Sunday, December 14, 2008

Dancing With Fate by Hywela Lyn

Chapter 1

Mount Olympus—the distant past

The last notes of the choir died away and on ceasing their song, the nine beautiful sisters made the slightest of curtsies to their leader. Apollo smiled in approval and the marble hall, with its gleaming pillars of white and gold, glowed in his radiance. When they turned to leave, he called to the one who played the lyre.

"Terpsichore—I would have a word with you."

The muse turned and glided back to where the God of Light sat in splendour. He held his tripod in one hand and his bow hung over his shoulder. His own lyre or kithara lay on his knee. The brightness that emanated from him was such it almost dazzled even a muse such as herself.

However, she met the brilliance of his eyes with pride, and lost none of her self-confidence.

Clasping her delicately carved instrument, she stood before him and nodded at his raven perched nearby. She inclined her head to one side, a question in her eyes.

"First, I would have you dance for me. You know how I love to see you dance."

Even if he had not been the Musagetes, leader of all the Muses, and her half brother, Terpsichore could still not have declined to grant his request. Golden hair, curling down nearly to his shoulders, framed his dazzling, almost frighteningly handsome features, crowned with a wreath of laurel leaves. His eyes, brown in some lights, gold in others, had a mesmerising quality.

His masculine physique was sheer perfection. Little wonder every goddess he looked upon with

desire, instantly yielded to him even without the assistance of Dionysus' enchanted wine.

Apollo nodded to her to begin. Raising her hands in the air, like a bird flexing its wings, Terpsichore drew music from her lyre with the plectrum. The notes rose and surrounded her like a magical veil of sound. Languidly, she moved in time to the music, allowing the silken folds of her long white garment to flow around her like soft ripples in a becalmed sea. She swivelled her hips faster. Leaning backward, she placed the lyre against a pillar entwined with vines of gold, in a fluid movement that was part of her dance. With a toss of her head, she swung her long hair, braided with flowers and ribbons, over one shoulder. Her arms above her head, her hands moved with the grace of a gentle breeze bending the grass. As always when she danced, Terpsichore lost herself in the rhythm. She hardly noticed when Apollo picked up his kithara and accompanied her singing. Her bare feet felt as though they no longer touched the ground as they performed the complex sequence of steps in time to her song and the swirling of her hips. It almost seemed as if time stood still and there was nothing but the magick of her dance.

Faster and faster she whirled, euphoric with the delight of doing what she loved best before someone who showed true appreciation. Then once more she slowed the rhythm and the dance became languorous, eminently sensual. The remnants of her song faded and lingered for

a moment in the crystal air. Terpsichore spread her arms in abeyance, then clasped her fingers in front of her, and stood for a moment in silence.

Apollo slowly lowered his instrument and clapped his hands, smiling and indicating she should sit beside him. She bent to retrieve her lyre, before seating herself and gazed at him, trying to hide her curiosity.

"You wish something further of me, my brother?"

For a long moment, Apollo seemed deep in thought and did not answer. "Do you remember a land of mortals—a small country known as Cymru, the brotherhood, erstwhile called Cambria, or Wales as some would have it? You may recall the folk who inhabit it, who call themselves the Keltoi.

Ah, the Celts. How could she forget them? "I do. They were a fierce and noble race, with

much knowledge of magick and the hidden arts. They respected the faeries and mages of their land. She smiled at the memory. "I inspired them with music and dancing which they embraced readily. I believe in times to come they will be famed for their love of melody, and the grace with which they express it in their dance."

A slight crease appeared on Apollo's brow, normally as smooth and clear as the polished black marble of the great throne of Zeus. "Only if you return to impart these skills once more; much has been lost in their skirmishes and fighting to protect their land. A great melancholy has come upon them. I need you to return and inspire them to dance again."

Terpsichore sighed, a little, soft sigh that echoed through the hall like the singing of the breeze in

summer leaves. "My lord—Apollo—I had not thought to return to the lands of mortals—not for a few hundred years, anyway. Is it truly necessary?"

Apollo's expression grew severe. A small frown played above his eyes and his face darkened slightly, like the sun going behind a cloud. "Indeed it is, Terpsichore. As the Muse of Dance,

it is your duty."

Terpsichore swallowed the sharp retort that rose in her throat. Duty indeed, how dare he suggest she was neglectful of her duty? Even if he was the magnificent Apollo, she would not be patronised. "Have I not already done my duty? Did I not travel to every corner of the world and inspire men and women to dance and rejoice? Have I not made the journey whenever a mortal has been in need of my gift of inspiration, and gladdened the hearts of mankind? Can I be blamed if some prefer to fight and wage war and then forget the joys of living?"

Apollo's countenance grew even grimmer. "So many questions. No, 'tis not your doing—but would you refuse the task?"

Terpsichore sighed and shook her head. "Of course not. You know well that neither I nor my sister muses may deny our vocation. The need to inspire cannot be ignored."

Apollo curved his lips in a smile, once more, and light radiated from his face, illuminating the shadows around him. "It is well; you will need to use subtlety, though. Times have changed since you were last there. It would be better for you to take the form of a mortal."

"What—give up my immortality?"

"No, not give it up. I doubt Zeus would allow that, nor would you want it from the expression on

your face. No, Zeus and I have discussed the matter and feel you should pretend to be mortal for a while. Mingle with the people, bestow on them the enthusiasm to dance again." He paused. "Of course you will not be able to use any of your powers..."

She drew in her breath, unable to hide her dismay. That could present a problem. She was not used to being without her magick.

Apollo seemed to read her thoughts. "At least," he went on, "not before mortals, or in a way it could be discerned. You must not allow your inner psyche to glow when you are among them. Know also, that your powers may wane and you may not be able to get inside their minds or use the gift of foretelling." He looked even more serious. "If you have a problem,

I may not be able to help you."

Oh wonderful, although perhaps my being allowed some freedom might not be a bad thing. She gave him a knowing smile. "I suppose I'll manage. I may need to act the helpless female, but in reality I have a few tricks that may serve me well."

Apollo frowned again. "Take care not to get careless and reveal who you really are. The men of Cymru may not be as awestruck by a goddess as they once were. It could be risky. You would not want to be branded as a witch or an enchantress."

"You think I may be in danger?"

Apollo's frown deepened and his face registered concern. "No, sweet Terpsichore, I would not send you if I thought you might come to harm." He paused. "You will need a name to be known by." He thought for a moment. "Cora. You will be called Cora. A name like enough to those of the common people."

Terpsichore nodded. She liked the sound of it, and it carried enough of her true name not to sound alien to her.

"Now go, prepare yourself, spend time in the Halls of Learning and familiarise yourself with the changes that have occurred since you last visited the land of Wales. Then bid your dear sisters farewell, before you take your leave of your mother and myself. Zeus will facilitate your departure and instruct the Horai to allow you passage through the gates of Olympus."

Terpsichore turned and clutched her lyre to her. "I am to leave soon?"

"Why not? There is no reason to delay."

"No, of course not." A sudden thought struck her. "If I have to act as a mortal, how will I travel? On the grand scale of things, Wales may not be a large country, but it is mountainous and as I remember, not the easiest of terrain. It might be difficult to dance if I am footsore." A vision flashed into her mind: a beautiful winged horse, the color of the snow of the highest peak of Olympus. "Perhaps, I could have Pegasus?" she asked hopefully, although truly she knew the answer before he gave it. She'd always enjoyed riding Pegasus on the rare occasions her father felt disposed to allow it.

Apollo's eyes darkened for a moment, then the corners of his mouth turned up and he smiled once more. "A winged horse might give away the fact that you are not mortal, don't you think? Also, Zeus might be unwilling to loan his favorite steed, even to one of his beloved daughters. Worry not. Take care to materialise outside settlements so as not to be seen by mortals. Should you need it, appropriate transport will be arranged and you will not be disappointed."

A wave of his hand indicated the discussion was closed. With a little sigh, Terpsichore left her seat by his throne. When would she see the magnificent Olympus, her home, again? She would miss it. There again, now she'd had time to think upon it, perhaps she should look forward to the task Apollo and her father had set her. What was Apollo keeping hidden though? She

could always tell when he was holding something back. What had he not told her? Still, he would surely have her best interests at heart. No doubt, he would reveal it when he judged the time to be right.

She left the Hall through one of the rear doors. Was it her imagination or did she hear the

sound of footsteps? Like someone scurrying away down a side corridor. She glanced around and narrowed her eyes as she saw what looked like a tall figure slip into the shadows, but she could not be sure. It might just be a trick of the light. Had she imagined the dark form, the glint of

torchlight on metal, gold or perhaps brass? Could someone have been eavesdropping on her conversation with Apollo? She hurried on silent feet to where she saw the figure disappear, but there was nothing. Nothing except a prickling at the back of her neck and the uncomfortable feeling she had not been mistaken.



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