“Bless me, Goddesses of the Night, guide me Gods of the Day, and forgive me Children of the Stars and Moon and Sun, for I have failed you, each, and I have failed you all,” she said.
The woman— who you now know as Madam Mayor, a title she always didn’t like, a title given to her by the survivors of her mission to Luna, a title she had in a history that wasn’t hers— sat in the traditional fashion, below the viewscreen tuned to Zemlya, and said her nightly prayers.
“I have failed you, Great Ones, and I sit supplicate to ask for forgiveness. I sit in this place where I failed you once before, on a land that cannot be reached by bridge or ocean, cannot be found across mountain or steppe. I humble myself before you and ask for forgiveness.”
The energy she had felt in the days after the Corporate Shills had visited her was waning now, waning as she knew the moon now waned from the perspective of her apartment on Homeworld, though she could not see it. She hoped her neighbor was taking good care of Perun, her bird, and that he would continue to care for Perun, even after she didn’t return, after she was reported killed in action or missing on mission. She would not see Homeworld again.
This she had suspected from the beginning— a trip to Zroya would be difficult, and filled with complications, and even when she landed on that great Ringed Planet, she might never make it off again, dying as the only pilgrim in a new land.
She continued her prayer of contrition, remaining in the traditional position even though her ankles had begun to ache and her knees felt as if they might explode and her eyes were growing weary from the rising heat around her, “I fear you, my patrons and their kin, and I fear that I will disappoint you again. I will fail you each, and I will fail you all.”
The energy she had felt in the days after she received this new mission had all but faded, dimmed by the revelation that she would not be alone on her mission, neither alone nor in cooperation, but that this was to be another rivalry— commanding one of three vessels, each rushing to the finish, each charged with one goal: to reach the Firmament of The Betrothed before the any other.
“Forgive me, Great Ones, all, but most especially forgive me Goddesses of the Night and Children of the Stars, forgive me also the Gods of the Day and the Children of the Sun, for what I do in the coming days may profane your names.” — and it was here, as she continued to sit in the traditional position, the heat rising around her, that she brought new words to the old prayer, new words for a new circumstance the gods may never have heard before, and her voice shook as she continued — “And forgive me best, Children of the Moon, for I have already failed you, and I have returned to my place of shame, and I will abuse this place— your sacred place— once again, as in my hubris I reach out for the Virgin Betrothed, impregnating her with the cargo from my ship, on a ground far from home, beyond the oceans, beyond the steppes, beyond the winter and the wind. Forgive me Great Ones, all.”
And the woman began to shake with the creation of her new prayer, the pain in her body escaping now into this act of creation, and as the heat continued to rise around her, and as she slipped from consciousness and fell to the floor, her body crumpling out of the traditional position she had held for so long that day, she ended her petition in the traditional way— “Forgive me Great Ones, though I seek your blessing and your guidance, that I may not fail any of you, exalting all by my success.”
It was already morning when she awoke, somehow already in her bed, the prayer dais already put away.
She had dreamt vividly and remembered everything upon waking, and remembered it still as she ate her morning breakfast and read the morning briefing that had appeared under her door, and the dream hadn’t faded even by noon, though most dreams fade quickly as consciousness returns. Perhaps her prayers had been answered, she almost allowed herself to think, before remembering that she was nothing in the context of the Great Ones, and to suppose that they, in their Greatness, might answer her, in her humility, bordered on the profane. No, it was only a dream, she decided, no matter how vivid, how realistic, how lasting.
She prepared herself that afternoon in the usual way, ready to begin when the Corporate Shills arrived at her door that night, ready for her mission to another world.
[Keep reading: Chapter Three]
[Or, go to: The Beginning]