Call Of The Goddess
Chapter One - Changes
On the planet Bona Dea, the fourth planet of ten orbiting binary stars in a gravity-driven waltz, the last vestiges of the human race make their home. Thirteen ships traveled to a new world to begin a new way of life free of persecution, free of poverty. They located a temperate planet occupied by a variety of animal species, but devoid of civilization.
Our story begins on the 21st day of the month of Trimont, in the year 307 after the Landing of the generation ships.
Axandra's brain tickled. She remembered the sensation from two decades ago, when she was a small child. She knew what the feeling meant. The Goddess was coming. The Sliver called to it, I am here! and it followed that call.
Leaving her cottage after giving her lover an excuse that she wanted a short walk, Axandra went to the beach to wait. The sand beneath her bare feet radiated leftover warmth from the day's sunshine, even though the suns had set more than an hour ago. In the night sky, distant stars blazed. She could see hundreds of thousands of them, each a tiny point of light, an unbelievably small fraction of its true size. Though some nights she tried, she could never hope to count them all in her entire lifetime.
Low upon the horizon in the west, one point of light moved. It seemed to be flying just over the ocean. The closer it came, the less like a star it appeared. The tiny point grew larger, to the size of a firefly, then larger still, the size of a fist. A glow reflected off the water, then the sand.
Axandra breathed deeply and dug her feet into the beach. She had waited years for this moment to come, ever since she fled the Prophets' guardianship as a child, when her name was Ileanne. She tried to prepare herself for what would happen when the Goddess found her. The orb of light grew large enough to envelop her as it flew over the white beach. Before she could to react to shield herself, it was upon her.
The sensation plowed through her body with a thousand times more power than the Sliver. She flopped to the ground. Her body quaked against the sand as the glow shrouded her with sparks. She struggled against its hold, but force bound her limbs and paralyzed her. Blinding her, the brightness entered her left eye. Panting for breath, an orgasmic ripple coursed through her nerves, melding pain and pleasure into euphoria. Ringing filled her ears. Generations of experience swelled her brain. Images she'd never seen before filled her eyes. Memories of a lost childhood snapped into vivid clarity. Curiosity tempted her to try to see everything. The sights flashed by too quickly to understand. Overwhelmed, her mind shut off.
1st day of Unimont, in the year 286, after the Landing
“I don't want to stay here!”
With white knuckles, Ileanne bawled and gripped her mother's hand. A pale Prophet woman touched her shoulders as though to comfort the child. Having never seen a Prophet before, Ileanne recoiled. The mystics kept themselves segregated from the rest of the population. She knew the Prophets served the Protectress in a magical way that frightened her.
Elora, crouched down to the eye level of her six-year-old daughter. “You have to stay, my darling. The Prophets are going to teach you everything you need to know to be the Protectress when your turn comes. Please don't cry,” her mother begged, cradling the girl against her breast. “You're breaking my heart.”
After several minutes of consoling, Elora framed Ileanne's face with both hands and looked into the child's green eyes. “You'll be fine.”
Behind the frail woman, Ileanne's father said nothing. He barely even looked at his daughter, his typical expression toward her. He stood there with his hands held together in front of him and twitched his fingers, waiting impatiently for the scene to end.
The little girl kept her lips tightly shut, refusing to say goodbye. Ileanne did not want them to leave her. She wiped her cheeks dry with her hand, but the hot tears kept streaming down into the creases of her lips. Her cheeks felt raw.
Her mother cried, too, but urged her only child to stay with the strangers. Ileanne witnessed the pained look upon her mother's face, a frightful look of sadness. The girl hated her parents for turning their backs and climbing into the car to leave.
Beneath the Great Storm, the wind whipped at gale force, blasting sand in gigantic swirls. As the car engine began to hum, the same gateway that opened to allow the car into the Haven reappeared as though by magic. The car disappeared through the Storm, seemingly untouched by the sand. Lightning flashed all around, bolts striking the ground and fingerlings groping out in every direction.
Yet, in the Haven the destructive winds stayed away, as though the Good Goddess cupped her hands over the mountain to stop the air. The thunder was muffled, and the lightning stayed in the sky. A shell of peace existed here in the center of the Storm.
“Welcome, Ileanne. I am Jala.” The Prophet woman said to her, smiling kindly in hopes of easing the transition. The Prophet woman wore her light brown hair in a loose braid that looped around the back of her head. Her face was almost white, typical of all Prophets whose skin was never touched by sunslight. “Come with me. We must get you ready for tonight.”
“What's going to happen?” Ileanne questioned, her feet reluctant to move. Jala gripped her wrist and pulled just hard enough to start her feet walking.
Tonight is very special, Jala thought. Tonight you will learn the true honor of being the Protectress.
Protectress. Instead of that word giving her a sense of accomplishment, it only made the girl angry and sorrowful. All her life, Ileanne had watched her mother, the Protectress, work every hour of every day, strained by the people to the point of breaking. Many nights, she had listened to her mother and father snarling at each other bitterly. Sometimes, her mother wasn't even around, for the woman was out traveling across the countryside. Thinking of these things, Ileanne slouched on the stool where she was planted and pinched one palm with her fingers. “Oh.”
Jala proceeded to braid the child's hair in a long, simple plait down her back. She helped Ileanne changed her clothes into an unadorned gray shift reeking a metallic odor that stung the eyes.
I am so proud of you, Ileanne. You are about to embark on a most wonderful Journey like you can't even imagine.
Ileanne scowled as Jala led her down to a large room where many of the Prophets were gathered. Her tiny body began to tremble nervously. At the front of the room, the elders stood before a large stone platform. Everyone was quiet.
One of the elders directed her to the platform. Jala helped her up to sit on the edge and introduced the gray-haired man as Tyrane, their principle elder.
Ileanne looked around at the large collection of eyes focused on her and could not keep her limbs from shaking. Amidst them, she saw the man whose face felt familiar to her. She remembered dreaming about him once, and in the dream he came to her room and kissed her gently on the brow, the kindest gesture anyone had ever shown.
“Relax, child,” said another of the male elders. The voice caused her to jump.
Tyrane approached the platform with purposeful steps, a smile curving his lips upwards with a sickly sweetness that made Ileanne's heart race. “Ileanne, as your mother before you, and all of her mothers before her, you will be host to the Goddess. She will keep your path straight and guide you in times of trouble.”
Confused and terrified, Ileanne pinched her brows together. She didn't want anything in her. “What are you talking about?”
Someone entered the room carrying a small box fashioned of silver metal. The smooth surface of the box gleamed as though powered from within.
Tyrane offered the box to Ileanne and instructed her, “Open this vessel, and from it learn the purpose of your life. The Goddess lives within her chosen ones. Now, she will live within you as well.” Tyrane flashed that smile again, his eyes gleaming in the light of the glow stones.
Cringing, Ileanne shook her head. Unwillingly, she felt her hand lift from her lap. She wasn't moving, yet she could see her fingers stretching toward the flawless metal. As she reached out to touch it, she felt a buzzing in the back of her head. The closer her hand moved, the stronger the buzzing became until she thought she would be sick. Something invisible grabbed her hand when she tried to resist the tug, keeping her steady until her fingers touched the box. The surface felt hot to the touch, burning her fingers. The lid seemed to melt away and the box lay open in her hands. Inside was a small, shining mirror, and Ileanne saw her own face and green eyes.
Then something incredible happened. As she watched, her face began to glow with a purplish light. A glowing bead, like a firefly, floated up and toward her eyes, then flashed and disappeared. In the mirror, her eyes changed color, shifting from pale green to violet, like the open sky.
Her brain tickled. She giggled at the sensation. Her lips tingled, and her nose itched.
Hello, young one, came a voice inside her. It was not one of the Prophets, for it did not come from outside her mind. She wasn't sure how she knew that. The voice just felt different.
Hello, she replied in thought, her inner voice sounding soft and weak. What are you? Where are you?
I have been with your family since the Journey was finished. I come from a distant place but I now live with your mother. This is a sliver of me, so that my whole can find you when needed.
The words and phrases overlapped each other in her mind, and several moments passed before she could make sense of what the thing tried to tell her. Her brain filled with pictures of objects and places she had never seen before. She flew through space without a ship, passing stars and planets. She lived on a dirty world, colored with strange orange dust and black mold. She traveled on a ship alone, in space again. Each life was shown to her in a storm of small pieces, all crammed into her small mind.
Hands held her, keeping her from falling. Her eyes refocused on the face in the mirror.
Her eyes looked like her mother's now. She stopped smiling. She did not want to be like her mother. Her chest felt tight with fear.
I don't want to be her.
6th day Unimont, 286
“She's gone?” Elora screamed, her delicate face distorted in horror. Her violet eyes spilled tears down her crimson cheeks. “You lost my only child! I trusted you with her safety, and you betrayed me!”
“We have looked everywhere, Your Honor,” Tyrane informed, his eyes appropriately downcast with apology. “We have searched for several days.”
Elora marched the length of the room, arms stiff at her sides with rage. Her breaths seethed between her teeth. She stopped and jabbed her finger at the old man. “Days? Why didn't you tell me she was gone?”
“We did not want to cause alarm if she could be found,” he explained, immediately realizing his mistake. The mother's ire flew at him from across the room, slamming into him like a physical blow.
“You—!” Elora shrieked. She stared at him with disbelief. “You liar! I don't EVER want to see you again! Any of you!”
She lifted a heavy book from a table and flung it at him. The book sailed past to his right, landing harmlessly with a thud on the rug. Then she grabbed a vase, which sailed directly at his head. He ducked while the porcelain shattered against the door with a deafening crash.
“Get out of here! Out! Don't ever come near me again!”
“Protectress, there is still time for you to have another child. Patrum can—” Tyrane began to suggest, holding his arms out as a shield against the next flying object, another book. It struck his forearms, sending a bruising sting through his elbows. “We will help you.”
“I can't!” Elora screamed, filled with rage. “I won't let any of you touch me again! Get out! Guards! Guards!”
The door rattled behind him, but he had locked it upon entry. In another moment, the guards would bust the door to get in.
“Protectress, I implore you. Let us help you have another—”
“No! I won't let you near me!”
Wood splintered against his back and he went down in a tumble of human bodies. The guards wrested Tyrane's arms behind his back, lifting him like a doll back onto his feet.
“Get him out of here!” Elora ordered, her left arm stiff in the direction of the exit. “And don't ever let him back in.”
“Yes, Madam,” a guard acknowledged.
Spinning Tyrane around, the guards roughly guided him toward the stairway, down into the main hall and out the main door where his car and his traveling companion waited. The younger man narrowed his eyes in confusion at the elder's undignified treatment.
“Home,” Tyrane stated simply, signaling he wanted no further conversation on the matter. The two Prophets drove out of the city and back into the Storm.
Nothing of Ileanne was ever found. Her parents feared she crashed the car in the Great Storm and perished, her body disintegrated by the blasting sands. After almost a year of searching the entire continent, the people resigned themselves that they would never know her fate.