The last time he had come to the Reliquary, it had been as a child of three. The Prince, terrified, had stood clinging to his mother’s skirts as they sought the blessing of the Seer for purposes he could no longer remember. Now, as a man, he came seeking guidance from the Gods in other matters of life. Steeling himself, he ducked beneath the archway into the antechamber- straightening after a moment. Looking around, his eyes lingered awestruck, the Reliquary was truly a spectacular sight to behold... The hallway in which he entered was wide, covered on all sides in thin silk draperies painted with elaborate depictions of the myths of his people. As he followed, it led out into a circular chamber divided into two sections. The outer section, not large in width, skirted the edge of the room- decorated with a number of altars to the Gods, and braziers at which their Priests gave their offerings. Among them, tables and high ledges were dotted here and there with candles that lent a mystical, almost otherworldly feel to the room. And where they sat, they sat upon mountains of centuries old wax; remnants of the candles that had burned there before them. Beyond that, a row of elaborately carved arched pillars separated the outer chamber from steps leading down into another area sunken deep into the floor in the center of the room. Beneath the towering dome of the Reliquary, amid its arches and its altars, he suddenly felt small and insignificant in the eyes of the Gods; the Prince was three once more- petrified of the Seer and the significance of it all. But perhaps that had always been the intent of the ancestors who had built this place in their honor; perhaps it was meant to instill such emotions of inferiority and unworthiness- to remind men to humble themselves before the Gods. But this was not the time to contemplate the divine, nor the intentions of the ancestors. And so, casting aside his doubts at least momentarily, he pressed further- taking in every element of the ancient space as he went; it was enchanting, but eerie. Liminal in many ways. Most eerie of all was the Seer herself- a small, delicate figure seated amidst a sea of pillows and sheets of silk in the center of the floor below him. Iridescent light from the night’s full moon filtered through the glass portal at the top of the dome, washing over her. It made her already pale skin glow almost preternaturally- a slight aura, like a beacon, radiating around her as the light reflected from her skin. Yet as eerie as it all was, the image of her there in the center of the Sanctum was almost serene... Or it would have been if not for the thick, heavy black smoke filling the air around them. The young Prince coughed once, twice, trying to remove the cloying, sickly sweet scent of the incense from his lungs. It was a futile attempt, however; somewhere in the flickering shadows of the outer chamber the distinct hiss of water over coals could be heard- followed shortly by the faint crackle of more herbs being thrown to smolder. Just like that, the smoke in the air thickened until all he could make out was the hazy outline of the Seer before him. He sighed then, and wiped his eyes in an effort to refocus them on her. With her face turned upwards to bask in the moonlight, she seemed not to notice him at all. Instead her chest continued to rise and fall undisturbed in short, quick breaths. The motion pulled the sheer fabric of her dress across her breasts, and for a moment he was lost in the divine image of it all... And who wouldn't be, when faced with the very ethereal image of godly beauty? His eyes lingered there until small voice in the back of his mind broke the trance- wondering how it was she could breathe so easily with all this smoke. Blushing with both shame and embarrassment the Prince quickly averted his eyes before kneeling at the top of the steps as was customary.
I come before you, Seer, to seek your counsel. The Queen Mother says-
In the quietness of the Reliquary his voice was loud. His words faltered as the suddenness of their sound struck him. Clearing his throat, the Prince opened his mouth to speak again- but his mouth dried instantly when the Seer turned her milky eyes on him... A quick, sharp gesture of her hand silenced any further effort on his part to speak, and he tilted his head to her in respectful deference.
You seek a Wife, and a Wife you shall have- but only once the moon is full again in another month’s time. When it is, you must seek your Maiden at the pond to the West of here… But to earn her, you must pierce her through with an arrow. Your aim must be true, however. If it is not, your Kingdom will suffer. Now go.
He stared at her blankly for a moment, dumbfounded by her response. Who would be commanded to shoot their own Bride- and what fool would go through with such a terrible deed? If she were to be his bride then certainly it would be a grievous slight against the Gods! It was, after all, a blasphemy against them to shed the blood of an innocent, let alone a Maiden to be wed… Just the thought of it alone made bile rise into his throat. He opened his mouth to protest, but found that his mouth was suddenly so dry he could not speak at all. Even if he could, however, he did not think that it would matter. The Seer was once again lost in her sight; head tilted back, milky eyes staring unblinkingly into the night sky. The Prince rose to his feet instead, bowed to her once again, and left the Reliquary- and the Seer- behind as fast as his feet could carry him.
Fantasy, Fairy Tale, Lore / Folklore