An answer to the Blogging 101 prompt to Identify Your Audience
This will belong to a longer story that’s in the works.
Alia asked for permission to bring Eriane to the lake: two beyond the circle would be less easily seen than five. Less protected Jilan argued but Alia didn’t appear to want to give up. She retorted that if they were seen it would be easier to pass for two sisters making way to some village or other. She even relinquished the star to one of her friends.
“Eriane?” Jilan asked. She nodded. She guessed what it was about. Alia still wanted to talk to her about these dreams. And so it was decided; Jilan would take care of the young girls while Alia and Eriane went to the lake. Alia held her arm guiding her through the bushes and on the path to the river allowing her to realize that her sense of distance and relief were still extremely weak. She’d need help to walk and go anywhere for the rest of her life… she could either wallow or make do. She knew of priestesses who had forsaken their sight that they might see truer. Maybe something good would come out this. She had to believe so. The smells around them were overpowering or maybe she was already compensating for the loss of her eyes. They marched in silence as she concentrated on not falling and Alia on not letting her go. After a while she heard the singsong of the water as it ran in its bed along stones and pebbles. There was a river that ran into the wider body of calm water. Safe indeed for a bath.
Still holding her hand Alia led her to the water. Though she knew her feet would enter the lake she gasped in surprise at the contact of its coolness. Alia hadn’t shown any emotion; she’d already bathed. Still it was cool enough that she should have… a sense of recognition came upon her. There was a reason for this though its meaning was still hidden.
Eriane had guessed the child wanted to speak with her about these weird dreams that sounded more like nightmares for the trouble they caused her. Premonitory dreams were frequent among Elvana’s priestesses but as young as Alia was it usually meant a future high priestess was being called to the goddess. Maybe her replacement; after all she had no children. Yet Alia had only entered service a year before and she should not have shown such powers yet, not when neither her parents held any gift. It wasn’t unheard of though even if Oana would have been a more reliable source of information. She spared a moment to grieve again for the absence of her mentor and friend. Oana would have known what to do about Alia… Eriane didn’t forget that she had such dreams as early as she could remember and at the age of five she knew how to tell the true dreams from regular ones apart.
“You should go farther, it’s deeper and you will appreciate the bath. You don’t look like yourself anymore. And your dress needs cleaning too without leaving you naked.”
“I will still be naked Alia.”
“Yes but the sun is warm today…”
“I can feel it.”
“Your dress will dry quite fast. And it will soothe you; Jilan blessed the waters so it should be reinvigorating.”
Or I might fall into a meditation so deep I will drown considering the last few days, Eriane thought.
She pulled the dress over her head with Alia’s help before sinking into the water entirely that she may remove the thick layer of grime that seemed to stick to her body. The water gliding on her skin was invigorating indeed and she soon felt serene, free of many worries that had nagged her for the past little while, before the events at the temple. She rinsed her hair listening to Alia who was singing as she cleaned her robes. She heard when the girl spread the dress to dry and sat with her feet in the water, disturbing it just slightly as if she were contemplating what she should say after. She let the child find her words and take her time; she remembered how much like Alia she once was. She hated nothing more than her mother knowing what questions she had in mind but not letting her phrase it in her own way. The day she finally said something her mother had smiled and answered that it was time her daughter took control.
“Mother I have a question.”
“What does the gods’ temple look like?”
That was one of the first things the novices learned, it was curious that Alia should ask that particular question. But maybe it was a way for her to prepare for the one that mattered more.
“I cannot say what it looks like to you Alia. For each priestess sees the temple in a different way; it’s a reflection of her innermost self.”
“I know that Mother…” She sighed as if she were annoyed with herself.
“Take your time Alia. It seems we don’t need to hurry.”
The child was silent for a little while figuring out what best way to phrase her real query.
“What I meant is what does the gods’ temple in the skies look like?”
“In the skies? Are you talking about the First temple; the Sacred city?”
“I don’t know,” she sounded disappointed with herself, “I saw a room with a gigantic dome filled with men and women wearing armors and weapons and beyond the dome there were stars and the moon. It looked a little like the story of the temple in the sky that Oana told us about. And everything turned black until a bright burning light appeared in the dark skies. And the light approached me as if it wanted to embrace me before it disappeared. But then I wake up; every time I do. I can’t see the end. What does it mean?”
“I’ll be honest Alia. I am not sure. Few priestesses have ever seen the First temple and I am not among them. I admit you are the very first I meet. And I’m not certain what it can mean.”
That was not entirely true; if she ignored the complete meaning of this she guessed Alia was one of the messengers. She was one whose visions would announce the return of the gods on earth. She also knew what these dreams meant for Alia as one of Elvana’s servants. As surprising as it might sound even to her it was time the young girl be initiated fully as a priestess; despite the fact she only had served one year, despite the fact that she was the youngest priestess ever initiated. Eriane knew it as certainly as she knew her name; if Alia had seen the First temple she was counted among the chosen few marked by the goddess to find the key. She needed protecting.
“Alia, will you join me please,” she asked standing in the water that reached slightly above her hips. The water would reach beneath the child’s arms but it was better that way; fully surrounded by the goddess’ element her call would resonate strongly. Alia took her hand when she reached her and Eriane guided the child that she faced her and took her other hand that they formed a circle with their arms.
“Alia, you must ensure not to let go of my hand. We have to maintain a circle; it won’t be a big one but it will be enough for what needs doing. Place your right hand as far as you can reach on my left arm.” She felt the child’s fingers graze her skin. “Perfect… now make a circle arc and reach as far as you can behind you, then back to my arm again.” Once the child did it twice she added.
“Continue slowly and repeat after me.
In the earth I find protection that is mother of life
In the air I find protection that is the presence of spirits
In fire I find protection that is the call of our faith
In water I find protection that is the essence of my path.
May the elements mingle in harmony
That they might protect and hide this place.”
After each verse Eriane paused that Alia repeat the prayer of forming the circle needed to protect the initiation of a priestess. In the temple this circle would have been bigger, more powerful built by two dozens of priestesses witnessing the calling of the new priestesses and she wouldn’t have to take part in it. She would only need to officiate as Elvana’s High Priestess and call her power and blessing upon those who had answered her final call. Today she must do both with a child who had not answered the call of fire yet. But the circumstances demanded an exceptional response and she had made her choice. Alia must be placed under the goddess’ protection and she would follow in her footsteps to become Elvana’s High priestess despite her youth.
Once the circle was built she let go of the young novice’s hands and instructed her to pray. Since Ilwan’s servant had blessed the water the call could be heard. Eriane started praying too, murmuring the litany of the wakening, the most sacred rite of her order that none who had not been initiated could attend or witness.
“Child of the Air where you were born
Daughter of the Earth that carried you
Novice in the Fire that called you
Priestess of Water that will guide you
In your choices and on your path
Will you receive the goddess Elvana?”
And Alia who hadn’t received the teaching of the priestesses, who hadn’t gone through the fast during which Elvana revealed the secret words of acceptance, answered in the ritual terms.
“On the Air I walked
Before the Earth bore me
And if the Fire called
In Water I shall live
Today, tomorrow and forever
Elvana I shall always serve.”
In that instant in the same way it happened on the bridge her vision was returned to Eriane as if the goddess wished her servant to be in full control of her senses and powers in this ceremony. Between the woman and the child a sphere of emptiness formed that Eriane filled with the goddess’ power. Alia had accepted Elvana in her heart and it remained to be seen whether the goddess would trust her High priestess’ choice in these particular circumstances. Eriane resumed her chanting pulling deeper into her powers, the surface of it having built the circle.
“In the beginning there was Air
That a child might breathe
That the wind might blow
And give life to all things.”
Over their head blew a surprising and violent gush of wind that Eriane caught in her hands before she freed it into the sphere she had created; the emptiness seemed to take texture and became translucide as if it had absorbed the air element.
“Children rise from the Earth
From which all life is sustained
That the wheat may grow
Where we return in the end.”
From the shore of the river dust flew as if gathered by the wind that still surrounded them. As she had with the air Eriane plucked the earth and directed it into the sphere. It turned into a dark muddy brown or rather a colour between green and brown.
The next element would be the hardest; it was her own test of faith. Every element was here in this clearing for her to compel except fire. That she would need to create entirely. It would reveal the goddess’ will without any shred of a doubt. She took a deep breath before she started the next verse of the prayer.
“The gods’ chosen are born in Fire
That calls them shows them the way.
Flame of the faith and proof of their vows
It traces Elvana’s path.”
Within her mind, Eriane picture a fire burning as real as she could. In fact the violence of her vision hit her as she saw the temple, “her” temple in flames, flames she had created with her anger. In her hands a fire burst out so high that the air suction also raised the waters surrounding them. It might have frightened others but she suddenly felt tenderness for that fire; in fact it was hard to push it into the sphere of power. But she must do it; relinquishing attachment she released the element. The orb of power burnt a bright red before it started pulsing; it was eager to reach into the new priestess. She had felt that before that sense the elements had a conscience of their own. It seemed unlikely but now they appeared to call to her and the water around them was clamouring to be summoned.
“As time over which Elvana reigns
Water follows its course without stopping
As a priestess you can go downstream
Or return to its source unfringed.”
Suddenly as power gathered around Alia and her, Eriane feared Jilan’s blessing added to her own powers and those that would be revealed in Alia if the goddess welcomed her would be too incontrollable. Indeed the river around them started moving in violent waves as if a strong current suddenly gathered beyond the circle of protection. She felt the trees sway and the earth tremble as if shaken by a magical quake these woods had never felt before. The smell of the lormelian became heady, headier than when she first arrived from the temple as if though they stood far from here the trees were brought into a violent dance by the wind she had created in this place. In fact Eriane had the sudden impression a cyclone struck beyond the circle disturbing this usually serene place. The water rose above their head reaching the crown of the surrounding trees before they fell in cascades around them. A few drops fell on the sphere that turned a deep shade of transparent blue for just a moment. Then its centre she could see the four elements encased: fire burning, water like tears and air and water surrounding them. She looked up to Alia; upon the child’s brow a star appeared red, then green, then white and finally blue, the purest blue she’d ever seen – though she never saw the colour of the star that marked her brow – and the orb between them took the shape of the star. As if in a trance, Alia extended her hands and gathered the star holding the elements. As if it knew her the star plunged into Alia’s heart, causing her to gasp, then exited her body once more and moved to her forehead, where it shone like one of the celestial bodies in the skies. Alia then whispered.
“By the Air that conceived me
And the Earth that bore me.
By the Fire that received me
And the Water that wakened me,
Mother of Time and Stars
Please welcome me
Allow me to See beyond the veil
That I may serve Thee.”
Alia had been wakened to a power that would be unlike any she had seen before. Until now and as far as Eriane knew no aspirant had ever known the words to the rituals without fasting and praying before. Some never heard them. Alia’s dreams weren’t those of a simple priestess; she really was one of the messengers. If she had doubted before Eriane wouldn’t have now. She must protect Alia’s life at all cost. Except that now she wouldn’t do anything for the child for she felt suddenly dizzy and the world became dark once more.
She barely felt the young girl grab her arm and lead her outside of the water. When she opened her eyes again onto the dark world she was lying down; she felt the commotion surrounding her as voices raised in exclamation. Jilan and the novices had left the circle of protection: that was not good. She felt a hand on her brow as if it were assessing her health, probably Jilan. She was cold and exhausted as she would when she’d used all her energy. But it was necessary. She sighed.
“That cyclone will have been seen by many Eriane. A wakening?” She asked.
Eriane nodded. “I had no choice.”
“Maybe… I’m impressed to be honest. I have never seen such a thing; but I won’t be alone. Other will have noticed the column of fire and water. It reached the top of the trees.”
“I had to. I will explain… not now.”
“I think I know. I believe Qrin made the same choice for me. Can you walk?”
“I have to. But I need…”
“To dress; yes. Alia could not help. She just covered you.”
Jilan helped her to sit and to put on the dress; it was still slightly humid but dry enough that she wouldn’t catch a cold wearing it. Then they helped her up and slowly they guided her back to the camp. Carried her would better describe it for she felt so weak her legs barely held together. They reached the circle and the place that had offered sanctuary for the past few days, all of them knowing or at leasting feeling that they would have to leve soon. Jilan was right; others would have seen the column and not all might have friendly intentions.
Still she was so tired, she could not move and though her heart told her that they needed to go now, that spending another day was too risky she could not find the strength to move. She tried to stand on her own but the world seemed to turn upside down when she did. Jilan ordered her to stay down and decided they would spend one last night that she might recover from the exertion. It was a risk worth taking.