tagSci-Fi & FantasyPriestesses of the Goddess Pt. 09

Priestesses of the Goddess Pt. 09

byTara_Neale©

"We must get to my ship," replied Tam as he shifted her once more, buried her face in his shoulder and turned his back so that she could not see the battle that raged mere meters from them.

He looked about, but in the dark and haze, he was uncertain, which way to go. Frustration rose inside of him. They had come so far. But it would all be for naught if they could not get out of this place. His soldiers were already raging, and when his brother awoke he would give them orders, organize a search party, seek them out. There would be no place they could hide within the temple, no safety within its walls.

When he was about to lash out in anger at his dark god, Fate, the boy spoke up. "This way, there is a tunnel this way."

He limped forward leaning much of his weight upon the young priestess, but he kept checking over his shoulder to make certain that the older man followed, that his mate was being cared for. Tam shook his head, if their lives and the fate of their peoples did not rest upon their actions now, he might actually like the kid.

"Where do these tunnels take us?" he asked.

"Just outside the temple gates. We can easily hide in the city. It will not be safe to stay in my home, but we can get supplies there. Tend to Leamus and Rata's wounds. Then we can plan what is next, where we might go to hide. The mountains perhaps," said the older man as he shifted his burden in his arms.

"No, there will be no place safe upon this planet. No truly safe place in the universe. My brother will not give up," replied Tam.

"I killed your friggin' brother," boasted Leamus.

Tam chuckled and shook his head, "No, you simply wounded him. Remind me to give you Morian anatomy lessons once we are safe. You missed his heart by six centimeters."

The young man stopped and turned, "Then I'll go back and finish the job."

"No, your job now is to care for your mate. She needs you," Tam put out his arm to restrain the hot-headed youth.

But the boy merely brushed his hand aside, "No, my job is to defend my people. You will care for the High Priestess. Get her to safety. Once I have you all through the tunnels, I will come back, save more priestesses and kill as many of these friggers as I can."

Tam shook his head, "No, you must come with us. Your mate has endured much. She will not heal, cannot survive without you."

The boy turned on him, "Ass shat, I don't know where you learned our language but she is not my mate. She is the High Priestess of the waters and I am a mere acolyte."

His mate twisted in his arms as they reached the end of a hallway, "What now?" she asked.

Leamus walked to sculpture of a babe suckling upon the breast and touched the nipple, a stone panel in the wall moved away. "Through there. Keep turning right and you will find your way out."

Tam shook his head, the boy did not understand. He did not have the words to explain it all. He was not sure he fully understood the prophesy himself. But he knew the strength of the bond he felt for her even now. How could the boy fight such a thing? Perhaps he was wrong, although he did not think so.

He felt her gentle touch upon his shoulder, turned to her with a smile that belayed the gravity of their situation. "What is it, my sweet salvation?"

"Let me down," she replied stubbornly.

"No."

"I can walk."

"Maybe you could, but you won't."

He felt the stinging blow to his shoulders as she assailed him with her tiny fists, so tiny, so precious. Could he really deny her anything? "All right, but you will stay close to me. Is that understood?"

He heard the laughter, looked up to see the young man chuckling. "Man, she knows how to play your ass. Cunny led."

Tam scowled at him, "Watch your mouth, boy."

*** Soji stepped between them again. "Men! No wonder you are the weaker. You do not think of anything except violence."

"And sex," laughed Leamus.

She walked over to him, "He is right you know. Rata needs you now. Come with us."

He shook his head in denial, but she saw that his eyes automatically went to her sister, unconscious in the Councilor's arms. She saw them soften and for a moment thought this battle won before it had even begun.

"No, she's better off with you. It is her sisters she needs now. Not some little acolyte."

"Primary, Leamus. Do not forget you are a primary now," she argued.

He spun on her, "Not her primary. No, you gave me to that she-rat, Larca. Did you really think I would want that man's cast-offs?"

Soji chuckled, "I bet you would have no problem seeing to the needs of his charge, standing into his role as her primary, though would you? Or is my sister tainted too?"

"Of course, she is not. She deserved so much better than that ass shat. What I want to know is...are you going to leave her unprotected too?"

"Don't you get it? She is not mine to protect. She never really was."

The gentle giant stepped forward then, "Do you really believe that? Look inside your heart. Tell me that you believe that any of us could protect her as you would. Tell me that even now you are not fuming that she lies in the arms of another. Tell me that..."

"I don't know who or what you people think I am. But for the record, I am nothing more than a street urchin that she saved from imprisonment for stealing in the market. I was barely more than a suckling babe when she brought me to the temple instead. So yeah, I feel duty bound to her, but I am not and never will be worthy of being her," he did not even finish his statement, simply turned and started to walk away.

Soji left anger well up inside of her, "And this is how you repay her kindness? How you treat the woman you love? You turn your back on her when she needs you the most. You betray her as much as he ever did." He spun around, stalked back. The giant came between them.

"You know nothing, woman. Nothing. I would do anything. Anything in my power for her." He shook his head and she saw the tears glistening in his green eyes, "But that is just it, I do not have the power. Have you listened to your lover? Boy, kid...even he gets it. I am not some mighty Morian commander or wise Tavian Councilor. I am a friggin' street kid and an acolyte. Would friggin' use would I be to the High Priestess of the waters?"

He walked over to where she laid in the Councilor's arms. His fingers hovered just above the dark stain on her cheek; the purple bruise was rising already. But he held back from touching her. A single tear escaped and fell where his fingers refused to go.

His voice was shaky when he spoke, "Just promise me you will take care of her. The two of you heal her as you did before."

The giant pushed forward then, went to where the Councilor stood. "Enough of this. We do not have time. We might still save our mates. The boy has decided that his is better off dead than with some lowly street kid. Give her to him then and bring yours with us. My ship is waiting and I do not have time for this."

Soji felt her anger double. How dare he? If he thought, she was leaving this place without her sister. But then she saw the change upon Leamus's face, his own anger.

"No, goddess damn you. You will not leave her behind."

"Listen, kid," Tam emphasized the word, challenged him with the very slur. "When we get to my ship, I have coordinates set for three planets, places that I selected that will be as safe as I can manage for them, places that match their gifts, where they can rest and heal. The transporter is set for two people each already. I don't know why or who was going with them, but I knew they would need protectors."

The man waved his arms, "Look around, you see anyone else? This primary of hers, where is he? You want to run along and find him? Maybe he will go with us, protect her? Oh wait, that's right. He came for your woman. Choose her, delivered the High Priestess into my brother's hands and walked away from her. Even if he still lives, do you think him worthy of her?"

"I can't do it," the young man dropped his head, shook his dark blond head. "Don't you understand? I am not worthy. What if I fail her?"

Soji feared that the man's laughter would be heard, even over the din of battle. "Then you are exactly what she needs most. Now you are ready for this task that lies ahead of you. Now you truly understand."

He walked over and fell to his knee in front of her. For a woman accustomed to be worshipped it made her decidedly uncomfortable.

"None of us are worthy of this greatest gift of the gods. Love, true, real and abiding love is a gift, not for the worthy for they shall never appreciate it. But for the unworthy, unwashed, weak, for we will appreciate it, hold onto it and cherish it will all that we have. We will protect our salvation with our dying breath," he gathered her hands in his much larger ones, leaned his head against them silently.

Soji stared at him. His words registered in her addled brain. But some door to her heart had been slammed shut. If she had met this man before. But the truth was that it was she that was unworthy of love. Her sin, her greed for the very thing he offered is what brought them to this place. This moment. Had destroyed her very world. She had brought down the temple of her goddess with her own hands as surely as her quakes had toppled its altar.

She would go with him, what choice did she have, her sisters' lives depended upon it, upon him. But she was not what he thought. She was not who he thought. She was not worthy to be a High Priestess, to serve the goddess in any way. She was certainly not worthy of this, not now.

***

Aved watched them, felt time slipping away. It had been for so long now, but never had the clocks seemed to move so fast. His special one had done all she could to purchase them extra time, but the darkness and fog that blanketed them would not hold for long.

The man was right, as much as it pained him, he shifted her, placed her in the younger man's arms. "I am sorry, son. But he is right. We must go now." He reached for Mya, drew her beneath his arm. "I know you will do all that you can to protect her. But should you fail, be merciful. Do not let her fall back into their hands. Better to die at yours."

Mya shook her head; huge tears fell from her blue eyes. "No," she begged and pleaded. His heart ripped in two at her pleas. But the thing that she asked was not his to give.

Instead he drew her into his embrace. "I am sorry, little one, but we must go." He pulled her towards the opening as he watched the other man do so with his charge. It seemed so completely wrong that the three women who had served the goddess together for so long would be separated now when they had need of one another most, but all his wisdom, his years of experience could do nothing to change that. They must save that which they might.

***

Leamus felt her weight in his arms. He could not manage it with the wound to his thigh so he fell to his knees and knelt. Though it was forbidden that an acolyte carry his mistress, it was not the first time. He had carried her that morning when she needed him. Looking at her swollen face, he knew that she needed him even more this evening than she had that rising. This time she did not move at all, he prayed for some sign of life, her fits would have been preferable to this.

He peered through the darkness trying to see the rise and fall of her chest. He bent his head close to her mouth and nose, but even then her breath, if she breathed at all, was so faint that he could not feel it. He drew her closer in his embrace. The others were leaving. He could hear the cries of battle coming closer to their hiding place.

His death would be quick; of this he was almost certain. What was some mere acolyte to them? But her? As the Councilor said, he could not let her fall back into the Morian's hands. He could not let them do that to her again. She would never want that.

He touched his sword. It was sticky with the other's blood. He could not use that. Could not mix that vile creature's life force with hers. He slipped his hand inside his tunic, found the hilt of his knife, drew it forth. He even raised it above her chest. But his fingers trembled. The knife fell from his hand.

He had never believed in the goddess she served. It was his secret. But he could never worship any deity that used its servants as the priestesses were used, like chattel. Any goddess that used her as she was.

But now he wished that there was something to believe in, some divine being that could tell him what to do. He could not do what he ought to keep her safe from further abuse. But he was not worthy, not capable, of doing that which the others said he must.

He bent his head and for the first time placed his lips upon his forehead, just as she had his that first morning in the market all those cycles ago. She had saved him then. From prison. From starvation. From another beating at his father's hands. She had had the courage to stand up for that tiny urchin. How could he not find the courage to stand up for her now? What choice did he have?

He might not be worthy, but she was. He struggled to his feet. Fought through the pain, buckled under the load of her weight and his own, but through it all he forced his legs to move. Just as the panel was about to shut, he placed his shoulder in its path. "Wait for us."

The Councilor turned with a gentle smile. He held up the torch that was always lit to show their way in the deep passages. He offered it to him, "Take this, I shall carry her then."

Leamus shook his head, "No, she is mine to carry." He saw the giant smile, "For now. Just until she is safe."

The man shook his head, "Keep telling yourself that, boy. One day you will see the truth. That it is you, who will never be safe without her."

Leamus smiled; this he knew already. But that did not change his mind. He had a duty. He owed her this and so much more. She had saved so much more than his worthless life that morning. She had saved something far more precious, his soul. It had become hers then...and it always would be.

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