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Author Flying Free Of The Whited Sepulchre (closed)

Posted: 2002-07-29 11:30     Profile;   E-mail   Homepage Edit   Reply w/Quote
She could hear the first strains of the music that was played in the main temple, the first lilting voices raised in praise to the Goddess. How she wished that she could be there rather than a prisoner suspected by most of killing the last High Priest. Of course now she had more than one reason for being there. Only a day ago she would have wished to be in the main temple to hear the priests praise Isonia, now she desparately wanted to be there to stop Andreus from being proclaimed head of the realm's church. But how was Coristine supposed to do that? She couldn't even free herself from the room, not now that Andreus had ensured that the temple guards were present outside her door at all times. She could hear their swords knocking against their ornate armour everytime they adjusted their stance. Their muttered conversation had provided the only sound until the ceremony had begun.

Oh Mother Isonia, help me, tell me what I am supposed to do, she whispered in a hurried prayer. Surely the Goddess would stop Andreus from perverting Her church, surely She must be able to work against the treacherous priest? Perhaps one of the holy men of old would come again and strike down Andreus in Her name. Though even a miracle on that scale wouldn't solve Coristine's troubles; only Andreus and his cronies would know that she had had no part in the death of the last High Priest.

Coristine paced round the tiny room as she many many times since being placed here. Just as before she could see no way out; unlike the High Priest's quarters there was no hidden entrance to the underground catacombs. Other than the door there was only a tiny window that let in enough light to illuminate the room during the day. As small as Coristine was, even she instantly realised that there was no way she'd be able to get through there. Indeed she'd have to lose more than a few sections of herself before she'd be able to squeeze through that tiny opening.

The music from the main temple was getting louder by the moment, rising as the ceremony neared the moment of investiture. her gift informed her that even now Andreus would be reciting the sacred oath to the Goddess as the choir sang the praises to Her glory. Not that any of that helped her in the slightest, it just made her feel even more helpless. What a wonderful gift, she said bitterly to herself, It can tell me all about the ceremony of investiture but nothing on any way out of here.

Slumping down in the corner the young girl could think of nothing save how hopeless her situation was and how utterly useless her gift truly was. When had it ever helped her? When had it ever done anything but offer useless and pointless information? If she had never been 'blessed' with her gift then her life could have been so different. She might still know her mother, might have siblings to play with and confide in. Of course her lifestyle would not have been so pampered but she would have had friends, people would have treated her like a real person and not just a source of information. She could have travelled out and seen the lands rather than being the captive pawn in the insane machinations of some power-hungry priest.

Could things be any worse? Well I suppose he could have killed me as soon as I stepped outside the catacombs. Or even have turned me over to the people as the murderer of the High Priest. Neither answer seemed any reason to be cheerful, just because things could be worse didn't make her current problems seem any lesser. There again Andreus wanted her alive, or so it seemed. Hadn't the High Priest said that Andreus would try to corrupt her? But why? Once he was High Priest himself he would have all he would need to summon his hell-spawn. So why keep Coristine alive at all?

Perhaps..., Ideas began to flood her mind, maybe some part of them even came from her gift. They seemed real enough that it could be true, that finally her gift was actually telling her something more than trival facts.

The old High Priest had said that there were books in the temple grounds, books that only he was allowed access to, books that held the instructions to summon and bind hell-spawn to your service. Her gift informed her of the truth of this, even whispered to her that it could tell her the exact positioning of the room that they were held in. But she wasn't interested in that, it held no answers to why she was still alive.

The books...

The books had once been part of a grand collection that had belonged to a man of some twisted power. But something had happened to him, he had...died...in a fire of some sort. Her gift was hazy on the exact details, telling her only the smallest fraction of what could be known. The images forced themselves upon her again, of how the books had been caught in that same fire that had claimed the life of the owner.

Her eyes snapped open as realisation dawned upon her. Andreus did indeed need her alive and now she completely understood why the old man had wanted her to leave the city. The books aren't complete, they got burned, she said, horrified. Andreus didn't need her, he needed her gift, it was the only thing that could complete the ruined knowledge of the books.

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


Posted: 2002-08-02 14:36     Profile;   E-mail   Homepage Edit   Reply w/Quote
The days passed slowly for Coristine locked in the tiny room of the temple. Not that being kept in such a small place brought her any great distress, after all she had been forced to spend most of her days at the library in a room far smaller than this. there, just as here, she had not been free, guarded day and night by people who cared little to nothing for her. The only difference seemed to be that the guards here believed her to be a murderer. It would seem that recent events had merely conspired to have her swop one prison for another.

Andreus hadn't been back to see her since he had ascended to the rank of High Priest. No doubt there were a great many matters to be tken care of before he could allow himself to continue with his plots. In a way she was grateful, even though the waiting for the inevitiable grated on her fragile nerves. At least she hadn't had to speak with the treacherous priest, that had to be counted as a small blessing.

One of the lower ranked servants of the temple brought her food and water once a day, usually near the setting of the sun. He never looked at her nor spoke a word, it was as though he oculd not even bear to acknowledge her existance. There again would she behave any differently if their positions were reversed? How Coristine felt towards Andreus was how the rank and file of the church felt towards her.

The first time that the servant visited her she tried to speak with him, almost begging him to even look at her. But he had kept his expression cold and aloof, his eyes firmly fixed on the floor. There were no words that she could find to change his mind, no truth that her gift could provide her with to make him understand. When the servant thought of her, he thought only of the murderer of the realm's beloved High Priest, he never saw the frightened child who was trapped within the webs of a devious man.

Corisitne lay curled up on the rough bed, feeling the straw that it was stuffed with prod and poke her. Through the tiny window she could see the first of the night's stars blink brightly against the velvet sky. The moon was hidden from her view but her gift informed her mind that it was a crescent moon that rose this evening, the finest sickle blade shining sickly over the lands. But what did it matter to her what phrase of the moon looked down? It was no help, it offered her no comfort, the only reassurance she had found here was in the fevered prayers that she whispered to Mother Isonia.

Are you lsitening Mother? Do you hear your faithful one? She wondered so often if Isonia cared for her plight at all, instead leaving her rot in the heart of this corrupted temple. After all Coristine had asked a boon of the Goddess before when she had pleaded to be shown the way out of the catacombs. The Goddess had answered but in the end it had been Coristine who had not followed her Goddess's guide. Perhaps Isonia had judged her unworthy of Her help since she had wasted the aid sent to her before. Please don't abandon me Lady, please give me strength in these times.

You still pray to Her? I had thought you wiser than that girl, As always Andreus walked with the silence of a cat, not a sound betraying his movements. He wore a plain black robe tied with a deep blue sash, not at all the garments of a High priest. The Goddess cannot help you, even if She did exist rather than simply being a whip used to keep the foolish down. Isonia is nothing more than the product of a dream from long ago. He leant in towards Coristine as she tried to prop herself up on the matress, Can dreams help you?

Andreus stepped away from her suddenly, walking towards the tiny window and peering out. Being taller than Coristine he could probably see the main city from the window, its houses lit up with the oil lamps of the people. They are all out there, all saying their prayers to the Goddess for forgiveness for their petty sins. It's disgusting how they abase themselves, crawling on their bellies like worms. Well if the people want to worship then I shall give them soemthing real to praise and follow. His face was twisted into a mockery of a smile, dark joy lighting his eyes as he imagined what was to come.

You'd have them worship a demon.

He turned slowly, smirking, letting his eyes trail over her form in a way that sent prickles of nameless terror through her body. Clasping his hands behind his back Andreus took a step closer, No, I would have them worhip me, but I am known to be mortal and so they will not. But they will worship a figurhead, one that I can control utterly. Call it a demon if you will but in reality it will be my slave.

Andreus sighed heavily and sat down by her on the bed, reaching out with his left hand to touch the side of her face. Coristine pulled back, frightened and confused, from his touch. She wrapped her arms about herself and lef the bed, perferring to stay as far away from the traitor as she could humanly manage. Coristine, you have nothing to fear from me if you will only trust me. I know how unhappy you were in the library, how empty your existance seemed. All I ask is that you help me, just a little, help me and I can give you anything your young heart desires. We'll call the demon a 'holy warrior sent from Isonia' if it'll please you. You can go about the lands in its wake, 'converting' the heathens to our ways. What do I care if the people follow one false God or another so long as they obey me?

She couldn't believe what she was hearing, the very idea of helping Andreus willingly made her skin crawl. Did he honestly believe that after all she knew she would still agree to aid him in his insane quest? The priest must have truly lost his wits if he thought she could be tempted to his side with promises of riches or conversions. Mother Isonia was real, Coristine believed that with all of her heart, the Goddess was like an invisible aura that permeated everything, She gave Coristine strength through her faith.

Andreus didn't wait for her answer, perhaps taking her silence as an acceptance of what he had suggested. He stood up fromt he bed and walked round, grasping her wrist in his hand and leading her towards the door. Coristine didn't know what to do; should she resist him and be left in the room? Or go with him and perhaps have anpther change to escape, or better yet, to foil the false priest?

The future awaits us Coristine and it is truly glorious.

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


Posted: 2002-08-07 14:53     Profile;   E-mail   Homepage Edit   Reply w/Quote
His fingers curled about her wrist seemed to pinch more than was needed leaving her with a ring of firey sensation. It hurt, the skin becoming red at such treatment, but she would not make one sound. Coristine steeled herself against making a noise, prefering to keep her silence rather than letting Andreus know that he could hurt her so easily. She did not know what lay ahead for certain but she promised herself that she would not show fear or pain. The girl clenched her jaw tightly, blinking back a tear, she would be as strong as any hero that the sorceress had ever told her about.

And perhaps one day she herself would be told of in tales. But would she be remembered as the murderess of the High Priest, as the one who let the demon out into the world, or as the girl who stood against all that was foul and rotten in this place that should have been holy? I want to do the right thing, she thought to herself, I want to have the strength to hold true.

But the seed of the fear of failure was already planted in her mind, sprouting and putting out its diseased shoots into her thoughts. What if she failed? What if she was too weak to stop Andreus? Then how would history view her? As the failure who, when called upon to aid her people, proved unworthy of the task? Those who lived after these times would laugh at her and spit upon her name no doubt. "Coristine", they would say, "A curse on any that bear that name".

She couldn't fail, she couldn't, better to perish trying than fail and live on. Those that gave their lives at least trying were always looked at in a better light. She remembered the tales of the matyrs, she had seen their images inscribed upon the walls of the temple. Coristine knew that she was no saint or matyr such as they had been, but they could at least be her guiding lights in this time of darkness. Where they had gone in perfect faith she could follow, their footsteps in history showing her the path through all the wickedness that seemed to beset her on every side.

Andreus was muttereing to himself but she could not make out one word that he spoke. Her gift remained silent, not even giving her a suggestion of what the priest said. She had the feeling that he was not speaking the common tongue, indeed even the whispered words seemed to crawl up her back like a thousand spiders. They made her feel uncomfortable, as if she wanted to rid her head of the sound of them, cast them out of her hearing. Some instinct within her screamed that she should cover her ears, that she shouldn't listen to these words, that they were forbidden for people to know. This was a forbidden language, none of the faithful of the Goddess should hear it let alone be able to speak it.

Why doesn't the Goddess strike him down for this? In Her power She should be able to destroy his blaspheming soul for his offences, she thought desperately. But the questions were only there to hide the fear, that eternal worry of all those who follow a deity, that perhaps their God is not all powerful. Doubt, the sickness that could eat away at faith, consuming it till nothing more remained. Coristine didn't want to doubt, she wanted to exist in total certainity that the Goddess were all-power and that nothing was beyond Her reach. But in these times how could she not doubt the reach of her deity?

Suddenly they came to the end of the corridor, the door before them opening without a mortal touch. Andreus grinned visiously to himself, a wolf's hungry smile on the face of a man. Coristine shivered at the sight, wishing that she could simply snatch her wrist from his grasp and run free from this place. But there was no chance of that, if anything the priest's grip became tighter on her wrist. Had he known what thoughts were passing through her head? That he might have gained such a gift through diabolic means made her catch her breath in fear.

The main temple area lay before her, smothered in shadowy blackness so thick that it seemed almost tangible. She almost thought that she could reach out and grab a handful of that darkness, ripping it from the rest and balling it in her fist. Andreus was invisible to her eyes, all that she knew of him was his hand upon her wrist. He pulled her further in, walking with the confidence of a man who could see perfectly. In contrast Coristine felt as though she might bump into something with every step, starting at anything that brushed against her as she walked. She stumbled along, never quite losing her balance but coming close more than once.

Then Andreus's touch was gone and she halted in the darkness, fearful of what was happening. For a moment she stood stock still as though any movement might cause her to trip and hurt herself. Suddenly hands pressed down on her shoulders, the shock of it making her jump, her heart beating faster as her imagination ruled her head. Wait here and do not move an inch if you value your well-being, his voice whispered into her ear as she sensed his head placed by hers.

And then he was gone once more, abandoning her to the thick darkness that seemed to be capable of hiding so much that could bring harm. Coristine crossed her arms about her chest, hugging herself tightly and rubbing her tender wrist gently. The pain did not fade away just as she imagined that the mark upon the skin did not. As she stood her she knew that she had a chance to escape, she was only standing in the main temple, surely it wouldn't be too difficult to find the main entrance?

But a nameless fear whispered in her mind, pouring suggestions of what else might be out there out. Perhaps Andreus had placed her in a protective circle and that was why he had told her to stand still. If she moved outside its boundaries who knew what terrors might descend upon her? Frozen in fear and yet yearning to be free, Coristine waited to see what would happen next. Isonia aid me, she breathed.

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


Posted: 2002-08-11 13:57     Profile;   E-mail   Homepage Edit   Reply w/Quote
The darkness pressed in on her till it almost seemed as though there couldn't possibly be anything else in the world. Everything appeared to have been swallowed by the inky blackness as if all the lands had ceased to exist. All that was left was Coristine, alone and frightened in this void of a place. She wanted to curl up and hide her eyes till the light had come back and she could see that more still lived in this world. She wanted, nay she needed someone to hold her tight and tell her that everything was going to be alright, that they would make all the darkness go away.

But most of all she needed her Goddess near.

Here in the absolute blackess of the temple she could sense none of the comfort that Isonia could provide. Had her doubts and questioning made the Goddess spurn her? Surely the Mother would not turn Her back on Coristine in the moment when she needed Her most? Her faith wavered as the sightless world played on the young girl's fears, but she held onto its flickering remains tightly. It was the only light that she had left now, she could not let it go out even if it only shone in her mind.

The sound of a match being struck reverberated about the temple hall, startling her after the silence of before. It's faint light grew as it touched the wick of a candle, the wax making the flame splutter and spark. Colours danced before her eyes as she tried to become accustomed to more than the shadows that had surrounded her. Bright swirlling patterns resolved before her eyes and then twisted and changed, chaotic and yet beautiful as if they followed a song that she could not hear. They reminded her of the temple dancers who had once visited the library, the patterns swerving and revolving with a grace of their own.

More candles were lit one by one, each adding just a little more light to the surrounding area, jsut as they revealled that she was standing in the centre of the circle. As the candle-light illuminated the temple and her eyes cleared of the dancing colours Coristine made out etchings on the floor. Runes and symbols drawn carefully in chalk, they made her skin crawl just to look at them. She didn't want to examine them more closely and she prayed that her gift would stay silent on their meaning. Her imagination was providing enoug possible meanings for them without her knowing the truth. Coristine had the feeling that nothing her imagination could come up with would be as terrible as the real meanings of those etchings.

She could barely make out the figure that was pacing slowly around the hall, lighting the candles as they went. The girl was almost certain that it wasn't Andreus, the figure seemed too small and slight to be the High Priest. A shiver of fear ran through her as she realised that she had no idea how many were in this endeavour with the blasphamous priest. For all she knew most of the religious community in the city could be involved or it could just be a few of Andreus's cronies.

The light crept outwards, Coristine could just make out the altar of Isonia, its platinium offering plate glimmering but empty. No doubt all the offerings had been collected earlier when the temple closed its doors for the night. And behind it, rising up shadowy and impassive was the statue of Isonia. When she had seen the carved image before Coristine had thought it magical, imbued with the faith of countless people. Now it seemed nothing more than cold marble, as if all the magic and belief had fled.

A low chanting began, seeming to come from all around her, the words no more than a mutter. There must have been some unseen sight to have started them all at the same moment, or perhaps it the begiining was heralded only by the lit candles. Though whatever language was being used could not be heard, Coristine's gift told her that it was the same as that drawn upon the floor. It was a defilement, the gift whispered, it tainted this place of Isonia's worship.

With slow silent steps those involced walked into the circle of light cast by the candles. Each was dressed similarly to how Andreus had been when she had seen him last, plain black robes tied with sashes of various shades of blue. Their faces were hidden by the hoods of their robes, only shadows looked out at her from within their depths. Looking at the sashes it did not appear that Andreus numbered amongst the present company. Each movement that was made was deliberate as if it had been rehearsed and practised until it was second nature to them. They stepped as one entity towards her like a pack of wild dogs closing in on a rabbit.

The figures stopped no more than a few steps away from her, their chanting rising in pitch and then dying away to nothingness. There seemed to be ten of them; Plus Andreus and the candle-lighter, Coristine thought to herself. In turn each of the robed figure stepped forard and brushed one hand against her brow or temples. Then they retreated back till each stood between one light and the next.

Footsteps echoed through the temple hall, as precise and careful as the those of the chanters had been previously. Andreus walked into the outer reaches of the light, a leather-bound book held in both hands. There was a tight smile on his face as he approached Coristine, the nearness of his triumph playing upon his mind. He looked down at the girl and pressed the book into her hands. Wait, he said softly, Now the real fun begins.

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

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