`No, no, no. You’re doing it all wrong, Elena.’
I can already see Monk Kiriak walk towards me. `Here we go again,’ I say under my breath.
`What was that, dear?’
`Nothing, Monk Kiriak, just a sigh of frustration.’
`Not with me, I hope,’ the monk grinned. I honestly have no issues with Monk Kiriak, he is a very friendly elderly man. Obviously, as a monk of the elemental fist he is still extremely fit for his age, but even the most persistent people cannot evade the progression of time forever, and it showed on his face.
`No, not with you. With this entire situation.’
`Walk with me,’ he says to me as he turns to Jarakh, his apprentice. `Twelve more minutes of this, then you can send them off.’ The day is getting a bit late and our evening training was about to come to an end. After this I would normally take a hot bath and go to my room with some books, but it looks like there was a different plan.
Jarakh nods, then gives me a look of disapproval. Jarakh and I have never gotten along well. He sees me as a failure and although I struggle with some of the teachings, his behavior towards me is definitely not helping my motivation.
Kiriak has already started walking away from the temple yard and I follow him quickly. We leave the premises altogether and walk down to the nearby village. `Please do not be harsh on Jarakh, he is very strict, but he is a good person underneath all that disapproval.’
I shake my head. `If you say so.’
The temple is located on a small mountain path. The mountain has an oasis at the foot of the path we’re descending and a village has been expanding around it since before I was even born. I spent my first eighteen years down in the village, so I know a lot of the people there. After my mother passed away I made the decision to join the temple and devote my life to mastering the martial arts taught there. My father was a monk when he was younger and joined the army when I was twelve years old. He’s come back from time to time to check up on me, and the last time I saw him was when he brought flowers to mom’s grave. He told me they were being sent on an expedition across the Gilran Ocean. I haven’t heard from him since. This was four years ago. News from outside the oasis comes sparsely, so I do not know the state of the expedition he went on. But I’m sure he’ll be back, he is tough as nails.
After we descend the stairs down to the village we walk to the village square. At this point the sun has slowly gone beyond the horizon and the oasis is lit up by torchlight and bonfires. All this time Kiriak stays quiet. There is a traveling performer and we stay and watch for a while. The performer is a young woman. Her body as well as her face are covered in silken robes of pinks and purples, her midriff is exposed as she dances against a backdrop of firelight. It is kind of entrancing to watch.
While I stand there, I make eye contact with the dancer and in an elegant flash of motion she is suddenly right in front of me, holding out her hand to me. Reluctantly I grab it and she immediately has me darting around the fire that is central to her performance. I can hear faint music, almost as if it is coming from far away. My body follows her instructions as the pace increases, and before we know it, I am dancing as if it was the only thing I ever knew how to do.
In a twirl of motion I reach out my arm and fire shoots out of it, straight into the ground.
`What the hell was that?’ she grabs me closer as we keep moving. She starts laughing softly. `You have what it takes to be a firedancer, young one.’ She lets go of my hand and I feel like the world around me is spinning ever so slightly out of focus. All I can see is her and the movements of her body. Without warning, she kicks the ground with her heel and flames snake across the ground in different directions, before slowly sputtering out. She moves her hands from one side to another and a little ball of fire appears on her fingertip.
Seemingly without a reason, her face turns serious and the little ball of fire disappears. The rest of the town square comes back into focus as I hear Kiriak yell behind me.
The woman goes from standing next to me to dashing straight through the crowd. Instead of using brute force and pushing people aside, she dances and weaves in between them. Instinctively, I know I have to follow her. I pay close attention to her movements as I glide through the crowd of people, dodging anyone in the way. I vault over a fence in an attempt to catch up with her, but she stays ever so slightly out of reach. She looks over her shoulder and I can see a smile appear on her face. Her green eyes are like fiery emeralds and that smile reaches straight into my heart. I trip and almost fall, but her hand grabs mine and I find myself in the middle of a spin, landing in her arms as she quickly propels me back onto my feet. I can see people in the distance, their swords drawn. Suddenly her face is right next to mine and I can feel the heat of her breath as she looks me in the eyes. `Watch this,’ is all she says, before she pushes me away from her and flips over backwards, the tip of her left foot immediately making contact with one of the bandits, knocking him upside down in an instant. I find myself lost for words seeing how much force is behind her movements. It looks like she is barely expending any energy at all, yet every time she touches one of the charging bandits, they are knocked off their feet immediately. She dances through the mob of attackers, dodging their weapons by what seems like only a hair, and then immediately twirling around them to connect with a weak point in their body to knock them out. The word she used earlier sprung to my mind immediately.
I close my eyes and repeat the movements in my head. There is a rhythm to them. It is as if this woman is moving to a song that only she can hear. And as if through some foreign magic, I suddenly hear something as well. A harp playing in the distance. I focus on the sound, but it seems out of reach. I keep focusing as I stand there, until the sound gets louder.
And even louder.
Suddenly, a symphony starts to play in my mind and when I open my eyes, I can see traces of something in the air. It’s as if I just need to follow those traces. I do and after a couple of seconds I realize that I’m performing a dance. I feel strength flowing through my body as if every movement I make is completely without wasted energy. In the corner of my eye I see one of the bandits that managed to push past the dancer. I want to run away, but something keeps me from doing so. The traces of movement I see in the air don’t include running away, so I stay. As a sword lunges towards me, the song drops to lower tone and so does my body, tackling the man running towards me. The sword only barely misses me and with one motion I sweep the legs from under the man and watch him crash face first into the well I’m right next to. I can feel a smile creeping onto my face as I swiftly move towards the next bandit. I jump to the side and extend the same motion all the way through my arms, connecting my left hand with his chin. I send him flying. The blur of motion surrounding me starts to accelerate as my movements speed up as well. I’m dancing through a crowd of people. The sun is high in the sky and small flames flicker around my body. I hear the crowd roar with excitement. Sweat is flying off of my forehead as I finish with a bow. When I look around, I realize I’m on a stage in a big city. In the corner of my eye I notice the dancer that I saw back in the village square. She gives a bow in return and I can see her mouth form one short sentence, and I hear it in my head:
Come find me.
I look straight and see thousands of people roaring with enthusiasm.
I blink and I’m back in the village square. There are no bandits, there is no dancer, and all the lights are out. That’s strange. I start wandering the streets and hear a voice call out to me. I go towards the voice.
`Elena! Wake up Elena.’
I sit up straight with a jolt. Looking around me, I realize I am back in my sleeping quarters in the temple.
`You’ve overslept again, hurry up before you are too late for morning practice.’
`Morning practice?’ That can’t be right, it was evening just now, I finished practice. Wasn’t I walking through a deserted town just now?
`Yes, are you still half asleep?’
`I’ll be there in a moment.’
I slowly start to realize what happened. I think all of that was a dream. But it felt too real to be a dream. I close my eyes again and I can still see the dance in my mind. Maybe it was more than just a dream. I trace the movements I made in my dream with my hands and I can feel that it makes sense to my body. I recognize this, I was born to dance. I can also still hear the woman’s voice.
Come find me.