Later, she would remember that dance.
As she stepped into the middle of the floor, taking care to keep exact pace with Rayth, she felt everyone’s eyes upon her – some fifty people, not counting the uninvited forest fae that had been attracted by the dance – and decided that this time, she would not trip, or step on Rayth’s toes, or make any wrong move. This time, she would dance the fairy dance, remembering every move, and executing them perfectly. This time, she was determined to remain in control.
It didn’t turn out that way at all.
Instead, as Rayth led her into the edge of the dance, she opened her ears to the song of the sacrificial fae. Usually she ignored them, or tried to: her first esbat had been catastrophic when she’d tried to save them. Her mother had locked her in her tower for days afterwards.
She steeled herself and opend her ears, searching for a steady rhythm to follow and finding none, but this time, as the melody insinuated itself into her head, she found something else instead: a complex pattern of notes, repeated, but altered each time – lengthened, accelerated, transposed – and she found herself moving in harmony with Rayth as if it were the most natural thing in the world. She looked into his eyes, and found him openly surprised. She couldn’t help smiling, and as she smiled, his eyes widened and she found herself unable, or unwilling, to look away.
A voice in her mind cried out a warning, and was quickly hushed. She relaxed and let the music possess her, always staring into his eyes – who was he again? It didn’t matter – and it was as though their mutual gaze became a link, something solid that held them together in trance, binding their souls into the music.
How long it lasted, she couldn’t say, but suddenly the music stopped. Rayth blinked and tore his eyes away from hers, and Arwyn found herself emerging as if from a deep slumber. She looked around, dazed, and saw the other fairies clustered in groups, shooting worried glances at them and whispering. Some seemed bewildered, coming out of the dance as she had. Some were leaving.
She searched for Orren and found him. He was close to the middle of the dance, the crumpled, blue-streaked form of one of the sacrifices at his feet, and a grim expression on his face. Feeling her gaze, he looked up and, stepping over the dead fae, strode towards her so fast that she thought he might hit her – but instead he put a protective arm around her shoulders and led her back to the castle. She searched for Rayth as they left, but he was nowhere to be seen. Neither was her mother.
“What happened?” she asked Orren.
“I thought to ask you that question,” he said through grit teeth. “I can only guess that you still have too much human left in you, yet.”
“What?” she asked, feeling stupid.