The aberrant banemite hissed, or…rattled, or something. It was an odd sound that was difficult to describe, the sound a normal banemite might make if it had somehow grown six times larger than usual, so whatever passed for its chest cavity amplified its sound by that much.

 Which was, of course, exactly what had happened.

 Whatever the description, the sound sent shivers down Shae’s spine. She gripped her chakrams and tried to control the beating of her heart.

 “What am I supposed to do?!” She screamed the words into the rain. She could hear Sybilance sigh behind her.

 “Dance, idiot! What do you think?”

 “But…”

 “Haven’t you been listening to anything I’ve been saying? Has all your training taught you nothing? The Dance is not just for show! Kill that thing so we can go back inside! I’m soaked!”

Shae swallowed her protest and eyed the creature they had been hired to destroy. So far it did not seem to have noticed their presence. Or, more likely, it just deigned them as inconsequential and not worth its time. Although that was, perhaps, ascribing too much intelligence into…

 Enough. She cut her thoughts short – she was just delaying. She took a deep breath and cleared her mind of everything except The Dance.

 Too much. She cleared her mind of everything except the first pattern.

 Still too much. She cleared her mind of everything except the first step. Then she lifted her left leg and took that step.

 Hours of practice and painful drills took it from there – her right foot moved in habitual accord to its place, her hips twitched, her arms rose, the chakrams lifted, and she shifted through the Standard Steps. By the time she got to the Double Finish, she had forgotten everything else – The Dance was her world.

 She flowed into a Cascade and launched the chakrams, but this time it was different. Always before, the chakrams had spun forward, arced through the air, and returned. This time, there was something in their path – they sang forward and sliced into the chitin on the bantmite’s…shoulders, she supposed they must be, leaving long bloody gashes.

 It was a revelation. Sure, Sybilance had said The Dance was more than just for show, that it was really a deadly martial art in disguise, but that truth only became reality in Shae’s mind now, as the chakrams returned to her hands just as she began the rotation into Fountain. She found herself laughing as the blades rang out again. She had lost all fear of the giant banemite – it could not keep up. It turned to face her, but by the time it got its bulk arranged, she had already moved past. The chakrams never ceased moving, and she began to vary her steps, adding embellishments as she went: Cascade to Fountain, then the same reversed. She tossed in a little Windmill and Bloodshower (oh, that’s why it’s called that!) for fun. When the hapless creature seemed on its last legs, its body scored with dozens of gashes that bled freely, its movements closer to lurches than steps, she shifted to her coup de grace: the Fourfold Feather Fan Dance.

 The chakrams returned one last time and she returned them to their beltloops, then flicked her wrists to spring the fans into her hands from their wrist sheaths. The Fan Dance had always been her favorite, with its complex steps and funky rhythm. The fans seemed odd choices for what were purported to be weapons, but she had loved them from the moment she saw them – four delicate blades connected together with an ingenious mechanism for opening, closing, and locking the blades into place, the intricate designs etched into the blades…each fan was its own unique piece of art. Shae opened hers, shifted her stance, and leaped forward.

 Some seconds later, when the banemite’s body finally shuddered and collapsed and lay still, Shae stood on top of the carapace and spun through her finishing steps. She felt elated and powerful, more alive than…than…well, being alive the normal way. Or….

 Anyway. She finished the last step and stood for a moment to savor it, fanning herself with one blade while holding the other at a jaunty angle at her hip. She rather hoped the storm would produce a timely thunder and lightning combo to add to the drama of the moment, but all she got was a slightly thicker downpour.

 “Yes, lovely.” Sybilance frowned up at Shae. “Stop posing and get down. I’m freezing.” She didn’t wait for a response, just turned and began trekking toward town.

 Even her master’s dour mood couldn’t sour Shae’s joy. Not this time, anyway. She grinned and flicked the fans shut and stowed them up her sleeves, then took a moment to bow before an imagined audience before hopping to the ground and following with an irrepressible spring in her steps.

Author Sunscryer
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