Writing prompt #2 – The forgotten

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Writing prompt #2: A neglected god or goddess attempts to reclaim his or her former glory.

Nadzeya paced around her once glorious palace. She paused and looked at one of the columns. The black marble was cracked and the glittering veins of gold now resembled tarnished copper more than the precious metal.

It was all that Frane’s fault. He’d slipped his priests in to her lands and polluted the minds of her followers. They’d turned against her to join the ranks of his flock. Her temples and shrines were destroyed, the clerics that remained loyal slaughtered, and Frane stepped into her place.

As a result she was trapped in her realm. There were no songs, no souls offering her worship – they had been claimed by Frane as well due to the ancient laws governing the gods – and her power had been diminished to the point where she could barely light the lamps.

She went to her seeing pool, one of the few pieces of magic that still worked for her. She waved her hand over the surface and the world below appeared to her hungry eyes. She watched the various lands, her heart breaking as war after war filled her vision.

She was about to end the spell when she heard soft crying. She frowned and focused the pool in on the sound. It was a woman with several daughters standing beside three graves. The woman was in her elder years. She was clinging to one of her oldest daughters, a plain woman with brown hair and green eyes. She was sobbing as much as her mother. Another of the grown daughters was holding an infant and sobbing as well.

The younger children – Nadzeya realized that some of the youngest most likely belonged to the oldest daughters – were crying and yelling at the graves for their fathers to wake up.

“Mother, where are the gods? Why have they abandoned us?” the daughter with the infant asked. “Why didn’t they save them?”

“Frane abandoned us long ago, when Empress Lilibet made human sacrifice against the law. The priests declared war on her for her heresy. I remember the brutal response from the empress to that. She sent the army in and they ruthlessly slaughtered over half of Frane’s priests. He abandoned us and no other god or goddess has come forward to take his place. We’re cursed by his disapproval as far as they’re concerned and they want nothing to do with his ire.”

Nadzeya smiled slowly. She gathered what was left of her power and reached out to the women. Her spectral form appeared to them. Not all the gods are afraid of him, she said. I will serve the citizens of this land, if you will have me.

“Who are you?” the old woman asked.

I am Nadzeya, Goddess of the Shadows, Nadzeya said. Frane is my mortal enemy and I have no fear of challenging him.

“Goddess, will you help me?” the daughter with the infant asked. She held out her child. He was covered in burns. “He is dying and no healer will do anything.”

Nadzeya knew she had to do something to cement her authority among these women, but she wasn’t sure she had enough strength to do a full healing. She took a deep breath and pulled as much power as she could from the land around her. To her surprise, she was filled with a portion of her former strength. It wasn’t enough for her to fully manifest, but she could do the healing.

She stretched her hands out to the infant. Power flowed from her and surrounded the baby. The blisters vanished and the red bled away from his skin. The child, who’d been whimpering the entire time, fell silent and relaxed. He opened his eyes and smiled at the goddess before closing them again and falling into a peaceful sleep.

He needs rest, but he is healthy again, Nadzeya said with a gentle smile. A hint of excitement filled her. Could this be the start? Would any of these women be her first clerics?

Three of the older girls moved forward and knelt before her. “Goddess, we ask that you accept us into your service,” they said in unison. “We will serve you for the rest of our days and spread your word and deeds to the rest of our community and beyond, if necessary. Your name shall be spoken by every lip in our land and you will be revered by all.”

Nadzeya’s strength increased slightly, giving her enough energy to solidify a little more. It wasn’t enough to bring her full body to the human world, but now she could touch them. She put her hands on each of their heads. When she did, their homespun clothing turned into the gold and white robes of her clerics.

Go forth and spread the word of my gospel, my daughters, she said. I will do what I can to help this land, but I need hands here to aid me. The more you can turn to my service and the more who will join your ranks the more power we can bring against the enemies of your ruler and Frane if he should return.

“It shall be as you say, my Goddess,” all three of the young women said, rising to their feet. They hugged their mother and sisters before heading towards a small house.

Nadzeya figured they were gathering supplies for the first leg of their journey. She smiled at the elderly woman. I will watch and guard your daughters, good woman. I will protect them as much as I am able. I will help them find those to serve as their bodyguards so those who would seek to do them harm find themselves stopped and left to face justice.

“Thank you my Goddess,” the elderly woman said, bowing. “You have given us hope when we thought there was none less in this world. We never thought that was possible.”

Nadzeya felt the tug on her soul, meaning she needed to return to her world. You will see me again, my children. She returned to her world, tired but exhilarated. She looked around her palace. The gold seemed to be shining a little mo re and some of the cracks were smaller. A new land, new clerics, and a new chance at regaining her former glory. She laughed. Frane wouldn’t know what hit him.

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A statue speaks

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Photo via Visualhunt.com

Sila knelt before the altar, hands clasped at her chest. Her eyes were closed as she sent her silent plea to her goddess. Mother of All Nations, please hear my prayer. Do not let my father give me in marriage to Tam. It would be bondage, not marriage.

Tam was a wealthy merchant that had a lot of influence in her village. He came through twice a year, bringing with him news of the world and many beautiful things that most couldn’t buy. He’d taken an interest in the pale blond girl who now begged her goddess for protection two years earlier. Her father had put him off for those two years because she wasn’t of marriageable age. Now that she was, Tam was pressing his suit hard.

Minali, Sila’s older sister – who was as of yet unmarried herself – entered the temple. “Sila, father is looking for you. Tam is with him.” Sila burst into tears. Minali came and knelt beside her. “I know you don’t want to marry him, but it might not be as bad as you think.”

“Yes it will be. He’s said as much. I am to stand there and look pretty while he sells his wares in order to entice his customers. I might be called on to perform other duties when male customers express an interest. You know what that means,” Sila said.

Minali sighed. “Yes, and so does father. But I have a feeling Tam is offering a large sum of money for you. You know how much we need the silver.”

A moment later her mother appeared. “Sila, your father is calling for you. Why are you here? You should be home, attending to your duty to your family.”

“I’d rather die,” Sila said fiercely through her tears.

Her mother took a step back. “What do you mean by that?”

“Father is going to give me to Tam, isn’t he?” Sila asked.

“His suit has been accepted,” her mother said.

“I’ll be used as an object to get people to buy his wares, sold to men to be raped whenever he feels like giving me to them, and who knows what else,” Sila said. “Father would force me into that kind of slavery?”

“You’re overreacting, Sila. Such duties are far from onerous, and think of the pleasure you could get from the men you lie with,” her mother said.

“It will be rape. I will be forced into being a whore, just so Tam can make a profit,” Sila said.

“This is forbidden,” a soft voice said. All three women looked up. An aging priestess stood near the altar. “No woman is to be sent into a marriage where it is known she will be forced into a degrading position, and forced prostitution is one such thing.”

“You stay out of it,” her mother snapped. “The temple has done nothing for my family except try to steal my daughters at every turn.”

Two more priestesses appeared. These were younger women, and both were armed. “You heard Mother Helena,” one of them said. “If she wishes, we will protect her from this atrocity.”

Sila thought for a moment. “I do want to be protected. I won’t marry Tam. I won’t be forced into slavery just because my father wants the money Tam offers.”

Mother Helena nodded. “Then step forward, my child.”

“I too claim this protection,” Minali said. “For if Sila is out of his reach, he’ll try to take me instead.”

“Then you as well may enter,” Mother Helena said, smiling at both young women.

“I forbid it.” Sila’s father strode in, Tam hot on his heels. “My daughters are required by law to submit to my will, and you cannot interfere.”

“There are provisions in the laws to protect them from violation, and what the man you have selected offers is nothing less than that,” Mother Helena said. Three more armed priestesses appeared. “Step back or face the wrath of the goddess.”

“Your goddess has no power over me,” Tam said, smirking. “My god is far more powerful than her feeble attempts at interfering in my life.”

“Do you truly believe so?” Mother Helena asked. She gestured with one age spotted hand. “Behold the power of the Mother of All Nations.”

The statue behind the altar shifted, as if it were a flesh and blood. The seated female rose to her feet, towering over them all. You dare claim I have no power? Here, of all places? You are a small man of even lesser status. Leave my daughters alone, or face my wrath.

“What can you do? My god protects me,” Tam said.

And who is your god?

“The God of the Night,” Tam said.

The statue laughed, a sound like stone grating on stone mixed with music. He is weak here. These are not his lands. You are at my mercy. Leave. Now.

Tam scowled. “I’ll be back for Sila.” He stormed out.

No, you won’t, the goddess said softly. You are cursed. Your business will fail.  Your luck is gone. You will lose your fortune. You will die a pauper and your god will not be able to save you. She turned her attention to Sila’s parents. You too shall face my wrath.

“Forgive us,” Sila’s father said, his voice shaking.

No. You do not deserve that forgiveness. The statue fell silent, staring down at them with white marble eyes. You will never enter my realm. I cast you into eternal darkness. You shall wail with the wraiths who have defied me, always knowing your crime and never being able to atone for it. The statue returned to its place and once again became still.

“Leave now or we will remove you,” one of the armed priestesses said.

Mother Helena held out her hands to Sila and Minali. “Come forward, my daughters, and embrace the love of the goddess.” Sila and Minali walked towards the priestess while their parents fled the temple sobbing.

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