Mistress Moon is my contribution to 2008s National Novel Writing Month. Its my first NaNoWriMo and my first attempt in writing a novel. This site will host my first draft.
Mistress Moon is a Feminist Speculative Fiction Tale investigating the possibilities behind a universe ruled by the Goddess and her followers, a society based on female dominance which allows men to undertake their primal directive of protection and providing for their communities. Its an emerging love story where Eros love is unknown. It questions balance and the roles we take in our own lives.
It was spawned through a short story competition I entered and had so much positive feedback about the story and that I aught to write a book about it – that – well – I am…
For a teaser into the story and one of the main characters click here
I will be posting each chapter of around 1000 words every week. Please click here to catch up on the story – chapters can be found on the sidebar.
I appreciate your comments and thoughts as I go along. This is the first draft copy – and remains fairly intact as I wrote it during NaNo.
Thanks again for popping by – check out my other sites or other NaNo Writers listed
The transporter with the Chosen had landed in a large manicured garden, sweeping lawns, brightly plummaged birds flittered amongst the shrubs. Messengers ran barefooted along the sandstone pavements, alerting all within the citadel.
High above the courtyard in secret apartments, the empress watched the gathering of women with interest. Melisac silently appeared by her side, bowing stiffly.
“The Chosen are ready to disembark on your signal Empress.”
Without turning her head she said, “Is he amongst them?”
Melisac, hesitated, “A few possibilities, but as always, the prophesy is hard to pin down to specifics Great Lady.”
“Give it a few moments before you open the doors. The assembled women need to find their places and I am sure I have some urgent requests to handle before they are revealed.”
“As you wish Empress.” “I can tell by your energies you are hiding something Melisac.” Jorvan spun suddenly to face her. “We have found him haven’t we? Hes here.”
“Again Empress – its hard to say.” “No don’t tell me which one he is, allow the Goddess to reveal him to me.”
An administrator knocked softly and entered the room. “The court is buzzing with the arrival of the Chosen empress. We have been inundated with requests for private viewings. What is your wish?”
Empress sighed. “What happened to the old ways as written in the great scriptures? I will see to it that we return to those strict observances if it kills me! You would think after all the years I have put in that I would see some changes.”
Melisac stood emotionless waiting to be dismissed.
Sighing, she waved her bejeweled hand . “Please prepared them for my address.” “It is being done now Great Lady.” Empress Jovan slunk her head in her hands thinking deeply. Would this mysterious Chosen be the one? She shivered and made a warding sign. Out of the major prophesies, she only dreamed that this would come to pass in her rule.
Out of no Mother he will bring a return to balance.
This Chosen may be like the others, just co-incidences and false alarms. The translation was a little sketchy and academics had long argued the meanings of each word. Jovan felt her years in her bones. The thrill of viewing the Chosen now held no passion for her. Her lust for flesh had long withered. She rose to attend the final stages of her ceremonial dress.
A rustle of expensive material heralded one of her court chancellors.
“Great Lady I grant a boon”
“Sithin. Rise, sister. No doubt you seek a place at the viewing?”
Sithin nodded her head and held her breath.
“I’m in a good mood today. I will grant you a place.”
Bowing deeply Shorel murmured her thanks. “Sithin?” Large eyes looked up “Are you seeking a mate this season or simply looking for more security guards?”
“Great Lady I am honoured that you remember. Loni is now 2 seasons old and the time has come to seek a new mate.”
“I am sure there will be a good match in this new arrival. Go now to the East side. May the Goddess guide you to a suitable mate.”
Jorvan sighed watching her go. She remembered being young – it seems so long ago now – eager for the viewing of the newly chosen.
On a whim she spun and entered the halls, turning and opened the doors to one of the smaller offices utilized by Tanissa. As always, she was hunched over her reports, neat piles of paperwork stacked on the desk and her report books being scribbled in as her eyes darted from one place to the next.
“Even the Goddess herself could not keep up with your work place Tanissa.”
She looked up from her report. “And gifted” the Empress a slight smile. “No doubt; and I am sure the Goddess would have a solution to these honour killings.”
“It is a shocking revelation to think it is happening in our own citadel and by people we know – even well. The Goddess does not promote killing of any sort, she honours life above all.”
“Life and honour – some value and understand hem differently than we do.” “Empress are you not concerned that these honour killings will simply desensitize us to violence; lead our idealic society into a barbaric one?”
“Such as the ones on the outer planets used to be? Where men attack each other, kill entire families, steal and burn houses? No – that will never happen here. A strong civilization cannot degrade back into barbarism quickly. What will happen, unless it is addressed is the thoughtless doctrine guiding our young into actions they do not understand or appreciate.”
Tanissa looked at her quizzically. Jorvan smiled – “Yes a little deep for this hour of the day. Come, leave these reports, Surely you are curious to see the Chosen?”
She kept her eyes down. “ I do not hunger for male contact if that is what you mean Jorvan. I have my work here, running the citadel, heading the council when you are not here; it takes its toll.”
“And one that you aught not have to take. The Goddess would not wish it so. The joining of men and women on a regular basis is clearly stated in her texts.”
“I am well served by my loyal personal guard. I have no wish to alter it.” Jorvan smiled – “Some of these young chosen are still so… inexperienced. You are probably wise to wait until they are familiar with the citadel ways and have been introduced to the Earth Maidens here. “
Tanissa gasped and grabbed a lose report. “On that point Empress – there has been an alarming drop in Earth Maidens – especially in the outer citadels and villages.”
“It comes back to the sisterhood again – they are messing with the ancient texts and the revered position of the earth maidens. The old ways Tanissa – we must do what we can to guide the sisterhood back to he old ways.”
“A hard task Empress – You are a confider and know the ways of the sisterhood. I am afraid I am only a political head.”
“Come Tanissa, join me in my private balcony to watch the Chosen in their first hour here.”
She sighed and gave into the Empresses persuasive manner. Perhaps it might not hurt to view the new Chosen. It may serve as a welcome distraction from the administrative tasks she had piled around her.
From the luxurious apartments the Empress had overlooking the courtyards Tanissa watched as the men stride down the gang plank, some brought their hands to their faces to look up at the sun. Others knelt to the grass and prayed. They all seemed to be in good spirits, their faces lit up with excitement taking in the wonders presented to them.
A tall black man, his skin shining in the sunlight walked off the ship with an arm around the shoulders of an equally broad warrior. They tussled each other in good humour and their white teeth flashed. The tanned warrior was light on his feet as he dodged out of the way of the ebony arms of his friend.
Tanissa caught her breath as she looked down at the pair, so free, so alive. She approached the one way glass the Empress also had and watched intently on the tanned warriors progress through he courtyard. He stopped and looked up, directly into her eyes. Although from his vantage point there was nothing but a gleaming dark surface on the upper floors of the courtyard rooms, he held his look for several heartbeats. Tanissa gasped and took a step back, his eyes burning into hers. She turned quickly and excused herself from the presence of the Empress, silting more work to be completed before the Chosens welcome took place.
Jorvan had caught the look between the two and tapped her chin thoughtfully. The next few weeks would be interesting.
Tanissa shuffled her papers unnecessarily. Was she the only one who saw the irony in what had just taken place? Although just a man, a withered body lay just beyond her reach; one who once laughed and held a place, no matter how small significance; in the empire. Murder was a theoretical challenge for her, but as she thought about situations one might find oneself in, perhaps not such a distant reality. It was commonplace for painful persuasion to be utilized when training disobedient citizens. None of her staff or servants had died after retribution for their clumsiness or laziness; but she had heard of accidental deaths within other nobles homes. This was hardly on the same scale as predetermined slaughter of another human.
“Might I interject on our celebrations?” She said
“High Chancellor Tanissa, please take the floor.” Waved Jorvan. “No doubt you will have all the figures already calculated?”
Grimly smiling, Tanissa nodded. “Members of the council. Not half an hour ago we were to debate the rationalization of Gateway usage and the imminent closure of its usage to Confiders. All would agree that without the crystals and our gateway system, our empire, the one we know today, will cease to exist. Cyrian has demonstrated to us an option to regenerate the crystals. Nothwithstanding none of us know how long a regenerated crystal will last, The Empire consists of 29 planets and stretches as far as we have dared send the planetary ships. We have assumed that there is no other life at the outer reaches as for centuries there has been no other discoveries or contact with other civilizations. Most planets have at least five abbeys and gateways; Terra being an exception to the rule with 29 abbeys dotted around the major citadels. We also have our three planetary ships which travel between the planets for the choosing ceremonies, the assorted transporters and hovercraft within each ship as well as the Defence Unit Mother ship on permanent patrol on the outer reaches. Each of these things requires crystals, all of which are beginning to show signs of fatigue and failure. Without entering the religious debate on the sanctity of life, I wish to pose this question to you. Upon your planet or citadel, do you have a ready supply of common criminals such as the one on the floor?”
“Who are you to question the sanctity of life Tanissa? The Goddess gives life to all and as such we must be prepared to sacrifice for the greater good of the Empire.”
“The Goddess would not want her followers to become murders in her name”. Tanissa retorted.
“Perhaps if you attended more ceremonies and honoured the Red Tent with your presence every month as every other woman does, you might know the doctrines of the Goddess a little more intimately.”
Jorvan held her hand up. “Sisters, this bickering is wasting everyones time. This discovery has brought light on many questions for us and a decision upon what to do with this knowledge needs to be considered deeply. I charge each council member to think upon a solution which keeps the integrity of the Goddess words and teachings. We will meet this afternoon to discuss this.”
Tanissa rose, “Might I suggest also Members to think upon the administration required to identify candidates for sacrifice? Murder and the like is hardly a common occurrence amongst our society; unless we would consider any citizen who takes anothers life as a murder.” She stared around the room, daring those she knew intimately who had committed or ordered a political murder recently.
None could hold her eyes for long and busied themselves with note taking or picking specs up from the table.
Once again Jorvan broke the icy silence, “I suggest we move to our next topic before our break.”
Tanissa shuffled her papers again and read the next item on the list.
“Standardised Education across the Empire.”
She glanced up again at the flushed faces around the room who were still contemplating recharing the crystals. “More and more families are chosing to educate their sons alongside their daughters. Whilst I am in favour of amusing the boys in their formative years, I must insist that wasting resources on educating men be ceased. Not only is it a waste of resources, but it is beginning to put strange and unnatural ideas in some of their heads, making them believe they are above the station that they were born into.”
Debate began on the highlights of educated men and their use within the defense corp in flying the planetary ships and some innovative advances into introducing them into minor administrative roles.
A knock at the door and administrator crept in with practiced ease, leaning close to Jorvan and whispered something. Jorvan looked momentarily surprised and waved the woman out of the room.
“Councilors, The Chosen ship has arrived a moon turn early.”
Immediately, the tension in the room lightened with the relief to be speaking about a lighter matter.
Jorvan smiled. “I will convene the meeting and allow you to take places in the upper apartments. Refreshments will be served and I shall join you shortly. The chosen are from the fifth quadrant – I believe close to your planet, Cyrian.?”
Cyrian smiled slightly and nodded.
“As always, our Confiders will be vigilant with the energetics of this new group and I would ask that you remain silent as they find their way around the Palace. We don’t want to frighten them.”
Everyone laughed and began disbursing
Tanissa fell into stride with the Empress, “Are you concerned with the Minor Oracles arrival?”
“Nothing escapes my ears. I am curious to why The Reverent Oracle has called them. They still have the crystalline voice projectors and have no need to meet us as we do.”
“You know she has been encouraging talk of the Major Prophesy again?”
“It cycles. Idle chatter of The One will die out quick enough and it will be another doom and gloom prophesy she is proporting.”
“If I may say so Empress, you constantly surprise me.”
“Oh why is that Tanissa?”
“For a woman wedded to the Goddess and one who was such a gifted confider as yourself, you seem very flippant if I might use that term – with the place of religion and our ceremonies.”
The last councilor left the room and the two women were alone.
“Becoming Empress opens new doors into your mind and you begin to see things for what they are. Our society need to change if we are to survive. I now see we need to question the reasons behind our rituals and ceremonies. The Goddess did not give women the expansive minds that we have simply to follow doctrine like sheep. We were born to question and to test. I am afraid to say that the sisterhood has stopped doing that and are content to rely on ceremonies and mass hysteria to continue.”
She smiled.” Now enough of this political chatter. We have a ship full of Chosen. Take your place in the apartments Tanissa; it must be time Aleah had a sister?”
“Thank you Empress, I had not considered it, but will give it my uptmost attention. If you excuse me I have these reports to look through. I will perhaps join you later.”
Tanissa fumed silently as she turned and left. Hints on her joining with a mate to produce another daughter were beginning to land more frequently upon her ears.
“Please Cyrian, continue with your report.”
Thank you Empress. As you know the planet Asesca has been unstable for generations. The weather patterns have become unpredictable making sustainable farming and the functioning of citadels unbearable. Last year, with the assistance of the planetary ships the final inhabitants were moved to my planet and resettled. The Abbeys artifacts have been stored and being brought back to Terra with the next Chosen Ship that docks for supplies. Your orders for the Circle of Nineteen to be dismantled was undertaken by our most gifted Sisters and talented stonemasons. I now bring you this.”
She stepped forward and withdrew a fist sized chunk of cloudy rock.
Each drew a breath in. Jorvan picked it up and examined it. “So this is that it looks like when not embedded into a wall.” It glowed dimly at her touch.
“We have extensively tested it, Empress – it seems to only glow when someone with Goddess gifts touches it.”
“Humm so a similar glow to when one of us touches a planetary Ship crystal before take off? “
She nodded. “however, the Ceremonial Touch of the crystal lasts only seconds. The longer someone with the Gift holds a freed crystal like this, the brighter it glows. We tested it with different sisters until one passed out after an hour of holding it. She recovered the next day but felt giddy and drained for over a week.”
Jorvan carefully placed it on the table in front of it and stared at it.
“So instead of answering any questions it poses more. Is it ….alive?”
“Everything the Goddess touches is alive in someway Empress.”
“Spare me the religious doctrine. So we don’t know; is that what you are saying?”
“There is something else. What else does a free crystal do?” Jorvan noted perceptively.
“I cannot explain it – its best to demonstrate it. Please excuse me for a moment.”
Cyrian walked to the door and opened it motioning someone behind it to enter.
Her two guardians marched it, restraining a man dressed in rags. His eyes rolled in terror as he saw the congregated women. Cyrian closed the door behind her and collected the crystal from the Empress.
Myrthis stood frowning, “Who is this?”
“A common criminal I assure you.”
“Crime of most types are not common within the Empire. We live in peace and harmony, there is no need to restrain him.” Mythris haughtily barked.
Cyrian bowed in an over exaggerated manner. “With all due respect Mistress Sieth, you have not walked amongst the people within the empire for many Solar Turns. You and your priestess live an isolated life far beyond that of normal people. I wonder what you might call common in any case.”
Jorvan broke in. “ What are you saying Cyrian?”
“I am saying that within many planets of the Empire, petty crime is not the only issue our guardians are having to deal with now. This man is a murderer.”
Silence filled the hall puzzled or blank looks met her.
She stared around the room realizing that many didn’t understand the term. “He killed another person …..deliberately.”
“There were immediate gasps and looks of horror amongst the council.”
Tanissa grimly looked around at the faces. “Hypocrites all of them” she thought. “Each of us have ordered the death of at least one Confider to keep our secrets. Each of us would not have a second thought in arranging an accident for another councilor which would result in higher political power for us.”
Though, she mused, the death of another person for no political gain was unheard of; certainly the average person had no fear of physical violence within their society. The normal person would either purposely ignore a missing sister or not wish to be involved with Goddess Business.
Mythris approached the man and studied his eyes. She closed hers and breathed a prayer to the Goddess and held her hands in front of her, her fingers fanned out over his heart. She immediately took a step backwards reeling with horror.
“His energies are dark and unrepentful. What she is saying is true. He is an abomination to the Empire and to the Goddess.”
Tanissa stood. “ Why have you brought him here? To show him off as a circus piece? A curiosity? Our society is not equipped to deal with this sort of crime.”
“I may have an answer to the crystal crisis as well to the mounting crimes within the outer planets. The Goddess has gifted us with the perfect solution. As the Empress stated earlier, we have been unable to find a source of these items. Perhaps there is a reason. Perhaps they were manufactured rather than mined from a planet.”
“That has been a theory held for centuries, but we have no technology to replicate the crystals. What is this solution?”
Cyrian pointed towards the man and ordered her guardians, “Hold him tight.” as she thrust the crystal onto the mans chest.
The crystal glowed, its white light growing in intensity every moment. The mans mouth opened in a silent scream, his body stiff. Over the matter of moments, his skin wrinkled and sagged, his teeth fell out to the ground and his hair grayed and blew away by a breathless wind. Cyrian held the glowing crystal to his chest till he sagged in the arms of the guardians. They allowed the husk of the ancient man to fall on the floor.
She turned triumphantly toward the Empress. The crystal glowed with a warm pink tone, vibrating and giving off a low hum. Its cloudyness had cleared and in places looked nearly transparent. She walked to the wall Mythris had been at for the opening ceremony and swept her hand over it, her fingers delicately dancing in the air. A small opening appeared in the wall and a cloudy crystal sat ebbing intermittently. Cyrian pulled it from its cradle and replaced it with the glowing rose coloured one, closed the door and swept her hand over the wall again.
Immediately the images of the planets appeared, real enough to touch. The Empress touched Terra and the rest disappeared, exploding the tiny planet to a larger scale. An aerial view of the citadel appeared intricate with detail.
The assembled women gasped.
“I never thought I would see this. The Chronicles of the past Empresses tell of this tool , but I had imagined them to be fanciful recollections, not based on truth.”
Jorvans mouth was open as she stared at the images. She quickly glanced up at Cyrian.
“How long will the power from this crystal last?”
Cyrian smiled. “Again Empress, I am unsure, as you can imagine, criminals of that mans, humm caliber… are hard to come by. However, we have tested it on other men, taking the crystal away from their chest usually before they die withered and useless. They recover eventually if they are still alive once the crystal is take away.”
Jorvan began to pace the floor. “Is it possible that the answer has been at our fingertips? Our rituals state that no ungifted must touch the crystals and that each gifted using the gateway or planetary ship must touch it momentarily as way of thanks to the Goddess.For centuries, the crystals have needed regenerating with life force and we have only been feeding them crumbs with our tiny touches. It seems incredible that we have our answer to the gateways and crystals crisis. Cyrian you have our heartfelt thanks for this discovery.”
The room exploded with applause.
Tanissa looked about the room incredulously. Was this the same council who argued for hours on the possible banning of the rodeo events the men indulged in; all because some felt it were cruel to the horses and bulls?
Empress Jorvan strode in to the council hall, here eyes locked on to the head seat at the round table. The councilors stood and bowed low as she walked past them. Standing tall with her dark long hair flowing down her back, towered Mythris, Head Sieth Seeker and the leader of the Sisters of the Goddess. As the Empress approached her ornately carved seat Mythris bowed again, “Welcome Great Lady, we are still awaiting the arrival of Cyrian from Asesca”
Jorvan slightely inclined her head toward Mythris in recognition and spun turning her back on her, “Sisters,” Jorvan greeted the gathering with her hands raised, “I trust you all had uneventful passages within the Gateways.”
Nods and general murmuring around the room as each watched the other with a practiced suspicion.
“Before we open our formal meeting and whilst we wait for Cyrian, I am sure all of you would like the latest news on the regeneration of our gateways. Morfarn, how goes the reconstruction of the Gateway taken from the Abby at Cora?”
Morfan hung her head. “Poorly, Empress I am frustrated and ashamed to say. Despite the intricate drawings and careful instructions I am afraid that the secrets of building a circle again has been lost to us. We have the crystal from the old circle but as yet have been fearful to test the theory that these crystals are replaceable. Thus we have not attempted to pull one out of a working circle and place another in its place; just in case it stops that circle as well.”
“What is your educated guess to what might happen, should we take a working crystal out and replace it with another?” Jorvans eyes bore into Morfans bowed head.
Morfan took a deep breath and continued to study the flooring of the council chambers. Mythris stepped forward, her face flushed.
“With all due respect Empress, educated guesses are not what our empire was built on. Observance of the ways of the Goddess and respect to the ancient sacred feminine has always been the first and only answer we have needed.”
Jorvan glared at Mythris, “Perhaps if the hierarchy were encouraged to strictly observe the Goddess’s ways rather than line their own pockets, we would not be in the situation we are. Now Morfan, your thoughts..”
Morfan looked around the circle of desperate eyes, knowing the outcome of her findings would tip the balance for many on their faith in the empire. “All the circles stop, they don’t work again, the one we test no longer works. We just don’t know. It is a total unknown and to be honest, I don’t want to be the one to order the destruction of a working gateway. Goddess knows, the ones we have left are becoming erratic at best.”
“Our foremothers debated long into the usage of the circles and spoke of limiting travel to Essential Transportation only and yet here we are still flitting confiders from one citadel to another on a regular basis.”
Mythris glared again, “Confiders provide an essential service to the wellbeing and function of each society. Are you using this council meeting to announce your omnipotence and suggesting changing the ways of the Goddess? ”
“I understand, Sieth Mythris, more than any other the gravity of my words and decisions.You are not above the lore of the Goddess, nor should you forget your place, nor simple manners; especially amongst esteemed council members from across the Empire.”
Perhaps Empress, a better forum to speak on the Goddesses words and interpretations would be in the council of Seith and not this one.” Tanissa stood between the two women, her tiny stature in direct opposition to the energy and power her presence emitted.
Jorvan looked about the Council. “ I am simply suggesting that perhaps the confiders function might be localized, with resident confiders within communities,rather than ones who travel throughout the Empire on regular basis. It would cut the Gateway usage down considerably.”
Shocked gasps came from round the room.
“Even You Empress are not above the doctrine of the Goddess. You are stepping a dangerous line.”
“As are you Mythris. The ways of the Goddess seem a little too convenient for some.”
Their long stares at one another was broken with the arrival of Cyrian whose strident footsteps echoed the room.
“Many apologies sisters, might I take the first place in reporting; especially as my lateness comes directly from our primary meeting issue.”
Tanissa looked up for her papers and nodded. “Of course, it is duly noted in the proceedings, you shall have the floor after the ritual opening. Mythris, once you ready, you may have the floor.”
Mythris swept her hand over the side wall and sang in her evenly toned timbered voice a greeting to all assembled and blessings upon them; invoking the blessings of the Goddess in each path. Her hand followed an intricate pattern in the air beside the wall and the council joined hands to complete the ritual.
A transparent image of the star system hovered over the middle of the table and then faded in and out during the ritual. As the last note ended, the image became intermittent and gratefully zapped into nothingness. Mythris’s slender hand completed the intricate closing pattern in the air and in a fluid motion, sat in her seat.
“Sisters, even our opening ritual heralds the demise of the blessed artifacts. Not one to announce my true age, however, I recall a time in this council that the images were strong enough to believe they were real objects; not mere projections.”
Jorvan looked around the room as many nodded also recalling stronger crystal power.
“Without putting too finer point on it, our Empire relies on artifacts we don’t understand and cannot replicate. The circle of nineteen Gateways are fading. I barely arrived today, thus my lateness.”
Jorvan looked up at the waiting servants and administrators in the wings. “I would call for a locked meeting” She started hard at the staff, “Please excuse yourselves and position guards at the doorways, allowing none to enter until we come out.”
She waited for the silent feet of the excess personnel to exit before continuing. “I cannot accept we are unable to understand even the smallest details of these gateways. Without them, travel between Abbeys not only within Terra, but throughout the Empire will be impossible. We can rely on the planetary ships, but time is of essence and I cannot wait for months for the council to assemble to discuss urgent matters. We must speak plainly as the time for diplomacy and religious correctness has ended”
“Each of us know the power of the Goddess and have benefited from her gifts of the mind and of perception. Only recently have we rediscovered that our rituals are intertwined with the functions of the artifacts and with out completing the minutest detail, they do not operate.”
She stared around the room. The silence was overwhelming.
“We have long known that the crystals which form the heart of the planetary ships also influence and assist the circles functions. Our foremothers were unable to find a source to mine or collect more and we too in this generation have been unable to clarify any further information. So my sisters, It has come to the time to make a firm decision on the Gateways.”
“Perhaps that decision can wait until I demonstrate my findings.” Cyrian smiled a languid catlike smile, her eyes glittered with promise.
Usti lent against the metallic wall and watched Dorel as he smoothly undertook the movements of his battle patterns.
“I heard you that day. You spoke of slavery. What makes you so certain?”
Dorel spun from his position to face the tall man from the Wolf tribe. Jaggered tattoos traced his eyebrows to accentuate the slant of the eyes. His skin gleamed in the low cabin light.
“All out lives we have worshiped the Great Goddess and listened to the stories from the Wise. I never questioned it. The way we lived. Our beliefs. But it was something the Captain said. About our pagan beliefs.”
“Must have missed that. What did she say?”
“It wasn’t what she said. It was what she didn’t say.”
“The dance of the Moon, the Sun, the Seasons, and Universal Entities beyond its all about women and their cycles. All our seasons with festivals and celebrations are adjusted to fit the seasonal cycles”
“I’m still not following you. You are just reciting the teachings of the Goddess.”
“Exactly. Pagan beliefs would denote a variance from the main beliefs. What about Men and their place? Where are our seasons, our celebrations? Where is our say in what we do with our lives? Its all mapped out for us.”
“Dorel – that is the way of the Goddess and always has been. Our job as men is to provide and protect. What else is there?”
“Doesn’t it bother you that we have lived our lives in mud and straw huts and would be lucky to own a cow to go to market with? Now suddenly we are being transported across the stars in this” he waved his arms about energetically. “Do you even know what the materials are that make this? Why don’t we have the tools or access to materials to make this? Can you imagine how good life might be for many of our tribes if they had the abundance of food or transport we are now surrounded with?”
“How can you even think like that? We have our place. The Goddess smiled on us when we were appointed her Chosen. Our communities now have many new tools and supplies and we have a different future to look forward to. You think too much my friend. It will slow you down – especially in that third last movement you were doing. Very sloppy technique.”
Dorel grinned, relieved to stop worrying about the disparity of resources he now saw between communities such as his and what the rest of the Empire luxuriated in. “Sloppy? Let me show you technique” as he launched his body sideward attacking Ustis unprotected kidneys.
With a quick twist of the torso and a change of balance on his feet, Usti deflected the blow and countered with a friendly backhand.
They both laughed and clasped hands. Usti smiled. “Let me show you some of the Wolf Movements.”
An announcement across the ship broke up their exertive exercise program.
Would all Chosen please return to the Great Hall. We are now in orbit of The Empirical Planet of Terra. Details of transportation will follow.
The jovial atmosphere which had begun to emerge from weeks of close contact was subdued. No-one had spoken of their fate or destination and the concerned looks spoke volumes of the worry each man now held.
The Captain addressed the assembly in an officious tone.
“You will now be assigned to a transporter. Its possible after you meet the Empress that you will not be traveling with those you’re your tribe. It is possible too that you may not see them for many seasons as each of you will be assigned to different parts of the Empirical palace and court. Be rest assured though, that you will be in the company of other Chosen from other planets and will make many new friendships once you are settled.”
She then gave a signal and friendly crew guided the Chosen towards the disembarkment bay and onto the Transporters.
The following day, the Chosen assisted with the transfer of food stores, bolts of cloth and gifts of tools taken from a transporter ship which had settled at the edge of the Outerfields. Dorel marveled at some of the light weight and strong farming implements and wondered at the materials and production of such things. Dorel smiled as he carried them across the field to the storage tents and wagons, thinking of folk from his community and who each of these items would assist. He had been a proud member of the Boars Tribe, but was now glad to exchange his future there for an uncertain but glorious one serving the Empress.
News of their victory had traveled quickly to his village. Many had brought their carts and beasts of burdon to carry back the riches bestowed upon the victors. As was custom, a part of it was gifted to other tribes and a small market set up to trade the excess items for more usable products. The great beer tent had been consistently filled with laughter and cheers since it had been set up yesterday. After the Choosing Competition, the tribes came together with little animosity with many trades and marriage contracts arranged during the festivities. Greybeards who remembered the last choosing told tales of their own exploits and they all wondered in awe at the future of the revered chosen and their trip to the stars.
A sleek transporter appeared in the sky above the festivities and settled beside the first. The music stopped playing and laughter silenced as the doors slid open. The tall Choser from yesterday appeared and gave her sweeping regards to the muddy field and tattered inhabitants. In direct comparison, her richly embroidered gown and shimmering long hair forced even the finest dressed look dowdy.
The Wise from the Boar tribe stepped forward and greeted her with a set of intricate hand movements and bowed her head. “Blessings Sister”
Blessed are the Wise, sister, you uphold the teachings of the Goddess within each tribe member”
An accolade crept in beside the Wise clutching scrolls and bowed thrusting them forward to the Chooser.
“The Birth Records for each of our tribes, observations from our Red Tent ceremonies and my humble recommendations for the Seith Seekers”
With a flick of her hand, The Chooser accepted the scrolls and exchanged these for an assortment of gifts for each of the Tribal Wise.
In turn each Wise Woman bowed and laid records in front of the transporter and stepped back into line.
“It is time Chosen. Again, by the laws set down by the Holy Ones, you must come freely. You must not be matched or bound to another and you may never return. Great is the Goddess for she encompasses all”
Automatically the response from all assembled, “Great is the Goddess, she brings peace, balance and harmony”
Eleven men stood proud to greet her. She waved her arm to direct them into the first transporter and turned to reenter her own. Stopping momentarily, she slyly checked the identities of those who were coming and satisfied to see Dorel at the forefront, swept back inside.
Despite their bravado in front of their communities, the raw smell of fear swept over the men as they shuffled inside the transporter. Unused to anything more advanced than a bullock drawn dray this smooth metallic container with silent sliding doors terrified them. Each were breathing heavily as they sat on the cushion benches. Their eyes bulged at the sounds of the engines roaring, surrounded by strange textures movements and the unnatural feelings as they lifted into the sky to join the mother ship. None dared to voice their concerns, nor to look at another man in the eye; lest they see their own fear mirrored.
Aboard the docking bay, the Chosen were warmly welcomed by richly dressed servants and shown the way to shared quarters. Over the next few weeks, the men from Dorels world meshed in with other Chosen form other worlds. A great hall was at their disposal to eat, drink, play rudimentary tavern games with dice and tiles. The men spent their time telling tales of their own choosing ceremonies,swapping stories and noting the small cultural differences within each world. Unquestioned was where they were going and what their fate would be when they arrived.
Dorel attempted to befriend the crew and ask questions about the Empire and of their destination. Both Crew and servants were pleasant but evasive with answers; smiling and reassuring him that all would be revealed at the right time. On many occasions, had been guided back to the hall and gently asked to stay within the coloured parameters of the ship for his own safety.
Sitting at the end of a long table one afternoon Dorel swirled the remenants of his drink inside the goblet and announced to no-one in particular. “Has anyone noticed something strange about this ship? “ not expecting an answer he continued, “ Theres no women on board. Where did the Great Lady go and those who were with her?”
As if on cure, the long absent Captain strode in – tall and brunette “Welcome to all – will be landing within the next 50 hours. The chosen have the honour of either becoming the empresses private guard or to live within the chancellors estates as guardians. You will be assigned a sponsor after the welcome ceremony and be integrated within the mens barracks after this.”
“Your provincial and pagan beliefs will not be tolerated at the hub of the empire. The holy ones teachings are strictly adhered to. Mens place is to provide and protect. I understand that some communities turn a blind eye to the arranged relationships law. I cannot stress to you enough that here women choose their mates.”
There were a few quiet comments passed between comrade, but with a sharp look they were silenced.
“By agreeing to become one of the Chosen, you have forsaken your past and your communities. You are all unmatched at present, but your sponsor will assist with a proper matching at the appropriate times.”
There was an uncomfortable shuffling amongst the men, confused at what this might mean.
“The Chosen are revered and honoured. You will lead lives amongst such richness only your dreams could match. No matter what your beliefs were in your old life, the Holy Ones teachings now take full affect. Women produce and nurture life and thus our feminine power is venerated and honoured above all else.”
She smiled for the first time with warmth. “This is what you were birthed for. The Goddess has guided your steps to this point. I wish you well in your lives within the Empire.”
“Our tribes were paid blood money. We are nothing but glorified slaves.” Dorel growled. Shocked looks from around him made him realize he was alone with his thoughts.
“Peace Dorel. Take a look around you. This is stuff of our wildest dreams. What would you be doing right now if you were back with the Boars? Farming? Waiting for the Wise to choose a wife for you? We have a future here. We earnt it.”
He shot a dark look at the men around him. Leaving his drink untouched Dorel retuned to his quarters.
Sitting quietly with his own thoughts, his thought went to the movements and steps to a basic fighting sequence all the young men in his village were taught. A battle with an invisible opponent, these sets of movements were a training tool to hone balance, stances whilst training strength, agility and endurance. Dorel began retracing these with a passion, attempting to regain lost stamina and muscle toning after weeks of inactivity and excessive drinking and eating rich unusual foods. He felt a fight coming and he was ensuring he would be prepared.
Kneeling at the makeshift alter in the mud, Dorel clasped his strong hands around the hilt of his sword. He allowed his head, thick with sweat to rest gently on the hilt in prayer. Others from his clan also knelt behind him. Each ferverently praying for glory at the end of the day. A light misting rain began to fall around the kneeling group. Dorel smiled and turned his face upward, taking it as a sign from the Holy Ones that he would find his place amongst them today.
The battlefield had been set amongst the valley pines. Dorel could see the standards from the other tribes and could make out the hulking muscle bound champions. He knew his lithe agility would bring him victory over brawn so long as he remained focused.
Dorel rose and faced the men of his tribe. “Too long have we been disregarded and disrespected. Our womenfolk and childrens survival depends on this one day. Boars, it is our turn for victory!”
A roar erupted as the men thrust their weapons into the air. As one, they marched through the forest towards the valley and to their glory. Great prestige and honour were bestowed upon the chosen victors. Additionally the tribes they originated were gifted with technologically advanced farming tools which in turn ensured the survival and abundance of the remaining tribe.
A grand pine tree lay in splinters, decimated by one of the many meteorites which heralded the coming of the Choosers. High above the battlefield floating on their thrones sat the five Choosers; watching, taking note of every muscle flex, every movement, every victory.
A low braying horn heralded the commencement of the battle. As one, the men of the Boar Tribe, cheered, their throats now raw from exertion as they ran head first into the pits of mud which lay before them, before glory. Dorel and his men, spearheaded the mass of bodies clamoring within the sucking mud. Swinging his great sword before him and chanting a prayer to the Holy Ones, he cut a path of blood into the middle grounds. With predetermined accuracy, the Boar warriors followed their leader, uninterested in individual skirmishes, with one goal in mind; that of reaching the firmer grounds before their strength gave out.
A shout and cheer from the far ground forced Dorel to curse. “The Deer Tribe have broken through! Hurry!” His muscular arm clutched a strangler still stumbling out of the mire, pulling him to firmer grounding. A wooden wall, twice the height of a man towered over them. Different tribesmen began to struggle out of the mud pits beside them, panting heavily from the hand to hand battle and the exertion of escaping from the deep mud.
The men of the Boar formed a human pyramid and as the uppermost man reached the top, unwound the strong rope from his waist; forced his sword into the wood and secured it to the hilt. Each man was then able to clamber up the wall with assistance and drop to the platform on the other side. Dorel ensured each of his men had a strong hold on the ropes and suspended bridges before encouraging them to cross quickly and toward the pinnacle. Although there were only five flags fluttering in the breeze, Dorel ensured the twelve men held a part of a flag as they lofted it upward toward the Choosers.
“ We claim the great prize – in the Name of the Tribe of the Boar.” Dorel shouted.
Silently, the thrones drifted down to their level. A tall commanding figure stood gracefully. Her long hair shimmered in the mist, fine drops forming pearls around her head.
“What a fascinating display of manhood and leadership and dare I say it – team work. To think I was growing bored with the rivalry and bloodshed I usually see. I am sorry there were not more Choosers to witness this unusual tactic.” She smiled confidently. “ Under the laws set by the Holy Ones and the Great Empress, all of you must be included in the Chosen. Your tribe will be richly rewarded for each man who decides to leave this land and travel to us , never to return. There is no shame in stepping aside and returning to your tribe, but once the decision is done, forever must you uphold it.”
The tall Chooser walked over to Dorel and looked deeply into his eyes, frowning slightly.
Dorel looked back into her eyes without ,,,,, “I was a foundling, Great Lady.”
“Humm. Are you accepting the mantle of the Chosen?”
“My community gave me life. I now give them the gift of a future.”
She spun and walked back to her throne, announcing to all, “Here on the battlefield all risked their lives in tests of strength, agility and fighting ability. As per the doctrines of the Holy Ones, The Chosen will have one day to celebrate and farewell their lives here. Preparations have begun on the outer fields. Until tomorrow; Chosen.”
The thrones gently lifted upwards and shot off toward the Outerfields.
A prickly silence grew as the men from the battlefield looked at one another, uncertain to what to do next. One of the younger men, more slender than the others, shuffled his feet and looked uncomfortably toward Dorel. Without turning his head, Dorel spoke to him.
“Go Kegan, with our blessings. Your wife is heavy with child and you must honour the Holy Ones first laws of life.”
He then turned and grinned at him. “Besides, we need someone to sing our praises and tell the stories of this Choosing at the hearth. It will be a half lifetime before this battle happens again. You will be a greybeard with grandchildren on your knee.”
Xanths lined face relaxed into a practiced peaceful state of meditation. She breathed in the blessings of the Goddess and allowed the tingling energetics to settle within her tired body.
“My daughter what is it that you wish to confide?”
An overstuffed cushion to supported her back as she settled into a comfortable chair. Xanth rearranged her dark green handspun dress and gazed at the tiny figure kneeling before her; momentarily marveling at the complexity and lusciousness of the deep red material which made up Tanisas gown.
Dark pools framed by long lashes shot up at her.
“Sister, I am disturbed at night, cannot sleep, I walk endlessly. There is something amiss. I carry out the work of the Empress and of the Goddess with joy in my heart and head and yet I am not doing enough.”
“You don’t need a Confider, you need to rest.”
“I need you to get rid of these demons. If you can’t, I’ll find another who can.”
Xanth looked at the energies surround Tanisa and saw nothing amiss. Nor should there be, she undertook a confider session and cleanse every week. Most normal citizens were lucky to see a confider once a year.
Hesitating momentarily before she spoke, Xanth quietly said, “You know, all this constant cleansing may be disturbing your true selfs aura. No-one should live without some kind of guilt or regret. The great Goddess says..”
“Its that sort of bad energy which stops the Empire gaining more power . Don’t get all pious with me, Sister, remember who you are speaking with.”
Tanisas pleading tone transformed quickly, iced with threats.
“As you would do well to recall that Confiders answer only to the Goddess.”
Tanisa breathed out slowly and cleared her throat quietly looking directly into Xanths eyes.
“You are fortunate, Sister, of your privileged place. If anyone else had spoken to me like that I would have them thrown into the depths of the dungeons. I need purity of spirit to keep going with my work, so get on with yours!”
Sighing deeply, Xanth conceded, “ Are there any actions or thoughts you need to verbalize before we start?
Tanisa shook her head.
“I will gather the unspoken as I go, Now, let me free you of some of those energies.”
Concentrating, Xanth began a cleansing ritual. The muddled energies surrounding Tanisa evaporated as she breathed them inward and continued with the intricate hand patterns which accompanied the mediation. Clasping her hands together in completion and with a prayer, she then released them to the Goddess, slumping back at the physical and spiritual effort it had taken.
Tanisa rose from her position and took a seat beside the Confider. She felt fresh and rejuvenated, as though a brush had scrubbed every spec of negative feeling and action she had surrounding her.
“Sister can I order a cool drink for you?” She snapped her fingers before waiting for a reply. Looking into the tired face of Xanth; Tanisa realized that although the two women were the same age, the Confider had aged dramatically over the last few years. The work of the Goddess was lonely, but lucrative and ironically, the more successful a Confider was, the less time they had to conduct their work. The energy exchange integral to the role, took a heavy toll on their minds and bodies.
Two goblets arrived with the stain of slopped juice over the side of one. As she took the drinks, Tanisa shot a sharp look at the quivering girl.
“Sister, what liberated secrets are on the market this week?”
“Lady Chancellor, you are amongst the most pious in the Empire. I am afraid your colleagues do not summon the services of Confiders as often as you do.”
Tanisa frowned at Xanths avoidance of the issue. Xanth sighed and closed her eyes momentarily to beckon the count, “ I have one high rank and three low rank releases.”
Tanisa slowly smiled. A pouch of metallic coins clinked into Xanths lap. “I will accept all and as usual erase my release.”
Xanth stretched her hands out to Tanisa with her palms pointing toward the ceiling. Joining her palms to Xanth, Tanisa shivered with anticipation of the news she would soon be privy to.
Chanting a prayer to the Goddess and dropping into a meditative state, an unworldly voice emitted from Xanths mouth.
Morfarns still born girl was not her own. She has birthed a healthy son and he has been taken to The Torree.
Tanisa mouth dropped slightly at the shocking news. Women of Morfarns rank and political standing simply didn’t carry a male child to term. She made a mental note to secure a bounty hunter and track down the boy and keep a vigil on the development. He may be of use at a later date. Tanisa wrinkled her nose a little. Why on earth would he have been sent to the planet of Torree?
There is a ship of Chosen from come of the outer planets arriving shortly. The Sieth Priestess have seen that are ones of special interest aboard and have set up a private viewing for the Empress.
Tanisas eyebrow rose. An event I need to attend.
Plyna and her followers have moved against the families of Cora and have claimed the planet of Kay.
Something of interest, but not unexpected. Tanisa had been watching the two political families tear at one another’s throats for years. With focus on the fallout of this event, perhaps she will have more breathing space to instigate her own plans and set up new alligences.
The energetic link broke with the dying words of the last liberated secret. Tanisa allowed Xanth to complete her ceremony and to erase the memory of her own session today.
“Can I offer you a sweet? Hand rolled and very addictive.” Tanissa presented a silver platter strewn with tiny morsels of sugary delights and popped one into her own mouth.
Xanth shook her head. Sweat began to bead on her forehead and she was shaking from her efforts today.
“And what of the Empress? Will you be visiting her after you leave here?” Tanissa began conversationally.
“You are the lady Chancellor, you must know her mind.”
Tanisa smiled, “The Empress as well you know, learned a great deal as a Confider and chooses to use her own council. Although technically I am an equal second in command with Mythris, it would seem Jorvan would prefer to run the entire Empire on her own.”
Silence grew as the two women sat across from each other, studying the plate of sweets. Xanth cast her eyes down to the richly worked carpeting on the floor. Tanisa cleared her throat again. She had not meant to blurt out her frustrations.
“Jorvan must know my time is coming to an end. I was not summoned these past weeks for her cleansing ceremonies. There is a new Confider consulting with her now.”
“Forgive me Sister, the workings of the Goddesses path is still unknown to me. I have always wondered, can’t a Confider cleanse and shift her own energies? Surely one as powerful as the Empress can do this for herself?”
It was Xanths turn to smile. “Even the great Empress cannot shift her own bad energies to the Goddess. There must always be another, disassociated , to free a person of their ill will, their jealousy, their anger. Goddess be praised for freeing us of these negative forces.”
“Goddess be praised” mumbled Tanisa automatically.
Xanth changed her mind about the sweets and reached over for one. She frowned slightly as she picked up the holographic card peaking out between two delicacies.
Xanth looked up quizzically “This is an Empirical Off World Pass.”
“We both know that your time as a Confider is nearing to an end.”
Xanth let her breath out in uneven gasps. She had been hiding the fact from herself these past months. The empress’s unnoffial dismissal of her services was warning enough but if Tanisa could see through her thin façade, then others would too.
Tanisa put her hand on hers. It was cool and smooth. She smiled re-assuringly.
“No-one else would suspect. You have been coming to me for years, I know you and I know your energy. The goddesses would not want you to continue past your time. You must leave some energy for your retirement.”
Xanth snorted, “Confiders don’t retire. We disappear; we are murdered, cast aside when our usefulness subsides.”
“Not this time. Not for you. You have been loyal to me beyond your standing. You have never sold my secrets on; even though that is your right. “
Tanisa pressed the Empirical pass again into her hands. “Take it. You will need it. The Circle of Nineteen Gateways will be closing shortly to confiders – especailly those in retirement. If you are to start a new life, you will need one of these. Go now.”
Xanth looked at Tanisas clouding energies and could see no darkness. She smiled weakly.
“Its time isn’t it? I didn’t want to admit it myself. You would have made a good Confider Tanisa. You have been touched by the Goddess and have a latent power in knowing peoples hearts.”
Tanisa smiled. “I am afraid I am too selfish for that. The Seith Seeker at my First Blooded Red Tent must have seen my gifts could be used in other areas rather than for the direct work of the Goddess. Besides, I prefer my memories to be intact and know who I am. Anyway, whatever latent powers you can see in me – well its gotten me this far. Politics is all about knowing what your opponents next move will be.”
She then stood. “I have ensured you have what you need on the ship to start your new life. Goddess blessings be upon you.”
Xanths sandaled feet clicked their way out of the apartments and down the long marble hallway.
Shurs silent feet found their way to Tanissas side. He bowed and lightly punched his right hand to his left chest in salute.
“Dispatch of her.” Tanisa hesitated, “Do it gently or quickly. Ensure she has no pain. It is the least I owe her.” She shook her head. She must be getting soft.
“It will be done Lady.” Saluting again, he turned on his heel.
Without turning her replied, “Yes, my Lady.”
“Return to my inner bedroom when this is done. Come alone this time.”
“Yes, my Lady”