I burned. I danced in fear and elation. What had happened in the Imperial Chapel finally came searing back to mind. I had been opened by the God, at least in spirit. The dross in my soul had begun to run like hot wax.
Faiyal kofaer maeshin. The Temple shook with those words. Did the building say them? Did I say them? My lips and tongue resonated with them but I could not tell. My eyes are full of sun. I am falling into the Sun, dancing into the Sun. I can see where I will impale myself upon the God, his white stone phallus reflecting the flames all around me, ruddy with fire. Huge and heated even though it was stone, it echoed the hissing, golden red blaze all around.
It was echoed by my own phallus, hard before me; my passion... my own passion roared through me and I was consumed by it, blistering.
I hated it. I could not stop it. It was the same passion that had taken Chevenga unwilling, unknowing. My first passion. I wanted to stop, fall to my knees, fall into the darkness that I knew in the hope of some coolness, some relief from that heat, that scorching, painful memory.
It is not just the heat of passion, it is the heat of power, the blatant disregard for another human life. It is passion like murder. It is the blistering, driven joy that glories in blood and pain and another person’s agony and death. It is the irradiant, incandescence that thrills to feel a person’s last desperate struggle to survive and that you have complete control of it.
By Your word, Father, I am forzak, aren’t I? All the ugliness in my life; doesn’t that weight like shen on my spirit? I am doomed by my birth and blood, no matter how hard I try, aren’t I?
Flames burst up behind me, every step, tiny ember-like flames for the first. Top-of-the-foot high for the second. I flung all of myself into the final steps and instead of Muunas for an instant I saw the massive tree in the forest where I’d practiced, in exile.
“All life is fire. Every breath you take burns something. Every breath is a prayer to Me.”
His voice is the sound of air rushing into a forest fire stretching further than the eye can see, thunderous. I would quiver to pieces smaller than burning char on the wind were I allowed to remove my attention from Him, on His voice alone. My guts weren’t water, they were tinder.
“Let me burn then, correctly.” I don’t know here that came from. “Let me shine with the brightest flame.”
“Do not burn too hot, lest you waste yourself too soon.”
Flames roared as high as my head as I mounted the first step, my heart beating hard enough in my chest to shake me. The fierce heat was all around me and I turned to face the crowd, cut off from me by a wall of flame all around me. What sound they made I could not hear, cut off from them by the roar of the burning floor of the Temple. I could just see Idiesas, his sword hand on his hilt, armour shining in the flame light. Kallijas’s intent and intense face. Chevenga’s transfigured. He was living it with me.
My eyes turned to my family to their right. The flames reflected in my Grandfather’s spectacles. My mother was calm as always, but the tips of her fingers of one hand just touched her motherstone, at her throat. Kyriala, Gannara, Farasha, their hands clenched together in a knot as they watched me. I could see Ky’s lips move and knew that she prayed for me. I could see her smile to hearten me, even if she was terrified for me. Gan nodded at me I think but I could not tell in the wavering air of the flames between them and I. Farasha held her free hand, fisted up to me like a Dyer cheering a mate on. I saw all this in the time it took my eyes to rise to the crowd and me to inhale.
I must accept all, be all for them, to be myself and to survive this. I was red with heat, shiny and slick, running with sweat like blood. My mouth was dry. I was staggering with effort and I didn’t know how I would be able to continue. How do I finish with honour without wasting myself? I’m all but done now. I can only breathe down deep and sink into my centre and not waste a single gasp, a single drop of my energy.
The Ten Gods would not protect me from these flames the way Mikas and Risae had held me in Their hands when I reached through molten glass. I could feel the flames threatening to scorch me all around. If I stretched my hands out I would lose fingertips in that white hot coronal fire. There was no way out of this cage, but through the rite. Muunas’ phallus pressed up against my back, hot as if it were living flesh. I tried not to cringe remembering being hugged by my earthly father that way. Not in threat, but uncaring that he was erect and about to be served by someone else. This was Muunas, not my father.
“I surrender myself to You, oh High One. Everything I am, was given to me originally by You.” I stretched my hands carefully up toward the sky, toward His face so far, looming above me, crowned with the Sun’s Heart. My heart felt like a moyawa rising on this branmoy, struggling to reach Selestialis through hope and faith and fire. “SELESTIALIS!”
It was like flying for a moment and then I was pierced with a pain intense as Obedience. I was held still so my convulsion did not kill me. My scream I could not stop.