Before Birth by Flame is released this fall, I’ll be giving you a sneak peek into the world of the book.  Today, meet the final main character of Birth By Flame, Vahura.

“Come on, Vahura, we have to be onstage in five minutes!”  Garasi shouted, rushing around the dressing room trying to find the rest of her costume.  I sighed and shook my head.

“Garasi, you flying around like a chicken without a head isn’t helping.” I said before turning back to the mirror to finish applying the thick black under-eye makeup that added the final touch to the costume.  I stood up and started looking around for Garasi’s sash, the small beads and bells tinkling with each movement.

I lifted up the heavy lid of her trunk and saw a blue corner sticking out from under a pair of rumpled trousers.

“Here’s your sash.” I said, pulling it out of the trunk and throwing it at her.  She caught it and hastily tied it around her waist.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you, Vahura!” she said, hugging me tight as soon as I stood up.

“No problem, girl.  Let’s go.”

We ran from our little dressing room through the opulent halls of the dance studio.  We ran past statues of laughing girls caught in a dancing pose, past painted murals detailing the steps for new girls, past girls in rigorous training and older women shouting at them to do it again but better.

We slipped past the girls nervously waiting for their turn onstage and into the tangled backstage area.  Our instructor was standing in front of a small group of girls all decked out in full costume, speaking in a rushed whisper.  Behind her, another group danced onstage, twinkling as they spun underneath the skylight.

“We have worked far too hard to let it all go to waste now.” the woman hissed.  “Get out there and give it every ounce of effort you have.  Now, go out there and dance.”

We all nodded and started to take our place behind the heavy curtain that acted as a backdrop.  The director grabbed me by the shoulder and whispered in my ear.

“Don’t mess this up.” she spat.  I pulled away from her and took my place in the center of the group, wiping away her spit.

My heart pounded in time with the crowd’s applause.  Footsteps scampered off to the side of the stage.  I breathed out and plastered a huge smile onto my face.

The curtain opened.  I squinted and ran forward, striking a pose at my spot as the crowd applauded.

The drumbeat started up, followed by high reedy flutes.  I tapped my foot in time to the beat and started to sway back and forth.  My arms windmilled slowly with the flutes.  Behind me, the girls spun slowly, their metallic details catching the daylight.

My feet began to slide across the floor and the girls and I danced, spinning around the stage with arms swinging and hips shaking as the music built into a steady tune.  As the music got faster, our formations got tighter, our moves sharper, our smiles brighter.  The music grew louder and faster, building to its conclusion.  I took my spot in the middle of the other girls and began to spin, turning faster and faster as the music built and built.

The flute trilled loudly as a signal that the performance was about to end.  I planted my feet facing the audience and posed, watching the hands of the other girls pop into view as they hit their last poses.  The music stopped.  The crowd began to cheer and applaud.  My heartbeat came fast and loud in my ears.  My face was flush underneath the heavy makeup and my breathing was quick and shallow.

I slowly walked to the edge of the stage and bowed, soaking up the applause and feeling the approval of the crowd wash over me.  I looked up and saw the director of the school herself smiling and nodding while a smaller woman dressed in black whispered in her ear.