PROLOGUE ~ The Magic Number

A lively dance—we shall observe from our place atop the spire of the Church, shall we?—the traditional Luten jig begins with a certain degree of caution for the males, who have seen the last stages of the dance in previous years and are nervously contemplating their own drunken and exhausted fates.

The feminine contingent seems far too enthusiastic at first; the dance begins with a well-paced four-step and they rollick and hail. Yet soon they become breathless, as the dance gradually intensifies in speed and volume, and the fiddlers grow red and wet with their efforts to keep up with the dancers—even as the dancers grow red and wet with their efforts to keep up with the fiddlers.

The sky gradually grows dark and the air cold, but the dancers do not stop, and nor does the merriment. Laughs and giggles rise and drift over the rooftops in a jovial smoke, and parents, growing shifty-eyed, move away to deposit their children back at home or in hostels, before returning to share their part in Luten’s efforts.

Soon it is time for a short reprieve; but the music does not stop, and nor can the feet tapping on the beige paving stones of the Square. For a short period after this point, the dance consists of a repeating series of kicks, during which each dancer must clutch a glass of wine, garnet-damp and strong, in his or her left hand. After every eighth kick, each dancer must raise the glass to his or her lips and take a quick sip, punctuated by the laughs of the observing fellows. The wine, it is hoped, will keep each dancer moving throughout the duration of the full four hours.

In this lull, where feet are a-swinging and glasses are a-tinkling—a surreal lullaby wafting up from below—we can hear on the mild breeze a weak cry and a grave undertone. Behind the spire of Saint Nich’s, and over the rooftops of the District of the Rings, we can observe the six tall turrets of the Castle of Six Candles—six is, of course, a magic number in Carmun as it is everywhere.

The End

27 comments about this story Feed