Join Date: Aug 2011
Current Game: Arcanum
In order to keep from being driven mad by the incessant rain, one week later the Masked Ones called us to a special evening service at the Oegon. "Not only has our god abandoned us," the Exarch said, "but our once-holy city has been cursed. If offerings of highest faith are not given to him, then we shall literally drown in our own iniquity!" I shuddered, because Father had willingly volunteered to be one of these offerings. He had thrown himself into the Maw of the Faceless in order to save us, and now we needed saving again. Who would be brave enough to do this, or wise enough? Eight years was an eternity to a child like me, but to grown-ups it was not so long ago. Would everyone remember the greater good, or would they only remember their own fear at what had happened? True, eight people had become one with the Faceless, leaving the rest of us behind. However, it was for a good reason--wasn't it?
"Who is worthy? Who is virtuous, and will volunteer as one of eight who shall open the Maw of the Faceless again? If you will, come unto me..." The Exarch began to count, and when he reached the number seven, I rose up from my seat on one of the stone benches and ran forward. Mother gasped, crying out, but I wouldn't let her dissuade me. Our city was condemned, not just abandoned by the Faceless. It needed people to redeem it, and I was going to be one of them! The Exarch put his hands on his hips. I knew he was glaring at me even though I couldn't see his face:
"You? A blasphemer's daughter? How dare you offer yourself, foolish child!"
Even though I was terrified to speak to him, I cleared my throat. "Our fortieth commandment states that offerings of highest faith are to be holy, or made holy. Exarch, cannot I be made holy, and help to save our city from this curse of storms? Ever since the Faceless stopped talking to us, I can't eat! I can't sleep! I don't really want to do these things anymore, and look how thin I've gotten..." I knelt down before him. "Give me a chance to redeem us all. I know I'm only one of eight, but can't I be that one?" I shut my eyes, because the sight of the Exarch's white mask made my stomach turn.
After a pause that lasted a thousand years, he spoke again: "Your faith is great, young one, and for this reason I hereby select you. High Priestess? The others need no preparation save a single night's continuous prayer here in the Oegon, but this child should be taken to the U'um--the Mind of the Faceless. She must understand everything, and what her self-sacrifice truly means." He turned to the rest of us. "You may leave, and meditate upon the Eight. They are prepared to give themselves to the Faceless for the sake of all, so pray and ponder their significance. I release you. Y'lakh." The Exarch folded his hands in front of him and bowed. Mother ran to the High Priestess:
"Please! Return my child to me. I never saw my husband again after he--"
"She volunteered," the High Priestess replied, "and I cannot deny her this. All she desires is an opportunity to save our city, and what more can you ask of so selfless a daughter? I assure you she will be safe within the U'um."
Someone else tugged on Mother's arm. I felt tears dripping down my cheeks as a middle-aged woman forced her to leave. It had not been one of the Masked Ones, but one of our nearest neighbors. How could she be so cruel?
"Come." The High Priestess took me further into the Oegon as the crowd departed. We stepped onto a crude stone platform of some sort. "This is a lift," she explained, "which will carry us toward the highest point of our temple, known as the Faceless' Mind." I was immediately curious as to how the lift worked, because I couldn't see any sort of lever or control on it. "Hold my hand tightly," said my masked companion, and I obeyed. "Uuuuuu-um..." I shrieked, startled, as the platform began to rise. I shut my eyes again and clung to the High Priestess' waist as it continued upward through utter darkness. When it finally stopped, it exited into a tiny octagonal room with eight tall windows. "Welcome," the High Priestess said. "Please sit down."
The U'um contained four benches, covered in amber velvet, around a flowing fountain. Eight amber candles glowed in each of the windows. I felt safe and at peace here, despite my tightly-clenched stomach. "Why do I need to be prepared?" I asked. "What do I need to do to be made holy?"
"First," said the High Priestess, "I would like you to make a choice. Thus far, you have only seen me and the other Masked Ones with covered faces. This is for a reason--at least in my case." She sighed, and her lips relaxed. "In order to begin to understand the real reason why the Faceless has ceased communing with us, and why these storms lash our city without relief, you must understand what I truly am. Are you willing to do so?" I agreed quickly.
"Please place your hands upon my mask." Trembling, I did so. "Can you see the tiny holes for my nostrils?" I nodded, and thunder crashed overhead. "Feel them." I did, and her warm breath tickled my fingertips. "Good. Now, gently feel the holes for my eyes." I brought my hands upward toward them and was shocked: they were painted on, and weren't actual holes at all..."I knew you'd be surprised," the High Priestess said gently. "Now: in order to begin to acquire the holiness to make you One of Eight--take off my mask."
Biting my lower lip, I did so, and then screamed and screamed into the night.
The High Priestess had no eyes. Neither did she possess a nose--only a forehead, cheekbones, and a mouth. She had no face. She was faceless. When I had finally stopped shrieking, she drew me into her arms and held me. "I have sacrificed the visage you though you'd see," the High Priestess explained, "in order to gain a sense of hearing blessed by the Faceless. All of us Masked Ones have done this, including the Exarch, but his ears have long since ceased to hear." She wiped my tears away with her thumb gently.
All I could blubber through my sobs was, "Why? What does he want?"
"The Faceless wants our fellowship," said she, "but the Exarch wants power..."
Last edited by MsFicwriter; 08-08-2012 at 05:26 PM.