Dancing in the Spiral Arena

Dancing in the Spiral Arena

The ceiling shudders in an even rhythm from the spectator seats and Ganjan smiles as he walks through the tunnel in time with the foot stomping of the crowd above, grinning even wider as a roar greets his entrance to the graduation arena where he’ll Bleed for his Braid.

Sturvahl, a bull janah from the same graduating Weave at the Gilarhi Training Academy nods in appreciation at the crowd’s reception of the newly arrived hyena. Ganjan honors his opponent by whirling the shaft of his spear over his own head before saluting his classmate. The salute is returned with a loud clang of scimitar on buckler from Sturvahl before the Arena Master blows a long clear note from a polished güle shell as he drops into the stance for his arena dance.

Only minutes before the Twines, second year trainees at the academy, had been out raking the pattern back into place and adding the bright orange and blue sands as highlights to form the local Gilarhi spiral mandala. Some duel dance katas are designed to purposefully follow the design in order to smear the spiral, others are made to leave the design intact.

Ganjan starts his own pattern of spins and thrusts, keeping to the orange sands as he leaps and circles counterclockwise against his opponent and the applause grows louder. Sturvahl sidesteps as well, a series of molinets and cuts complemented by the position of the outstretched buckler before he shows off a little, trying to gain the favor of the crowd, and juggles the scimitar and buckler between his hands in a series of spinning tosses. The crowd cheers at the maneuver, but the favor is short lived as a streak of blue smears across the pattern of sand where Sturvahl missed his step and the Arena Master blows two short notes to announce the start of the duel in earnest.

The bull charges forward across the spiral as Ganjan expected, buckler held close and scimitar held high. Ganjan sprints forward along the curve of the remaining orange sands and ducks low under the bull’s swing and into a slide, the crowd cheering as his foot leaves a bright orange print on the back half of Sturvahl’s blue kilt. Sturvahl manages to spin around in time to catch Ganjan’s spear tip on his buckler, and even though this competition is only to first blood the current crowd favorite is already obvious.

Sturvahl huffs through his nose, knowing at this point already that even if he wins the bout he won’t have won the duel, not in the eyes of the audience of other cadets. The bull gives a ground shaking stomp and another clang of scimitar against shield as Ganjan answers by drawing a curved line across the sands in front of him with his spear point, with a nod they agree to give the crowd a good show.

First year Academy training often involves patterns of footwork and a combination of tumbling maneuvers taught within the first months. Some of the younger cadets in the Arena copy the moves they recognize the bull and hyena making, then cheer and stomp even louder when one or the other uses a move that isn’t taught to first year cadets. Ganjan grins as Sturvahl narrowly misses his left ear. They’ll probably get yelled at for showing some of these moves so far outside of the normal regimen, but it’s good to be facing an opponent that knows half your tricks.

After a few more lunges to try and get around the buckler and seeing the scimitar cut a few more nicks in the haft of his own spear Ganjan sees Sturvahl drop his shoulders just enough to indicate that he’s starting to get worn out. With a nod he raises his spear overhead for a downward thrust which is easily caught on the rolled in lip of the buckler, but instead of withdrawing the point he moves it in a wide circle until Sturvahl’s buckler arm is across his body before thrusting forward and down into the sand. Sturvahl doesn’t know this move and tries to counter with a wild backswing that Ganjan blocks with the haft of his spear before lifting the spear point up and across the forearm still trying to work free of the buckler.

A long güle shell note from the Arena Master signals the end of the match as Ganjan holds out a hand towards his weary friend. Sturvahl dips his horns in recognition, leaving the buckler in the sand as he clasps Ganjan’s hand and raises it above both of their heads and hands Ganjan the scimitar to use against the next graduate, a trickle of blood slowly making its way down towards the bull’s elbow as attendants run out to bandage the wound and the Twines gather their rakes and bags of sand to prepare the Gilarhi Academy Spiral for the next bout.

Ganjan accepts the scimitar with a nod and wonders how many bouts he’ll fight today before he leaves the Arena as a graduate. Doesn’t matter if it’s your third year. You don’t get your Braid until you Bleed.

Dancing in the Spiral Arena

Why Do You Wander? Chickenhat