seem our pestering had an effect on others, others who had the mayor’s ears.

We received notices to appear before the mayor in his office.  Madam Alma, Sen, Darmera, and I—and even Jam—found ourselves in the same office where Sen had first entreated the mayor to let her dance upon the spectacle stage.

After we sat, the mayor looked at us each in turn and said, “He will not swim.”  He sighed.  “And she will not run.”

I looked at the others, but all of them had their gazes fixed upon the mayor.

The mayor sighed again.  “You have your wish.  You have your time upon the stage, but understand that you will not share in the Gift of Gratitude.  And you will only have such time as it takes to give our speech of thanks to the champions of the spectacle and all the people who prepared the feast.  You will be taking their time, for we certainly cannot take the Sovereign’s time.”

Sen shifted in her chair.  “Then…we have no champions?  They have refused?”

“For our sake, child,” Madam Alma said.  “Our mayor is so tired and dismayed that he has failed to explain it clearly.  The runner and the swimmer placed conditions upon their performance at the Cavalcade.  The dancer will also perform, else the runner and swimmer will not.  All three or none at all.  Is that right, mayor?”

The mayor gave a single nod of his head.  “I hope you will do their sacrifice justice.”

I looked at Sen, who breathed a sigh of relief.  I had not understood either until Alma explained.

“Thank you, honored mayor,” Sen said in a quiet voice.

***

Though we now had the mayor’s permission, I was afraid to go out and ask people to join us now.  Now that everyone would know that the names of all who helped to prepare the feast would not be called at the end of the spectacle in the presence of the Sovereign.  But Sen told me what to say, and Darmera sent me only to people whom she trusted to be kind.

And to my surprise, people began to say “yes.”

And to my further surprise, when I next returned to the dance yard, those girls who passed by every day, had not passed by that day.  They had dropped their books and their satchels on the bench where I sat, and they were following Madam Alma’s direction.  They were dancing.

In the days that followed, others joined, some to dance, some to measure the dancers for costumes, some to offer their musical talents, and some to help Alma direct the growing troupe.

Then, at last, the day of Cavalcade arrived.

***

The field of spectacle for the runner was an actual field, cleared of crops or weeds.  I was too old to sit on my father’s shoulders as some children did.  So I saw nothing from where I stood, save the upper pennants of the Sovereign’s pavilion.  I only heard the cheers when the runner started the races.  She was made to race against water, as a long furrow made across the length of the fire was filled with water.  She was made to race fire, as someone lit a spark in a line of fuel.  And she was made to race the Sovereign’s fastest runner.  Our runner did not win any of these contests.  But she had made a worthy effort.  And the Sovereign, I later learned, was well-pleased with what she saw.

The field of spectacle for the swimmer was the great lake beside which our town was built.  It was too vast for any to swim in a single effort.  But our swimmer had been preparing to do so.  For this race, the Sovereign’s pavilion was collapsed and re-built on one of our biggest fishing vessels, so she could go out into the water and see both shores that would serve as the start and finish of the race.  The swimmer need only swim from one end to the other.  The Sovereign had brought her best swimmer as well.  And they began the contest.

Our swimmer made it as far as the Sovereign’s pavilion, halfway across the lake.  None had ever swum that far out before all alone with no help.  It was a worthy feat. And I later learned that the Sovereign was well-pleased with what she saw.

That evening, upon the spectacle stage, the runner and the swimmer were given their five gold coins each.  And they were lavished with other gifts from a gracious Sovereign.  Fine clothes, one piece of jewelry each from the royal coffers, and certificates signed by the Sovereign’s own hand, thanking them.

The time came when the Sovereign should expect to hear the names of the townsfolk who had prepared the feast for her and her guests.  The Sovereign and her party had been informed that the town had forfeited this time for another spectacle.

Sen swept gracefully onto the stage set up in the town square, as soft music began to play.  I watched from the side of the stage, my belly doing flips that were nowhere as graceful as the ones my sister could do.

“Our final spectacle,” she said, projecting her voice out towards the crowd, “is a spectacle of dance.  But before we start, I would request a favor of our Sovereign.”

I heard the gasps and murmurs from the watching crowd.  I could not see the mayor, but I later learned that he almost fainted when he heard Sen address the Sovereign so.  And especially after she made her request.

“Gracious Sovereign, I entreat you now to leave your pavilion and join us here upon the spectacle stage.  For you will not just see the spectacle, if you stand with us, but you will be a part of it.”  She paused and waited for some response.  “You need not dance, gracious Sovereign.  You need only stand, or sit, if you will.”

From where I stood, I could see the Sovereign.  She had raised her hand, palm out, and was shaking it and shaking her head.

I glanced over to Sen, who was nodding her head.  But then she gasped slightly and smiled.  I glanced back at the Sovereign’s pavilion.  The Sovereign was laughing as her friend, the Sovereign-to-be, was removing his outer robe.  He gestured to Sen to wait for him.  And he made his way to the stage to the cheers and claps of the gathered crowd.

I was later told that at that moment, our poor dear mayor was in a state of utter terror.  I watched as Sen, my sister, gave the succeeding Sovereign a few instructions on what to do and how to move.  He laughingly agreed and even demonstrated the movements to her, to another round of cheers.  I clapped my hand to my mouth and giggled as he swayed his hips from side to side.

The music swelled, then softened again, and Sen began her dance.  I took a breath and when I heard the cue in the music, I did what Madam Alma had told me to do if I got nervous.  I kept my gaze fixed on my sister, so I would know how to move around her.  She glanced at me as she twirled to a stop and she winked.  And I sprinted and swayed, and moved my hands.  And I saw Darmera doing the same on the other side of my sister.  Jam raced out onto the stage and mimicked her mother’s movements to another gasp from the crowd.  And another wave of cheers.

And then…the others joined us.  Darmera, Sen, and I were dressed in the garb of our region and our town.  The other dancers who swept onto stage in a flurry were dressed in the various garbs of the realm.  Colors and patterns clashed as we danced.

Sen’s dance was graceful and artful.  And the girls who had finally joined her on the dance yard joined her on the stage, also dressed in the garb of our town.

But the dance that the rest of us danced around them was not artful, not requiring of acrobatic skill.  What it did require is that the dancers danced together, flowing through each other, or moving in unison.  In the end, we all left the stage, streaming into the crowd.  And Sen and the succeeding Sovereign were left alone on the stage.  Sen twirled a final twirl and finished by facing the crowd and opening her arms to them as if ready to embrace.  The music swelled again and tapered to a soft end.

From the stage, Sen gestured to us, her fellow dancers, who were now arrayed in spokes through the gathered crowd.  We took our bows as the crowd once again cheered, whistled, and clapped.  Then we gestured to the stage, where Sen and the succeeding Sovereign joined hands and bowed.

When the crowd had grown as silent as they could, and the succeeding Sovereign had returned to the pavilion, Sen looked at the pavilion.

“As you cannot visit all the towns, cities, and villages of your vast and mighty realm,” my sister said, “and as we had the fortune to be chosen by chance, we have sought to bring many of those towns, cities, and villages to you.”

We dancers made our way back to the stage to join Sen.

The ruling Sovereign rose from her seat, bowed to us, and said, “It was well done.”

The crowd applauded, but with much more restraint and civility than before.

Then the Sovereign-to-be, and now, our fellow dancer, also rose.  “I will not forget your town,” he said, with a chuckle.  “It is the only place this Cavalcade has visited that has put me to work.”

Again the crowd applauded, but more raucously, for our own Sovereign-to-be had just teased us.  And he was not finished.

“I hope you will keep practicing, dancers of Fursa,” he said, “So perhaps when I return, you will not need my help in completing the number.”

I laughed and cheered along with everyone else.  But it was not until later, at the feast where we stuffed ourselves with the festival foods, and where the feast-workers collected their silvers coins, that my sister told me what the succeeding Sovereign’s words had meant.

“Don’t you see, little sister?” Sen said.  “We did not receive any gold coins, but we did receive a Gift of Gratitude from our Sovereign-to-be.  Do you know what that is?”

I thought for a moment, thinking the answer could not be so easy.  But when I looked in my sister’s eyes, I knew in the way that we always knew about each other, that the easy answer was the right answer.

I smiled.  “He told us to keep dancing.”

 

 

Copyright © 2018  Nila L. Patel

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