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Dancers, Maidens of the Battlefield (10/22/2007)
[[{{SUBST:Dancers, Maidens of the Battlefield}}|   ]]

Maiden of the Battlefield

Dancers, Maidens of the Battlefield (10-22-2007)-1

'Tis the beatin' of the heart what lays the foundation. Ye embrace it with yer whole body, and then e'er so gently start tappin' out the steps. Yer blood gets t'bubblin' an' ye can hear it percolatin' about in there. An' then ye might stick a twirlin' turn and send it rushin' t'all yer extremities. Shimmies straight up the spine and sends a shudder clean through ye, it does. After that, then she's mine an' no mistakin'. Haven't the faintest where I be or how I got there, I just am. An' everyone around fuels me, each of 'em offerin' up their own music--a symphony o' souls. An' that's yer rhythm. Ye cannot help but dance.

[Dancer Laila Brilioth, following a seminal performance on Jeuno's Artisan Bridge in the year 884]

And so it was that in former times that dancers became truly sought after as battleworthy allies. Word soon spread of their inspiring ability to allay the troubled hearts of soldiers made uneasy by the trials and tribulations of the frontline, and of their prowess as heroines in their own right, staking their lives on the field of battle alongside the bravest of warriors. In this manner they came to garner immense favor and respect from all ranks in the great armies of Altana--such was the station of the dancer. Their supple frames adorned in magnificent garments, dancing in plain view on the battlefield, boldly defying downpour after downpour of beastman arrow, the dancers bestowed countless of Altana's legions with both courage and resolve, earning them the title "maidens of the battlefield." Juxtaposed to this was their infamy among their enemies as "maidens of death," feared for their mastery of an unknown and foreign art.

The origins of the esoteric tradition known as the Kriegstanz are revealed below.

Revelry in Totentanz

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Come now, and dance with these bones!
Spin and turn, in life and in death!
Pauper, sage, even the nobleman knows,
They are all, in the end, of life bereft!
Savor now, doomed fool, and make merry this night!
Come now, and dance with these bones!
Sing and croon, in life and in death!
Old hag, young beauty, even the sweet child knows,
In time, a bleached skull, is all will be left!
Savor now, doomed fool, and make merry this night!

[a verse from the ancient "Bastokan Song of the Damned"]

This verse rose to prominence in dark days as the republic was ravaged by the Bastokan Blight.

On top of the already horrific and growing number of victims, unsubstantiated rumors and utter despair spread rampant through all quarters of the city. It was in this climate of social turmoil that the Bastokan Song of the Damned was taken up by the masses. Using magic to animate the remains of the deceased, throngs of the hopeless and grieving would choke the streets in processions of living and dead, booming in chorus as they danced the Totentanz in a form of morbid catharsis.

Despite the government's initial efforts to quarantine those infected by the blight, the frenzied nightly gatherings were at first reluctantly tolerated. This changed however, as the growing popularity of the Totentanz carried it to the frontlines of battle, where the crazed enthusiasm generated by the now ritualistic dancing led no small number of soldiers to neglect their posts. This being an unacceptable state of affairs in wartime, a series of prohibitions was promptly issued with unforeseen results... An air of insurgency and rebellion swept the people, as dancing crowds began to take to the streets even with the sun still high in the sky. President Wilhelm was left with no recourse but to declare a state of emergency and mobilize the republic's main garrison of Galkan troops against the citizenry to suppress the escalating chaos. It is indeed a sad page in Bastokan history.

It so happened that in those days, mountainfolk from the hinterlands of the Gustaberg region would sometimes travel to Bastok to peddle medicinal herbs. The quelling of the near-maniacal outbreaks of saturnalia would find its form in the native dancers of these tribes. With no hesitation despite the apparent dangers of contagion to themselves, they would roam the city streets and visit barracks, displaying the aggressive yet graceful steps of their people's traditional dance, the Kriegstanz, with a timeless elegance. The majestic rhythms pounded out by these confident women and their motions, full of life, captivated observers instantaneously. And it was not long before the morose Totentanz rituals faded away as quickly as they had come. Some years later, the significant role the dancers played in the defeat of the deadly epidemic which claimed so many Bastokan lives was commemorated by the president in a now famous speech: "Though none can deny the scientific strides made by our great alchemists in curing this foul plague, praise is due also to those fearless masters of dance who came to us in our most dire hour. For it was their impassioned artistry that delivered us from the tyranny of this most lethal of epidemics, and the terror which had fast gripped our very hearts." And so it was that the dancers came to be credited with ending the Bastokan Blight.

In wake of its success and popularity during the blight, the Kriegstanz became a well-established school of dance, the study of which was such a grueling task that finding successors to carry on the tradition became quite a chore in its own right. It is not without some hint of irony that the second coming of the dancers would require a tragedy on the scale of the Crystal War--with the very fate of Bastok in the balance--to bring it about.

Knowing Kriegstanz

Dancers, Maidens of the Battlefield (10-22-2007)-3

One would be remiss to relegate the arts of
dance and combat to separate fields. A
masterful dance can be the most lethal of
weapons; a skillful fight, the most elegant
of dances. Alas, there does exist one point
of departure between the two. Whereas
martial beauty is a byproduct of precise
execution, the techniques of dance are a
thing of beauty in and of themselves. The
whole corpus of the Kriegstanz, though no
doubt applicable to combat,primarily, and
perpetually, seeks beauty.

[an excerpt from the dogmatic "Kriegstanzian Musings," composed by Annika Brilioth]

From that point on the Kriegstanz continued to evolve even further, incorporating unique steps developed in varying regions into new types of dance, yielding the Schwerttanz and Gauklertanz, among others. Dancing was found to not only encourage and instill morale in the practitioner's companions, but the most instinctual of dancers were found to be able to achieve an almost trancelike state, imbuing themselves with transcendental powers that could weaken their enemies with the sublime suggestiveness of their movements.

Held in high regard as both first-class entertainers and as accomplished martial artists, the dancers are driven by an insatiable passion for their art. Entirely devoid of timidity on both the stage and the battlefield, dance requires the most absolute resolve. Only one who has honed these traits and devoted their very life to the beauty and perfection of the art itself is worthy of being deemed "Dancer."

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