Oblivion’s Light - “Cleansing” [Living Starship]

scene 7 by Lauren Hershey & Layman Kingsford

Cera was getting heavier from exhaustion, her bare feet slowly trodding across the stone floor. Ranna could imagine that Cera's back was still throbbing; it felt hot to the touch, and Ranna's arm curved gently around the slack girl's upper body to help ease her up.

They were almost to her bed chambers in the Northwest wing of Bantar Apnan. Children who ran by stopped to glance at the strange woman with golden hair whose face stared down at the floor. Their eyes opened wide and they pointed earnestly, motioning to each other. Ranna gave them all a significant glance and a small smile and they stopped ogling the strange woman, immediately resuming their frolicking play down the halls. Ranna and Cera had finally reached her chamber.

Ranna shifted Cera's weight to her left side and knocked on the door to the ante chamber. An older woman with a kindly face opened the door and gasped slightly at the sight. She quickly bowed to Ranna yet accused, "Nǐ chīfàn le ma?!"

The woman's wrinkled eyes took sight of Ranna and Cera and she scoffed, disapprovingly; still muttering her worry aloud, she turned and fetched two other elderly woman, dressed in loose white robes. They quickly came over and took Cera out of Ranna's grasp, gingerly carrying the woman over to a healing bath.

Ranna didn't realize until now how much she missed them. She turned over the matronly observations in her head, replying, "Yes, Dawa, I have recently eaten." Ranna's eyes lit, "Hǎo jiǔ bú jiàn... nǐhǎo ma?"

Dawa came over and clasped Ranna's hand with her two, gazing into the young woman's eyes. "Wǒ hěn hǎo, nǚ'ér," Dawa said lovingly, patting Ranna's hands. Dawa signaled with her eyes toward the balcony and Ranna nodded, understanding the woman's request.

Stepping onto the balcony, Ranna breathed deeply, inhaling the mountain air. She removed her black leather boots and stood on the cool stone, striding over to her prayer wheel. The colored prayer flags that were suspended above her head danced in the light breeze, welcoming her home. With a swift motion, she shifted her torso and pulled the prayer wheel back... then, she let it go and it spun, the whistling wind moving the metal around and around. Ranna could hear Dawa and the women softly humming and singing their meditations of healing. Ranna smelled the familiar scent of incense and medicinal herbs being ceremoniously tossed into the bath waters. She hoped they were well enough supplied with Novanite herbs to make for Cera’s recovery. There were no Novanites currently serving in the League of Dragons.

She turned to gaze inside and caught glimpse of Cera's nude back, so torn up with recent wounds. The rest of the woman's legs and arms were clear of injury and ruin... just the broken flesh on her back gleamed a disparate pink against the amber glow of the bath chamber. Ranna watched as the healers helped lower Cera into the tub. Steam rose from the water and Cera cried out when the heat and medicine touched her back. Ranna's eyes closed as she heard the sounds of splashing water. Cera was in excellent and kind hands, as sponges and prayers washed over her.

Ranna re-opened her eyes, and gazed, determined, at the Mountain. Her mind clear, she slowly began to sing to herself. "May it be that the embodiment of compassion grips me. May the true sound of truth ring clear. May I attain through humility... all that I will not fear..." She repeated the refrain a few times, the wind as her accompaniment. The Mountain of Light loomed and so did its peril. Tomorrow, Cera would have to face her initial trial... and Ranna was tasked with teaching her how to survive.

After what seemed like hours, the sun began to set, framing the towering peaks with emblems of light. They finally became enshrouded silhouettes and the healers, exhausted from their efforts, indicated that Cera was ready to emerge from the tub after Ranna's benediction.

Ranna strode into the chamber, breathing in the fresh scent of herbs. She kneeled at the side of the tub and caught Cera's blue gaze. Cera's cheeks flushed light pink at the acknowledgment of her nudity, and Ranna lifted her silk veil to her dark eyes-- both granting herself more comfort and allowing Cera to feel less exposed.

Dipping her hand into the water and withdrawing some of the liquid, Ranna spoke: "We take you as our refuge and pray that your strength never forsakes you, your devotion never abandons you, and your suffering never cripples you. With this, I invoke my responsibility-- by our people and the League-- to safeguard you and teach you, so long as you are faithful." Ranna poured the water over her own eyes and the women murmured the prayer and did the same. Cera began to silently shake, tears streaming down her eyes. 

Ranna's chest grew heavy and she unveiled her face, looking at Cera. "There is no more time for tears. Rest tonight. Clear your mind of all you have seen... for tomorrow, you will learn to be truly strong. Dispel your fears now, Cera."

She got up and left the bath chamber, letting the women wrap Cera's wounds and dress her in silk for sleep. Ranna's mind gripped with hesitation. It would take all of her own strength as well to go back to that place, let alone teach another to navigate its ways. Ranna walked over to her bedside and picked up her dagger, moving it around her hand, letting the blade gleam in the half-light of the room. This is all she had been given before being left in the Mountain of Light for three days. It had been her only defense against the horrors inside... how far she had come now.

All those terrible lessons were about to pay off.

Oblivions Light logo

© 2011  Cheeky Dingo, LLC