tagSci-Fi & FantasyPriestesses of the Goddess Pt. 07

Priestesses of the Goddess Pt. 07

byTara_Neale©

Rata stared into the dark depths. Wind blew, whipping her hair and robes about her. In the middle of the storm, she stood at peace. And waited. She was not sure for what, but she would know it when it came.

"Mistress, we must go now," came the familiar voice from behind.

She turned with a smile for the man that had been her primary for many cycles. The man, who was charged with her care. Who had shared her body, communed with the goddess through her. Held her in his strong arms as she slept. This stranger.

"Go where, Tsu?"

"The High Priestess of the rock has called a tribunal," he replied as he looked out across the waters and the darkness. "Perhaps there is something that yet might be done."

Rata shook her head at the lie. Soji would not, not now. She would want her sisters safe, as safe as they could be with their whole world under attack. She studied the man, realizing for the first time just how little she knew of him. Though they had been lovers for many cycles, they had never shared any true intimacy. She thought of Mij's words futilely. She wondered what it would feel like, for just once. Communion that was not all one sided, taking as well as giving. She chuckled; it was certainly too late now. Too late for all of them.

She held out her hand, waiting for her primary to do his final duty. He hesitated, for a moment she thought he might refuse this most basic of service of his station. Then as if remembering his office, Tsu smiled weakly, avoiding her eyes, but he took her hand, drew it to his lips and placed a cold kiss to the center of her palm.

"Come, my priestess," he said formally as he bent at the waist.

Rata glanced over her shoulder at the rolling waves. This would be her last view of them, of all the beauty that was her world. She closed her eyes and committed her soul, inadequate though it was, into the care of her goddess. "Give me strength to face whatever I must with your grace and dignity, sweet goddess," she whispered.

Tsu stood and linking their arms as was customary, he led them from her chambers towards the great hall and the altar of the goddess.

She studied each face they passed, committed it to memory, prayed for the goddess to be mercifully quick. Tears flowed down her face, she wished with all her heart that they might cleanse and wash away what was to come, not for herself, but for them. The only sound was their feet upon the cold stones, Tsu boots overpowered the soft fall of her bare feet.

The journey seemed longer than it had ever been, but took mere moments until they emerged into the large circular temple from which the priestesses' private chambers radiated out like rays from the sun. She looked about the great room.

As she suspected Versil was there. Surrounded by several hulking creatures that dwarfed even Tsu, who as her primary had been selected as much for his size and prowess, his ability to protect the High Priestess. She chuckled again at the irony. Betrayed, but she would give neither he nor Versil the satisfaction they sought.

She looked around the great hall once more, studied each crevice. She smiled when she did not find what she sought. Her sisters were not here. She hoped that meant they were safe. For now at least. Satisfied with that knowledge, she plastered that smile upon her face, squared her tiny shoulders that bore so much weight alone now, and faced their guests, if they could be called that.

She walked over to the tallest; he was at least a faylon taller than Versil and closer to two over her. She stared up at the creature, for given his size and the dark countenance on his face man hardly seemed appropriate. "I am Rata, High Priestess of the goddess," she said.

The creature studied her for several long moments. Then it laughed, or that was what Rata assumed it was doing, the sound seemed closer to the thunder that she heard breaking in the distance. "Not at all the weak and worthless creatures you would have us believe, Versil. This one has courage and a pride that I shall enjoy breaking." The thing stared into her eyes; she noted that his were dark, as dark as the night sky when all of Tavia's moons hid behind Mya's clouds. As black as his soul, though for a moment she wondered if he possessed such a thing.

Before she could say more, her arms were captured by two more of the creatures, almost as tall. The attack was so sudden that she automatically struggled, but it was futile. The creatures were stronger than anything she had ever felt. She forced herself to quiet. Dignity was the course that she had chosen to meet her fate. Whatever came now, she would go with the quiet dignity of their goddess.

Versil laughed, "Not so arrogant and sure of yourself now are we sweet priestess?" He turned towards Tsu, "You did well, my friend, bringing her to us. I have one more small task for you, then you shall have your reward, collect your lover and be free to leave this place in peace. I have left a worthless bundle of refuse in the chambers of the High Priestess of the rock, collect it for me, set guards at the door of the priestess of the air as well."

The man turned back to her with a smile, "What? Did you think this party was for you alone?" His laughter only agitated her growing waters, but this time, this final time, the High Priestess of the waters would bank herself, she would not allow them to break free. "Oh no, you are merely the first to taste the special technology that our friends have developed."

As if waiting for a cue from him, another of the creatures stepped forward. It snapped a wide cold metallic band about her neck. "They use these to control their women," Versil said as he moved closer. His fingers caressed the collar almost lovingly. "It has many purposes. For the disobedient, it brings pain."

Rata stared silently at the man, whom she had hated for so long. And hate him she did, though that particular emotion was forbidden them as priestess of the goddess, nurturers, healers and vessels of her unending love, Rata recognized then that she truly hated this man. The man, who had stolen her sister's affection, the man, who had brought this destruction upon them all.

She stared up at him, gathered her waters within her mouth and spat them in his eye. His vengeance was swift. Rata felt the stinging blow across her cheek as he backhanded her. Though it ached and hurt, she lifted her head in challenge to him.

The first creature stepped forward then. Placed his mammoth hand upon Versil's shoulder, "Do not trivial with her, my friend. There are such easier ways to tame a she-witch." The creature stared into hers, his fingers touched the cold band for but a moment and she felt the slicing pain as if her head would explode. Her stomach rolled and she would have collapsed were the two guards not still holding her up. She prayed to the goddess for mercy, that her end come quickly.

But it was not to be. Just as the pain began to subside, she heard the thing laugh. The sound sending another shard of glass through her tender brain. "But there are far better ways than pain and punishment to control a woman. Far better."

The creature looked at her once more. Rata drew back, fearing the pain that was to come. Instead she felt it welling up inside of her. Though she fought it with all her being, was ashamed that this most precious of her gifts was this vile creatures to command, she was powerless to stop as she felt the touch of goddess. Her body turned against her then as the power of her release rose up from her toes, radiated from the fountain of her goddess and exploded forth like waters from a broken dam.

In that moment, Rata, the High Priestess of the goddess, knew hate unlike any other she had ever felt. It raged inside of her. She hated this creature. She hated Versil, who had brought it here. She hated herself that she had no control over the most precious of her gifts. And she hated the goddess, whom she had served all her life. The goddess, who had denied her everything she ever wanted, a true mate, children and most of all real love. A goddess, whose only reward for five hundred cycles of her service was this. To be laid bare and naked, not just her physical body, but her very soul before these creatures, before her enemies.

Rata hated, even as her body sang the tune that it had been created to sing, she hated and that hatred fueled her release until it grew stronger. Stronger than anything she had ever felt.

***

Soji cried, but her tears brought neither cleansing nor healing as her sister always promised. She was numb, her very soul was as numb as her arms and legs had become over time, bound and unable to move, her circulation long since gone.

Her sister, sweet Rata. What were they doing to her? What was he doing to her? Versil. She hated herself. How could she have not seen? Of course, she knew, that was easy. Because she did not want to see. She wanted to believe the lies. She wanted to believe that she was special to someone, just once. Just once she wanted to be more than a great whore for the goddess. She wanted to be loved. But what she shared with him was not love. He had used her far worse than any other. And now they would all pay for her sin.

She felt the breeze against her back as the door flew open. But she kept her head hidden safely in the pillow. She would not look. It was the decision that she had come through the tears. If Versil sought some final measure of victory by forcing her to watch what he did to her sisters, what they did to her precious sisters, then she would not give him that pleasure. No matter what was to come, no matter the cries, no matter what he did, she would not watch. She would not be party to the destruction of that which she held so dear. She would not.

She felt the weight shift as her bed dipped low, groaned under some tremendous weight. She felt rough hands about her ankles. Then she heard the ripping sound as one leg came free of its restraints. Then the other. Her hands above her head were next. Then those rough hands gentled, rubbed softly at first one hand then the other.

Soji had been pampered, bathed, massaged since her first morning at the temple. She was destined, marked from birth for service to the goddess, nothing was denied her. But never had she felt such tenderness, such reverence. It was in stark contrast to the roughness and size of...

She frowned. His words came back to haunt her. "I will send someone for you when I am ready." She would not be fooled again. Soft caresses would not buy her complacency again. She rolled as if to turn in the creature's embrace, she drew her legs up and kicked out with all her force. She did not wait to see what damage the blow had caused, she bolted from her bed and headed for the door. She did not even make it off the end of the bed before it captured her, gigantic arms wrapped about her waist as she flailed and fought in mid-air, her feet at least a faylon from the solid floor.

"Still, priestess," it commanded in a low voice near her ear. Its breath caressed the side of her face and rather than the putrid stench of rotting souls that she expected it was sweet like her favorite flowers, wet with her sister's dew upon the rising. "Do not scream, please. We do not have long. I will be discovered soon. When they come for you and you are not here, they will raise the alarm. My commander will unleash his true fury. Please if we stand any hope of saving you and your sisters. Any hope of saving both our races. Please do not scream."

Soji wanted to. Wanted to believe that they had some ally. That there was some hope that they might escape the carnage that they had seen in Rata's dream. But she had wanted other things before. Been blinded to the truth. How could she trust this creature, this stranger, if she could not her own lover? If she could not trust her own judgment?

"Listen. Please. Just listen," the creature begged. His hold about her waist loosened, not enough that she could escape, but enough that breathing became easier. "I am Tam. I am a Commander in the royal Morian forces. But that is just a cover." One arm gave up its hold about her waist completely. She shifted, testing his grip, but escape was still futile. She felt a tender caress upon her cheek as he brushed hair back from her face.

"But that is all a cover. I am the leader of the Morian resistance movement. We have sought for centuries a way to undo the destruction that our forefathers' greed and violence have brought our people," he sighed then. His breath caressed her cheek and she felt her nipples harden.

"But we cannot do it alone, priestess. Our technology, our science, robbing a hundred other planets of their precious resources, it is never enough to fill that empty hole inside my race." She heard the desperation in his voice, felt his pain to the depths of her soul. "It is never enough."

It was a feeling that was all too familiar to Soji. Even as she lay in this bed with Versil, she had known. Known that it was not real, not enough. But oh how she wanted it to be. She could so easily understand this creature's pain, perhaps things, technology and knowledge were not what she sought, but she was no less greedy. Greedy for what she would never have. "What can I do? What do you want of me? Of us?" she whispered.

She felt him nodded his head against her back, "Only the impossible, my sweet salvation, only the impossible." He leaned down, placed a tender kiss at the crown of her head, "Trust me. Trust me when you have no reason to, trust a stranger with your most precious gifts, your life, the lives of your sister."

Soji choked on his words. Shook her head in despair as tears scalded her skin, clouded her eyes. "It is not you that I do not trust. It is me," she whispered the truth as much to herself and the goddess, were she to even listen now.

The gentle giant turned her in his arms, wrapped her in his embrace, as they sat upon her bed. Her world was falling apart about her, goddess only knew what was happening to her sisters and she lay in this stranger's arm.

"I wish I knew what to say, priestess. Wish had the words, but I am just a man. As unworthy of this gift as all others, probably more so. But this I know. You and your sisters hold the key. The key to saving not just your people, but mine as well. And perhaps hundreds of others if our natural tendencies are not checked."

He sighed again and Soji felt the frustration to her toes, "Right now, one of your sisters is already captured by my Commander in your great hall. I do not know how to find the other, if that is even possible. I was only able to find you by," he stopped as if uncertain what to say, how much to reveal to her.

"Only by the grace of your goddess and the luck of my god," he finished. "I will not lie to you. What we attempt will likely not end well. But I would rather die fighting than allow your gifts to fall into their hands, be perverted for their purposes as they have everything else they touched. Help me, sweet priestess. Help me save your life. Your sisters' loves. Our peoples. Save me. Please."

Soji's mind and heart battled. She had failed her people once, brought all of this upon them and her sisters. It was her fault, her greed, her sin that brought them all to this place. She wanted to believe this man's words, wanted to think that there might be someway yet that she could undo even some small measure of it. Save her sisters, if not herself. But trusting one man was what brought them here, how would trusting another help.

In the end, did she have any choice? If she did nothing, they were doomed for certain. And he had rescued her, of sorts, freed her. If she followed him now, she could always look for some other way, a chance to save her sisters alone. They were what mattered most now. She nodded, "All right, I will follow you."

She felt the soft roughness of his fingers upon her chin as he lifted her face towards his. Her vow to not look upon her destiny seemed pointless now. If she were to do this thing, try to save her sisters, denial would do her no good; she must find the courage to look destiny square in the face.

But her heart stuttered in her chest, the air froze in her lungs as she looked upon him for the first time. A tiny cry escaped past the tightness somehow. "You," she whispered.

***

Tam was uncertain what he expected. But this was not it. She was not it. She was tiny, a bundle of soft curves that unleashed something more ferocious inside of him than even the greed and avarice that was his nature. The need to shield and protect her was overpowering, but so too was the need to control and conquer. They seemed oddly conflicting but perfectly balanced somehow.

But he did not have time to ponder any of it. They did not have time. The sands of time were slipping through their fingers. Even if they could get to the High Priestess of the air, he was uncertain how they could rescue the priestess of the water. And while he knew that saving even one of the priestess would prevent his people from gaining their full powers, he could not stomach the idea of leaving even one behind. He knew that his leaders would be livid, angry beyond all measure to have lost that which they sought, that which the prophecy foretold would unleash the greatest wealth they had ever known.

The truth though was that he might well have to make that hard choice. And he would. He would leave the other behind. He would leave both of them behind to save her. Because she was his...and his alone. But he could not tell her that. Would not earn the trust he needed, wanted.

Instead he forced himself to loosen his hold about her, though it almost hurt physically to do so. He stood and drew her to his side, placed his arm about her softly. Tiny, the word ricocheted like a bullet through his head. Tiny, helpless, his responsibility to protect. And to cherish. "Then take me to her. The High Priestess of the air. We shall begin there."

***

Mya clung to him even as the creature reached for her. She drew back further. Her mind feral with images of blue blood spurting forth from the sword wound in his side. Her father's side. The two men merged somehow in her mind as she fought to save the one as she could not the other.

Then she felt the soft, gentle hand upon her shoulder, heard the sweet voice that she recognized, that had always brought her comfort. "Shh, Mya, it is all right. It is me, Soji. We have come for you. We are here to save you."

Mya shook her head as if to come awake from some dream that lingered after waking, "Soji? What are you doing here? Where is Rata? Who is he?" the questioned blew like her winds unchecked.

Soji smiled weakly, "They have her. The Morians have her. Versil has her." Her sister turned to the imposing giant next to her, "This is Tam. He saved me. And we are here to save you," she looked at Aved then, "You too Councilor, if you will let us."

The man drew her into his embrace, "No, priestess. My place is here. I will do what I can to save our people. Lead them in battle as I have in peace."

Mya shook her head violently, "No," she cried.

The giant stepped forward, looking first from her then to her protector, as if taking some unseen measure of her, of them. When he spoke, she strained almost to hear it.

He bowed low, before the older man as he began. "Councilor, I entreat you reconsider. I too know the responsibilities of command, both as a royal officer of the Morian forces, and more importantly as the leader of the resistance." Mya felt the shock that radiated from Aved. It was not an emotion she had felt from him before.

"You are the spirit?" he asked.

The man chuckled softly, "That name serves its purpose to inspire dread among my enemies, but I prefer Tam, Sir. At least among allies and friends."

Mya watched as Aved took measure of the other man. But she noted that he kept his arm about her, pushed her well behind him. It seemed that her protector's trust went only so far.

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