The Courier Ch. 22bycaligula97236©
"I...I don't know what to say, Priestess. I don't know whether I understand or not...why...what happened to me..."
"I believe you understand more than you realize, which was one of many requests I had for the Creator that concern you. Now, there is something else that you must understand. The door has not closed on your life, Anyia Dukov, at least not yet. For a person with a damaged soul, you are extraordinarily lucky. You have a chance to be spared from everything you have done. Very few people with damaged souls have such an opportunity. You do."
The Priestess and the Prime Minister exchange glances. He wanted her to continue:
"You will understand that the Danubian people do not know anything about your behavior and your intentions for the country. They are under the illusion that you are an honorable sovereign who cares about the well-being of Danubia above anything else. You have the opportunity to make that illusion into reality. You can assume a simple life of service to your country and to the Church and escape from who you have been up until this morning. You can set an example of humble service by accepting a collar from the Temple, an example for your fellow countrymen to follow. If you take the collar, you will escape from your sins, because you understand that once you are collared, no one will ask you about your misdeeds. You will be protected from yourself, from your own past."
Performing Public Penance had been the farthest thing from Anyia's mind, but she realized it did offer her an opportunity to escape from the multitude of crimes she had committed over the past several years.
"If you submit to Penance, you can remain in this house and continue your life as Grand Duchess. Your relationship with your subjects will be preserved. In fact it will be strengthened, because you will show yourself as a servant of the nation. You have the opportunity to redeem yourself."
Anyia was silent for a long time. Finally she asked:
"Father, if you say what I deserve is serving the pig, that I am unworthy of even being executed, then...why are you sparing me?"
Dukov turned back to face her. His eyes were still full of tears, but he managed to maintain control of his voice.
"I can justify sparing your title by saying that the Danubian people have suffered many changes and many traumas since I became Prime Minister. Right now is not the time for our nation to lose the Royal Family, not on top of everything else that has been lost. I can say that, but that is not the main reason. The main reason is that you remain my daughter. In spite of everything, you are still my child and I still love you."
"Even though I tried to have you killed?"
"Your mother and I are very hurt, but...I want to forgive you. I can forgive you if you make yourself worthy of being forgiven. I believe you can do that, if you wish. That is why we are sparing you."
Dukov changed the subject slightly.
"I think...we all need to start over...and you need to start over with your husband. Redeem yourself and then go meet him for the first time. He is a weak person, but he loves you and is willing to sacrifice for you. No matter what you do, he will strive to accommodate your desires. You are destined to influence him and the future of the Royal Family. Why not make that influence something from the Creator instead of from the Destroyer?"
Anyia sobbed again, but managed to respond:
"Yes, father...I'll do...what I can...to help my husband. I...what do I have to do?"
The Priestess responded:
"Anyia Dukov, you will come with me. We will walk to the church that is just outside the Royal Residence. We will arrive before daybreak so no one sees you. Tomorrow night we will walk again, and the night after that we will walk yet again. On the third night we will arrive at the Temple of the Ancients. Once we arrive at the main Temple, you will submit to the collar. During the days you will rest, but we will also talk to you, so that you understand what the Creator is asking of you. You will not assume the collar until you are ready, which is the purpose of our journey. During the three days and three nights of travelling, you will prepare yourself for your new life."
Dukov spoke next.
"I will tell your husband where you are and what you are doing. I don't think you should see him until you have completed your journey and assumed the collar."
"Father...will anything happen to him? Please...he didn't do anything...I was the one..."
"You will be held responsible for your own transgressions, but your husband has committed transgressions as well. He will have to come to terms with his actions, just as you will come to terms with yours."
The Priestess and three Priests stood up. Vladik uncuffed his sister and helped her to her feet. She was unsteady after having knelt for such a long period of time. After a short prayer, the four Clergy members led the naked young woman to the door of the Royal Residence. They stripped of their garments, folded them, and handed them to Anyia to carry. The group silently set off into the darkness, walking in single file, to a small church that was about five kilometers away.
As they watched the departing group vanish into the night, Grand Prophet # 4 addressed the Prime Minister:
"Your daughter will be travelling with my Clergy for three days, Prime Minister. I understand that during that time you will be promoting your constitutional changes for the Royal Family?"
"That is correct, Grand Prophet. Three days should be enough. The Grand Duke already assured me that he will accept my proposals. I'll have the legislation passed before Anyia returns to this house."
The Grand Prophet smiled slightly.
"You didn't think it would be this easy, did you Prime Minister?"
"No, Grand Prophet, to be honest, I didn't. I was convinced Anyia would put up more resistance."
"Then maybe you didn't know her as well as you thought, Prime Minister. Did it ever occur to you that, in her conscience, she knew that her soul had been occupied by the Destroyer, and that perhaps she was deeply frightened? That maybe, even as we speak, her spirit is uplifted with joy at having been released?"
"I don't know, Grand Prophet. I don't know what is going on in her head right now. I'm sure she is relieved at being spared a fate of serving the pig, but I don't know how much remorse she really has."
"Remorse...no, Prime Minister...that will come later. But I can tell you that over the next three days she will feel the joy of being liberated from the grip of the Destroyer. I believe... that she must have felt she controlled everything around her, but in reality it was everything around her that controlled your daughter. Now, we have removed all those burdens and the only thing Anyia needs to worry about is herself. She will control nothing, and nothing will control her. That is the understanding she will achieve during her walk."
"Grand Prophet...the thought of my daughter worrying only about herself is nothing new. Throughout her life, the only thing Anyia has ever worried about is herself...she never gave any thought to anyone else...or anything...unless it brought her pleasure"
"Ahhh...but when you say that your daughter only thought about herself, what truly concerned her was the material items in the Realm of the Living she could control. I repeat, she now controls nothing of the material world, and thus the material world has completely released its grip on her. When I say she will worry about herself, what I mean is...really worry about herself...deep down in her soul...I believe that will be a new experience for her."
Dukov did not reply...he found it hard to accept that he did not know his daughter as well as he had thought, that perhaps his negative opinion of her was not justified. Noting his skepticism, the Prophet concluded:
"Three days from now Anyia will stand in front of the Temple of the Ancients and she will perform her first act of service to the people of this nation. Right after her Public Penance begins, she will present herself in front of a camera and speak to the Danubians. Following the advice of my Priestess, the Grand Duchess of the Danubian Republic will tell our people that she is wearing the collar to escape from the control that the material world attempted to place on her. The public will accept that explanation and respect her even more than they do now. Your daughter will be happy and liberated, not subdued and miserable as you anticipate. Most importantly, by presenting herself as an example of austere and honest living, she will assist you in your battle against Mega-Town Associates and everything they stand for. She will become an enemy of consumerism, and in doing so help move this country even further from what your enemies envision for its future."
Dukov contemplated what the Prophet had just told him.
"You will witness illusion as it becomes reality, Prime Minster. Your daughter has been cast down, but now the Creator will lift her up. She will serve our people in ways you never could have imagined."
Anyia followed the four naked Clergy members away from her house, across the Royal Grounds, and finally through the gate that led to the outside world. Her backside was still sore from the punishment her mother had giving her earlier that morning. The welts on her thighs continued to burn. She could feel the aching numbness in her cheek where her father had slapped her. Her legs were tired and her feet hurt from walking barefoot on open ground. Her arms started to ache from carrying the clothing of the Clergy members who were leading her away from her old life and towards a new one. None of that mattered.
In spite of her fear and her physical discomfort, Anyia was increasing happy as her journey progressed. She had never been outside in the country at night before, so everything she was experiencing was totally new to her. Bats chirped over her head and owls hooted in the distance. There were very few lights during that first leg of her trek, so she could see the stars in their full glory. The cool night breeze caressed her bare body. Her life was one of pain and pleasure, and now a life of silence and peace.
For the first time in her life Anyia Dukov felt that she could clear her mind. She no longer controlled what was happening to her, so she could let her spirit relax. For the next three days her Path in Life would to obey whatever the Priestess told her to do. Finally she would arrive at the Temple, take her collar, and start over with her life.
After an hour and a half of peaceful walking, Anyia could see a small church in the distance, the first stop in her three-day journey. She was immensely tired, but very happy. The words spoken to her earlier in the evening repeated themselves in her mind:
"The door has not closed on your life, Anyia Dukov, at least not yet. For a person with a damaged soul, you are extraordinarily lucky. You have a chance to be spared from everything you have done. Very few people with damaged souls have such an opportunity. You do."