The Fenjitzae waited for an excruciating time though it couldn’t have been long, no more that a fraction of a tenth, but the doors did nothing. The Temple did nothing. A dekinas touched me on the shoulder. It was my turn.
I rose as best I could but still managed to stumble on thin air, tried to set it aside. Faces all around me were a blur. Kallijas was there, Virani-e, I could see his dark hair as I turned. I was supposed to be meditating here and what was I doing? My gut was cramping and I was worried if I stumbled?
The solas man looked nervous. “It’s all right,” I said as I passed him to lay my hands upon the doors. “Everything happens here under the eyes of the Ten. No shame in that.”
There was a flash of emotion across his face, shame, relief, worry, anger then it was gone under calm. He nodded.
I laid my hands on the cool steel of the Temple doors and felt the building pulse under my hands. I told myself I shouldn’t think of a building like a horse. Surely it would be rude to imagine petting the doors reassuringly? I opened my mouth and called “Nuyuzer!” It was like a weight of gold on my tongue, more real than normal words.
There was no immediate response and I thought, crazily ‘What happens if it doesn’t open at all?’ Then I felt the tingle in my hands, the rumble under my feet and with an enormous click the doors opened. I stepped back as they swung towards me.
As my guard stood around me, Idiesas to my right, the sensation of being swept along by something greater than I welled up and my chest was filled to bursting with it. I was running toward the edge of the cliff and my hang-check was in the Gods’ hands. My tipped-back head let me see one of the Temple crystals scintillating above as though more than light rushed through it.
The crowd surged into the newly opened Temple as we stood to one side, letting the people flow past us. The pretender and I. He was watching me, covertly glancing sideways under nearly closed eyelids and I felt like an absolute innocent, eyes wide open, wanting to see the faces of the people who would be closest to me when I did this ritual.
Some were talking excitedly to their friends and family as they filed in. Others looked as though they were half in the spirit world themselves. Some reminded me of Sukala with their open faces, while others were screwed tight into the middle of their skulls with either their pain or their rage. Or their fear.
Where had that thought come from?
The noon chime sounded just as I stepped to my waiting mark and everyone... Virani-e included, cupped our hands to our temples and sang the noon prayer. The mass of voices thrilled me deeper even somehow than the feeling still tingling through my hands from the Temple doors. Rich, quavering, soaring old voices blending with the deep rumble of solas and Aitzas men, used to cadence-song. The eerie high descants from the women flying above, all melding into something far greater than any one... or any few voices. I felt tears spring to my eyes. The prayer said ‘We are Arko’ more than any other declaration I could think of.
The men’s and boy’s choir, hidden up above, took up the last notes of the noon prayer and sang the ancient call to the Imperator and in turn their voices were joined and then superceded by the great glass instrument in the Temple wall, played by the water pouring through it. An unearthspherely sound. Odd and Godly.
The Fenjitzas sang and said the invocation afterwards and then the pounding of drums began, hammering against my body like a fist of sound at first. Then it steadied down to one enormous drumbeat. A heartbeat. Slow and steady and almost more felt than heard.
The Fenjitzae led the solas pretender to the starting point, and stepped back to give him room before the gigantic statue of Anae. His head tipped up and up and he gazed into her face, his own face filled with light. He is God touched. I can see that. They speak to him.