"Fay, what time are you expecting Jasper?" her mother called from the hall of their sumptuous mansion. She paced a rut in the floor, her foot steps falling in constant time. Lines of concern etched on her middle-aged face, as she wrung her hands glancing impatiently at the bedroom door with every pass.
"About nine o'clock mom. Why?" Fay called back.
"You better get a move on,” she warned. “It’s almost nine now."
"Oh my gosh, no way!” Fay exclaimed, as she fastened the pearl white belt around the waist of her party dress. “I've still got so much left to do."
"Do you need any help dear?"
"No, no I got it,” replied Fay. “Thanks."
"Are you sure?" her mother offered. "I've been known for a good updo or two in my day."
Fay rushed around her bedroom gathering the last vestiges of her New Years Eve outfit. Her mother’s footsteps sounded through the room like a clock ticking time down, spurring Fay on to move faster.
"I was thinking of leaving my hair down since it's grown so long. A simple band will look pretty with my dress."
"You're right as usual dear. I'm sure it’ll be beautiful," she said, stopping outside the bedroom door.
Fay’s mother leaned her head on the door, her tone full of concern for her daughter. "Fay, can we talk without you getting upset?"
“What's on your mind mom?" Fay asked, even though she already knew the answer to her question. Fay found relief in the closed bedroom door because it meant her mother couldn't see the apprehension and worry etched on her daughter’s face. No one could ever fully understand the will of the Gods nor the reasons behind Their seeming madness.
"I'm worried about tonight. Fay, I don't want you to get hurt. I've heard the awful things the others have said. I know you feel that as the Oracle you should go, but your father and I…well…" She paused and took a deep, steadying breath before continuing. “We wouldn’t fault you for staying home. None of this is your doing.”
Fay paused from putting her pearl tear drop earring in and rested her hands on the vanity. Looking at her reflection in the mirror, Fay saw a sad young woman staring back at her. She was, by Muridae standards, a beautiful young female. She had long golden brown hair with hints of honey running through it. It was brushed to a shiny gloss and swept over her left shoulder. A satin headband that matched her dress held it back from her face.
Her dress, a semi-formal gown with a full skirt, was a warm shade of pumpkin. It complemented her light features well, setting her hazel eyes ablaze.
Fay squared her shoulders, lifted her head high and replied defiantly, "Don't worry about me. I'm sure I can handle anything they throw at me. Besides, tonight is about celebration and renewal. I have faith the Gods will send a sign. I mean, they wouldn't let the year end without a replacement Oracle named."
“I know I can’t stop you from going. You’re too stubborn to listen. Just promise me you'll stay with Jasper. He’ll keep you safe," her mother pleaded. Hearing the resolve in her daughter’s voice, Fay’s mother relaxed just a little. She could and would put on a brave face for her daughter. There wasn’t much and average Muridae could do for the Oracle but she could do that much. If her daughter could be brave in the face of the others condemnation so would she. Tonight they would celebrate the New Year just like everyone that came before.
"You have my word," Fay vowed. "Now, what do you think of this?" Fay asked as she opened the bedroom door and grandly sashayed out into the hall.
Her mother's hands flew up to cover her mouth in awed surprise. "Oh Fay,” she said breathlessly. “You're a vision."
"Thanks mom! Do you think Jasper will like it?" Fay asked, twirling slowly.
"If he doesn't, then there is something seriously wrong with that boy. But then again, he does like you so there is no way to be sure," she joked.
"Oh mom,” cried Fay. “How could you say that?"
A soft smile spread across a slightly older vision of Fay as she radiated a mother’s love and adoration for her daughter. She marveled at the strong, resilient young woman standing before her, not quite a girl and not quite so jaded a woman. If she had her way, the next Oracle would be named tonight lifting Fay’s responsibility to the Gods and thus freeing her daughter to finally enjoy the life she deeply desired. "Fay, you look stunning. You're going to be the talk of the party, not just because there hasn't been a replacement Oracle named but because the others will be all aflutter over your beauty."
Fay smiled at the love she felt in her mother's comforting words. She looked to the floor to break the intensity of the moment. Her nerves threatened to claim her. The whole of the Muridae Fey expected a new Oracle child to be born within the year. Yet, with merely hours left the prospects couldn’t look grimmer. This has never happened in all of their recorded history. Everyone was nervous, filled with the uncertainty of what this could mean for the line of Oracles and each and every one of them. The concern weighted heavily on Fay as she prepared herself for the coming nights events. "Now you're just being ridiculous," commented Fay.
"Wow! Fay you look so beautiful!" The male voice came from down the hall somewhere behind the two women. Jasper stopped dead in his tracks when he’d caught sight of Fay.
"Jasper, I didn't know you were here," Fay replied. The smile on her face lit up her eyes.
Jasper was of average height for a Muridae, about three inches tall by human measure. He stood slightly taller then Fay. He wore a black suit with a silver vest and a pearl white shirt. The silver in the vest matched his shoulder length hair perfectly. Jasper's hair fell straight as a pin and framed his features nicely. He wore glasses that gave him a scholarly appearance.
"See, I wasn't laying it on thick. Jasper has yet to close his mouth," her mother commented with a chuckle.
"Oh sorry, Mrs. Fontina. I didn't mean to be rude."
"No need to apologize. Beautiful things should be admired,” she replied coyly. “Speaking of beautiful things, you look very handsome tonight, Jasper. That vest makes your blue eyes shine like sapphires."
"Mom!" chided Fay, “You're embarrassing me."
"You should be used to it by now, really Fay," teased Mrs. Fontina. "You two should get going. You don't want to miss all the fun. I am going to finish getting ready. Your father and I will be along shortly. Oh, and Jasper, I'm trusting in you to keep her safe and have her home at a decent hour."
"I will Mrs. Fontina,” Jasper said with a respectful nod of his head. “You have my word. And thank you for the compliment."
"I just need to grab my bag, and then we can go," her worries temporarily forgotten Fay hurried back to her bedroom.
The kitchen garden that grew on the Jenkins' family farm was fenced in by a number of old, tall hedge roses. The roses were planted generations ago and lovingly tended by each matriarch.
Along the perimeter of the hedges, protection crystals were worked into the soil. Charged with the life force of the Muridae Fey, the crystals would keep their presence hidden from human eyes. The humans would never see the Muridae walking around through the rose brambles. They wouldn't see the homes crafted into the landscape. So long as the Muridae occupied the land, the crystals would remain charged, drawing on the magical energy naturally shed by the Fey.
The crisp fall night held a slight chill in the calm air. The smell of fallen leaves permeated the night. The few fluffy clouds that dotted the night sky parted to let the moon's bright light shine as Jasper and Fay made their way to the celebration hall.
"Are you sure you still want to go?" asked Jasper.
Fay took a deep breath to calm her nerves before answering. "Yes, I need to do this. The others need to know that I'm not afraid of them. Jasper, I did nothing wrong. I didn't cause this and you know that."
"I know. I never said you did. I just don't want to see you get hurt," he said, sliding his hand into hers as they walked.
"You've been through the scriptures. You know as much as I do about the history of, not just the race of, Muridae Fey, but the Oracle children. Since the very beginning of recorded history, there’s always been a replacement named by the end of the current Oracle’s twentieth birth year."
"I know. It's not fair that the others are blaming you. The Elder Counsel should step up and say something on your behalf.” Jasper’s frustration mounted. “I don't know why they’re being so quiet about the whole thing. We look to them for leadership and they are falling down on the job."
“We should head inside,” Fay encouraged. “No use in rehashing everything. All we can do now is wait for the Divinity Stone to signal the arrival of the next child."
“Alright, but if I see Roquefort I’m going to speak with him. Maybe he can persuade his father to influence the counsel on your behalf.”
She stopped, furrowed her brow and looked to him confused, “Why would he do a thing like that?”
“You aren’t serious?” Jasper replied, rolling his eyes.
“I am. Why would he care? Roquefort is just like all the other well-to-do Muridae, a stuck up snob,” Fay answered. “They only care about themselves and what they can gain. What type of gain would he get from helping me out?”
“Fay, he’s had a thing for you ever since that time you saved him from his own stupidity,” Jasper said pointedly.
Fay waved her hand as if brushing the spoken words away would make them less true, “You’re talking nonsense, Jasper. I don’t see how he could have a crush on me for stopping him that night.”
“Aw, come on, Fay. Don’t tell me you haven’t noticed the way he always seeks you out. No matter what festival or occasion we’re at he manages to find you. Then, he hogs as much of your time as he can. I have to stay on my toes to keep him away from you,” Jasper informed her.
Fay didn’t say anything for a moment as she thought about the different run-ins she’d had with Roquefort. “Wow, now that I think about it Jasper, you’re right. How could I not see it? It’s been going on for so long that I just never gave it any thought.”
“You know…” Jasper prodded, “You never really did explain what you saw that night to make you so upset with him.”
“I remember that night like it was yesterday,” Fay said as she began to recount the events of that night so long ago. “I’d just turned ten the week before. I remember because that night was the start of a very busy year. I’d so many visions dealing with the farm expansion. Not to mention, all the safety concerns of the Muridae as we moved to new territories. I oversaw the set up of new protection spells and the placement of protection stones in the new areas around settlements.
“Anyway, I was sound asleep, thoroughly exhausted from the busy day. I hadn’t been asleep long when the vivid dream began. I could see the Jenkins’ kitchen garden lit by the light of a full moon. I saw it through the border of the roses. But my line of sight was all wrong. It felt as if I was seeing things from a higher perspective. Not to mention, my body felt different, taller and ganglier.”
“I was looking for something that existed outside of our protected land. I looked around excitedly for my prize as I danced along the edges of the crystal boundary. I could smell the intoxicating scent of it as it filled the evening air. Closing my eyes, I would breathe in deeply to enjoy the scent for as long as I could. It was so heavenly, like nothing I’d ever smelled before. I picked up notes of nutmeg, cloves and vanilla. I remember the feeling of excitement building at the thought of how much she would like that flower. Hopefully, it would mean she’d like me for being brave enough to get it for her; the girl of my dreams.”
“Finally, I found what I was looking for, the rare, night blooming, Evening Stock flower. It was a new addition to the garden. Mrs. Jenkins’ was so thrilled with the rare find. She fussed over the plant for weeks waiting for it to open. In the nights leading up to the first bloom, she stayed out late in the garden. Her anticipation grew with each passing bloomless night. When it did finally open, the humans and Muridae alike were enthralled with the intoxicating scent. Mrs. Jenkins continued to stay late in the garden enjoying the smell. That night I thought she would never leave, but my patience finally paid off when she finally went inside. The plant itself wasn’t very pretty to look at but the small, delicate flower was amazing.”
“I’d locked my sights on the newest bloom to open. That was my target. I took a tentative step outside the crystal boundary and froze for a moment. I waited to hear alarms going off but nothing. No one came or rushed to stop me. No one was there to yell at me. Bolstered with new found confidence and the knowledge that if any human saw me, it didn’t matter because all they would truly see is a brown mouse, I started out.”
“I headed confidently across the garden path toward the patch of flowers. The path that once looked so small from the gardens edge now seemed huge. It was taking longer then I expected to cross it. With every step my heart raced faster and faster. I could hear it thumping loudly in my ears. It confused me as to why I was so fearful. I remember thinking how foolish I was being. There was nothing to worry about. The humans were inside along with their stupid, fat cat. After what seemed like an eternity, I could tell I would soon reach the other side of the path. I could almost reach the nearest leaf. In fact, I’d become brave and took a slap at the leaf. Just when my hand should’ve hit the leaf, the ground and leaf fell away from me.”
“The thumping in my ears grew so loud I couldn’t hear a thing. I looked around trying to figure out what the heck was happening. To my disbelief and shock, I was being lifted off the ground by a child. I was caught, stupidly caught by a buffoon child. I looked into the child’s eyes and saw the reflection of me, in mouse form, with my mouth open, eyes wide in fear.”
“That’s when I woke, my heart racing and I was covered in sweat. I knew if that scene came true, we would be exterminated mercilessly.”
“I remember that night a little differently,” Jasper said. “I remember a bunch of us taking a break from all the moving. We were relaxing and just goofing around in the cool night air, when you stormed up to poor Roquefort. You were so mad and you let him have it. I’ve never seen anything like it. You laid into him like it had already happened. He’d no idea why you were yelling at him like that. Then, after you unloaded you stormed away, not letting anyone talk to you.”
“Everyone was quiet until we knew you’d be far enough away you couldn’t hear a peep. Then, we all busted up laughing at Roquefort. I had to explain to him what had just happened. I told him, he’d just experienced a Fay-nado.”
“A Fay-nado?” Fay asked sternly, pulling her hand from his in disapproval.
“Yeah, you know,” Jasper started to say, as he fought the laughter bubbling up at seeing Fay’s stern expression. “You Fay, can have the same devastating impact as a tornado. No one knows when it’s coming or how fierce it will be, but you sure know when you’ve been through one.”
“Jasper!” Fay said severely, stomping her foot. “How could you think that was funny?!”
Jasper laughed uproariously, clutching his sides as his whole body shook in merriment at her mad expression.
“Stop it! It’s not funny!”
“Y-yes it is. You should see your face,” his sapphire eyes twinkled with barely contained merriment, as another fit of laughter took hold.
Fay knew she couldn’t stop him. In a huff, she resigned to crossing her arms and tapping her foot angrily while waiting for Jasper to regain control.
“Okay, okay,” he panted, trying to catch his breath. “Do you really wanna know why it’s so funny?”
Jasper placed his hands on her shoulders and looked deep into her hazel eyes. He wanted her to see truth of the words he was about to say. “It’s funny because your fury and passion is so strong that it blows everyone away. It shows the depth of your caring. Fay, you’re a remarkable and strong lady. I and everyone else stand in awe of your gifts. You’ve no idea just how talented and special you really are. There’ll never be another Oracle like you. The proof of that is loud and clear because the Gods have yet to name your replacement.”
Fay was stunned by Jasper’s assertion. He always amazed her with the depths of his perception. “That’s the sweetest thing you’ve ever said to me,” her voice not much louder then a whisper.
Jasper pulled her close, wrapping her in a warm embrace he whispered in her ear. “You shouldn’t feel so shocked. I love my Fay-nado no matter which way her winds blow.”
Fay relaxed into him. Leaning on him, she chuckled at his foolishness, releasing her tension and anger. The sound of his heart beat always calmed her frayed nerves. She would give anything to stay like this in his arms forever.
Soon. She thought. Soon we will be together as husband and wife and I can leave all of this behind. We can have our quiet little life together.
“Come on,” Jasper prompted, releasing her. “We better get going. It wouldn’t look good if your parents beat us there.”
Reluctantly, she agreed taking his hand in hers once again as they continued on the path to the celebration hall.
The hall was beautifully decorated with the rich fall colors. Tables scattered about the room were simply dressed but elegant. Each one was covered in a cream cloth with floating crystal lights carved into different fall symbols. There were pumpkins, gourds, mum flowers and every type of tree leaf.
The band played soft music as the mice arrived. A space in center of the grand room was left clear for the dancing that would soon follow. Across the room from the band, along the back wall, were tables piled high with food enough for everyone. Tonight there would be an impressive feast to celebrate the bountiful harvest, the ending of one year and the beginning of the new.
The room was softly lit, not only from the floating crystals on the tables but also from the lights running along the ceiling. The crystal lights were strung together and charged with the Muridae’s magical energy allowing them to glow softly. The lights stretched forth from the middle of the ceiling out to every corner and draped slightly, giving a tented feel to the room.
Fay stiffened as they crossed the thresh hold into the grand room, unprepared for the sight the greeted them. She swallowed hard. The slight quiver in her whispered words shouted her fear. “Jasper, everyone’s already here.”
“This is unusual, but to be expected. Fay, everyone is nervous and anxious about tonight.” Jasper concluded.
“I guess you’re right. I just wasn’t expecting it. Jasper, I don’t know if I can do this,” Fay finally confessed turning to lose herself in his calming blue eyes. They always reminded her of the pond on a warm summer’s day.
“Nonsense, of course you can do this. Didn’t you just finish telling me this isn’t your fault?” he asked.
“Well yes, but that was…”
Jasper placed his finger on her lips to prevent her from giving voice to her fears. “Fay, I love you. I vow to never force you to do anything you can’t handle. This here, this is nothing. You can do this. You can walk, talk, and dance here with your head held high. You’ve done your job. You’ve been a wonderful Oracle. You’ve brought much good to our community. You’ve saved many from ruin. You’ve got nothing to fear. And just in case you missed it the first few times tonight, I love you and I am right here to protect you.” With his last word, Jasper removed his finger from her lips and replaced it with a gentle kiss.
Fay melted at his touch as she always did. Her knees turned to jelly and when she thought her legs wouldn’t hold her any longer, he released her. Fay looked up into his mesmerizing blue eyes and found her confidence once more.
The night proceeded without much trouble. Friends and family surrounded Fay. Jasper ran interference, as usual, with Roquefort. Even though none of them would openly admit it, Fay knew they were trying to protect her. She was grateful for all of them and the love they showed her.
As the minutes to the New Year ticked away, Fay couldn’t help but notice how everywhere Muridae were talking about the absence of a new Oracle Child. Once again, she felt like it was her fault. Jasper, as always, was by her side consoling her and protecting her from the accusing glances of others. But the pressure grew to be too much for Fay. Her head pounding, she turned to ask Jasper to take her home when the room began to spin. The whispers in her head grew overwhelmingly loud.
I’m falling, Fay thought. Will someone catch me? Jasper, where’s Jasper? What’s going on? I don’t understand.
“Help me!” she finally managed to yell, as everything grew dark and she was lost to her surroundings.
A reassuring female voice spoke to her lovingly, “Shhhh, I’m here for you my child. I have not abandoned you like the others.”
“Wh-who’s there?” Fay asked aloud. “Where am I? Where’s Jasper? I need Jasper! He’ll know what to do. He always knows what to do.”
The sweet voice calmly offered her reassurance, “Hush now my sweet Fay. I have a purpose for you. It’s not what you think and you may not like it, but it’s necessary.”
Her fear mounted as Fay begged, “Please, please tell me who you are?”
“Fay, you’d know if only you’d open your eyes!” the voice demanded.
Fay slowly opened her eyes to find that she was no longer at the New Year’s celebration. To her amazement, she was in what could’ve only been a beautiful palace for a God. Fay turned her head slowly taking in the majestic surroundings.
Open, expertly carved archways, supported by gilded columns, led to a magnificent garden where a wall should’ve stood. Every flower was in perfect bloom as the sun shone warmly. A gentle breeze swirled, carrying with it the heady fresh floral aroma.
Fay took note of the large open room and how it was finely decorated. Where Fay’s home was chock-full of ostentatious ornamentation collected by generations of Oracles before her, this room was delicate. Each and every item in the room belonged. There were magnificently carved, crafted or painted items surrounding her but not suffocating in their number.
The Fay realized she was in a receiving room of sorts built of white marble which had delicate ribbons of pink quartz running through it. The walls were adorned with beautiful wilderness paintings that depicted the changing seasons with frolicking animals and fairies. Sleek, comfortable lounge chairs centered around a table made from a cross slice of a tree. Fay could see the tree rings denoting its age and the bark still surrounding the edge. The table, polished to a high gloss, was supported by four carved dwarves.
A huge fireplace dominated the wall directly across from her. It was big enough to be a room all by itself. Fay doubted it had ever been used.
As Fay took in the beauty of the surroundings, movement caught her attention. She turned her focus to the source of the motion and was shocked to see a young maid growing up before her eyes. The young maid continued to age and age rapidly. Panic gripped Fay with the confirmation that she was in the presence of a Goddess.
Standing on now elderly legs, the Goddess slowly approached Fay with an outstretched hand. She neared Fay to the point of almost touching the bewildered young mouse; a thundering crack broke the silence, followed by a momentarily bright light. Fay, now blinded, was scared once again.
It wasn’t until a few moments later that Fay shook the fear from her head allowing her to gain composure along with her sight. There, between Fay and the once elderly woman, stood the most handsome man Fay could ever imagine.
The God standing before her was the perfect embodiment of masculine strength. His warmly tanned muscles were well defined and sinuous. Fay could tell because he wore little in the way of clothing. It consisted only of buckskin breeches with fringing down the outside seam and was complete with moccasin shoes. He stood slightly taller then Jasper by Fay’s assumptions. His deep brown mysterious eyes matched his equally dark and shiny long hair.
“Imerra, knock off the theatrics. You’re scaring her,” his voice boomed through the marble room.
“I was only introducing myself, Fennik,” the Goddess replied, settling on the image of a fiery red haired beauty. She was to the feminine beauty what Lord Fennik was to the masculine. The Goddess wore her long, wavy hair free, with only a simple pearl band encircling her head. Her hair framed her delicate features while highlighting her pretty green eyes.
Goddess Imerra’s white linen dress had a plunging neck line with a high waist that set off her curves beautifully. She wore a thick, ornately carved, jewel-encrusted leather belt low on her waist that ended near her knees. The long flowing Juliet sleeves of her dress were kept some what in check by the arm bands she wore around her bicep. The bands matched the belt in design and ornate detail.
“Imerra,” he said sternly. “You must tell her quickly before the others find out what we’re doing! We need to complete the ritual for this to work.”
“Wh-what are you talking about?” Fay asked, confused by the events unfolding before her. “What do you need to tell me? What ritual? Is there some ritual I was supposed to complete? Is that why there was no Oracle Child born? I looked through all the records. There’s no mention of a ritual to bring the next Child. Wh-What…”
“Calm down Fay,” Lord Fennik said as he laid a soothing hand on her shoulder. “You’ve done nothing wrong.” He continued to talk, but she could barely hear a word Lord Fennik said. Fay’s heart boomed loudly in her ears and her legs shook as panic tightened its hold on her. Her head felt light as her body felt lead heavy with all of the emotions swirling around. Fay knew if she didn’t pull herself together she would swoon.
“Fay!,” Lord Fennik’s voice pulled her back from the precipice. “We’ve a special purpose for you beyond being an Oracle Child. Your life will follow a different path than all the others that came before you. We need you to make the necessary change. But we must move quickly, I’m sorry.”
Goddess Imerra lovingly embraced a stunned Fay.
“I’m the servant of the Gods,” she dazedly replied. “I will do as you need.”
“Good, good, we need to get her to the temple now Imerra,” urged Lord Fennik.
“Fay, I don’t want you to be frightened…”
“I hate to say this,” Fay interrupted. “But it’s a little late for that Goddess.”
“Yes, I know. I’m sorry,” Goddess Imerra started. “We’re going to take you to the Temple of Ages. This may feel uncomfortable for you but it will pass quickly. I promise you’ll be fine. Are you ready? ”
“Y-yes, but…” Before she could say more, Fay was falling again. The winds whipped, tearing at her from all sides. It felt like her very life would be squeezed out of her. Just when she thought all was lost, it stopped as suddenly as it started.
“Fay, my child, are you okay?” Goddess Imerra asked concerned by the grimacing look Fay wore when they arrived.
“Yes. I think so, Goddess,” Fay replied as she hugged herself and tried to regain her bearings.
“Good, then we must move quickly,” ordered Goddess Imerra. “Fennik, carry her. I don’t think she’s as alright as she’d like us to believe.”
Lord Fennik scooped Fay up like she was nothing more then a mere feather. He smelled of sandalwood. She breathed deeply, filling her senses with him. She secretly enjoyed being held this way, by this being, this God.
“Hm hm hm, Fay you flatter me,” he teased. “What about Jasper?”
“Oh! Oh my! I’m so-sorry!” Fay exclaimed, her face set a blaze by her embarrassment. “I meant no disrespect Lord Fennik!”
“Ha ha ha, if I had a ganolt for every woman who fawned over my Fennik, I could create a universe made of nothing but coin. Fennik stop stroking your ego and get out of her head. She needs her privacy!”
“Look, we’re here!” Lord Fennik stated as he stopped and stared at the mound before them.
Where is here? Fay thought to herself as she took in her surroundings, now that Lord Fennik set her down.
The Temple of Ages was a massive earthen mound. It didn’t look like a temple at all. It more resembled a rolling, dome-shaped high hill. Covered by dirt and grasses, it reminded Fay of the hills they rolled down as children.
Goddess Imerra approached a large boulder in the side of the temple. Holding her arm outstretched with her hand spread wide, she spoke the ancient words that made the boulder roll to one side, revealing the hidden entrance. They entered the temple together as Fay’s fears once again rose.
Lord Fennik placed a calming hand on her shoulder and pointed out the corridor they would follow. “Our destination lies at the end of this tunnel.”
The dark walls of the corridor were built out of carved stone. Fay couldn’t tell what type of stone was used, only that the stone was rough and dark gray in color. The walls seemed to swallow all light that touched them. Lighting the way, about every ten steps or so, oddly shaped candle holders hung on the wall overhead. It took Fay passing several before she got a clear picture of what they were sculpted to resemble. They represented all of the different fairy races and their many forms.
It seemed as if they’d walked for hours. Surely I’m mistaken. Fay thought to herself. This place didn’t look that big from the outside. She continued to walk in silence, too afraid to ask for fear her ignorance would upset the two Gods accompanying her.
Finally, the tunnels opened to a high domed room ornately decorated in gold and jewels. A single beam of light shown into the room from the outside. The light bounced off the gold and jewels setting the room ablaze. Fay had to shield her eyes from the intense light. Across from the tunnel opening stood the Altar of Ages. It was a giant sphere replica of their universe. All of the planets in this solar system were represented along with their moons. In real time, Fay saw comets race around, asteroids crash and bang into one another and the turning of the planets. The whole scene played out in miniature.
Lord Fennik moved to stand with Goddess Imerra at the Alter. Hands joined they faced each other reciting more of the ancient incantations. The ground beneath their feet began to tremble. The whole room shook as they chanted louder. Panels in the center of floor moved aside and a smooth stone slab slowly rose into place.
Lord Fennik turned and addressed Fay, “Please Fay, I need you to lie down on the sacrificial table.”
Horrified, Fay looked to Goddess Imerra for help.
“Fennik could you be a bit more gentle?!” Imerra chided. Looking back to Fay she continued, “Please Fay, we need you to lie down, but don’t fear. You will not be sacrificed this day. As I’ve said, we need you so we can start the change.”
It took all of Fay’s strength to make her body listen. Fighting against the fear that made her legs feel as heavy as lead, she took one step and fainted. In a flash, Lord Fennik was by her side, catching her in his strong but gentle arms.
He carefully laid her onto the slab. That was the last thing she would remember from that night.
That was almost sixty years ago now, Fay thought. She contemplated on those long ago memories and the meaning of her life up to this point. An eighty year old Oracle was unheard of ever in the Muridae race of Fey. Each day carried on much like the last. Fay would attend to her daily rituals. She venerated the Gods, led worship services, listened to the whining public, and settled disputes, the list went on and on. Fay waited for the prophesied change. She searched for many decades with baited breath for the slightest sign of this change. It had yet to come. In the last decade, Fay resigned herself to the belief that the Gods are nuts and stopped looking for change.
Its been so long since she had any real prophecies from the Gods that most days Fay felt like a charlatan. Goddess Imerra still whispered to her though. She often tells Fay the funniest stories, whispering the gossip of the Gods. The Goddess has always been kind, consoling Fay in her times of weakness. When she wanted to give it all up by taking her own life, Goddess Imerra was there. She stayed by Fay’s side when Jasper passed away. The Goddess promised they’d meet again once her work here was done.
Fay chuckled aloud at the uncertainty in life and the biggest irony of all -she’s supposed to be the one with the answers.
What work do I have to do here? Fay thought to herself. “I don’t understand the Gods. I’ve done everything they’ve asked of me. Yet, I’ve not received a prophecy from them in over forty years. Huh, and those Muridae have the nerve to call me crazy. If they only knew half of what those Gods were up to! I wonder what they’d say about me then.”
Fay heard the whispering voice of a sweet child; “Your time is nigh.”
“I’ve heard that before and stop trying to sugar coat things. I’m not a child you can charm anymore.”
Fay’s little outburst startled the maid cleaning about her bedroom. “M-m-mistress did you say something?”
“Yes, I said something and it’s none of your business! Now quit dawdling and finish up. I want to be alone.”
“Y-yes mistress,” the maid answered as she finished dusting the mirror Fey so long ago used to prepare for that fated New Years eve party.
With her back to the maid, Fay wore a satisfied smile at the thought of scaring the young maid.
“You shouldn’t tease them so,” came the well known voice.
“Bah, what would you know?” Fay said aloud, startling the maid again as she was leaving, causing her to quickly close the door.
“Fay, I know much and you’d be wise to remember that!” warned the Goddess. “You sure grew into one old cantankerous mouse. I feel bad for poor Jasper! What would he think if he saw you like this?”
“Goddess Imerra, if he was here, I would not be as such. And we both know that, without any Gods powers. Do you have need of me? If not, I prefer to be alone!” she quipped.
“I meant what I said Fay. Your time is soon! You must prepare yourself for the coming change.”
“In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve already been through the “change” once and I don’t plan to go down that road again! They don’t make a winter cold enough to handle those hot flashes!” Fay shouted at the ceiling, as she was still alone in the room.
Goddess Imerra appeared seated on Fay’s bed. She looked much the same as that first meeting almost sixty years ago. Goddess Imerra being a three fold goddess could change her appearance at will from a young maiden to an elderly woman and anything in between. The Goddess most often appeared to Fay as the same young beauty from all those years before. No matter what age she chose, the Goddess was always beautiful and strong.
Goddess Imerra, disinterested by Fay’s latest outburst, examined her finely manicured nails. “Is that the end of your tantrum or should I come back later?”
Fay crossed her arms and sighed deeply at Goddess Imerra. “We mice are not built to live this long. I don’t have another twenty years in me to wait for the next Year of Deliverance, you know this. And I can’t go on another year without Jasper! I miss him so-so very much. I’m not that strong, Goddess, I’m not!” Stiffening her spine she continued, “So, choose your next words carefully. I’m not bluffing! Even you can’t reattach a string once it’s been cut.”
Crossing the distance between them the Goddess knelt before Oracle Fay. The Goddess rested soothing hands on tired old knees. “Fay …, I…, that is, we need you to be strong for a short time longer. You see a new Oracle Child will be born this spring. And well, with her birth it will mean, it will mean your death, my dear one. You need to know what we’ve kept that from you since that time at the temple.”
“Oh and what would that be,” Fay asked her curiosity peeked.
“What you’ve never known is that locked, deep within your spirit you carry the Virtues,” Goddess Imerra revealed. “Lord Fennik and I, we needed to hide the Virtues from the other Gods in the one place they’d never think to look. They’d never suspect their Chosen Child, deliverer of Their Word, would ever hold the Virtues hidden from their reach.”
“What are you going on about?” Fay asked in disbelief. “That is utter nonsense. Maybe I have lost my mind. No one being could hold onto the Virtues. For starters,” she continued talking rapidly, “they look like smoky balls of light. And secondly, without them the world would fall into chaos, with evil ruling. Look around; there is nothing but peace and prosperity here. Many of the mice have grown so fat and lazy that even Farmer Jenkins’ old, half blind cat, Chancy, could catch them.”
Fay chuckled at the image of the cat pouncing on the fat little fairies.
Imerra stood up to look down on Fay. “Why do you think that is?”
Pacing the room, Goddess Imerra continued, “You carry within you the Virtues of Love, Patience, Humility, Forgiveness, Compassion, and Peace. Your lands are touched by you carrying them. We couldn’t seal them away completely. To do that would truly send the world into chaos. As it is, Lord Fennik and I have been monitoring the further regions and quelling piddly, little disagreements to prevent the other Gods from noticing the Virtues are gone. And further more…”
“Wait! Wait, just one second! Why is any of this necessary?” Fay, confusion written all over her wrinkled face, could barely fathom what she’d just heard.
Goddess Imerra stopped pacing and faced her once more to offer a reassuring presence. “Fay, I have said too much again and scared you. And for that, I’m sorry. Fennik would yell at me if he was here. Calm yourself now child. What I need you to do now is to listen carefully. You must prepare yourself. Your tasks will not be easy and you’ll need to be fast. There are others working against you. They’ll try to reach the Oracle Child first.”
“It is no matter who finds the child first. I am the only one who holds the Divinity Stone. I’m the one that proclaims the next Oracle and passes on the power of sight,” Fay challenged the Goddess.
“There is another way,” the Goddess said solemnly. “A darker way not recorded in the ancient texts, to test for an anointed Oracle. It leaves the Oracles changed and horribly damaged. To infants that are not Oracles, it kills them. That’s the whole reason the Divinity Stone was gifted to the Muridae in the first place.”
“Fay, this is of great urgency!” continued Goddess Imerra. “The others will keep it quiet. You won’t know or hear of their approach until it is too late. And as you, yourself so said, even I can’t reattach the string once it’s been cut.”
“Okay Goddess, you have my full attention. What do I need to do?”