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Aetilas

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Fantasy Realm


After thinking long and hard, I decided to change this story. This was originally written to help my husband create a world for our D&D campaign, and I decided to take the story back to its
roots.



As of now, this chapter is backstory for my character, Tearsea. The original chapters that followed have been taken down, and the story will progress in a different direction.

Chapter 1 (v.1) - A Sleeping Goddess

Submitted: March 09, 2018

Reads: 680

Comments: 6

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Submitted: March 09, 2018

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The girl entered the chapel, the quiet hush of the reverent worshipers filling the silence. Whispered prayers drifted through the air, none quite forming into words the girl could understand. She moved silently, intent on her duties, but also determined to be as unobtrusive a presence as possible. The chapel was open at all hours of the day and night, but it still needed to be cleaned.

She moved silently down the side aisle, past the rows upon rows of nearly empty pews, stopping to dust the alcoves containing pedestals and statues of saints and important members of the Temple. She passed one in front of which a man prostrated himself on the floor, deep in prayer. She stepped carefully around him, making a mental note to return and make sure this alcove was dusted later.

She approached the front of the chapel, stepping up and running her feather duster along the railing that stretched the width of the chapel. The entire chapel sloped downward to this point, and then ascended a step to the chancel – the tier that held the main altar. The girl worked her way to the far side of the large room, then dusted around the perimeter of the chancel. Once finished, she stepped closer to the main altar.

The other acolytes assigned this duty had always shirked. The Holy Sculpture that comprised the main altar was extremely detailed, down to the individual eyelashes. To properly dust this holy artifact takes longer than the all of the other statues combined. Thus, the other girls skimmed over the top and ignored the crevices.

The girl sighed at the accumulated dust that covered this divine depiction, and pulled the horsehair detailing brushes from the pouch hanging at her belt. They were her own possessions, purchased with her meagre allowance. Unfortunately, she was only assigned to dusting twice a month, so the dust built up in between her visits. She bent to her work, brushing the entire length of the prone figure stretched out before her lightly with the feather duster before tucking it into her belt and getting to work with her smaller brushes.

The girl’s thoughts began to wander as she worked, no matter how hard she tried to maintain a properly reverent demeanor. It was very late, and she was extremely tired. After waking early and spending an entire day on chores, errands, and study, she was more than ready for her bed. She had even led a class of new acolytes today, walking them through this very chapel and telling them the story of how the Sun Goddess and the Moon God had come to save their people, ruled for thousands of years, and then suddenly ascended back to the Celestial Paradise whence they’d come. She pictured the faces of the younger girls, gathered around this very altar, as she related the tale.

She idly thought about what the life of the Goddess must have been like. It was said that She and her Husband had ruled with a firm, kind, patience. They lived together as humans while they ruled the world in turn, pulling the various nations out of the wars they had constantly been waging, and bringing a new age of enlightenment to everyone. Colleges had been founded which anyone, regardless of their station or financial situation, could attend freely. Creativity had been encouraged, and a wave of new medicines, contraptions, and artwork had swept across the world.

The Sun Goddess had ruled from Spring through Summer while the God rested, sleeping throughout the day. They’d spend their nights together, the Goddess not requiring sleep in the warmer months. During the Autumn and Winter, however, the Goddess’s power waned, while the power of the God waxed. She slept throughout the winter days, and the God ruled until Spring.

Twin temples had been erected in their honor. Stone of pale yellow hue had been carefully quarried for the Stella Temple, and depictions of the sun graced the walls. Pure white marble comprised the Luna Temple, symbolic symbols of the moon’s phases decorated the columns. These temples had been reproduced – sometimes on a much smaller scale – throughout the land. There had been a time when entry into the clergy of the Goddess had been restricted to women. Conversely, only men had been allowed to lead the people in worship of their God. Things had changed though, and now both genders were allowed to choose which temple to serve.

In honor of the dual nature of the God and Goddess, the temples took it in turn to take charge during the corresponding months. During Spring and Summer, the priests and priestesses of the Sun Goddess ruled the nation, led the services in their temples, and interacted freely with the people. Those dedicated to the Luna God used this time to pray, meditate, and otherwise quietly serve the populace, sometimes caring for the poor, or nurturing the sick and elderly. Some even took vows of silence. Once Autumn came around, the Luna Temple would take charge, and the seat of government would be shifted across the plaza to the white temple of the Moon God.

The girl was glad that it was mid-summer. She loathed the months of quiet introspection, much preferring to be active, learning, doing.

When the Goddess and the God had ascended into Heaven, they had left their human forms behind, these bodies immediately turning into stone. These Holy Remnants had been lost, but not before being reproduced by many artists over the years and ensconced into the Temples dotted across the nations. She ran her brush gently across the sleeping face of the statue, tapping excess dust off against the base of the bier before going over the eyes and nostrils a second time. At first she had been wary of being this detailed, afraid that she would break off the tips of some of the long, impossibly thin, exquisitely carved eyelashes that lay upon the upper cheeks and curved slightly outward. Over time she had lost this fear. Whatever material the statue was composed of was extremely durable.

She straightened, picking up the feather duster again and brushing loose dust away from the stone pillow beneath the Goddess’s head. Moving to the left, the girl took a slightly larger brush and began stroking it along the length of the tresses spread out behind the head and over the shoulder to rest under the chin. The crevices sometimes stretched up and under the locks of hair, and the girl had to bend sharply to angle the brushes just right. It wouldn’t do for spiders to take up residence in the Goddess’s hair!

After some time, the girl stood, stretching out with her hands at the small of her back, before looking guiltily up. Most of the late night worshippers had left, but one or two were still there. They were paying her no mind though, apparently accustomed to the cleaning acolytes. She bent back to her work, cheeks heating at her lapse of proper dignity.

The girl moved again, running a brush along the tangle of bracelets carved on the right arm. The statue was purported to replicate the exact positioning of the Holy Remnant left behind after the Goddess had ascended back to Heaven, shortly after disappearance of her Consort. Thus, it had been carved to represent a sleeping woman, laying partly on her side, one arm curled up in front of her face, the other tucked under the pillow. One leg bent slightly in front of the body, the other stretched out straight. Lovely, but there were many small imperfections.

The other acolytes complained to each other, stating that for the Temple located in the Capitol, they had a pretty shoddy altar. Those who had come from other districts would state that the Holy Sculptures in their home temples were more lovely, more perfect, the lines and curves of the sleeping form more accurately representing the perfection that the Goddess must have displayed while in human form.

This Holy Sculpture showed a wrinkle between the eyebrows, as if the Goddess had lain deep in worry when She fell asleep. The eyebrows themselves were uneven, one slightly cocked. A lock of hair trailed across Her mouth, and the smallest finger of the right hand was spread much farther away from the others than the rest. The gown the Goddess wore was hiked up at the leg, twisted slightly as if the Goddess had turned in Her sleep. It was uneven, asymmetrical.

The girl frowned as she dusted across the fingers, running the brush up and under their curved arches. She had always thought that the slight imperfections were more true to the nature of the human body. If anything, the tiny inconsistencies made the Holy Sculpture even more perfect, even more beautiful, than any other artist’s rendition. She’d seen several supposedly ‘perfect’ altars in her long journey to Fiore’s main Temple. This one was by far the most exquisite.

She thought idly about the Holy Sculpture of the God. She’d briefly visited the God’s Temple across the plaza when she joined the clergy, and attended winter services while her own temple was closed. Even so, she had never approached the altar closely. The God and Goddess had Ascended during the cooler months – His Holy Sculpture depicted the God half bent over a table, pen in hand. He had Ascended whilst in the presence of his attendants. They had witnessed his sudden, abstract expression, before he suddenly turned to stone.

She bent again to her work, a small smile gracing her lips as she envisioned that maybe, just maybe, the Holy Sculpture that she so carefully tended to was not a sculpture, but in fact, the actual Holy Remnant of the Goddess Herself. This was an old daydream, but a comfortable one that the girl returned to frequently. The girl pulled the feather duster out once more, dusting the bed around the hand, before moving her brush over the fingers again -

They were spaced evenly. The smallest finger was drawn in equidistant from the others. It had been spread further before. The girl stepped back suddenly, staring at the Holy Sculpture. She hadn’t really looked closely as she went about her duties tonight, fatigue dulling her mind. She had simply brushed away dust and moved on, searching out stray specks, not paying attention to the statue itself. But she had stared at the details of this Holy Sculpture many times in the past, and knew the lines and contours by heart.

It had changed. The crease between the brows wasn’t gone, but it was less defined. The small lock of hair draped almost perfectly across the lips was now mostly above the lips, brushing against the nose. The changes were small, tiny, almost unnoticeable. But to someone who had lovingly brushed clean every detail of that face for years, the differences were blatant.

The girl stared, frozen, eyes tracking back and forth across the Holy Sculpture for any confirmation that she wasn’t losing her mind. She stared for a full minute before her eyes suddenly snapped back to the face. The mouth. The lips were parted. Very slightly, but still, parted. The girl slowly bent, moving her face closer, closer, until she could see clearly between the full lips.

Teeth, clearly defined, peeked out where there had once been nothing but the seam between the upper and lower lips. The girl slowly looked up, gaze travelling across the Goddess’s face to the eyes.

The lashes that the girl had been admiring earlier as they lay upon the cheeks of the Goddess, only the tips poking up, were fully separated from the stone of the cheek, standing out fully as the eyelids appeared to be open very, very slightly.

~~

Tearsea’s eyes flew open and she jerked in a gasping breath. It was the dream again, of course it was. She’d started dreaming of the girl dusting ever since she was assigned to The First Temple of Her Shining Rays as a member of the Arbitorate.

She sat up in her narrow bed and glanced out the window, brushing her long brown hair from her face. Still full dark, no way to tell the time. Yet Tearsea felt rested, and supposed that it had to be close to dawn. She threw the covers back and stood, rubbing her hands briskly over her face. She had a long walk ahead of her this morning, an early start sounded like a wonderful idea.



© Copyright 2019 C. J. Davis. All rights reserved.

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