tagSci-Fi & FantasyPriestesses of the Goddess Pt. 02

Priestesses of the Goddess Pt. 02

byTara_Neale©

The continued saga...of my feeble efforts for novel writing month...very rough first draft...be merciful.

***

Rata nodded her head casually to the younger priestesses as she passed them in the corridor. Even over two hundred years since ascending to the office of High Priestess she was uncomfortable with the deference shown to her. Who was she anyway? Nothing more than a servant of the goddess same as any of them, same as everyone for that matter. She realized that her station brought with it a sense of fear as much as awe and wonder.

This morning it was Rata who was fearful. Frightened and trembling at the odd dream that had been invading her sleep for months. A horror story that got more detailed at each passing. Walking the hallowed halls now she felt the weight of it all. Each smiling face she passed was pale, contorted in fear or pain. It was almost as if she could see and smell the blood covering each priestess, guard and young acolyte.

Rata quickened her pace, making for the chambers of her best friend, the goddess of the rock. Soji would have the answers. Her Soji always did.

She was so caught up in those thoughts that she ran directly into him. The one man whom she hated above all others...Versil. Her stomach turned and she was thankful that she had not yet eaten this rising. As much as she delighted at the thought of emptying her stomach all over the man's dark green tunic, it was decidedly unbecoming of a high priestess.

But when the man reached up and grabbed her upper arms to steady her, she was unprepared for the violent tremor that shook her whole body. She felt as if in that moment the veil between the seen and unseen worlds was torn, ripped aside. She fought hard to control her own body as power unlike any she had ever felt rose up inside of her. The man released her as if burnt, as if he too felt the power flowing through her.

"Liar, deceiver, adulterer...Murderer. Remove your tainted hands from the High Priestess. I know your plans. I know the power you seek. Hear me now...you shall be the first to fall. Your blood shall be spilt as an atonement upon my alter. And it will not be enough to assuage the tide of evil that you have unleashed. Stop now. Turn from your plans of destruction. This is your last chance, your final warning. Hear me now and we might all be saved yet."

Rata reached for the wall as she collapsed, shaking and unsteady against the solid rock that no longer seemed so solid. She remembered only bits and pieces of the words that had come from her mouth. 'I know your plans.' But that was just it, she did not know any plans. Did not even know what her own dreams meant.

Sure, she had never liked Versil. From the time that the man ascended to the Council of Three, she had sensed something cruel in him, a greed for power that was not to be assuaged easily. When it was time for him to choose his counselor, she was glad that he had selected Soji. Rata had thought that if anyone could manage the man's natural tendencies for lust and avarice, it would be her sister. But instead, it seemed that she too had fallen under the man's spell. It had become a wedge between them. The only thing upon which the women disagreed. In almost five hundred cycles, this man was the only thing that came between the sisters...and Rata despised him for that alone.

But now this. She was unable to think. Her mind as cloudy and dark as the storms rolling towards them off her precious waters. "What have you done?" her voice was a mere, broken whisper as she sank to her knees still clutching the wall.

He laughed. The man threw back his head and laughed. The sound echoed off the stone walls, filling them with its darkness. "Done? What have I done, my sweet High Priestess of the waters? What should have been done hundreds of cycles ago. I have brought this backwards planet with its ludicrous and antiquated belief in some mystical goddess into modernity. Science. Technology. Those are the only gods we need."

Another intense chill passed through her body, draining her of more energy. She could barely see the man through the haze that covered her eyes. But what she saw frightened her. Frightened her more than the dreams even. Evil, truly evil. Not the man, but the power. The aura, the source of this man's power, was unlike anything she had ever felt or seen.

He knelt down next to her. His face a smug mask of superiority as he continued, "Certainly not some woman. Some weak and worthless woman. Who does your goddess think that she is to tell us, to tell men, how to govern. She is nothing more than a whore like the priestesses, who serve her."

His lips curved up as he spoke, "Don't get me wrong, I have enjoyed the 'communion' as much as the next man. Hell, more so. Your sweet Soji is one hell of a good fuck." His face darkened as he paused, looking deep into her eyes, "But that is all she is. A good fuck. Just like all of you."

Rata wanted to scream when his finger brushed across the swell of her breast. Her nipples puckered as was her body's natural reaction to stimulation. What had always been a blessing of the goddess seemed a curse in that moment. She opened her mouth to speak, but the words froze in her throat. It tightened to the point that even breathing was a chore.

"I never have tasted your sweet nectar, Rata. Or Mya's. Perhaps a special blessing of the goddess is in order? A tribunal between the High Priestesses and the Council. Who knows maybe our new allies will even enjoy a taste of our hospitality? I shall speak to the others about it."

His fingers pinched her nipples through the diaphanous gown that was the only clothing permitted priestesses. The deep rich purple of her complimented her unique hair and skin and marked her station as High Priestess. All others wore pale lavender. Rata flinched and was thankful for the pain that cleared her mind for the moment.

"I will tell Soji," she whispered.

The man caged her jaw, forcing her to look at him, "Go ahead. I have spoken to my sweetness already. She is looking forward to sharing the gifts of her sweet sisters with me. Thinks that a special blessing is in order. So you see, Rata, it is over. I have won. Did you ever think it could be any other way? Did you think that you and your sweet communion with the goddess had anything to offer a horny woman like Soji. Cock is what she wants. All that any of you want. Just common whores...just like the goddess you serve."

Rata fought back the tears she felt gathering in her eyes as he rose. She dropped her head, refusing to meet the man's gaze. Tears...cleansing water for the soul. But this once, she would hide them. Keep them deep inside. At least until she could make it back to her chambers. Her plan of speaking with her sister abandoned now. What was the use? She had no doubt that what the man said was true.

The last thing she heard was the loud, tap-tap-tap of the man's boots against the cold stone floor. And it did seem cold then. The rock that always been her solace, the safety for her waters when they threatened to break their banks, suddenly seemed too restrictive. Her throat tightened around the single word, "Soji," as darkness overtook her.

***

Soji sat beside her sister on the bed. For the first time since they had discovered Lano dead, she knew true fear. Worse this time. Because while the other woman had been a mentor, a guide, a mother of sorts, Rata was her sister. Her equal, a peer. The one person with whom she could share everything.

Adjusting her gown to cover the marks that Versil had left upon her breasts, well almost everything, she thought. The fact that her precious sister did not like the man she loved has always bothered her. Versil had put it down to simple jealousy. Suggested that perhaps Rata's feelings for her went deeper than sisterhood, deeper than was becoming a priestess of the goddess.

But Soji knew better. Her sister might not enjoy certain aspects of their position as priestesses the way that she did, but she knew it was not because she hated men. No, her sister simply craved the same thing that she did. Intimacy. True intimacy that went far deeper than their fleshly duties, than the power of the goddess that they transferred to their lovers. Power that was taken but never given in return. Not even with Versil, she reluctantly admitted to herself.

That could wait. Those thoughts never got her anywhere anyway. They were High Priestesses of the goddess. They knew their duties and their place. To wish for anything more was simply futile. At worst, it was a sin against the loving and nurturing goddess whom they were destined since birth to serve. And sins like that came at a high price.

Soji brushed the damp cloth across her sister's face. It was contorted once more in pain. Or was it fear. The woman tossed about the bed so violently that Soji feared she would fall off, do herself more damage. Occasionally, she cried out. Grabbled words that made no sense. Except the few screams of the single word, "No!" It was this sign of life that Soji held onto. She could not lose her sister. The thought sent a shiver down her spine.

It was pointless. They had been ministering to her for hours. Soothing her heated forehead with the cool waters of the goddess, but none of it made any difference. She and Mya had tried singing softly, a healing chant, but that only seemed to agitate her more.

Instead she turned to the tall figure of the blond man that hunkered against the far wall. "Tsu, what happened? Tell me. Exactly!"

The man looked down at his boots, scuffed them against the stone floor as he shifted from foot to foot nervously. Silence hung in the still air for several long moments before he finally spoke. Soji strained to hear him, he spoke so softly that she could barely hear him across the distance. "I do not know."

Soji felt rage well up inside of her. Felt its power surge from her toes, up through the ancient fountain of the goddess, to erupt out her mouth. "What do you mean you do not know, Tsu? Are you not her primary? Is it not you in whom the goddess has entrusted her care?"

The man shrugged his shoulders, "She was pacing the balcony when I left. Another of her nightmares I suppose. How was I to know that she would leave her chambers unprotected?"

"Because it is your friggin' job to know," Soji spat at the man, who until now she had trusted with her sister's care. He had never before given any sign that he was anything other than a devoted and caring primary, mindful of his mistress's needs, diligent to his duties to guard, protect and care for a priestess. But Rata was not just any priestess. She was the High Priestess of the water and she deserved more.

"Where were you? What was so much more important than caring properly for your mistress?" she demanded as she stood and crossed the room. Though she was over a full faylon shorter than the man, she knew that her position was intimidating in itself. Her anger even more so.

The man took a single step back and bit his lower lip for a moment as if searching for some explanation worthy of the situation. When he replied, Soji found herself shaking at the callousness of his words. "I was with the priestess Larca."

"You were where?" Soji demanded. Her palm seemed to itch with the desire to smack him, to knock some sense into his head.

"It is not like she has need of me. Rata is strong. Independent. For a woman like her the office of primary is nothing more than show," he defended his actions.

Soji waved her arms towards the bed and her sister's unconscious form, "Does that look like strength to you, Tsu? Does she look like she had no use of your protection? Maybe, the problem is not that my sister does not have need of you. Maybe the problem is that you are not worthy of her."

"I am sorry, High Priestess," was the only answer that the man gave.

Soji wanted to banish him, remove him from his office of primary and send him from the temple. Cast him out to make his way as a mercenary for the highest bidder. It was what usually became of disgraced primaries. No decent family would ever entrust their care to a man that had failed in his duties to protect a priestess of the goddess. How could they?

But that was not her place. Rata had selected the man. And until this moment, Soji had thought her sweet sister had chosen well. Tsu had always seemed to dote upon his mistress. But this turn of events brought all of that into question. She wondered what else she took for granted that was not as it seemed.

The ground beneath her shook for a moment. She would have even fallen were it not for the gentle hand that reached out to steady her. She turned to give her thanks only to see the soft face of Rata's acolyte. The boy's name escaped her. Although she supposed he could no longer be considered a boy. Young man would be more like it.

He was almost as tall as Tsu. But unlike the older man, he wore little of the softness of age about his midsection. His muscles showed a burnished glow in the soft light of early evening. Yes, he was definitely no longer a boy. She would speak to Rata later. It was well past time that the young man be given a charge of his own. A lesser priestess for whom he might prove himself as primary. But that would have to wait. "Thank you," was her only response as she turned her attention back to Tsu and the situation at hand.

"So who did find her? Who was watching your mistress while you toyed with a lesser woman?" she spat the accusation with all of the vitriol inside her. Regardless of what her sister decided, the man would never again have her respect or trust. She would watch him. Watch him closely.

"I did, High Priestess," came the soft reply from behind her. She threw one final look of disdain at Tsu before she turned back to the young man whose presence had taken her by surprise. She studied him again for a moment. Recognizing then why her sister had not done her duty by him.

Yes, it would be hard to release that kind of devotion, pass it along to another as she was supposed to do. Thinking about her own stolen moments with Versil, she wondered just how far her sweet sister had gone down this road. Perhaps Tsu was right, perhaps she did not have need of him, perhaps her sweet sister was not as cold as her lover thought. Perhaps it merely took someone as devoted as her acolyte.

"Your name?" she commanded. "Leamus, High Priestess," he said as he bowed at the waist in deference.

"Tell me what happened," she demanded.

The young man hesitated for several long moments. He looked back at the bed where his mistress lay tossing. Another loud scream rent the silence as if Rata sensed something important. Soji too knew then that whatever story came from the young man's mouth would be only half the truth.

He turned back to her reluctantly, "I knew that my captain was not around. So when the High Priestess got dressed and left her chamber I followed. I know I should not have. That it is not my place to do so. I just thought," he paused, looking at the man, who was charged with his training. "I guess I thought some protection was better than none at all."

Soji saw the anger flash in the older man's eyes. It was mirrored in the younger's. Yes, she would speak to Rata soon. It was no longer just an issue of it being past time for her to release the young man. The animosity building between these two men could be explosive.

"Wise decision obviously, Leamus." She knew that she was agitating turbulent waters but she did not care in that moment. Tsu deserved much worse as far as she was concerned. "Continue."

The younger man looked the ground as he spoke. "My mistress was headed for your chambers, High Priestess. She ran into Councilor Versil in the corridor. They spoke for a few moments."

The young man's voice drop low and Soji recognized the lie. "I could not hear what they said. When the Councilor walked on, the High Priestess tripped somehow. She fell. I do not think she hit her head, but I could not get to her fast enough. I am sorry, High Priestess. I should have done better. Done more. Been there faster. I shall never forgive myself if..." His voice trailed off as he looked back to his mistress.

Soji reached out her hand, placing it comfortingly on his shoulder. "Rata will be fine," she reassured with far more confidence than she truly felt. "I know that you did your best and I am certain that your mistress appreciates your efforts. You took a risk to protect her. I know that you held back because you did not want anyone to see you. Misinterpret your actions. You did well. You have proven yourself a wise and true acolyte. I will speak to my sister when she is better. Have her release so you can be assigned a charge of your own to protect and cherish."

The young man shook his head violently at her words, "No, High Priestess. That is not necessary. I am not ready," he stammered.

Soji looked between the men, "Oh, you are more than ready, Leamus. You know you charge far better than some much older and supposedly wiser." She could not resist a final dig at the man, whose duty it had been to protect and cherish the precious gifts of her sister, "Do you not agree, Tsu?"

***

Mya watched the interactions from beside her elder sister. She had sat quietly by her side as it all unfolded. But she was the High Priestess of the air and as young and inadequate as she was for the post, even she could feel the strife, animosity and anger that hung in it. She squeezed her unconscious sister's hand as if seeking some guidance.

"Perhaps if we took her to the pools," she ventured, trying to distract the three adversaries as much as she sought a real solution to her sister's dire situation. "Perhaps the waters will heal and restore her."

Soji turned to her with that smile. The one that her sisters always gave her when she suggested something. The one that said they were surprised at her. The one that made her feel even more a fake.

"Of course, that is exactly what we should do. Why did I not think of it sooner?" The elder priestess turned then, capturing the suggestion as her own as she began to direct people like they were puppets. "Leamus, would you collect the priestesses of the water? Tell them to meet us at the healing pools as quickly as they can."

Soji looked towards her and was about to say something when she suddenly turned back to the young man, "Not Larca. She will be reassigned to me."

Tsu stepped forward as if to say something. Mya held her breath. It was not wise to mess with Soji when she got like this. Rock could as easily crush as it could be solid ground upon which to plant your feet. She sent a silent prayer to the goddess that the man remembers that. One that seemed to be answered as he bowed his head and asked, "What of me, High Priestess? What may I do?"

Soji and Mya took measure of the man. For the first time, the valiant warrior seemed lacking in their eyes. "We shall need your help carrying her. If you think you can manage your job without distractions that is? Decide now where your loyalties lay, Tsu. You will not get another chance, that much I promise you."

Mya shook her head. If Rata's waters could be destructive when stirred, Soji's rock was a thing to truly fear. Her beloved eldest sister might be slow to move, but when her ground shook all trembled in fear. And rightly so. Rightly so.

More dangerous yet was the realization that perhaps for the first time ever, Soji would not be able to bank her sister's waters. Just as earthquakes triggered tsunamis so might Soji's anger further agitate Rata. It was not a pleasant thought.

It was not the first time in the past hundred years that Mya had wished her other mother was here to offer the wisdom and comfort that they all needed. But it was perhaps the most desperate. She tried hard to calm her own winds that she felt battering about them all. Uncertainty. Betrayal. Anger. Fear. She felt them all batter her spirit.

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