Chapter Number: One
Author: D. Sanders
Posting Completed Story in Five Chapters - Forgive the Barest of Proofreading
Series Title: La Luna ed il suo Amante
Chapter Number: One
Author: D. Sanders
It was the night of the new moon, the sky was a dark expanse of endless stars as the elderly priest made his way to the lunar temple he tended with aging and arthritic hands. Gnarled and crooked with age he leaned heavily on his staff as he traversed the stairs leading up into the ancient stone building at the top of the hill on the edge of the holy grounds.
The holy grounds consisted of two temples. One dedicated to Sol, the God of the Sun and one dedicated to his Brother, Mane, the God of the Moon. Many worshiped Sol, his light brought forth the harvest and governed the day and his temple was of gilded gold that gleamed like the sun itself. Mane’s followers were few, but faithful. Mane governed the night; his light guided the lost, gave hope in the darkness and kept the shadows at bay. As a youth, the boy who would become a priest had looked upon the limestone temple, sitting lonely and lost atop the hill and had ventured into it as if drawn by unseen forces.
Those forces awaited him tonight as the Priest made his way to the altar and sat on the richly padded cushion left for him on the floor.
“Thinking of my old bones. Thank you my Lord.” The priest smiled, his eyes delighted as he creaked and groaned as he settled on the cushion.
A deep voice laughed as a tall graceful figure glided into the room. His long black hair tied loosely at the nape of his neck, his black robes bejeweled with twinkling stars and his skin aglow with the color of moonlight. He leaned over and kissed the brow of the old priest and the pain of age fled, a gift to his faithful servant. “You served me well for nearly a century and I love you little Gallus.”
“Hardly little anymore my lord.” The old priest chuckled.
“True. It seems but yesterday you came to me a boy. To me you will always be that little boy who spoke to me without fear. I was quite lonely that day.”
“You seem sad tonight too my lord. What can I do?”
Mane settled on the altar stairs and a white bloom materialized in his hand. It was a delicate flower; its large heart shaped petals caught the candlelight and seemed to shimmer as Mane stared at it with longing.
“Gallus, I will tell you a story first. One you know a little of I think. Do you recognize this flower?”
“Aye, my Lord. It is the lunar glory, the flower that blooms in your light.”
“What else do you know?”
“That it loses its petal’s at dawn and dies.”
“It didn’t use to. This is the price of jealousy.” Mane said laying the flower on the Priest’s lap with a sigh.
“In all my realm of the night, I have but one bloom that prefers my light to that of my brother. This little white glory is my happiness and my pain. When my mother created this flower’s spirit, he was given a choice and unlike his brother and sister god glories he chose my light to sustain his flowers. Endymion was his name and when first I touched him with my light, I was lost. He was my treasure, my flower, and my lover. Sol has many lovers; I had but one, Endymion. Sol grew angry that a flower would choose me over him. He tried to woo Endymion away from me. But Endymion was faithful to me; he loved me as I loved him. Sol grew jealous and flew into a rage when Endymion refused him the night, like tonight, when my light is resting on the New Moon. I was sleeping when Sol took my lover and gave him a choice. Leave me, or be cursed. Endymion chose me and paid for his fidelity with his life. I heard his call too late. I found him scorched in Sol’s arms. His spirit rendered mortal. His petal’s falling in the light of the day.”
Mane had tears in his deep midnight blue eyes as he looked out the window to the trailing vines of lunar glories trailing up his temple walls. “His curse is to be reborn as mortal, time and time again. He has been reborn seven times since then and I have had to watch Sol take him from me again every time. The first, he died as a child, too young to remember me. The second he did remember and before he could call to me he was murdered by a man sent by Sol. The fourth he never remembered and I had to watch him in silence until he died of old age, a priest of the sun. That one Sol has never let me forget. The fifth and sixth he also never remembered, his soul was trapped in sleep, never awakened. He is born again tonight. The seed of my flower took his first breath two hours ago. His soul is already awake I can feel him unlike I’ve ever felt him before. The mother died, unwed, the grandmother is already on her way here to deliver the child to the temple. Gallus, please care for him, Sol is sending his priest for the boy, I am sending you. Please, convince her to leave him in your care. I cannot intervene just as Sol cannot directly. I need you more than I have ever needed you my beloved Gallus.”
“I’ll not fail you my Lord.” The Priest replied, moved to tears by the look of anguish on his God’s face. Mane turned and kissed Gallus’ gnarled fingers one by one.
“I know you won’t. I have ever had faith in you little Gallus. Guide him, teach him, and tell him all I’ve told you. I can only wait and watch, he must grow, he must flower, he must call to me on his own. Only that will break the curse. His own free mortal will must choose me over Sol. Sol is very persuasive.”
“But love is blind my Lord.” The Priest smiled as he stood and bowed and hurried out to the gates to meet the old lady bringing a very precious burden.
“Blind and utterly painful when lost.” Mane said as he faded from the room, the candles extinguishing of their own accord.
Gallus hurried to the gates, leaning heavily on his staff just as the old woman carrying a precious, quiet little bundle reached to ring the bell.
“No need to wake the grounds Madam. May I help you?”
“His mama died, she named no father. Will you take him into the temple; I’d hate to see the little innocent die. I’ve got no means to take care of him myself.”
“Aye madam. All lost are welcome into the temple. My lord sent me himself to you. This little one is special.”
“I can believe it. Not a peep, just all quiet like, didn’t even cry. He’s got strange eyes he does, like he knows something we don’t.” The old woman said handing the baby to the old priest.
“Perhaps he does. Did his mother name him?”
“Aye, and strange too. All she done said was Endys before she died.”
The baby cooed at that and the Priest smiled. “Endys, the Moon Flower.”
“That what that means?”
“Aye madam. It’s the ancient scholar word; I’m surprised she knew it. Never fear, Endys will be safe here. It is late and I know it has been a trying night for you. Be well and be at peace, you’ve done the right thing by the Gods.”
“Thank you Father.” The old woman said wringing her hands as she turned to head home. A younger priest, in golden robes walked up behind Old Gallus.
“Sol wants him.”
“Aye, I know, as does Mane. He must choose on his own between them and you know that I’m sure as much as I do.” Gallus said cradling the child as they walked back to the temple dormitories.
“We are only the Priests to Gods with their own agendas Gallus. Sol won’t tell me why he wants this one, only that he must choose to worship the sun.”
“As it is my duty to Mane to teach him about the worship of the Moon, Flamen. As with all children he will be taught both sides and when he comes of age he will chose himself which sect to further his studies in. Let us agree to not play tug of war with this child, he is the innocent between the Gods right now. Let him for now, just be a child.”
“In that, I agree with you Gallus. Does Mane tell you why he wants this one so much?”
“Yes, and I cannot share more than I know. It comes down to love in the end. Mane loves this one, more than I think either you or I will ever hope to comprehend.”
Flamen nodded. “Sol at sundown was agitated, the entire temple shook. His hunger for this one has me baffled.”
“Hunger, love, want, desire, Gods have their own needs. I will serve Mane by teaching Endys all I know. You will serve Sol by doing the same. In the end, both Mane and Sol said it is up to the boy to choose. We can only guide.”
“So be it. He is a beautiful child, I know I would not want to be the pawn of a pair of god brothers who despise each other one day and love each other the next.”
“No, his fate I think is one neither you or I would want to embrace. But we shall see will we not?” Gallus smiled as he headed inside the dormitories that were shared by both the Sun and the Lunar acolytes. Boys orphaned or abandoned or sent by their parents to learn the ways of scholars.
The Children too young to choose were schooled in both practices along with the basics of reading and writing. At age twelve they would be interviewed by a panel of Lunar and Solar priests and the child would state his choice to serve either temple or state his wishes to leave. If the boy wished to leave the temple he would be taken to the village and apprenticed into a profession. Otherwise he would don the robes of his chosen temple. Solar acolytes wore robes of yellow and red, and then graduated to golden robes when they became priests. Lunar acolytes wore robes of pale blue and graduated to white robes when they became priests.
Two young acolytes, each of around sixteen, one Lunar one Solar were awakened by their mentors and asked to fetch one of the house maids. The women, both young and old who had come to the temple to live a pious life for various reasons and were the caretakers of the children of the dormitories. Some had come to escape abusive homes, some wanted to lead a scholarly life, some had no dowries, some, like Endys, had been brought as infants that had been unwanted.
Maegwyn, the head of the nursery came to collect the child. “What a beautiful baby. Such brilliant blue eyes. Does he have a name father?” Maegwyn asked as she took the tiny burden from Father Gallus’ hands.
“Endys. Guard him well Maegwyn my daughter. Both Sol and Mane have a special interest in him.”
“So I can see with both of you up and about together just to collect a baby at the gate. Never you fear Endys honey. Mama-Mae won’t let them cram your head full of learning until you learn to play first.” Maegwyn winked at both priests who smiled at her.
“Then we are all in agreement. This child will know nothing of what we know. Let him grow just like the other boys for now. He is after all still just a child.” Flamen said and Gallus nodded agreement. Maegwyn, caring nothing for the inner workings of the priesthood just snorted.
“Priests and Gods. Always an Agenda.” Mae said as she carried the baby out of their hands for the next five years. Endys’ contact with the priests would be limited to prayer and worship of both orders like the other little children. They’d only begin teaching him when he turned five; he was under her care until then.
She gently tucked the baby in an empty crib in the nursery and left him to sleep as she settled into her bed in the corner of the room and blew out the candle. She never saw the figure bent low over the crib, fingers stroking the fine white blond strands of hair.
“My flower, grow and be well. I beg you one day remember me.” Mane said placing a kiss on a tiny brow, the baby cooed with contentment and Mane smiled tenderly before fading from the room as dawn broke the horizon and a new figure materialized beside the crib.
“Endymion you are indeed. So beautiful a treasure, you will choose me, love me, most precious of flowers.” Sol said, his golden hair falling like a cascade of fire over the youth as he bent to kiss the small brow.
The baby began to wail for the first time since coming into the temple and Mae quickly took him to her breast to comfort him. Oblivious to the God standing in the room furious at the rejection, “You WILL choose me Endymion. I am the god over flowers, Mane will not have you!” Sol growled in a fit of jealous rage as he vanished from the room, the baby settling against Mae the moment he had gone.
“I wonder what set you off Honey. You’re not wet and you’re not hungry. Did you have a bad dream little one? Hmmm?” Mae spoke softly until the baby was once more sleeping and then returned to her bed as the sun slowly rose on the horizon.