The Ritual

  Celestia plunged into the waters of the Holy Pool, diving underneath its dark surface.  Even its icy depths seemed more inviting than the stone room in which it was contained; it was unlit, and empty.  She surfaced, filling her screaming lungs with air.  The invasive aroma of incense filled her nose - sickeningly sweet - and she coughed.  It made her head spin, but she ignored the sensation.  Then, taking in a larger breath, she dove deeper than before.  She was greeted with icy clarity; her thoughts came into focus, and she felt she could remember everything that had occurred.  The stone-cut features of the giants, the look on Adrasteia's face, her dream...all at her fingertips.

     She imagined this was what was supposed to happen in the first part of the temple ritual.  The woman assisting her with undressing had said that the Pool cleansed the spirit, to remove any evil thoughts and influences.  Running out of air and surrendering to the cold, she emerged from the waters.  She stood in the center of the room, exposed and shivering, while she awaited an attendant's arrival.

     Soon after, a young girl entered the room.  She could not be more than nine, Celestia mused.  The girl seemed to glide across the stones.  Her steps were even, never waivering, so that she may have well been floating above the ground.  Her hair was black as a raven, worn long and untamed by plaits or twists.  As young as she was, she knew that she belonged there, and was quite possibly wise beyond many lifetimes.  There was a grace about the girl that astounded her.  The girl remained silent.  She never moved to say a word, as she beckoned her forth with an outstretched hand.  Celestia followed, stark naked, as the girl led her down a torch-lit corridor, deeper into the bowels of the temple.  They halted at the entranceway to another room.  The girl motioned for her to enter.

     This room was much warmer, however it maintained the heavy scent of incense.  Inside, many women, as silent as the girl that had led her here, stood against the walls.  Celestia centered herself in this room, and an older woman stepped out of her place in the ranks and presented her with a robe.  It was plain white, and not very thick.  But it would suffice to cease her shivering and aid her in covering herself.  She put it on, and wrung out her soaked hair before allowing it to settle on her shoulders again.  Next to approach was a woman on the opposite side of the room, possessing a fine comb.  The woman offered her a seat at her feet, and Celestia took it, gladly, and the woman began to work her way through the mangled locks.  It caused her pain, but she did not dare say a word.  As the rest of the women swarmed her, she began to feel like a child's doll.  She went limp and allowed them to continue their various missions.  She was helpless, and humiliated.

     Finally, after what seemed like hours, the women stepped back, save for the little girl that had led her here.  The girl approached carrying some sort of cloth that Celestia didn't recognize.  Her robe was shed from her body and the garment was unfolded.  It was a full-length tunic, emblazoned with intricate plated gold.  A sash draped from its shoulder to its waist, blue as the sky.  The girl dressed her in the tunic, wrapping the sash and adjusting the drapes, before appearing satisfied, and leaving the room.

     The rest of the women lingered, before setting themselves up in some sort of procession.  She was placed in the center, and guided out the doorway and further through the corridor.


The End

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