The Legend tells of a great Beast bringing destruction to the town, sent down by the gods to punish them for their mortal folly. For ten days and nights the Beast wrought tremors and chaos on the earth, causing panic and terror to spread throughout the land. Until one day a brave hero sealed away the Beast after a grand fight.
Suga stood in the grand temple that had been his home for many years, listening to the head priest of the land tell the story again. Children acted out the legend for all the crowds in front of the temple entrance to see waiting for his part to commence. The crowds cheered and applauded at all the right spots, throwing paper flowers and placing tribute to the temple in front of the stage. Suga watched through the window the large puppet of the Beast being struck down by a small child dressed as a warrior. Trepidation churned in his stomach. He had trained for years for this moment, chosen at a young age to become the next Beast Dancer. It was a great honour to be chosen.
“And now we witness again the new Beast Dancer come forth! The one who shall keep us safe from the Beast sealed beneath the earth! Reminding us of our need to strive for perfection in our lives and in our souls!” The Priest bellowed, the signal for Suga to emerge from the temple, cloaked in pure white and the crowd’s cheers rose to a deafening roar in the sweltering midday sun.
It was a great honour to be chosen as the Beast Dancer, Suga reminded himself over and over again as he looked out at the people of his home. His task would be to dance to maintain the seal of the Sealed Temple. He had been trained and primed for this, he had nothing to fear. Through his nerves he smiled and nodded graciously at the crowd before bowing so low he almost touched his toes. The men and women fell to his feet as he passed through them, temple guards and musicians helping to clear a path for him. Suga was paraded through the streets in the high heat to the sound of the singing crowd, all offering their prayers and hopes to the gods. They hoped to lend him strength in keeping the seal in the Sealed Temple, singing songs to please the gods all the way to the edge of the town where the elders and a carriage waited for him.
The crowd fell silent as Suga came to a stop before the elders. These men had been so kind to him in his time of training, encouraging him and praising the beauty of his dance. They reminded Suga often that he should be grateful for this chance to please the gods; that he should be grateful to offer his gift of dance to their glory to keep the Beast sealed away.
Suga tuned out the speeches, he knew what they were saying. They had told him the same things time and time again, how he was their pride and joy but they never told him what he was going to do. All this time training and learning the dances and he never thought to ask what he would face.
“I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know what I’m facing. It is an honour to be chosen.” Echoed throughout his very being as he smiled and waved for the crowds one last time. He didn’t know if he would ever see any of them again.
No one knew where the previous dancers went. The Legends say that they are taken by the gods to live in paradise. That the Beast Dancers are destined for paradise. Suga wondered about what paradise was like. The priests in the temple told him that he would live a life of bliss as thanks for helping to seal the Beast away. All Suga hoped for was that it would be filled with fields of flowers as far as the eye could see.
The only flowers he could see now were the paper flowers being thrown into the air as he climbed into the carriage, the vast colours being reduced to pinpricks as the carriage moved further and further away from the town and deeper into the barren wild.
The dusty paths of the town soon gave way to the dry rock and sand with the vast blue sky spread out before them. Suga felt bad for the horses and the driver who had to deal with the unbearable heat, unprotected by the shade of the carriage. Suga even tried to start a conversation, hoping to maybe gain some insight into what the temple was like.
“You will see it when you get there” was the only response he got from the driver, leaving Suga to become content and lulled into a sleep by the rhythmic beat of the hooves.
Suga awoke bleary eyed and disorientated when the carriage bumped roughly hours later. Upon peering out the window he saw that the sun was beginning to descend, turning the sky to a blood red shade and the terrain had changed. They reached a crater and they were heading inside. What Suga saw in front of the temple made him gasp. It was the oddest and most beautiful sight that Suga had ever seen. A large and brilliant tree with crimson blossoms, bursting out from the branches like flames. The setting rays of the sun only enhanced the effect but as they disappeared behind the horizon the tree turned black, shrivelling up and rotting in an instant. The blossoms died and dropped at Suga’s feet as he emerged shaken from the carriage to be greeted by the Grand Priest.
“The Beast has taken much from the land, including the gift left by the gods in thanks for the last Beast Dancer.” The old man in robes of red and gold intricate enough to match his title gestured to the tree that was now dead before leading him inside of the Sealed Temple. This grand white pillared building would be Suga’s home from now on until he was to be whisked away to paradise.
Inside was a luxurious affair. Intricate tapestries and golden ornaments lined the marble corridors. In Suga’s opinion it was more like a palace than a temple.
The Grand Priest silently led Suga to his room, even more extravagant than the corridors that they had passed through. Large wooden doors opened to a richly coloured room in reds golds and purples, something akin to a royal bedroom with a large bed covered in a silk canopy. But what captured Suga’s attention was a grand tapestry hanging at the other end of the room, a grand blooming tree just like the one he had seen rot outside. “Why is this place so lavish?” he asked feeling considerably out of his depth and unworthy of this treatment. This was nothing compared to the temple in the City.
“It is what the Gods require” was the terse response he received as the Grand Priest gestured towards a man that stood respectfully before them. He seemed to be about Suga’s age and was dressed in simpler robes than the Grand Priest. “It is time for you to prepare for the ceremony. He shall be your attendant during your time here. There are other priests who attend to this temple but it would be…. Unwise for you to mix with them. If you have any wishes outside of your duties then this servant is yours to command. I will see you before you descend.” With that explanation the Grand Priest left in a flourish of robes leaving Suga and his new servant alone in his new quarters.
Suga watched the Grand Priest leave in silence before his attention was shifted to his servant politely gesturing to a doorway that Suga hadn’t noticed before, being too distracted by the tapestry. “If your eminence would like to come this way, we’ll begin the purification for tonight’s ceremony.”
“Yes of course but please call me Suga” he replied, feeling the weight of the title the servant called him too great for him to bear. He needed to break the ice, he needed to find some footing in this strange temple. If he could make friends here then his time here would be easier and less boring. He was glad to be attended by someone his own age rather the old pious men he was used to. “I would like to know your name too of course and anything good you have to tell me about this place” a kind smile lighting up his features before he winked.
The servant returned the smile and then looked down at the ground for a moment, almost shyly, a blush coating his cheeks, causing a small giggle to burst from Suga’s lips. “It would be uncouth for me to be so forward with you but if you wish to know my name is Ennoshita.” A pout from Suga followed as he was led into the purification room as Ennoshita told him little else, scurrying over to a basin of water that had been prepared for him to wash his hands in.
“Please Ennoshita. I’d like to know more about my home! Pretty please!” he begged as the cloak was unclasped from his shoulders.
A sigh followed soon after along with a look of apology. “I’m sorry your eminen… Suga… I can’t right now. I have to get you ready for the ceremony but later, tomorrow morning I promise I will tell you anything that I can but now I have to do the incantations in order to prepare your body and soul.”
“Fine… I’ll be good but you make good on your promise tomorrow okay!” Ennoshita’s nod satisfied Suga before he was met with a wall of softly sung incantations that Suga could not ever hope to understand.
The ritual began with Ennoshita lighting incense, continuing his song. Suga felt the melody creep its way deep into his bones. All he need to do was put his trust in Ennoshita and let him strip him completely before being led to a pool of sweetly fragrant water where he was washed from head to toe from all the impurities of the journey.
Somewhere in the middle of the ritual a trance had taken over him, a strange unearthly calm settling into his very being with every breath of incense he inhaled, with every piece of clothing and every jewel that was placed upon him. He felt the comforting need to dance, something he knew so well and the yearning to do his best to help his people, to keep the scourge of the Beast at bay. Deep in his heart he wished an arrogant wish. That his dancing would bring back that beautiful tree he saw and paint the barren lands of the desert in green lush grass, filled with flowers as far as the eye could see.
It was with this wish that he descended past the tapestry that had been silently pulled aside by Ennoshita, determination in his heart to seal the Beast away and heal the land, draped in little more than pale white silks and silver bells that rang gently with each step he took deep into the dark pits of the temple.
Suga thought that he would only find the sacred mark on the ground where the Beast was sealed beneath the earth but as he stepped on the glyph that faintly glowed in the darkness he discovered that he was wrong.
The Beast ran towards him with a deafening roar, causing the ground to shake and the bells on Suga’s form to ring and his veil to billow behind him, only to be held back by the chains that kept it in place. It felt like the Beast wanted him to leave. Red eyes glowed angrily in the darkness, sharp claws swiped close to Suga’s face and deadly white teeth snapped at him but Suga stayed determined. He was the only hope that the temple and his home had. He ignored the Beast’s roars and began the dance he was born to do.
From the temple above he could hear the music call down to him. All he needed to do was let his body remember the steps. “I will not let you hurt my home” was his silent prayer as his hips swayed slowly along with the beat, his hands twisting high into the air causing the bells to rattle in time with the beat.
The glyph on the floor glowed brighter as the dance continued, rolling up Suga’s body in sensual waves, his hips twisting this way and that way towards each of the cardinal points of the seal. He spun and leapt through the air like a blossom in the wind, the silks swirling around him in a white and silver flurry. When he clicked his fingers, his arms waving from side to side in an arch, the torches in the room burst into a blue flame.
That was when the pain started. Deep in Suga’s core, a sharp pain, unlike anything he ever felt before. He locked eyes with the Beast, foot stamping hard on the ground. Maybe it was trying to hurt him? But Beast’s eyes held no anger or hatred for him. Instead the Beast stepped towards him with a whimper its head bowed, pawing the ground. The pain seared and scorched white hot but Suga danced on, gasping for air desperately. He would not be tricked! He would dance through the pain, letting the music carry him off and his body to click into habit.
All night Suga danced, the seal on the ground glowing brighter and brighter, the music growing louder and louder, his dance going faster and faster until Suga could dance no more and he fell to a crumpled heap on the ground, darkness overtaking his vision, he prayed to the gods to protect him from sharp jaws of the beast.