Cythera Chronicles: A Secret Temple, part five

  • Recapitulation: Young priestess Golla is sent on a fool’s errand - to find the remains of an expedition many hundred years ago. She’s deserted by her fellow travellers in the southwest mountains-regions of Cythera.

    Part five: A Dangerous Welcome

    In the evening sun, the women surrounding Golla was silent. They just watched and waited. One of them kneeled by her with a water-skin. Golla spluttered when she felt the fluid in her mouth. Coming to her senses she felt dwarfed - all of the women was at least a head taller than herself. And they were armed with spears, bows and daggers.

    Panic-stricken she crawled to her feet. Trying to compose herself, she straightened and smoothed her wrinkled dress. When she lifted her hands to check her braids, a murmur spread among the watchers. She froze. One of the women stepped forward and grabbed her hand. It was a tight grip, but not painful. The woman examined Golla's silver rings closely.

    She stepped back and whispered something to one of the other women, who nodded agreement. The group started walking. Two women grabbed hold of Golla and motioned her with them. They almost had to carry her, when her legs couldn't hold her weight. They passed over the heath and down in a low valley on the other side, about an hour's walk. A primitive camp was erected there.

    Fires were about to be lit, food was being prepared. Golla almost fainted when she felt the smell of meat. They put her in a lean-to on a bunch of furs. Promptly she fell asleep. They awoke her to give her some food and a hot brew. She gulped it down. Her stomach protested, but she managed to keep all of it down. Then she slept some more.

    In the morning they had awoken her and dragged her along again. The group traveled parallel with the mountains. Golla still felt dizzy and weak. The woman that half-carried her was switched ever so often. They gave her pieces of dried meat and dried fruits to keep her walking. Golla couldn't remember hearing the women talking to her, or each other for that matter.

    Most of the day passed like that, in hurried silence. Almost fainting from time to time, she tried to find strength. She was the chosen one. She kept telling herself that. Perhaps the Goddess still walked with her.

    Close to evening they came to a larger camp. It too looked temporary, but here things were a little more organized. Tents and lean-tos surrounded a open space in the middle. Remains of a big fire rested in the center.

    They fed her again and she went to sleep in one of the tents. She'd never felt so satisfied, warm, and well fed before. Like a baby she slipped of into darkness, again sleeping before she'd thanked the Goddess properly.

    When she woke up again, a woman kneeled by her side. She was holding Gollas hand, examining the rings. Noting that Golla was awake, she pulled out an leather-string from around her neck. On it rested similar silver-rings as Golla wore. "You've come to us in the Time of Silence. We're honouring the Goddess by patrolling our territory and visiting our Stones. To keep in mind our fortune to be alive, we're not speaking with each other. I'm breaking that rule since you obviously are sent here by the Goddess. My name is Widem. Those rings of yours. Where do they come from?"

    Golla fingered the twin-rings that looped around her finger. They'd been a part of her for more than a year, ever since her initiation. "Well. They were given to me when I became a priestess for the Goddess. They're forged by the temple's silversmith, reverent Mother of Silver."
    "The temple? So the ancient lore was right after all? I never thought we'd ever meet one of the Forgotten Ones." She studied Golla in silence for an extended moment. Golla studied her in return. Her weathered, tanned skin made her seem many years older than Golla. Her arms were as supple as weeds, but beneath the surface muscles played. Her dark hair was not braided, it was only collected in a ponytail. She looked like some of the female peasants that came to the temple - used to hard work in the fields. Strong, but aged in advance.
    "You look weak and soft. I'm not sure that you serve the Goddess."

    Golla was taken aback by her comment. She dared to question her faith in the Goddess! "I've traveled almost an year in search of you! The last weeks I've gone by foot with almost no rations to live on! I've done that in the service of the Goddess."
    The women studied her outburst calmly. "You think you've proven your worth to the Goddess that easily, then? Perhaps we don't worship the same deity. Perhaps you've come to us to find the true faith?"
    Golla was flabbergasted. The wrinkled woman mocked her and questioned her. She was supposed to be welcomed with laurels, especially after her hardships to find the exodus-group.
    The woman continued talking: "You traveled by horse in spring time and in summer. Only the last weeks you've been feeling the starvation of wandering by foot. Then remember us. We left the temple on foot, in blistering cold winter. Our entire journey was made without rations."
    Golla was even more flabbergasted. The woman spoke about events more than a hundred years ago, as if she herself had been present then.

    "Wait a minute. Excuse me. I'm still weak from the journey. The Goddess has led me to you, no matter what you think. Please let us not fight."
    The woman just nodded and sat silent. She seemed to wait for Golla to say something. "Uhm, so where did you get your rings from?"
    "It was handed to me from a dying priestess, when I'd proved my worth to the Goddess. We have twenty-one pairs that are heirlooms from our ancestors - the Followers."
    Golla was too tired to try to straighten out the comment. Instead she changed subject. "I noticed your fire outside. But where's your ceremonial fireplace?" A bland look from the woman. "Your fireplace, where one priestess at a time worships the Goddess," Golla tried to explain.
    The woman laughed so hard that Golla was afraid that she'd faint. "You can't be serious. A small fire, where only a few people at a time can gather? Why not a real bonfire where all of the priestesses can gather and meet the Goddess? You Forgotten Ones, you're so strange. You hold up a torch and call it a 'fire'. We on the other hand build as large a fire as we can and still only call it a 'torch'."
    "Why do you call us the Forgotten Ones? You were the ones that left us, you know."
    "Yes, we left you. The Goddess called us to follow her out of the temple. The ones that stayed behind didn't hear her calling, so the Goddess didn't bother with them, she just forgot about them."
    "No, you've misunderstood something. You, the exodus-group, were supposed to come back to the temple. It was a temporary solution to be sure that the temple would be rebuilt if it fell into the hands of warlords."
    "Golla, it's you who have misunderstood something. When we left the temple, we vowed to serve the Goddess. And we have."
    "But you vowed to come back and rebuild the temple if it was destroyed."
    "Yes, we vowed to rebuild the destroyed temple. And we have. But not the building and not the place we left behind so many years ago."
    Golla sat dumbstruck. She didn't understand what the woman told her. It made no sense. Widem volunteered an explanation.
    "Listen. I'll tell you our story, the same way as I was told by my Mothers." With that the woman sat back a little more straight in her back and started talking with an almost hypnotic voice. Golla understood that this was a story that all of the so-called priestesses knew by heart.

    (To be continued)

    (This message has been edited by Slayer (edited 06-18-2002).)

  • This is certainly a surprise, but definitely a happy one. It's good to have you back Heidel. I guess maybe you were trying to us the same passage of time that Golla had. ;) I hope you're back to stay.

    Slayer's guide to Cythera:

  • Very nice, Heidel. I'm glad to see this series finally being continued! Like Slayer, I also hope you'll stay with us for a while. :)

    Kobayashi Maru!

  • Thanks guys,

    I hope to be able to submit the rest of the chronicle soon. It's been a while since I made up the plot. Have patience.

    Why the long break? you ask. Well, I lost interest in writing during the autumn. Now when I have a little more time, I again find it interesting to write about the anicent land of Cythera.



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