Come to Me
Title: Come to Me
Disclaimer: Wholly original work.
Characters/Pairings: Goddess Lady Daria
Summary: Another year passes - Daria calls her future priestesses from the world.
Notes: For dog_daies July 14, 2010, 'never fear the darkness'. Sort of a long-form explanation of how Daria's realm functions.
"Come to me."
It was not a difficult spell-- truly, it was barely a spell at all. But Daria felt it - it would be done. There were no rituals to go with her words. She called from her bed upon waking. Much like those she had chosen when their names had appeared in the Book of Days, she had known it was time to call and they would know it was time to answer.
Some had always known - they would tell her upon their arrival that they'd always felt Daria's call and were just waiting for the right moment. Daria did not know how much truth there was to that. She didn't think it impossible, but it did seem a bit sad. Like with any other called to serve Agassia in any way, Daria hoped the youths of her own priestesses were filled with joy and not just a longing as they waited for their service to begin.
Daria stretched, arching her back as she sat. She did not know how quickly they would arrive. Most took several days to finish up with their current lives and make their way to her. She didn't mind. Her service was long, after all. Best to let loved ones know and not just vanish in the night.
She slipped naked to the floor, glancing around for a robe but having little luck. Finally, Daria just pulled one of the silken black blankets from the bed and wrapped it around her shoulders, willing it into a soft dress. She wasn't ready for her leather yet. Not til after a bath.
Those that came, oh and there were a good many this year, which meant many would be released from her service as well, they would learn quickly. Some would already have studied magic. All were old enough to be coming into their own if they hadn't already.
None were married, none with children. Daria had no desire to separate those sorts of bonds. Rare was the time when she took her own ink to the Book of Days to make changes, but when one of her own was not able to come, she made the edits and hoped all would be well.
There would be an ache this day.
"Come to me," Daria repeated as she walked through the outer rooms of her chambers on her way to bathe. She had her own small bath, but she much preferred the common baths. Her long, thick black hair was loose and fallling against her back in waves. It felt almost too heavy against the plain silk dress. The stone should have been cold on her feet - it was rarely truly warm in the Karhss and never enough to warm the floors of Temple - but she didn't notice. Either the millennia had numbed her to it or she simply was able to ignore it. In some ways, the Karhss Forest and her Temple were as much a part of her as her physical body.
She was death. And in that, also life.
The common baths were oddly empty, which suggested that it was far earlier than Daria had thought. A pair of priestesses raised hands in greeting. Daria rarely asked for any special treatment in basic settings, otherwise it would grow dull and bothersome quickly. Her priestesses were her friends. Many would stay on as temple priestesses in their own cities, at least for awhile, before marrying. Daria kept in touch and sent gifts when she could.
Her priestesses, when they passed from the world, were the only ones she made a point to collect herself and they always came back with welcome arms. They did not fear death, because Daria was not scary. As they had grown to never fear the darkness of the Karhss or the battles Daria sent them into, death became just one more part of life. Even those immortal sometimes died. Endless life eventually became unappealing.
Daria stepped out of her dress, letting it fall to the floor as a blanket, and then into the warm water. She wondered who she'd be losing this year. Those in her service stayed ten years without exception. Then they returned home much wizened and strong. Often they were seen as desirable, like any former priest or priestess, for being beloved of their patron.
There were others in her service, though, who she had not called. Not in the traditional way, at least. She kept track of them closely, blending the women in with the priestesses and finding jobs for the men. They were a tricky lot - the immortals who wished to die.
Daria leaned back against the edge of the bath, submerged to just above her full breasts. She'd wash properly in a moment, but for now she just wanted to finish waking up.
"Would you like me to wash your hair, Lady Daria?" one of the priestesses questioned from nearby.
"In a minute," Daria replied. She wouldn't refuse an offer like that any time soon. She smiled.
Her brother, Dayn, the Lifegod, was the one who granted immortality. She was the one who took it away. Though she'd never let on, it was actually an easy thing to do. While his end of the magic was complicated, hers was simple. Death was death was death.
Those souls, too, she took to be judged herself.
Those too black for reward, she kept until they were cleansed. That was how she had priests now, working near-happily alongside her priestesses. Only a handful, and she would let them go when she could, though she knew they'd all grown to enjoy their service. While it was not an end to their lives, it was freedom from their suffering and a change from the misery they'd found themselves causing.
Death was a fresh start, in a way.
"Come to me," Daria whispered into the steam of the water.
Race or station meant nothing to her. She chose from the foxmen, those with wings, those born as nobles and those born in the lowest of classes. All would look the same in black.
Black was as much the color of life as death. How it had become her color, Daria didn't know. She and Dayn were twins, as identical as they could be for being female and male. His hair had a bit more curl. Her eyes were a shade darker and therefore pure darkness. Still...
He was her husband, though years passed without thought of sharing a bed. They had two children, twins as well, who also served. Darina, who stayed in the Karhss and was a dutiful if headstrong daughter. Daryn wandered, finding his joys both in the Northland and in the South, soaking up the summer sun of Dayn's Palace.
Eventually, Daria washed and let her priestesses pour soaps and oils through her hair until it shone and smelled like flowers. They dried it and combed it and kept close until she'd dressed and then styled it into braids and waves. They were just finishing their shift, she'd found out. Most of the night pairs had already turned in.
Daria rarely used her swords, though she had a collection that rivaled Dayn's. Still, she fixed one to her waist, and added daggers to her boots. It was partly for show, and partly how she just felt comfortable for the day. She never expected trouble, but sometimes it found her.
She could not be killed - a god could not die. Even harming her would be difficult. Over the years, some had tried. All had failed.
A god could not die--
Daria walked through back passages to get to the main altars of Temple and the places where it was easy to walk to the Land of the Dead. She knew her brothers would be busy - they always were - but she needed to tell them, of course.
Priestesses were waiting. Souls lingered. All parted for her as she passed through. And she closed the doors to the judgement chambers behind her. When her brothers had finished, she would talk to them. But she could wait.
They all looked up as she strode in, from their own copies of the Book of Years. Wind was in the middle, face calm and looking at the blue-tinged soul in the blue-tinged world. Daria knew it at once. He'd been Marlo Yinarpa, a farmer. A good life, a good soul. Imperfect, but that was normal. Few were the truly good.
Sun was radiant even in his false death. His blond hair was a crown of curls over his shoulders and he had his finger on a spot in the Book.
"Please, finish up," Daria said. "I can wait."
Night nodded. Night understood and probably already knew why she'd come. Night was the one closest to her, though she knew she had them all. She'd always proclaimed she'd have them all. Her youngest brothers, who she loved like her own children.
Marlo was gone a moment later, sent on to a bliss that would echo into the dense nothingness that new souls came from. It was a good end.
"Sister," Night said, standing as Daria approached.
"It is that time again," Daria told them with a nod. Wind and Sun echoed her nod and all three slipped from behind their counters.
"Another year," Sun commented. "Well, a half-year, then?"
"Since Festival? Yes," Daria confirmed. "Still, since I always give fair warning -- the new priestesses will be arriving and beginning their work. They'll want to see you. They'll stare at the handsome kings."
"If they're as beautiful as the last, we'll stare back," Wind replied. Night chuckled and gave his brother a little thump on the arm.
"I'll tell your wives," Night said. But he was smiling. Daria knew they liked seeing new and curious faces. It kept away some of the other tedium of their job.
"Visit more often, Sister," Sun added. Daria nodded. She'd try, but she wouldn't. She'd get caught up in things and then it would be time for Festival and her brothers would be visiting her.
Oh, they slipped out into the world more often, but not often enough. Pretending to be dead seemed to sometimes convince them that they indeed were no longer amongst the living. But a god could not die. Daria did not have the magic for that. Perhaps their mother did, but she did not. And she did not want to ask and see if such a thing were possible. It was not knowledge she wanted.
She was content in her role, after all.
They talked for a bit, before a swift apologetic knock let them know that a true backlog was forming on the other side of the doors.
"Oh, for it to be Festival," Sun said as they parted.
Festival - shorted over the centuries from a longer title having to do with Daria and death - was one of the few days on which nobody died. Dayn's festival day was the same, as was another, forgotten day dedicated to their mother, which was still observed at least simplistically.
Festival had started purely, innocently... It had since become a day of revelry and all sorts of naughtiness, which Daria didn't mind at all. She'd commissioned a potion, from her High Priest Jameson, that would let the party go on for as long as necessary. One day a year, she needed a little break and a little extra fun. The priestesses who were interested seemed to enjoy it as well. As did the small number of priests.
Already she was thinking about it - a half-year away. The new priestesses would be a little shocked, but they'd likely quickly participate. And if not, if they were uninterested, there were other ways to celebrate. Food, dancing, all sorts--
She returned to the world of the living without fanfare. She had Darina to locate and inform about the incoming arrivals. There was time, but preparedness was important too. They'd need rooms. There were always empty rooms, at least. And clothing and weapons, even if they were largely ceremonial and decorative.
One by one, the new priestesses would arrive. Those in the cities would be first, departing from her temples with the help of her priestesses there. Some, from the rural lands, would just wait at the nearest altar with themselves as offerings. They would be retrieved. Everyone would know. The call was out there; they would feel it in their souls.
As the day passed, every single one of her priestesses sought her out. Even as she gazed into the darkness of the Karhss from the rotting grotto, they came to her without understanding quite why.
But she knew. She'd called and she would be answered. It was simple - three words.
Daria looked out into the inviting darkness of her home.
"Come to me."
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