I wrote the following for my fantasy story, The Suffering, but quickly realized that it had far too much going on to be a subplot in a story that is not at all focused on this particular priestess…and so I’m holding onto this to see about working with it later… Thoughts?
Seldom does the way show itself, for the door must often be forced open. Patience is required for those whom are chosen from among the peoples of the world. Lord Dayal, the god of the world, shall speak for himself, and shall be the light for the path one loyal priestess must travel.
~Venyri, Mother of Dayal.
The priestess, Daielle, a name given to her upon becoming priestess, sat staring at the massive tome before her. The Book of the Gods, a collection of ancient scrolls from before The Fall, had long since been gathered and scribed.
She looked over her shoulder, casting her eyes over the bulk of the scrolls as had been collected through the long years. Most of the scrolls in her possession were of a dialect that existed before time as she understood it to be. The world, as she had come to learn, had been created, and recreated, possibly more times than she could count. Possibly more than she cared to figure.
The idea of a constant cycle of rebirth throughout the ages was disconcerting, at its best, for then she would be little more than a grain of dust within a desert sandstorm. Rendered no more than a moot irrelevance. Arrogant though she might be, she was a servant of Dayal, and would perform her duties as such until her body was reunited with her lord.
She had been living for more than a century, yet still appeared as though a young maiden. Of the race borne of men and elves, Daielle’s age could only be witnessed in her eyes. Her wisdom, however, gained with age, but so, too, had her conceit.
The Fall. A sea of change swept over the nine lands with The Fall, as what remained of elven-kind were decimated. Daielle’s father may have been the last of them, and the race of men was sure to make him suffer before he died. If not for the intervention of Dayal, she would have been killed alongside her father.
Even after so long, her anger remained, although she was uncertain anymore as to exactly who or what was the cause for her anger. Perhaps she was just angry at herself.
A knock on the door of her chamber echoed. “Enter,” she replied to the intrusive sound.
“High Priestess,” a young woman entered and bowed in reverence, “I bring news.”
“Out with it, then,” came the curt response.
As though she was completely used to the harshness of the High Priestess’ voice, the young woman, not bothering to acknowledge the outburst, said, “First, you have an unknown visitor. Second, the Elder Mother sent word, Seӧr awaits your presence atop the temple.”
Daielle’s heart jumped to her throat at the mention of the Elder Mother and the giant eagle who undoubtedly awaited her with his impatience. The damned bird could be kept waiting. “Who is the visitor?”
“He is a cloaked figure who gave no mention of name, but was adamant about speaking to the High Priestess, my lady.”
She thought a moment, “A mysterious visitor. He can wait, I shall meet with Seӧr first. The Elder’s eagle must not be kept waiting.” Daielle looked at the young priestess, “Is that all?”
“Yes, my lady.” She held her hands in front of her at her response.
“Very well, then. Go see to our mystery guest, inform him I shall come see him as soon as I am able.” The girl bowed, and quickly disappeared.
Daielle strode to the back of her chamber, and walked straight through the wall where stairs to the upper levels were hidden. She made her way up as quickly as she could. Reaching the top of the stairs, she closed her eyes and began to move the massive bricks with the arcane so that she might move between them.
Hearing the commotion, the great bird turned and lowered his head to see her. With the bricks all moved, she stepped forward over small lip that remained and into the steely gaze of the eagle. Once beyond the wall, the bricks began to replace themselves.
“High Priestess.” His voice was deep, and Daielle was reminded of the shock of that the first time she ever met him.
“Seӧr.” Her voice was calm, but her nerves were on edge, “To what do I owe the pleasure of your visit, my lord.” She nodded her head low, not quite a bow, but with enough feigned respect to keep him from ripping her head off and eating it.
“I would not eat your head, Priestess. Dispense with the false pleasantries. You like me no more than I you.” He smiled at her, almost mockingly, most likely due to the loss of color in her already pale cheeks as she realized he read her mind.
Attempting to regain some semblance of power or authority, she said, “What news have you?”
“My lady, the Elder Venyri, wishes to remind you of the fact that your life is not your own.”
Angered, Daielle retorted, “You can tell Venyri ‘my thoughts are my own.’ Whatever she is, whoever she might be, gives her no right into my mind.”
“Your pride will be your undoing, Daielle.”
Her eyes glowed purple, increasing in intensity in direct proportion to her rising anger. The smug grin on the eagle’s face was enough for her to wish Seӧr a quick death and eternal suffering. He said nothing, but his smile grew, and she knew he was in her mind again. “Get out of here, before I end you.”
“My poor, idiot-child, Daielle. I am immune to the arcane.” Before she could react, she was laying down with her back on the floor, his claws outspread as he literally pressed upon her the fact she could do nothing to him. After both an instant and a lifetime of glaring at each other, Seӧr took off, the downforce of his huge wings enough to hold her pinned to the cold stone upon which she had been standing before his show of force.
“Cursed bird,” she muttered under her breath. Daielle got up, rubbing the back of her head where it met with the flat rock beneath her. She sauntered along the length of the upper level and descended the stairs on the opposite end of the concourse from where she had first arrived. With one last look back toward the ascending eagle, she wondered what the message meant, and at the same time longed to be the one to drive a knife into its throat.
The anger still very clear on her face, Daielle entered the grand chamber, stepped up to the throne, and sat herself upon it, looking down on the figure. His figure was covered by a dark cloak, his hood obscuring any view of his face.
“It is far too dark in here,” Daielle said to the shadowy figure. She waved her hand, flooding the chamber in a bright light with the faintest purple hue. There was no discernable source of light, yet it seemed to emanate throughout. “We are very remote, so you must have a purpose,” she growled at the intruder, “Now, remove your hood and tell me, what is it that you seek?”
In direct defiance of the High Priestess he kept his face hidden. With a gravelly voice, one she imagined came only from the dead, he replied, “We seek the return of my heart. We seek the return of my eye. We seek the return of my hand. We seek the return of my tongue. We seek recompense, High Priestess. Our appetite is insatiable, we require no less than your soul as payment for your crimes of cruelty and injustice.”
“My soul is not my own. All actions are the will of the gods.” With those words, Daielle opened her right hand, creating a bubble around the entity, and collapsed the bubble instantly, thinking to make it disappear into oblivion. Instead, her eyes grew wide as the purple bubble, having no effect on the entity, disappeared and the unknown being stepped forward.
“Look upon your creation and despair.” It removed the cloak to reveal an amalgamation of what could have only been varied persons combined into one, or perhaps many apparitions all vying to be seen at once. One had a missing eye, another’s chest was burst open, and more than one without their hands, while a last ghastly thing opened its mouth to a chasm.
Disgusted, Daielle spread her arms wide, creating a barrier of arcane energy. She looked on at the entity, ever shifting, as a blackness began to emanate from it. The priestess-guards all began to move in on the ghosts, each weaving their own spells. Suddenly, the blackness began to burst out toward each priestess, and Daielle heard only screaming as the cloud of pitch was held in check beyond her barrier, but the screams reaching her ears were enough to know the ghosts were reclaiming what had been taken.
She looked around the chamber, trying to see anything of what was happening beyond her protective shell, but could not. From what must have been mere moments, Daielle was positive she had suffered an eternity of screams, and in the next instant, a solitary face made it through her arcane wall, a steely glare and subtle smile filling her with dread. She yelped then, as the chamber was cleared and she could see. It all happened so quickly, she would have thought it a dream if not for the suffering underlings. In the center of the chamber lay a priestess with her chest splayed open, a cavity only where there had been a heart. The rest of them were now useless, a mix of missing hands and tongues and eyes.
“High Priestess Daielle, he gave us a warning.” The tremble in the young girl’s voice was all too palpable as she stood, covering an opened and bleeding eye socket. Daielle could not help but notice how the quivering nature of the maiden’s voice echoed throughout her own body, including the hesitation. “He…uhhh, they…said, ‘everything carries a price,’ and something about your soul being forfeit.” A once strong woman broke down in that moment, falling to her knees, burying her face in her hands, bawling. Daielle remained quiet, and heard the girl say one last thing, “He still speaks from within me.” Looking up at the High Priestess one last time, the girl screamed in the finality of it all, and disintegrated into a black pool of blood on the floor. The pool spread, quickly consuming the other maidens around the chamber, each one offering nothing more than an ear-splitting scream before they, too, disintegrated before Daielle’s eyes. Horrified, the High Priestess continued to watch, unable to avert her gaze, and the blood moved to the center where the last priestess still lay without a heart, and slowly the blood congealed and began to form a heart within the open cavity. Through the barrier’s purple haze she could see it as it began to beat, the open wound healing itself, and finally, the first breath of a dead woman.
Daielle looked as pale as the light within the room, which now fluctuated with her emotions as the once-priestess stood up and looked at her through her barrier. She swallowed hard, hearing her own heartbeat as her breath hastened, eyes fixated on the undead woman who was now waving its hands and weaving its own spells. The arcane barrier began to get pulled away from Daielle, and she struggled to keep hold on it. All too soon, the power of the entity proved too much, and pulled the barrier from her, along with the power it already had summoned, casting a swirling vortex around itself and then, using the arcane, it transported itself to gods know where.
Her eyes closed, she wanted to relax, but Daielle shook like a thunder through the heavens. She was done. Both the entity and the undead priestess were gone, but could return at any moment.