tagSci-Fi & FantasyPriestesses of the Goddess Pt. 10

Priestesses of the Goddess Pt. 10

byTara_Neale©

Mya looked around. His ship was not anything like she had expected. Although she was not sure what she had even expected. It was not though the big shiny metal disk about which her father had told her stories as a small child. It was much smaller, could perhaps manage only a dozen people. Its shape too more closely resembled a boat from which its name derived. It was dark, as black as the night sky. They would have walked right past it had it not been for him.

Being practically raised in the temple, the very idea of traveling to the stars boggled her mind. Seemed almost wrong somehow. Were not the stars and moons homes of the gods and goddesses? What right did mere mortals have to such aspirations?

She leaned against a wall, one that seemed barren of the lights and buttons with which the giant was playing at the moment. When they had emerged from the temple into the deepest darkness that happened when only one of Tavia's moon was visible in the sky just before the first of its suns, the red giant, rose over Rata's waters, the group was tired and bedraggled. Even she, who had endured far less than her sisters, felt the strain of the battle. But he had pushed them, moved them forward. Tam, he had a name too, she reminded herself. Some part of her wanted still to hate the man, who was after all one of them, the Morians, their destroyers. Yet he had fought so hard to save them, was so attentive to Soji.

She worried for her sisters. Soji was so quiet and withdrawn, and in the light of his ship Mya could see dried blood around her breasts and a nasty dark purple bruise upon her cheek. Rata wore a matching mark upon her cheek as well, but it was the deathly stillness that worried Mya the most. Her sister of the water had not moved at all since he had taken her down from the altar. She simply lay limply in his arms.

The boy clung to her, refusing to put her down even now that they had reached the ship. Aved had found lead them to a bench against another wall. Had run about finding medical supplies, asking Tam for what he needed and even sneaking out into the darkness for fresh water that might cleanse and soothe her wounds.

Mya felt useless at the moment. She smiled, but she had not been useless to them this evening. She had been the High Priestess of the air. For that moment, she had felt as powerful and gifted as Aved, Lano and her sisters had always said she was. It was her winds and clouds that had hidden them. Her winds combined with Soji's quakes that had toppled the altar.

Oh sweet goddess, it was they, who destroyed her temple. Not the Morians, but her High Priestesses that had torn it all down. A soft cry escaped her parched throat as she dropped her head in self-loathing.

She felt the gentle embrace of Soji's arms about her then, but they brought small comfort. The altar was destroyed, the temple likely to be as well by the time that the red giant raised its head on the rising. Their way of life was no more. The great chasm of uncertainty stretched out before her. She no longer even knew who she was. How could she be the High Priestess of the air without an altar or a temple?

"Tam says he is almost ready, little sister. He will send Leamus and Rata through the transporter first. Then you and Aved. He and I will take the ship to meet up with his friends from the Morian resistance force," she smiled but Mya noticed the hollow almost blank expression in her eyes.

She nodded, "Will Rata be all right?"

Soji shook her head, "I do not know. Tam says he is not sure. She endured far from than most people could take. But Tam says that she is strong willed, that perhaps the goddess can over time undo with their technology did. He is sending them to some place he calls Earth. Over three-quarters of it is her water."

"We should go with her then. Perhaps together we can heal her, bring her back from the edge as we did before," Mya pleaded.

Soji shook her head, "No, it is not safe. We cannot remain together. If we were all captured, fell into the Morian hands." She stopped and sighed heavily, "I am sorry this is all my fault."

"No, no, it is not."

"I was his counselor. He even told me of his plans. Of the treaty with the Morians. If I had listened with my heart to the goddess, if I had seen Versil as he truly was," her sister looked down at her hands. Mya realized that her nails still bore dark blue stains beneath them. Her lover's blood. Soji had taken his life herself. Mya felt her stomach roll. If she were forced to... If she ever had to face the choice to end his life, she doubted she could. No matter what.

She inhaled a cleansing breath forced her troubled mind back from that line of thought. Her sisters needed her now. While Rata might lie unconscious in the boy's arms, Mya feared that the wounds to Soji's spirit were far more threatening than the ones to her body.

"Listen to me, none of this is your fault," but her sister merely pulled away at her protests. She had never pulled away before, never denied them the comfort and solace they needed. And for the first time, Mya truly realized how very much their world had changed. The bonds that they shared as sisters were gone. As shattered as the altar to the goddess that they had served their whole lives.

She trembled as that uncertainty once more swallowed her very soul. Then she felt another set of arms about her shoulders. Stronger arms, wider shoulders to bear this new burden, a comforting chest upon which she had so often rested her head when she was troubled. Like her sisters, he had always been there. And if what Soji said was true, he would be the only one upon which she could rely in whatever lay ahead.

As she remembered the other dream that she had as she suckled at Rata's breast, just the previous rising, such a brief moment that seemed like a life time ago, she was both comforted by his familiar presence and frightened of how even this might change. But change seemed the only thing that was certain in her world at the moment.

She could shrink away from it, in doubt or self-pity as it seemed her sister was, or she could step forward and embrace it, confident that the woman, whose winds and fog could blind and army long enough to get them to safety could ride those same winds of changes into whatever the future held for them, confident in her goddess and herself. Looking back and forth between her sisters, one of them must embrace this new day. It might as well be her.

She nodded her head and wrapped her arms about her protector. "I am ready."

***

Tam wanted so much more time with the boy. He had shown courage, stubbornness and intelligence. He would have been proud to have such a soldier to serve under his command. But he did not have months and years to prepare the young man for a destiny far greater than his young shoulders could bear. He could only hope that his dark god of Fate and their sweet goddess of love would watch over them, protect them and teach him all that he would need to embrace the destiny that was beyond his control.

He passed the tablet to the young man, "This contains all that you need to know of Earth. It is a small planet, just beginning to make the technological advances that my people made many years ago. Their species share common ancestry with both our races. The place I have selected for the two of you is isolated."

He nodded towards the woman in Leamus's arms, "She will need rest, time to heal, if she might. Their planet is three-quarters her waters. I have selected an island in one of their warmer seas for this reason. Its waters are not as pure or healing as Tavia's but they are not as foul as my own either. Not yet anyway. I can only pray to the god of Fate that their race is wiser than the Morians in that way." He shook his dark head, "But they do not seem to be. Ruled as much by greed as my brothers, they are rapidly following our lead, destroying the most precious things of all from which their very lives come, their land, their waters, their air and one another."

Tam pulled his mind away from the other world; he had enough to worry about with the Fates of Morian and Tavia resting upon his shoulders. He could not worry about a path that was yet to be fully selected by a people that were such distant cousins of his own race. "But you could spend many months, years even, without seeing one of their kind. The tablet contains all the information on their history if you are interested, need to know. It also contains information on their flora and fauna. It will be different, but not so different that the two of you cannot survive there."

He smiled at the man, "Oh and I added a bit of that Morian anatomy lesson on there. Just in case. Next time you won't miss the heart." He handed the man another dark metal box, "In here are tools and weapons. Not much, but enough I hope. If you are found, push this button on the tablet. It will send a warning to me and Aved."

The young man shifted her weight, winced in pain and took the items. "What about that thing? Take it off her," he said motioning towards the metal collar about her neck.

Tam shook his head. Explaining this was not going to be easy, "It cannot be taken off safely. Once a collar has bounded with her life force," he hesitated, knew that neither of them would like the truth. "The problem is not the collar. Or its power. The problem is always how that power is used."

Leamus shook his head, "That thing comes off. I will not have her hurt like that, used like that again. She would not want it."

"I understand. My people have abused their powers for hundreds of years. Used the collar to control and abuse our women, even other races that are susceptible to its powers. But the truth is that the collar was meant as a beautiful bond between two people, as physical representation of what their souls shared. It can be that again."

He sought the younger man's eyes, held his gaze. "My brother did not have her fully under his control. It is her energy alone than sings through the collar. If as I suspect you are her true mate, it will be easy for you to find that music, for your soul to capture it and amplify it. Until as the prophesy says...two hearts sing as one."

He watched the younger man shake his head, saw the same denial rising up in him that he had since they met. Why did the boy not see? His words said one thing, but his every action another. They spoke of his true feelings, devotion of a true mate. How could he make him see that? The woman's life depended upon it. Quite possibly all their Fates as well.

He felt her soft hand upon his arm. His throat tightened as he looked at her. As he realized that the young man was not the only one that fought his destiny. His path was no easier, her heart closed to him even as her body sought even the slightest touch with him.

She bent and kissed her sister's forehead, "Take care of her Leamus." She said through tears, "I am so sorry, sweet sister. Sorry, I did not listen to you." His heart broke at the way her voice choked on the words. She paused for a long moment in her goodbyes.

Then she looked up at the young man once more, Tam felt the shift in her, knew it was her goddess' voice with which she spoke, stood in awe of the magnificent woman that was his own destiny. Even in the depths of her pain she still ministered to others.

"I know that you do not believe in her goddess, Leamus. But you do not need to, because she believes in you. Trusts you enough to place my sister into your care. No matter what you may think or feel, she does not make mistakes. You are exactly what she needs now. You will know what to do, how to care for her, heal her. The goddess will give you the wisdom, but you must find the courage to follow your heart. Follow your heart, Leamus. For her sake, please."

She placed her dainty hand upon the man's shoulder as she bent and once more kissed her sister's forehead. He felt the zing of her power to his very toes as she began, "Goddess bless and keep you both in her love. Heal your wounds and your hearts. Bind them as they have been through all time, through many lives. Bless you with the desires of your souls. Now and forever more."

He felt her pain as she forced herself to turn and walk away. She had found the perfect way to say it all. Everything inside of him had found its voice through his mate. And it was he who was humbled and awed at this precious gift.

He drew a deep breath; he had a lifetime to be grateful to his god and her goddess. Right now he needed to get them to safety. He placed his hand upon the younger man's shoulder, guided him to the right position for the transporter.

"Go with god. Face your fate," he chuckled. "And all the sweet shit she said too." He pushed the final key that would send his first charges safely upon their way.

***

Aved watched as the women said their final goodbyes. Though he had known the High Priestess of the rock his whole life and been the charge of his precious Mya, he felt like an intruder. Moved away slightly. Looked about the ship, the likes of which he had only imagined. For a moment, he felt the pull of wonder, the need for more, could see the greed that had led Versil. He felt the firm grasp of the other man's hand on his shoulder and turned.

"I am sending you to a place we called Ether. Its people have built their cities in the clouds themselves. She will be comfortable there. I have a friend, a former leader of the resistance; he joined with an Etherian many years ago. They will harbor you. Keep you safe," Tam pressed a tablet into his hands. "What you need to know of the place is all in here, Councilor. If you do not understand anything feel free to ask Marham."

Aved nodded as he held out his hand, "Thank you. Thank you for coming for them. For keeping her safe."

The man nodded, "There is one more thing, Sir." He looked at the ground as he drew a cold metal circle from behind his back. "She needs this."

Aved recognized it, shook his head. "No. No one needs that thing."

Tam forced it into his hand, "Do not let the collar frighten you, Councilor. You are the boy; you have seen enough of this world to know that power itself is not evil. It is how that power is used. Who uses or abuses it. In the hands of a humble servant, power is a precious gift to be cherished. You are old enough and wise enough to know how to use that power properly."

The man looked to the women, "Do not force the issue now. But you will know when the time comes." He stared into Aved's eyes until he wanted to look away. "Though my people have abused it, the collar was originally a symbol not of the woman's submission to her mate, but his duty to her. The deep connection that it allows meant not to manipulate or abuse, but to warn him when she had need of him. I believe that in the right hands it can be that again. I do not need to tell you, use your power wisely."

Though he was uncertain he believed the man's assertions, Aved nodded and accepted the cold metal circle. With or without this symbol, he knew that the man understood the duty they shared. "She is as wounded as her sister. Her wounds deeper perhaps. The High Priestess that I knew is gone, her soul stripped as bare as he left her body. You will not have an easy time, my friend."

Tam chuckled low, "This I know, old man. Any other pearls of wisdom before I send you on your way."

Aved shook his head, "Only this, follow your spirit and Fate as you always have."

Tam nodded as they walked over to the women. Aved paused as he placed his hand upon her shoulder, turned her and guided her to the spot the other man indicated. He frowned. Never had he felt such calm, a gentle breeze. Sweet. Soft. Not in a hundred cycles. Not since the night that she passed. Yet now of all times, when their world had collapsed, invaded by a foreign army, their temple destroyed their priestesses scattered. Now the soft winds of change blew fragrantly.

He looked down at her. Saw the serene smile upon her face and his heart dropped into the pit of his stomach at his destiny that stretched out before him now. He only prayed to the goddess that he was half as wise as the man thought because at the moment he felt inadequate, unsure, like an acolyte upon his indoctrination.

***

Soji watched her youngest sister and the Councilor disappear into nothingness just as Leamus and Rata had. For a moment, fear gripped her. What if it was all a lie, another machine with which to destroy them. How did she know that this man really sent them somewhere safe? Were they not simply gone? Vanished into the pit of nothingness that had swallowed Versil's soul? She choked on the thought.

Then another arose within her. Either way they were gone. Safe or simply disappeared. Her duty to them was complete. She was free. Free of her responsibilities to her sisters, her people and the goddess. She did not need to be strong anymore. The rock could crumble. And she did. She fell to her knees, Rata's tears poured from her battered soul.

He gathered her into his arms. Held her as she cried. She knew that this was different. Felt it somehow through the haze. Knew it was all she had ever wanted or dreamt of. She was accepted, wanted for herself, not some whore of the great goddess to be used. She was safe and protected as she never had been.

If it truly was all that as her spirit told her, then why did she feel nothing? Absolutely nothing. Her body, her mind, even her spirit were numb. Dull. Damaged somehow beyond repair.

She looked up at him, "What now?"

She saw him tense as he walked over to the console of buttons that he had used to send her friends from this place. He picked something up and placed it behind his back. He walked slowly back to where she knelt. Her eyes widened with fear when she saw what he held. "Frig no," she said as she rose, made to run for the portal that was still open as the first rays of Tavia's great sun began to filter through it.

His arm about her waist stopped her, "Shh, sweet salvation. It is not as you think."

If she had been numb before, suddenly her body found new strength, new reserves of energy as she fought against him. "If you think I am going to let you put that thing on me, you are crazy. I saw what it does. You are no different from the other one. All the others. You just want to use and abuse. Then toss aside." She pushed at his arms about her waist, tried to wrestle free. "Let me go. Let me friggin' go, ass shat."

He shook his head, "I cannot. I am sorry. I do not have time to explain. The doors of your temple will be open soon. If my brother has not already sent out search parties he will. We must go now."

He turned her in his arms as he walked almost effortlessly back to the console. He held her with a single arm as he pushed more buttons. She fought him harder. She did not know what lay ahead. But she knew that she wanted no part of that thing, no part of the collar that had destroyed her sister's mind. No part of control that drew forth even the goddess's most precious gift against her will. No part of him.

He finished whatever he was doing, unphased by her struggles; he carried her to the same spot from which her sisters had disappeared. He drew forth the vile cold metal once more. His eyes flashed, "I pray that your goddess is more forgiving than my cruel master of Fate. I am more sorry than you will ever know, my sweet salvation."

No sooner than his sweet pleas for forgiveness left his lying lips than she felt the snap of cold metal encircle her neck.

"Mine. Mine alone. To protect. To cherish. To rule for all time. In this life time and those to come," his voice was deep, low deceptively sexy. When she would have screamed her outrage, his mouth covered her. And then everything disappeared. Simply faded away.

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