tagSci-Fi & FantasyPriestesses of the Goddess Pt. 03

Priestesses of the Goddess Pt. 03

byTara_Neale©

Rata came awake slowly. The first thing she noticed were the warm waters lapping at her skin. She smiled and relaxed back into its welcoming and healing depths. That was when she noticed the soft gentle embrace. The ample breasts pillowed her throbbing head. Breasts that had comforted her for hundreds of cycles.

It took all of her effort to force her heavy eyelids open. She blinked several times as even the dim light of the candles that were the only light permitted in the caves underneath the temple sent shards of glass through her head. She winced and closed her eyes again, resting for a couple more moments before attempting it once more.

The pain was still there but this time she expected it and fought her way through it. Rata was never short on sheer will, it was the nature of her waters. When she decided upon a course of action, few things could stop her waters from flowing. She forced herself to smile up into the pale teal eyes of her sister, her best friend, her lover.

"Greetings, sweet sister of the waters," Rata was startled by the formality of Soji's greeting, the confusion sent more splinters shooting through her brain. "You had us scared, Rata."

Rata tried to nod her head but the pain stopped any movement. A thousand questions skittered through her head like sunflies in the temple gardens, but none seemed to light upon the flowers of her consciousness. She focused her eyes in the dim light and noted that her younger sister was there next to her as well. This did not bode well, she realized.

Gathering all of her strength she forced words from her mouth. "What happened?" The weak whisper that cracked on each word shocked even her. She recognized for the first time just how dire the situation must have been.

Soji slowly shook her dark red tresses, which were darker from the water. Following her sister's movement was painful too. Everything seemed painful.

"We do not know, sister. You left your chambers unescorted. You must have been coming to mine because Leamus followed you and found you in the corridors outside my chambers. You were having some type of fit," Rata could see the concern itched into her friends beautiful face.

She wanted to say or do something to reassure her, but the way she felt at this moment, she knew any reassurance would be false. And lies were beneath priestesses of the goddess, forbidden High Priestesses. The penalties were high and at the moment Rata did not need to deal with an angry goddess.

"He raised the alarm. Carried you to your rooms," Rata furrowed her brows. Her acolyte had touched her? It was unheard of. Carried her? Only her primary was afforded such intimacy. Well, her primary and Councilor Mij, but it had been many cycles since he had sought communion with the goddess through her.

"Why?" she used all her strength to force the single word from her lips.

She watched as darkness covered her sister's countenance. Unlike her, Soji was slow to anger. But once her enmity was earned it burned as bright as Tavia's red giant sun. Certainly what Leamus had done was unorthodox, but the young man that had been with her since he was barely more than a suckling would not have done it except in the most dire of circumstances.

As it always did, her protective nature rose to defend him, where she could not fight through the pain for herself, she did in his defensive, "He would not, I am sure he felt he had no other choice," she stammered. It was weak, but her mind still could not form coherent thoughts. She would speak of it again with her sister when she recovered.

Soji smiled softly and brushed a strand of her hair back from her forehead, Rata had note even noticed it before then. "No, I know. That young man did quite well actually. He has earned his place as a primary."

Tightness settled over Rata's chest at her sister's words. She knew this day was coming. If she were honest, knew that she should have released the young man from his vows several cycles ago. Placed some younger, lesser priestess into his care as primary. He was more than ready, had been for some time.

But every time she thought of not having his presence near her, well, it was not to be considered. She was High Priestess of the waters. She knew her place and her duties. There was simply no place in service of the goddess for her wants, her needs.

As much as it pained her, she nodded and whispered, "Yes, he is ready." She blamed the mist that covered her vision upon the pain in her head, certainly not the one in her heart. There was no room in her heart for anything or anyone other than the goddess. Duties to their goddess and her sisters that was her existence, all there had ever been and all there ever would be.

As if sensing her pain, Mya squeezed her hand softly. Their youngest sister had such a presence about her, such power, far greater than either hers or Soji. If only the girl would trust in her own gifts, see herself as the goddess saw her, as she truly was. The most talented and powerful among them.

And that power flowed over her then. Its gentle breeze aiding the lapping waters to heal and restore as she leaned into the embrace of her rock, her solid ground. They remained like that for several long moments, communing with the goddess through soft caresses, gentle kisses, as if each gave thanks to the goddess for their special bonds.

Rata was beginning to feel the healing powers of the goddess restoring and rejuvenating her. It arced between them like the magic that was their goddess. Multiplying and growing with each shared kiss or touch. She smiled softly up into the loving eyes of her sisters, the first genuine smile. "Thank you, both," she whispered as she squeezed their hands beneath her waters.

Mya returned the soft smile and squeezed her hand in return. But when she looked into Soji's eyes, there were darkened with emotion, "Why did you not tell us?"

Her words broke the dam of memories. It all came flooding back then. Versil's words flowed over her like a powerful tsunami. She automatically drew back from the touch of her beloved sister as if she was somehow tainted by the man's hatred. The pain rushed over her, as strong as before. Worse. For she feared for the first time that they were all well and truly lost...and she was powerless to do anything.

***

Soji felt her sister's withdrawal to the depths of her soul. Their lives and destinies had been entwined for practically their whole lives. Even having seen bits and pieces of the burden that Rata bore, she could not believe that her beloved sister of the spirit had not come to her, brought this burden to her, shared the pain. Perhaps that was what she was doing this rising.

"Why did you not tell us sooner? The vision," she repeated the question.

Rata shook her head and scooted to the rock ledge that ran around the edge of the pools. Her head was down and she remained silent for so long that Soji feared her question would remain unanswered. When she did finally speak, the women had to lean in to hear her trembling voice.

"The first dream was several moons ago. I thought it was just some nightmare, evil spirit or perhaps even a punishment from the goddess," Soji nodded, remembering the time her sister spoke about. She had thought perhaps it was nothing more than blockage of the goddess's energies.

She knew that Mij no longer sought Rata's counsel. And well, obviously now, she knew that Tsu was not fulfilling his duties as primary. Of course, they were free to seek their release alone, together or even with other men should they choose. But as Versil intimated she had never known her beloved sister to actually do so.

But the fact that her beloved had born this pain alone for so long still worried her, "And what of when it came back?" she questioned.

Rata shook her head slowly, "I do not know. I did not want to worry you needlessly I suppose. I kept looking for a meaning, some way of altering," her voice cracked as tears trekked slowly down her almost translucent skin until they dropped into the pool, mixing with the healing waters. "Some way to change what is to come, I suppose."

"Oh, sister, why would you do that alone for so long? That is what we are here for. To share the burdens as well as the blessings. Together we are stronger than any of us alone. You know that. So again I ask, why? Why would you of all people do that, Rata?"

The tears ran faster now as her beloved sister shook her head, "I don't know. Mya is so young. I guess I just did not want her burdened with the ugliness of it. And you? Well, you have been busy of late. I did not want to bother you. I thought that once I had the answers then we could," she sighed and was quiet for a long moment.

"I do not know. I was wrong." Rata looked from one to the other as she fought back more tears, "I am sorry. So very sorry. I should have come to you both. Before," the words hung in the air unspoken.

But Soji caught them in her spirit...before it was too late. She refused to believe them. Refused to believe that the carnage she had seen in the vision could not be stopped. They were the High Priestesses of the goddess. Rock, water and air, they controlled the elements themselves. They would find a way. Some way to protect the temple, their people, their way of life itself. Their goddess would never abandon them like that. Never.

***

Mya watched the two women. She had never felt so alone, so left out, so inadequate. Rata's words played like bad music in her mind..."so young...burden her." She had always known that they considered her not up to this important job, but never had either voiced it. Not until now.

She supposed given what sketches she caught of vision, she could understand why Rata had not come to her. And the fact that she had not gone to Soji either lessened the sting of betrayal just a bit. But not enough to stifle the growth of self-doubt that had long since been planted and grew unchecked in her mind.

She was the High Priestess of the air and wind, yet she was not. She was little more than a child playing grown up. A little girl dressing in the robes of her dear other mother, trying to hold onto a piece of her magic, her memory.

And failing, always failing. Why now, she questioned the goddess. If only Lano were here, they might have found some way to stop what was to come. But with the growing distance that she sensed between her sisters and her own inexperience, she held no faith that they could hold back the tide, this flood of disaster that seemed destined to destroy them all. She only prayed the goddess would be mercifully quick in their destruction.

***

Soji sat in her chamber. A lump of clay began to take form on the wheel between her thighs. She prayed to the goddess that this time she got it right. A hundred times this rising she had begun a bowl, a vase, anything. Usually the feel of wet, solid earth between her fingers comforted her troubled mind, but not this day. Each time she began a creation it collapsed, was misshapen somehow, imperfect. Just as she was imperfect.

Rata was recovering, slowly it seemed. Mya was more withdrawn than ever. And she? Well, she was distracted in her own right. Versil had not been to her since that rising. While he did not seek her every day, this was unusual. She knew of course that he was busy.

Busier than usual. He had told her of the treaty he sought to make with the Morians. An alliance that would give Tavia access to technology well beyond any it had ever known...the ability to travel to the stars beyond its scarlet clouds even. And as he suggested perhaps the guidance of the goddess and her priestesses could temper some of the aggressive nature of the other species.

He had suggested that should they finalize the treaty a celebration was in order. A tribunal with the priestesses, the Council of Three and Morian leaders. It was something that had never been done, taking one that was not their own into communion. But Versil pointed out, how better to seal the new bonds between them than this special blessing of the goddess? So why did the idea make her so uneasy?

Her thoughts were cut off as Rata threw open the door to her private chambers and barged in like a Tavian boar in heat. Soji smiled at first. The color was back in her sweet sister's cheeks but perhaps a bit too much she thought with a frown. She almost knew what her friend would say before she opened her mouth.

"What do you mean reassigning Larca to your priestesses? And giving her Leamus as a primary? You had not right. Just because I was unwell you cannot come into my chambers stealing my priestesses and acolytes?" she raged like a river after a storm, swelling and breaking it banks.

Soji knew this day was coming, had sought some explanation since making the decision. But still she had come up empty. How could she explain her actions without revealing the truth of Tsu's betrayal? Her concerns for the young acolyte under a commander whose animosity he had earned. A priestess who had stepped beyond her station to consort with the primary of her superior. It was a treacherous path with rocks upon which to stumble and fall at every turn.

***

Rata watched the guilt and concern play across her sister's face. The woman had never been good at hiding her emotions, especially not from the one person that knew her best. A bit of her anger dissipated. Of course, Soji would want to protect her, misguided as it was.

"Did you honestly think I did not know what happens in my own chambers? Did you think I would not know when my primary went dipping his sword in my own priestess? I do not care."

Soji's eyes widened with shock, "How could you not care? He is your primary. Your protector and comforter. His first priority should always be you, sweet sister. Why would you allow anything less?"

Rata felt the weakness returning, the weakness that she had battled for several risings. She walked slowly and sat on the end of her sister's bed. A bed that they had often shared. But a bed that Soji now shared with Versil. Rata felt alone. Utterly and truly alone. Without even the comfort of his presence.

"I am not like you, sweet sister. I do my duty to our goddess. I send forth my energies as she wills. I have healed and counseled as she commands. I know my duties and I do them," she sought her sister's eyes before she continued. "I am not like you though. I find no true pleasure in my duties. No connection with those I serve. So when Tsu sought comfort in Larca's embrace, it was almost a relief," she hung her head, afraid that her sister would see the moisture that clouded her vision.

It was the first time that she had admitted the truth, even to herself. She was broken. There was something terribly wrong with her. A High Priestess of the goddess who never experienced the joy of communion. Oh, her body fulfilled its purposes, worked as the goddess willed. The energy of life flowed from her into her charges. But never did it return. Never did she experience the true gift of life and love. Her heart as barren as her womb. It had been her darkest secret, her deepest shame.

She felt the bed shift as Soji sat next to her. Felt the soft embrace of her arm about her shoulder. "Oh, sweet sister, I do not believe that." Soji brushed hair back from her face, lifted her chin to stare into her eyes, her soul. "Tell me, what really angered you? You say that you knew of Larca and Tsu. That you do not care. But the way you stormed into my chamber you cared about something. You cared deeply."

Rata bit her lower lip, tried to turn her head away from her sister. She did not want to look her in the eye, did not want her to see the weakness in her soul, the sin. "It was the way it was done. Without talking with me first."

Soji laughed, "No, no, it was not. It is him. Leamus. Oh, you feel passion, sweet sister. With your turbulent waters, probably far more than either I or Mya ever will. Have you taken him as a secondary? Did you indoctrinate him?"

The anger returned at her words. Whether it was from knowing that her sin was revealed or the woman's accusation, she did not know or care to examine at the moment. And she lashed out with all the pain and anger inside of her, uncaring the damage her surging waters might cause.

"No, of course not. The boy is an acolyte. That is disgusting that you would even suggest it. I am not like you. I am not controlled by my lusts," she spat.

"It is not forbidden you know. Priestesses have often indoctrinated acolytes. Even without their commander's permission, without the rites of passage."

Rata should have been pleased that her sister had remained unmoved by her angry words but instead it only fueled the raging waters more. "Priestesses maybe. But you, sweet sister, seem to forget that we are no longer mere priestesses. We are High Priestesses of the goddess. Whom we gift our blessings upon matter. With our powers come great responsibilities. Our bodies and our hearts are not our own to toss about to any man whose sword catches our fancy. We have a duty to guard them well."

Soji drew back at her cruel words. Rata knew that she should make a hasty retreat, draw back like the tides always did, but once her waters were unleashed there was little she could do to stem their flow. No matter the destruction they wrought.

"And next time you think to go messing in my chambers take a look at your own first. Do you know where your precious Versil has been these past three risings? Did you think the cocky spawn of darkness was off dipping his sword in his pious wife's fountain of the goddess? Come on, now that he has her wealth, the power of her family name and his heirs, she is no more use to him than you will be one day. No, your precious lover has been friggin' your priestess. Don't believe me? Ask Cinki's primary, who has replaced him in her bed."

***

Mya had felt the winds of discord blowing. She had little doubt from which direction they blew. They were easy enough to follow. But when she stepped through the open door in Soji's private chamber she was assailed with the anger. The hurt. The betrayal. It turned her stomach. Made her soul sick.

The two most beautiful women she knew, women she had looked up to for two hundred cycles, women she had communed with, women she loved, stood facing one another. Their faces were contorted in hatred. Their very presence as dark and dangerous as it had once been light and loving.

"Stop it," she screamed. "Stop it both of you. Who the frig do you think you are? You are not petty under priestesses fighting over the best chambers or a primary. You are the High Priestesses of the goddess. And in case you have forgotten a storm is coming. A storm unlike anything we have ever known."

Mya felt her own winds blowing. Left a surge of power unlike any that she had ever known as she continued, "And look at the two of you. Instead of leading, you are fighting. Maybe it is not some outside force we need to fear. Maybe the trouble is within these very walls. Maybe the two of you are no more fit to be her servants than I am."

Tears flowed down her cheeks as Mya gave the stunned women a final glance before turning and running as fast as she could to the solitude of her own chambers. By the time she reached them, she collapsed on the bed as great sobs erupted from her souls. "Oh, Lano, I need you so much, other mother. We all need you," she cried futilely.

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