I haven’t got much to say about Society of Night and Lies today. It is being worked on, slow but sure while annoying me with the pages curling up thanks to it being stored rolled up in a rubber band. I know, bad girl for now making sure it was flattened after all this time.
So, instead, I’m offering an excerpt from Test of Ascension. Be honest with your opinions and critiques. Please let me know what you think. If you want more, I’ll be more than happy to send you a copy once this first draft is complete.
As the ripples in the pool spread out and disrupted the scene of demigoddess and avatar making love in the cave, Bast leaned back on her settee and sighed a long, lonely, sigh. She could no longer feel any of her avatars now that the eldest of them carried the child of their soon-to-be-goddess within her womb. It was something she didn’t expect to happen before Sareena was in place. As pleasant as the news was to her, she couldn’t bring herself to smile.
Without her avatars drawing energy from her constantly, she felt light and airy, but she didn’t any more energetic than she while they were still bonded to her. She missed them, even the ones who’s future she wasn’t so sure of, left a gaping hole in her spirit that she didn’t realize they had filled. They were all she had left of her people and their first sire.
“It is passed time for you to move on,” a soft, genderless voice whispered in the goddess’ ear. “Your daughter cannot ascend with you still occupying the seat of this world’s domain. If you wait too much longer, you won’t be able to move on to your new place in the universe.”
Startled, the cat-headed woman dropped her hand from her face and tilted her head back to look up at the shadowy being standing just behind her with blazing eyes reflecting inner calm. “Fate,” she uttered gently, “you surprised me.” Slowly, the old goddess, skin pale and fur dull and dry with age and long white hair where it used to be golden, sat up and regarded the mysterious being.
“I know, I should have left days ago, but I want to see the moment when she will meet her destiny,” she said with a wistful sigh. “All hope rests in the arms of this young woman.”
Somehow, the featureless face smiled then the soft voice whispered, “We know, honored Bast. Her time draws near and all who are connected to the earth can sense the impending change. Even the guardian you have set to replace Sabbath knows that soon, things will change.”
As she slowly shook her head, Bast stood then looked into the calm waters of her divining pool again. “They watch her, waiting for the signs to come.” She sighed again, hesitant about leaving but knowing that she needed to move on. “I am afraid to leave this world before she is ready. It cannot survive for long without someone occupying the seat of the domain.”
“Honored Bast,” Fate whispered as she drifted to stand beside the saddened goddess, “you must let go of this world. It will sustain itself for a short time. Long enough for your child do what she needs to do.”
Turning to look at the wispy figure beside her, the woman nodded then asked, “Will she succeed, Fate? Will she be able to fill this world with new life for the people who call it home?”
“I am not allowed to answer these questions, honored Bast,” came the whispered reply. “Have faith in your child. If you cannot believe in her, then all will be lost. Her strength comes from you, no matter where you are.”
Turning away from the diving pool, Bast nodded then walked over to the dais and looked out across the expanse of the world below her. It didn’t seem as bright as it used to. Softly, she wept and let her tears fall through the clouds to land in mysterious places far below.
Fate watched then faded away as silently as she had arrived; leaving the old goddess alone to do what she needed to do.
“I trust you to be ready when the time comes, my daughter,” the goddess whispered while looking down at the mountains below her in the darkness. “I know you will do a far better job than I did and heal the wounds I had created.”
“The time has come for you to go,” a disembodied voice echoed in the room, booming yet so gentle and soft.
The walls fell away, leaving just dais and a single sun golden seat waiting for its new occupant. Shimmering ghosts of ancient birds swirled around the goddess as she closed her eyes tight and lifted her arms to the sky. “I am ready,” she said to the universe before the winds came from the four corners of the earth and swept her away into the aether.
With the absence of the goddess, the colors of the earth faded; no long so vibrant as they were when she was there. Children the world over cried, grieving for what was no missing and their mothers held them close, looking beyond to see what had frightened their young.
The earth shuddered with the release of Bast’s power; causing tidal waves which lifted boats from above the beaches before slamming them down into the water again. In the wake of the massive waves, magic faded; everyone’s talents weakened. Finally, with the last of Bast’s awesome powers receding, her Temples grew quiet and the flames guiding her priesthood sputtered then died, leaving them in the dark until the sun returned in the morning.
Awakened by the shuddering the earth, Sareena sat up and looked around; confused by what had just happened. Fearing for her safety and that of her pregnant lover, she shook Sirabe awake and grabbed her clothes from the floor beside her feet. Dust was sifting down from the ceiling, making the firelight hazy as they made their escape into the pre-dawn light.
“Something’s wrong,” the golden-furred cat gasped while trying to catch her breathe. “Things don’t seem right, anymore.”
Yawning, the black cat peered at her lover then looked around, unable to see much in the dim light. “What do you mean, My Lady,” she mumbled before sitting down on a loosened rocks outside the cave.
“I don’t know, Sarrie replied, worried for no real reason and feeling tense all of a sudden. “It feels like there is something missing and I can’t quite put my finger on it. Do you sense anything off?”
The older cat shrugged then yawned again. “I’m too tired to sense much right now. Come back and rest with me until there’s more light to see by.” She held a hand out for her young companion to hold while she looked up at her with sleepy yellow eyes.
After giving her friend a searching look, Sareena looked back at the cave then took the feline’s hand before pulling her up into her arms and kissed her cheek. “okay, Sirabe,” she said with a purr then smiled at her. “We can curl up out here. It’s too dusty in that cave for us to breathe, now.” She felt relieved that the avatar wasn’t nervous and let her nerves settle.
On the soft grass, they snuggled up together and fell back to sleep in each other’s arms until the sun rose. Sarrie couldn’t fall asleep immediately, something still felt out of place. Feeling more protective than before, she wrapped her arm around the leopard’s waist and let her hand rest on her trim stomach just so she could feel the embryo inside.
When morning came, the landscape seemed different to the both of them. The rocked appeared more gray and brown than normal and the grass not quite the same green. The bird didn’t chirp to welcome the new day which left the old road more silent than before. It unnerved Sareena, but Sirabe didn’t seem at all disturbed by the subtle changes.
“How much further do you think we have to go,” she finally asked the older cat after passing beneath a natural stone arch.
Pausing to look at her, the cat shrugged then looked up at the sky above and the rocky canyon walls. “I’m not sure, but we should be getting close. The landscape is starting to look familiar to me.”
Wide-eyed, Sarrie asked, “How any ties have you been to this secret land?” her curiosity was getting the better of her.
“Never,” the cat stated before looking at her companion. “I’ve never been to those lands in my life, but I have seen the people who live there come and go from the entrance several times over the ages.”
About to ask why when given her answer, Sarrie remained quiet for the rest of the explanation. It seemed possible to her though why an avatar should know, she couldn’t fathom.
“I know, because the Mistress wanted me to know,” the black cat said softly. “She told me to find where they were entering our domain from and watch it. She knew there were other places they entered from, but this one is the most stable and the primary opening.” A secretive smile curved her muzzle while she looked sidelong at her lover.
Taken aback, the young feline blinked then narrowed her eyes. “How did…? Sirabe, did you read my mind? Don’t lie to me. I don’t appreciate anyone reading my thought without my permission.”
Laughing, the leopard moved ahead and opened her wings to stretch them. “No, I didn’t read your mind as you so quaintly put it, My lady.” Slowly, she turned and let the wind push against the great leathery sails between the delicate looking bones. “I knew what you were thinking because an avatar is supposed to know,” she then said, “I also know you well enough now that you would ask how I know such things.”
Mouth hanging open and a finger raised as if to make a point, the younger woman paused, thought a moment then let it drop. Her hand fell back to her side then she grinned and nodded. “Okay. I must say I will have to get used to having you do that.”
“You will, in time,” came the simple answer, then she folded her wings again and started walking faster toward a shadowy part of the canyon. “I think we have arrived, My lady. It has been a while since I last came this way, but I think the opening is through there.” She then pointed into the deeper part of the shadows where the sun had no hope of ever reaching.
Peering into the canyon, Sarrie asked, “Are you sure,” then stepped in slowly. It felt cold without the warmth of the sun on her and the wind felt far too still after having it blowing against her for several miles.
“I’m sure,” the black cat replied then followed her in with ears pricked forward and senses on alert.
Watching from a ledge above, SunSet observed the pair approaching and waited. He listened to the wiser cat then follow the other into the canyon. The elder was spot on correct and he wondered why none of the goddess’ minions had made use of the entrance before now.
Prepared to protect his people, he swooped down, his leathery wings booming against the wind with each beat before he managed to get ahead of them and block their path with his landing. “Halt,” he command sternly, “you are not allowed to enter these lands.”