One Believer

Sirona looked down on the world and wept.  Her flowing gown flowed over her crossed legs.  Her amber hair flowed gracefully over her shoulders.  Her sceptre and patera float in front of her, while spectral snakes crawl around her.  

 

Below her, the cries of orphaned children and forlorn lovers reach the sky.  Young and old the people died, a black plague. Floating around her the angels of Jehovah watch to claim his lost children, but she is not one of them.  She predates the creatures by millennia, but none worship her anymore. Her temples lay empty, and her statues forgotten. Still she waits, prepared to do her duty should it ever be called upon again.

Once she was a goddess of healing springs.  People worshipped at her temples and called for her to save their people, and when mercy provided she would.  Then new gods, first Roman, then Christian ran rampant over her home, and she was forgotten by man.

She hadn’t forgotten them, and so she wept for her lost children impotently.  Then, faintly, she heard a noise. Ceasing her weeping she listened. It was a voice, a quiet voice, full of uncertainty, but it was calling her name.  She looked down into the suffering world and saw one bright light drawing her in. Someone, impossibly, was calling to her.

Taking up her scepter and patera, she allowed herself to manifest before the one who called to her.  Looking around she saw a young girl, not even into her womanhood yet, holding a burlap sack that wriggled.  Her clothes were tattered and faded. They were once red but now was a dingy pink. Her hair was roughly cut with a knife, she had obviously never been to a barber.

She glowed with an innocent purity as she chanted over and over “Sirona, Lady of the Healing water, mother of snakes hear my call.  Aid your poor lost children in their time of need.”

“My child I have come as you asked.  It has been many a year since a child of man has spoken my name.  Your faith is a beacon to my soul,” she floated over to the girl and touched her shoulder.  At her touch, hidden ailments were washed away, the touch malnutrition replaced her gaunt skin with a healthy glow.  Her butchered hair grew beautiful and comely.

The girl gasped in awe.  “Thank you my Lady!” she stammered “I did not come for myself.  I come for my people,” she dropped to one knee and waited.

“I love the children of man, and I am touched by your purity.  Please, child, tell me your request,” she placed a hand under the girl’s chin and lifted her slowly to her feet.

The girl looked up shyly. “Please, it is the black death.  It has appeared in the next town over and will soon wash over us as well.  I couldn’t bear to lose my family and friends. Can you aid us in our time of need?”  her face was full of fear and hope.

“First, let me ask something of you.  What are you called?” Sirona smiled at her.

“I am Areona Waterdame, m’lady,” she said.

“I am pleased to meet you.  How do you wish for my aid?” Sirona kept her face placid.

“You are the Goddess of Healing Springs. Make our town well into a spring that will cure the plague,”  the girl trembled, obviously fearing she asked too much.

“I see.  With everything there is a price, what do you offer?” Sirona asked, expecting gold or blessed mistletoe.  

Instead, the girl put her hand in the bag and yanked out a large viper. “I offer my life!” she said and stuck her hand in front of the viper.  It bit her, but Areona did not flinch. Her knees had started to shake. Sirona wept for her, but the offering was enough for what she asked.

“Where is the well?” Sirona asked tears in her eyes.

Areona, only beginning to feel the venom, pointed at it.  The Goddess nodded and floated towards the well, only for Jehovah’s children to surround her.  “These are the lands of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. You have no power here,” the voices echoed as one.

While not a warrior goddess, all Gauls were warriors.  “Leave my path. My follower called me her and paid the price.  You cannot stop me,” she said and walked through the angels. Reaching the well, she held a hand over it, and the water grew gold for a moment then became crystal clear.  A sharp pain tore into her side and she looked down to see a sword through her,

A simple weapon wielded by a servant would not kill her.  She threw back her elbow into the chest of the creature behind her and heard it crash into a building a kilometer away.  Bending like her viper children she pulled the sword from her back and held it firmly in her hand. She turned to see a horde of puny godlets.

“You have profaned the well.  You will pay,” echoed the voices.

She didn’t bother to respond and instead called her ethereal snakes down, wrapping and biting them in turn.  This would not kill them but would force them to retreat to the heavens. As the voices echoed she materialized by the angel that had stabbed her.  With a swipe she lopped off his head, assuring the creature would never rise again.

She floated over to Areona, who lay on the ground, swollen and shaking.  Her hand had turned black. Completely dead. With a slash Sirona removed the hand, then knelt beside her.  She cupped her hands and they filled with water. She poured it into the mouth of the girl.

Instantaneously the swelling was gone, and the blood ceased flowing from her stump.  Areona looked up at her in confusion and fear. “Is the well done? Why am I alive?”

“Your people will be fine, I blessed the water.  In answer to the second, I took a different life. In answer to the question you haven’t asked, I took your hand because the flesh had died.  I cannot save dead things. As the girl looked down at her stump Sirona continued “I ask one thing, however, will you find the hidden believers and have them call to me. I cannot help in the world of man without their calls.  It will be dangerous, you will be an enemy of the church and risk torture and death if discovered. Think carefully before deciding.”

The girl thought for a moment then said “I want to do it.  If I can save people it is worth it.”

Sirona placed a hand on the girl’s head.  A cracking came from her stump, causing Areona to scream in pain.  “Shh, little one. It will be only a moment,” the crackling ended and a wooden hand was in the place of her normal one.  She flexed it in amazement. “This will purify the water belonging to any person. You could swamp water into a crystal clear liquid.  Once per day you can bless a gallon of water or heal your own injuries.  Disease shall never touch you, nor shall you age after your 18th year.”

Sirona stepped back and said “Serve me Areona, Priestess of Sirona,” then faded into the night.

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