What would it look like if the Gospel told a story of magic?
At the break of dawn on the Day of Light, the priests, exchanging their colourful everyday clothes for robes of pure, gleaming white, gathered in front of the House of Ayam, to stand around the Fountain of Light. The fountain was a simple round pool, calm and glassy, then bubbles began disturbing the center, ripples spreading towards the edge. Soon, streams sprang into the air, bubbling and splashing.
People began to congregate in the large stone courtyard in front of the House, collecting in families and noiselessly finding seats on the cold ground. Many of them were poor - dirt and hunger evident on their faces and bodies. Still, they wore their brightest clothes and sat on the ground with tall, proud posture, watching the fountain. Most of the people had blond hair, a trademark of their common ethnicity.
The sky began to brighten, from dark grey it changed to yellow and orange, a hint of pink lining the clouds in the east. Someone began to sing a familiar melody. One by one the people joined in, their voices echoing off the stone buildings and ground, rising to the coloured heavens.
Children watched the gurgling fountain, entranced. They giggled when it made a big splash. The sound of their laughter was even more beautiful than the colours that flew in the morning sky. Professional singers and dancers performed graceful routines, building the intense beauty of the dawn.
From their places around the fountain, the priests led the people of Ayam in worship, reading stories and prophecies from their books history, performing complicated rituals, and singing songs of praise and prayer.
An unacknowledged, but clearly present shadow hung over their ceremony: Goran soldiers, armed with sharp steel blades, frowned from their strategic posts, ready to intervene if things got out of hand. The Goran king knew how to keep a tight fist around his conquered subjects without his kingdom collapsing in rebellion: keep them poor and keep them scared.
The people of Ayam, however, were determined to keep to their customs as they had in their homeland. The foreign king could take away their freedom and their land, but he could not take away their spirit. Ayam was the source of their power. The false Goran statues were nothing compared to the Light.
In the next part of the ceremony, a priest would be chosen to enter the House of Ayam on behalf of the people. To discern Ayam's choice, a young apprentice, training to be a priest, dipped his hand in the fountain's pool and flicked it, scattering droplets to the ground. He knelt to study and interpret the pattern of little dark spots.
An elderly priest named Elitham, with long hair and beard the colour of his robes, gazed into the fountain, a small smile gathering the creases at the corner of his mouth. He had received a dream the night before and already knew whose name would be called.
"The Priest Elitham." The apprentice's voice was shaky but clear.
The people began another song as Elitham left his place at the fountain, bowed to them, removed his sandals, and climbed the steps to enter the House.
Elitham had been inside the House of Ayam many times to serve, but the Fountain of Life never failed to take his breath away. Though it never appeared the same way twice, it was always awe inspiring.
Today, the fountain floated high above his head: a tangled stream of running water, twisting and weaving into a globe, light beaming out from the core. The fountain needed no pool to catch the spray. Instead, a circle of fuel-less, smoke-less fire danced on the floor underneath, continuously changing colours. The other three elements - Air, Earth and Growth - also lent their magic to the room. A warm whispering wind circled the room, beautiful melodies floating on its breath. The floor was made out of colourfully stained glass, reflecting the beauty of the ceiling and walls: a wonderful surface for seeing visions. In the areas that weren't decorated with paints, precious metals, flowing vines, and inset gems, the stone walls seemed to shimmer with quartz and other crystals.
Elitham carefully waded into the fire, his bare feet only tickled by the colourful flames. The fire swelled, rising to his waist, as if trying to swallow him. Elitham banished his fear and lowered the incense, which caught easily. Heat and yellow light spread from the scented sticks. Elitham scattered them around, dropping them beneath the rippling flames. Then he knelt to pray for his people.
Though the language of their ancestors had been outlawed by their Goran oppressors, and was nearly lost now due to lack of use, the priests still preferred to use it for prayer:
"We thank you Ayam, for choosing us to be your people, and for showering us with your wonderful gifts and promises. May your light always favour your people. May your laws and guidance shine in our hearts. And if we have mistakenly followed the path of darkness, please forgive us and set us straight."
He whispered the last line, "May the path you have laid be followed to the end."
Thunder cracked above his head. Terrified, Elitham opened his eyes. The fire was gone, replaced by a thick white glittering mist that saturated the air. "Elitham," the powerful voice thundered again. It didn't hurt, but Elitham flattened himself to the floor, every muscle in his body vibrating in terror.
Next he heard a child's laugh, soft and playful. Elitham felt something rest on his shoulder. He lifted his head, bravely. In front of him was a child clothed in the white robes of a priest, though he did not even look old enough to be an apprentice. The boy had glowing white skin and startling bright orange eyes. His mouth was curved in a playful smile.
"Stand up, Elitham," the boy said simply, offering a small white hand. Elitham took it, surprised by the power he sensed in it, and stood. The white mist had settled, and now swirled around his knees like a shimmery fog.
"Ayam is with you, Elitham. We have heard your prayers. Long you have dreamed of having a child. It shall come to pass. Name her Iana. Ayam will be with her and she will have powerful gifts and wisdom. Her birth will be the beginning of freedom for Ayam's children."
Elitham's mind spun. It was too good to be true. In fact, it was impossible. "But how can this... But Ayam knows I am too old. My wife-"
The boy interrupted, disappointment in his voice. "Do you think that time has power over Ayam's chosen path?"
Elitham shut his mouth tight, determined not to shame himself further.
"Your own disbelief has bound your mouth," the boy said sadly. "You will speak again the day your daughter is born. Next time you will believe." It was not a threat, but a second chance.
The old man closed his eyes, suddenly exhausted. When he opened them, the room was dark and the boy was gone, laughter still echoing on the circling wind. He must have taken a long time, because the crowd murmured anxiously, then cheered when he stumbled down the steps. They sang and danced a few more songs until the sun was high overhead.
As the boy had predicted, Elitham had lost the ability to speak. He silently wandered the crowds in search of his wife, unable to even call her name.