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Pieces of a Story: Rosa-Asfar

He pondered over the oddities stitched into the question. What creature was there with three eyes and a body of breath? Who with the ability to walk would suffer from the steps? What was this madness, and how was he to solve it? He was just a boy with a blade, and unfortunately that blade had failed him. Unable to overcome the Sentinel with strength he’d submitted to this battle of wits. It was frustrating! He longed to lash out in anger, but he knew the act was futile.

No, despite the brawn that brought him here he would now use his brain to take him beyond.

But far beyond he was already. Of all the lands he’d ever seen, from those of the Forgotton to the scattered settlements of the Kingdom, he had never seen any such as this. Black rocks, black sands, and a grey goliath who was a sorcerer of steel. This thought stimulated others, leading to warrior to cross his legs beneath him, his eyes to close, and his blade to settle at his side. The Sentinel grinned at the sight. The warrior being without an answer chose to search within. He considered the magic of the words. What if the answer was not literal, but symbolic? If such a suggestion were truth the answer appeared more attainable. The issue of the eyes was to be tackled first.

In the early days of his quest for rank he indulged in the art of espionage. Spying on the Forgotton was an assignment most soldiers feared. They believed the Forgotton wielded the power to read minds. However, sleuths were rewarded whenever successful. And though the warrior earned many scars for his failures, what he learned about the Forgotton bought him the role of General. In working to answer this question at hand, he remembered those ancient peoples’ fires, flickering memories.

The warrior was born a slave in war, and thus learned stealth to survive. Such scrutinizing footwork aided him also in getting closer to the enemy lines than any had ever dared. He could still remember the first time he saw the rumored chiefs. He remembered their rites and rituals: the sword dance he had added to his own craft, and the markings they engraved upon their skin. Often the warrior felt comforted that markings could be honored, it brought him relief regarding his own branded hide. The Forgotton decorated their flesh with a dictionary of meaning, and none was greater than the “Hakeeka.” This was the all-seeing eye the Kingdom’s guard feared as the power to read minds. Only the greatest among the Forgotton were given this mark, for it spoke of truth and the ability to submit to it. Because of its placement in the center of one’s brow it was commonly referred to as, “the third eye.” It was an endearing and fitting term.

The third eye… a mark made upon a man. As the warrior considered this he analyzed what he knew of the Forgotton’s theology further. The language of their genesis was full of shadows. Statements like, “born from the breath of the first” were used when speaking of their origins.

The eyes, the breath, the struggle… The answer was obvious, “Man.”

“Or a demi-god I suppose,” the Sentinel replied.

The warrior gave a curious look at the response given him. Was his answer incorrect? Quickly he discovered it was not. The Sentinel stepped aside from the door. The black gate broke asunder, and on unseen hinges opened up to a bright effigy. The desert could not be seen on the other side as would be expected. Instead a milky white substance rippled like waves across the surface of the open door. “Where does it go?” The warrior pondered aloud. The Sentinel replied, “to the Halls of Ancient Crowns.” The void looked like the top of an ivory lake, was it to be dove into or walked through? The warrior arose and strode to the liquid like entryway, a hand from within it reached out towards him. As though it were an expressive face the hand spoke to him through movement, kindly asking the warrior to grab him. He did.

“Surasundari,” he whispered… as he was led into the all white universe.

It felt as though her world had ended. Her sister’s corpse was still fresh astride the afterlife, but her duty was eternal… and increasing. Marron had sacrificed herself for the cause, a cause Joan would now continue on as its head.

The Garden: warrior women raised from bulbs to become flowers for the goddess. Handpicked from the streets of all twelve districts the girls were lifted from lowly soil to a beautiful purpose. At least that’s the dream Joan clung to while hiding from the grief of her sister’s death.

Day’s had past, but the wound of loss was still fresh. The day it happened she recalled wandering the halls of the Ziggurat and being snatched in her steps by her breathless sister. Gripping her about her shoulders Marron muttered a series of unintelligible thoughts. Caught between gasps she’d spoken words of an arrival, a long awaited dream come true. Words of wonder that came from scrolls Joan had never understood. The knowledge of such theology was had by her sister instead, and with it the role of leadership. But now Marron was dead.

The Festival of Flowers was days away, and with Marron’s passing Joan was now the Rosa-asfar.  And as the goddess’ rose she was forced to become the icon quickly. The Festival of Flowers was the only canonical celebration in which the Garden participated, and they did so in full. Leading the grand procession through the twelve districts and hosting a tournament of disciplines. Things Joan was to oversee and champion, things she’d thought Marron would do for years to come.

She exited her thoughts for a moment to take a glimpse at her future; two holy garments for her dual acts; a dress to be adored in and armor to do battle behind. She would wear the dress tomorrow; she would assume her role as the Rosa-asfar in honor of the Fifth. Her goddess, the woman she loved as sister and deity. The thought brought a smile to Joan’s troubled demeanor. Perhaps she would consult her. The thought alone eased her further, so she left her new quarters for the upper floors of the goddess’ temple.

She neared the apex of her climb, and found no one there. For most this would be a blasphemy ill endured, but Joan knew her leader lived beyond the rules the Council had given her. After all, she was a goddess. Where she went she never knew, but Marron did and she would always tell Joan what she could. A sister’s relationship seemed beyond the boundaries of religious obligation. They had both grown in the goddess’ guard since the ages of five and two. Joan didn’t know of life outside the Ziggurat and Marron always assured things were better here. She smiled at the thought of such assurance, Marron was still good at easing her fears it seemed. The goddess would do the same with a breath of GHOST.

Joan drifted light on her feet and lost in her thoughts through the marble columns of the temple, the grass of the oasis, and the halls of solitude. Set adrift on a memory’s bliss she almost didn’t hear the excitement explode in the goddess’ chambers. Moments ago she could have sworn not a soul stepped or slept within them, but now she heard a voice, a male voice. Curiosity crept up her spine as she snapped to attention. She was a warrior, the Rosa-asfar, and as was her privilege she now wielded the sharpest thorns.

Within the flowing silks of her robes she removed two green like stalks. Carved out of iron they were sturdy in her hands, and from both their appeared a dense light curved like a blade. Shoeless, Joan crept along the black marble floors towards her masters den. The Fifth’s personal chambers were forbidden to all men, so this man would die. Joan’s eyes opened with enthusiasm, it looked like she would get some practice in before the tournament after all.

 

 

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