“Why did our guest run from our presence?” asked Zoe, more amused than concerned.
Nysa took a final draw from her cup of tea. “She didn’t know the answers or wouldn’t answer some basic questions, strange girl …”
“Can we abandon her to the cold though?” questioned Kyra.
“Yes, we can!” shouted Jocasta.
Her outburst attracting five pairs of eyes upon her. Jocasta’ knees wobbled slightly, her voice wavering. “I mean to say the girl was false, she held back on herself, while enquiring of us.”
Zosime slyly winked at Nysa, while smiling at Jocasta. “Wouldn’t you ask questions of your rescuer?”
“Well … yes, I guess.”
Nysa exchanged her empty cup for a full one from Kyra. “Upon seeing three more strangers … well perhaps we frightened her more, my questioning, Otonia’s non-interest and the two she knew, yourself and Zoe, gone.”
Jocasta fidgeted with her fingers. Her sisters leant forward, their eyes upon her, waiting for her comeback; she cast her eyes down in response. Wait. These sisters, she belonged to them as they belonged to her, their questions weren’t personal, they are testing her … Jocasta straightened her back and faced her sisters.
“Trust must be earnt. She couldn’t assume a welcome.”
Zosime released a belly laugh, filling the entire cottage. “Yes, Warrior Sister Jocasta and what single thing convinced you of your assessment?”
Jocasta squirmed, not really wanting to say. “M-my gut!”
Zosime scooped her up, her booted feet dangling, their foreheads kissing.
“Excellent response Seer Sister Jocasta!” sent Zosime.
No other observed Jocasta’s saucer like eyes.
“Skin touch enhances our Seer Link young Seer.”
Jocasta instinctively nodded her head.
“Try Seer Sister, push out from your mind.”
Jocasta admonished herself, Zosime invited her to respond like a Seer and instead of trying she needed to be prompted. Two weeks of practice and now the moment of truth.
Two bodies crashed into Zosime and Jocasta.
“Always trust your gut sister!”
Jocasta distracted, recognising Kyra’s voice.
“Your gut is an accumulation of observation and study of people, their mannerisms, expressions and reactions which is why we ask questions,” said Nysa.
A wave of frustrated anger emanated from Jocasta, Nysa and Kyra oblivious, while Zosime more attuned to detect the channelling – Seer Channelling. Zosime inwardly celebrating, Jocasta using her mind instead of her voice.
“I sense your frustration Seer Sister. Projecting your emotion is a perfectly acceptable start.”
Jocasta appreciated Zosime thoughts of encouragement of course. She wanted more, she wanted to become a proper Seer and so far, Zosime remained her sole hope. Her efforts to Seer Link with the Seers in the snow fruitless, their pity and kind encouragement annoying and after four attempts with different Seers she accepted her Seer Skill would answer to Zosime alone. The death of her twin when young, her lack of Seer Training and her exposure to Zosime’s sexual pleasure awaking and to her disappointment, restricting her Seer Skill, at least for now. She needed to believe she could expand her Seer Skill beyond Zosime. She suspected what she needed to do. After all, the sexing technique enabled untrained Seers, Thais and Alexa to join the Sister’s Seer Circle so why not her.
The group hug released, Jocasta unaware of their celebrations of her “gut feel” about the strange girl, returning polite smiles to any cheering or direct comment towards her. She wondered about Wormy and if she could trust him; not to go too far. If not him then perhaps one of the girl urchins. This idea flawed as a Seer Sister would need to be in skin contact with her to receive her pleasure and none would, given Charis’ decision, would they?
“You’re caught in deep thought typical of plots and plans, speak to me of them before you attempt them, I beg you. Your training will take time, an unfortunate consequence of your early twin loss, although Seer Skill no longer an impossibility for you,” sent Zosime, her bare hand slipping from Jocasta’s cheek, her eyes remaining locked upon the young Seer Sister.
Jocasta relaxed her knitted brow, wondering if Zosime detected her plotting with Seer Skill, facial expression or both.
Jocasta needed to restrain her laughter as her Sisters tipped toed around her sensitivity.
“We can’t remain six, can we?” said Nysa.
“Certainly not sister, fate should acknowledge us as two threes,” offered Zoe, nodding sagely.
Hooking a blanket up across the open doorway, Nysa said, “Kyra, Otonia and I will claim the bedroom half of the cottage.”
“I am sure Zosime, Jocasta and I can huddle around the warmth of the stove lacking any other more intimate means.”
Kyra, a red glow growing upon her cheeks darted behind the improvised door. Otonia, pleased with the arrangement while they continued to await news from the Priest, happily content even, being the instigator of their imposed shared tryst and consequent passionate love making. Once Nysa quickly recognised Otonia didn’t want or need to learn any weapon skills she and Kyra could offer, the days and nights available opened up to other possibilities. Otonia subject to the generous attentions of Nysa and Kyra resulting in sexual bliss and their lack of demands from her meaning she became the sole beneficiary. Nysa and Kyra a tag team in giving.
Kyra’s devotion to Nysa reverent, bordering on worship, which consequently permeated their shared Warrior Three bonding. Otonia needing to catch herself adopting the same adoration, although providing her with an avenue to project her desires upon their three-way partnership. She needed to win Nysa over and once achieved, Kyra’s devotion of Nysa would force her to follow. Nysa’s preference of attending to others easily discerned, her subconscious abhorrence and dependence upon her birthmark. She believed her martial skills excelled due to her peer’s knowledge of the deformity and their subsequent torture and teasing provided her with the motivation to succeed. Her conviction now, irrationally of course; her birthmark guaranteed her future success. When Charis offered to remove the pale birthmark for example, she refused. The birthmark though embarrassed her when others attended to her, her memories of past intimate rejection almost certainly playing upon her mind.
The campaign to convert Nysa into a receiver as well as a giver began with Otonia intimately thanking Nysa, kissing her passionately, running her fingers through her untamed dark brown hair and whispering appreciative remarks – about her body, her smarts, her skills, martial or otherwise, whatever seemed most appropriate after a pleasure giving bout of love making.
After a couple of days, she then drifted lower to Nysa’s pert breasts and lower still, Nysa’s core muscles girding her waist and the edge of her skin discolouration, pale birthmark against her light brown complexion. Otonia startled when Nysa grabbed Otonia’s hair viciously, pulling her head higher. Kyra came to her rescue, kissing Nysa, caressing her hair and whispering words of comfort all the while using her free hand to relax and unbind Nysa’s hands from Otonia’s hair. The Warrior Three bond the only explanation for this success deduced Otonia. Kyra wished to pleasure Nysa as much as Otonia did, perhaps more so, as part of her devotion and not able to even consider the possibility until now. Otonia wished to join the Warrior Three beyond, to her at least, dry martial prowess. Nysa for her part sensed trust and understanding, Kyra and Otonia Warrior Three bonded with her, exposing the sincerity of their feelings.
Nysa’s liberation from the imprisonment of her birthmark an ear shattering orgasmic event, which Otonia and Kyra mercilessly repeated upon her until exhaustion.
As they shared their love making, their Warrior Three bond strengthened in terms of foreknowledge or predictive actions, tasks such as assisting each other to dress in haste, who answered a door, proactively replacing an empty cup of tea or adopting roles in an interrogation; made without discussion or hint.
Zoe witnessed the Warrior Three in action. Did Kyra blush? Difficult to confirm as Otonia placed her body across Zoe’s line of sight, perfectly. One moment they stood within the stove half of the cottage and the next they all retired to the curtained half.
“What did we just witness?” asked Zosime, her tone hushed, almost afraid to ask the question.
“I am unsure, three people co-ordinating as one?” replied Zoe, jamming her thumbs into the tops of her long leather pants.
Jocasta handed out a bowl of broth or stew and spoon to Zoe and Zosime. Zoe quirking an eyebrow.
“Kyra prepared the food while preparing the tea.” Jocasta spooned in a mouthful of stew and when finished asked, “They do realise I have ears don’t they?”
Several intimate days passed by for the Warrior Three; Zosime, Zoe and Jocasta tolerant of their squeals and yelps of pleasure. Zosime and Zoe on more than one occasion exchanging sighs of disappointment restrained by Jocasta’s presence and their responsibility as guardians to her. Jocasta meanwhile occupying herself with her Seer Skill practice, actively ignoring the sounds of love making to improve her own ability to concentrate.
Warned the evening before by a villager the six Daughters of the Duchess readied themselves the next morning by dawn, their armour and shields polished and their weapons sharpened and sheathed. The Warrior Three leading the procession across the Village Common the snow crunching underfoot, the azure sky clear of cloud and the wind tame. All positive signs considering the time of year, Dark Month.
The six sisters paused beside the Shrine of Saph, waiting for arrivals to the village, on foot, on horseback and on wagon and subsequently making their way to the Church of Judge. The main trail through the village now slush and mud from the traffic, which several villagers gingerly crossed on foot to reach the church.
Beside the Church door the Priest’s helper waved enthusiastically. Nysa took one last look at each sister and stepped forward, ignoring the slush until she reached the Church.
“Walk to the rear of the Church. Take the eastern side and bask in Judge’s sunlight,” said the boy.
Nysa nodded and strode off as directed. The gathering of villagers crowded and parted in waves as they gawked at the Warrior Sisters and then made for the Church’s doorway once satisfied.
The Village Priest stood resplendent, his robes now trimmed in a silver cloth the sunlight reflecting in multiple directions, the white cloth pure and clean. The Priest cleanly shaven and his unruly black hair tied back in a ponytail. His bushy eyebrows still bristled, although this moment without anger, instead excited anticipation.
“Welcome Nysa, Charis’ Daughter, Judge has prepared a day against the Season, momentous portent!”
Nysa speechless. The Village Priest immaculate, his appearance holy and while his robe not as fine and ornate as the High Priest of Hillperch certainly substantial and impressive for a small quiet village. More importantly, gone the dark puffs of flesh under his eyes and the pallor of his skin now sun kissed and healthy in appearance.
“All is in readiness, including yourself?” asked Nysa.
Kyra and Otonia flanked Nysa, standing one step behind remaining silent. Zosime, Zoe and Jocasta stood further back keeping lookout, for what they didn’t know.
“Oh yes, once healthy again and well rested, the insights revealed themselves, although I paused new discoveries for the past two days to ensure I obtained complete understanding of the ceremony we are about to perform.”
The confidence exuded by his booming voice contagious and Nysa drew a great deal of necessary assurance. Failure or success, she felt certain the Priest would not disgrace himself or her before Judge’s judgement when he called upon them both.
“Nysa, Charis’ Daughter, you will be escorted by your Squire, Kyra, Charis’ Daughter I believe?”
At Nysa’s nod he continued.
“The rest of your guests will stand on your Eastern side as honour guard and witnesses, symbolic of capturing the first light of the day and offering this precious gift to you as needed in your quest to vanquish evil. Do you, guests of Nysa, Charis’ Daughter accept this duty?”
A hearty yes met his question, Jocasta deepening her voice for the response to the silent amusement of her sisters.
A high voice broke into the gathering. “The Church is full Holy one.”
Without taking his eyes from Nysa the Priest smiled broadly, his white toothy grin radiating excitement and joy.
“Enter the Church of Judge and be welcome, my boy will guide you to your places, while I make ready for my entrance.”
The six sisters filed past the Priest climbing three steps, passing through a small anteroom and then into the Church proper. Nysa braved the multitude of faces staring directly at her and she presumed each sister in turn. Nysa and Kyra positioned in front of the Altar, first and then Otonia, Zosime, Zoe and finally Jocasta off to the Eastern side of the Altar.
From a concealed recess the Priest’s boy took an object; multiple tubes of different lengths bound together and began to breathe into the tubes. A haunting tune summoned all ears, quietening the Church of chatter the sound reverberating throughout the exposed Church rafters filling the solid timber building. Like the dawning of the day the tune lightened, sprightly dancing and high notes bouncing amongst the exposed beams in the Church’s roof. Despite attempts to the contrary the gathered villagers and guests smiled, while others also tapped their feet in time, their whole being infected by the joy.
The tune drew in the few remaining faithful standing in deliberation outside the Church. The crowded Church welcomed more villagers within the confines of the walls, the long benches removed prior, standing room only being provided. The close shared body warmth expelling any hint of Death Season chill, exhaled breath now unseen. Nysa certain the count within the Church greatly exceeding the count of villagers within the village. Witnesses one and all to a moment, a ceremony never performed outside of the High Church of Judge in the City, a boast the High Priest in residence, most proud of.
“Sister the ceremony starts, do you wish to initiate the Seer Circle, or do you wish me too?” sent Zosime.
“The honour is yours being central to the occasion, so it is fitting we all pay homage through you,” sent Clymene.
Zosime applied her Seer Skill to establish and invite to her Seer Circle, receiving connections from her Seer Sisters.
“Welcome my faithful into the service of Judge!” bellowed the Priest. At the sounding of his voice the music stopped. The boy quietly running off through a concealed door.
“I call upon your faith once again to bless a holy ceremony, to call upon Judge in all his blinding glory to confirm or deny the faith in him of Nysa, Charis’ Daughter and if worthy ordain her Judge Knight!”
A sharp intake of breath reverberated across the congregation. The Priest paused.
A shout from the crowd. “You ask much Priest of our faith and while I speak only for myself, others perhaps fear as I do, punishment from the City and the High Priest, if not the Duke. We are humble peasants and wish to live in peaceful squalor!”
“I and nor would Judge hold any within his Church who didn’t believe in him and who hold their faith of him to their bosom, to remain. If you doubt, if you fear due to false or faltering faith your presence would be like a poison to our great ceremony. If you don’t believe as fervently as I then I would request you leave, in fact I insist you leave!”
The congregation shuffled nervously, heads turning this way and then opposite trying to reconcile the level of their faith with those about them. Would any leave? What would that mean?
“I am a true believer of Judge and never afeared his will or judgement. I am not naive though, those in the City will punish if they decide it in their minds.”
“The actions of others, including yours are beyond my control. You trusted your faith when the Goblins assaulted the village, which I am sure the High Priest will ask about if the secret is whispered to him and yet you accepted Judge’s miracle willingly, thankfully, to keep your families safe. We can keep a second secret if we must I am certain. Although our success will be our protection, how can our faith be denied when living proof walks amongst us?”
Those inside the Church of Judge gritted their teeth and set their jaws, determined to believe in their faith, a collective committed to a cause, certain in their death they would sit with Judge in the bright light and reunite with loved ones.
“If we swore to one secret, we can swear to another as you say Priest and if we are found out then so be it, I will reunite with my wife all the sooner!”
The Priest surveyed the crowd from his vantage point, the slightly raised floor, which behind him the altar rested upon, awaiting other comments or concerns. The Books of Judge expressing the absolute requirement for all present to be faithful in their belief and in the ceremony.
“If you don’t believe you can faithfully remain, I will bear you no ill will and you will be welcomed back to pray within these Church walls next week and each and every week after.” The Priest’s gentle voice carried across the Church, assisted by the stillness and apprehension.
Sunlight suddenly struck the Altar, a perfect circle, blazing and fierce. The Priest’s two hands bathed in the light; the inner flesh of his hands revealed. He stepped forward and sunlight enveloped his head, washing down his white robes which glinted in places, the silvered edges reflecting like swords of light.
Whether due to the Priest’s robe or some trick of the Church ceiling the sunlight dispersed across the entire congregation including the sisters standing to the East of the Altar. Satisfied somehow the Priest began chanting in an unknown language. Upon reaching a crescendo a beam of light descended upon Nysa with Kyra caught within the radiated glow. The Priest’s circle of light adjoining Nysa’s circle of light.
Nysa knelt before the Priest, he placed his hands upon her shoulders and continued his prayers. His prayer finished after a time and he spoke the final words for all to understand and the faithful in full voice to also add to the chant.
“Our God Judge raise this faithful servant to be your vessel of Judgement!”
The congregation repeated the Priest’s plea.
“Do you Nysa, Charis’ Daughter swear to vanquish evil in Judge’s glorious name?”
Nysa replied with a shout, “I do so swear!”
“Do you Nysa, Charis’ Daughter swear to protect the faithful of Judge?”
Nysa replied with a shout, “I do so swear!”
“Do you Nysa, Charis’ Daughter swear to carry out Judge’s judgement upon the unfaithful?”
Nysa replied with a shout, “I do so swear!”
The congregation continued the chant of ‘Our God Judge raise this faithful servant to be your vessel of Judgement!’ while the Priest continued to ask Nysa his three questions, awaiting her fervent response.
Swept up in the passion and faith of the event Nysa's sisters joined the chant. After many heartbeats the priest began to sweat from the exertion, frantic as three repeats usual, seven repeats unusual. Twenty-one repeats while mentioned as valid, as an actual occurrence though undocumented, never being required. Desperately scanning the faithful his gaze fixed upon Zosime, pinpoints of light offering themselves.
Zosime felt the silver circle in her breast warm as the magic contained within drained away, a thin silver line stabbing the Priest's column of light and rising. As the focus of the Seer Circle her Seer Sisters magic poured through her, asked for by the Priest’s Chant and answered in response. Item after Item drained, the circles initially, the magic draining easily, then the loops, followed by the rings and finally the gems and then coins if a Seer came into bodily contact with the wearer. As each source became spent the Seer dropped from the Seer Circle, until then unable to, locked in by the ceremony's need.
At the end of the twenty-first chant the Priest stiffened for a moment, his grasp upon Nysa crushing as a presence clearly consumed him. Light radiated from his entire body flooding the church, bending around objects and persons to eliminate any shadow or darkness. Each person present glowed for a moment, judged, purified and blessed by Judge to the level of their faith. Nysa rose above them all, lifted aloft, her examination more intense. Her connection to truth tested. Her connection to light tested. Her connection to faith tested. Each test resulting in an after radiance, the intensity reflecting her connection. Nysa blazed bright, her light not only dismissing the darkness and shadow, also warming the faithful in the Church.
The Priest spoke the words, the voice which pronounced them entirely different, heavy, with portent, loud enough to be heard, although not a shout.
“You are my vessel, you now bare Judgement in my name and I bless you with my purpose.”
Each person present convinced the utterance issued from them and to them, the declaration of Nysa’s ordination possible due to their presence as each worshipper mimicked the words as one reverberating voice echoing throughout the Church.
Nysa’s head thrown back, hair falling free, her arched body slowly touched down upon the Altar. Her arms lay folded across her chest, eyes closed at peaceful rest, legs daggled at the knees over the Eastern edge of the Altar. The Priest recovered, although dropping to one knee, instead of falling, in awe and speechless. The faithful silenced, gentle tears flowing down their cheeks as the divine touch of their God faded from within until unknown to them, a mote remained.
No one moved, no one wanted this divine moment to pass back into the ordinary needs of living and existence. They wanted to savour their unique all-consuming plateful of faith; his visitation absolute proof of their true and pure belief in Judge, their God, blessing his faithful with his cleansing light. Judge stood within them; he existed, the evidence went beyond hope, all present felt his comforting warmth, invigorated by his presence.
Feeble Death Season sunlight returned to the Church producing shadow as a result, in response villagers turned without hesitation to embrace those nearby; strangers, friends or family. In an orderly fashion they approached the Priest, now standing directly in front of the Church’s altar, to receive his blessing and quietly filed past the Altar and out of the Church by an Eastern side door. Kyra held Nysa’s head in her arms like nursing a newborn baby. Otonia, Zoe, Zosime and Jocasta lined up at her feet, an honour guard.
The Priest appeared unconcerned by Nysa’s condition, so Kyra accepted her unconscious state and her sisters followed her lead.
In passing, each parishioner either laid their hand upon Nysa’s, kissed her forehead or if particularly bold clutched Nysa’s hand in both of theirs. All momentarily closed their eyes in silent thanks.
A venerable lady, back slightly bent, her feet shuffling approached the Altar accompanied by an apologetic younger female, perhaps her daughter, perhaps her granddaughter; slapped her hand away when the youth attempted to assist or hurry her. Kyra lowered Nysa’s head receiving a radiant smile from the lady as a reward. The lady ran her gnarled and weathered fingers through Nysa’s hair and once satisfied touched her forehead to Nysa’s.
“Apologies, my grandmother worshipped Saph, once a Seer until her twin died and she greets all by touching their forehead. She means no harm, which is why she waited to be the last, so her eccentricity didn’t reflect poorly upon me during this momentous ceremony as if I care about the opinions of others.”
Her arm received a slight slap, which she withdrew to her body as if stung.
A sharp voice rang out. “You will when you wish to find a husband, they already think you peculiar nursing your ancient grandmother.”
“I prefer the truth of your company, rather than their flattery as you well know.”
“Well I need hope, your mother’s father failed to provide any twins and your mother after nine children, wide hips,” she quipped, “also failed, so you my girl are my final hope.”
“What of my sisters?”
“You need youth to bare twins, they are too old, and their wombs tested and found wanting, as you well know.” Her ancient eyes piercing and accusing, her granddaughter lowering her head.
Zosime stepped forward and lifted the granddaughters’ head with her forefinger. “You have been blessed by Judge on this day, revel in his faith, call upon his divine and I am sure your grandmother will be rewarded.”
The granddaughter stepped back; eyes wide. “I, well I need a husband first!”
“Why? You need a male and the right male may not be your first, husband or not.”
The granddaughter’s mouth shaped into an O, although a rough hand tugging on Zosime’s arm drew her attention away. Turning and naturally bending down to eye level to face her interloper, the aged face before her unexpected, the grandmother taking advantage to quickly place her forehead upon Zosime’s.
“Please answer if you can.”
Zosime froze. The ancient one’s touch would detect Zosime’s call to her Seer Sisters, who by now were surely trying to recover and come to terms with the draining of all their magic. All the indecision too late in any case, a Skilled Seers reaction to a connection invitation automatic. In the ‘thought instant’ Zosime regretted her kindness, wished the grandmother would have touched any other sister or simply shuffled passed.
“You must die with this secret, my Seer Skill can never be revealed, even in jest,” sent Zosime.
Silence. Zosime took the opportunity to straighten until a rough hand reached behind her neck and feebly pulled down. To continue the separation required a token application of her strength and yet Zosime paused.
“Your secret is safe with me, although how? My twin died over forty years ago and my longing for her and many years of practice has resulted in my token Skill, yet in you, young, Single Seer such Seer strength …”
“How do you know I am a Single Seer?” The question escaped Zosime mind before she could prevent the implied invitation to continue the Seer contact. To cover the duration Zosime closed her eyes and placed both her hands on the ancient Lady’s cheeks, pretending to mumble comfortable words.
“I carry the same pain within me dear. Wait, you can act while we are Seer linked? How? Mystery upon mystery, oh how I wish to be young again.”
As the grandmother’s thought ebbed, Zosime quickly grabbed her venerable arms and straightened her body, instinctively maintaining eye contact. The grandmother’s eyes rimmed red and moistening.
“What have you said to my grandmother? How dare you upset such a harmless old Lady!” snapped her granddaughter.
“Although your touch is broken, we are stilled linked. Stretch your Seer Skill beyond. You will quickly become exhausted, yet as you now know, possible.”
“I have erred. My granddaughter is a Single Seer and I have been fixated on her baring twins, instead I could develop her Seer Skill …”
“I have never heard of a Single Seer wishing to bare children …”
“I have been a terrible bully, a wonder she accompanies me and perhaps she stays as I understand her loss … I thank you for this hope. It is time I apologise to my granddaughter.”
The Seer Link broke, initiated by the grandmother. Zosime greatly relieved, immediately returning her full attention to her surrounds. Otonia wrestling with the granddaughter, the grandmother now calming the granddaughter. The Priest amused, not intervening in anyway. Zoe protectively hugging Jocasta standing away from the affray.
Zosime raised her voice. “Your grandmother and I cleared up a misunderstanding, nothing more. I meant her no harm as I am sure she is trying to explain to you.”
Quiet descended upon the Church as the scuffling and struggling subsided to the relief of all, except perhaps for the Priest. The grandmother herded her granddaughter out of the Church and at that precise moment Nysa awoke. Her head lifting effortlessly, her core muscles propelling her torso into a sitting position and then her thighs pushing back towards the Altar, propelling her body forward to land softly on the polished wooden Church floor.
Nysa immediately sort out and embraced the Priest, who hugged back and quickly released. Her sisters then rushed forward to receive their hugs; smiles and laughter filling the moment.
Tears streamed down Nysa’s face reflecting the joy in her heart. The Priest returned to stand before her, Kyra and Otonia flanking her.
“Our God’s presence consumed me, and we became one. Olympus and past faithful at his side. I thank you and your sisters, if ever I can help, I plead to do so regardless of consequences. We must spread the true word of Judge.” His cheeks rosy red, toothy grin and arms stretched out, waving in all directions, enthusiasm personified, eager to commence his duty.
“I would caution you to hold your fervour good Priest of Judge. You have a whole Priesthood who haven’t been exposed to your truth. They would call you false and drag you down.”
The Priest dropped his arms as his forehead crinkled. His voice weak. “I sense his power within me, they would recognise this I am sure.”
“You would be High Priest instead of the one currently ordained? He would simply step aside and ignore his human ambitions? What of the Priests that owe their advancement to him, would they forget their debt to him and now follow you? You sure they would see your power as coming from Judge or would they condemn you as an agent of evil?”
“But I am filled with his light and faith. I don’t understand why you cast doubt upon His glory, especially after today?”
“I have walked the halls of the Judge Priests and Judge Knights and I have seen how they reward their friends and disadvantage others. This is not about faith in Judge, this is about power and human ambition during our God’s absence and your true faith would threaten this system. I say to you go cautiously, don’t reveal yourself until you are sure of the consequences. The system you wish to challenge declared me unfit to be a Judge Knight, yet we have both witnessed our God grant me this responsibility and duty. I urge you to caution for your own benefit is all.”
The Priest looked long and hard at Nysa, her eyes never faltering under his withering gaze.
“I hear your words and will consider them more fully. I realise you are not trying to deny me, but seek to protect me, possibly from myself as a true Judge Knight of faith would.”
The Priest’s boy then dragged the Priest away by his hand. Reluctantly following he stole one last look over his shoulder. Nysa returning his look with a sad smile, doubtful he would heed her words.
“Well you don’t look any different!” said Jocasta, eyes sparkling. Nysa immediately reached out to her and drew her in for a hug, messing her hair for good measure.
“Maybe all the change is on the inside!”
“I believe not,” whispered Kyra breathlessly, carefully studying her Judge Knight Mistress and Warrior Three companion.
Nysa led her sisters to the Village Common, Kyra under one arm, Otonia the other. Jocasta skipping alongside, while Zosime and Zoe content to stroll behind the Warrior Three. First one and then another villager spotted them approaching, shortly after a surge of villagers swarmed towards them. The sacred ceremony finished, and their Priest no longer present to enforce order and decorum.
“Hold!” Nysa’s voice like a thunderclap, absolute, utterly confident, her hands raised, open palms facing the encroaching crowd of faithful.
Every man, woman and child obedient, dropping to one knee, mothers gathering their children to them. Nysa approached them and as she closed in, they bowed their heads unable to gaze upon her now and yet moments before eager to touch her and revere her.
Nysa placed her hand upon head after head, whispering, “I bless you with the courage of light to defeat the dark, you will be a beacon to those lost searching for their faith.”
Once blessed their eyes followed Nysa as she anointed villager after villager until the last, an elderly lady and her granddaughter.
“Time now for celebration! I believe ale and cider is to be served with a roasted beast.” Nysa raised her hands in the direction of the Inn. Three villagers on the edge of Common raced off with aprons flapping. Several other villagers returned to their tasks preparing small fires for warmth and benches for seating as the celebration spread out stretching between Inn to Village Common. The Priest returned to join his flock, glowing with pride and swaggering with confidence. The villagers ignoring the Daughters of the Duchess, except for Nysa. Villagers continually sought to touch her, most shyly reaching for a hand or forearm, an occasional burly farmer grasping for more and Nysa needing to gently although forcefully divert their intentions. The Priest seemingly aware of their inclinations and quickly present to escort them from harm’s way.
“It is good to see our coin bringing such cheer is it not sister?” said Zosime to Nysa during a quiet moment. Zosime not receiving a response turned to catch Nysa’s troubled face.
“What troubles you Judge Knight Nysa, Charis’ Daughter on this miracle of days?”
Staring off into the crowd, Nysa replied, “My life’s dream fulfilled. Expectations. Reactions. I didn’t jest to Jocasta, I have changed within and I know this to be true, no doubt.”
“Are you afraid? You don’t seem to be?”
Nysa reached across and dragged Zosime by her shoulder closer, her sister’s efforts to resist ignored. Zosime stared into Nysa’s eyes.
“Afraid? His divine fills me, I am eager to discover my new self, although I am wary of over confidence and foolhardy behaviour …” Nysa casually released Zosime from her grasp.
Zosime rubbed circulation back into her upper arms. “Your strength is certainly irresistible sister. Oh my!”
As dusk fell during their conversation, the faithful glowed slightly, occasionally some a little more than others. The Priest and Nysa not only shined, casting light from them, they radiated warmth. All conversation stopped as all eyes turned towards their Priest, questioning, wondering, looking for an explanation.
The Priest raised his arms, light exuded from them garnering a gasp from his flock.
“Celebrate your God’s love of you, you hold his light within you, a ward against the dark, his warmth against the cold for as long as it lasts.”
The Priest knew his readings and learnings to date suggested this affect if the ceremony called upon Judge’s favour, although witnessing the affect far outdid any description provided. The fact the ceremony required twenty-one chants suggested this affect beyond their reach, and yet the proof stood before him. The next element to ponder, the duration. The tombs described weeks, when performing the ceremony on Judge’s High Holy Day, days otherwise, so during Death Season perhaps a number of bells? He needed to wait until morning.
The villagers returned to the celebration, the chat hushed, although hurried comparing and testing the extent and strength of their respective glows. Each reached for a refill of ale or cider to quell their nerves and took the offered roast to still their mouths from talk, allowing their minds time to explore the detail.
As darkness took over, many families bid their Priest good night and returned to their cottages, bellies full and most adults sporting rosy cheeks. The occasional prone body hoisted into a wheelbarrow and taken home with assistance of a neighbour, the Priest’s boy returning with the wheelbarrow for another delivery.
“The last few are now in bed. The Inn closed and my boy has well and truly earnt his rest this night. I bid you goodnight Judge Knight and thank you for everything.”
Nysa shook the Priest’s offered hand, forgoing an embrace and while the chill of the night returned, propelled by a biting mountain breeze their inner warmth repelled the affects. Nevertheless, the howling wind and flying snow triggered their ingrained need to find shelter.
As the Priest and the Church boy faded into the night the six sisters remined in possession of the Village Common.
“Sisters gather our goods and chattels we leave tonight,” announced Zosime.
Despite the howling wind a low groan reached her ears.