Benda Betrayer took to his new-found responsibilities with ease and grace. Though he knew not the Quatrian tongue prior to his arrival, the minstrels who trained him to complete his role in the Dark Dance Cycle said he had a natural gift of wa’ata. They went so far as to theorize that this is likely why he was able to pass through the veil during the storm-at-sea in the first place, which no other Pentarchs had done in countless ages.
The compatriots of Benda, Tendar Trustless, and Ofend Fool, had a harder time adjusting to their new positions in Quatrian society. While they were treated by all with great honor and respect— as participating in the cycles was considered one of the highest achievements of the culture — they struggled personally to wrap their tongues around the Quatrian lyrics. Their tutors called them arwat, tone deaf, and literally laughed out loud when either of the two tried to emulate even the simplest melodies which all Quatrian children could sing perfectly before they even learned to walk. So they were reduced in rank quickly to performing simple recited lines, cued mainly off Benda’s parts, and simple comedic segments.
During the time of their training, the Dark Dance Cycle continued, but with extended interludes of minor tales which did not require the Betrayer, such as the adventures of young Delrin in the Cyric forests, and the visits of Delrin and Elum among the many Forest Peoples before landing in their present predicament at the stone circle.
Returning to that narrative now, Benda soon after his induction learned the mythic rules of performing the role of the Betrayer, of the first level. According to legend, it is known that in addition to projecting his apparition insubstantially at a distance (as when he first appeared to Elum and Delrin in the depths of the Great Forest), the Betrayer has the ability to switch appearances with his victims, such that others mistake the victim for the Betrayer, and vice versa. Though he understood it not at the time, this was the theatrical convention which actor Jan Re was in the midst of executing when he was accidentally mortally wounded by Benda’s blunt costume sword.
That is, the Betrayer-performer begins the Ritual of Transfer, by roughly gripping the shoulders of his intended victim, face to face. The victim is then enthralled by the depthless void found within the charred empty eye sockets of the Betrayer. The two then twirl about in a dance, which to Quatrian audiences signifies the struggle and flight of the victim’s soul to the Outer Darkness. And the Betrayer takes the role on-stage of and replacing his victim, who remains as though lifeless crumpled to the ground.
When Benda upset this natural way of things by mortally wounding Jan Re, he incurred both a blood debt to support Jan Re’s family, but also a ritual debt, for having changed the pitch of the tones which make up the Octave of Time. The cycles performed in Quatrian Society under the priests of the Hypergeic Temple Mount had as their intended function the harmonization of these Octaves in the present moment with the mythic and historical root tones (which were one in the same in this society).
This was not, to those people, idle speculation, or merely a symbolic conception of time as cyclical. This was, in a society still wedded to the Hypogeic powers, a concrete experience of how the present could impact the past. Thus atonement was also attunement, a continual re-tuning of the very stuff of existence.
For this reason, the ascension of Benda to the role of Betrayer was a natural progression of the way of things, since the epics told that the battle between Delroy’s Best Men and the Betrayer at the stone circle, was already one of deception and displacement of identity. It was thus only fitting.
Tendar Trustless and Ofend Fool still continued to double in their roles as Ayar and Ayad, the two brothers who were Best Men to Delroy, and watched over young Delrin. Their lines were few, and mostly comic. Due to Benda’s promotion to the role of Betrayer, it was determined that a local replacement would be found to take over the part of Andal, the captain of the Best Men, especially since it was a singing part. For reasons related to both ritual debt, and for his known skill as a performer in his youth in his own right, Garth Al Elum (former host of the three Pentarch sailors, and one of the headmen of the village where they landed) was chosen, and performed admirably.
We return now to the slaying of the brother Best Men pair. Ayad, played by Ofend Fool, was first to die, being considered weakest, and most susceptible to the deceptions of the Betrayer. Benda Betrayer, as the stone circle scene opened to the dissonant braying of trumpets from the orchetra, caught Ayad unawares while urinating on the rock of Acho (his character, comically, understood not the importance of the Holy Rock — and he, as a performer, did not actually urinate on stage, only mimed it). As he turned from his act to face the Betrayer, he was taken up roughly by the shoulders, and spun about by Benda Betrayer, who sang the opening lines of the Ritual of Transfer.
“I and thee, thee and I,
together are we, together.
Enter the void of my eyes.
Bathe in the Outer Darkness, revealed.
I take thy place, thee mine,
until one die, and the bond be released.”
With that, Ofend Fool as Ayad slumped dramatically to the floor, and Benda Betrayer took his place, miming too urination on the great boulder, as his brother Ayar, played by Tendar Trustless approached, calling out:
you have found a new place
to relieve yourself, I see!”
The audience erupted in laughter. After it died back down enough, the Betrayer responded in song:
“You know me,
to whom I would never lie.
Who knows my inmost heart.”
Though he dropped accidentally the concluding line, “whose sight cheers me in this dark place,” Ayad took the cue anyway, and clapped the back of the Betrayer in brotherly love, “Aye, aye.”
Then Andal entered, played by Garth Al Elum, and sang a short tale of their voyage lost in the wood, and how they tracked a dark figure they spotted far off in the forest, and who during the journey appeared to them in restless dreams. And how, as they tracked him, he increasingly began to fear that it was truly they who were the hunted.
The Betrayer, in the guise of Ayad, replied in sing-song chant:
“You worry too much, o captain.
Rest a while by this great rock.
You and my brother both.
I will take the watch.
And the morning will greet us
with fresh eyes.”
Being gravely weary from their sojourn in that dark wood, Ayar and Andal did sleep, and dream, to the tunes of strythis played offstage, the Betrayer standing watch. As the night lengthened, and the torches illuminating the stage were dimmed, the reeds thrummed from the orchestra, a quiet sound, against a plunking, as of rain, from the violins. And onstage, the Betrayer produced a length of silver rope. He approached on tip-toe the sleeping figure of his would-be brother, Ayar.
With a clash of cymbals, Ayar suddenly awoke, and in the space between dream and waking, was able to see the Betrayer for what he is. As that dark figure closed on him, the rope was dropped, and the dark hands covered the mouth of Ayar, muffling a cry, as he sought to scramble to his feet.
All at once, the Betrayer cried out, and lurching up to his full height, and turned. The trumpets blared his terror. A sword plunged into his back, and Andal standing in his fury behind, hilt broken off in his hand.
With a cry, the Betrayer crashed to the floor, and the now forgotten body of Ayad which had lain all this time not far away, roused itself, echoing the fury of the Betrayer’s cry. Lurching to his feet, and whirling, the audience saw clearly the sword, hilt broken off, which is where Elum and Delrin would find him thus, near death, a few moments later in the next scene of the cycle, which has already been related here in the previous installment.