I have the joy of hosting Friday Fiction this week, made especially nice as this Friday is my birthday. Please enter your link in the Linky Widget following this introduction!
NaNoWriMo 2013 is entering its final week, and “Draconian Responses” is over 58,000 words now, with more still to write. One of the things I’ve enjoyed in writing the stories in this series, is seeing creation through the eyes of the natives of another world. When I wrote the first story, I imagined what it might be like if some of the things in our creation account had happened differently, and how the story might be told elsewhere. On Epsilon Eridanus, or Qi’le as they call it, their account holds that God created the woman first, and then the man, and that it was the man who fell first. Therefore, the man was made subordinate to the woman, resulting in a Matriarchal culture, and a Matriarchal image of God. In this chapter, I visited a bit of their culture and tradtions, while bringing in some hints of events still to come in the story. I hope you enjoy, and for my readers here in the United States, I hope you have a blessed and peaceful Thanksgiving.
By Rick Higginson
G’Se watched out the side windows of the transport as it sped along over the trees. An obvious line revealed where the stream ran through the forest, though in this location, the channel was narrow enough that the trees closed enough over it that the water could not be seen. In several places, the path from T’Cha heading towards the Temple City would be near the stream as well, though that was just as much obscured by the dense foliage.
A new robe rested on her lap, folded neatly and awaiting presentation to H’Na. She smiled as she thought about it. H’Na’s grandmother would have stood in and made the presentation, and it would have preserved the symbolism of the ceremony just fine. The presentation from mother to daughter signified the lineage of the priestess, daughter through mother, all the way back to the women of Ch’Ma, the first priestesses of Qi’le.
A narrow, rocky canyon passed beneath them, bringing to G’Se’s memory a journey long ago by klur to the Temple, after a detour to T’Cha. The canyon had made some of the women on the journey nervous, with the open sky above. She had felt strange without the trees, but she hadn’t recalled feeling afraid. She had been a young woman, not yet ordained, but with the Terran devices proving the sky was nothing to fear, she had grown up with a slightly different mindset than previous generations. God created the forests for us, but She also created the plains, and the deserts, and the oceans, and the stars.
In the very early years of their dealings with the Terrans, it had still been considered odd that any Qi’le would want to go to the stars, let alone a priestess. The priestess B’Tra had gone, of course, but that had been at the direction of the High Priestess, for the purpose of being an ambassador. While it still was not common that Qi’le went to the stars, it wasn’t as unusual or seen as indicative of some kind of mental lapse.
Their own star shone down on them, providing life and warmth, and sustaining the trees that, in turn, sustained life on Qi’le. She had seen that star from Alsafi, and she had seen it from Earth, and from those places, it shrank to insignificance amongst all the other stars. Some stars stood out in the night sky. Theirs did not. For that matter, the Terran star did not, either.
What was it, Most Blessed Mother of All, that made these two stars the place where You put Your children? She suspected the Terran scientists would offer long, detailed explanations of the type of star, and the distance between the star and the planet, and so many other things that she did not fully understand, but she went back to what she had always been taught. The Most Blessed Mother of All formed the world, and blessed it, and called forth the trees from the ground, and gave them the power to sustain life. Then She created the creatures for the trees to sustain, and in turn, ordained that the creatures would return to the trees eventually, and give back the nourishment they had taken from the trees. Then She formed the woman, and She touched the woman’s cheek, and the woman lived.
The Terrans had more complicated explanations for how the worlds had formed and how life had begun, and most excluded the idea of God having been the One responsible. They may have their ideas. I see God in all that She has made.
“We have arrived in T’Cha, honored priestess,” Peri said. He settled the transport to the ground near the old vessel the first Terrans had arrived in, and sent notification to Temple City Terminal Control of their safe arrival. “You have been so quiet this journey, honored priestess. Have I offended you in some way?”
“No, Peri. I have just been thinking. I do not believe you would willingly offend me, and I prefer to not take offense to things that are done without intent to offend.”
He lifted their two bags from the back of the transport, and slung them over his shoulders. “The priestess Se’Ana insists we stay with her, while Emily also has offered us rooms in the inn.”
“Where would you prefer to stay?”
“I believe it is better to stay with my grandmother, both because I would not risk offending her, and because I believe Emily will be around to welcome me for much longer than my grandmother. I dread the day I return from a journey, to learn she has experienced the final dream.”
They walked the worn pathway through the village, receiving and returning frequent greetings from other residents they passed. Peri finally turned towards one door, where he called a greeting. The door opened, and they were invited inside.
The older man took the bags from Peri. “Welcome home, Peri. I trust your journey went well?”
“I cannot say for certain, Grandfather. I am told that, following our answers to the Council, the Archipelago entered a state of active war against Alsafi.”
“War?” Peri’s grandfather switched to English. “There hasn’t been war since the old political systems nearly destroyed Earth.”
“Alsafi used Empties in an attempt to attack Earth and Earthrise, Grandfather. The High Priestess told us we had saved lives with our warning, but none of us knew the extent. The Colonial Council isolated some of the Empties in a simulator, and gave them the messages from Alsafi.”
G’Se noted the look of distress on Peri’s face, and placed a gentle touch on his arm.
“Grandfather, one of the Empties took control of a Voidship in orbit around the Moon, and activated the Plateau Drive to send it crashing into Earth. The Council said if it had been a real Voidship instead of the simulator, the death toll could have been in the millions.”
The old man nodded. “I would say that I hope both sides know what they’re doing, but it’s obvious that whoever on Alsafi instigated the attack, doesn’t realize the potential consequences.”
The priestess Se’Ana stepped out of a side room. “If people considered the consequences of their actions before they performed them, many of our actions would never be performed.” She drew Peri into an embrace. “You have done well, child. Pray for all those affected by this, but do not accept the lie that you are in any way responsible. God used you to save many innocent lives, and for that, honor has come to the families of T’Cha, B’qa, and K’Za.” She turned to G’Se. “Honored priestess, enter our home in peace. It is a joy to see you again, G’Se.”
“Honored priestess, be’tra for your welcome. I am delighted to see you again, Se’Ana. The priestess S’Bu sends her greetings, and bade me to convey her affection to you.”
“I would that I could go and receive her affection in person.”
“ Would it not be possible, honored priestess, for you to make the journey?”
“I have sometimes thought about it, but I fear I am too old to travel the stars again.”
G’Se cut her eyes towards the younger man. “Peri?”
He met her eyes and smiled, before turning to Se’Ana. “Even if you were truly ready for the final dream, grandmother, SusAn would sustain you for the journey. Did you not tell me the story many times, of the crew member from Pisces that was attacked and seriously wounded by an animal, and was kept in SusAn until she was returned to Earthrise?”
The old woman patted his arm. “I would think you were trying to get me away from T’Cha.”
“You could go if you wished, Grandmother. You said when I was last here, that you were considering passing on the duties of priestess elder to another. If you and Grandfather wish to visit Earth again, I will gladly take you there.”
“We will speak of this later. Come and sit, and we can discuss pleasant things for a little while. Honored priestess, I will send for the Headmistress of the school, so that we may plan the ordination of your daughter. Your mother offered to stand in for you when the other priestesses in her class were ordained, but she would not receive her robe from any but you, even if you were to be delayed for many years.”
“Be’tra, honored priestess. I purchased her first robe while we were at the Temple City, so I will be ready to proceed whenever it is convenient for you and the council of priestesses here in T’Cha.”
Peri’s grandfather remained by the door as the two women settled into their seats. “I will go and inform the Headmistress that the priestess G’Se has arrived, and is ready to speak with her at her pleasure.”
Se’Ana smiled at the man. “Be’tra, my beloved. Peri, go with your grandfather, please, so that the priestess G’Se and I may discuss some priestess business privately.”
Peri stood up, looking a bit confused. “Of course, grandmother.”
When the two men had left, Se’Ana turned to her. “The High Priestess conveyed your request, honored priestess, and I have asked some friends to assist in the effort. I cannot promise, though, that we will find her. My impression is, that she does not wish to be found.”
“Why is that, honored priestess?”
“I cannot say for certain, G’Se, though I have my guesses. God, however, has been chastising me lately for slipping into gossip far too often, and I am making the effort to heed Her correction. If I share my guesses, even if they are correct, then I will be gossiping about someone who is not here to speak for herself.”
“I understand, Se’Ana.”
“I must ask, child, if you are sure of this path?”
“I have been sure of very little since the day my husband died, Se’Ana, but of this, I am sure. It seems strange to think of such, but when the High Priestess suggested a path of service for me, it felt as if God was telling me that it was the right thing to do.”