Sarah Tolmie's novelette The Dancer on the Stairs is a kind of portal fantasy, with the protagonist whisked away from our world into a strange fantastical one -- except the place she is whisked to is a guarded stairway, where she depends on charity and desperation to survive, and can get out only by growing to learn the strange culture, and forge a meaningful bond with another.

At the story's conclusion, long after she has escaped, the protagonist is in an unexpected position of responsibility -- orchestrating the enigmatic coronation dance. And here, at the climax of the dance several strange things happen - a break from the culture's fundamental order; a miraculous signal; and also, this:

It is over. But not for me. There is no more rising effervescence, but a terrible black suction into an upward void, pulling pulling pulling. I scream and hold on to Yestril and to the railing, clutching the stone, every cell protesting movement upward, movement away.

The pull ceases, and I fall down.

A murmur passes through the crowd below, an outcry. Four members of the royal family, in their octagonal enclosure, are gone. There are tears, complaints, railing. But there will not be any serious attempt to explain it. Soon enough this will be one of the things that "do not command attention" or "do not happen among us."

This phenomenon is brief and sudden, and obviously important to the story, but I do not understand it.

What does it mean? Where are they being pulled? And why is it some people, and not others?

This feels like it might tie in the protagonist's arriving in the first place, from another world. And as for explaining that, the hint we have is Yestril's conjecture:

"But then how," I continued, "did I end up there?"

He looked at me in puzzlement. "I don't know," I remember him saying, "Perhaps you, also, were too much bound?"

Or perhaps it's to do with the climax of the coronation, which is a (temporary) breakdown of the sigil-groups, and this is somehow an extension of that sudden, shocking intermingling and universality.

But I'm not seeing a clear connection between the sudden void and either of those avenues. So I feel like I'm missing a key piece.

This is a deeply thematic story, so I expect the significance here is more a matter of understanding the theme, than it is of finding a logical, in-world explanation supported by the text -- but I might be wrong about that too.

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