Seventh Circle (Chapter 1 - Adrina, page 1 of 1)

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Eleventh day of the Moon of Morning Mists. Shrine of the Holy Mother, Realm beyond the Seventh Circle.

The sun slipped towards the horizon and the hillside was bathed in a warm glow. As day gave way to night, shadows lengthened and revealed the subtle contours of the land. Ridges stretched out like thighs and mounds poked up like breasts. It was as if an immense female presence lay below the ground, shaping the surface of the land. A true believer would recognise the place as sacred to the Holy Mother.

On that pleasant summer evening a young woman strode through the long grass. She wore a white dress and carried a woollen shawl. Her long black hair hung lazily down her back and she hummed a little tune as she made her way past fat cows suckling their young.

Her path passed between the mounds and continued to the junction of two ridges. A dark pool nestled there below a triangle of golden bracken. The young woman reached it as the last rays of the dying sun left the sky. She knelt and gazed into the still waters before speaking.

'Holy Mother, hear my prayer.'

Her hands slipped inside her dress and clasped the image that hung there on a leather cord. Painted in bright colours, it represented a pregnant woman with huge breasts and extended buttocks. She kissed the image.

'Blessed lady, I come not for myself but for my dear mother. Many moons have passed since you honoured her with your divine favour. You entered into her when she was young and worked your purpose through her. In sickness and in health she has been your sword and shield ... now she has grown old.'

Her voice fell to a whisper.

'Great Lady, my poor mother is tired. Her old bones ache. I beseech you. Let me take up her burden. Enter into me as you did to her. Let me serve you as she has done.'

She gazed into the pool as if searching for a sign. A long time passed. Then a full moon rose. Its silvery rays struck the pool and a swirling vortex of white water sped towards her.

'Holy Mother. I am honoured by your trust.'

She bared her breasts.

'I, Adrina of the House of Cronwyn, make this pledge: I dedicate my life to you and I shall serve you well.'

Her dark eyes flashed.

'But I cannot serve you alone. I need a champion. Send me one, Great Lady. Send me a man skilled in the arts of war.'

Her eyes glazed over.

'But do not send a dull man. Send a cunning man. A wild and fearless man who will excite our deepest passions and put the plans of your scheming enemies to nought.'

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