The crowd roared their response, a huge, wordless affirmative sound, like a rejin called to action or response. In the wild roar I realized I was limping and stopped to let the one intact sandal be removed from my foot.
I stared at the solas dekinas kneeling and it was as if I could see layers and layers and layers of images overlaid on the scene in the Temple, the priests and the dekinae and the Fenjitzae shimmered in their places as if I could see a thousand years of people standing in the same places. My heartbeat and the drumbeat were one as I floated up towards the Highest Gods of Arko, barefoot, thinking inanely ... the Temple floor is raised, good.
Raising my eyes to Ky’s Goddess, and the Goddess of my mother... and my unknown and grievously unlamented grandmothers... I was surrounded by the scent of roses. Goddess roses tumbled through my sight and I was buried in them. Most High Goddess, You were my only mother for years of my life.
I raised my arms and spun as I trod Selinae’s Ten. Her face. I could see her face in the roses and in the wheat fields. She wore Binshala’s young face, and then Disarsha’s. I was cradled in Her hair, the way I had lain in Disarsha’s when I was almost too young to know better. I could smell the scent of the roses... she had used roses too. Elegance roses where her scent. Binshala... used Yasmint. I drew the elaborate braids and heavy, thick hair up to my face and I could swear I smelled mother. Bitter myrrh. The Mahid scent.
The comforting strands of hair closed around me, became gripping coils that held me fast and almost, almost too hard.
“Do you know how to mother your nation?”
Selinae’s voice was a whisper, a spike of ice and fear through me, a bolt of desire so hard I thought I would faint. All the things the other Goddesses had showed me and more. More and more and more poured into me, into my spirit.
“I... I...” I didn’t know what to say. I stammered and blushed and my innards tied themselves into knots.
“Do you know how to be a parent?” The image of a child in my arms, my looking down into wandering, misty, trusting blue eyes dried my mouth and made me want to fight tigers at the same time. It was a fear I’d only vaguely had before.
“Do you know that all those you love will die and you cannot fight the Summoner?”
Tears burst out of my eyes, sobs out of my throat. “No! No, I don’t! I’m supposed to be a man and I’m married and I’m supposed to want all those things and know how to do all those things and feel all those things! But I’m an idiot boy who’s only just found his mama!” My hands – I think – were over my face. Part of Selinae’s Ten but I wasn’t sure. Tears flowed so hard, so fast, I was so thirsty.
I realized that the last motions for Selinae are faint copies of burial rites. Mother Goddess. Mama. Every human’s mama. You grieve for all of us. I can feel that, even as You are so proud of us. Your hand hovers over, wishing to help us, wanting to catch us, watching us learn the hard lessons of mothering. Mama, how can I learn to bury my children if I must?
She shook me, slightly. Not enough to snap my head back but more as if to help me clear it. “You cannot learn such things in books. You learn these things by doing them. You reach through your fears and touch one another. These things are learned skin to skin by mortals. They are learned through endurance of all the vagaries of men and the indifferent, ruthless shifting of the Earthsphere. Endurance with an open, loving heart.”
“Yes, Mother.” I couldn’t see her. My eyes were so filled with water and brightness.
Her hair wiped my tears away, firmly. “Don’t let your fear of being hurt stop you my Child.”
I turned, coming enough to myself that I realized I would have a very hard time even stepping up to the High God. I was hard again and my blood, what was left of it in my head, sang in my ears as passion to take and be taken crashed through me, washing all thought out of me.
A vast and roaring voice, like the rumble of mountains burning, poured through me and shook and melded with Her behind me and I was falling in a maelstrom of light and heat and something glowing through me that bit harder on my skin than any sunlight.