The Dancer by Alan Delaney

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SUMMARY: Her armies had been crushed, her palaces destroyed, her people massacred and her body ravaged. But all was not lost.

They came for her in waves, a vast horde of violent and ruthless men who knew of nothing but death and suffering. They routed her armies, stormed her castle and overcame her personal guard. When finally she stood alone before them she took to arms herself, choosing to fight to the death rather than be taken as a slave. Her sword was sharp and her battle-fury fierce yet, though a dozen had fallen by her own hand, when she was finally overcome she was not granted the death she had longed for. Her captors instructions were explicit regarding the nature of her capture, but not its manner. Exhausted by her exertions and weakened by her wounds, she could offer no further protest as they stripped her and ravaged her over and over until she had been broken in body and in spirit and was left as little more than a pliant sheep, ready to accept the fate that her captors had planned for her

She was taken to the palace, where she was presented as a trophy a showpiece of barbarian glory and where her spirit was broken even further. She was a prisoner and a slave, nothing more than the spoil of a bloody and senseless war. Her friends were dead or in hiding, her libraries were burned, her temples razed, her people massacred. Even her will and resolve, once the objects of fear and respect, were now little more than a distant memory of a lost, unrepeatable past. She was no longer the queen of a gentle and learned people but a concubine of an illiterate and oafish king whose manners would have been shunned even by of the lowest of her own people. Her wish for death in combat had been refused, and she would not permit herself the shame of taking her own life. Instead she accepted her downfall, adjusted to her surroundings and prayed to the Goddess that vengeance would one day be hers. Until then, all she could do was accept her fate, weep for her fallen people, and pray.

She was taken before the king and his court and paraded before them like a prize bull.

"Dance for me," he said.

And so she danced, slowly, self-consciously, aware of the hungry, greedy, leering eyes that were following her, but the king was not happy.

"Dance for me as you danced for them," he commanded.

And so, she was retired to her quarters where she removed her robes, decked herself out with bangles and garlands and tied her hair into long pleats. She then went before her captor-king and his court and danced for them, naked, as was the custom of her people, letting her body find its own rhythm and letting her tortured mind forget its predicament as she became one with the dance -- though her eyes still filled with fresh tears.

The dance came to an end. She came back to reality slowly, unwilling to let up on the momentary escape that the dance had given her. She stood there before the king and his court, watching with disgust as their eyes feasted upon her, trying to retain what little dignity she could muster. He called out for more but she refused -- the dance was done and there could be no more.

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