tagNovels and NovellasThe Balance Ch. 01-05

The Balance Ch. 01-05

byGlaze72©

Chapter 1

Ariana watched her son as they gathered fruit in the warm autumn sun. Summer was ending, but the Deity had seen fit to bless them with a last spell of fine weather before the inevitable chill set in.

Abiron was a fine looking lad, she had to admit. No, not a lad, anymore, or not for long. He was of medium height, medium weight, but he was lithe and strong, the flush of adolescence gradually giving way to a man's dignity. The Deity would let her know when the time had come, but she could sense in her bones that it was nigh.

She shifted in her gown, the fine cotton sliding sensuously across her skin. She was tall for a woman, and the years of labor at the temple had clad her bones with a strength that was not readily apparent at first glance. Her dark hair spilled long down her shoulders, accenting the rich black of her eyes. Soon, she thought. Soon, the waiting will be over. She shifted again, heat coiling within her, as she gazed hungrily at her son.

Abiron was unaware of his mother's gaze. He was just past nineteen years of age, but all that he knew was his place in the temple. Almost since the day he had been born, Ariana had been the only other person in his world. With her guidance, he learned how to crawl, to walk, to bathe, to dress. With her help, he learned how to cultivate the fruit in the garden and to tend the sheep and cattle in the pastures. With her, he performed the sacred rites of the temple. He knew that she was his mother, but he was all but unaware that there were other people in the world.

"Enough, my son," Ariana laughed. "We have more the enough for the time being, and we must leave some fruit for the birds of the air and the creatures of the ground. We would be poor stewards indeed if we kept it all for ourselves."

"Yes, my mother-priestess," Abiron replied. "I know that what we have taken will suffice for our needs, but I do not like the thought of wasting the apples and pears."

"Oh, my son," said Ariana, "What we do not use will be consumed by others, do not doubt. If a bird does not gobble what we have left on the trees, the small animals of the forest or the pasture will eat what falls to the ground."

"Yes, mother," Abiron said. He lifted two sacks of fruit, and his mother a third and together they walked through the orchard to the temple. Beautiful it was, a rectangle of pure white marble, with high walls and columns framing the rooms within. They brought the baskets to the cold cellar near the kitchen and there deposited the fruit.

"Another days' work done, my son," sighed Ariana. "Whose turn is it to make dinner?"

"Mine, Mother," said Abiron. "If it please you, I am sure there will be time to bathe before the evening meal is ready. Come to the dining room in an hour, and I will have something ready for us."

Such a good boy, thought Ariana, walking through the temple to her private rooms. But how not, with the blood that is in his veins? And who raised him, after all?

Ariana reached her private rooms, and divested herself of her clothing, what little there was of it. A short, simple gown, belted at the waist, reaching to her knees, suitable for outdoor work, and the small-clothes beneath. Heating water for a bath takes time, but after filling the bathing pool from the well outside, she sent a quick prayer to the Deity. A corresponding warmth in her mind told her that it had been answered and that she would not have to heat buckets of water over the fire to enjoy a hot bath.

As she waited for the water to heat, she looked at her herself in the bronze mirror on the wall. Her eyes were dark and serene, with the calmness that proximity to the Deity brought. Her black hair, undimmed by gray, fell in waves past her shoulders, reaching nearly to the small of her back. Her skin was dark, tanned by exposure to the sun, but her legs and arms were well-muscled and shapely. Her stomach showed little signs of bearing a child. Her hands reached up to cup her breasts, which were large and firm, with only a trace of sag to show that a baby had suckled on them.

Oh, my husband, why did you have to leave me so soon?she thought. We didn't have enough time together, and I have been so lonely without you. Her hands lightly stroked her breasts, and a shudder of wanting passed through her as her nipples tightened. The heat in her thighs expanded, and it was all she could do to keep from bringing herself to release as she stood before the mirror.

No, she said to herself. Control. I must have control. I am no use to the Deity if I am mindless with desire. She closed her eyes and took a long, calming breath, then went to the pool to bathe.

In the kitchen, Abiron was preparing the evening meal. He thought on what his mother would like to eat. Something cool, he thought. The day was warm, and even though she bathes now, it would bring her little pleasure to have a hot or spicy meal. With that in mind, he cut and arranged a selection of fruit, bread, and cheeses, with thin slices of cold beef to go along. He drew a pitcher of cool milk from the cold-room and set it all in the dining area.

The thought of his mother bathing disturbed him for some reason. In the past year, he had been experiencing new desires that he did not understand and could not control. Even now, his phallus throbbed within his loose breeches. He imagined her body, tan and wet, rising from the bathing pool, and had to turn his mind away. Breathing deeply, he said a calming cantrip to the Deity. Maybe he should talk about this to his mother. She was the high priestess of the Deity. She would know what to do.

The meal was enjoyed by them both. After a hard days labor, it was pleasant to relax in their cool dining area, lit by small lamps in their niches, recline on their couches, and partake of the fruits of their labor. Ariana ate heartily, and Abiron was pleased that he had chosen their meal well.

"So, mother," said Abiron, "What tasks do we have to perform tomorrow?"

Ariana glanced out the window, the wooden shutters tied back to let the cool breeze into the house. Clouds could be seen drifting in from the west. "I think that we will be getting rain tonight, and probably tomorrow," she replied, "I believe that tomorrow will be a day for staying indoors and sorting the fall tribute that we received from the king last week."

Abiron made a face. "More wine."

Ariana smiled. "You may find that you develop a taste for it one day, my son."

"I doubt it. To me it all tastes like grape juice gone bad."

Ariana's smile grew wider. He is his father's son. If he takes after him, he will prefer a draft of ale to a glass of wine. Balance. It is all part of the balance.

Abiron sighed, rose, and stretched. "Well, I'm for bed. I will see you tomorrow morning. May the Deity grant you gentle dreams, mother."

"And you, my son."

The next day was rainy, as Ariana had foretold. After caring for the few beasts that were in their paddocks at this time of the year, Ariana and Abiron spent the rest of the day taking stock of the king's generosity and putting it into the storage rooms for use later in the year.

"By the Deity!" Abiron groaned, "The fisherman of the north coast must have had a tremendous catch this year. There must be a full 20 barrels of herring here, and twice that of cod."

"Indeed," A frown marred Ariana's beautiful features. "We are not like the Christian monks, to live on salt fish, hard bread and prayer. There is no way we could consume so much ourselves, even if we wanted to. We will take the surplus and deliver it to the village. I think that half the herring and three-quarters of the cod can be spared."

"Are you sure, mother?" Abiron asked, "I like cod."

"A boy with strong appetites. Very well. We will send only half the cod. And I will send a note to the king"

Chapter 2

That night, the visitations came, the ones Ariana had been praying to occur for the past year and more.

The first came to Abiron, as he lay in his bed in the room that had been his own since he had moved out of his mother's, nearly fourteen years before. He dreamed, or thought that he dreamed. In his dream or near-dream, he woke and saw a beautiful young maiden standing before him. He could give no name to the fabric that she was clad in, but it clung to her curves and it shone with its own light, so it both lit and shadowed the glories of her body. Her hair was as dark as that of his mother, but the serene light that was in his mother's eyes faded before the holy radiance that shone from the eyes of this being. His body burned to see her, but there was something in her stance that kept her apart.

"Who...who are you?" he stammered.

The maiden sighed. "They always ask that. It is so tedious. Just once, I wish that I didn't have to explain the whole thing. Why do mortals make things more complicated than they need to be?" She sighed again. "Don't you recognize me, Abiron? You've worshiped me your entire life. Who am I?"

"You...are the Deity?"

"Yes, I am the Deity. One of the aspects of the Deity. We have many, you know. It was thought that for this particular talk, the aspect of the Maiden would be best. We usually choose an aspect that is of the opposite sex. It seems to make things easier. We are not perceived as a threat. And for this particular talk, the Maiden was the obvious choice. The Mother, the Crone, and the Lass were all unsuitable, in their various ways."

"And what are the male aspects of the Deity...of yourself?"

"To women, to those like your mother-priestess, I can come as the Lad, the Youth, the Father, and the Graybeard. It was as the Youth that I came to your mother, nearly twenty years ago. Tell me, Abiron, what has your mother told you of the history of this land and of this temple?"

Abiron sat back in his bed, gradually relaxing. At least part of his body did. The presence of the beautiful creature in front of him inflamed his groin, but he did not dare adjust his body to a more comfortable position in front of the Deity. Something in her eyes told him that she sensed his distress, and was ever so slightly amused by it. As he leaned back against the carved headboard, she sat as well, folding her legs beneath her, though there was nothing for her to sit on. He swallowed against the dryness in his throat. This was a passing strange night, indeed!

"I know what I have been taught, my lady Goddess," he started, "Long ago, this land was torn by war and strife. Lord against lord, brother against brother, and there was no peace anywhere. Roads were unsafe, people starved, and lawless brigands held those under them in terror."

"No time for worship, either," stated the Maiden, "When a woman's efforts are insufficient to keep her children safe and her man fed, she will not have time to go to temple. In those days the only prayers that I heard were those of terror and pain. A man coughing out his life around an arrow in his belly may pray for the agony to end, but I have never found that sort of worship pleasing. Unlike some of my fellow Gods, I do not enjoy pain for its own sake."

"Fellow Gods?"gasped Abiron, "But thou are the only true Deity!"

"Look who knows so much," snapped the Maiden, "Seventeen years old, with a belly full of bread and cheese, and you know all the ways of this world and of all the others?" Her look gentled. "No, Abiron, I am a God, and the Deity for this land at this time, but there were others before, there will be others after, and there are others now. But we are getting ahead of our tale. Continue with the story of our land."

"Our histories tell us of a young woman named Ariadne. She had been a novice in one of your temples, only fifteen years of age. But the temple had been raided and pillaged, the priests and priestesses had been driven off, or had run away, or had died, and there was no one else to tend the temple but her. In worship and in despair she prayed, prayed for three days, until her knees were raw and her voice was hoarse. And at sunset on the third day, You appeared to her. If the stories are true, it was as a strong young man clad in armor."

"Yes. My 'Warrior' aspect. It is how the Father incarnates when He is angry or protective. I was rather sorry about the delay. But performing true miracles demands that the supplicant show true devotion. Ariadne had that and more. And I had not meant for this land to get into such a state. My other aspects and Myself were rather...preoccupied...at the time. I did apologize later."

"You apologized?" asked Abiron in surprise.

"Abiron, if every revelation makes you faint, we will never get through this. Of course I apologized," the Maiden said, "Just as worshipers have a duty to their god, so does the god have a duty to Her followers. Who would believe in a god that they could not see?"

"The Christian father who was here last spring said that faith without proof was stronger than faith with it."

"Piffle," snorted the Maiden. "I know that god. He is just lazy. He took on a people thousands of years ago, beat them until they could barely stand on their own, and then told them to wait until he came back. If you were in a position where faith alone could save you, Abiron, in whom would your faith be stronger? The god whom you had never seen, or the god that you had? The Deity who had assisted you in lighting a fire when it was cold, or the god who let you freeze in the dark?" She smiled a tiny smile. "If he doesn't get off his tail, he might find that I have been poaching some of his followers.

"Enough of this. We are treading close to theology, and it is not healthy for mortals to examine the origins of the gods too closely. It makes them odd, for some reason. Continue."

"You appeared to the priestess Ariadne. She besought you to end the war. With your guidance, she went to the first king of the line of Askelos, and revealed to him the wisdom that would allow him to unite the country."

"True enough, as far as it goes. Askelos was one of the petty princelings scattered across the countryside hereabouts. He was better behaved than most, and mostly he just wanted to be left alone with his vineyards and his sheep." Her look grew pensive. "I really do think that most of the greatest things are accomplished by those who simply want to be left alone to enjoy themselves, and know that they have work to do before they can do it.

"Anyway, it is fairly easy to win a war when you have the Deity literally at your side. Askelos was never caught by surprise in battle, always had superior knowledge of the forces against him, and took advantage of an amazing streak of 'lucky' accidents. Inside of a year and a half he was king and Ariadne was his closest adviser.

"I rather liked that time. There is no fun at all in allowing the good to suffer, but punishing the truly wicked? That is the sort of thing that I can get behind," For a moment her eyes blazed, "Betimes worship requires blood, and the blood of the unjust is far more satisfying that the blood of innocents."

Abiron shivered. The moment had again brought home to him the realization that the being sitting before him was indeed the Deity, with a might that could char him to ash if it chose.

"Askelos was a decent enough king," she continued. "He was strong enough to leash his hounds, and smart enough not to starve them. So what happened next, my protege'?"

"Well," said Abiron, dithering for a second, "Not much that I can recall. Eventually the temple was rebuilt, and Ariadne came back here as High Priestess. It was decreed that her line would hold the title of High Priestess or High Priest as long as it continued, which it has to this day. King Askelos had to fight some minor wars to show our neighbors that we were not weak, but we have had peace, for the most part, since his reign began. His descendents have carried on his work, and we are now a prosperous country."

"Askelos eventually fought his wars. That was the problem, and why Ariadne came back to the temple rather than staying as an adviser. She was a sweet and lovely girl and hated war. She begged for My aid to end the chaos and the fighting. She accepted that battles would have to be fought to unite and to secure the country. But she thought that once that had been done the fighting would end forever. She never reconciled herself to the fact that people cannot always live together in peace and harmony, and that to have peace, strength at times must be shown If she had her way, land would have been sacrificed to secure peace, and war would have ensued as our neighbors realized that we were weak. I was not about to waste the death of thousands with the death of tens of thousands. Rather than stay, she abandoned that world and returned to this one.

"But her line had to continue." the Deity sighed and her look grew pensive. "I wish you could have met her, Abiron. Her faith and her heart was so pure, her love so strong, that to see her worship was like gazing into the sun. You have no idea what that means to a God. We live by faith, and die from its lack. To have one of her purity was tremendously important to Us. So We made sure that her line went on."

"I don't see how that would be a problem. The priests and priestesses of the Deity are not held by vows of chastity. The High Priestess would be able to marry, or not, as she chose, and any man would have been proud to be brought to her bed."

The Maiden sighed, "True enough. And here we get to the crux of why I am here this night. Gods think in terms of generations, Abiron. Faith is our wellspring and our curse. Any man who Ariadne brought to her bed would be worthy, indeed. But what of her child? And the child of that child? To allow a faith so pure to expire forever from the world could not be borne. We have seen it happen. A faith changes. The teaching of a god are twisted by their mortal followers. And what once was pure becomes polluted and foul." Her face saddened. "We may be gods, but We can still die. We took steps to ensure that We continued and this land remained safe."

"How?"

The Maiden smiled. "One night, I came to Ariadne's bed. I did not use any of the aspects that she had seen Me in previously." Her smile grew. "Oh, she had seen them all, and delighted in each. The merry children, the Youth and Maiden, the protective parents, and the wise oldsters. No, I came to her that night in a different form, that of the Lover." She laughed aloud. "Oh, if you could have seen her face! Afterward, she told me that the name of that aspect should be the Bull. I have used that one several times since."

Abiron was stunned and shaking. He thought he knew where this was leading. The Deity as one of his ancestors! He could scarcely comprehend it. "What is the name the female side of this aspect, my Lady?"

The Deity smiled and her voice deepened, "The boy grows bold."

There was no real change to her that Abiron could see, but suddenly, everything had shifted. The gown that had kept the Deity pure and apart now seemed a confining garment, one that should be removed. An ever so slight change to her posture, and her body seemed to invite him to draw closer. Her breathing had deepened slightly, and her breasts rose and fell, inviting his look, daring him to touch. Fire burned within his groin, and he could sense an answering fire within her core. A fine sheen of sweat appeared on her collarbone, and he knew how exquisite the taste would be as he moved within her. Her legs unfolded, opening wide...

"No. This is not for you, Abiron. Not until your time here is done, and you are brought home to Us at last. The way is often hard, but the reward for those who remain true is great," A moment later, She was the Maiden again. "When the mood takes me, I am known as the Wanton. The young woman who wants a man. The mother who desires another child. The lady who seduces her man anew, for the sheer joy and pleasure that it brings her. That is who I am. But not tonight, not for you."

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