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God's Demand Change

by Nathaniel Hawkins 2 months ago in Fantasy
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A prologue

God's Demand Change
Photo by Michael Held on Unsplash

Isham stood from the alter he had just prayed and looked around the back chamber of the temple. When he’d come in he’d been followed by the usual priestly procession, but he’d made a great effort to be the last of those to linger in the temple today.

In front of him was a statue to the cities most prized deity, Ifriittee, A goddess of mischief, merriment, and most importantly, a goddess of change. Isham knew what change was to be coming, or at least what change would be attempted, and he wasn’t certain if he should pray to Ifri so that it would be cleverly tripped up in its progress or move forward as a desperate attempt to warp the nature of society around them.

Even as he chided himself for thinking of the uprising as desperate, he knew deep in his heart that there was not a lot of hope for success. Many of those capable and willing to commit such an uprising were out of the country, and if they’d been in the country they’d be caught between the loyalty of employ versus the loyalty of community. If the warriors hadn’t made each other their community by this point, forgetting of those they left behind.

Walking over to one of the dimly lit walls, Isham grabbed a large stone bowl, rather shallow in it’s make, and some red clay from a jar within the rows above where the bowl was kept. He did his best to smear the dusty clay onto the rim of the bowl, and with a little bit of water drawn freshly from the sea and filtered by hand that morning, he mixed the clay into a soft yet still solid paste.

Isham then walked back to the statute and kneeled in front of it. Dipping two fingers into the clay, he wiped it vertically down each cheek, from the tip of his eye to his jaw line. Then he connected the two stripes with another one that ran over his chin, framing his face with a 3-sided box that left open the top. Then, recoating a single finger with the clay, he drew a similar box on the statue, only this time instead of drawing the lines downward from the eyes, he drew them upward until he reached the crown of the head. A much smaller box vertically, but a much larger line to connect the two as he wiped the clay across the crown line.

Two halves of the whole, humans and the gods, but clearly denoting that the gods were above, open to their affecting of the world below, and the humans were below, with space in their world to look up towards the gods and their divine guidance.

“Ifriittee, lord of movements, queen of tricks, and twin goddess of the worlds order. It is to you we all look for wisdom on the change we make of the world. In you we are clever, in you we are free, and in your unity we are whole.”

Isham stood again, this time walking over to the other half of the temple backroom, and removed a set of well cleaned chicken bones. Something in him told him that the chicken bones would do better than the dice made from the bones of priests before him, as would be made of his own when he passed on.

Setting the chicken bones in a much smaller bowl, he walked over to the candle in the room and set a contraption over it to hold the bowl. Setting the bones atop the holder so that they would warm, he went to remove the bowl with the red clay from in front of the statue, only when he did he found that there was no longer any clay in the bowl, powdered or made into a paste.

Looking at the statue Isham jumped back in horror. What had once been paste was now a thick liquid with the viscosity of blood, and it ran down the front of the goddess starting from her neckline. Rushing over the water to clean the statue before the goddess was displeased by what he had assumed was his own mistake, he smelled the bones of the chicken over the fire and knew instantly that he had not been the source of the blood. Dashing recklessly to the chicken bones, he found that they had burned to ash over a fire that could barely have cooked an egg yolk.

Isham’s vision swam as the panic set in. Well and truly in all of his days he had not seen anything of the sort. Dashing out of the room without having cleaned the statue or removed the ash he slammed into the stone door that led to the temple proper and shoved as hard as he could until his body could slip out. Outside of the room, the temple went about it’s business as usual, no one else catching the smell of a fresh campfire that permeated the air.

Several of the lesser priests shouted to Isham and attempted to grab him as he made a mad scramble for the front door of the temple, which still had a couple of hours before it was to be opened. These wooden doors gave way much quicker to the weight of the panicked priest than the stone door had, and as he burst through them he saw with horror what he had feared most.

The streets were awash with flame, people running everywhere, most balls of flame themselves, only adding to what got caught in the great incendiary ball that their island nation was turning into. Horses ran, many of them trying desperately to escape the all consuming fire, none of them with anywhere to go save to swim to shores much too far for their bodies to endure. The cries of children rose and were snuffed out almost as quickly as they had come as Isham watched his whole world burn.

Some of the people noticed Isham on the steps and ran to him, many of them already consumed as balls of flame. They caught the rest of the desperate people on fire as they all ran to the steps of the temple, none making it up the last stair before they perished, their life extinguished to feed the hungering flame.

“Grandness Isham!” One of the priests said behind him. Isham turned to the boy with wild eyes full of fear and anguish.

“Run inside! Protect those within! Something can still be saved!” Isham shouted to the boy, pushing him back into the temple. Isham whirled back around to watch the chaos, unable to decide what to do.

Only there was no chaos.

“Grandess Isham? Are you okay?” Said a different voice this time. Cardinal Beydif walked up behind him and put a hand on his shoulder. Isham wanted to turn to the woman and ask her how she wasn’t concerned by the fires, but there were none there.

People walked before the temple, some moving wares and preparing shops, most staring in confusion up towards the doors that had opened much too early in the day. No, Isham realized, they were staring at him, concern painting many of their faces.

Isham breathed heavily, trying his best to suck in deep and soothing breaths, but only managed to do so after he’d sat on the front step. A short time later the Cardinal set next to him and rest a hand on his shoulder.

“I take it all is not well?” She asked him, concern creasing her brow.

“I…” Isham trailed off as his gaze fell to the far distance of the horizon. Before long he stood, motioning to his cardinal to come join him. They both walked to the backroom where the door had been shut again.

“I closed it before coming to check on you. One of the trainees came to get me when they saw you dash, and I figured it was important if you didn’t close the sacred door at the end of your prayer.”

“Did anyone go in?” Isham asked hoarsely.

“None, they were too focused on you, though some were looking that way when I came out.” Beydif said.

Isham wordlessly opened the door and led the Cardinal inside, something that would be considered sacrilegious had she chosen to do it on her own. Only the highest priest of the temple was allowed in the room after morning worship.

Once inside their eyes adjusted to the light, something that was a little painful for Isham at first. Before he could see again the cardinal gripped his robe in what Isham would call a grip of the damned. She did not say a word as Isham’s eyes readjusted to find that things had changed again. The statue was still streaked with the clay, though it had dried by now, but the ash of the chicken bones had dumped onto the floor, far more ash than the bones he put in could account for, though unmistakably chicken by the smell. The ash was arranged into a semi-circle, a line protruding from the center of it about half of the width of the semicircle. Where the middle line ended horizontally, it continued upwards diagonally until it met with the top line that formed the initial semi-circle.

What lay before them was a word in the holy script, one that appeared quite often within the texts of this temple.

Oobet, the symbol of change.

Fantasy

About the author

Nathaniel Hawkins

Hi! I'm a Fantasy Writer with deep interest in Politics, Economics, Religion and Philosophy, all of which I try to include within my writing to give a unique way to look at the world around us through the lens of another world. Enjoy!

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