This Vow I Make
The sun was sinking in the western sky as Nuray clasped her daughter’s hand tightly and walked through the deserted city back to the temple of Artemis; its third rebuilding had left the temple adorned royally in gold and silver detail work. The columns supporting the temple towered above Nuray as she quietly slipped back into the temple.
The high priestess’s footsteps echoed along the seemingly endless dark hallway lined with rooms; the hall led to the interior of the temple. Simay’s pattering feet followed her mother as quickly as she could manage. On the way, Nuray stopped briefly at one particular door. She stared at it for a moment, then gazed at her daughter, remembering one particular day six years ago that the worshipers had come to venerate Diana. She quickly shook the memory from her mind and continued walking. It took another full minute and a half to reach the main room of the temple.
“Simay, stay here.” Nuray instructed before she walked straight up to the altar, displayed prominently on a dais at the front of the cavernous room. The priestess looked around the sacred site, searching for something in particular. There it was, on a shelf on the wall behind the altar. Nuray carefully picked up the small artifact and tucked it into a pocket in her long red robes.
Nuray’s face turned ashen as the sound of a creaking door met her ears. She ran back to her precious daughter, picked up the little girl and fled back across the dark expanse of black marble floor and through a door beside the altar.
Three temple eunuchs shuffled through the same door Nuray and Simay had first come through. One man chanced to look toward the door on the opposite side of the room and caught a glimpse of crimson fabric disappearing through the dark doorway. He pointed at the flash of red and let out a yell. Just then another of the three men noticed the absence of one of the statues on the far wall and let out an exclamation of his own.
Two of the men went in hot pursuit of whoever had stolen one of their precious sacred statues. The third ran all out to the amphitheater to get the rest of Diana’s cadre.
Nuray heard the shouts and pounding footsteps closing in behind her.
“A place to hide!” the thought raced through her as the beating of her heart pounded in her ears. “Great Artemis Diana, give me a place to hide!”
Nuray shot out through the back door of the great temple into the merciful twilight of the day. The adrenaline coursing through her blood spurred her on faster than she had ever run in her life. If she were caught, the punishment would be her and Simay’s lives. The only thing she loved as much as her goddess was her dear little moon beam Simay. She would not lose her little girl!
The sycamore grove planted behind the temple gave her some protection from the eyes of her two pursuers, but not enough cover to completely hide her from their searching eyes. She took no heed to the grass and branches that blocked her way and forged on through the underbrush into the thickening night.
She ran until her lungs were about to burst from the exertion. A second later Nuray came face-to-face with a wall of rock. The small malformed mountain had come out of nowhere. Hoping for refuge, Nuray felt along the wall with her battered, shoeless foot. Terror surged through her at the sound of many running feet and voices coming towards her; the fear gave her strength to go on.
She felt along the wall for half a mile, the sounds of her pursuers inching ever closer. The night was black now – not even the moon shone tonight. Only the light of the mob’s torches lit the way.
Nuray’s foot hit an opening in the rock and she lurched to the left, banging her head against the hard rock. She set Simay down; her arms felt like limp bread as she shoved the girl through the small hole and into a dark passageway.
Simay did not know why her mother was so frightened, or why everyone was following them, but she obeyed her mother and crawled through the darkness until she met another wall. A small carved out cavern in the rock allowed her to turn around and stretch out on her side.
Nuray followed her daughter into the black void. A spider crawled across her face, but she refused to cry out. Dirt, tears, and blood coated the side of her face where she had connected with the rock. The priestess and her daughter were deathly silent as they waited for the mob to either pass by their small refuge or discover and kill them.
Another small fear sprang into Nuray’s mind and she frantically felt inside her robe. She silently let out her breath in relief when she felt the statue she had taken from the temple.
A hundred dirty, sandaled feet flew past the opening of the hollow. Loud voices shouted obscenities and curses on the thief they were chasing; little did they know that it was their own high priestess whom they pursued.
When the mad mob had been gone for over half an hour Nuray risked sliding the statue from her robe to examine it. She had to settle for checking it with her fingers since she had no light to see it. The small ears and muzzle were still perfect; the four legs and tiny tail were unscathed. Nuray held the statue out in front of her and began praying to her goddess.
“Oh great Diana, I thank you for saving me and my little Simay. I ask that you preserve my bloodline; give me descendants to carry on my mission – to perpetuate your worship and your ways. This vow I make: if you will do this thing for me, one chosen daughter, marked by red or auburn hair, from every generation will serve you as high priestess. She will garner worshipers to you, my goddess. She will be yours.” The little statue began to heat up in her hands. She had to drop it or else sear the flesh on her palms.
“I will do as you ask.” The statue’s eyes glowed red as a strange deep female voice emanated from it.
Simay screamed in fright at the disembodied voice, but her mother paid no heed to her fear. In the light of the glowing eyes, the little girl finally saw what her mother had taken from the temple of Diana. Her head was still spinning from the chase, but Simay could make out the outline of a bulbous, four-legged, furry creature.
Nuray looked into the glowing eyes and vowed in her heart to remain true to her goddess.
Off in the distance, Simay heard the screams of men intermingled with the unmistakable roar of an enraged she-bear.