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“Your majesty!” Dalila bowed when the Queen entered the shrine. “How may I be of service, My Lady?”
The Queen folded her hands neatly in front of her gown and nodded her head to the girl. “I seek guidance today from the great mother Danu herself.” The Queen said solemnly.
The girl smiled gently at the forlorn Queen. “This way my lady.” She bid Queen Maudlin to follow her. She led her through the main floor of the shrine and out the back into a beautiful garden that was lit up by the three suns of Apra. Queen Maudlin lifted her skirts a bit as she carefully made her way down the steps that lead into the garden. The steps then gave way to a cobble stone path that forked, surrounded a small pond, then came together again at the other end of the pond, enclosing it. A small waterfall cut through the rock at one end of the pond, and a stone fountain sat in it’s center.
Frogs sat on lily pads, small fish danced beneath the surface of the water, and all around the pond were reeds, cat tails, and every manner of bright and colorful flower one could imagine. Much of the garden was the same way. Trees rose up from the ground with their lush green foliage, even as the days grew colder, the garden seemed unaffected. It was locked in a perpetual spring time. The Danela, girls in service to the Goddess Danu, went about tending to the garden. Some watered the many flowers inhabiting the place, others swept the path, while others fed small animals that had come down out of the grove of trees sat on a small hillside.
Each of the girls was dressed the same. A cream colored ankle length cotton gown, sleeveless, and with a fitted front lacing bodice and pleated skirt. They were bare foot, and their hair ranged from long braids, or braided buns, to long tresses of free flowing curls. Each wore a headdress of colorful blossoms, attached to a waist length sheer veil that hung down their backs. They were allowed no jewelry or face paint and they owned few, if any, personal possessions.
When entering the service of the Goddess, the girls vowed to give up worldly goods, as well as all connections to their families and friends. Their lives were given over to the Goddess entirely. They were even given new names in celebration of Danu, as a sign of their death to who they once were, and the rebirth of the women they would become. Only the most pure and virtuous of girls were accepted, and they came from peasantry and nobility alike. Though breaking ones vows to the Goddess was fairly unheard of, the one who had transgressed would surly be met with the harshest of punishments. Exile from the shrine and from the city. Not even her family would accept her back as that could bring about the wrath of the Goddess into their home.
The worst punishment though would be in falling out of grace with the Goddess herself. Her favor, her blessings, and her protection would be lost to the girl forever, and the sin of her disobedience would follow her the remainder of her life. Many of the girls had lived within the shrine since they were very young children, so life outside of the shrine would unimaginable for them to handle. Because of this, it would be nearly impossible for them to survive on their own.
Queen Maudlin respected the girls sacrifice and devotion, even envied it at times. She could have imagined herself giving up her life in service to the great mother, if she had not been promised in marriage to the King. The choice was not hers to make though and so she accepted her life for what it was. But, even becoming Queen, had not taken away her devotion. She often went to the shrine to pray and seek guidance, and so she had come once more, hoping to feel the comforting embrace of the great mother in her most earnest of need.
Dalila led the Queen down the path until they had come to an enclosure in the garden. Going up the steps the Queen walked through the opening in a wall of flowers and found herself standing on a circle of white brick. A large tree with white and pink blossoms grew from the center of their circle, and beneath the tree was a white, marble, bench. A beautiful woman sat upon the bench and smiled as the Queen approached her. The woman had dark red hair, gathered on the back of her neck and secured with a decorated comb. A similar white veil covered her head and face. She was dressed in a long, flowing, white gown and wore sandals on her feet.
She was middle aged, but still quite lovely. Her blue eyes peered out from beneath the veil and the Queen bowed to her as she approached. “Great Gwehnena.” She spoke softly and with respect.
“Your majesty.” The woman bowed in return. “To what do I owe the honor of your visit, my Queen?”
The Queen sighed. “Great Gwehnena, I have come seeking guidance from the great mother.”
“I see. The great mother is here for us, always. Tell me of your troubles.” She waved the servant girl away and then motioned for the Queen to sit beside her on the stone bench.”
“My heart Beylikdüzü escort is heavy.” The Queen began. “My house is in turmoil, and I fear that I do not know what to do to bring peace to my house. I’m bound by my station to honor my husband, but as a mother I want to do what is best for my son and in this situation, I am not sure that my King has the boy’s best interests at heart.”
“What does your heart tell you to do?”
The Queen thought about the question seriously. Of course in her heart, the Queen wanted her son to be happy. “My heart is telling me that my son is in love, and that as his parents, we should allow him to marry the one that he loves.”
“And the King does not agree with this?”
Queen Maudlin shook her head. “He forbids it, most emphatically.” The Queen went on to tell the Gwehnena all that had transpired. The arranged marriage between Prince Christian and the Lady Jivete, Christian’s refusal to wed her, as well as his love for Alexander, an unknown peasant boy. She explained how the King had discovered Christian’s deception, and how Christian had raced off to rescue his lover when the King ordered the boy to be killed. Now the King was beyond enraged and he’d ordered the guards to bring the Prince, as well as his lover, back to the castle where he will no doubt carry out his sentence to murder the boy.
The Gwehnena listened to all of this then, when the Queen had finished, she considered the situation that the Queen was in. When she spoke finally, it was with much thought and care. “The Goddess Danu is the champion of all mothers as well the protector of women and children. In her wisdom she has given us the ability to conceive, and bear the fruit of our love. To do this, a man must wed a woman and then put his seed into her so that new life may start. That is the way that it has always been, and it is how we ensure that our lineage is carried on.
But even so, love is perhaps the most sacred of virtues, and it is not bestowed upon people lightly. If your son truly loves this boy, and he in turn loves your son, then this love was bestowed upon them by the Gods. Such a gift should not be over looked or repressed. Danu is the embodiment of love, between a mother and her children, as well as between a wife and her husband. If it was the design of the Gods that these two should be coupled, then their union is also blessed by the great mother and they should not be kept apart. As Queen, you must abide by your husbands decision, but as a mother, you must protect your child. Go now into the shrine and pray to the great mother to give you strength for you will need it in the coming days.
Bust, rest assured, what the Gods have placed in motion will not be undone by any one man, not even a King. What is meant to be will be, we need only have faith in the Gods and when the time comes, the will of the Gods will be known.”
Maudlin thanked the Gwehnena for her guidance then kissed her hand. The servant girl returned and lead the Queen to the shrine of the great mother so that she could pray as told by the Gwehnena.
As the Queen knelt before the shrine of the great Goddess Danu, she thought over the words that the Gwehnena had said to her. The will of the Gods can not be undone by any one man, not even a King. If Christian was truly meant to be with this boy, then there was nothing that would stop them. Queen Maudlin just had to put her faith in the Gods that their will be done. She folded her hands and looked up at the stone face of Danu. Her hair a wild array of carved leaves and twigs. In her hands she held a sacred chalice, and at her feet sat stone children whom she watched over.
Queen maudlin lay an assortment of flowers upon the alter, then she removed a gold bracelet from her wrist and that too she placed on the altar. “Great Mother,” She prayed. “Please guide me in these troubling times and bless my house with your understanding and protection. I come before you now a mother with a heavy heart. My son is lost, my husband’s anger echoes throughout the halls of the Palace, and I am caught between them. My sons heart belongs to a young man whom I have not met, they say they are in love. If this be true, please protect them from my husbands wrath, bring them safely into your loving embrace. Please accepts these gifts that I leave for you, and shine on us all, your blessings. I remain always, your humble servant.”
She stood, leaned forward, and kissed the stone face of the Goddess. The fate of her son and his lover was now in the Hands of the Great mother. Queen Maudlin just hoped that her faith was strong enough to give her peace, and her will strong enough to face her husband. Too often had she sat back and said nothing, when in her heart she knew that her husbands actions were wrong. This was not going to be one of those times though. She would fight for her son, as Danu had once fought off the wolves to save an abandoned child. It was her duty as a mother and as a Beylikdüzü escort Queen, to fight for those she loved and bring peace and harmony to her people.
Christian and Alexander had reached Qedor in about half a days time. It was a small village that made most of its profit from its local fishermen. They didn’t have quite the fishing enterprise of Unelin or Plainvin but they managed to still get by on what they did bring in. In addition to fish, the women of Qedor made jewelry from sea shells and sold them, and there were a large number of painters living in Qedor as well. One of the more popular scenes that the artists liked to paint were the dunes and beach. Both were beautiful under the amber light of the setting suns.
Alexander had never been to Qedor but once there he was immediately set at ease. It felt like the village he’d grown up in, Allanar. He was used to the simple people living simple lives. Happy children chased one another in the streets while fish mongers laid out their freshest catches. An old woman sat on a corner selling woven baskets, and all around was the smell of fresh baked goods, smoked meats, and the floral aroma of freshly cut wild flowers. Alexander marveled at all they saw as they rode in.
Christian was just grateful not to have seen anymore guards on the way in though he was still cautious. He didn’t want to take the chance on anyone noticing them. He stopped at a local merchants stand and purchased two hooded cloaks. He handed one to Alexander and told him to put it on and cover his head. Alexander did as he was told and Christian covered himself as well. He then went to a local boarding stable and left the horses. Necromancer was still in need of medical care and all the horses needed rest, food, and water. Besides that, the horses would have been too easily recognized had they happened upon some of the palace guards.
“We’re on foot from here.” Christian told Alexander. Alexander nodded. It didn’t bother him in the least to travel on foot. For Alexander, a horse was a luxury anyway. One needed for traveling long distances of course, but when he lived with his grandmother they only had one horse that was used for plowing and going to town. Most of the time Alexander walked or ran anywhere he needed to go.
They were lucky that the monastery wasn’t that far from where they were. It was however, just outside the gates of Avimur. That made it slightly more dangerous but as long as they weren’t recognized, Christian figured they’d be just fine. Once they reached the monastery they would be safe, as the Kings reach could not breach the holy doors. Once inside Christian and Alexander could claim sanctuary and as long as they remained within the monastery walls they were untouchable. As much as Guillame himself hated it, a King was still just a man, and his word did not overrule the will of the ancient Gods.
The monks and priests who resided within the monastery were loyal to the Eternal spirit but the monastery also had an entire library filled with books and scrolls related to the other Gods and Goddesses. Danu and her husband Dotarr were of course the first Gods created by the Eternal Spirit, and they were the most revered of all the Gods. Danu and Dotarr had four children known as the children of the stars. They were Imses- the Goddess of fortune, Aher- the God of Apra, Orus- the God of the after life, and Notena- the Goddess of mystery and night.
The children of the stars in turn had their own children and thus the hierarchy of the Gods was created.
Each God or Goddess corresponded to certain attributes. A single person or family could have a shrine or altar to more than just one God in their home. Shrines to the lesser Gods were not often found in the villages or cities so people erected them in their homes. The shrines found within the cities were usually dedicated to one of the six major Gods and the main temple of the Eternal Spirit was found just outside the Gates of Avimur. Alexander had never been to the temple but he’d visited many of the smaller shrines in his life time. The old chapel in his house contained shrines to Danu and Dotarr, as well as Reeyer the horned God of the hunt, and Qeara the Goddess of nature spirits and animals.
All his life Alexander’s grandmother had told him stories of the old Gods, and taught him the importance of prayer. She’d taught him that there was magic in the world, and she’d taught him to believe in miracles. “Do not trust blindly that there is something out there, beyond this life.” She had told him, “Feel it in your heart and in your soul, and trust your own intuition.”
Alexander had taken her teachings to heart and he learned to trust himself. He believed not because he was told to, but because he could feel that there was a higher power. He had faith in the Gods because he could feel their presence and he was able to see their glory in everything Escort Beylikdüzü around him.
Despite his grandmother’s teachings though he still had many questions, and much to learn. He was excited to visit the monastery because finally those questions might actually be answered. That was why he’d come to Avimur in the first place. He had more questions now though, and it wasn’t just his soul that was hungry for knowledge but his heart as well. There had to be a reason for everything that was happening to him. A reason he’d met Christian, the Prince, and a reason he’d been drawn to the Draveil temple.
The things his grandmother had told him before her death were starting to make sense to him; for the first time the pieces were falling into place. He just hoped that his time at the monastery would tell if him the words she’d spoken had truth to them, or if they were the fanciful ravings of an old woman on her death bed.
King Guillame slouched down in his chair before the fire, a goblet of wine held tightly in his right hand. He scowled as he brought the goblet to his lips and drank. The guards had reported a most troubling story of their encounter with Christian and his lover.
“A witch.” Guillame sneered as he stared into the fire. “He must have bewitched Christian. That’s the only explanation.” Three guards dead and they were still no closer to capturing the boy nor breaking his hold over Christian. Guillame was furious that his trained guards had turned tail and ran when they had them in their grasps. Girart apologized for the incompetence of his men and assured the King that he himself would lead the next detail of guards.
“I’ll bring your son back to the palace.” Girart told the King. “And as for the witch, I’ll tie him to a stake and set him ablaze myself!”
“No.” Guillame sneered. “You will find this bastard and bring him to me. He will stand before me and confess his crimes. I want him to admit, in front of my son, that he’s cast some type of spell on him. I want the Prince to hear this from the fiends own mouth. Then, when he’s confessed, I want his tongue removed, as well as his eyes, then burn him at the stake before all of Avimur so everyone will know what will befall a witch should they enter my Kingdom.”
Girart bowed. “Very well your majesty. I will bring the witch to you.”
“Do not fail me.” Guillame warned. “I grow tiered of this cat and mouse game. I want that boy found before night fall.” Girart bowed again and Guillame dismissed him.
It was only a matter of time now. If any man could bring the witch in, it was Girart and the King trusted him implicitly. Soon the boy would be dead, Christian would come back to his senses, and things would be as they once were. The wedding would go on as planned though the King knew that he had some major groveling to do in order to win back the favor of Jivete and her parents. Jivete too was growing impatient. She had been promised Alexander’s head and was not happy with the delay. Now more than ever King Guillame had to prove that he could maintain order in his house. Each moment that Christian and Alexander spent alluding the guards was a moment of weakness that the King could not tolerate for it meant he was losing control.
“You look troubled, oh great King.” A cold wind blew through the room and a fog of swirling blackness began to form. The black fog darkened the room as though sucking the very light away causing a false blanket of night to fall upon the King and his chambers.
Guillame was startled out of his thoughts by a voice that seemed to emanate from the very shadows that now surrounded him. “What the hell?” He sat up in his chair, searching the room for the owner of that voice. Suddenly a loud, cackling, laughter broke through the darkness and resonated throughout the chamber.
“Who’s there?” He demanded of the darkness. “You will show yourself this instant!”
“But of course, Oh great King.” The voice was sweet, but grainy, and with the slight hint of a vipers hiss. Guillame’s blood ran cold. He recognized that voice from somewhere, but the name and face of it’s owner escaped him for the moment. Even as he attempted to call up the memory of the voice, the owner stepped slowly out of the shadows and stood before him, smiling through a set of yellow and black teeth.
The old hag looked ancient. Her flesh appeared to be in early decay. One eye was white and glazed over with the sickening look of a corpse’s eye. The other was black as tar and she stared at him with these cold and lifeless eyes. She wore a black cloak over a tattered gown that was covered in dust and moss. Grey wisps of tangled hair escaped the coif upon her head, and hung down across her face like webs.
Guillame recoiled from the old woman as he watched her approach. Her thin and withered body was contorted, twisted, and unnatural. She stood hunched over, making her look tiny against the light of the fire but her shadow stretched across the wall like a great titan, consuming everything in it’s path.
“Why have you come here, crone?” Guillame spoke harshly, his anger over the intrusion not lost on the old woman. “These are my private chambers.”
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