Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The First Falling

Bobby Rufener

Impressionable Priestess
Clearing in a forest
Investigating strange chanting
Black Feather Quill

Aniata smiled over at Luck as he playfully dug at a rabbit hole. It was rather amusing to watch the dog dig three or four times then bury his nose back into the hole to see if he was any closer to whatever it was driving him to dig.  She looked down at her notes with a sigh. The Matron had insisted that she copy the precepts ten times to give to new acolytes.  She was fairly certain that Morana's true purpose was to drive them forever into her brain.  The woman was a hard task master.

Aniata dipped her black feather quill into the ink and wrote out the last precept.

"The truest weapon of Dethara is Faith: Dethara does not always explain her directions and choices. One must have faith that any request made of by the High Priests are for the greater good of Dethara's plans."

Faith...one could not help but have faith in death, for death was inevitable to all mortal creatures.  But lately, some of the High Priestess' commands had seemed more like power seeking then truly serving the portal of death.  She was strictly an adept so it was not her place to question.  Only a  priest or priestess could ask for more explanation.

Aniata was so deep in her musings that at first she had not noticed that Luck had stopped digging and was rigid.  Her eyes moved to the dog with concern.  His hackles were raised and his ears were peaked and forward.  She carefully stowed her materials not even taking time to sand the scroll she had been working on.  She laid her pack against a tree and moved to Luck.

She wasn't supposed to have a pet as she lived in the temple itself.  But Luck came with her each time she left the formal grounds to spend some time in the woods nearby.  As a death mage, there were few places she was welcome openly.  The people always sought a death mage if a loved one was passing, but otherwise they were shunned.  Morana, the high priestess, had started referring to them as priests or priestesses.  This seemed to be working slowly as she trained one for each village and sent them out as messengers of faith rather then bringers of death.  Aniata was in training to be sent out.  As such, they were allowed few distractions and a dog, well that was considered a distraction.

Luck began to move forward moving through the trees.  Aniata followed him.  She had never heard the dog bark and this was the first time she had heard that deep growl.  She trusted a dog's instincts and so brought her long knife out of its sheaf on her hip.  They both crept through the forest silently till she began to hear chanting.  She didn't recognize the language. It was deep and very guttural. Luck growled softly and she knelt by his side.

"Shhhhh boy," she whispered stroking his long fur.  He seemed to understand for he quieted after looking at her with those large brown eyes.  He wagged his tail a couple of times and then continued forward out of under her hand.

The two crept closer to the sound.  Finally, she was able to see a clearing ahead.  Ducking down, she carefully moved as close as she felt she dared and peeked around the bush she was hiding behind. Luck laid down beside her.

Aniata gasped at the sight before her.  There in the middle of a very large clearing was the Lady Morana.  Her hands were up and the feeling of magic was almost palpable.  But that wasn't the amazing part.  There around the high priestess was at least a dozen black dragons.  You could not live at the temple and not see the dragons flying overhead.  But to see someone actually standing amongst them was something she had never thought to experience.

As the last couple dragons landed, Morana stopped her incantation and began to move among them. Luck was no longer growling and his ears were laid back.  She ran a hand over his head to calm them both. What was the punishment for spying on dragons? She had no idea but she definitely did not want it. As much as she knew she should back away, however, she found herself enthralled at the scene.  

A man strode into the clearing. His robes as black as the dragons mingling and growling about them.
His stride was confident and he was very handsome.  He had long black hair and fair features.  Her eyes followed him as he approached Morana.

"Where is Nightmare, Jon?" Morana demanded.

"I sent him flying this morning, he may have been too far out to get here quickly or even feel the call."  The priest put his hands behind him much as she had seen the guards do when they were not on duty.

"Or, he does not answer my call.  His loyalty is in question." Morana nuzzled a young dragon and turned to look at the priest.

The man, Jon, just shrugged as if unconcerned.  The priestess slowly turned calling a strange word. The dragons made a circle around the two of them.  As they were doing this, a very young dragon, not even fully winged, bumbled in out of the air and more collapsed onto the ground then landed.  It raised its head as it lumbered over to the priest and then nuzzled him affectionately.  Aniata's hand clenched Luck's fur as she continued to be mesmerized.  The dog whimpered making her let loose a bit.

"It is time, Jon."  Morana said firmly.  "If he does not answer my command, I will have him put down."

"What would you have him do then?  It will need to be something he can do, he is still very young." Jon stated in a strange drab voice.  He seemed rather bored with what was occurring in front of him.

"Aniata, come here," Morana commanded.

Aniata's breath caught in her throat and she nearly felt strangled.  How had Morana known she was here? She shoo'd Luck away and stood up straightening her long red outer skirt that marked her as an adept.  Carefully she came around the bush and the dragons parted to let her through.  Aniata marveled at them as she moved through them, but she was scared. No, she was terrified.  Her feet felt wooden as she moved slowly to Morana and knelt down, her eyes to the ground.

"You called me, milady?"  Her soft question was barely audible.

"Yes, rise."  Morana demanded.

Aniata moved to stand and as she did so she noticed Luck sitting at Morana's side.  He seemed content to be there. Aniata looked at the dog in confusion.

Morana's eyes followed the young woman's to the dog.  "Oh yes, you have done well Vicktor.  You may go."  The dog transformed into an old man before Aniata's eyes.  She had not known this was possible.  Had the dog.. man.. led her here on purpose."

"I live to serve, milady." Luck or Vicktor, she didn't even know anymore answered.  The man bowed low and left them.

Aniata was now even more scared.  She had been brought here.  But, she had not been invited despite the fact she had seen Morana just this morning.  She looked slowly back to Morana.

"Now to business.  Nightmare, kill her."  The priestess commanded pointing at Aniata.

Jon jumped between woman and dragon.  "Now wait here.  This is a priestess of our own.  From what I have seen, she is intelligent and dedicated. Surely we can find some criminal for such a test." Despite his sudden move, his voice still sounded bored to Aniata.

Aniata looked hopefully at the high priestess. "Please ma'am.  I do not know what I did, but I will serve diligently to make it right."

"You will serve now."  Morana said firmly.  "Drop the knife on the ground away from your person."

Aniata hadn't even realized she was still holding it.  She tossed it away as if it were a venomous snake.

Jon had also been looking intently at the high priestess. "IF this is your bidding, then we can at least be considerate of her faith."

"Fine.  But we do not leave this clearing till he had been blooded."  Morana moved to the young dragon and caressed it under the chin.

Jon moved to Aniata and as she looked him in the eyes, her mouth formed the word please. He leaned in and whispered in her ear.  "I am sorry, but there is more here at stake then a single priestess.  Tell Dethara what has happened here when you reach her."  Before she could answer, he put his lips to hers.  It was a gentle kiss.

Aniata felt a wave of euphoria slip over her.  She had no idea that a single kiss could bring such pleasure. Her big eyes were locked on him. He was amazing.  He was so handsome.  She wished she had sought his company sooner.  Maybe.. maybe when they got back to the temple... her eyes remained locked on him.  She never saw the young dragon coming.