Chapter 5: Time Between Time
Time. I might have felt it slipping away if I paid attention to it. Why would I pay attention to it though? I was confined within the small complex. Even the horses were allowed out, and I was held within my prison; falling into the routine of exercise. I trained, I trained others, and I trained horses. Day in and day out, the days wore on, the routine ingrained, the thought of freedom slowly escaping from my prison.
I moved like a wraith down old worn walkways and the other women even forgot to fear me. They did not try to interact with me, but easily forgot the power that walked in their midst.
I was like a legend of the past that was already forgotten before it was even told. I was routine, and once routine, I did not exist.
But my once sharp mind fell into decay, and like the old worn path I walked, my mind fell into the rut, and I forgot to think. I lived life by the day, able to sense everything in my direct surroundings, but acting more than thinking. I forgot the city around me that was falling into the same decay my mind was in; the rut of following one action, and not thinking new thoughts.
I stopped keeping track of the time that passed, and let the world run away without me. I stopped noticing the white washed wooden plank buildings with their plain black slate roofs. Just like the rest of the city with its unpainted building and wooden tiled roves, the fancy buildings of the priestess’s complex were plain and forgettable to me now.
Things I used to notice, like the cobble stones under the dirt, faded away to simply walking along the path, my mind lost in some other time.
At night, I went to my cold bedroom that was fit for my icy heart, and amidst the absolute blackness of my room, I fell asleep in a stupor, and amidst the same absolute blackness I awoke.
“Dyrana?” I jumped up, a knife in hand. My reactions were slow and lethargic compared to how they used to be. Previously, I would have been up and ready to fight before a person stepped in my room,, but someone was here, by my door. They had my door open to the new light of day.
“What?” I cleared my throat shocked by how much my little used voice grated on my vocal chords. I tried again, and the voice that came out was closer to my old clear voice, “What are you thinking, entering my room! I could kill you girl. I could kill you in a single second, and almost did.”
The girl didn’t know that I was still asleep when she walked in. I felt like I was fully awake again, and I realized how much I had slept within my own mind.
The thin light filtering through the door showed a priestess slightly younger than me. They left so young, and she obviously had come back young. Or maybe, I was getting older. How long had I been here?
“I… I was umm, I was sent to, umm, to wake you. Today is, umm, today is the umm, today is the day when the umm, when the goddesses leave their, umm, hosts.” I was already tired of the girl’s stuttering mumble filled talk.
“Go away. I will be there.” I waved my hand at the young priestess, and the door closed and locked with the priestess locked outside.
Today the experiment would end. Today, I might find myself the head of the dark priestesses. Today…
I shook my head to clear the thoughts away. It wasn’t something I normally did, but today was a strange day, and I needed my mind clear and focused, not retrospective.
I focused on my task at hand, which happened to be pulling the old black ceremonial dress from my closest. I used menial labor to put it on, but used my energy power to pull it tight and fasten it. I pulled out the tight bun my hair was always pulled into, and brushed out the black lengths that went to my shoulder blades.
The hardest part though was the black designs of war that I had to line my face with. The thick kohl that women used as makeup in the city was my medium. I placed thick black kohl around my eyes, and then I set the kohl down and focused my mind on the kohl, and then on the slow winding mazes filled with traps that were the designs of the lady. I closed my eyes, and allowed my power to slowly apply the kohl to my face.
Eventually the power stopped, and I opened my eyes to my face that was covered in the black designs. My black hair sparked with the energy that had just finished coursing through my body. Overall, I looked sufficiently dark and unapproachable, hopefully enough to dissuade any busy bodies that were at this ceremony.
I grabbed my sword belt on the way out the door; quickly strapping the belt around my waist and grabbing the pommel of the sword for a second for comfort. Then I was out into the hallway, and slowly proceeding down the worn tracks to the front of the complex with the other priestesses.
Doors opened onto the hallway, and more priestesses joined the solemn procession. The track moved out of the open air hallway, and into an alley way that led between two of the shrines that were dedicated to lesser goddesses of light. We came into the courtyard and filled in the area around the sacred dais. I went to the very end of the line to serve my respective dark goddess while others filled in other areas. I noticed that the only priestesses not there were the white ladies.
I sensed them coming, and looked toward the temple of the Lady of Light, and sure enough the women that served as her priestess were proceeding down to the ground around the raised dais. Each of the women glowed in their white finery and the forgetful innocence that was held by their faces. I saw Kyra among them, but then she vanished again as she blended in perfectly among the blonde pale women that always served the first lady.
It always struck me as slightly funny that the pure lady of light chose only blonde pale women, and the dark lady chose black haired women with skin that ranged from light olive colored like mine to dark as midnight.
Carasa stood on the dais, held up by the dark lady’s will, her own mind asleep. I longed to reach out with my mind to the lady, but I knew it would make this parting all the more painful. Carasa was perfect as a host for the dark Lady. Her midnight colored skin and short glossy black hair seemed the perfect strength against the washed out girl in white.
I felt a twinge of jealousy that she should look more the part of the dark lady than I, but I forced this down with the knowledge that I was the stronger one, and I was actually a part of the Lady.
This ceremony was less popular with most of the population than the ceremony that brought the goddess down to the Earth.
The faceless mob of white women stood ready to welcome a new mindless priestess. I watched with contempt their preparation. The woman I welcomed would be whole of the mind, but drained of love. Their woman would not need much training, but the girl I welcomed would be confused and lost as to what had happened to her, and why she couldn’t feel love anymore.
The ceremony began, and the lady lifted up the hands of her host, and left. It was a shock again for me, a feeling of something ripping at my inner self, and then he was gone, and the feeling of something at the edge of my mind was gone. I almost didn’t grab Carasa as she fell, but I was quick and grabbed her at the last second, glaring at the priestess next to me who was about to intercede.
“She is mine. You would not understand,” I hissed.
The girl backed down, fear showing in her pathetic face, “My lady, I did not mean to anger you. I just thought you weren’t going to catch her.”
“Never doubt me.” I lifted up the new priestess of the dark lady that I had just caught, and carried her toward the dark temple, no doubt what the white women were doing with their own new priestess, except I didn’t need any help from the weaklings around me.
Unlike when I was left for the first time, this girl would take a while to come around. I placed her on the floor of the temple, and the I blew out the few candles at the entrance of the temple for complete darkness, and shut the single temple door. The temple was already a naturally dark place, but now it was filled with absence of light, and even sound did not seem to enter into the temples thick walls.
My eyes welcomed the complete darkness, and I kneeled at the feet of the girl, willing her to wake. “Where am I?” Her whisper sounded harsh and loud in the confines of the building.
“Welcome priestess of the dark lady to the temple which you serve.” I smiled as I watched her taking in her surroundings. Just like me, she would be at home within the dark.
“Last I remember was the ceremony…” she sounded so unsure. So young. Did she realize yet what she was missing and what she had gained?
“The lady put your mind to sleep so that you might live afterward and remember your previous life. She wants her priestesses to live for more than a few months. The lady has left you now, and you have entered into training as a priestess of the dark lady. Today is for reacquainting you with the world, tomorrow we will start your training.”
“Come. We must face the light of the outside world, but remember this darkness; for it reflects the inner darkness you carry within you now. Whenever the light seems too bright, you can retreat to the darkness.” I watched for a second as her mind remembered using muscles and she slowly lifted herself up, and then I turned away and went to the door. The heavy door unlatched with a clang and opened up to the sunny courtyard.
Light flooded the temple and pushed its way into the sacred darkness. Just like the inner darkness of our hearts, there were places in the temple that always remained dark, and that the light couldn’t touch.
Looking back, I saw her blink in shock at the light. Eventually, her eyes adjusted and she made her way to the door and looked out upon the slowly emptying courtyard.
One lady saw her, and cheered. She turned her head to the side, ashamed, and whispered to me, “Please, can we leave quickly? I…” With a strengthening breath she finished, “I don’t want to face my mother.”
I nodded in understanding and grabbed her hand, quickly pulling her out of the temple and into the alley that lead to the priestess’s rooms. The room next to mine was already cleared out for her, and so I lead her there.
“This is your sanctuary. Sometimes people will invade it, but most of the time it is left alone. Go ahead and change out of you ceremonial dress, and put on the Dark Lady’s armor.”
She looked away from me chagrined, “I don’t know how to put on the Lady’s armor. I’ve only learned normal mercenary armor.”
Internally I sighed, “Go into your room, and wait for me. I will come and help you after I am finished changing myself.”
I left her at her room, and went into my own room. I took off the fancy dress as quickly as I could and hung it up. Then, I went to the stand with a pitcher of water, a bowl, and a cloth on it, and washed my face. Normally I bathed at the public bathing area, but after formal occasions, it was always handy to have the wash stand with which to wash my face off. Just like every other person, I had to work to keep my face clean.
After I finished cleaning up, I quickly changed into the black warrior garb I was more accustomed to wearing, donned my armor, and went to my charge’s room.
“Carasa, may I come in?” I politely knocked lightly on the door.
“Umm, yeah.” I wrinkled my nose slightly at her phrasing, reminding myself that though she’s hosted the lady, she wouldn’t remember that time. I would probably have to teach her manners as well.
I entered her room, and proceeded to teach her about how to put on the Lady’s dark armor. Then I started into what her job as a priestess was, and how long she was required to remain at the complex. It was dark by the time I finished, and we both went for our baths and dinner. Tomorrow would be an interesting day.