WorthyMature

Kaye awoke to the heavy smell of incense, the same they had burned in the dark before she had fallen asleep. Rich fabric soothed her pale white skin, glowing softly in the smothered light that found its way through a forgotten slit in the drapery. 

She had never seen this quarter before, but her body had decided it never wanted to leave. She let her muscles loose, let the soft wovens cradle her. Not only could she not place her whereabouts, but she could not remember the past evening beyond brief sensory flashes. She let them run through her mind sleepily, the black patches of memory loss not bothering her. 

She was used to this by now, it was her sixth Feasting. This was Kaye's twenty first year, and her lips curved in a lazy smile remembering how disoriented she had been her fifteenth year, so much so a Glori had been called in to restore some of the evening. He had laughed at her, she recalled, but not been unkind. He had had plenty of other first year stops to make that morning. 

She had learned to ride the wave now, and stretched languorously, comfortable with the knowledge that they had all been with the Gods the night before. 

Finally, Kaye let her eyes open to the chamber, and rolled to one side, expecting to see someone there, body draped and liquid in sleep. Instead, she saw only undisturbed blankets and sheets. This startled her face into a frown. She had been taught there was always someone, sometimes a man, sometimes a woman. 

She felt her stomach turn and carefully rolled to a sitting position. The golds and russets of the chamber and the liquid yellow of the light were a kaleidoscope across her deep rose gold curls, which tumbled around her creamy white shoulders as she stood, hands clenching slightly, to survey the scene. She saw no offerings.

It was an unusually magnificent chamber that she had apparently come to alone. Kaye walked over to the table at the end of the bed. Her clothes were hung on hooks by the door, straight and neat as the noda always left their belongings while they slept. On the table rested her jeweled portus, which she picked up and opened, the mirrored surface showing only her reflection, then static. Blocked? 

Kaye frowned again. Something she couldn't quite place was wrong. Normally, a portus feed would at least show a picture of the main hall, or the noda quarters where she could summon a meal. Perhaps hers had been damaged somehow last night. She scowled and placed it back on the table. It had been an expensive one, a copy of the porti given to the Glori initiates last season. She had wanted nothing more than to be one of them, but they had pronounced her too inexperienced.

She eyed the bed, empty but for her, once more, a troubled line marring her brow. She had never heard of such a thing- but then she imagined it was not something people discussed. Had she not been chosen?

She sighed, reaching out to wrap a robe woven in a hair fine mesh around her body. All of the comfortable tiredness had left her muscles, and now she was tense, even irritable. And hungry. She would have to walk down to the kitchens to find a noda to serve her now.

Kaye heard a noise behind her, and startled. Behind her, one of the small, dark people known as the noda stood quietly, large liquid eyes staring at her respectfully. They never spoke, they were not allowed. Instead, they communicated in hand signals to one another, and with their masters only if absolutely necessary. For the moment, he bowed, and held out his hands to direct her behind a curtain she had not noticed before. 

A hot bath awaited there in a large stone tub, with a breakfast laid out nearby for afterwards. She smiled her thanks to the small man, but he did not smile back. Kaye wondered what had gotten into the noda- they were nothing if not polite to a fault. Dropping the airy robe from her shoulders, she got into the foamy water, relaxing as the noda stepped forward with a large mug of mulled wine. 

She took it gladly and sipped. Before long, that same familiar warmth came back to her body, and the water cradled her just as the luxurious bed had. She smiled and set the empty glass aside, enjoying the warmth, and the noda's hands on her neck and hair. 

Kaye slid further into the stone tub, and put out a hand to push herself back up. That was when she realized, with some panic, that her hand had never moved. In fact, her entire body was tingling and heavy, and she found that she could not struggle at all. She could not feel the noda's massaging hands. She let out an involentary cry. 

The noda stepped to the side of the tub and looked at her, his liquid eyes apologetic. 

"Why?" Kaye rasped. She could feel her vocal cords going stiff now as well. They would soon be as useless as the rest of her. 

The noda reached to a table and rang a tiny bell. From behind the draperies stepped women, all in the blood red robes and veils that the Glori wore. Only their eyes showed as they stepped closer to the tub. 

Kaye slipped farther into the water, it covered her mouth now. She made a strangled noise, and gentle hands reached into the water to lift her, in unison, to a covered table. She was dripping, and shivering involuntarily. She moaned, but could not form words to confront the eight women surrounding her.

One reached out with a hand to soothe her brow, and the woman's clear blue eyes met her own. "Hush, young one. You were told you would be with us one day, and now so you shall." Kaye was not comforted. Her eyes widened, and she could feel her muscles straining against their invisible medicine. Magic, they called it- but she knew it was only more medicine, more technology. Kaye had been obsessed with the Glori and their ways since her fifteenth year.

Tears leaked helplessly from the corners of her eyes. She knew now.

They had moved to another table now, where they prepared oils. Oils they would rub her skin with, and soak her hair in before they tenderly bound it all in white cloth.

"She will make a fine sacrifice," the old woman said to the others, who murmured in assent.

Kaye remembered the smell of the incense burning in the room this morning now. It had been the temple incense.

The End

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