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The Dancer


by precious_katuch14

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The afternoon sun smiled warmly on a small town located just at the outskirts of the kingdom called Altador. Nearly all its residents bustled about, barely stopping to think or look up at the wonderfully clear sky. They were very busy, and indeed could not think of anything else but their preparations for a grand festival.

     It had been so many years since the village had been established from a simple community of travelers. Since then, it had grown to prosper, and these days, the conditions were better than ever, and a hundred years of stability was something to be happy about. Not only were the harvests rich, the villagers were assiduous, patient and virtuous, and best of all, there was a smiling face just around every corner.

     One of them was the face of a pretty young Cybunny named Sasha.

     Sasha wore a simple but colorful blue dress and wore matching ribbons and a headband in her hair. In one paw she tapped a tambourine in rhythm with the simple dance steps she was practicing, and in the other, she held up a banner so that a spotted Gelert could paint some finishing touches on it.

     "Looking good, Phil!" said the Cybunny as she watched the brush fly across the surface. "If you want, I'll stop dancing about so - "

     Phil shook his head and stepped back from the banner. His blue shirt, brown vest and gray trousers were spattered slightly with paint. "No, that's all right, Sasha," he replied. "That's all the bits I needed to fix. Does it look fine?"

     "Looks fine to me," she said with a nod, still clutching her corner of the banner. "Will they hang this up now?"

     "I'll do it," said a nearby white Lupe, taking it from the Cybunny. She was clad in a sleeveless shirt over a long red skirt, with an apron tied around her waist. From the looks of the fresh stains on it, she had been cooking.

     "You're done with the cooking, Lila?" asked Sasha. "Then I guess it's time for me to practice."

     Lila snorted, hopping onto a chair so she could put up the banner. On the other side, a friendly Pteri had the other end and was already tying it up, gesturing towards the Lupe. "You're already a really great dancer, Sasha. You don't need to practice."

     The Cybunny shrugged. "Maybe great, sort of, but I'm not perfect. Practice makes perfect." She took two steps backward and raised her arms, tapping her tambourine in rhythm and gently sliding back and forth, much to the awe of her friends. As she stopped and fixed her ribbons, she added, "See?"

     "Looks perfect to me," mused Phil. He received a light smack on the shoulder with the tambourine.

     "Well, I for one can't do any of those fancy moves that you can," said Lila, jumping back onto the ground. "I've got bad coordination." She placed one foot forward, and twisted in a sort of twirl, only to end up toppling over her skirt. As the Lupe gathered herself up, she said, "I'm clumsy, a really bad dancer."

     "You're not clumsy in the kitchen," said Sasha. "And you just have a really long skirt. Everybody trips or falls sometimes." She put her arm around her friend and nodded. The Cybunny shrugged. "I guess our work is done here? The banner's all finished, anyway, and if I'm not mistaken, Lila's done with her work too. All they have to do is set out the food tomorrow."

     The Lupe bobbed her head in assent. "My parents want me home right about now. We still have to fix up our own house." She snickered. "We spend all these months setting up the entire town and we forget about decorating our own home. Coming, Sasha? Your house is just close to mine."

     Sasha grinned. "Thanks," she said, watching the sun slowly dip into the horizon. The afternoon seemed to fade away fast, and many of their comrades were finishing up their jobs as well. "What about you, Phil?"

     "Is the banner all right?"

     "It's fine, Phil," said Lila. "Everything's going to be fine tomorrow. In fact, it's all going to be perfect!"

     * * *

     The next day dawned bright and early, and most of the townspeople were already assembling in the streets for the festival. Some were fixing up a few more things, like straightening a streamer here and there, or adjusting the arrangement of the buffet tables. Most of them were hanging around in front of a large stage that had been erected in the town square, including Sasha, Phil and Lila.

     "So," the Lupe was saying, "according to the itinerary, we're going to start with the Council of Elders' speech, and then we move on to the play, and then we get to watch the dancers! Oh, and after that... "

     "Yeah, yeah, we get it already," said Phil, rolling his eyes. "Let's get the speech thing over with so we can move on to the fun stuff."

     "I think I'm praying that they make an extra long speech," said Sasha nonchalantly, knotting her fingers together. She was in a bright pink-and-blue costume that day, with matching ribbons and a headband, and had added two pairs of gold hoop earrings and several bangles to the ensemble, and she had her tambourine with her again. The Cybunny was also flanked by several other dancers, clad in different shades of blue and pink that made Lila and Phil blink.

     "You don't have to worry," said an Aisha, whose arms were practically dripping with bracelets. "You're the best dancer, Sasha."

     "She's just being humble," Lila pointed out. "Besides - "

     But before anyone could hear what the white Lupe had to say, a strong blast of wind blew past them all, rattling the banners, streamers and lamps. Several parents shushed their youngsters when they began to whimper. The wind left as fast as it came.

     "As I was saying," Lila continued, but her sentence was cut off again by a second gust of air blowing past. A banner was ripped and sent flying before more winds, each one stronger and faster than the last, took over, hurling decorations to the ground in their wake and ruffling the townspeople.

     "Shoot, my banner!" shouted the spotted Gelert over the roar of the impending storm, realizing that the torn banner was his own painted one.

     "What's going on?" yelled a Mynci in a dancing costume, clutching her tambourine to her chest.

     "I don't know, but the winds seem to be getting stronger!" screamed Sasha. She held onto Lila and Phil and heard a blue Nimmo with a gray beard, one of the Council Elders, call over the noise in a clear voice, "Everyone, into the basement, quickly!"

     There was no need to say anything more. The crowds were herded into the large basement shelter beneath their town through a small trapdoor in one corner of the town square. Sasha, Phil and Lila stuck together, along with the other dancers as they stomped down the stairs, flinching and trying not to complain as others brushed and pushed past them. Nobody wanted to get caught in the storm.

     "Everyone's here?" asked the Nimmo anxiously.

     "The place was completely deserted when I checked before shutting the door," answered a green Moehog. "All the townspeople were in the square, anyway, when the other Elders checked."

     Meanwhile, a spotted Gelert was sitting in a corner, his arms wrapped around his knees and rocking back and forth while whimpering endlessly. He was flanked by a small group of girls in pink and blue, plus one white Lupe in blue.

     "My banner... my beautiful, beautiful banner..."

     "At least we lost the banner, and not you," said Lila frankly, rolling her eyes. Suddenly, they heard a youngster's wail echo throughout the basement and an infuriated parent's attempt to shush him.

     "Sam, please don't cry... we're going to be fine... don't make a racket, please..."

     Unfortunately, it was too late. The one called Sam cried even louder, and several more of the children joined in, creating a chorus of temper tantrums. The grown-ups and even the elders themselves began crowding around them, desperately trying to keep them under control, but all their efforts proved futile. The cries were even louder than the storms raging outside.

     "As if Phil wasn't enough," mumbled Lila, covering her ears.

     "I wasn't crying," retorted the Gelert. "I was... grieving the loss of my masterpiece!"

     "Grieving, crying, that's basically just about the same," said the white Lupe. "Right, Sasha... hang on, Sasha?"

     She looked at the horde of dancers beside her and realized that there was not a sign of a Cybunny among them.

     "Sasha was with us when we went down the trapdoor," said Phil. "We were holding paws and everything."

     But they didn't have to look too far. Beside them, a little Eyrie perched on an old barrel was sobbing away, and the two older Eyries Phil and Lila took to be his parents were just staring at him... and for good reason.

     The Cybunny was standing beside him, cupping his chin and humming a soft tune. She began tapping her tambourine and her feet in time, and they watched as the child's sobs were reduced to teary sniffs as his amber gaze followed Sasha, who began to dance before him. The other younger ones began awkwardly wiping their eyes and focusing on her too.

     She danced and danced, and her fellow dancers eventually joined in, some of them singing instead of humming. One by one the children's frowns were turned upside down and all the cries had been turned to giggles and claps. Now even the parents and the other older pets were smiling as they continued their display of talent. Plus, there was not a single wailing youngster in sight.

     In fact, nobody seemed to care when an Elder, a pink Kau leaning on a cane, announced from the middle steps of the staircase, "It seems that the storm's still going on. We'll have to stay in here for much longer than we thought."

     * * *

     "My feet hurt," complained a dancing Draik. "That seemed like forever."

     "But at least we made those children happy, not to mention their parents," remarked Sasha. "And now the Elders are giving the OK signal. Now we can get out of here and get this party - "

     Her voice trailed off as they finally emerged through the trapdoor, and she was not the only one surprised at what awaited them above.

     Although the sun was now shining again and there were no more strong winds trying to blow them off their feet, it was apparent that the winds decided to unleash their wrath on other things besides the townspeople. It wasn't just Phil's banner which had been thrashed, but just about every banner and every streamer was blown to the ground, mangled and ripped to shreds. The buffet tables were overturned, and most of the other decorations and lanterns were all over the place, broken and battered, and the ones that still hung were in no better condition. The stage was deluged in a pile of curtains and decorations.

     "Now what are we supposed to do now?" wailed the Draik. "All that practice... the set-up... everything's gone!"

     "Technically, they're not gone," said Phil with a wry smile. "They're everywhere, in fact."

     "You're not helping," grumbled Lila, giving the spotted Gelert a dirty look.

     Sasha stroked her chin, deep in thought. "We can't just cancel the festival, after everything we've done, after the preparations... "

     "Well, take a look," said the white Lupe grimly. "This place is messier than my bedroom. What can we do?"

     "Think about it," said the Cybunny with a small smile. "Has the mess in your room ever stopped me and Phil from hanging around with you in there? Has it ever stopped me from practicing my dance steps?"

     "What're you talking about?" Lila raised an eyebrow.

     Instead of replying, Sasha strode towards the stage, much to the surprise of several townspeople. The other dancers hung back, not knowing whether to follow her or to stay where they were. She stopped at the steps, knowing that the stage itself was filled with fallen decorations that would spell trouble for any performer.

     She closed her eyes briefly and reflected on her moves, letting it all sink in, but it only took a few seconds until Sasha let herself go, dancing as though the storms had never come. Her tambourine jingled in her paws and her feet stomped and slapped in time with the bells, and for a few moments she forgot about what had happened to their festival. Her mind was set on only one thing - dancing. She was here to dance, and nothing would stop her... not even the strange looks she received from the crowd as mutterings and whispers drifted through.

     After a little while, she felt something brush against her knee as she skipped back and forth on the step. The Cybunny saw the dancers coming forward, and some of their friends, including Phil and Lila, were hurriedly clearing the stage of any debris. Now the performers didn't have to crowd around on the steps.

     Soon, everyone was dancing and singing. The festival had mysteriously come alive again after the storm, which nobody seemed to dwell on now.

     And it was all because of that one Cybunny who showed what a festival was really all about.

The End

 
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