81st Turn, Seventh Year, Sixteenth Cycle, Byrday
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From the Journal of Aframos Longjourney, Pilgrim

With notes by Avos Torr, Scholar of Rheve Library

Byrday, Sixteenth Cycle, Seventh Year, 81st Turn

Twenty-Second Day in the Trees

It is quite warm again. And tonight, we saw a most amazing thing.

It had begun to rain this evening, and we were seeking shelter from the storm. We had gone a ways off of the path when we saw an open field ahead of us. And standing just in front of us, at the edge of it, was a woman.

She resembled Torne somewhat, except that she had odd growths on her chest, and her features were finer. She was built more lightly than he, and was shorter by half the height of his head. This seemed strange to me, that a female should be shorter than the male1. But Torne says that females of his species are like that, so who am I to say otherwise?

Torne walked up to her, and asked her what she was looking for, and whether she was lost. She glared at him, and told him to be quiet. He began to say something more, to no surprise of mine, and she struck him on his head.

It wasn't a hard blow, and any force would have been cushioned by his hat, but it still made him quiet. I wondered if it would work for me, or if she had some special ability.

"Watch," she said, hissing the words. "He's coming, just watch."

I wondered who was coming, and whether it was worth waiting in this rain, when there was a flash, and thunder split the air.

Then the dancer walked out of the trees on the other side of the field, and my heart was still.

He was human in shape, like Torne, but more than three times my height. Black, bushy hair crowned his head, and more hair covered much of his face. There was something wild in his eyes. He walked with an easy grace that no creature that large should be capable of.

The rain streamed down his body, wetting his hair, and making him seem even more wild. He looked around the field, though never quite at us. And then he began to dance.

The storm came alive as he did. The rain began to beat a rhythm against the ground, and the wind started to sing. He stomped his feet, and lightning fell from the sky. He clapped his hands, and there was thunder. He spun, leapt, and moved as gracefully as a spider, as wild as a wyvern. The wind wrapped around him like a blanket, and the rain kept the measure. He danced to the storm, or the storm to him, I was not sure. And always his eyes would flash like the lightning, dark and powerful.

Watching him, I felt frightened, joyful, angry and sad all at once. I wanted to join him, to share his joy in the dance, in the terrible beauty of the storm. I was afraid of him, as I was of the storm, though I have never feared the weather since I was a very young conlin. I hated him because he was graceful as I never could be. I was sad, because I knew this would end.

We watched in silence as his dance continued. The rain was falling on us, even as it fell on him, but I did not know anything but the dance.

It was hours before he stopped. It was only a few minutes. I do not know which. It felt like both.

Finally, he slowed his steps, and the storm let go of its fury. The wind died down, and he moved with his impossible grace into the trees.

I could not bear to watch him go, so I looked down to the woman. Her eyes, I realized, were mirrors of the dancer's. Dark, wild, and a bit mad. I knew when he disappeared because her face grew weary then.

"I will dance with him," she muttered, as though we were not there. "Next time, I will dance with him." She looked back at us. She didn't say anything to us, and we didn't ask anything of her. I looked at her eyes again, and I realized that they held nothing of herself. There was only room for him in her eyes.

We left her there, at the edge of the field, lost in her longing. I thought to help her, for a moment, but I knew there was little I could do for her. She needed something no one could give. Perhaps not even the dancer.

I feel a sadness inside. I will never see that dancer again, I know. I do not know how, but I know that I will pass this way again. I am glad too, because I do not know whether I could watch a second time, and still be entirely my own.

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