We do not have much power, my little troupe and I. We are not truly of the Elect, and though the spirits speak through our dance, they do so weakly.
Still we do what we can to brighten the life of our town, to bring joy and fertility with our footsteps, light shimmering from our fingertips as the power moves through us.
Before the spirits touched us, we always used to dance in the graveyard. In the summer, it was the most open space not filled with crops. And so we return there now, my skirts swirling as I lead the way. It is a grim place, but would the spirits not want us to celebrate our ancestors? To brighten up the space in which they now dwell?
My mother does not think so. She and the other temple elders stand by the rock pillar at the heart of the graveyard, arms folded across their winter cloaks, glaring accusingly at us.
“Stop this at once,” my mother demands.
We do not listen, but instead join hands as we trip lightly between the gravestones, our footsteps forming a glittering circle around these stern figures.
“Very well then.” My mother draws a heavy book of scripture from within her cloak, and the others do the same. In unison, they sing a curse from one of the oldest books, droning words of condemnation meant for prisoners bound in chains.
As the words surround us, I feel something drag at my arms and legs. It is as if they are bound to those of the dancer next to me. Looking around, I see that the others are struggling as I am, our light and floating magic turning into chains that bind us together in our ring.
This spiteful restriction only makes me more determined in my defiance. Step by heavy step I draw the dance away from the stone and onto the graves themselves. We skip and spin between the gravestones.
But the curses are growing louder, the bindings tighter, and it is becoming hard to move.
One of the dancers stumbles and falls against a gravestone, dragging another down with him. I feel the strands of light that once invigorated me now dragging me down towards the ground.
In desperation, I slam my arm against the nearest gravestone. Cold granite proves stronger than art or prayer, and the strands of magic shatter even as pain fills my wrist. For a moment the power turns once more to bright, sparkling light, falling like fragments of a rainbow before vanishing into the dead earth.
Wearily, I look up at my mother. There is a grim sort of triumph on her face.
That expression falls away as, from the graves around me, intangible figures rise up, the ghosts of a broken rainbow colouring their outlines. They hold hands as they rush between the stones, laughing and smiling as they once did in life.
The magic of the dance fills the graveyard, and my heart.
* * *
This is a follow-up to ‘The Elect‘. Thanks to Steve Hartline for saying kind things about that story, and so encouraging me to write this one.
If you enjoyed this then you might like to try By Sword, Stave or Stylus, my collection of flash short stories. And if you enjoy any of the stories I post here then please share them.