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Quest For The Witch Chapter Seven
Chapter Seven Dance
Alexandra's heart was beating more than when she finally left the manor. She was actually going to perform in front of an audience. During her childhood, she had always imagined singing and dancing in front of an audience. She outgrew that some time ago. However, now that she was going to do that in reality, she felt like throwing up again.
There was a single drumbeat. Looking out the window, Alexandra saw that the sun was setting. It was time for the ritual. She picked up her staff, a long smooth stick with bells with a diamond atop for a head, swallowed her fears, which were rightfully plenty, and walked out. Around her waist was a long, dirt brown sash which was vivid against the grass-colored silk dress she wore with a high collar clasped together by an emerald brooch. It was slightly difficult with the skirt trailing on the floor, and with sleeves so long and loose, but she managed.
As she exited the building, she kept the staff raised parallel in front of her, slowly going down one step at a time with each drum beat. Almost everyone in the village was there to watch her. The rest were out fighting. She could hear the shouts and the roars and thoughts went to Caesar. She quickly pushed them aside, understanding that her role was vital and she had to do it right.
The chief stood wearing grand robes of brown and a cylindrical hat. Steam came from beneath a pant leg from the mechanical limb that replaced the one he lost in a war. At his side was his granddaughter wearing identical robes, but of green. As she was the next generation, representing the new, she was the one that Alexandra bowed to first, just like she practiced, and then to the chief who represented the old.
After that, the chief took out the vial that held Alexandra's blood and circled around the center of the village, along the invisible barrier that kept the spectators at bay. He still had a scowl on his face.
Earlier, when the doctor extracted the blood with needle like when taking a standard blood test, the chief muttered: "Pansy." This earned him glares from his granddaughter, Alexandra, Caesar, and the doctor. Just because Alexandra refused to use the ceremonial knife, which, according to the old man's granddaughter, had not been in use in three generations before the last ritual.
The monarchy of the village bowed back to the witch when the circle was complete. Alexandra danced over the line of blood, ignoring the lightheadedness that came from its loss. She reached the center of the circle, bowed to the four directions of North, South, East, and West. She raised her staff high above her head, the long flowing sleeves of her dress dropping to her elbows. There was a final beat from the large drums, and then someone began to play the fiddle.
Exotic music served to block out the noise of battle around them. Indeed there was nothing else but the music now. After taking in a deep breath and exhaling, Alexandra brought her staff down in a diagonal cut. The dance had begun.
Alexandra spun with her staff raised. She swung it upward, then downward another way. As she had been told, it was just like stick fighting, and that, she was good at, thanks to Gwendolyn. With each swing of her staff, the bells along the base of the diamond chimed gently. She swept along a diameter of the circle then jabbed her staff forward.
As she danced, Alexander could feel her being spreading. It was a sensation not unlike a witch's Sight. She could feel anything and everything. She felt the elation of the crowd, their anticipation and excitement. And she could feel the pain that the defenders were suffering. She nearly stopped to gasp in horror when Caesar was tackled down by a shadow. Because she wavered, the magic her dance generated also wavered. Unease began to spread throughout the audience. They, too, had sensed that something was wrong.
Yesss, hissed a voice from afar. Fail as you were destined to!
Alexandra felt panic rising in her heart. There was malevolence in that voice enough to make her entire being to melt into cold goo. Winter was not coming. It was here. She just barely managed to keep in step. If she had missed that last one, the spell would not only be ruined, it would have shattered with a backlash that would not be merciful.
Fail, so that I may condemn more souls to suffer for longer than time itself!
Alexandra did not know where the voice was coming from, nor who it belonged to. But she knew in her heart that she could not let it have its way. Her own survival would depend on her beating this malevolent presence.
The thousand-year-old witch failed to keep me sealed for a mere one hundred years! What makes you, an insignificant little girl from privileged family, do against someone beyond the laws of your kind?
Alexandra tried hard to push the voice away, but it persisted. She was so close to finishing the dance. The voice continued to jeer and taunt her. It played at her insecurities, naming them all one by one in a singsong manner. Biting down on her lower lip, Alexandra pushed on with the dance. Her shoulders and arms were getting heavy. Soreness was overtaking her legs. Listening to the voice and stopping with the dance was alluring to the girl. But she did not stop. As she danced, her senses continued to broaden and she felt the suffering that the village had gone through throughout the years of their curse. She could not let this suffering continue. And if there was one thing that she ever truly inherited from Gwendolyn, it was a stubborn streak.
Still, her movements slowed considerably, and the magic continued to waver more and more into a fragile state. She could feel the dark entity's onslaught. It continued to strike at the barrier that was supposed to keep darkness at bay. Cracks were beginning to form and she knew that the protection would not last for a minute longer.
Then, an indomitable spirit made itself known. Alexandra knew at once that it belonged to Gwendolyn, the true Immortal Witch. She had joined the battle and had come to Caesar's rescue. Relief for Caesar's safety washed over Alexandra like a tidal wave. And like the warriors who fought against the invading creatures of dark magic, Alexandra's focus and resolve was renewed.
As she danced with more confidence, she felt the tides turn in the battle. She sensed the creatures being pushed back away from the village. And she felt the insecurities of the dark entity. It was getting nervous. Its gloating and self-absorbing praise were stopped, and now it was attacking at the protective magic with a vengeance.
Just as she was reaching the climax of the dance, Alexandra sensed something that was off. There was a difference between herself, Caesar, the gunman, and a small minority against the rest of the village. And yet the larger of the village was similar in some ways with Gwendolyn, who, herself, was unique among witches today. And what was it that Gwendolyn say about her immortality? Wasn't she a spirit?
Great sadness came when Alexandra made the connection with what she was sensing. And with that sadness, she was more determined than ever to see the ritual to its end. She swept sideways three more times and raised the staff to stamp it one final time on the ground. The entity broke through with force he mustered from sheer desperation. He soared over the heads of the audience and went straight for the dancing girl. They were not its concern.
Just as what would be its hand reached for her throat, the staff made impact against the ground with an audible stomp. There was finality in that sound, and the musicians stopped. Everyone watched with held breath. Then from within the circle, a pillar of light shot up toward the sky. It was pleasantly warm inside to Alexandra. But to the entity within, it was its burning, painful doom. With screams of pain and frustration the entity disappeared, destroyed by the warm, benevolent light.
Although there was victory in vanquishing a great evil and liberating a people from a horrible fate, tears rolled down Alexandra's cheeks. They were tears of mourning. She did not know the people for long, but still, she was sad. For this was their final night on earth.
When the light had faded, all were gathered around her. She collapsed into someone's arms and although the ritual was over, she knew that it was Caesar who caught her. She looked up and saw that there were no smiles in those eyes. Their eyes met for a moment, and then they turned to the others. With the exception of Gwendolyn, the gunman, and three others, the rest were giving off a silvery glow, a common knowledge sign of the spirits' time on earth at its end. They were smiling, elated that they were finally going to be put to rest and move on.
"There is no need to mourn," the chief said, taking note of Alexandra's tears. His voice echoed as if he were at a far-off cavernous place. "Our time in this world should have ended a long time ago."
"Immortal Witch," went Misha. "I've been meaning to ask for some time but never found the opportunity to, but how is my son?"
"Why don't you ask him?" Gwendolyn suggested. Suddenly, the crowd split and in walked the man that Alexandra and the rest encountered outside the village. He pulled back his hood, revealing a middle-aged man, bald, with coffee-colored skin. His face was weathered, but his expression regal. Mother and son met eyes. They exchanged the softest of words, inaudible to an ordinary human's ears, and then it was over. The parent and child nodded and then separated between the living and dead appropriately.
"I would have one final request," the chief said, his chest swelling with pride at the sight of his great-grandson who he believed to have grown into a fine magician.
"Spill it," Gwendolyn said, straightforward as always, even to the departing dead.
"One-hundred-eleven years ago, you visited this village not in this adult form, but as a child," the chief said, his eyes more distant than they were before. For once, Gwendolyn waited for a person who was starting a story instead of giving a direct answer. "I was but a bitter former soldier who lost his leg for the country that segregated his people and had nothing to show for it and was a bit outraged at my father and the other elders for allowing a non-elf to enter the village grounds.
"I went to confront the intruder, a witch of repute who liked to take the form of a little girl despite being of an ancient generation. As I wheeled myself to the fields where she would spend her times idle, I heard a song in a language that only the shaman would know of, a language that was dead long before the first dynasty of the country's name and used merely in religion before that custom, too, died. It was a very beautiful sound. And the voice that sung it, was heavenly.
"I never got to talk to that little girl, or ask her about that song."
"Because of those cursed vultures your younger brother caused," Gwendolyn finished with a sad smile on her face. It startled Alexandra and Caesar to see Gwendolyn more refined and more lady-like in the stereotypical old-fashioned sense. "It was a lullaby in the mother tongue of my grandmother. It was her duty to keep ancient traditions alive."
"So that's what it was," the chief said with a nod. "I would very much like to hear that song again before I leave, if that is not too much to ask."
In answer, Gwendolyn burst into emerald-green flames. When the flames disappeared, standing before the crowd was a little girl with a mysterious aura and eyes filled with wisdom beyond what age her looks betrayed.
"Think any of you can play the fiddle?" she asked one of the remaining living occupants of the village. The gunman stepped forward, picking up the discarded instrument.
"I learned a little during my time here. The ritual song right?"
"Good guess," Gwendolyn said with a nod. "Girl who has inherited my name, think you have enough in you for a final performance. It'd help them move on."
Alexandra got up, her face resolute. Caesar said nothing, but picked up the drum sticks and went to the large, weathered drum ready for his part. He didn't need anyone to tell him that this would be an important part, however small a responsibility it was. Gwendolyn looked briefly surprised then smiled. She was glad to see that Caesar had some brain after all.
At the sound of the single drum beat from the boy, the gunman played the fiddle, the girl danced, and the ancient witch opened her mouth to sing. The music was all harmonious and matched well with the witch's archaic song in an even more archaic language. The words were alien to the ears of the listeners, but it was heavenly coming from the witch's mouth.
Of the living, only Caesar had his eyes opened wide. He was witness to a beautiful sight to be beheld. Tiny silvery sparks, like fireflies, rose from the ground and drifted upward toward the heavens. In the middle of it all was Alexandra stunningly swaying to the music, swinging her staff as she had been taught.
The chief was the last to go after his granddaughter.
"Thank you," he said with a smile. And then he joined the other sparks. Even with the last of the souls gone, the performers did not stop. They would not stop until well into dawn.
- Quest For The Witch Chapter Six
Alexandra and Caesar train and practice for the ritual to free a village from a curse. On the day of the ritual, Caesar and other warriors in the village defend against monsters. How will they fare?
- Quest For The Witch Chapter Eight
Having put the spirits of the elf village to rest, time now comes for Alexandra's next venture into the vast unknown of the country.