It might be cliche, but Arandia saw no rhyme or reason to the Goddess‘ oracle pronouncement. The message lacked the usual poetic style, and it was in no way cryptic, as was the Goddess’ custom.
For six years, Arandia had served the temple as a Keeper of the Doorway, as her mother had served before her. Thus was the thread of life that wove together the Keeper Clan. A keeper would begin her duties at twenty, and then leave at thirty to marry and raise the next generation of Keepers.
At twenty-six it was odd for Arandia to be sent on a mission so far from the holy site. Such tasks usually fell upon Keepers in their twenty-ninth year, before ending their service at the gates.
But the Goddess had called her by name for the task. She was to go to the Shrine of Eskalese and bring back three chalices full of water from the pool there. No one from the Goddess’ temple had been sent there in living memory, and the link between the temple and the shrine were tenuous. There was, of course, the ancient legend that the Goddess once had a relationship with the hero, Eskalese but the details were shrouded in time.
As Arandia approached the shrine she was surprised to find it overgrown and in disrepair. She nonetheless continued up the weedy path towards the shrine and the pool within.
The pool was covered with thick algae and pond weed, and had a foul stagnant smell to it. Arandia took out the stone jar and silver chalice from her haversack and took a deep breath before using the lip of the chalice to clear away the algae. As she did, she was startled by the sound of movement behind her.
Glancing behind her she saw a woman, the exact likeness of the statues of the Goddess at the temple, tied to a stake and being loomed over by a serpent-headed figure.
Arandia bolted towards the assailant and bludgeoned the fiend over the head with the stone jar. After several blows, the creature collapsed to the ground and then seemed to dissolve into the soil.
“Well done, Daughter,” the woman said in a clear hypnotic voice. The woman was now standing unbound before Arandia and radiating a warm glow. “You have proven your worthiness, Daughter,” the Goddess said. “Come,” the deity said, pointing the way to the pool.
Arandia followed with a mix of reverent excitement and fear. The Goddess leaned over the foul pool, and taking Arandia’s hand, she pricked the Keeper’s finger with her nail and a drop of blood fell into the pool. It worked as some sort of catalyst, for no sooner had the drop fell into the waters that they became clear, and the entire shrine seemed to be renewed.
It was then that Arandia saw her reflection and that of the Goddess in the pool. She was taken aback by how similar they were.
“Long ago,” the Goddess began. “I was in love with the human Eskalese. Our love was not approved of by my mother, and she banned me from seeing him again. In sorrow, I gave to him his legendary powers as a warrior, and he unknowingly left me with a child. She grew to be the first of the Keeper’s and my half mortal children have stood by me and served me ever since. But I saw in you something special, something divine. Drink from the pool, and join me, Daughter, claim your birth right.”
Arandia dipped the silver chalice into the clear waters, and then drank deeply, savoring the sweet taste of her transformation.
Reason, Thread, Life, Goddess, Prove, Catalyst, Bludgeon, Message, Savor, Keep, Reflect, Doorway