Child of the Laurel
Laura sat in the God's Field staring at her village. She had seen what had happened; she still couldn't believe it. For time longer than the village's written memory her people had been unwaveringly faithful, and in the end it meant nothing. The gods who had granted her people millennia of unbroken peace and prosperity had abandoned them.
"How have we angered you!?" she beseeched them, with tear stained cheeks, as she had done each of the days before. "Never a sacrifice did we miss, no holidays were dismissed, no God forgotten. The greatest crime against you was a few heretics who dared to insult you, and they were always punished forthwith. Why did you turn from your faithful? How have we wronged you? What was our crime?"
Silently, she stood, weeping while staring at her home, waiting for an answer. Any answer. Once again with no answer to her pleas she turned toward the small lean-to that served as her home, and entered. She began to prepare for her final night in the small structure, knowing that if the gods ignored her again tonight she would leave in the morning. The thought pained her almost as much as seeing her life long home and loved ones burnt to the ground had. Laura had no desire to leave, destroyed or not the village was still her home, and this lean-to as well as the temple beside it gave her the comfort of familiarity. As nice as it would be to remain here she knew tomorrow would be the last day that the food which survived the pillagers would last; familiarity did little to feed the hungry.
Finishing her pre-bed preparations; which were no more than changing clothes and caring for personal cleanliness since she decided to shun the ancient rituals until the Gods answered her; Laura found herself unwilling to lie down and sleep. No matter how hard she tried to make herself lay down her body refused to cooperate until finally she gave up in frustration and left the shelter for the sanctuary of the temple.
Entering The God's Temple now was a strange experience to the young girl. Every time she had entered the building before the village's destruction a feeling of calm and tranquility had washed over her, erasing all problems. When she would leave the temple the troubles would return to her, yet somehow feel lighter, as if The Gods had chosen to keep a part of them. Now, she felt nothing except the presence of the gods. The peacefulness that should have granted was absent, she knew The Gods were telling her they still resided there but had no concern for her, the last of the true-faithful.
When she reached the prayer altar her body did not stop, it carried her to the wall beyond acting on a will of its own. Before any panic could rise from the realization she had lost control of herself a feeling of comfort enveloped her. The feeling was not the same as when the gods gave her peace, it was more like the feeling from when she was younger and her mother held her after a bad dream. She stood relishing the familiar sensation of childhood comfort as the wall began to fade. She knew alarm should have coursed through her as concrete bricks dissipated into thin air while the invisible arms of comfort grasped her more tightly. She would have sworn she felt someone patting her head, stroking her hair back to reassure her, almost like her mother used to. The wall finally faded to nothing, a new altar standing alone was all to take its place.
Her body waited motionlessly where the wall once stood; a few steps forward and she would be at the altar, farther the other way the door and escape from this bizarreness. It seemed her body was again waiting for her to command it; the force that controlled it and comforted her seconds ago having dissipated.
'No, it didn't go anywhere, did it? It is at the altar waiting, waiting for me to decide' she thought. She knew without being told what the questions were: Would she flee to what she knew a place where The Gods waited to re-embrace her? The Gods would help her now; how she knew she wasn't sure. Knowing this she couldn't help but wonder
'How long till they abandoned me again? Would they? How can I know?' All she knew was they had, and could do so again. Would she accept help from an unknown entity instead, and turn from her village's protectors of one-thousand-millennia? The unknown entity had done nothing to deserve her trust then again it had done nothing to betray it either. Both choices were bleak in her mind, but the latter had not proven itself unworthy, which for now was enough.
She would take the gamble. The unknown risk seemed better than the known fear did to her. Steadily, cautiously she took the steps to the altar. As her foot hit the ground the creature's presence sprung from the altar, embracing her. It felt to her as though the unseen creature was hugging her again; not to comfort as before, this time as a thanks, as confirmation that she really had chosen it over her gods.
"My name is Laura," she spoke to the entity with a calmness that surprised herself, uncertain what else to say.
"Laura. Thank you. Thank you, for coming to me. There are many answers you want; I can only tell what is asked."
With more confidence than she felt she asked, "What are you?"
"I am a being older than the gods, only Father Time and Mother Nature proceed me. I am the last of my kind. My kind had no use for names for ourselves, call me what you desire."
Something in the creature's voice held a note or regality to her, making her feel it would not be appropriate for her to give the entity its name so she asked her next question, "How long have you been here?"
"Before the gods came, not before they were known of," it answered with a voice that seemed to resonate through the entire temple.
"Why have you reached out to me?"
"It was not you I reached for, I have cried to the world for help. You were the one to answer."
"Help? I know not what you are, but the gods stay from you," she said noting for the first time that where the wall that disappeared had stood the Gods' presence stayed, seeming unwilling to enter this nameless-entity's presence, though she could feel their presence pushing as if they wanted to reach her; to pull her back.
"Surely there is nothing a mortal can do to help you," she said hesitantly.
Silence was all that met her comment, the only noise being the questions that echoed in her head. One questioned continued to rise above the rest, yet she did not ask it. To ask the question she knew would start her on a path she could not see. As long as she did not ask she could go back, the gods would take her, protect her.
For a time.
She didn't know how she knew, only that she did know the unasked question was a choice which would take her back to world she knew, or push her into one she was sure none in her village had dreamed of.
'How do I know things which have not been spoken of?' she asked herself.
"You answered me, you are now one of prophesy. You know all things that you need to start your journey, that what you need to continue and end it you must learn on your own in time. For where your journey goes and where it ends is where you will take it."
"You will walk the journey's path knowingly, or you will not. One way you will find the answer, the other... ," the voice answered, the unfinished statement hanging in the air.
When the creature finished speaking Laura finally noticed the full nature of its voice. It had a tone that made it both man and woman, old yet young, familiar while strange. She knew, as with things before, that the voice had no absolute even though it had not told her. She also knew that now she had to ask the choice-question; the one that would set her to the walk the journey's path as the entity said; the question that is left unspoken which would send her back to her gods. Bracing herself, she began to ask the choice-question; endless thoughts of where such a simple question would lead infesting her mind.
"Where do I go from here?"
"You know where to go; you know all things that you need to start your journey. All I can do for now is what I have done, open the path to you. The rest is to you, Child, but I can give you gifts, to ease your journey. The first gift is clothes that will mend themselves given time. They have other magick in them which you must find on your own. The other, a dagger set, each with their own magick; one being that whomever wields it knows how, be warned that this is no substitute for practice. The other's magick you must discover on your own as well, and pray that you never need to."
As the nameless-entity finished speaking Laura opened her eyes to see the pale white wall of the lean-to and morning sun greeting her once again. She would have thought it all a dream, if not for the new woodland green tunic and breeches she wore, or the two daggers which lay nestled beside her. If not for the soft words spoken on the wind...
"Remember your journey must begin as it begins, and end where you take it."
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