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Cult of Sophrae

Lune Huntresses
He never realizes he's doing it. Evander will appear in the doorway, annoyance at the cacophony starting to seep through his sleepy haze, and Ast stumbling into the room soonafter. Ast will make a sound, something akin to a groan and also exasperation.

The floorboards will be pried up all at odd angles, deep claw marks dug into the edges and scratched out around where the nails have been extruded. There will be spots of blood on some of them—from the nails themselves, or gouging splinters. In the center of it all is Vallen, lines of sweat down his nightshirt, his eyes black and glossy and the familiar dark webbing broken out around the lids and across his face.

He'll mutter something about how it followed him back from the summit; he can hear it scuttling around beneath the boards. He's being punished for seeing something he shouldn't have, because gods and men are not meant to look upon one another.

Evander will play the voice of reason. 'Scorpions aren't native to Mount Lune; they can't survive there.' And there's the unspoken addendum that follows, that it's just a delusion. That it's all in Vallen's mind.

Companions of Sophrae
The goddess Sophrae has had many companions throughout the pyramisic mythos, but the most notable are her huntresses. In the mythos they are usually a group of about a dozen young women, chosen by the goddess herself for their cunning and fearlessness. The goddess blessed them with the Breath of Sophrae—there are many ideas for what the gift actually did but the two main ones are that it allowed the women to either ride wyverns, or turn into wyverns themselves.

On the roof of the tower is a dance floor. The floor itself is smooth black marble, with large gemstones—sunstone?—embedded beneath the surface, and three times a year the women will spend a night on the rooftop, drinking and dancing under the snowfall in only their shifts. I witnessed one of these nights just last week and it took me until nearly dawn to realize that the gemstones were patterned in such a way so as to resemble the constellations.

Although Raughdon's descriptions suggest the women atop Lune's summit to be these mythical companions, he has also admitted that the women themselves held no such power outside of their natural arcanic abilities, of which only a few possessed. He also said that they maintained all the fallibilities of ordinary mortal women.

Given all that is known of them, it's safe to conclude that these women—assuming they even exist—are merely a more modern order of the ancient Sovrinisic cults.

Within Mount Lune is one of the biggest arcanium reserves left on the globe. While it isn't easily accessed from the mountain's side, past records indicate that some of it does lie close to the surface directly on the summit. It's surmised that this is partially what drew the original cult of Sophrae to build their temple here, as well as being an appeal to the current women living there.

Several details indicate that the arcanium in this proximity either was or currently is reactive, which may explain the 'pull' felt by the women as well as many climbers who ascend the lower half of the mountain. Vallen didn't mention any obvious signs of arcanic reation, but he did attest to the vast amount—often referred to as a 'hoard' of arcanium—simply contained in the mountain itself.

I was outside pacing slowly on a patio in back of the temple when she first came. She was striding toward me as if having just come out the back doors, though I knew that made no sense. I stopped pacing and she glided past me, ghostlike, her smile conspiratorial so as to assure me that I was not the only one in this strange experience. There was a bench not five feet from where I'd stilled, and she sat down on it, leaning her head back.

I did the only thing I could think of, and offered her my cigarette. Despite my entire understanding of the goddess—of all the gods and their grandeur—she accepted.

"I can teach you how to hunt," she told me after the smoke had left her lips. I laughed, because I had spent my entire life hunting. I'd been quite literally born for it. But I suppose I could not know as much as her.
by ĐÔ NGUYỄN from Pixabay
One of my companions came to link her arm through mine as we walked today, asked if I might partake this time in next week's dance. It had not occured to me how long I had been at the temple, that I might return to my own life where my comrades are waiting for me.

Nearly four months. I think it is perhaps time to return home.

Lost Huntresses
After Raughdon returned, he attempted to find possible relations to the huntresses he'd lived with on the summit, however he had little to go off of and it would've been an endless search had he continued with it. Instead, he returned to his life prior to the climb and seldom speaks of the months during which he was lost on the mountain.
The Temple
The 'temple' more resembles a keep, or a great hall. In the Age Prior, it was the home of the largest Sovrinisic cult and was built of basalt and other stone from several lower ridges on Mount Lune. The windows are made of intricately stained glass, and there are three towers adjoined to the main, circular body. At a glance, the temple is simplistic, unassuming, with sparse detailing aside from the narrow windows. While no one in the current age has actually seen the temple aside from Slighen Raughdon, his descriptions do parallel those of Age Prior records so the temple is thought to still stand as it has historically.

Climbing Lune
Mount Lune has always been treacherous for travelers, with erratic weather patterns and hostile life from the Etter often found wandering its lower ridges. However, in the Age Prior it was considered climbable, hence the temple at its peak; since the fall of Aveaas, no one has been able to reach the temple and live to tell of it.
There is little promise to be found this far up the trail. It is a constant tempest, not unlike that which I suffered while crossing the Murdan, though here there is only my coat and pack to shield me from the barraging winds. And yet I do not believe I'm even halfway to the summit.

Many individuals will still climb to the First Offering, which is a statue of Sophrae in her dwarven form about a quarter of the way up the lead southern trail. Supposedly, several statues were erected by the original cult at various points along the three main trails; only the First Offering is now commonly known.

I awoke in a small room to two women standing in the center, set over some sort of thin tapestry. They were billowing it between them, the way one might to shake out the dust and mites from an old blanket. In between the movements they murmured to each other, the taller one whispering loudly and the shorter, honey-haired one trying to suppress fits of snorting laughter.

They did not appear to be much older than Inigo but when they turned and realized I had come to, immediately shifting their posture and asking if the feeling had returned to my fingers, their presence gave vestige of persons much older.

by Andrea Mantegna
The Hunt
Sophrae, among other things, is one of the two hunting gods, specifically the ranged hunt. In her dwarven form she is often depicted with a bow, however Raughdon relayed that when hunting with the Lune women, they used a range of different weapons.
The women at the summit apparently would hunt daily, often burning some of their findings as sacrifices to Sophrae. Many of them claimed to have first 'found Sophrae' while hunting, and that she often guided them and whispered to them while in the wilderness as well as under the moon. Though they usually hunted during the day, they would hunt at night for three days out of each month.

by Hiram Powers

I have seen her many times now, and yet I have no hope of describing her. It is in part because I could not possibly do her justice—she is like no one nothing no one else I have ever seen—but also because I don't think I have ever truly seen her. I have seen an image of her, a body that gives her expression some shape, but it does not fully encompass all that she is.

Sophrae's typical form is a black wyvern with glowing white eyes, and according to Raughdon, the Lune temple was filled with iconography and references to both Sophrae as a moon and hunting goddess and as a wyvern.

The women there also give homage to her dragon form, seeking out bears and moose on their hunts for proper meat to sacrifice and casting minerals on the hearth to make the flames a bright white. All of them claim to have seen Sophrae on occasion flying across the moon or sky, a spectacle that is also referenced in images from the original cult.

We've hunted together for several months now; last night, she handed me the key to the second tower. It was a peculiar-looking thing, the end shaped like a scorpion's tail, but I went up and met her on a rooftop similar to the first.

She was nude, and beautiful, though it did not spark the lust I might've expected to be fraught with given both my nature and stay at the temple. Still, I was magnetized. Perhaps I had some inclination for what was to come.

I still can't reckon how it happened. One moment she was a woman and the next something else, but it was not so sudden as I now write it to be. It happened smoothly, the way a swimmer slips into water, stepping and then diving as if they were one thing.


Author's Notes

Any feedback is appreciated! I know it's a bit text-heavy and I'm not even sure if I followed the prompt that well, but I wanted to get this little story out of my system and onto the page.

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