- Temper's Ball
- Maxim

( 1 | 2 )
Author Flying Free Of The Whited Sepulchre (closed)

Posted: 2002-05-11 17:16     Profile;   E-mail   Homepage Edit   Reply w/Quote
Could she remember a time when she had not been inside these walls? A time when she had known what it was like to look up and see the sky abover her rather than some pale plastered ceiling? There must have been a time, after all she knew that she had not been born inside this building. But even so Coristine had no idea what it was like to look up and see a sky so blue that it seemed to have no end. There was just no memory of what it might look like and no amount of imagining could make it otherwise.

Sometimes she would just sit here and try to remember...anything, anything that was not within the walls of the library. Some picture in her mind of a wild flower or of dew shimmering on a spider's web. But there was nothing, nothing that didn't have the library or the robed ones connected to it.

Coristine had no idea how old she had been when she had first been given over to the robed ones of the library. She just always seemed to have been here, letting them take advantage of her 'gift'. That's what they called it, a gift, something to be cherished and used as the Gods had intended. To her it seemed like nothing more than a curse, it forged the chains that kept her here. And it would keep her here within these walls forever. She had arrived here as no more than a toldler probably and she wouldn't leave until her flesh hung in wrinkles and her heart had stopped beating.

It was sad that a child as young as she was could think in such a way but the inevitability of it had long since made itself a part of her spirit. Coristine was no more than twelve, just coming into the first flushes of womenhood. Her body had begun to change, gaining gentle curves but losing the softness of childhood. Pale hair fell about her shoulders in a riot of ringlets. It framed a face whose flesh was the colour of gold, seeming all the more dark from the hair that surrounded it.

But it was the eyes, ah yes those eyes, that was what stood out about Coristine. They would ensnare you and pull you down into their dark green depths. Each one was like a flawless emerald, most green and seeming to be without end. If you looked too close to those eyes it almost felt as though you were falling into them. They held secrets, or hinted that they did, drawing in the seekers of wisdom with a glance. There had been many a scholar who had sat down with Coristine, thinking that they might unravel those hidden secrets, and where were they now?

Broken men, that's what those scholars had become. Or perhaps not broken, perhaps they had found their secrets and chose madness over ever telling what they had seen. They had stared too long into those green facets, losing themselves in the maze that lay there. Now they sat outside the temples in the city, holding out begging bowls in the hope that some might take pity upon them. They had been learned men, now they were paupers though rich in wisdom that they could never speak of.

The room that she sat in was not grand nor richly decorated, no more than the height of two men in length and slightly more than that in width. In each corner stood a tall candleholder, their burden bathing the room in a golden glow that just seemed to accentuate the colour of Coristine's skin. The only other thing in the room, other than thegirl herself, was the thick rug that she sat on. It alone was decorated with the picture of a tree in full blossom, the flowers no more than blotches of pink and white upon the green of the leaves. Coristine knew that it had been made in a kingdom far away to the south, though no one had ever told her this, she just knew.

The only way into or out of the room was the think oaken door in front of her. But that was secured with two iron locks, each key held by a different guard. There were no windows, indeed though she knew what a window was she had never actually seen one for herself. It was the way with many things in her life.

She drew her knees up to her chest, resting one check against the white robes that she always wore. Her arms wrapped themselves about her legs as she rocked slowly from side to side. Boredom was something that she understood far too well, it was a part of her life, as much a part of her routinue as eating or sleeping. But she never complained about the monotony, the robed ones would only make things worse. If she complained they would just start asking their questions again, noting down what she said in their books. It might have been petty of her but she didn't want to help them fill their little books anymore.

Knowledge, that was all that the robed ones cared about, all they seemed to think that anyone cared about. They didn't understand how some people enjoyed the outside world, how everything out there was so much more alive than their musty old tomes. Or at least that was what Coristine thought, outside the walls had to be better. But the robed ones never seemed to to realise how their young ward wanted just a little freedom. They didn't see how every time they refused her request to go outside she became more restless, more rebellious. To them she was nothing more than a source of facts, not a living, breathing creature.

Maybe they just thought of her as another book, something to be catalogued and put away on its shelf. But never to be touched or let go free, oh no that would have been a travesty in their eyes.

I want to go home, she said to herself, tears forming in the corners of her eyes. Coristine had no idea where home was, only that she wanted to get out of here. And home? It was just a wonderful dream, a place where she could be happy, loved and cared for. And the robed ones would never be able to touch her again.

Home, such a simple hope.

Knowledge for knowledge's sake alone
If you want the rainbow, you've got to put up with the rain


Posted: 2002-05-13 11:15     Profile;   E-mail   Homepage Edit   Reply w/Quote
There would be a visitor soon.

The thought rose unbidden in her mind and she sighed as soon as it had passed. It was not an ideal dream, or a thought to be ignored or pushed aside, it would simply be so. Someone would come, someone wanting answers or sometimes even just to see the strange girl-child of the library. The closer it got to their arrival the more 'unbidden' thoughts would coem to her. Eventually by thetime her visitor ad arrival she would know all about them, what they wanted, what she would tell them.

That was her 'gift', the ability to know without learning. It was tempermental at best, but given time the answers would come to her even if she didn't always understand them. The robed ones held her as precious because of this, the ultimate book of knowledge, a font of facts, figures and laws. They never had the need to leave their library in order to research the world. Why should they when they could simply bring their questions to her?

Apparently they had stumbled upon her in a small village out somewhere in the isle. The inhabitants of that place had thought her some sort of holy child, an oracle sent by Isonia herself. They had declared her a blessing on their village for their years of humble servitude. But they had given her up all the same when the robed ones had offered them enough gold. Knowledge is all very well, but you cannot feed your children through the winter on words alone.

Or that was what the robed ones had told her of her origins. In truth she should be able to know if it was correct or not, her gift should be able to tell her exactly where and when she had been born and to whom. But it seemed as though her talent preferred to keep its tempermental nature, veiling such knowledge from her mind no matter how she tried.

Her visitor was a tall man, richly dressed, he came from the temple near the palace.

Coristine barely paid the thought any attention, she could hardly stop the man from arriving. It didn't matter what she done he would arrive and no doubt ask her so many questions that her head would spin from trying to give all the right answers. Perhaps she could fake illness? No that wouldn't work, if this man came from the main temple then the robed ones would fawn on him like puppy dogs hoping to gain their Master's approval. No she would just have to wait and put up with it, getting through his questions as quickly as possible.

Or perhaps just for amusement she would try and catch his eyes, try to entice him into falling into her green depths. A cruel smile marked itself upon her face, yes make him go mad for being such a nuisance.

The spark of cruelty faded as soon as it had arrived, she never meant to do that to anyone. After the first time she had broken a man's mind she had refused to look another person in the eye. Of course that hadn't stopped people from coming and trying to look at her eyes. In the end the robed ones had had to hold her down and force her to open her eyes. But it had ended just the same, another drooling madman sitting onthe steps of the temple.

Her visitor was Andreus, attendant to the high priest of the temple. He was excited about something, eager to get to the library, and his question? It was hidden from her, his mind a mass of churning thoughts and feeling.

She could feel her gift pull back into herself, revolted at the chaos in the man's mind. It had her very skin itch like thousands of ants were crawling over her, little legs brushing against her flesh. Coristine hugged herself tightly, wanting the feeling to just go away. She had never liked Andreus, he looked her strangely, like a starving wolf who had seen an unprotected lamb. Everytime he visited it made her feel uncomfortable and she would try and answer his questions quickly to make him go. But he would always catch hold of her hand before he left and brush his lips against it, his hot breath on her skin. That look of wanting in his eyes.

Please Isonia, not Andreus, please make him go away today, she said in a hurried prayer. I promise I'll help the robed ones with their books without arguing if You'll just stop him from coming here. Please Goddess, I don't want him near me.

But she could feel Andreus getting closer to the library, his stride not slowly in the least. His thoughts were still a crazed mess, whatever he wished to ask was buried so deeply that she would never have found it. Coristine would simply have to wait to hear the question from his own lips. Those lips that he would try and touch her with when she dismissed him. She shivered again, wishing that she could just hide until he had gone away.

Was this any better than the boredom? Andreus or the boredom? She would take the nothingness over the priest's attendent if she had the choice.

But she didn't, the choices were always made for her.

Knowledge for knowledge's sake alone
If you want the rainbow, you've got to put up with the rain


Posted: 2002-05-15 06:58     Profile;   E-mail   Homepage Edit   Reply w/Quote
Muttered voices outside the door were followed by the grating of metal against metal as the locks were turned. The sounds heralded the arrival of Andreus, his chaotic mind only making her want to withdraw ever further into her own thoughts. How could he bear to live with such a thing? It amazed her that he could ever think straight in the midst of such seeming confusion. How could there ever be order and understanding within him was truly beyond Coristine.

Andreus entered the door, his eyes searching her out, travelling over her huddled form on the floor. He smiled but all she saw were his teeth, sharp and white, there was no warmth within that expression. Bowing from the waist, it almost seemed as though his spine was incapable of movement, as if the bone had fused together. His skin seemed pale against the dark purple of his holy robes, black hair laqeured slick against his skull only accentuated the impression. Though an ordained priest, there was no holiness about Andreus, only an over-riding aura of arrogance. He was too cock-sure and certain of himself, as though he believed that no one and nothing could ever harm him.

Coristine knew Andreus's story even though she would rather not know anything about him. He had been born the youngest son of a fairly wealthy noble family within the city. His father had no wish to divide up his estate and so sent Andreus into the service of the church at an early age. A noble family brought him an easy life in the church and he had been given ever greater power. No matter what the rumours about him had surfaced. It was said that when the old high priest died Andreus would be the next to fill that role. Coristine shivered at the thought, fearing for all within the city at what might happen when Andreus took control of the church.

Nothing had ever untoward been proven about Andreus, or if it had it had been quickly and quietly covered up. Even she could not find the truth of him no matter how she prayed for the knowledge to be given to her. All she heard were the occansional rumours of the students in the library, rumours of beatings and rituals, of things that should not be done.

She looked away from Andreus's visage, seeing another figure enter into the room behind him. This figure was heavily robed so that only their ink-stained hands could be seen clasped in front of them. But Coristine didn't need to see the face to know that this was the Master of the library.

My lady Coristine, I trust I find you in good health this day?, Andreus asked, his voice smooth and dark as oil.

Her eyes flitted between the Master and Andreus, unsure what was happening here. She could find no questions within their minds, only dizzying chaotic pools that threatened to drown her if she came too close to them. I...I...I am very well father Andreus, as you can see my...my health has never been better, she stuttered out the words, fear making her heart beat faster though she could not discern the root of it.

I am glad to hear of that, praise be to Isonia for Her blessings upon you, though he invoked Her name Coristine could tell that there was no belief behind it. Andreus cared little to nothing for the church only for the power that it could give to him. How could Isonia allow such a man to lead Her people in prayer, to watch over Her followers when it was obvious that he cared nothing for the Goddess? This man followed another God entirely and the name of that God was 'Power'.

The Master of the library stepped closer till he stood beside Andreus, his feet making no sound on the stone floor. It seems that you are going to get your wish Coristine, thanks to father Andreus. His voice was cold like ice, no emotion in his tone, barely an inflection to suggest anything more than a monotone.

My wish, sir?, she asked nervously as she scrambled to her feet. Even standing she was shorter than either man but she felt more sure of herself than when she was sitting on the floor before them.

His hand reached out and rested upon her head, his skin as cold as his voice, Yes Coristine. You are going to make a visit to the church, you are going outside.

Outside? Her heart leapt even though she was standing so close to the Master and Andreus. She would be allowed to see the world? Or at least those parts of it between the library and the church. And she would see the church itself, the wonder of architecture that she had heard described so many times. Maybe they would even allow her to hear a sermon there, or even pray. How wonderful it would be to offer up a prayer to Isonia there rather than at the little latar in the libeary.

Oh thank you sir, she said her eyes shining with delight at the mere thought of going outside.

Yes father Andreus has brought a request from the church that you are to be taken there. They have need of you for a time and we can hardly expect the high priest himself to come here to speak with a lowly child such as yourself. So you must go to him.

The high priest himself wished to speak with her? She had never met the lord of the church in these parts before, she only knew that he was a man of some advanced age. before when he had wanted a question anserwed by Coristine he had always just sent Andreus to ask it of her. Now he wished to speak with her himself, could it be that he needed a question answered that he could not trust Andreus with?

Knowledge for knowledge's sake alone
If you want the rainbow, you've got to put up with the rain


Posted: 2002-05-18 06:45     Profile;   E-mail   Homepage Edit   Reply w/Quote
Two of the apprentices to the robed ones had taken her away from the room where she usually spent her days. They bathed her in scented waters to prepare her for her trip outside the library walls. Truth be known Coristine would have happily gone outside in rags and covered in filth. What did it matter how she was dressed when she was finally going to get a glimpse of the real world?

She sat on a stool, imagining already all the wonders that she knew of but had never seen. Perhaps they would take a route that went near one of the great parks. Or maybe they would travel by the meaner parts of the city. Each would have it's own particular beauties that she wanted to see. But the one thing that she hungered to see more than any other, was the simplest of all; the sky.

To be able to look up and see not a plastered roof but the endless blue of the sky. Oh what a joy that would be. People took such a sight for granted never seeing the true magnificance, or so she imagined. Though perhaps it wasn't the sky that she wished to see but rather the freedom that it represented to her. For what could be more free than the sky itself? Who could ever trap it or cage it? Who could ever grab that immeasurable expanse and hold to themselves. claiming for themeselves? That was how she wanted to be, so free that none could ever chain her down to the earth.

The attendants brushed her pale hair, tying it up in complicated knots that she could tell would ache when it came to take them down again. They dusted her body with a golden powder that only seemed to disappear in the natural colour of her flesh. Idly she wondered if that was how her skin had coem to be such a strange shade. Perhaps they had been covering her body with the powder for so long that it had become a part of her. Such thoughts were foolishness, but they passed the time easily enough.

With the utmost care they clothed her in thin white robes, tying it at the wasit with a purple silken sash. They didn't even think to use make-up upon her face, that was for common harlots not the child of the library. Coristine had seen women with their faces painted brightly, some had come to see her and ask questions of her. Their perfumes had intoxicated and repelled her, their scents making her sick to the pit of her stomach. But they way that they had coloured themselves that had both puzzled and enchanted her. Why did they feel the need to paint their skin so? Not even her gift could give her the answers to that one.

A gossamer fine veil of purple was laid over her head, sweeping down to brush the floor itself. It made her feel as though she was seperate from the world at large, someone who could look upon it and yet never affect it. Corisitne thought about that feeling, perhaps it was not is different from her normal life.

They led her from the room to a small chamber near the front of the library complex. As they bowed low to her and moved towards the door one spoke softly, Someone will come to get you soon lady.

She didn't answer, instead turning to face the tiny altar to Isonia that was the only other thing in the room. Corisitne kneeled before the altar, bead low in humility before the Goddess's image. Isonia, Mother of all...What to say? To thank the Goddess for giving Her the chance to see the outside world? To ask for Her protection from Andreus? It seemed almost greedy to ask Her for something more, even when it was only protection.

Be ready child...

She looked up, uncertain if she had heard the words or if they were just figments of her imagination. Was she hearing things now? Or was someone playing a trick on her, amusing themselves by playing Coristine for a fool? She shook her head, her whole body taut, unable to make a decision one way or another.

The door opened quietly behind her...Andreus, she knew that almost immediately. It is heartening to see you at your prayers my lady Coristine, too many of the city's young ones forget their devotions to the Goddess and the church. He stood closely behind her, one hand brushing against the veil covered her. Her spine seemed to fuse about itself as she tried to stop herself from shivering at his touch.

Knowledge for knowledge's sake alone
If you want the rainbow, you've got to put up with the rain


Posted: 2002-05-21 07:27     Profile;   E-mail   Homepage Edit   Reply w/Quote
I have called for a carriage to take us to the temple my lady, Andreus said softly as he led her towards the front door. But Coristine barely paid him any attention, her mind was too occupied with the excitement of finally being allowed outside. There was a lump in the back of her throat that seemed to grow larger with every step she took that brought her closer to the main entrance. Her heart thudded faster than she thought was possible till it almost seemed to pain her.

But it was a delicious pain, one to be savoured and remembered.

How she hated to walk so slowly but everyone expected her to act with such grace and precision. They didn't think that Coristine should be allowed to run, they thought that she should remain stiff, almost courtly, a moving statue that could never be touched by mere man. But she wanted to run, to feel the earth skip under her feet as her movments devoured the distance. She didn't want to walk serenely towards the door as if it was soemthing that she done everyday. It wasn't normal, not for her, it was unexpected and out of the ordinary. She wanted to run towards the door and fling it open, to let the outside light fall over her.

And yet it would never be that way, she would never race towards the entrance. No she would walk slowly, each step taken deliberately and in its own time. Why? Because she was bound by the rules of this place as she had always been. She might hate the rules and the prison that they constructed about her but she would never break free of them beause they were quite simply all she had ever known. If you took a pet dog from its home in the city and let it run free in the countryside, then sooner or later it would return home because it knew nothing better. Rules might cage you but they affected your mind, they amde you feel safe and secure no matter how much you hated it. It didn't matter if that dog's master whipped and kicked it, it would still return to him, wagging its tail in greeting.

What we know cages us, she thought to herself, hating that she was no better than a pet. She knew she wanted to be free, to see the wonders that existed outside the library walls. But there was that fear, almost a certainity in itself, that hovered in her mind, that if she ever did break free that she would simply return here. After all it was the only place she had ever known, its rules had been absorbed by every pore of her.

An acolyte of the robed ones hurried before her and opened the door, bowing low to either Coristine or Andreus. She wasn't sure which of them was being given such respect, but she hoped it wasn't her. The girl hated seeing other people treat her like that, bowing and scraping before her when she had done nothing to deserve it. People who had achieved much more than she ever could treated her as though she was royalty. But there again did even lords truly deserve people abasing themselves before them?

What had the lords and ladies of the land ever done that meant others had to humilate themselves before them? They were just people who had happened to be born to the right bloodlines. Or sometimes not even that, sometimes they were just people who had warred their way to being heads of state. Those people were crowned while the blood of the dead was still wet upon her hands. They didn't deserve the respect that was heaped upon them.

All theought were wiped out of her mind though as she found herself standing on the threshold of the main entrance. Itw as as though there was an invisible wall in front of her, one that she dared not cross. The outside world was beyond this step, indeed if she could only look up she would see the world that she had dreamed of for so long. But she couldn't, she just looked down, watching as her own feet stopped short of the doorway.

Coristine forced herself to swallow hard, trying to dislodge the lump in her throat that would not go away. It seemed difficult to breathe through it, her own body too fearful to take that final step. She knew that the world beyond the library was waiting for her. After all she had learnt about it for years from that knowledge that seemed to pour itself straight into her mind.

Is there something wrong my lady?, Andreus's voice jolted her from her fears, she hadn't realised that he had stepped so closely to her.

I...I'm fine, Coristine stuttered, no longer sure what she feared most, Andreus or the city. What was it about taking that last step that made her worry so? She knew about the city, knew how it had been built and why, knew where things were and how they had come to be. And yet it was still a great unknown to her, she knew the facts but not the reality.

And it was the reality that made her grow fearful of it.

But what to do? She couldn't simply stand there all day like a fool, afraid of what she did not understand. Was that it? Was that what held her back? When it came to anything else all she had to do was wait for the knowledge to come to her. But knowledge id not always come with understanding and the city was one beast that she most definitely didn't understand.

Coristine took a deep breath and took that final step, almost surprised that it was no different to any other step that she had ever taken. But what had she expected? Someone to come and pull her back at the last moment, telling her that it was all a mistake and that she wouldn't be allowed outside? But there was nothing, just the watery sunlight filtering through the purple veil about her.

She was outside, and her heart almost failed with the shock of it all.

Knowledge for knowledge's sake alone
If you want the rainbow, you've got to put up with the rain


Posted: 2002-05-22 12:10     Profile;   E-mail   Homepage Edit   Reply w/Quote
The sky wasn't the blue that she had always imagined it to be. No instead it was grey and overcast, the colour of the lead inside a pencil. It almost seemed to threaten, hanging heavy in the sky as if it would shed its load right then there and there. What would it feel like to be soaked by the rain? To feel it pelt against her skin? She knew about the rain, knew how it evaporated up from the seas and lakes, forming the clouds and moving over the land. And then when the conditions were right, when the heat and cold mingled, then the water would be returned to the earth. But to feel it, that would be so much better than any amount of knowledge.

Even though she was glad to finally see the sky, Coristine couldn't help but feel just a little disappointed. She had always imagined that one day she would go outside and the sky would be an unending blue stretching overhead. Somehow the grey cloudy sky shattered her expectations and threw them to the four winds.

She took another step forward, watching in fascination as people passed by on the road. Coristine had never seen such a variety of colours and faces, races of all kinds mingling on their daily business. The sight pushed the disappointment of the sky from her mind, filling it instead with the memories of all she saw.

A woman cajoling her five childen down the road, their clothes poor and their skin clean. They had pride, of that she was sure, they didn't have much but no matter how poor they were the mother would always ensure that her children were clean.

A merchant strolled down the centre of the crowd, his money bags fat with gold. How was it that he could have so much while the mother and her children went hungry?

A young courting couple, held each other closely, wrapped up in each other's arms. The woman held a posy of flowers in one hand, a gift from her suitor. Coristine wondered if they would be happy together to whether they would end up miserable, detesting the very sight of one another.

The street itself was thick was dirt and filth, refuse had been thrown out there to rot. All manner of creatures seemed to have passed this way and left their marks upon it. The stentch of it seemed an affront to her sense of smell and she gagged as the aroma threatened to make her sick. How cuold the people live in such a terrible way? Why didn't the lord of the realm see to it that people were employed to clean the streets and make them fit for people to walk on? She had always been used to cleaniness, rarely was even a speck of dust allowed to settle for long in the library. So to come from that environment to this shocked her to the very marrow of her bones.

She felt Andreus step to one side of her, adjusting his cloak as he did so. Despite her distrust of the man she asked, How can people live in such a mess? Doesn't this filth breed disease?

Andreus looked about him as if he hadn't noticed the situation about them. It is as the Goddess wills it, he said in a cold voice. Besides the sicknesses only take those who can't afford to pay for a doctor. The realm is better off without such burdens on it.

He couldn't see the shock that painted itself across her face under the purple veil. These were people that he was talking about as if they were no more than detritus themselves. How could he talk about letting people die just because they didn't have enough money? Everyone had a right to live, surely the Goddess would not let her worshippers die simply because they were poor?

Was this how the world worked? The rich lived without a care and the poor died cold and alone? This couln't be right, she couldn't believe that Isonia would allow such a thing.

Knowledge for knowledge's sake alone
If you want the rainbow, you've got to put up with the rain


Posted: 2002-05-23 10:15     Profile;   E-mail   Homepage Edit   Reply w/Quote
Before she had any more time to think on what she had seen Coristine found herself being hurried into a waiting carriage. The rich comfortable carriage only made her feel guilty though. While she was carried through the city in luxury there were others outside who would not even have a warm place to sleep when night descended. Coristine had never realised how strangely the world worked, with a select few living in opulence while the majority lived in the gutters. Her life must seem one of great splendor to those who those who would go cold and hungry. And yet she had always taken it for granted, thinking it a terrible chore to live in such a way.

To either side of the carriage stood two armed guards, men who had been trained to protect the library and everything that belonged to it. Including Coristine. Another guard took the lead and one rode behind to ensure that there was no side left unguarded. They sat on their horses watching out for any that might try and get too close to the carriage. Each of them held the reins of their mounts in their off hand while the other played on the helt of their swords.

With a shout from the leading guard the carriage wheeled forward, pulled by the two dark horses in front. Their hooves clattered on the stone cobbles of the street while they pranced, heads held high. Not once did the horses neigh and never did they try and lead the way, always taking drections from the driver and his whip. Coristine winced inwardly everytime she hear the crack of that whip. How could the driver like it if he had a metal bar placed in his mouth and was hooked up to the carriage? He most certainly would not appreciate the the bite of the whip agaisnt his rump that she was sure of.

Sitting beside her, Andreus let his eyes roam over her for a few minutes. The chaos of his mind seemed as though it was reaching out for her, grasping at her gift with dark anarchic fingers. It was all in her mind she knew that, nothing really grasped for her...did it?

As they passed by one of the marketplaces it was all Coristine could do not to lean out of the window. She wanted to see the colours and sights more clearly, not merely the glimpses that she was permitted from the carriage. The cries and smells of the market floated through the air to her, taunting her with all that she had never seen. She wanted to be out there among the people that were bustling through the crowd. It would be such an adventure for her to walk with them, listening to snatches of conversation, watching them while they bargained for their goods.

She barely caught more than a few glances of the market before it was left behind them. But even though it was gone it was soon replaced by even greater wonders or so they seemed to Coristine. Parks where children screamed and ran, playing games the like of whoch she had never seen before. Houses that reached up to the sky with windows through which she could see people going about their normal lives. Shops that seemed to sell all manners of wares from clothes to rare spices and everything in between.

Andreus seemed to have lost interest in her now, no longer watching her every move. While she had been looking out of the carriage window he had taken a book out from his robes. It wasn't a book that she recognised, even the title was in some foreign language that she couldn't understand. Something made her hold back from even trying to use her gift to find out what it was. It was as though she heard a whisper in her mind telling her to be careful, to hide her gift for now.

In time they rolled into the temple district where the main church was built. All about them were the buildings that survived the temple, bakeries, stables, houses for the priests and priestesses, stores that held the offerings that had been given to the Goddess, schools for the novices. Some buildings Coristine couldn't even guess the purpose of, but all of them seemed busy enough.

The carriage came to a stop before Coristine had even realised that they had reached the temple itself. As a novice of the faith helped her out she looked up at the temple. It was a most beautiful creation, honuring the Mother in all her glory. Grand pillars rose up to the roof, holding up a roof that glittered dully in the poor sunshine. Clean white steps led upto the main entrance that almost seemed to be guarded by the statues on either side. The statues were mirror images of one another, chimera standing rampant in readiness to destroy those that would dare profane Her place. In front of the actual temple was a statue of Isonia Herself, her stone gaze pasing over all those who came near her temple. She held her battleaxe in one hand but it was her beauty that held all that looked upon her in check.

Mother Isonia, Coristine breathed, her hand reaching up to her neck as she saw the statue. She had never seen such a thing before, the only statues of the Goddess in the library were the small ones that lived in the altar rooms for private prayer. But the statue that she looked at now was at least three times the height of the tallest man she had ever seen. Mother you are beautiful.

Knowledge for knowledge's sake alone
If you want the rainbow, you've got to put up with the rain


Posted: 2002-05-26 18:25     Profile;   E-mail   Homepage Edit   Reply w/Quote
Andreus placed one hand on her shoulder startling her from appreciating the statue of the Goddess. She turned around and stepped away from him at the same time, not wanting the priest to be too close to her. I am sorry my lady Coristine, I did not mean to frighten you, he smiled, showing altogether too many teeth.

Oh no it was nothing, I was just looking at the statue, she mumbled. As she stood there in the full glare of his too-friendly smile all Coristine wanted was to be far away from him. She had waited for years to be allowed to see the outside world but she would have given up this one journey if it meant that she would never have to meet Andreus again.

Come along, his reverence is waiting for us.

Coristine walked towards the main temple, knowing that she had no right to make the high priest wait for her. She was only the child of the library, no matter how astonishing her gift was. But the man she was going to meet was the leader of the faith for the whole kingdom. She remembered meeting him once before when she had been much younger than she was now. He had had kind eyes and a beard so white it looked as though it had been mde of snow.

The steps upto the temple were home to a multitude of beggers who held out their hands as they drew near. Some of them she recognised as scholars who had tried to divine the secret of her deep green eyes. They were broken men, once so grand now their faces were dirty and their clothes torn. She felt guilty that it was partly her fault that they had been brought so low. But if only their curiousity hadn't been so great, then they might still have had a hearth and home to go to. She couldn't help what her eyes looked like, couldn't prevent others from losing themselves within those orbs.

But it wasn't just the mad scholars that sat upon the temple steps their hands outstretched. No side by side with the once-learned men were people of all ages, sexes and races. Women called out to her, thursting squealing newbornes in her face to see their suffering. Older children surrounded her, calling out for just a spare coin or two. But the old men just sat there staring at her with empty eyes, they had been here so long that there was nothing left inside them. They were hollow and forgotten.

Get away, go to your prayers and leave us alone. Your lives are your punishment from Isonia for failing her. Be pious and pray for Her forgiveness, Andreus said sternly, his face a picture of disgust and revulsion. As she looked at him berating the poor Coristine realised taht he truly hated these unfortuantes. He enjoyed making them feel terrible, he liked putting them down, treading on whatever little spirit they had left. How could he like doing such things as a man of the cloth? Surely he should be aiding these people rather than making them feel worse about themselves?

Six of the temple's guards marched out of the church, hurrying down the steps even as Andreus continued to cow the beggers. They pushed the beggers aside roughly, forcing them away from Andreus and Coristine. An old man didn't move as quickly as they wished and so he was sent tumbling down the stone steps. He cried out in fear as he fell before suddenly falling silent. Corisitne looked back to see him laying so very still on the ground beside the bottom step. His limbs were arranged at awkward angles like a puppet who had had his strings cut. Blood welled up at the corner of his mouth, bright red beads upon his grubby skin.

Andreus drew himself up to his full height, a self-satisfied smile upon his face. See, Isonia Herself has called down Her righteous judgement upon one of your own.

No She didn't, Coristine thought to herself, You just want to make them think that. You want to see their fear.

The priest turned back towards her, that shark-like smile upon his face. Come along my lady Corsitine, I think we have been detained far too long by this unworthy rabble. He held out his hand and without thinking she took it, letting him lead her up towards the main entrance.

Knowledge for knowledge's sake alone
If you want the rainbow, you've got to put up with the rain


Posted: 2002-05-29 07:19     Profile;   E-mail   Homepage Edit   Reply w/Quote
She had never seen the inside of a temple before and the sight took her breath away. Even at the library all they had were small altars hidden away in tiny rooms for the faithful. The Master of the library had said that the space was needed more for the books, that the Goddess would see that they were honouring Her with their search for knowledge. Priests only ever came to the library to have their questions answered, never to perform services for those that lived there. Those who had been pledged to the service of the library were free to go to a temple if they wished to hear the services. But strangely enough few ever did.

And Coristine had never had the choice. She was the child of the library, forbidden until now to leave the safety of its walls.

In her dreams she had imagined the temple many a time, even called up descriptions of it using her gift. But none of those words or imagainings could ever come close to doing it justice. Thin columns rose up around the edges of the central temple, each of them carved with images of those who had defended Isonia's faithful. Even from where she stood Coristine could see the image of Sir Geran who had lived over a hundred years before. Under the image were carved the words "My faith is my sword". It was said that when a band of Dardenite demons attacking an Isonian monastry, he alone had ridden out to protect the monks. He had slain the heretics till the earth had been painted black with their demonic blood. And as he had struck down the last one it had scratched him with a poisoned blade. Such a little wound butit had killed him nonetheless, he had died praying at the chapel of the Goddess within the monastry that he had defended. The Mother had smiled upon him and taken him to the afterlife where his actions would be rewarded.

As she took a step closer Coristine could make out the next pillar along carved with the image of a pious woman, her face serene even as flames licked at her body. Under this picture were the words "Isonia, take the pain of the poor". She knew of this one's tale too, the Lady Yevish. Yevish had been a simple preacher, taking the message of Isonia's love to those that were forsaken by the world. The Lady had fed and clothed the poorest of Isonia's flock, teaching them of the true ways. None should have wanted to harm a holy woman such as she had been.But one day, or so the histories went, Yevish came upon a town devouted to Foret. She had not preached her faith there, only sought to aid the sick and weary. But the 'noble' lord of the town had decided that she should die anyway. The poor had tried to protect her and so the noble had brought her in front of the justice of the peace on charges of witchcraft. They had burned her at the stake and yet never once had Yevish screamed for Isonia herself took pity on the Lady and took her pain from her.

There were so many more and Coristine wanted to look at each one, to remember the tales behind them all. But Andreus hurried her along till the carvings were only faint images to her eyes. Great wooden benches stood in the centre of the temple, ready for the faithful that would gather here to listen to the sermons. Grey stone with veins of purple amythest formed the floor that they stood upon. At the far end of each bench stood a statue of an angel, each in a different pose. Some carried weapons with shich to strike down the unworthy. Others carried books or instruments, one even held a great swath of bandages; each showing the many facets of the Mother.

At the front of the temple stood a raised dias, guarded on wither side by a statue of a lion and a unicorn, gilded with gold from the spoils of war. They rose up on their hind legs as if to crush some invisible foe beneath them. The lion was for the strength of Isonia and the Unicorn for Her purity and wisdom. Nothing here was without meaning, each object and image a lesson to the faithful.

And on the dias itself stood the altar, covered in rich purple velvet. A platinium dish was laid upon the velvet so that the devout might come here and place offerings to the Goddess upon it. Even now there were some coins littered upon it and an offering of grain that had probably come from a farmer visiting the city to sell his produce. those who had not the coin to spare were often encouraged to leave offerings of food or spices or whatever they could spare.

Behind the altar and looking down over all stood a statue of the Goddess in Her aspect as the warrioress. One hand was raised, palm upturned and facing the celing, as if She was offering it to another. The other hand was curled tightly around a double-headed axe that it was said She weilded. Her long marble hair tumbled from a plumed helmet as intricately carved as the breast-plate that was the only other armour She wore. Undernreath it all She wore a robe whose folds had been carved to brush the edges of Her axe. Her eyes were open but uncarved for She saw all and no sculptor could ever presume to capture the gaze of the Goddess.

Wait here, Andreus said abruptly, breaking Coristine out of her amazement of the temple. He didn't even look up at the statue of the Goddess, instead gathering his robes about him and heading towards a small door that was just to the left of the dias.

Coristine almost tripped over her feet as she ran to the altar, kneeling before it. She knew she should have bowed her head before the iamge of the Goddess but she couldn't bring herself to tear her eyes from that flawless face.

Knowledge for knowledge's sake alone
If you want the rainbow, you've got to put up with the rain


Posted: 2002-05-31 12:43     Profile;   E-mail   Homepage Edit   Reply w/Quote
Coristine had no idea how long she knelt there, fixated by the statue of the Goddess in all Her glory. Even though it had been made by a mortal craftsman with all the associated frailities Corisitne could believe that he had managed to capture some fragment of Isonia's beauty and timeless wisdom. Truly the Goddess must have blessed the sculptor to come so close to Her perfection. Hanus had been the name of the man who had been commissioned to create this impressive figure of stone, her gift told her that much at least. Soon after completing his masterpiece for the temple Hanus had died. Though no one knew the truth of the matter many had said that he knew that he would never come close to repeating what he had created here. Hanus had simply laid down his tools and let the Goddess take him to his rest.

She could imagine Hanus working here in the temple, every scrap of his attention focused only on the statue. All those endless days and nights toiling away for the sake of the faith, it had ground him down till, when it was finished, he had no more left to give. The sculptor had poured his heart and soul into the statue of Isonia, it was no wonder that he simply wasted away when he beheld what he had accomplished.

The young girl moved back so that she could sit on the front bench and still look at Isonia's stone visage. She thought of all the people who had sat here just as she was, looking up at the implacable face of the Goddess. It must be a wonderous sight to see the faithful gathered together, raising their voices in prayer and hymn alike. How she wished that just once she could be a part of that congregation.

An unfamiliar vioice brought her out of her reverie, My lady Coristine? The High Priest will see you now, if you would be so kind as to follow me.

Coristine looked up to see a man robed in the purple colours of an acolyte, bowing deeply in her direction. His hair had been shorn close to the skull in the manner of those that took holy orders. He was too thin as matters stood and without any hair on his head, the acolyte looked like some skeleton risen from its grave.

Gathering the various layers of her own robes and veils, Coristine got to her feet. Her feet seemed unwilling to follow her directions as she sought to reach the waiting acolyte. Her whole body seemed to shiver with nerves at the thought of who she was about to meet. Someone as young as her was rarely given the honour of meeting the High Priest, the leader of Isonia's children for the entire realm. It was only due to her gift that one as lowly as she was being allowed into his hallowed presence.

She carefully followed the acolyte, only a few steps behind the skeletal man. He seemed to know every hallway and corridor of the temple, choosing which to take without even pausing to think. There again he had probably been a part of the temple since he was a child, it was likely to be as familiar to him as the library was to her. Just as every room in the library was as known to her as the hairs on her arm, so it was the same case with the acolyte. By the time they came to a halt outside a set of double doors, Coristine was completely confused as to where she was. If left here she would never be able to make her way back to the main area of worship.

Please, go in, his eminence is waiting for you, the acolyte placed one hand upon the door and pushed it open.

Thank you, she managed to squeak, her throat felt as though it was closing up in fear. Coristine knew that she had no reason to worry about meeting the High Priest, he was a man like any other. But still the htought alone terrified her, after all what could he want with her?

Knowledge for knowledge's sake alone
If you want the rainbow, you've got to put up with the rain


Posted: 2002-06-01 17:19     Profile;   E-mail   Homepage Edit   Reply w/Quote
The room inside was extremely bare compared to the magnificent opulence of the temple itself. The walls here had been messily white-washed, scraps of colour still poked out from underneath here and there. To her left was a small framed picture of the Goddess blessing some faceless worshipper. Rushes covered the floor rather than thick carpets or expensive foreign rugs. The only light came from a few carefully places candles, that seemed to cast more shadows than they banished.

In front of Coristine was a crude wooden bed that looked as though the carpenter had thrown it together with his eyes closed. It was covered in sheets that might once have been white but had long since been washed into a pale grey. There was no other furniture other than a small chest made in the same fashion as the bed. The room had the unmistakeable smell of sickness about it, diseased flesh, sweat and old age. All in all it hardly seemed like the room of the High Priest of Isonia, more like a cell that a prisoner might be kept in.

A fragile form rested in the bed, its flesh whiter than the sheets that surrounded it. It looked as though there was no more substance to it than a young child. The figure barely moved except to cough occansionally, the sound seeming to rack the lungs of the person. It was not the sound of one who was merely clearing their throat, but rather that of someone who could not breath through the fluid that had built up in them.

Coristine hesitated just inside the doorway, uncertain what to do. Was this form really that of the strong proud man that she had once met so long ago? This was no more than a shadow of the High Priest, this couldn't be him.

The figure on the bed started to cough violently again making her step back in sudden fear. Bright red spots appeared on the grey of the sheets like the eyes on the wings of a butterfly. The bald acolyte rushed passed her to the side of the bed, reaching down for a cloth to wipe away the blood. As she stood there, frozen to the spot, the acolyte proceeded clean away the blood and raise the figure into a sitting position. A glass of water appeared from the same place as the cloth and touched the lips of the invalid just long enough to wet them.

Please come closer my lady Coristine, his eminence wishes to speak to you, the acolyte beckoned. So this was the High Priest, but what had happened to him to change him so? She knew that he had once been such a robust man, walking about the city everyday to speak with all who wished it. He had been a man of the people, loved by those that he had ministered to. Some had not approved of the way he had conducted himself, saying that such work was below his station. But he had insisted that all were as worthy as another in Isonia's eyes.

Coristine shuffled forward, her legs moving even though her mind wanted to be no closer to the sick figure that waited for her. Her heart thudded in her chest with each step, the scent of the sick room seeming to suffocate her. Eventually she found herself standing beside the acolyte, although she couldn't honestly remember any of the steps that had been taken to get her there.

He pressed the glasss into her hand and withdrew to the doorway. I shall leave you alone now, if you require anything I shall wait outside.

The doors shut with a whisper and Coristine found her eyes drawn back to the figure in the bed. Out of paper-white skin startling blue eyes met hers without fear of falling into their deapths. He had to know of the danger that lay within her eyes and yet he looked anyway. But he ran no risk for the High Priest had no desire to find that 'hidden knowledge'.

Coristine..., the voice sounded as dry as the deserts, pain dripping in every word. Sweet, little Coristine...how you have grown...I see the child that you were and the...woman you will be stand before me...both are beautiful...

Underneath the veil she found herself blushing despite her fear of the sick room. Your eminence, I am not deserving of such compliments.

There was a wheezing sound suddenly which might have been laughter, Oh yes...you are...

She couldn't bear to see the once-strong priest brought so low by the weakness of his mortal flesh. What had happened to you?, she blurted out suddenly. She knew that she shouldn't have asked such a question, not so rudely. It was not her place to ask questions, she was the one that was supposed to answer not ask.

The silence between them lengthen an for a time Coristine feared the he had passed away without her noticing. But then his eyes changed and became full of sadness and fear. He raised one hand weakly and motioned her closer until she could feel his breath upon her cheek. You do not know...somethings are hidden even from your gift...someone has been...making sure I am ill but now...now I fear that they want me not only incapacitated..but dead as well...

Dead? Who could want the High Priest dead? He was a threat to no one, only seeking to minister to all that cared for Isonia. But now someone had been..what? Poisoning him?

Knowledge for knowledge's sake alone
If you want the rainbow, you've got to put up with the rain


Posted: 2002-06-04 15:41     Profile;   E-mail   Homepage Edit   Reply w/Quote
Oh don't look so surprised, young Coristine...surely you know that the world is not the pure thing that Isonia...desires it to be? he wheezed, struggling with each word. She had been so sheltered from the world that much of its darkness had never touched her. Coristine knew that such things existed, greed, lust, corruption, but had any of them ever come into her circle of life? People want the power that...they think I weild...they want to rule...

But what does this have to do with me your eminence? Surely you don't think that I had anything to do with what has happened to you?

A smile cracked his face and he shook his dead weakly, Oh no child...no not at all...She could feel a wash of relief pass over her though she had never been guilty. Perhaps it was just the thought that with a single word the sick priest before her could condem her to death. The history books were full of tales of people who had been sent to meet their end, though with hindsight they were proven innocent. Coristine didn't want to end up another name in those books, sent to be judged by Isonia before her time.

Sit...here...he patted the bed and beckoned her nearer, his voice mirroring the exhaustion of his body. It was as though his body had been infected by some bizarre parasite that was leaching the very life and vigour from him. The poison was dancing its way through his veins even as she watched each line in his face. His life was vanishing even as she looked on. Coristine had never felt so helpless before, her head was so full of knowledge and yet none of it seemed of any use right now.

Coristine sat beside the prone body of the High Priest, almosyt afraid to meet his eyes. They stared at her, telling her of his unspoken pain even while they still shone with life. They were perhaps the only things that the poison had not taken from him, or maybe they were the one outward sign that he carried on fighting against the pollutant in his system. I need your help Coristine...I need to know what was done to me.

She nodded quickly, If we know the poison that they used on you, there might be an antidote. Her words were hurried as a nervous excitment overcame her. Maybe she could save the High Priest, help cure his sickness. If the lowly child of the library could do that, what else might she do? She might even think of a way to escape from the library's confines, or just to be allowed more of a free rein.

Closing her eyes she began to concentrate on what was, on the facts that were indisputable, for what has passed can never be changed. Once an event has happened, it was fact and fact was her domain, or rather the domain of her gift. Her lips moved in a silent prayer to the Mother, every fibre of her wanting to know. So much depended on her gift working, not just the High Priest's life but also any chance she might have of freedom. Every part of her, every fragment of her soul was willing her gift to behave itself.

In the swirl of her mind a picture began to form, it coalesced out of the mists of her thoughts, drawing on her gift to give it form and meaning. She felt something reach out of her, pawing at the air, seeking out the flesh, blood and poison of the High Priest. The gift tasted of the toxin that ran rampant through his system, seeking to know what manner of plant it had come from. In her mind she saw the pale green leaves of the plant, the tendrils that seemed to reach out like claws, the brilliant red flowers that peeked out like tiny eyes. She imagined how the flowers wilted, dying in their time to reveal small black pods pregnant with seed. A tiny rodent scampered towards the plant and grabbed a single pod, gnawing it quickly. Within a few seconds the small mammal swayed to one side and dropped its prize, its tiny life extinguished.

Fiery-peeper seeds, the name escaped her even as the image in her mind vanished. Her voice had taken on an almost sing-song quality, Ground up finely they had be hidden in food or the poison extracted and added to water. It attacks the blood first, eating through the liquid that gives us life. From there it will spread to the organs, leaving them wasted and useless.

And...the cure?

Her eyes snapped open and she found herself looking down at the rush-covered floor. A single tear formed in her right eye, making its way down her cheek, There is none.

Knowledge for knowledge's sake alone
If you want the rainbow, you've got to put up with the rain


Posted: 2002-06-05 14:00     Profile;   E-mail   Homepage Edit   Reply w/Quote
He nodded slowly, almost calmly as if he had already suspected that there was no hope for him. Perhaps he had already resigned himself to dying before he had even spoken to her. After all what had he to fear from death? As a holy man Isonia would ensure that he was taken to the afterlife to serve Her there. He laid back further onto the pillows, knowing that there was nothing that could halt the progress of the poison in his system.

I'm, I'm so sorry your eminence, I-

The High Priest held up one hand wearily, Be at peace child...there is nothing you could have done to...to help me...Though his words were true she couldn't help but feel guilty, there had to be something that she could do. How could Isonia have given her this gift for knowledge only for it to be useless right now when she needed it most? Coristine wanted so badly to help, to stop his suffering and yet she could not. There was quite simply nothing left to the High Priest save for a slow, drawn out death.

His movements were almost unbearably slow as he reached out and patted her hand reassuringly. Coristine had to catch herself to stop from crying out at the hot touch of his skin. He seemed to have become paler if that were at all possible and there was a thin sheen of sweat on his brow. Come...come now...there is no need to cry...we all must...die in the end...

But not like this, she said in a small voice, having to bite her tongue to stop herself from sounding like a petulant child. This isn't a normal death, someone has caused this as surely as if they had come in here with a blade. She wondered if such an end would be any better than the one he suffered with now. A blade was at least quick, providing that the hand that weilded it was accurate. But poison? It drained all the life from you, killing you by making each part of you give up one at a time. And yet such a drawn out ending gave him time to sort out his affairs, to make his peace with this world. But it wasn't worth the pain, of that she was sure. There is someone out there who is murdering you, someone who will go unpunished.

For a moment he didn't reply and as the silent seconds stretched out to what seemed like endless minutes. Coristine watched him carefully, forcing herself not to breath so that she might see some flutter that would indicate that the High Priest still clung to life. Finally, accompanied by a sickening rattle from his chest, he drew another breath into his lungs. I know...I know who has...done this...the old man wheezed...it was Andreus...

Then why hasn't he been carried off to the prisons, Coristine exclaimed, her eyes wide with disbelief. Could he really mean the same Andreus that had summoned her from the library? Perhaps it was another Andreus, one that had been taken away to be punished for what he had done here. But something nagged at the back of her mind, telling her that there was no other Andreus and that she had spent a carriage journey with a soon-to-be murderer. Her voice raised to a high pitched squeak as she continued to speak, You are the High Priest still no matter what is killing you. With one word you could have him taken away, even put to death for what he has done. But instead he's walking around the city and the temple as though he were a true innocent blessed of the Mother.

Tghe Priest nodded slowly, If only I could...bring him to justice before...my end...I could leave this world happy...He paused taking in breaths as hurriedly as though he had just run many miles chased by the heathen armies of the world. But Andreus is plotting...he has been spreading rumours to...have others believe that this 'sickness' has taken my mind...they think me mad...if I were to denounce him they...would only believe him more...after all who would...doubt the pious Father Andreus?

She knew he was right however much she wished that it were not so. It tore her up inside to think of Andreus doing this and getting away with it. How could Isonia allow him to kill Her High Priest and not be brought to justice? Surely the Goddess would do something to stop what was happening here, Coristine couldn't believe that it would be otherwise. But why do this to you?

Simple child...power...he wants my position...he'll corrupt the church...

Those few words gripped her by the throat, causing tendrils of fear to ripple over her; 'corrupt the church'. Who would dare profane the temple of the Goddess and seek to corrupt it? Is Andreus a secret worshipper of Foret or Darden?, she asked quickly already imaging hordes of heretics descending upon the city as Andreus opened the gates to let them in.

No...he doesn't want to follow...he wants to lead...no not raise himself to Godhood...He said as quickly as he could, seeing the question already forming in her mind. There are books in the temple...ones you'd never find in...your library...books only I can get to...they concern the summoning and control of demons...hell-spawn...he means to call one..and with its power rule...

Coristine could see it all so clearly now, of how Andreus planned to rule over all. He would kill the High Priest and take his place, after all he was already expected to step into that role. And with his new found power he would summon himself a demon slave, one that he could order to do his biding. As time passed Andreus would turn the people of the realm so that they worshipped the demon and not the Goddess. With that new perverted 'religion' he could sent out his slave to do anything, destroy and kill without a second thought. And in her heart of hearts, Coristine knew that no one would stand in his way.

Knowledge for knowledge's sake alone
If you want the rainbow, you've got to put up with the rain


Posted: 2002-06-09 13:53     Profile;   E-mail   Homepage Edit   Reply w/Quote
But come now child...you have done...all you can...he wheezed, trying to hold onto the reins of control of his own dying body. What must it feel like, to know that your own body was slipping away from you, eaten from the inside by a malicious poison? All must die in their time, but to die before you had lived your full measure of life, could their be a more helpless situation? From the moment of their birth, everyone is dying, but when death is so near it must be a fearful fate to behold.

It isn't enough, I should be able to help you, I should be able to make you well again. Her hands clenched themselves into fists of rage, hating Andreus for doing this and herself for not being able to do better. Even hating the High Priest for not fighting harder against the enemies that assailed him, both the mortal ones and the poisonous ones. He almost seemed too willing to die as if he was eager to make his way into the arms of the Goddess.

For a moment they sat in silence, listening only to the sounds of their breathing. Then, There is one...last thing I must do before...before the poison takes me into death...He beckoned her closer, till her ear was only a breath away from his lips. You must leave this place...Coristine...

You want me to return to the library and leave you so that Andreus can kill you quicker? Anger flared up within her small frame at the very thought. Coristine wanted to stay here by his side, to protect him from Andreus's evils. While she was here she doubted that Andreus or his minions would dare try and poison the High Priest further. Such actions would not prevent his death but it might extend his life just a little more. All life was precious to the Goddess and it was more than worth fighting for.

He shook her head slowly, pain etching itself across his face as the poison set his nerve-endings on fire. There was little left to him in this world save for pain and misery, death would truly be a blessing for him, even if it did leave the city to Andreus's 'tender mercies'. No, not that...you must leave the city...the whole realm if you can...and now...never return...

Leave the city, the realm even? The very idea made her blood run cold with fear at what might happen to her if she did so. It was true that she wanted to see the outside world, but to leave her home behind her forever? She couldn't do that, she didn't know how to survive in a world that was so full of danger and strife. Such a world would consume her whole, she would not stand a chance in such a place. I can't do that, she could feel hot tears springing to her eyes, threatening to spill out onto her face. I wouldn't know what to do or where to go, this is the first time that I have ever stepped outside the library.

I know that you feel...fear Coristine, I understand...if there was time I would...I would have sent word to your...friend the sorceress of the ruined kingdom...to com take you away from all..this trouble...but time escaped me and...you must run...

For many a year Coristine had been visited by only one person who did not demand answers of her. The Sidhe sorceress Lyssia would visit the girl to tell her stories of the outside world and of the characters that people it. Though Coristine could have used her gift to find out those same stories, sometimes it was nice to be told something rather than to always be the one doing the telling. How she wished that the sorceress was here now to help her sort out what to do.

But-she began to protest.

No Coristine...there was a hitn of the old steel in his voice, a reminder that the man he had once been still lived. There is no arguing this...you must leave the city...Andreus would corrupt you as he will the church...go to the chest...take what is within...After that sudden burst of energy the High Priest fell back against the pillows of his bed as if it had taken too much from him. He was not long for this world, soon he would be beyond the suffering that this world had inflicted upon him. And when death lay its touch upon his shoulder, then it would deliver the city in Andreus's hands.

She jumped off the bed and scuttled over to the chest, using both hands to raise up the heavy wooden top. At first it seemed as though there was nothing more in the chest that various robes and items of clothing. But once Coristine had removed the various layers of cloth she found three items hidden away at the bottom. One was a small leather pouch that jangled musically as she picked it up. The other two were small daggers, wrapped together in a section of waterproof cloth.

She returned to the High Priest's side, showing him what she had recovered from the chest. With an effort he opened his eyes, letting his gaze lay upon the items. Take the pouch...it has some coins to help you...and one of the knives too...to protect you...

Though he was fast fading from this life there was still enough of the leader in his voice for her to obey. She hid the coin pouch in the folds of her robe, the knife secreted away in her sleeve. The last knife she held uncertainly, more than a little afraid of the weapon. And what of this?, she said as the last blade rested on her hands.

Give it to me...that I may end...my life in a way fitting...to one of the warrior Goddess...I will not...wither away at the hands of...this treacherous poison...

He reached out for the knife but Coristine snatched it away, horrified by his words. You would kill yourself?

I am dying anyway...child and the commotion...caused by my death shall give you...time and cover to escape...He raised one hand feebly and pointed to the far corner of the room. Under the rushes you will...find a wooden hatch...follow the passages under there...till you are safely away...now give me the knife...

She didn't know what to do, to hand over the knife and let him kill himself, or to try and help him preserve his life for as long as possible. Neither seemed right and yet both fought for supremacy in her emotions. If she gave him the blade then she was helping him to stop the pain, and yet she would be partly responsible for his death at the same time. On the other hand she could withhold the knife and try and nurse him through till the poison could be held back no more. Though that might let him live a little longer the High Priest would go through more pain than she could imagine. And she would be trapped within the city when Andreus came to power. Coristine shuddered at the thought, she didn't want to be around when that happened. And yet could she abandon the people of the city to that fate if she herself did not suffer it also?

As if he could read the thoughts within her mind the High Priest managed to say, There is nothing you can do...to stop Andreus now...but one day you can return and...put right the wrongs that he has done...the knife child...I must have it...

With trembling hands she offered the final blade to the High Priest, his withered hands hardly able to get hold of the ornate hilt. He motioned her to leave now, laying back in the bed with the knife clasped to his chest. Coristine's gift rose up unbidden to inform her that he would wait till she was gone to do the deed. In her mind she could see him laying upon the bed, blade plunged into his chest up to its hilt, the last of his thin blood staining the sheets. Empty eyes would look up to the roof, his soul fled from its disease-striken flesh.

It took all her strength to open the wooden cover to the passageways below. As she dropped down into their dark depths, closing the cover behind her, Coristine thought she heard the High Priest whisper, Isonia be with you Coristine...and with me...

Knowledge for knowledge's sake alone
If you want the rainbow, you've got to put up with the rain

[ This Message was edited by: Coristine on 2002-06-09 13:54 ]


Posted: 2002-06-14 06:46     Profile;   E-mail   Homepage Edit   Reply w/Quote
Shadows nipped at her heels as she ran through the darkened tunnels. By touch alone she found her way, fingers sweeping the rough stone, nails scratching the softer rock. There were no lights down here to comfort her or banish the terrors that her mind conjured up. Nothing to guide her save her trust in the Goddess, and if that failed her perhaps Coristine might never find her way out of this underground maze.

Her gift sparked into life unbidden, telling her of the secret that these tunnels held. They stretched under the whole city, older by far than any building save for the main temple itself. Originally built to house the most sacred of the temple's treasures and relics, it had also become the last resting place of those who served the Goddess most faithfully. And then in harsher times things had changed once more, oh the bodies of the High Priests still lay down here and the relics of a more glorious age gathered gust along side them but the labyrinth had found other uses. To test the faith of those accused of crimes against the Goddess they would be placed down here. If the Goddess favoured them they would find their way out. If She did not...well none would ever find the corpses of such heretics, none save those who were also found wanting.

Coristine shivered at the thought of all those unburied corpses, forbidden from ever finding peace in the Goddess's arms. How terrible it must be to be cast out of Her love. And yet the fear knawed at her belly at the unasked question; what if she was found wanting? What if the Goddess did not choose to give her the way out? Then she would die down here, just another small pile of forgotten bones.

I could always go back, perhaps the High priest had really lost his mind. I could explain and then they'd let me go back to the library. Her voice sounded too loud in the confines of the tight tunnels though it could not have been more than a whisper. But still, wanting to go back to the library? No more than a few hours ago all she had wanted to do was get as far away from that place as she could.

There was no way to return, even if she wanted to go back Coristine didn't think that she could retrace her steps. But perhaps there were other ways out? Maybe people in the city had stumbled across the secret of the maze under their feet while building their houses? If they had well then that might provide her with a way out.

For what seemed like hours she worked her way along endless tunnels, reaching up to touch the low roof. But never once did her fingers touch an opening of any sort, not even a rat could make it down here from the world above. She had once read of explorers lost underground who had found their way out by following a breeze back to the surface world. But down here the air was still, it chilled the very marrow within the bone but it did not move.

In a fit of despair Coristine cried out her fear, not a word or a scream just a cry of rage and sorrow, of utter hopelessness. Why had she ever listened to the High Priest? Why had she gambled her life on the ravings of a dying man? The sound of her cry echoed back and forth along the tunnels, seeming to come from all places. If any had heard that cry they might have thought some animal was lost and hurt, angry beyond reasoning and sad beyond comprehension. It crossed the boundaries of mere language, it was emotion itself given voice.

She fell to the floor, curling up in a foetal ball, head buried into her knees. Hot tears coursed their way down her cheeks, begging for someone to wipe them away. Her cry became a hoarse sob, the sound of one who knew that no matter how much she wept no one would ever arrive to make it all right again. Coristine's arms clasped about her legs, knowing that the only comfort she would get was from herself. In this world she was truly alone, it didn't matter whether she was in the dark tunnels below or the bright city above. In either world she would be by herself, locked away from anyone who might sooth the pain in her lonely heart.

But was she? Wasn't there always one who would listen to her? One person in the whole world who would listen to her hopes and fears and not laugh at them? Of course there was always that someone, the one person who knew her whispered dreams, who held her safe through the nightmares, who wiped her fevered brow through sickness.

Isonia, Coristine managed to say through lips that were cracked and covered in salty tears. Oh Mother help me, please.

Something brushed against her gently, something faintly warm that smelt of fruit blossom. There was no sound, just the barely felt touch against her skin, so delicate that she might almost have doubted that it had happened. She looked up suddenly, almost fearful at what creature might make it's nest down here. But there was nothing to see, darkness reigned here and it's rule was absolute.

Then somehow light glowed in the darkness, pushing back the shadows that sought to reclaim the shadows. The glow danced gently in the still cold air, bobbing and weaving like a cork on the sea. Coristine pushed herself up to unsteady feet, wiping away her tears with the fragile veil that still clung to her. One hand reached out to touch that tiny light but it danced away just out of her reach. She stumbled after it, eyes locked on the only thing that could force back the darkness. And always the little light danced away, always just a tiny bit further from her outstretched hand.

Knowledge for knowledge's sake alone
If you want the rainbow, you've got to put up with the rain


Posted: 2002-06-19 17:24     Profile;   E-mail   Homepage Edit   Reply w/Quote
She watched the small light, following it and never letting her eyes leave its trail. If she lost track of the pale glow now Coristine knew she might never find her way out of the tunnels. She might wander forever trapped within the twisting pathways till her body could take no more. And all that would be left was a small forgotten corpse buried under a city that had barely known that she had been alive. Coristine knew that it was true, other than the robed ones within the library, those that served the temple and a few educated nobles no one knew she existed, hidden away in a library that they would never see.

In the end she didn't mind dying, where was the fear in that anyway? Coristine believed with all of her heart that when her time came Isonia would take care of her immortal soul. But to die and never be remembered, to become dust in the winds and your existence wiped from the pages of history, now there was the most terrible of fears. Everyone sought to make an impression on one person at least, someone to mourn their passing and to delight in their life. But Coristine had no one, no one that cared enough about her to remember her life and keep that small flickering candle safe in their hearts.

And so she followed the light, one that had surely been sent by the Goddess Herself. For who else would answer her prayers?

In front of her the glow seemed to settle on something, a smooth dark stone-like surface. Nervously the girl walked over to it, why had it stopped moving there was no visable way out of here? With a crackle torches to either side of her lit themselves, giving off smoke edged flames. She jumped at the sudden sound, blinded temporarily by the sight of so much light. All she could see were a multitude of colours, dizzying shapes and patterns swirling across the inside of her eyelids.

Coristine rubbed her eyes furiously, wanting to know where the soft glow had led her. Not to mention wanting to know why it had stopped taking her out of the network of tunnels. Slowly the colours cleared, after-images vanishing, retreating into the passways of memory.

She looked all about her, drawing in a sudden breath at the sight that greeted her. All about her in ordered rows lay the mortal remains of many tens of people. Each lay on a plinth of solid black stone under a covering of deep purple cloth. The ones closest to her were still recognisably human but even from here she could tell that the ones at the very back were no more than dust. From what she could tell each held, or had once held, a small tome in their left hand and a staff or stick of some kind in their right.

The glow that had led her here bobbed on a small black cube of the same strange stone. Why have you brought me here?, she asked of the soft light, the scent of fruit blossom surrounding her for a instant. I don't udnerstand what is this place?

As if in response to her whispered question her gift sprang into action. Knowledge poured itself into her mind, voices that were not her own told her of a thousand things, many of which she could not understand. This, they said, was the last resting place of the High Priests and Priestesses of Isonia. Their bodies had been brought here in reverence, soaked in sweet-smelling oils that did nothing to preserve their dead flesh. They had been laid to their eternal rest carrying the holy book of the Goddess and carrying their staff of office. And she knew, if only she cared to look closely enough, that carved into each stone plinth was the name and birth and death dates of their lives. Here was a chain of people who lead back to the very founding of the realm that buzzed with life above her. If she stepped back through the corpses she might find all that remained of the very first one that had brought the word of the Goddess to the people.

A sudden exhaustion seemed to come over her, the very energy leeched from her body. Her eyelids felt heavy, drooping down over her eyes as she reached out to catch the wall to stop herself from falling. Coristine could feel the skin on the palms of her hands scratching as her legs gave way beneath her. But I don't want to sleep here, she managed to mutter, forcing the words out through lips that felt heavy and a tongue that seemed too large for her to speak with.

But whatever was forcing her to rest would not listen to her protests. Coristine lay upon the hard unforgiving ground and slept with the dead of ages past.

Knowledge for knowledge's sake alone
If you want the rainbow, you've got to put up with the rain


Posted: 2002-07-04 16:41     Profile;   E-mail   Homepage Edit   Reply w/Quote
She dreamed of such strange things; of the dead whispering under their shrouds, of feet pounding as they sought her through the silent tunnels, of a woman's voice singing a sweet lullaby. But here in her dreams she was safe, nothing could come near her or harm her in these dreams conjured by her imagaintion. It didn't matter that Coristine was laying on uneven stone, she could have just as easily been sleeping on the softest of feather beds. And the woman's voice curled round her, the words a warm blanket to her tired mind.

Thus lullaby, my youth, mine eyes,
My will, my ware, and all that was!
I can no mo delays devise,
But welcome pain, let pleasure pass.
With lullaby, now take your leave,
With lullaby, your dreams deceive,
And when you rise with waking eye,
Remember Gascoigne's lullaby...

The words trailed off as the girl awoke, leaving only the faintest of memories behind it. Coristine felt as though she should know the lullaby from somewhere, be able to place it from some point in her own history. But as familiar as it was at the same time it seemed as though she was listening to it for the first time as well. She couldn't understand it, her sleep fogged mind was still trying to gain a handhold on reality.

She pushed aside her veil with one hand while the other tried to brush aside the sleep that was encrusted at the corners of her eyes. The veil seemed much bigger than she remembered it being, every time she pushed it aside there seemed to be more drifting down to cover her. Her eyes opened a crack and she looked with astonishment at the huge volume of purple material that lay all about her. Some of it was in better condition than the rest, a few areas no more than the thinest of threads held together by faith and luck alone.

Jumping away from the coverings, Coristine looked about with fear in her eyes. The dead still lay on their plinths, their staffs of office and books of religion where they had always been. But their shrouds no longer covered their corpses, no they now lay all about her. Had the dead risen while she had slept and covered her with their own eternal blankets? The thought of the dead moving sent a shudder of fear through her, the dead were supposed to lay in eternal slumber not walk whenever a lost child came into their midst.

What's going on? I don't understand, she sobbed quietly, not even her gift could help her here. The knowledge deserted her now, her gift as silent as the tunnels that she had raced through before. Coristine had never been without her gift, how was she supposed to cope without it to rely upon?

Picking up her own veil, she wrapped it about herself, peering out into the opening of the burial chamber. The light barely extended this far but it was still just bright enough for her to make out scuffled footprints in the dust. The footprints were all far too large to belong to her, not to mention that not one of them led into the chamber. Each and every one of the prints carried on down the tunnel, not one even suggesting that its owner looked into the chamber.

She had heard people running down the tunnels in her dreams, had it perhaps been real? But if that's true, then why didn't any of them look in here? They can't have just missed it, they must have had torches. After all no one would be silly enough to come down into the tunnels with a light, not unless they were her of course. The footprints had to belong to Andreus's men, they must have followed her down into the catacombs after discovering the dead body of the High Priest.

The softly glowing ball of light beind her rose slightly, changing the shadows as they fell around Coristine. The girl looked back to see it floating down the central aisle between the plinths away from her. Frightened of losing her only source of light in all this darkness, she cried out,Wait, please wait.

But one question still nagged at her; if the dead had truly moved, and the footsteps had been real, what else of her dreams had been reality? Had the woman's voice been real? Was the lullaby a memory from her distant past or had it truly echoed in this tomb as she slept?

Knowledge for knowledge's sake alone
If you want the rainbow, you've got to put up with the rain

[ This Message was edited by: Coristine on 2002-07-04 16:42 ]


Posted: 2002-07-21 19:28     Profile;   E-mail   Homepage Edit   Reply w/Quote
She ran after the pale glow as it seemed to move much faster along the darkened tunnels. There was almost a sense of urgency in the air, a terrible feeling of dread that seemed to lurk just outside the light's boundaries. Every now and then Coristine thought that she heard voices, shouts and cries coming from one way or another, but never from in front of her. Hurried footsteps seemed to chase at her heels, booted feet chasing after her through these tunnels that had been home only to the dead these last years. Was it all just her imagintion or were there really other people in the catacombs, people who had followed her from the High Priest's room? She wanted to know and yet at the same time knew that she could not stop and look back. If men had been sent after her then they were under Andreus's charge and she had no wish to see him ever again.

The glow seemed to move ever further from her and she feared that it might be swallowed up by the darkness around her. What would she do if left here in the dark? Wander as aimlessly as she had before? That sort of thing led only to death, a lonely forgotten death where her only grave would be whatever dusty patch of floor her bones finally came to rest against. Coristine didn't want to die that way; she had no real fear of death, after all the Goddess would take her soul. But to die alone and in the dark, no she didn't want to wither away like that.

Please wait, please slow down just a little, she only dared to whisper, fearful that the others down here would hear. They'd find her for certain if they heard her voice, closing in on her position like hunting dogs on a cornered fox. No, she couldn't afford to lose sight of the Goddess-sent glow, not if it meant choosing between a lonely death and Andreus's soldiers finding her.

But no matter what she said, no matter what pleas she managed to squeeze out through clentched teeth. Mother Isonia protect me please, tears began to prick at her eyes as the fear swelled in her chest. The fear of being caught, the fear of not being caught, the terror of a sunless grave. Help me Mother, help your child, I promise I'll do anything if you only help me now.

The faint light ahead of her seemed to grow brighter by a fraction, just a touch, no more, no less. She wiped her eyes on the back of her sleeves, squinting as she tried to work out if the sudden increase in the light was real or not. After all it could all just be a cruel trick, a lure to the unwary who found themselves down here. What better way to get rid of those who were left down here to die? Give them just a little hope that they might find a way out, a glimmer of light in the pitch-blackness. What would anyone do if they had not seen light in some time? Theyw ould run towards it of course, sprinting towards the light only to find...

...find what?

A trap of some sort perhaps? A pit or a net? Spikes that drove into the soft flesh of those who sought a way out of the catacombs? A sudden and bloody ending no doubt, if, of course, it was no more than a trap. After all the catacombs had many entrances, or so the stories went, her gift flickering on to assure her that this was the case. Why shouldn't she find an exit into the open air? Maybe the glow was leading her towards it in order to allow her to escape this place finally.

Should she run to greet the light or be more wary and risk the soldiers coming across her when she might be so close to freedom? True freedom; she couldn't grasp the consequences of it all, not right now at least while it danced at the edges of her grasp. Coristine had never been free, instead being beholden to the Library and its keepers as long as she could remember. Would she be able to survive in the real world? Would she even know where to begin?

Those are all thoughts for another time, she muttered, making her way as quickly and carefully as she could. Fearful as she might be of what was in front, what was behind was more than likely worse. Coristine didn't even want to imagine what Andreus would do to her if she was brought back. All she was certain of was that there would be no more chances for escape, save for the one that freed all mortals from this world in their time.

The closer she got to the brighter light the more she ignored the pale glow that drifted towards the right-hand side of the tunnel. It was an exit, a way out, she could already see the broken rubble beyond the catacombs and the smoke that rose up from a farmstead int he distance. Oh thank you Mother Isonia, thnka you, she whispered tearfully, rushing forward, never noticing that the glow was not heading that way anymore. The glow had turned off into a side tunnel, it didn't want her to go outside, or at least not out of this entrance.

Coristine ran as fast as her legs would carry her, eager to have light upon her face once more. As she crossed the threshold of the catacombs her foot caught on a uneven stone, sending her tripping head over heels. Her hands reached out in response to her sudden fall, the skin on her palms shredding as the rocks took their toll. Bright beads of blood leapt to the surface, perfect for one moment only to be smeared over her flesh the next.

Now, now Coristine, that's hardly very lady-like now is it? The voice made her look up into his eyes; Andreus.

Knowledge for knowledge's sake alone
If you want the rainbow, you've got to put up with the rain

[ This Message was edited by: Coristine on 2002-07-21 19:30 ]


Posted: 2002-07-24 17:36     Profile;   E-mail   Homepage Edit   Reply w/Quote
Her eyes opened wide with terror, how could he possibly be here? How could Andreus have known that she would leave the catacombs by this entrance? After all hadn't the Goddess-sent glow lead her this way? Coristine couldn't believe that the Mother Goddess would want her caught by the murderous priest. After all if what the High Priest had said was true, then not only was Andreus a murderer but he also had no place pretending to lead the flock of Isonia in worship.

Mother Isonia why?, the question hammered at her young mind, unable to understand what was going on. Coristine had always thought that the Goddess looked after those that put themselves in Her hands, protected them no matter what. She believed totally in the power of the Goddess and in her bountiful love for those that pledged themselves to Her. But now it seemed as though Isonia Herself had delivered Coristine into the hands of Andreus.

The treacherous priest stood there as pious as she had ever seen him, there wasn't one outward mark of the stain that must undoubtedly stain his soul. What a happy coincidence that we have found you child, it would not do for one of your station to be lost in these times. When there is change among the ruling order there will always be those who would seek to take advantage of one with a gift as great as yours. Just think what terror such a person might reek if they were capable of using you. He held his arms open to her in a gesture of protection, Come now Coristine, there's no need to be afraid anymore.

She pushed herself to her feet and backed away towards the tunnels, feeling like a trapped animal. Andreus had not travelled alone but rather he had brought a small number of the temple's guard with him. Even if she tried to run the chances were that one of them would be able to grab her before she reached the dark sanctuary of the catacombs. How did you find me?, she asked, trying to stall for time while searching for a way out of the situation.

The smile on Andreus's face grew slightly wider, The Goddess has blessd me with the gift of scrying, truly She is great in Her power. He bowed his head in a poor mimic of a humble man, the very action making her blood boil. How dare he? How dare Andreus speak of the Goddess when he had been responsible for the High Priest's death?

May Isonia strike you down for such blasphamy, she screamed the words before she even realised that she was speaking. All the anger and fury in her small body pouring into that simple phrase while her hands formed trembled fists. She wanted to hurt him, to pummel him till his unworthy blood painted the rock-strewn ground. Coristine was taken aback at the shear force of her raw passions, she had never felt this away about anyone, indeed it almost seemed as though this was the first moment in her entire life that she had ever felt a real emotions.

The reward for her outburst was to see Andreus pale slightly, his smile vanishing as his lips formed a tight line. When he spoke next his voice was hard and she almost fancied that she could feel the will behind it, forcing his own temper down as it rose to answer her own. Now Coristine what would make you say such a silly thing? I understand that that the death of my predecessor must have frightened you, after all you have lived a very sheltered life. But still there is no need to act in this way when we have only come to take you back to safety. It was a very foolish thing you did, to run into the tunnels under the city. I would have been so upset if you had gotten lost and perished there.

With a nod of his head, Andreus gestured the soldiers forward, They are only here to escort you and I back to the temple, you have nothing to fear.

She had to flee now or she would find herself trapped within the walls of the city once more, helpless prey caught in the web of Andreus's plot. Coristine turned and saw the opening to the tunnels no more than a few feet away from her. It seemed so near, that darkness that she had hated not so long ago and that now promised her safety. The young girl forced movement into her legs, feeling the rush of andrenaline pumping through her body.

She could see the quiet glow that had led her earlier waiting just within the sanctuary of the catacombs; waiting for her surely? If she could just gain a few extra feet, if she could just lose herself in the darkness, then everything would be alright. But even as the thoughts crossed her mind she felt a calloused hand close around her upper arm, dragging her to a halt.

There really was no need for that, his tone was cold and dismissive. Andreus turned his attention from her, speaking instead to the leader of the guards. Bring her along and be careful, after all the lady Coristine is soon to be my ward and I would not wish anything to happen to her.

Knowledge for knowledge's sake alone
If you want the rainbow, you've got to put up with the rain


Posted: 2002-07-25 16:54     Profile;   E-mail   Homepage Edit   Reply w/Quote
She sat shivering as far away from the door as she could, pinning herself against the wall as though she was trying to merge herself into it. Her upper arm still hurt where the guard had held her tightly all the way back to the temple. But though he had hurt her he had been clever enough not to let it bruise, obviously he held Andreus in some respect, or at last fear. He had hated Coristine, of that she had no doubt, the soldier had glared at her as though she was the single source of all his life's woes. The young girl could barely think what she had done to deserve such a reaction from him. Never in all her young life had she ever experienced the like of it, no one had looked at her as though they wished that she would drop dead there and then.

They had 'escorted' her here to this tiny room in the main temple, the quarters of a minor priest her gift informed her. How she wished that she could just get rid of that annoying ability. What use was knowledge when she was trapped here? What use had it ever been to her? Instead it had forced her into a sheltered life, clipping her wings before she had even had a chance to test them on the winds of the world. What sort of a blessing was this that it would keep her a prisoner, first of the library and the Robed ones, and now of Andreus and his machinations?

Coristine could feel the tears welling up, trickling down her face unbidden. She hadn't wanted any part of this, all she had ever wanted was just a breath of freedom. Why had the Mother had to give this gift to her? Surely it would have been better given to one who could have used it in her service? All she had ever done with it was help the Robed ones with their books and answer the questions of idle nobles who thought that they could outfox the gifted child. A wise person would have used such an ability to aid the people, to cure their ills and lift them out of the gutter of their own existences.

She remembered how the people had looked on her first journey to the temple. That journey seemed so long ago and yet it could not have been more than a day. Even with the night spend in the chamber of the dead, no more could have passed. Corisitne had never learnt to tell the time by the sun's position, after all she had never seen the sun while in the library's care. No instead her body had just learnt to mark the passage of time by its own rhythms. And now it told her that it was drawing close to midday, almost a day since her carriage ride with Andreus.

Wiping the tears away with the palms of her hands Coristine chasitised herself for crying so. Don't act like such a child Coristine, how do you ever expect to stop Andreus if you're crying? Her voice seemed unnaturally loud in the cramped room, but still the sound of it buoyed up her confidence nonetheless. That's better, can't be acting silly, after all you're the only one that knows who's responsible for the High Priest's death.

I wondered of that was why the old man had summoned you to him, she had been so wrapped up in herself that she had never seen the door open and Andreus enter. Of course I could hardly refuse him, even with the rumours of his supposed madness it would not have been wise.There was no posturing or posing now, no pretence at piety or humbleness, here was the real Andreus, in all his cold, harsh glory.

Coristine felt shivers run down every part of her flesh, her skin crawling as though a thousand tiny limbs brushed along it. You killed him and you're not even ashamed of it, she managed to say.

The priest smirked, almost laughing at the child before him and what she had to say. Well of course, I was not about to wait till I was old and grey to ascend to his position. I do not care to give my youth and life away in the service of a religion that does little more than keep the poor in their place. What? Are you surprised? Do you truly believe in all this? He gestured about him to symbolise the church and the Goddess that it had been built to praise. It's nothing, a tool at best to be used by those who want to climb out of the muck of the common man and gain some measure of corporeal power. Perhaps a lesser man than I would have been happy enough to simply take the High priest's place, but I want something more than fleeting power upon this place.

Do you really believe that they would give you the position of High Priest after what you've done? She said, feeling that same hot anger of the day before rise to her touch, leaping almost joyfully to strengthen her. Coristine gathered all that fury close to her heart, wrapping her spirit in the armour that it formed.

But Andreus simply laughed, Of course they will you silly girl, why shouldn't they? Who knows that the High priest was poisoned by me? Are you going to tell the church's council that I murdered him?

If I have to.

You will do no such thing, in fact you will remain in this place till long after my investiture as High Priest. And you will not say a word of what you and my predescesor spoke about in the privacy of his chambers. He paused, his arrogance radiating off him like heat from a blazing fire. Andreus leaned closer to her, every word as soft and gentle as a lullaby. Do you wish to know why you will do this Coristine? It is because already the rumours have begun; with a few words I began to construct a tale to my own liking. Soon enough everyone will know that the child of the library was with the High Priest when he died. And they will hear that there was an argument between the two, and that the Priest's own blade was found stabbed into his heart.

He came ever closer till his lips brushed against her ear as he whispered, And then they will hear rumours of murder. Of a child so mad that she stabbed a man of the Goddess.

Coristine scrambled away, pressing herself into the nearest corner, fear cluching at her heart. But I wouldn't do such a thing? It's not the truth, she said in a strangled cry. She understood now why the guard had looked at her with such hatred earlier. He had thought that she had murdered the High priest, that she was no better than a cold-blooded assassin.

What is the truth child? With a few well placed lies I can create a truth more to my liking. There is no such thing as 'truth' in these lands, not as you understand it anyway. There is only the version of events that those with power chose to make known. Truth died long ago, buried under the weight of falsehoods. For a moment Coristine could almost imagine herself in the church, Andreus speaking in just this way as he delivered the sermon.

If the truth was truly dead, then how could she ever hope to combat Andreus and his evils? The teachings of the Goddess would have told her to look to herself for the weapons available to her, both physical and spiritual. But the only things that Coristine had on her side was her faith in the Mother Isonia and her gift.

A gift that was truth incarnate when truth itself was dead.

Knowledge for knowledge's sake alone
If you want the rainbow, you've got to put up with the rain

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