"Kat, dear, do put
a little more green on the eyelids, theres a pet - you need that handsome guard to really
notice you....." Jennas tones were dripping vitriol disguised as
sweetcakes, and Kat, behind her back, opened her mouth wide and silently hissed, a parody
of her namesake.
Jenna languidly rose from the couch, and draped the turquoise and
silver shawl more becomingly around her shoulders and blew a kiss at Kat, before oozing
her way towards the arch, and her assignation with the Senior Clerk of Works. As she left,
she could hear a cat, hissing, somewhere.
Prime tormentor gone, Kat allowed herself to sink down onto the vacant couch in utter
misery. She wasnt supposed to be here. It wasnt her fault that stupid, bovine
Bolya got herself pregnant and couldnt do the elder girls duty at the
priestess shrine. Bolya would have loved it here, Kat thought spitefully. Nothing to
do all day but drink yurtgha, play ladylike dice games and eat. Oh, and of course,
dress up and go for assignations. And, of course, night duty to the priestesses.
Yes, Bolya would have been in her element - she didnt mind what she did, nor with
But no, not our Kat. Been here twenty days at least and not a single thing to read!
She was sure she would go crazy, tripping over half-drugged forms, nose too full of
overripe perfumes and everywhere she looked beautiful brown skin, brown eyes and not an
ugly red hair nor a freckle in sight. Until she looked in the hated mirror. Kat sighed. It
was true-said that the child of a priestess must look far for a father. Resignedly, she
took out the green eye shadow and watched hazel eyes sadly regard her in the mirror. Maybe
if she did encourage a guardsman, he would bring her something to read....
Bells tolled in the courtyard below and Kat leaned out of the high arched window,
wrinkling her nose against intrusive ascending incense. The wide wooden arched doors were
standing open - a very unusual sign, in Kats limited experience. As she watched, a
strange procession wound through the gateway; female warriors on foot, with upper bodies
encased in metal and leather like childrens dolls, and then an animal -
goodness - of all things - carrying a large box. Kat, breathtaken, saw the curtains of the
box twitch aside and the tiniest woman, dressed all in white veils, came out. Kat could
have sworn on the Goddess she moved faster than lightning. One moment she was
moving the curtain in the box, the next - the box was empty, curtains moved aside, and the
tiny woman was on the ground. "Magic!" breathed Kat. Here, at last, was
Later, at dinner, the tiny woman was at the head table, in the topmost place of honour.
Kat, for once, had the leisure to enjoy her meal, for Jenna was still absent. Kat allowed
herself a wicked grin, deep inside where nobody saw. Jennas favourite desert - and
no Jenna to eat it. No, for Jenna was still with the Senior Clerk of Works - whom she
cordially hated - even though he gave her necklaces much more beautiful than he gave to
his wife. Surreptitiously, Kat watched the tiny woman dressed in white. As did the entire
population of the priestess hall that mealtime. With the result that few noticed -
and fewer commented - on the heavier than usual dosage of pitjeri powder in the food.
With the other novices, she crowded round the urns of yurtgha after the meal. When she
was the only one left, having no senior priestess to attend to at present, she sat in a
corner to savour the taste of the one cup a day that she permitted herself. As a much
milder version of pitjeri, the drink was still extremely habit-forming, although not
nearly as dangerous as the powdered root itself, and without the debilitating effects of
the essence that the men mixed in to make Kriochor. With her first sip, Kat was
jolted - the drink was far stronger than she had ever tasted, and very salty, in addition.
She sat to wonder; then, as the drug started to take hold, inwardly shrugged. She
didnt really care, after all. It was not until many days later that she remembered
drinking a second cup, and a third, from thirst. Nor that she had to wait in line for many
others to refill their cups first.
At the Call To Address, Kat was one of the first through the arch, and so sat in the
front row - not her usual place, which was to the rear of the room, where nobody could
easily see her and point at her white skin and red hair.
The seats were soon full, for everyone wanted to see what the tiny woman had to say.
The metal gates clanged shut, and the days steward Called the Address. Before she
had halfway finished, the tiny woman was there. Kat caught her breath. "Magic"
she breathed again. Around the room novices and priestesses alike were looking at each
other in amazement. It seemed that nobody had seen the tiny woman enter. Yet she was
there. Silence fell, and the tiny woman spoke.
Today I break with the tradition of recent years, for it is I who will Address you. But
beforehand, any who will, may ask a question. Kat was on her feet before she could stop
herself and opened her mouth against her better judgement. "Why do you use
magic?" she shouted, and the women in the hall breathed a collective gasp. "The
ancients used magic - and so do you - for I have seen you!" accused Kat. Deep inside,
where she really lived, she was appalled, but could not stop her words before they jumped
out and hit the assembly in the face. The tiny woman bowed her head towards Kat, and then
gently asked: "Has anyone else seen me use magic?"
Slowly, as if against their will, three other novices rose to their feet, and a
newly-ordained priestess. "And nobody else?" the words had the bite of cold
steel at their edges. An older priestess half rose. "M-mother, I am not sure..."
she stammered. The tiny woman beckoned, and the priestess reluctantly walked towards the
standing group, who were now huddled in the centre of the stage. Bemused, looking out at
the sea of closed faces, Kat wondered how she had got onto the stage without noticing. But
she did hear the tiny woman say despairingly, under her breath; "Is that all?"
Kat woke into a white room, on a white mat under a white cover, with candles burning at
her head and feet, even though it was daytime. The tiny womans face floated in a sea
of white somewhere near her feet.
"We have finished our discussion, my lamb," said the tiny woman, gently. Kat
looked into her eyes and understood how kind she was, the first kindness she had seen
since unwillingly coming to the shrine. "Now you many ask a few questions before it
is time for you to go". "Go?" repeated Kat, stupidly. "But I
havent even been here a month! What of my studies?"
"Completed", said the tiny woman. "You are well along your chosen
Kat became angry. "But Im not sposed to be here! Bolya
was sposed to come!" The face of the tiny woman became more remote. "My
child remember well; who was it who whispered to your sister that the farmers son
loved her? Who went to that farmers son as a messenger from that same
sister? Who arranged the assignation? Who set the date - the date, I might add, when Bolya
was most likely to become pregnant? Oh, my child, remember well - who saw to it that Bolya
was disqualified from shrine service so that you could take her place?" "Bolya
did", said Kat, in a very small voice. But nobody, not even Kat herself, believed the
The tiny womans fleshless, clawed hand took her own. "Kat," she said
gently "You became Destinys Wielder when you decided to become a priestess;
because you wanted what all true priestesses want - power". Deep within herself, Kat
, surprised, agreed with her. "You worked and schemed long and hard to be here. Now I
have worked long and hard," said the tiny woman, and Kat could see the story of
sleepless hours written on the tiny face "so that you now have the beginnings of that
power available to you. Use it well". And she disappeared. "Id like to do
that..." said Kat to herself, as she took a step onto the roof of the oratory in the
town square. And then paused, uncertain, as she remembered the very many steps it took to
get from the shrine to the town centre.
As she lifted her arms up to heaven, it seemed only natural that lightning should touch
the base of the pillars of the oratory, and thunder should roll overhead. And once again,
only natural, that when she opened her mouth to tell of the Goddess ascendancy to
the position of supreme worship, that the town square should be full of people, and that
they should listen to her words and agree, instead of reviling her. And much later, when
the line of priests was formed up to deliver the scrolls of the archives to her for the
Goddess safekeeping, it seemed only natural, once again, that she should bless the Kriochori-men,
and that they should regain their faculties immediately, and become whole again.
Particularly since the sisterhood had much better things to occupy their time with
than running around after men!!