The Afterworld Saga — 11

Chapter 11 — Faith in the Gods

“Trust me.”

The barren wasteland that lay before them expanded endlessly in all directions. The ground was gravel. Millions of billions of tiny stones and pebbles strewn all throughout the vast expanse ahead of them, behind them, to all sides.

“They say each pebble is a soul” Leida thought to Tamra and Tamra agreed. “I have heard the same. Looking at all of them, it comes as no surprise.”

Every step they took was swallowed by the stones and left no trace of their presence. The dim, pink coloured sky did not change hue at any time. Perpetually it hovered upon the horizon of the apparently endless sea of souls.

“You are so calm, Leida” Tamra asked voicelessly “How can you keep the voices out of your head?”

Leida sighed audibly “It is a long tale to tell, but I suppose it can be told. We still have quite a way to go.” Roy turned his head “Talking to her?” and Leida nodded. Roy turned his head back to the direction they were heading and remained silent as Leida began.

“The nightmares began a few seasons ago and truth be told they came out of nowhere. I went to bed one night and when I woke I was here, in the Afterworld. I apparently slept for a day and a half, worrying Roy to death. I did wake, as I am here, but the time of torment I endured in the Afterworld was maniacal. I didn’t want to go to sleep again, for I feared I would be sent back as the demonic Whisperers would cloud my mind and try to corrupt me. I went without sleep for 3 days.”

“Two, you began hallucinating” Roy answered as he trotted on “Two and 5 hours.”

“Right. I was going mad, so I went back to sleep and… everything was alright again. I decided to accept it as a one off thing at the time and continue my life. I’m a launderer, not a sorceress. Things were going fine until a few months later, it happened again. Then again a few weeks after that. The time between these horrific nightmares got shorter and shorter… I went to physicians and got remedies like eating maggots after dark and washing them down with frog juice.”

“Didn’t work” Roy reminded her. He had to vomit when he prepared the frog juice, the smell was morbid. The maggots weren’t that bad and to help Leida he offered to eat one as well.

“Neither did the bloodletting.” “Nearly damn killed you.” “You nearly killed the doctor!” Leida cried out “More like thief!” Roy replied. Tamra suppressed a giggle, Leida could sense it however. Smiling, they continued.

“Right, laughing now, but it wasn’t that easy earlier. I felt Dimitri was close, but I managed to visit one priest who changed all that.”

The Cathedral seemed to pulsate as the chanting of the monks echoed all throughout it’s holy halls. Incense burnt and flowed from the intricately designed thuribles, like demonic tendrils, outwards and throughout the Cathedral, piercing every nostril. A welcome necessity considering the amount of homeless were housed in it in the night. The pillars that supported the Cathedral were plain, and the windows to the sides bore colour, but no images. The colours alternated between green and red, and only those, from window to window. First green, then red, then green again and so on. The floors were of fine stone, worn down by centuries of footsteps upon them. The path towards the altar was made of marble and magic kept it clean at all times. Simultaneously, this made the marble center very cold. The ceiling had images of the sky and some priests would open the ceiling with spells in days of summer when the heat was unbearable.

The moon shone brightly and illuminated the rose window above the sanctuary, where the priest stood adorned in bright garbs of white, laced with intricate golden designs and floral motifs, his hands raised upwards and enhancing the chants with a deep, bellowing voice. Leida went through the colossal doors of dark mahogany. Angelic childish faces peered downwards to Leida in sympathy, yet they offered no help. She made her way through the nave, with homeless laying about in the aisles, or sitting, or kneeling, some in prayer, some eating, some trying to sleep. A hopeless endeavor considering the chanting.

Leida reached the chancel and collapsed to her knees, her arms flung forward and her head down to the ground. “Priest! Save me, oh priest!” she cried out. The chanting went on, regardless of her pleading, and the priest gave her no notice. “For the love of the gods, please, help me! The Whisperers shall taunt me into an earlier grave otherwise!” Leida begged.

The Priest stopped his chanting in unison, yet the other monks continued. The priest lowered his hands slowly, and turned in an equally dramatic and slow fashion. His meditation was perturbed, yet his calm and ease persisted perpetually. A head of white hair with a widow’s peak adorned his head which also bore a single scar. The beard was trimmed with intricate detail, forming a triangle at the end of it. A pointed nose hovered above thin lips, and the priest’s dark green eyes seemed to shine equally bright as the moon, to Leida. Awestruck, she remained silent yet on her knees. She tried to say ‘Please’ again, yet her mouth only formed the word.

The priest approached with slow steps “Whisperers, you say?” he asked her, a single eyebrow arching upwards in skepticism. “Many people plead before the gods, many try to deceive the gods. Speak truly, child, what do you hear?” the priest asked Leida. Leida shook her head “I… I could not repeat the words spoken here. The thoughts thought. They are of the highest — priest they are so vile — I c-can’t… I c-can’t” and Leida wept, sinking her head back to the ground. A few homeless rose from their seats and slumber to observe the disheveled, shivering woman grovelling to the priest.

The priest went down the steps of the sanctuary, perhaps he was hovering as well but no one could really tell with the robe, and stopped in front of Leida. He went to his knees and touched her head with his right hand, his left on her back. Slowly, Leida rose from her knees as the priest’s right hand lifted her face, then went down her neck and stopped near her left breast to feel her heart. Leida felt a warmth from the priests hand that was unlike any other. He stared into Leida’s eyes and she stared back. A bright light flashed before her eyes and the warmth enveloped her entire body.

After a few seconds, he rose again, letting Leida go. The cold harsh marble ground came back, but she did not shiver. “The voices will be… quieter now.” he wiped his hands on his robe “You have been blessed by the god to whom this Cathedral is dedicated to, Tamriel, god of light. The visions — or nightmares as you call them — will persist, the darkness might come back, but the whispers will be calmer, fewer. If it gets worse, come again, but I will convey this occurrence to the high priest of Damaris … unsettling.” With that, the priest turned back to the altar and hovered towards it as if he did not take a single step. Then, as if nothing happened, he continued his chants with uplifted arms.

“So, I went home. I dreamed I was in the Afterworld again, but I could not hear the Whisperers and I calmed down. I still hear them here at times, but not as prominently as I did in the nightmares. We tried physicians after that, but none did better than the priest. I was hoping to meet the high priest at another time perhaps, but-”

“But then YOU came along” Roy blurted out, shaking his head. Leida remained silent. Tamra spoke “I am glad he managed to keep the Whisperers at bay. Most of the time the loudest voice we have in our head, is our own.” Leida nodded as they continued to walk to wherever Roy was taking them. Roy shook his head slightly “They are whispering again…”

“Stay calm” Tamra spoke for Leida “the gods bless this trip.” Leida answered “They have no choice.” Roy scoffed “Neither did we.”

Editor’s Note: I’m sorry for getting this and the next chapter of the Pilgrim of Cele out to you guys late. I’ve been a bit busy with some other responsibilities I have. Thank you all for your patience.

The next writers are as follows:

Joshua Valdivia — June 2 ; ch12

C. Allen Exline ; June 9 ch13

Si — June 16; ch14

Rhiannon D’Averc — June 23 ; ch15

Raine D. — June 30 ; ch16

Tobi Amos-July 7 ; ch17

Ashley Khue Pham July 14 ; ch18

Leo Charles M. — July 21 Ch19