The theater itself seemed to be the only multi-story building in the entire city, consisting of a total of three floors. Each floor formed an overhang that cast shade over the floor below it, yet at the same time created a nice architectural design. Once the line progressed and I was allowed in, I was guided up to the third floor, where a vast majority of the seating was held. Looking at the rest of the audience, I couldn’t make out any kind of racial discrimination, as everyone was here in seemingly equal numbers. Though, it seemed like there might be more kitsune, but that was entirely likely since this was Udonia.
Down below, I saw the stage, surrounded on almost all sides by the audience with only its back free. On the stage, I saw fifteen women, each holding a long, thin stick. At the end of each stick was a bundle of ribbon arranged like a flower, with various colors present among them. Among the women, I noticed Miren and Rinn standing near the back, with Miren holding a black flower ribbon, and Rinn a white one. Finally, a male lycan walked out, dressed in a regal white suit. As he spoke, his voice transmitted to each and every member of the audience, as if using an unseen microphone.
“Thank you all for attending today. For this D’ka festival, we have prepared a special treat. A very important part of our history, passed down through the generations since time immemorial. I give you all, the Spring of Four Divines.” He gave a bow towards the audience, before walking off stage, followed by all but four of the women, who bowed their bodies low, their ribbon batons held at a full arm’s length.
When the man’s voice rang out again, the four women began moving, walking in a counterclockwise motion around the stage. I noticed that, among the four, there was one of each type of beastkin. “In the beginning, the races were naught but scattered tribes, wandering the wilderness. Gradually drifting further and further apart.” As if to emphasize his words, the gap between the women became wider and wider.
“The Goddesses, seeing our plight, sought to aid us. Not in the strength of self, but in unity. They sent their divine messages to members of different tribes to call a gathering, the first gathering in our known history.” This time, the women slightly changed their pace, slowly spiralling inwards towards the center of the stage where they met up. Each one hooked their left arm in the center, grabbing the hand of the woman opposite them.
“Some tribesman fought them initially, but the four messengers showed them that the bonds formed between them were stronger than that of those disparate tribes.” The four women began walking in a circle again, arms still locked together.
“Although they sought to spread the message of love, they were not above the use of force to defend that bond.” Finally, with a flick of their wrists, the ribbons all unfurled. The colors of the ribbons were the same as with the Keeper game outside, white, black, brown, and red. They raised the ribbons above their heads, letting them form a connected circle that surrounded the four of them.
“Through their combined efforts, the first city was formed, which would later be known as Terraria.” The four women broke apart, spinning on their feet as they moved in a straight line from each other, their ribbons dancing in the air around them. The felyn holding the red ribbon happened to be dancing towards the front of the stage. “Yet, they needed a leader. Someone to guide their new nation. The four chose Ardra, child of Terra. She ushered in the first generation of peace.”
The felyn woman offered a low bow, her ribbon dancing behind her, though the bow was short lived. When she stood up again, she cartwheeled off to the side of the stage, her ribbon forming an almost perfect circle around her body. Then, one by one the other women came up and did the same. “Many thought that Ardra would choose her own daughter to succeed her, as she seemed a worthy leader herself. But Ardra would not allow it. Instead, she remembered the love of her sisters, and called forth a young kitsune, Mara Eversong. Her voice ushered in the second generation.”
“Following in this tradition, the second queen appointed the lycan child Thalia Fairwind. And after her, the huntswoman Grella Stormflower. Like this, a cycle which would last countless generations began.” Finally, there was nobody left on stage. “Terraria grew, and every generation the torch would be passed to another race, a cycle which showed the bond between us, between the sister goddesses themselves. Yet soon… Terraria had grown too far.”
Following their cue, all fifteen girls danced onto the stage, their ribbons flowing around them as they mingled and intertwined, yet never seemed to get in each other’s way. “Soon, it was not enough to have but a single kingdom.” I noticed only one of the women, Rinn, seemed to not be dancing, standing in the center of all others, her body often obscured as she looked around in what seemed to be panic.
“A single queen’s reach was unable to completely grasp the land on which we roam. So once again, the sister goddesses showed their love for their people.” Ten of the dancers dispersed, leaving only Miren, Rinn, and two other women. Aside from Rinn, the other three walked around her, her expression seeming to calm as their ribbons danced along her waist.
“They spoke to their priests, and delivered their divine message. Divide the kingdom, they said. Yet, the queen was afraid. Not to give up her throne, but to destroy the unity her people shared. Don’t worry, they said, we shall always watch over you.” The four dancers representing the goddesses slowly began to move away, and Rinn unfurled her own white ribbon, slowly beginning to dance and twirl about.
“They promised her a unity even greater than before. Because, even though the kingdoms held a different banner, they were all the children of the goddesses.” As the four goddess dancers danced off stage, three more came in to dance with Rinn. “Thus, they created Udonia, following our goddess Udona of the Spring Bloom. Terraria became the home of Terra of the Summer Harvest. They created Kelios, home to Keliope of the Autumn Sun. And finally, they created Accal, home to Accalia of the Winter Moon.”
The four dancers, representing the four kingdoms, gradually moved further apart. From off stage, two dancers went to join each kingdom, dancing and twirling about. “Under the loving gaze of the four divines, the sister goddesses, we have continued to prosper in harmony. And, as long as we believe in them, we shall continued to do so, forevermore.” Slowly, the four dancers began moving towards the edges of the stage, their ribbons falling lower without the constant momentum.
I had to admit, the dance itself was… beautiful. It may not seem like much compared to modern standards, but it had its own beauty nonetheless. Even if I knew that some of the history that they were talking about was not entirely accurate, it made for a good story. And, in time, nobody would really know the truth about it aside from me and those in the Admin Room. But, was it so bad to have that truth painted over the original? In a way, wasn’t it a better one, one which made the people happy?
I saw several people standing, so naturally I joined them. However, rather than applause, they did something… unexpected. The lycans howled, leaning their heads back with their fists on their chest. The felyn roared, their arms creating an X in front of them. The ursa stamped their feet and slapped their chest once. And finally, the kitsune clasped their hands in front of themselves and tilted their heads back, letting out a higher pitched tone than the howl of the lycans, though in shorter bursts.
The combinations of different sounds, as if almost natural, created a harmony that echoed through the theater. And, while it did somewhat hurt my ears to be in the middle of it, I did appreciate how so many people were able to form a chorus like that so naturally. When the sounds finished, the performers came back to the stage and bowed to the audience, the audience in turn bowing to them.
Following the shared bow, people began casually talking to their neighbors as they moved slowly towards the exits. I saw a couple of strangers seeking to start a conversation with me, but politely excused myself. At least, I hope I was polite about it. It’s hard to understand the customs that quickly.
No sooner had I gotten outside than I found myself being pulled to the side by Miren and Rinn, who were laughing happily. “So, what did you think, Mitchell?” Miren asked with an excited expression.
I couldn’t help but smile at the two of them. “You both did great. Do you two dance like that often?”
She nodded her head, and Rinn excused herself to go fetch us a snack. “Yeah, our parents said when we were younger that we should give it a try. After doing it a couple times, we decided we really liked it. We keep trying to rope the other three in, too… But they’ve been busy with their own projects.” Miren puffed her cheeks out cutely as she said that, and I could easily make out the little halfling goddess living in that body.
“So, no advancing civilization, exploring new horizons, just exploring the life of a dancer?” I teased lightly, earning myself another giggle from her.
“Yeah, that’s right. I really wanted to see what it’s like to live in a big city like this, and Rinn wanted to get away from the fighting for a while.” She nodded her head quickly, moving off to the side of the dirt road to let other people pass. Soon, Rinn came back holding a large wooden tray, atop which were three pots of soup.
“Soup’s on.” She said with a laugh, and we each took one of the bowls. In each was a carved wooden spoon, the soup itself being mostly broth with a bit of meat and vegetables. “So, Mitchell, you going to stick around for the rest of the festival?” She asked as she looked over towards me.
“There’s more?” I asked in mild surprise. After the dance and the game they showed me earlier, I didn’t know what more to expect from a weekly festival like this.
“Of course there is!” She laughed, while Miren began to happily enjoy her soup, letting out delighted noises with every spoonful. “Later on, they’ll be drinking. And every week, there are taverns that try out new dishes to get people’s opinions for new recipes. Today’s soup is actually a new experiment from one of them.”
“It’sh really good!” Miren assured us, her mouth still mostly full. Curious, I took a spoonful of the soup. At first, it seemed somewhat spicy, but then that taste seemed to be washed away when I bit into some of the meat. Juicy and savory, it almost literally melted in my mouth. I had to admit that this was tastier than a lot of meals I had back before the whole Keeper business.
“Mm, it actually is pretty good.” I said with just a bit of surprise. I honestly hadn’t expected a meal cooked in this time period to really taste good to someone with a more modern palate. “I suppose I could stay for a few hours.” I answered with mock reluctance. I was actually quite curious to see what else this place had to offer. If it weren’t so… dirty, I might actually consider living here myself for a few years. However… it wasn’t really at the level I’d find livable yet.
“Awesome.” Miren nodded as she heard that.
“But, what do you do for currency?” I couldn’t help but ask that. It hasn’t been long enough since metalworking became a thing for the beastkin that they would have a currency such as silver and gold.
“Barter, mostly.” Rinn answered, shrugging her shoulders. “For small trades like these bowls of soup, it’s generally fine as long as we return the bowls. Sometimes people offer livestock, food, or even precious gems in trade.”
“What, like diamonds and rubies?” I asked, surprised that such items are casually tossed around in barters.
“Sometimes.” She confirmed, nodding her head, before taking a spoonful of her own soup and letting out a happy groan. “Definitely telling him to keep this recipe. But yeah, unless the gem is more than a few centimeters, or is exceptionally pure, it won’t go for much in a trade. You might be able to get a single bajin--a weird type of three-horned cow-- or a quality weapon for it. Though, quality by current standards.”
Yeah, I doubt there’ll be anything to replace my sword for a long time. I nodded my head, sipping my way through my soup until there was none left, before putting my bowl back on the tray. “Alright, what’s next?”