Cythera Chronicles: A Secret Temple - part six
Recapitulation: Young priestess Golla was sent on a fool’s errand - to find the remains of an expedition many hundred years ago. She was deserted by her fellow travelers in the southwest mountain-regions of Cythera. Close to death she was found by a band of priestesses.
"We left the temple and the Forgotten Ones. We left because the Goddess called for us to leave a cult that had lost its way. Instead we would form the true following." Widem silenced Golla’s protests with a raised hand. "Listen to what our Mothers has told us. We were warned of the war. The Goddess spoke to the High priestess many times, but her warnings were never heard. Her signs in embers were misinterpreted. When the Two Swords clashed, it came as an surprise for the sisters."
Widem spat on the ground and sat silent for a moment. Golla didn’t dare to interrupt, even though she wanted to speak up: The High priestess misinterpreting the Goddess' signs? Blasphemy!
"Oh yes, the priestesses were warned, but they didn’t listen. So the Goddess weeded out the unfaithful to perish. She wanted the strong ones, the faithful, the ones who could stand the trial of fire."
Again Golla kept silent, although she wanted to tell this wrinkled woman that she herself have stood the trial of fire and persevered.
Widem chuckled. "She’d built the biggest of fires to test us. The War of Two Swords was the bonfire we had to traverse. When we left the Lost ones, our Mothers wrote their names in a book to tell other true believers where to look for the faithful ones."
Golla's head spun. The woman described most of the events that she herself had read in the Book of Winter, but Widem told them from another angle.
"We walked far. We survived that winter against all odds. Springtime found us exhausted and crippled. Spring brought new threats. The war was brewing around us. Those who'd fled the war tried to rob those who were weaker than themselves. The warriors that had recouped in their villages during winter drifted towards the plains to find their warlords and organize for battle once again. They took what they wanted in the name of future victory. We lost food and our clothes were stolen from us. We had to defend ourselves with tooth and nail just to survive."
She spat. Golla jumped at the unexpected motion. It was such a male thing to do.
"We were few from the beginning. And we grew even fewer. We were only a third of the priestesses and novices - but we were the strongest ones. We left the weaklings back at the temple." She eyed Golla with open contempt.
"The winter and the hardship left only the strongest of the strong alive. The Goddess cleansed our group. She picked her true followers by pain and dedication.
"We worshiped the Goddess, not in temples, not by feeble ceremonies, but in the midst of a rumbling life. We thanked her for every day we survived. We thanked her by becoming even stronger. We thanked her by becoming even more dedicated to her.
"We walked south. We lived from what we could find in nature, the Goddess provided for us. In intense summers heat we walked, when autumn approached we still walked.
"These rings." She fingered her cord around the neck. "We were so starved that the rings fell off our fingers. That's why we carry them around our necks to this day.
"Our group was no more than twenty people, staggering. We would have been easy prey for whoever had wanted to take our few possessions from us. But the Goddess only brought us fights that we won -- though with a price of life and limb.
"The Goddess held her hand over us and we came to these mountains. Winter was approaching again. We would not survive another march through snow and ice. But we couldn't camp down in the lowlands. There we'd be easy picking for just about anybody.
"Instead we had to find shelter here in the mountains. Living off the scarce rations we'd managed to scrape together we endured that winter. Only a few of us died."
Golla listened, amazed. She'd found the written accounts in the Book of Winter appalling and hard to believe, but Widem's story was even more difficult to believe. Yet, it was told so intensely and so vividly, that she instinctively knew that it was true.
"But, how did the sisterhood survive? I've seen more than a hundred women already. Where did the novices come from if nobody knew you were here? I don't understand."
Widem snorted of irritation over the interruption. "How do you get your 'novices'?"
"Well, the farms of the plains send us their daughters every spring and we Priestesses choose from the most favorable ones."
"The weakest ones, you mean. The ones you can corrupt most easily, hmm. Lead astray from the Path, yes."
The argument broke off when another woman entered, bringing hot food and water. Golla wolfed down the food. The salty meat made her drink the water in deep swallows. Widem ate more slowly. Her eyes rested on Golla. "You rest. We’ll talk in the morning." Widem rose and left Golla on her own again. Alone with troubling thoughts.
(to be continued)
(This message has been edited by moderator (edited 11-26-2002).)
Good job, Heidel. This chronicle seemed a little shorter than most of other work, but it's a good one nonetheless. I hope we can expect some more chrons from you in the near future. It's good to have you back.
Great to have you back, Heidel!
Some people say war doesn't solve anything... perhaps they're using the wrong strategy...
Originally posted by Heidel:
"... The ones you can corrupt most easily, hmm. Lead astray from the Path, yes."
For some reason, I can't read that without thinking of Yoda.
Good going, Heidel, don't stop now!
"The e-mail of the specious is more dangerous than their mail" - Tom Holt, 'Snow White and the Seven Samurai'
Much talent in you I sense! Em, yes. Much talent.
More you should write.