“See! See my Empress!” Kyrie’s eyes smiled wide as she heard the report from Nicci’s lips. A rumble could be heard throughout Haven as the goddess smiled, and let them know that her choice had made her happy.
“I thought she would end up in tears.” Hanna said fondly. “Instead, even after she heard about Nicci’s Offering ceremony, she didn’t get upset. Instead…”
“Yes, instead, she saw something in the ceremony. She is not like other human females, is she?” Rachel said thoughtfully. Kyrie tapped her on the forehead.
“Rachel, you shall not go back for a while. You are too brainless, and might make her question herself, or the goddess’ intentions.” Kyrie said firmly.
“But I like her, goddess!”
“I know. When her faith is solid, I may allow you to go back, but for now, you could try even Lydia’s patience. If you can do that, there is no way I will send you to someone who only has an initiate’s level of knowledge about our goddess!” Hanna tapped the end of the staff in her hand. Kyrie nodded as Hanna made the decision.
“Goddess! She’s being mean to me!”
Kyrie grinned. Hanna, along with Nicci, were assigned to help her make these decisions when necessary. When she used the staff at the side of the throne, the decision was final. Kyrie respected Hanna’s intelligence.
“She’s not being mean. She’s being kind. She didn’t say that a dog could outsmart you, did she?” Talia grinned from the side as she ribbed her friend.
“Or a rock.” Hanna whispered so low that only Kyrie could hear her. Kyrie sighed and gave her a glance that made her press her lips shut.
“Alright, I want to watch my Empress. You three go play in the back room.”
“I can walk, Nicci.” Nicci chuckled.
“This chair was made by one of our craftswomen, Empress. Use it.” She sighed softly, but sat down onto the cotton padded chair that had four wheels. The wheels were not that soft, but the way the temple was designed, and the size of the wheels, allowed Nicci to push it without much effort.
“The Purification room with the altar is at the back of the temple, in the center. Below this room is the storage for the temple. That leads into the catacombs where generations of the temple’s offerings had their bones laid.” Nicci took her out of the room her bed was in.
“Which room was I sleeping in?”
“The High Priestess’s room. Off her bedroom is the office that she would use for the paperwork, or meetings with other members of the temple. In front of her office is the hall.” She wheeled her through the office and into the hall.
“What does this connect to?”
“On the left, towards the front of the temple, is the guardian’s room. Your guardian. On the right, is the Temple Priestess’s room and office. The door right in front of us goes into the room with the altar.” She turned left, followed it for a dozen feet, and found a door on the left and on the right. “Here is the room assigned to Kata. The opposite door will lead into the chapel.” She opened the chapel door. “Here, the initiates, and acolytes can pray to the goddess, or just get together.” Lena looked around.
“I like it. It’s not like a church, but more like a hall.”
“Yes. The goddess had it designed so that the center of their lives revolved around how they interacted with each other, and not just herself. She wanted the Others to have a healthy and large friendship base. When each one went to Haven, there would already be friends and possibly lovers waiting for them. When I went, the entrance to Haven had over a dozen Others waiting for me.” Nicci sighed softly.
“That must have been nice. To wake up, and see your friends waiting for you.” Lena said softly. “I’ve been the Empress since I was sixteen. Before that, I was the daughter of a wealthy merchant. Friends were a luxury I could not afford.”
“Here, the situation was not like you are used to. The High Priestess and Temple Priestess were chosen, not assigned by the Temple. They gave birth to their last daughter, and they were to take their mother’s place. If she was unworthy, the goddess would intervene and assign someone. Our goddess was hands on with her people.” She wheeled her through the chapel and into the main entrance.
“Here, the entrance faces the guardian’s dormitory. The gatehouse is to the left of the gate. The gate is to the left of center. Notice to your right?” Lena nodded as she followed her finger. “That is the hall meant for the guardians who watch the gates, and the doors.” She wheeled her along the outer wall, but Lena could see that it was not just a wall. It was a long building.
“It’s like a manor. Housing built into the walls.”
“Yes, and no. It’s a home. This is based on a human design the goddess liked. She found it being built on another coast a few thousand years ago for a large family. She decided to design her temple in a similar way. We have a temple, but there are no hallways that connect the temple to the outer walls. Those halls take up valuable space that was needed for gardens.” She pushed her along the garden path.
“This place is in remarkable shape, Nicci. Does the goddess send her people here every so often to maintain it?” Lena asked.
“Yes. We didn’t know why, but now we do. A refuge, just in case.” They got to the end, and turned right. “This area, along our left, would house the initiates. It is much larger as there were many who wanted to be acolytes, but many would go home when they realized that they would one day be offered to the goddess. They never learned of how she would take them to her side.” Nicci said sadly.
“If they did learn, it didn’t overcome their fear, Nicci.” She said softly. “It takes courage to go through with the Offering. I wonder if the goddess could give the young ones a sign that the Offering was accepted.” Nicci frowned.
“What do you mean, Empress?”
“A sign! Why didn’t I think of that!” There was a collective burst of excitement that ran through Haven as their goddess watched and listened to the Empress.