SECOND DREAM: PURITY
CHAPTER 6: Move Higher
It was a moonless night.
They stole across the field silently, approaching the Shrine in silence. The shrine was in the middle of a large field, overgrown with weeds. It was easy to sneak through, even though the shrine was on forbidden property. The problem, like most other thievery gambles, was in getting out. In this particular part of the world, the owners tended to rely more on unconventional methods of protecting the treasure within the shrine. This included making it easy for people to get in but not get out. If you knew where to look, the bones of the trespassers before this littered the field. They were mainly hidden though, but there had been many rumours that the dead bodies had been used in an unholy way to keep the treasure safe.
That was one of the reasons for this night’s attempt, minus the treasure. It also served the purpose of evaluating the latest recruits. They could not afford to have anyone who would hesitate, and if they had to, they would leave people behind to complete the mission. Even at the cost of their soul, although that rarely, if ever, happened. The girls from this batch was far more jittery than the ones before, and she sighed as they moved towards the shrine, listening and watching their moves carefully. The youngest was sixteen and the oldest nineteen, all much older than the normal age for their first mission. She wondered just how did they manage to slip by the testers and got this mission. It was rather unusual, in her opinion, for them to be given a chance. Normally they would have been set aside, kept away from the others.
“Where are they?” she asked one of the pretty things sitting at the console. She was about ten years older than her, but she did her job well, and she could smell the young thing’s disapproval of this mission a mile away. In her presence, they were all professionals, though they had always been encouraged to be open whenever they disagreed with anything. Most were still getting used to that notion of being open.
“They’re approaching the target. The Vultures,” she named the group responsible for investigating the traces of the previous trespassers, “Are already setting up. They’ve just completed the circle for the Summoning.”
“Tell them to hold back until the Cypress have sighted the shrine. AND only when they have both sighted the shrine and their exit routes,” she ordered, and the woman dutifully relayed her orders.
“Rikan Alexis…” one of the others called her. There were three monitors in the makeshift command post, and they all referred to her if they had any questions. She trusted their judgments, because they had been working with this group for several months now.
“Yes?” she turned to her.
“The Cypress have sighted the Shrine. It’s odd… there’s an old lady there. She seems to be sweeping the front of the shrine… They’re requesting permission to infiltrate anyway,” the woman reported.
“What do you think, Shian?” she asked instead.
“I’d go anyway, but the way they’re describing her singing, I think it’s got to be a trap. But whether she’s a human or not, there’s no way to tell at this point in time.”
“We’re polite to our elders, aren’t we? Tell Cypress to send one person to talk to her, and ask her nicely for the treasure,” she instructed. The two others giggled, but a look at the Rikan’s face proved she was deadly serious.
“Cypress? Yes, listen closely,” Shian began speaking to the team.
“Lady, there is no unusual activity,” the third girl finally spoke, watching the experiments of the Vultures.
“Keep on it. But tell them not to move anything till Cypress has spoken with the old lady.”
“Miakan Anahita?” someone knocked on her door.
She looked up, her golden hair framing her face. Her blue eyes were hidden by a pair of glasses, lending her a rather intellectual look. In front of her were stacks of papers, most of which she had already gone through. Her face was pale though, and she looked like she had not slept in a few days. In the small black room, she was the only spot of color; her golden hair reflecting the light like a mirror and pale-blue top contrasting sharply against the room. Her face was pale, and lines under her blue eyes spoke of long nights without sleep. Even now, she looked as though she could collapse any minute; not a reassuring sight considering the hecticness of the past few months. It would be unfair to say that she did not try though; the Miakan had kept up pretty well so far.
“Yes, Iris?” the Miakan had made it a point to remember all their names, even though she and her sister sometimes did not remember much more than that. At least Iris knew that the Miakan was not averse to getting her hands dirty, not like some of the other Matriarchs.
“Miakan, the reports as you requested,” she came in and left a stack of papers on the “In” tray, noticing that the Miakan had been set aside a pile with the words, “For distribution,” at her elbow.
“Thank you, Iris. Can you send this to Matriarch Tári? She will know what to do with it,” the Miakan favored Iris with a smile before turning back to her work.
“I will, Miakan Anahita,” Iris picked the documents up as though she was cradling a baby, “On one condition,” the Miakan looked up at her, surprised. “Lunch is about t be served. Will you join me and the other Acolytes?”
The Miakan looked at her work longingly and then at this smiling acolyte. She noted the tanned skin, the deep brown eyes that glowed with honesty, the healthy smile, with curly long locks that practically begged a man to play with it. She stood a great deal taller than her, but her confidence made her seem so much more. There was a refreshing air about her, one of sincerity and eagerness, not to mention innocence. It had been a long time since she had eaten with humans for companions as opposed to reports and the occasional visit from her Lady. This would be a nice change.
“Very well, Iris,” she pushed the chair back and stretched. “Come, let us be off,” she wound her hand through the young acolyte’s and led her out of the room.
He opened his eyes.
The cliffs overlooking the valley offered a splendid view the cliffs, valley, and the sea beyond. It was a majestic view, one that would make a person feel insignificant in the scheme of things. He did not feel that though, only resigned. Raising his hand, he let a butterfly rest upon it. It was an orange and black monarch butterfly, perching on his finger, thinking it was a flower. After a few moments, it took flight and flew off in search of tastier flowers. He watched it fly, glad that the impulse had died within him and then he saw the pretty butterfly catch fire. The beautiful thing dropped like a rock into the sea far below.
He took a deep breath to control his rage, even as he sent his consciousness racing towards the temple. There was a venomous presence behind him, one that was promising pain and vengeance. Its fire burned far more strongly than his own, which is why he took his time getting to his feet from the edge of the cliff. He turned slowly, his hand reaching into the folds of his robe for a hook. What stood in front of him was a large red dragon, one that looked down on him with a rather condescending stare. This was one of those that did not like humans very much, he thought, pulling his consciousness back. There was no real reason to endanger them… Dragons were not their speciality.
“You refuse to call for help? How typical,” the dragon boomed. He wondered why the rest of the cliff and the valley did not hear it. “You’re a Dragon Hunter, aren’t you? The prodigy called Zu,” he used the Summerian name for the dragon symbolizing chaos. The man nodded.
“Very good then. Let’s see if you’re really great as they say,” the dragon tried to aim a blast of hot air at him.
The man moved smoothly to one side, a puzzled look on his face. His face said plainly enough that he did not understand the need for the attack and he had no intention of getting into one. Of course, he kept his back to the trees. No need to let momentum carry him over the cliff; he was not a Divine Being and thus could not fly. His hand let the hook go in his robes. He would not be needing it.
“Why?” his question was simple. The dragon’s grin as he flicked a nail, and more importantly, the spell that came after it, was vicious.
“Because you are here,” it boomed, and the spell hit Zu in the chest, flinging him backwards.
It was a small hut.
Small enough to keep three people in relative obscurity.
Of course, obscurity would only work if they decided to remain obscure. They could not. Obscurity was not what they were meant to do.
So they set up shop. And began selling their wares. And playing with the Elements around them. Hiding in the open was the only option.
Sometimes when Destiny dealt you a bad hand, it’s better to just bluff your way through.
After making the call, he went into the room, unsurprised to find the windows closed and the lights dimmed. Even so, he could see faint characters running up and down the walls, creating a mesmerising pattern that danced across one’s mind and consciousness. Ignoring it, he found Sukina sleeping peacefully in one corner, curled up in Naoko’s arms. She was sleeping peacefully, like a daughter safe in the knowledge that she is loved and who is being held by a mother. Her face was peaceful as she slept on her sister’s chest, holding Naoko’s right hand with both hands between her breasts, like she was cradling a loved doll. It was almost as though the three hands were intertwined in prayer.
Naoko’s face, forever open to her siblings, told a different story. She was exhausted, dragged through hell and back. He had seen her only once this exhausted; long ago when they were children and they had found a stray kitten. The kitten was deathly ill and they had tried everything they could to bring it back, but the girls had not been skillful enough then. Naoko had watched Sukina try all her might, and finally she lent her strength to her sister. He had warned them, but the girls were never ones to listen anyway. They had laboured through the night, and when morning came, the kitten was sleeping peacefully, though his illness was not gone. The girls had learnt enough to grant him a peaceful night, and that morning, he had found his sisters in much the same way they were now.
Just like then, he shook Naoko awake and carried Sukina in his arms. Putting Naoko’s hand on his shoulder, he guided her out of the room and into her bed, watching her more or less collapse onto the bed, curl, and sleep. Sukina did very much the same thing, though she had the sense to pull the covers over herself before she turned and went back to sleep. He made sure to switch off all the alarm clocks and closed the blinds so that Sukina could sleep in peace. Then he went into Naoko’s (perpetually) messy room, gingerly walked around the books on the floor with the papers and did the same. Only for his sister, he turned off her mobile phone as well. She had a busy social life that could wait right now.
Once that was done, he went into the kitchen and started rummaging around. There was a packet of herbs labeled “Gods Comfort food” in which he suspected were chocolates. Upon reading the instructions, he took out three large mugs, a glass kettle, and a spoon. He opened the packet, poured the powdered contents into the kettle, and added some hot water. Then he put it on the stove to boil, reading the instructions carefully. After letting it boil for about two minutes and inhaling the pungent fragrance, he took it off the stove. Carefully, he measured three equal portions to the mugs, then he put it on a tray and carried it to the room Kivuta and Assiel was keeping watch over Celeste, though dozing was more the appropriate word.
He set the mugs down on one side and opened the windows again, letting the breeze in and the darkness out. The smell seemed to have brought a change in the atmosphere of the room, and it was not as tense nor dark as before. There was almost a sense of relief and just as he was about to leave the room, a gust of wind came in through the open windows. The wind materialized into a woman with long blond hair and sun-kissed skin, dressed in a garment of flowers. On her head though, was the Diadem of the Underworld, meaning that the woman was Persephone, the mother of Celeste. She took in at once the sleeping people, and said nothing, going instead to her daughter’s side and sitting on the floor by the bedside, her hand gently stroking her daughter’s hair as she murmured softly. He bowed deeply to her and left her in the room with her daughter. Persephone was truly beautiful, but unless she made her mind to do so, she often did not bother. The one who took notice of her often was her husband, and the relations between them now was rather warm, though nothing like what a couple who had been married a few hundred years should have been.
He left them alone, trusting that Dementer would be along soon.
They stood in a field. Around them, several rocks were arranged in a seemingly random order, but two of the more larger rocks had been marked with chalk. There was just a simple character on them with one unmistakable meaning to those who understood it. The clouds gathered overhead for a truly large storm; it was going to be a long, rainy day with flashes of thunder. Working out in the open, the trio seemed not to care. They were pressed for time, and it was only a few minutes before dawn arrived. They needed to be ready when it did.
Without a word, they suddenly stood between the stones, so that it formed a rough pentagram. A crystal stood in the center; a small one hardly large enough to fit the palm of a child. This was the focus though, and they turned towards it, chanting, keeping the destination they had in mind. The ley powers shifted; the whisper of dawn crept over the land. The chanting reached a crescendo, and then with a crack of thunder, a lightning bolt struck the crystal and the plain was filled with power, drawing upon the magic cast by the trio and the stones. There was a sharp crack sound, and all of a sudden, in the place of a crystal was a glowing door. One of the trio looked at the eldest in the group.
“Show off,” and then took off to the open door. The one addressed grinned and followed, as did the second, sighing ruefully.
The place was in chaos. Women dressed in black gowns were running everywhere, with small figures in white sometimes interspersing the chaos. As they made their way through the chaos, they came to a large building built into the side of the cliff. There was no one there, but as they moved among them, they could hear words and fragments of rushed conversations and alarm. Something had scared these women out of their wits, and it was unnerving, for the trio had never seen the women but in complete and utter control of themselves. They made their way quickly to the entrance of the building, where a woman in a black gown and a white carnation in her hair answered their bell ringing.
“We’re here to see the Lady Celeste. We are the Foxholes,” he introduced himself. His two companions followed him quietly, adjusting their bags once in a while.
“Lady Celeste has been wounded and is seeking treatment elsewhere. You may wish to check with the Lady Karma for your needs,” the woman turned away.
“Is the Miakan in then? Or her Rikan?”
Now she favoured him with a cold stare. Her tone was cold as she spoke, clearly meaning that she had no time to deal with such foolishness. “The Lady has no time to listen to musicians now.” She turned away from them, and as she did, they caught a tattoo on her back; a cypress tree in miniature, just at the base of her neck. They looked at each other, understanding almost immediately. This was no longer a safe haven. They looked towards the youngest of them, and she nodded. As the two older ones turned to leave, she made her way deeper inside, towards the Outer Sanctum, the furtherest one could reach if one was not a Priestess. Here the atmosphere was more subdued; the Outer Sanctum was more or less an accurate replica of countless other temples of Celeste, but this one was simply for the random visitor brought once in a blue moon to this private sanctuary.
As she thought, some ravens and doves were kept by the side of the altar, to be released as an offering to the Greater Gods above, requesting for their punishments to be lightened. Most often sent up white doves, but there were a number that preferred to send up Odin’s ravens in hopes for a more equal sentence; these were the ones who often had their punishments removed for they were the innocent ones. In her case though, Odin was a good friend, and a just one. She could not afford to waste time here for people who could not answer her, and neither could they afford to watch the Temple of Celeste fall apart.
She lit an incense stick and said a prayer. Even if the Goddess was injured, Life went on, and she was well aware that Celeste’s avatars, her Daughters who had been invested with a bit of her powers, were walking in the Worlds with the creatures called Shinigamis at their sides to help them in their work, though for the next few days there would be less souls gathered. They were to be activated if anything happened to the Lady, and she knew that they been activated, for the daughter of Celeste that had turned them away so coldly earlier was wearing the uniform of that elite unit.
Once the incense had been lit, she walked around the altar to the birds sleeping in the holes in the wall, and selected a grey pigeon. This one cooed softly as she lifted it from it’s resting place, but she tucked it carefully in her bag and took it outside. None of the Priestesses even gave her a second glance, which was a good thing. Once outside, she went over to where her siblings waited, and they tied a string around the neck of the dove. It was a simple blue string made of satin. Those who received it, would know what it meant immediately. To send a message, they would have to hold the bird tightly in their arms for one minute, with the image or name of the receiver firmly in their minds. Once the minute was up, they could release the bird who would be guided to look for the said person.
Their message was simple enough, and she released the bird. Once it was on its way, they left the temple and went back to the small village and the portal they came from.
It was late at night when the dove came into the room of the sleeping Goddess. She opened her eyes as soon as it appeared, her hand reaching out a finger to allow the bird to perch on her. She took a close look at the bird’s string tied around its neck, and then put the bird gently on the stand next to her bed that she kept for such emergencies. Swinging her feet off her bed, she got out and pulled an apron on, unveiling the mirror on one side of the room. It was a large brass-backed mirror carved with images of nature, dryads, nymphs and druids, just to name a few. She waved her hands in front of the mirror, whispering a name, and it blurred from her reflection to a view of something else.
The pale young woman sleeping in the large white bed awoke. Her large violet eyes opened as a bird chittered impossibly outside the penthouse and her room. Around her, everyone was asleep, including the Priest. She sat up, careful not to wake the woman kneeling by her bedside and the woman in the chair. Ignoring the fact that she was all but naked, she walked to the window and climbed on window’s edge. Standing up, she took a deep breath and stood naked, even as the morning sun’s ray crossed the horizon and illuminated everything. The warm rays touched her toes, then her legs, then her lower body… all the way till she was bathing in the sun.
Then she leant forward and released her hold on the window’s frame.
She woke up to find a dark winged goddess naked with only her long jet-black hair covering her standing at the foot of her bed. Her voice was chilling as she spoke.
“The Hunt is on, my Daughter,” it sounded like she was speaking from inside her thoughts and not her lips. “We have not much time,” she turned and left, obviously expecting to be followed.
Ok… I need to write faster than I can post them up. 😛
Phase 3: JASMIN
She had been singing to her children when something warned her.
With a gentle voice to the children, she told them to go hide in the place that they felt most comfortable in. They did as they asked, her lovely seven children. Unfortunately she knew their ultimate fate, but that did not mean that she would give them up so easily. Everything her mother had taught her she called to mind now, even as she stood up and turned towards the door, her voice normal and misleading.
“Who is it?” she asked, hiding her open-palmed right hand behind her skirts.
“Milady, it’s Jouna.” The maid was a favorite of hers, if only because the two of them had been dedicated to the same Goddess, though Jouna’s was of chastity and hers was of childbirth. She prayed that the Goddess had not abandoned her now.
“Milady?” the door opened quietly, and the pretty maid in the red came in. Her voice was low as she made her way to her mistress. “The ride is here for the children, milady.” the maid bowed.
“Very well,” she had replied, looking about her. “I’ll take the twins only,” she had borne two sets of twins. “The others will stay here till I come back,” Jouna had nodded and left the room to prepare.
She knew very well that she and her children were going to their deaths, but she had not been teaching them the Ancient Lore for nothing. Her mother would also be here in a little bit, and that was a small comfort to her. Her children were not meant for politics or high-level conspiracies; like her, they were meant for a simple life, one without complications. As long as they carried that blood within them though, a simple life was not for them. Perhaps, it was merciful that they rarely grew old enough to know what they really were. The ones that did, like her, were the sad ones, not the ones that left this world early.
From a window, a young boy and two girls peered out to watch the procession. The youngest was only 5 years old, two years older than the twins. The next oldest was 7 years old, also a girl. Their brother was the eldest, at 12. He was two years younger than the twins that were helping their mother and the second set of twins into the horse driven carriage. For a long moment, he envied the twins who seemed to spend so much time with mother. Mother had told him though, that no matter what, the girls had to survive, for they hold the secret of immortality in their bodies. He too, held that secret, but his mother had warned him that such a secret was not to be shared lightly.
“For a man it is easy to give these secrets away, but for a woman it allows her to control who gets it. You must never abuse this, my son. It is too easy to misuse, and the pain of your power can haunt even your descendants,” he had understood that part, for father had always been about bloodline and passing the traits down.
“But mother, what if I can’t help it?” he wailed almost plaintively.
“You will, my son. I did it, so can you,” she hugged him one last time and then left.
Now, as they watched their mother leave, he was filled with a sense of foreboding. His youngest sister held on to him tightly, almost afraid. She was shivering, and he too felt a coldness. Their mother looked at them watching her before she stepped into the carriage. her smile chilly. She seemed to know something they did not, and was smiling at someone else. They would never forgot how their mother looked like at that moment, haughty and cold like a queen, regal and knowing like a empress, and knowing and mysterious like a Priestess. When she stepped into the carriage, little did they know that it was the last they would see her…
PHASE 2: Wings
They heard the man screaming, and turned to watch him streak down the street, oblivious to everything.
“Is that…?” Yang-Ger was not sure whether he should even ask.
“He’s an old hippie who likes to streak often. Don’t ask us why,” Giselle pulled the traveling bag from under her bed and checked it. “We need provisions,” she headed downstairs without waiting for the two, taking her bag with her.
Eliza went looking for her own supply to make sure she had everything she needed. More importantly, she thought as she looked for the second pouch she had sewn to the bag, were the herbs still in good condition? She opened the pouch just a bit to gain a hint of their aroma, and it assured her that the herbs were still potent. Yang-Ger waited patiently for her, and then they both headed downstairs, where Eliza scribbled a hasty note to the beautiful people who had been taking care of them ever since their parents died. They knew who the girls really were, in a manner of speaking, but they did not quite understand. If you were not born to this life, you may not be able to understand it. Even she did not understand it, but she knew her purpose. She knew her powers and limitations. More importantly, she knew what she had been born to do. Though it was not easy.
As her sister and Yang-Ger talked about their journey, she took a long look at the kitchen. There was a picture of her and Giselle with their adoptive family, taken but two months ago. It was one hung in a place of pride, and she knew that they loved her and her sister. She walked into the living room, and looked along the walls for something. Upon finding it, she took it from the wall and rolled it up carefully. Her sister called her, and she went to her. Before leaving the room, she took one last look, lovingly. Her gaze fell upon the vase of flowers located next to the mantle piece, a collection of lovely wildflowers, the kinds that she loved. Closing her eye, she muttered something and reached out to the flowers, as though inviting someone to take her hand.
Her sister came rushing in as soon as she started muttering, but it was done. There was a pale-yellow line that ran from her to the plant, and as it faded, Eliza fainted. The dark-haired child simply crumpled forward, and Yang-Ger caught her in a flash, surprising Giselle. His look was tender on Eliza as he laid her on the couch and he stroked her hair. At that moment, Giselle realised that her brother had grown since they were last children. She still remembered him before they came to live with this family. He was ten, she was eight, and little Eliza was four. As he was old enough, they had taken him away to be trained. No one told them what he was being trained for, but Giselle could guess. It was the reason, she had once overheard, why she and Eliza were not separated, but why they had been kept together.
She hated being part of a legend, but if being a legend meant that she would never again be separated from the ones that she loved, it was a small price to pay.
This was not too bad… though the last part was because I had no idea what else to write. :p
It was a relatively quiet jamming session.
Sukina stepped up to the mike, and began singing. Her voice was melodic and pleasing, a very generic pop-voice that was pretty easy on the ears. Naoko, meanwhile, took a violin and stayed in the background, letting her sister take the limelight. They started with a very light, and happy-go-lucky song entitled “Sakura Kiss.” She took on the face required for the song, which was mischievous yet innocent.
“Maybe you’re my love!” She held the mike close to her lips and raised her hand into the sky, doing a “throwing hand” sort of gesture favoured by some artists.
They then followed up with a song called, “Chance!” The band was more than a little surprised when Sukina took a backseat and Naoko instead stepped forward to sing. It did not take them long to find the reason why. Sukina’s voice was very much a female’s voice, while her sister’s was much rougher, and thus more suited to such masculine songs. The band was definitely surprised when their brother, famous for disapproving of the girls’ interest, came in, picked up a set of drum sticks, and began jamming with them. He was normally waiting for the girls downstairs.
“Itai yo…” the words died away as the music went on for a bit before coming to a lovely ending. The two girls looked at their brother, obviously just as surprised as the rest of the band.
“Let’s go. Okaa-san’s home,” he got up, returned the drumsticks, and left without waiting.
“Okaa-san?” the two girls waved to the band, grabbed their shopping bags and ran after their brother down the stairs.