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The Phoenix, chapter 1

The Phoenix, chapter 1

A Chapter by Carmen Williams
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Nora's perspective, super rough draft (sorry)

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I sat on the top of a hill, overlooking the village.  It was buzzing with people putting up booths and hanging flowers from their windows.  I picked at grass, watching the people scurry around in front of me. The Fae Festival was always a big deal in SageHedge.  It was the first day of spring, and everyone was putting out offerings to the Fae, decorating their homes, and celebrating the end of winter, which had been especially hard this year.  

It had started early and had almost felt like it never would’ve stopped.  At times it would get so cold that you didn’t want to do anything that day, and that sickness spread quickly and easily.  

I’ve been going to the festivals since I was a baby with my parents, and I love them so much.  The music, the people, and just the feeling is unlike anything else. I could already hear the music starting to play.  Behind me, birds sang, as if mocking me for not being down there. I couldn’t go yet though, and not as myself.  

Everyone in town hoped that I’d be the Phoenix, who was prophesied to save the Kingdoms.  They wanted me to bring fame to our little town so that we could grow and have a better time surviving on our own.  There were plenty of people born on the winter solstice, there was even another in town. Everyone here treated us like queens, especially as today had crawled nearer.  

Hope, the girl who shared my birthday, was probably already down there, milking as much attention as she could before it was revealed that she wasn’t actually the Phoenix.  Even if the town hoped, they all knew that of all the people it could be, Hope is one of the least likely to be chosen. No way could the savior of the kingdoms have that big of an ego.  

I laughed to myself, then stood and brushed the grass off my pastel pink dress. Hope definitely wasn’t going to be the Phoenix, and neither was I, so why bother putting up with the town today? I opened my backpack and pulled out the mask I’d made at home. It covered the top half of my face, and was the same color as my dress with little clay flowers around the edges. I then put my long brown hair into a braid and tied it up into a bun on the back of my head. I then picked flowers from the small clearing around me and arranged them in my hair, trying to cover as much of the brown as possible while still keeping it organized so I didn’t end up looking like a kindergartner’s art project

When I finished, I didn’t look like Nora anymore. I looked more elegant, and somewhat mystical, which was exactly what I wanted when I’d planned this. I hid my bag in a small, hollow, part of a tree and headed into town. 

More and more people started to gather. People were dancing and singing, and people wore soft, flowery colors. Some were just common clothes with colors for the holiday, while others were more elaborate, with sophisticated swirls of fabric, bright masks with gems, and complicated embroidery. 

I smiled to myself as a wave of nostalgia washed over to me, and for the first time in weeks, I felt truly relaxed. And of course, my one moment of peace disappeared almost as suddenly as it had appeared. 

I ducked my head and walked faster as I passed a group of my friends from school. It’s not that I didn’t like them, well, no actually I don’t like them. They probably only wanted me around so that if I was the Phoenix, they’d be friends with a famous person. Practically everyone in this town was fake, or at least they were to me. The only person who I’d considered an actual friend was Gabby, but she’d left about a month ago. 

Most of them had gone over the top with their outfits, except for a few who hadn’t tried at all. They stood in a ring, careful to block their whispering. The only sound that could be made out was the occasional roar of giggles and howl of laughter. I couldn’t help feeling that it was me they were laughing at, which probably goes to show that I should dump that group of freeloaders.  

I was so, so close to getting past, so close to being free of them for the whole day.  I reached the corner and was about to turn away from them when one of them called out, “Hey, Pinky!”  I froze. One of them, Kylie, by the sound of her voice, had called out after who I was assuming me. I prayed that they wouldn’t recognize me and slowly turned to face her.  Kylie was wearing an over the top, extravagant to a new extreme sea green gown that dragged behind her in the streets. She looked at my dress, smirked, and said, “Nice dress.”

At this point I was panicking a bit.  I did my best to change my voice, making it a bit higher, then squeaked, “Thank you.  Same to you, Miss.” I could feel my face burn red as the group laughed at my voice, so I gave a small curtsy and hurried down the street.  

Once I was able to recover from my embarrassment, I made a mental note of where I’d found them, because usually when that group picks a place to hide and gossip, they’ll stay there.  

By now I was close to the town square, where people a crowd of people were dancing along to the band.  There were so many dancers that they overflowed the ring that had been painted inside of the square for the festival.  I hummed along to the music, which was the same song as the ones played every year, and walked along to the rhythm. The songs and dances were passed down from generation to generation, and were commonly known.  

I sat at a small table in front of a cafe, facing the crowd and watching the dancers.  Feet tapped in unison and skirts whirled around as the music played on and on. Some younger children joined in and I smiled to myself as I watched them.  

I was so wrapped up in watching the dance that I hadn’t noticed the man that had come up to me until he cleared his throat.  “Um, excuse me, Miss?” I jumped and turned to face him. He seemed familiar, but I couldn’t quite place where I recognized him from.  I gave him a small, welcoming smile. “Yes?” I asked. He brushed his dark hair back away from his eyes and gave me a small smile in return.  

“My name is Trevor Millard,” he said, giving a small bow.  I stood and curtsied, “Pleasure to meet you Trevor, I am Autumn Smith.”  This, of course, wasn’t my name, but I wasn’t just going to give myself away.  I’d seen him at school before, I realized after hearing his name, but he was shy and usually kept his distance from me.  I decided that I wasn’t going to fake my voice, since we’d never talked. “The pleasure is mine, Miss Autumn. Now, may I have this dance?”  I grinned, “you may,” I said, holding out my hand.  

He took it and led me to the center of the square.  We danced along to the music, not talking much. I hadn’t felt so carefree and at ease in for what felt like an eternity.  My feet pounded against the stones, making a clicking noise, and the sun smiled warmly down on my skin. The music sang at an upbeat and cheerful way, gradually speeding up more and more.  Several dancers had to stop because they couldn’t keep up.  

This was always my favorite part of the dances.  The band would play faster and faster until only the best dancers were left and they couldn’t go on.  The drums pounded faster and faster, and the notes on the fiddle became closer and closer together. My shoes clicked faster and faster.  Trevor kept up as well. He smiled at me, his face pink with excitement and exertion. I laughed and smiled back. We spun and danced along to the music, completely in sink. 

Pair after pair left the center until it was just Trevor and me, and two other pairs.  The band continued to play faster and faster, and a crowd began to gather. They clapped to the beat, cheering us on.  

“Yeah, Trevor!” a few of his friends yelled from swarm of people.  We laughed and picked up our pace a bit more. One of the other pairs left, gasping for air.  The only other pair left came closer to us, and we moved closer to the center of the ring. I now took the time to look over at the other pair, and realized that it was Hope.  

Hope hadn’t seemed to recognize me, which was good.  Her face was pink from dancing, and she didn’t smile.  She wasn’t a serious person, but she cared about what others thought of her.  She wanted to be seen as the best, not be the best. Her blonde hair was loose and spun with her bright orange and red dress as she danced.  She couldn’t have been louder about who she was, and you could tell she was trying to seem more like the Phoenix by wearing a fiery colored dress.

Sweat gathered under my mask, and breathing was becoming more laborious, but we weren’t going to quit now.  I looked back to Trevor, who’d seemed to have been waiting to catch my eye again. He made a small gesture with his hand, signalling a spin.  I nodded, and backed up.  

The music was still getting faster and faster.  The other pair picked up on what we were doing as well, and separated.  The four of us backed up to separate quarters of the ring and began dance on our own. Hope was across from me in the ring.

She glared at me, scaring me into thinking that she may have figured me out. Then she spun around twice, then clapped her hands, yelling “hey hey!!!” She was challenging me. She did it again, this time with the crowd shouting “hey hey!” as well, encouraging me to except. I counted out the beat, and then spun with her, shouting and clapping “hey hey!” with everyone else. 

Trevor and Hope’s partner backed up, folding their arms behind their backs, and doing a simple tap routine, watching and waiting to see who would win. The band had slowed a bit, playing a simple beat, waiting for us to request for them to play something. 

Hope and I moved towards each other and began circling each other, occasionally spinning and shouting “hey hey!” with the crowd along to the beat.  “Halt!” she yelled, and we both froze. The band stopped playing and the crowd was silent as we waited for her to give her order. As the challenger, she had to pick a song and a dance to begin.  She looked around the crowd dramatically, then spun to face me, glaring. She was trying to intimidate me. I glared right back. I knew her little games, how she’d try to scare people into doing what she wanted.  She probably thought I was new to town, and that she could mess with my head.  

“Spirit, 5th,” she called.  I backed out of the center as the music began to play.  She’d started with a rather simple dance. It was designed to look complicated to those who don’t know the dance, though.  The crowd clapped along to the music and cheered her on as she spun and danced.  

Once she finished her routine, she gave me a little curtsy and a smug smile as the crowd cheered for her.  She then backed up and allowed me to enter the center of the ring. I changed my voice slightly again, only this time I made sure it wasn’t as squeaky.  “Current, 7th,” I called out. The band counted out a beat and began to play. I danced along to the upbeat pounding of the drums and singing of guitars.  

The dance I’d chosen wasn’t supposed to be a showy one, but I put my own little spin on it, making it more complex.  I knew that it looked as difficult it was, and considering I’d sprained my ankles multiple times while coming up with it, it was pretty difficult.  I couldn’t see Hope’s face, but I could imagine her surprise, which was enough for me. Also, the crowd was loving it. They were clapping and cheering me on.  

When I finished, my dance, I turned to Hope, gave her my friendliest, most genuine smile, and curtsied.  I tried not to smile at the look on her face, then stepped back for her to make her next call. 

She stepped forward for the second round, keeping her face blank, and called, “thunder, 3rd.”  A ripple of murmurs spread through the crowd. Even I had to admit, the thunder songs were complicated.  The complexity and speed of a song was determined by the number called. The higher the number, the faster or more complicated it was, depending on which one you chose.  Thunder was usually danced to at one or two, so her calling three was a bit of a surprise. It wasn’t unheard of though.  

She knew what she was doing, I’ll give her that, but I wasn’t going to just let her win.  If she did, no one would hear the end of it for the next month. I watched as she danced, keeping my face blank.  When the song ended, she curtsied and flipped her hair over her shoulder. She thought she’d won.  

There was no exact number of rounds when a dancer challenges another.  The contest would go on and on until one person gave up, or if it was clear that the crowd believed that they were the winner.  Hope watched me, waiting for me to surrender, but instead I stepped forward. I was ending this now, and there was no way I was loosing to her.  

“Fire, 5th.”  I called. A number of gasps was heard from the crowd.  Fire was similar to thunder, seeing that they both were usually done at one or two, but fire was significantly faster and harder.  The mutterings of the word “fire” was spread through the crowd, then the music began.  

Everything else melted away.  It was just me, the music, and the dance.  My breath came quick and short and my feet pounded against the stones.  Over the music, the sound of my audience clapping along raised. They began chanting, “fire, fire, fire.”  Along to the beat. Usually the crowd will chant the name of the dancer, but no one knew my name. “Fire, fire, fire,” chanted the crowd, nearly drowning out the music.  At this point my body was on autopilot, and I felt happier than I think I ever have. I felt as free as a bird. 

But then the chanting changed. The music stopped before the song was over and the steady beat coming from the voices went from excited to panicked.  “Fire! Fire!” I stopped and studied the crowd, then looked down. My dress was in flames.



© 2019 Carmen Williams


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Added on November 4, 2019
Last Updated on November 4, 2019


Author

Carmen Williams
Carmen Williams

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Hi! I'm Carmen. So I started writing on this website about two years ago, and I've never been too involved here. Writing is one of my creative outlets. I'd greatly appreciate if you read and commen.. more..

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