Monday, February 27, 2012

636 - Nua yu zer

The Fenjitzae and Dimae’s guard waited for me when I stepped out of the bedroom suite before Rim dawn the next morning.  Kallijas was there and with him Virani-e who nodded encouragingly as I stepped out of my love’s supportive hands and into the hands of the Goddess’s guards.

They pulled my nightclothes off me, re-enacting the myth of the man turned into a stag.  But instead of me becoming beastly, they led me to the elaborate, all morning washing and dressing ritual.  I would be ready, barely, by the Chime of Noon.

I was anointed with a scent for each of the Ten, and then washed. I had to hold my breath for the heliotrope. I was certain that Virani-e would have had to fight to endure that.

I felt as though I was raw and tender as they held a loincloth for me to step into. The ritual sandals were next and the rings on them made them awkwardly heavy.

A gold headband held my hair off my face.  Fenjitzas reverently placed the Imperial Seals, from Muunas’s lap, onto my hands before I paced the sacred way that Imperators had walked to this ritual, from time immemorial.

I stood, breathing deep and rising on the pump of my breath.  There were more people than just Kallijas and Virani-e and my family behind me now.  I could hear them breathing.  I felt unreal and my skin felt... clear as glass, scrubbed clean of every scrap of possible worldly dross.

The Steel Gate opened. My loves were with me.  My friends were at my back. My guard was with me.  I felt encased in a bubble of silence and expectation.

I stepped down to the first step down and caught a whiff of roasting beef from the outdoor ovens.  My feast.  Either way.  Either for success or for funeral.  Very practical.  In my head, Mikas laughed.

I paced the length of the raised bridge for the second time in sixty days.  Last time for my wedding, this time for my wedding to the Ten.  If They would have me.  I stopped, pierced by the thought.  I hadn’t, for some reason, even thought of that in all this meditation time.

Gods, am I good enough for You?  Is anyone?  How can anyone be good enough for You? I hesitated on the bridge and I could hear the crowd murmuring as they watched me.  I took another deep breath and walked on.  The fodai was enough.  The Gods approved the fodai.  Therefore I should trust that They wished me to be here.

At the top of the Temple steps... newly gleaming, clean and perfect, one man stood.  One pretender.

I looked at my toes as I stepped into the Temple portico.  I raised my hands to the pretender.  He was a solidly built man, a solas whom I didn't know.  He smiled as I touched my hands to his and murmured the traditional words “May the best man rise for Arko’s sake.”

He nodded at me. I found that every detail of the day, every mole and hair and wrinkle on the pretender’s face, ever touch of breeze, the feeling of the loincloth against my skin, was magnified a thousand-fold and it was almost too much to bear.  I touched my hands to his idea of what the Imperial seals should be, gave him the prayer for him and for Arko and turned to look out over the crowd.  I knelt down because it seemed the thing to do, as he stepped up to the Temple doors and raised his hands.

The crowd held its breath and it felt as though the breeze across the square, that had been like the breath of the spectators, wandered up the steps and through my hair before rushing on to play in the Fenjitza’s light hem and chew on the end strands of the Fenjitas’s silk belt.

NUYUZER!” he cried.  He would have heard Virani-e say that word to open the Temple twice before, if he'd been in the city to see.  There was a long pause.  In the silence, a child cried in the crowd and was hushed. More silence.

NYUZER.”  He tried again.  This time the silence was so deep I thought I could hear the ends of my hair tapping against my back in the wind.  I even heard the man take a deep breath as the Temple stolidly refused to respond to him.

He paced a step or two, I heard the chains on his seals clink as he shook out his hands as if this were a difficult training session.  Another deep breath.  The crowd sighed and swayed forward.  He must have turned to the doors for his final try.

NUA YU ZER!” He tried, for the third and final time.

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