Dance of the Maidens

Like a third hand or a second head, I don’t belong. And yet, I’m forced to be present for the Dance of the Maidens, a tradition I have come to fear as much as death itself. As many eligible young Ladies make their debut here each year, the Dance of the Maidens was devised as the most uncomfortable form of matchmaking imaginable. Any unclaimed Lady is expected to select her knight for one grand dance before the entire court, and they say that those who make it through the whole song are fit to be wed.
— OUTSPOKEN, Book One, Chapter 15

Overview


The Dance of the Maidens is the highlight of the Harvest Ball each year. With the upper classes all but completely shut out of The Royal Palace of Éirigh in the years since The First Great Dynastic Shift, the Harvest Ball has become the best opportunity for single Ladies of the court to make their debut or strike up a new courtship. The Dance of the Maidens was born of this need, with some good old fashioned mystique and tom foolery thrown in for good measure.

In the OUTSPOKEN trilogy, we are introduced to the Dance of the Maidens through the eyes of Lucian "Deordhan" Cathasach, who must walk a fine line between what is required of him as a Knight and what is acceptable behavior for a Bond Servant.

History


While the Harvest Ball itself is a very new tradition, the Dance of the Maidens has a much longer history. Under the reign of The Slánaitheoir Royal Family, a similar tradition was enjoyed at many gatherings in the Royal Palace. The Slánaitheoir's were known for their powerful Queens who actively took part in the governance of the kingdom. Out of respect for their prowess, all young women of the upper classes were given free rein to choose any eligible bachelor they wished as partner for their debut dance before the court.

Over the years, this selection has taken many different forms, all crafted for some good natured fun. In some variations, the Ladies would draw names from a hat, in others they might circle the line of bachelors like a Maypole dance before selecting their man, and so on. But when The Máirtín Royal Family put an end to all celebratory gatherings in the Palace following the First Great Dynastic Shift, the chances for such fun and games became far fewer.

And so, the Dance of the Maidens was born, allowing for any single Lady of the upper classes to partake.

The first note strikes up, and I slowly turn around to face my partner with barely subdued terror hammering in my chest. My jaw nearly hangs slack when my eyes find hers, and for a single moment I’m struck dumb.
— OUTSPOKEN, Book One, Chapter 15

See Also

The First Great Dynastic Shift
Plot | Dec 27, 2020

The First Great Dynastic Shift of Éirigh occurred in the year 1475, putting a brutal end to The Slánaitheoir Royal Family and ending with the Traitor King Máirtín I on the throne.

Harvest Ball
Tradition / Ritual | Dec 27, 2020

Laird Breith Sadach's annual Harvest Ball became the place for Éirigh's nobility to be during the Festival of Samhain when King Máirtín I put an end to the beloved palace festivities.

Festival of Samhain
Tradition / Ritual | Dec 27, 2020

The Festival of Samhain is the celebration of the fall harvest. This seemingly mild tradition laid the foundation for the system of governance in Éirigh.

Execution


Before the great Samhain feast, there is a great deal of dancing and socializing at the Harvest Ball. During this time, single Ladies of the upper classes may seek out any knight that has caught their eye and offer them a favor. If the knight accepts, they have promised themselves to the maiden for the dance. Often, this is indication of an ongoing courtship between the two.

Following the feast, the guests return to the Great Hall of Laird Breith Sadach's castle for the main event. Most guests will cling to the walls, leaving the center clear for the dance. The knights then line up single file, all facing away from the doors of the Great Hall to await the selection.

The crier taps his cane, cueing those knights lucky enough to have received a favor to turn around and lift the favor above their heads until their maiden finds them. Once these first pairs have been established, the rest of the maidens are unleashed in a flurry of silent arguments and rustling skirts to secretly claim their partner while his back remains turned. Only when the first note is played are the knights permitted to face their maiden, and then they're off, spinning and twirling across the dance floor. The dance does not conclude until all but one pairing has either given up or exhausted themselves, and many have joked that the last couple standing is destined for marriage.
 
  Lost in Sinè’s azure eyes, her dress swirling about me like a brilliant flame, I stop trying to keep track of who is left. Our smiles grow, and we forget about everything else, simply enjoying silent company together. I can sense her joy at finally feeling a part of something again, and it makes my heart fly to know that maybe, just maybe, I’ve helped her heal in some small way.

As we go into a spin, her dress whips about me, her bright red and orange silk melding with my subdued hues of black and red until we become a warm, glimmering bonfire dancing across the great hall with all the elegance of a Laird and his Lady.
— OUTSPOKEN, Book One, Chapter 15


Cover image: by Photo by Dorothea OLDANI on Unsplash

Comments

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Sage Serukis
Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull
21 Dec, 2020 22:41

I love the prose in this one, especially the last one. I can see that vividly in my mind. It's always sad to hear of the contrast between the old and new regimes, though. :(

Emy x   Welcome to Etrea!
21 Dec, 2020 22:48

Thank you!! It's from one of my favorite chapters ^_^ As for the regimes.... *cringe* it's only downhill from here.

31 Dec, 2020 16:38

The event itself sounds terrifying, but the prose is lovely.

All my WorldEmber 2020 work, including my main highlights.   Too low they build who build beneath the stars - Edward Young
31 Dec, 2020 17:48

Thank you very much! ^_^ The event is definitely something out of my worst nightmares.