PROLOGUE ~ The Luten Jig

Today it is the turn of the Queendom of Luten to provide the entertainment, and Queen Sepith has sent her ambassador instructions to organise a long dance of the kind native to Luten, a popular speciality and one organised by this particular country every year.

In Luten, the rubies of the crown are said to run as a spiritual fluid in the bloodline of the royal daughters; hence Queen Sepith’s pre-eminence. Yet sons are equally important, for they constitute the ‘loyal labour’ of the country. In Luten, a daughter is a sign of royal favour, but a son is a sign of ever-assiduous loyalty.

The women will always lead a Luten jig, which lasts for four hours without relapse, and so when the dance is announced, each young lady will grasp the elbow of her young man, digging her long nails into his skin and holding him fiercely captive as she drags him into the centre of the Square, which has been cleared. Each young man will cast a dubious glance in the direction of his more fortunate fellows, who have no over-energetic young girls of their own to haul them out onto the stones. Round the great statue of King Duaryth III they go, gazing up his iron face with prayers in their hearts.

The Square had been constructed and the statue erected for King Duaryth III following his coronation, after he had passed that very spot where the iron statue stood, riding back to the Castle on his favourite horse after an exultant circuit of the country—three weeks later he was thrown by that same horse and broke his neck.

But that story is not pertinent to this particular moment. To return to the scene of the Luten jig, each young man, standing nervously in the Square with an over-zealous girlfriend clinging to his arm, soon erupts into grateful guffaws of mirth—a local lady without a partner has boldly grabbed the wrist and taken possession of one of his friends—of course, that especial friend had previously been so very complacent at finding himself out of the strenuous dancing. Oh, how we do enjoy a mocker’s incredulous realisation that he is immune to no proverb or proclamation of his own.

The End

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