The ringing call of the drummers cut through the night.
Their shouts rose into the night air as they leaped into the air, each scantly dressed man coming down, hard, on the worn, thick hide of the drum’s top. They grunted and barked, more savage than anything Veronica had ever seen. She nursed a cup of warm spirits, a heady mix with an herbal undertone she couldn’t name, her body light and distant as she watched the drummers continue their relentless pace.
The dancers, naked and painted, hair plaited and dreaded, were no better. They spun around the roaring fire, leaping and twisting and spinning. Their arms whipped out around them on every sharp turn, each of them dancing to the cry of the drums and the song they sang. As Veronica watched, separate from herself yet deep within her own skin and mind, she felt her eyes widening as the intricate, beautiful paint glowed.
The designs lifted off their flesh, withering in the air. Birds and large cats, snarling hounds and fantastical butterflies, rams and wolves and bears and foxes; then there it was, an undulating current, twisting splashes of blue water-like waves. Veronica watched as it turned purple and pink and orange and red, watched the rainbow, self-governing paint twist and spiral and spin ethereal designs in the air.
One of the Elders was making his rounds, a bowl in his hands. When he knelt in front of her, she could see the liquid in it. Veronica watched, awed, as steam lifted from the dark substance, didn’t fight when the edge of the offering was pressed to her lips. Her head tipped back on its own accord, the thick, cool substance gliding down her throat. The path of heat following it down was responsible for the smoke, some distant part of her concluded. Her drink fell to her side as she sank back, white snow cocooning her body.
The dancers continued to dance, the drummers to drum.
Veronica sank, deeper and deeper. She sank until darkness turned to light. Until black skies came alive in a thousand colors. Until the wolves howled for the sun, fleeing the red moon as it came crashing down towards the earth. Until the Dragon lifted its head, crimson eyes on fire with smoke and brimstone. She sank until the womb of the earth became a haven, a cold shelter from a world on the verge of destruction.
The drummers drummed, the dancers danced.
The old man, wise beyond his years, passed a paint-coated hand over her brow. His eyes were dark, lined by years of seeing too much of what the world held secret. As her heart slowed, a peaceful murmur as too many images flashed through her mind, Veronica was barely aware of the lines being drawn on her forehead and down her face to her neck and her chest, to her arms and hands.
“All who seek answers seek good fortune,” there was a low echo, a type of energy-like vibration, cutting through the air. The dancers were turning to smoke. The drummers were breaking apart, each person in dozens of disjointed pieces. “None are prepared for what the Fates have in store, none are ready for what they are shown.”
A cold liquid slid over her tongue, coating her throat. “Few take action against the future they have seen. They know, after the trance, what is coming. Few rise to stand against the nightmares, the distress, our world is plagued with.”.