Thursday, April 12, 2012

K is for Knife Dance

For the A to Z Blogging Challenge, I'm posting alphabetically on things related to Shayla's world from my (unpublished) novel, Ghosts of Innocence...

Rather than tell you about the Knife Dance, I'll let the story show you, as Shayla, posing as a newly-appointed public servant, confronts the Palace bully:

Mabb snarled as Tanya scuttled back to her seat. "Fishlanders swim together, hmm?" Her lips formed a thin line. "We still need entertainment, Master of Circuses."

"That, I will provide." Shayla leaned across the table to Bo Branson. "Find the public music library for me."

Bo's scroll appeared from the depths of her sleeve. She unrolled it on the table.

"Find 'The Serpent's Passing' from The Dragon Prince."

Jojo smiled. "My favorite opera."

"Be ready to send it to the dining room's public address when I say so." Shayla removed her boots and threw off her heavy robes, to reveal leggings and a close-fitting tunic.

A lieutenant sitting nearby in full ceremonial regalia leered at her. With a murmured "Thanks," Shayla leaned over and relieved the startled soldier of his short sword. She held it in her right hand, appraising the balance. The gleaming weapon was anything but ceremonial. With her left hand, she drew her own knife.

Shayla strode to the center of the hall, and nodded to Bo. She stood, barefoot and head bowed, with the blades crossed over her heart.

The first chords of the aria filled the room like a distant lament carried on the wind across a wilderness of ice.

Shayla slowly slid her left foot up to her thigh, while spreading her arms wide, blades outstretched.

All grace and perfect balance, her raised leg extended behind while her arms closed in again, drawing the points of the weapons down her body.

Shayla had chosen one of the more dance-like routines in her martial repertoire. It would not do to advertise her full mastery of the Shohan Calinda, but she hoped this would not arouse comment. The Palm Tree...lean forward into the Hawk, then the Cobra, back to the Hawk... She recited the set poses, letting the sequence unfold from years of training as the lyrics sang of the poison coursing through the doomed Serpent's veins, and the agony of his awakening.

And hold...ready for the acrobatics...

Three forward flips and Shayla planted her feet in a wide fighting stance. The languid grace of the stylized poses gone, she was now the hunter, circling the room. Her blades were fangs seeking their prey.

Slash left, slash right, right again... The sword and the knife weaved patterns about Shayla's body. She was oblivious to her audience now, fully immersed in the dance, and the story of betrayal and quest for revenge.

The music's tempo quickened. The sword spun in the air above Shayla's head while the knife pointed an accusing finger of steel at Mabb.

Shayla leaped and pirouetted from one side of the central aisle to the other. She whirled ever closer to the high table, blades an almost invisible blur about her face. She now danced mere feet from Mabb, who sat wide-eyed with palms down on the tabletop as if she were pushing herself away from the dervish in front of her.

As the music climaxed, on the final beat, the knife and the sword flew from Shayla's hands and buried themselves an inch from Mabb's outstretched fingertips.

Mabb flinched but, to her credit, didn't snatch her hands away.

Shayla stood, head bowed once more, breathing hard. The healing wound in her shoulder screamed at her in protest. She swayed, fighting to bring the room back into focus.

A handclap echoed through her mind. Another. And another, slow and rhythmic.

She squeezed her eyes shut. She was being mocked. Her throat tightened.

"Bravo!" She recognized Kurt's voice behind her. Other pairs of hands joined in, growing, filling the air with a thunderous cadence. In this culture, a slow handclap is a sign of respect. Shayla's mission preparation reasserted itself. All the cultural differences she'd absorbed settled once more into the forefront of her awareness. She breathed again and lifted her head.

As Shayla leaned forward to retrieve the blades, Mabbwendig murmured, "You full of surprises, Master of Circuses."

"The Knife Dance is a holy and private meditation," Shayla whispered. "You know traditions. You must know that to commission it for public spectacle commands a blood price."

Mabb opened her mouth, then closed it again and swallowed hard. As Shayla pulled the weapons from the tabletop, Mabbwendig's veined hands trembled.


  1. Excuse can't leave it there. What was the blood price. Who paid it?

  2. I'm glad you didn't do a lengthy exact play by play. Just enough detail to give me an idea of the style, and then enough to keep me interested without dragging on.

    Is this a real dance style anywhere or just something you invented?

  3. Wow...

    That was awesome. *hand-clap*


  4. You painted a vivid picture of the dance. Bravo!

  5. Ditto Kimberlee's question. That was wonderful!

  6. I was blown away by your header picture today! It's glorious. Loved the excerpt too. Very alive! You manage to capture the spirit of the dance perfectly.


  7. Delores: that would be telling :)

    Kimberlee, Fairchild: this is a made-up in, you make up the detail in your own mind based on your own imagination. I have nothing to do with that :) I did take some inspiration from a whole host of moves and some yoga thrown in.

    J, Susan: thanks!

    Denise: the header is a detail from one of my paintings.

  8. Wait! What happens next? Not fair.

    Okay. Almost fair because of the venue, but I do want more.

    Enjoying my visit to your blog during the A to Z Blogging Challenge.

  9. Hi Botanist, I'm here from the RFW challenge this time. The dance still enthralled me. Thanks for joining in!

  10. Oh my! Is this part of a novel? Sounds like an other-worldly adventure and very exciting! I can't say that I understand it entirely - but it certainly has atmosphere!
    Best wishes,
    Anna's RFW challenge 39

  11. Hi Botanist,

    RFW challenger here!

    Great read. Nicely crafted, and as an excerpt it stands alone beautifully as Knife Dance. :)


  12. Excellent! I think I've done that dance at parties in my youth... or at least that's how it looked in my mind, maybe more like flailing under water to onlookers.

  13. Hello.
    Visiting from RFW.
    The imagery of this was even had me enthralled. "knife Dance" was perfect for the title. I enjoyed this. Thanks for sharing.

    Day 20/23: Tearful Maiden

  14. Well written description of the Knife Dance. Bravo.

  15. Well done. Very exciting. I'd love to know why she started the dance in the Library. The story sounds intriguing.


  16. That's some dangerous dancing. Nice job of presenting the Knife Dance to us.

    An A to Z Co-Host
    Tossing It Out

  17. Hi Denise, thanks for posting up the challenge linky list. Thanks to everyone who dropped by. I feel I've kinda cut & run because I've been out of circulation since, but I will visit more blogs shortly.


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