In spite of the rolling syllables of his name Marius Quintillus Sextus was a plain man, plain of features and plain-spoken, and perfectly aware that the Military Governorship of Kythera was a two-edged sword. On one hand, the climate was pleasant and the women had the reputation of being as friendly as they were beautiful. On the other side of the coin, the politics were murky, the religion beyond understanding, and the corruption all but defied belief.
However, he determined to do as good a job as circumstances would permit, and by the time the season of the Bull Dancing was upon them, he and his staff had begun to create order from the chaos left behind by an ineffectual predecessor and his unscrupulous staff.
As tradition demanded, the Governor took a break from his duties to attend the first Bull Dances of the season, alongside the great and the good of Kytheran society.
First up were the littlest dancers who practised jumps and forward rolls and back flips with the aid of imitation bulls made of wood and leather and pushed around on wheels. Marius leaned forward in his seat and applauded the tiny tots’ remarkable athleticism. When their display was over the little ones ran to the side of the arena in front of the governor’s box and all bowed. Marius had done his homework, and was able to broadcast handfuls of wrapped sweetmeats to the row of children who scrambled for the largesse before running off.
As the age of the participants rose, their bovine opponents grew fiercer, and the dances grew more and more complex and beautiful. Time and again, Marius found himself on the edge of his seat as the young men and women demonstrated levels of courage, skill, timing and athleticism that put anything else he had ever seen to shame, as they vied to snatch brightly coloured ribbon rosettes from the horns of the cattle.
He thought he had seen all there was to see and was even becoming a little blasé when the arena gates opened to allow in a huge black bull with sharpened gilded horns and polished hooves. The stable hands whistled and banged pots and the bull careered around the arena working itself up into a state of absolute rage. When it was all but foaming at the mouth, a single bare-breasted girl ran onto the raked white sand – dancing over, under, and around the furious animal, which carried a white ribbon rosette between its horns.
“That is Pasiphea,” Marius’ secretarius murmured, “three seasons champion”.
The girl was like quicksilver, with a taut, athletic little body that had even the normally pragmatic Marius thinking distinctly erotic thoughts. He watched narrowly, coming to realise that she could have snatched the rosette many times and that she was putting on a show for the assembled company. In a final flourish she performed three forward flips along the enraged animal’s spine before plucking the rosette and jumping neatly to the ground.
Then disaster struck. The raked white sand must have been poorly packed and the dancer landed with her foot in a hole. As she went down in a heap the bull was facing away from her, but it was only going to be a matter of time before it turned.
Excerpt from The Bull Dancer which can be found in Pulling the Rug Two by Jane Jago one of many books of poetry, short stories, and full-sized fictional adventures you can find in the Sweet Free Summertime Reads giveaway!
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