Petros looks at the temple entrance. A small group of people from the temple had gone into town and worked to heal the sick. Petros had worked alongside them, casting cantrips, mixing herbs, and magically identifying a difficult disease. He’d been on similar excursions with his family, but this time was a lot nicer. There was less time spent talking about Dolora’s mercy and more time spent healing the sick. Reyland had infused the whole effort with kindness and practicality.
Petros walks into the temple.He heads for the saltwater pool in the back. He kneels and looks at the water. He’s never prayed before. Not for real.
He grabs the sacrifical components and he lays them out before the salwater pool. He hopes this works – these components cost quite a bit of money. “Goddess, accept this humble sacrifice and answer my plea.” He speaks in Cantash – “Dolora, my tempest, my savior and storm bringer, your humble servant kneels before you. I have -”. He pauses. . “O Goddess, I am entrusted with a difficult burden and an uncertain future. There has been tragic…”. Petros continues for quite some time, fumbling to articulate himself in the stilted and formal language of Cantari ritual.
“I’ll just talk to her”, he thinks. “Dolora, Goddess. I don’t know what to do. I’ve been branded with the symbol of another goddess. They tell me that it’s tied to my existence and I don’t know what that means. I’ve picked up a wand from a temple to the goddess of slaughter and I used it in battle. I don’t know what that might’ve done to me. I was kidnapped! Take the sacrifice. I need your help.”
Petros keeps talking to Dolora, telling her everything about what happened. He shares his fear and his doubt. For an hour he just lets thoughts come to his mind and tries to have a one sided conversation with this distant partner. “What do you know about Lyssa?”, he thinks at the end. “What about this brand? What can I do?”
“Well shit,” he thinks. What does he know of Dolora? What reminds him of her? What angle can he take?
When Petros thinks of Dolora he thinks of Alec, 7 years old, standing outside in the rain. “I AM THE STORM!”, Alec yells, and Petros giggles. “Yes you are! You’re my little tempest!”, his father replies.
When Petros thinks of Dolora he thinks of his mother, talking to the three of them on the second floor of the grand temple of Tragodia. “You’re going to be wonderful. You’re going to help your father do some very important things for Dolora today. Go out there and make me proud!”
When Petros thinks of Dolora he thinks of his father. His father has a smorgasbord of expensive components in front of him. With grand gestures and fancy language, the components are sacrificed. They vanish in a bang and a flash and his father assures the audience that Dolora is pleased.
He thinks about Ia. “How’s she doing? How’s her morning going?”
“Focus! Try the rituals.” Methodically, Petros moves his arms and hands through the gestures of every spell he knows. He does the same for all the advanced spells he’s seen the clergy cast. He copies the sweeping gestures of the ceremonies at the grand temple. He copies the smaller gestures of prayer he’s seen from the common folk visitng the temple. He makes swimming motions. He moves his arms and his hands in every way he can think of. He does this for an hour before he starts to feel very, very silly.
He thinks about every lesson he had growing up, remembering the 23 reasons Dolora chased the moon, the boring stories about her exploits, the tales of how she made sailors vanish. For what feels like forever, he combs through every memory he has of Dolora, desperately looking for the one detail that will get her to answer.
Petros stares at the saltwater pool in front of him. Fish wander around it. The surface of the water bobs up and down. The water reflects light onto the pillars and the statue. He drops his holy symbol in. “Look, it floats”, he thinks. Is that because of the consecration rituals? He takes the shell out of the water before anyone can notice.
Petros gazes at the water. He loses track of time watching the fish swim and the water flow. How long does he sit there? Minutes? Hours? “This is pointless”, he thinks.He stands up and turns to leave and hears a soft plop.
His wand of bless has fallen into the salt water pool. The wood turns a seafoam green and he sees vague flashes in the pool of water.
Hooded figures with different holy symbols slit throats above altars. Thia’s blade cuts down a screaming robed man as he drops the wand Petros now carries. A pile of ashes are stared over by a pale woman with golden eyes. The ashes form vaguely into the shape of a human body right as the woman lifts her face and seems to stare directly at Petros.
The water ripples and the images fade. The wand floats harmlessly in the water, now seafoam green with swirls carved into the base. It looks much more basic in design than before.
As Petros picks it up he hears a whisper so quiet he almost misses it.
“Faith means nothing with empty intent. Gestures of true belief need not be extravagant.”