Saturday, May 19, 2012
Part 3. The Shadows Call
“It’s not over. It’ll never be over.”
(Sheriff of Nottingham)
Day Outlasts Century
Solemn and stooped, wearing a long dark array from top to toe, the priest was reading aloud the solemn incantations that resounded through the spacious dimly lit cave. The ornament of mysterious signs over his ritual array was carefully elaborated, and his tall faceless figure along with the formless shade looked enormous in the flickering candlelight. The vaults of the cave had former pomposity no longer, but they still thrilled impressible minds: the frescos of scenes of initiation to a weird cult, a rose-crowned matron sitting in a chariot drawn by lions in the central fresco, the filigree of the pilaster capitals. A small saline lake in the middle of the cave looked strange here. Bubbles appeared on the lake surface from time to time, and the air smelled of sulphur. Taking no notice of the ancient decoration’s beauty, the priest chanted the sacral texts, and acolytes or hired bodyguards heeded him, silently standing at the entrance. Now the text came to an end, and nothing special ensued for several seconds. Doubts rose in the priest’s mind: whether he read the texts correctly? was anything wrong? And now, the lake water rippled; the oil-lamps’ flame flashed up; somebody gave a screech. “Belarriss!” exclaimed the priest. “Magna Mater! Goddess! We resuscitate you in order to worship you, to rebuild your temples so that the cult of the goddess Belarriss again…” The water seethed, the air sparked, and a pillar of a luminescent substance rose rapidly taking shape of a human.
“Is there a woman here?” a loud imperious voice was heard.
“Excuse me, my lady?” The priest threw back the hood of his array, and one could see he was a very handsome young man about twenty-five, six-foot tall, with a dark fringe a la Paul McCartney over his forehead and with young Paul McCartney’s radiant, happy and a little bit silly smile.
“I can see only men here,” explained the voice toning down, “What do the present-day women wear?”
“Oh my lady, you are beautiful… The flaming-heart is the divine aura that one feels shining from your beautiful face, the star and emblem of female beauty, which is the heart of your grace and the emanation of your power…”
“How do you know beauty, you slave?!” She gestured to one of the bodyguards. “You! Having anything to say?”
“My humble… I…” began the bodyguard taking something out of his black leather jacket pocket, “I have a photo. Maybe it’s of use…” He approached, held the photo out to the reborn goddess, and bowing he retreated.
The goddess examined the image of a young woman wearing blue jeans and a white ruched blouse, and then she asked, “Is she reckoned beautiful?”
“Yes,” the bodyguard nodded, and he quickly added, “Yes, Goddess.”
Belarriss dropped the photo, losing interest to it, and before everyone’s eyes she began changing: her hair got shorter and blonder, modern day clothes began delineating over her form, her skin got a golden suntanned. Her features were not like the girl’s in the photo, but the similar maquillage covered her face now. Finishing the conversion the goddess turned to the priest, “What did you resuscitate me for?”
“Oh Miss Belarriss!” the priest came to himself after astonishment, “My intention is pure. Longing for transcendence I’ve decided to make you free, purely for restoration of justice. But if Goddess wants to have a faithful servant and trustworthy adviser…”
“Do you know of my story?” she asked.
“Yes, Goddess. I know what I’ve found out in the forgotten sources. The goddess Belarriss ruled the country for five generations. One day, she conceived conquering the world. During one of the campaigns the citizens of the country revolted, and some bigots contrived to overthrown Goddess, and they imprisoned her essence in the bewitched cave.”
“Don’t you think it’s served me right?”
“Nobody dares check Goddess.”
“I expect, you’ve drawn any conclusions?”
“Oh yes, Goddess. Astonishing conclusions,” the priest’s smile was subtle now.
A bat slid noisily across the ceiling and disappeared in the dark passage.
“Not a word more!” said the goddess. “You’ll get your deserts and your desideratum, and now… Leave me alone.”
Taking long views, the priest did not object, although plans of conquering the world flashed across his mind one by one. No hurry: the main thing had been done, and all the rest was a matter of his cunning and legerdemain. Undoubtedly, it was a forlorn hope to deal with the petticoats; on the other hand, he had no choice. He said bowing, “I’ll come tomorrow by night, if Goddess would like.” The priest walked to the doorway, nodded to his acolytes, and they left the chamber.
Alone, the goddess said, “Ad calendas graecas… No denying, he is a clever rouge, but even a wise man stumbles, Homer sometimes nods.” She waited till the footsteps died away, then she slid lightly down on the floor, and at the moment, her foot in the shoe with stiletto heel turned awkwardly, and she nearly lost her balance. The walls of the cave resounded several ancient curses, yet Belarriss braced herself up and attempted making one more step. “How do they walk in these shoes?” she muttered, “What has happened to the world, if inconvenience has become attractive?..” Presently, Belarriss was at home in the situation, being able to walk around the cave more or less easily.
Time and marauders did not spare the place of her tomb. The goddess hardly could recognize the luxurious burial chamber, and she thoughtfully tried to guess where there were her favorite jeweled gold goblet, chryselephantine throne and all her jewellery now… All the things remained in the dim and distant past. Vexed, she uttered several phrases, and if the priest were here, he would heard, “…Dunces! When on earth the idiots, the megalomaniacs will finish? They know what happened to me. Are they about to go the same way? But I know where it leads to,” she sighed deeply, glanced round the cave for the final time and walked to the exit.
The trace of treads was visible on the ground; the woman walked along the trace, and in two hours she saw an asphalt road. An hour more and she saw the service station where there were a small coffee house and shop. She came in the coffee house.
A man at the counter paid off for his meal that was on the tray. Belarriss put his hand in the pocket of her jeans and several banknotes materialized in her hand. “Same for me, please,” she asked the waitress.
The waitress nodded and took the money. “Here is your change. Go to the table. I’ll bring the tray to you.”
Belarriss went to a table and sat down on a chair, squinting at the man who ate with the help of his fork.
Her meal proved to be substantial and even tasty, only the potion, called “coffee”, was disgustingly too bitter. “No, it’s not pharmacon nepenthes, far from it,” but Belarriss drained her cup dry in order not to look particular. In general, the morning had begun fairly well. The air outside smelled of autumn, but the grass was still fresh and leaves were green. “It’s midi-August,” the goddess supposed. Coming out of the café, Belarriss stood still at the road, thinking where she was to go now. Her reflection did not last for long: a heavy van stopped before her, the door of the car opened, and the driver asked friendly: “May I give you a lift?”
“I can take you home. Where is your home?”
“My home… Nowhere, as I think. My intention is to see the world.”
“It happens fairly often,” the driver nodded, “I'm going to Ancile. If you want, I can give you a lift. No harassment, upon my word.”
The woman shook her head smiling, “That’s not what I worry about. As I think… you are either married or engaged.”
“Right.” The driver helped the woman to get into the car.
“What is your fiancée’s name?” she asked.
“What a coincidence… I am called Lily-Radda too.”
“What are you?” the driver turned the ignition.
“Goddess,” said Belarriss wearily, thinking nobody could believe her.
“Such things happen from time to time”, the driver smiled without opening his lips. He got used to listening to somebody else’s secrets or outpourings, and he was not importunate, “You look sleepy. Lean back and doze off. Nothing interesting you will see for some time.”
The bright summer landscape rolled past the window. Belarriss followed his advice, and in a minute her breathing got deep and calm.
A sleeping goddess was a usual sight in this part of the world, just nobody took it seriously.
to be continued.
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