We missed it for long years. It was only after we'd left Jawburn that we even learned what music was, what dancing was. It was ... a beautiful introduction. *smiles*
The first time they saw dancing, it had been in a dockland whorehouse on Raolin, about six months out of Jawburn. It had been the first time they'd heard music, too. Well. Music that wasn't the brass call to the Arena, or the mourning pipes of a death-day celebration. There had been singing, in the slave blocks, and some drumming, but it was frowned on, punished, surreptitious.
This ... this was free, laughing, abandoned. This was blasting out into the streets outside the whorehouse, enticing people inside, wild and bawdy and completely unashamed. They'd never heard anything like it. It enchanted them. And then ... they'd gone inside, and seen some of the whores dancing.
They'd looked like children, they knew. Slack-faced, eyes shining with stunned amazement. First the music, the vivid whirl of it, and then this. Bodies, moving with purpose and grace and life, like the fighting, but fit to the mad spool of sound, the leaping strings and laughing pipes. Two of the whores danced together, two men, and they kissed each other as they turned together, laughing, seductive. It was ... gorgeous. It was beautiful.
They wanted to try it.
While Slate looked on, calm and faintly smiling, while their new friend Jared stared with his jaw on the floor, they started to try and mimic the two whores, trying to find the way the motion fit the music, the free-form skein of it. It was ... hard, for the first while. Old forms kept slipping in, blows and strikes, echoes of the deadly dancing they'd spent their lives learning. They couldn't stop it. Their bodies had learned it from the cradle.
Then, as a crowd slowly gathered around them, watching the staggered violence of their attempts, laughing at them as they grinned and sweated, the musicians doing their best to find a more martial tune in sympathy for their difficulties ... they caught the edge of the rhythm, the beat flowing under and through the music. Like hearts pounding in ears, the drums, as knives swept out. Like breathing rasping, sighing strings, as bodies leapt across the sand. Music like living, like dying, like breathing and bleeding and loving, and they understood, they understood ...
Nira took Ara's arm, make herself a pivot for her sister-soul, like they danced against an enemy, in tune with each other and their surroundings, and the moves were there, not strikes, not against enemies, but braces and slides, supports and levers, meant to support each other, to free each other to move and to strike, the set learned between the two of them as partners, to protect and give life to each other, to let them fly together, spinning in tune, two warrior souls around a calm center, using it, using the connection between them that it represented, to strike out at what surrounded them.
They danced, for the first time ever, while the band caught the dark edge of their joy, spun it out around them into a vicious, delighted jig, a whirl of connection and attack, of love and blood, and they laughed into the skreeling of it, threw back their hair as the whores gathered around them, shimmied and paired, painted faces grinning at this new diversion, and customers watched the gleaming darkness of their bodies with lustful eyes, adoring them as the crowds of the Arena had adored them, loving them and delighting in their openness, in their perceived availability. It was just like the Arena, just like home, and they loved it, loved it down to their bones.
That was the first time they'd heard real music. That was the first time they had danced for something other than death. That was the first time they'd earned money for something other than blood or sex.
That was the first time they realised that the wild world held more, so much more, than they had ever known.
And it was good.