Time of the Burning
“What is this Gathering? Some sort of ritual?” Revin asked, after they had been walking for a while, her voice softening. Keely had only treated Revin kindly, Or was it all a ploy? Revin wondered, but she was a good judge of character and found it hard to imagine Keely involved in anything devious. “Can you tell me about this golden dragon? I think Maeveen called it the Sentinel.”
Keely glanced over her shoulder as she continued to walk. “It is said that the Burning Lady uses golden dragons as her special messengers to our world.”
This was a tale Revin had heard often but thought it only because they were so rare.
“I hadn’t yet been born last time, so I’ve never seen the sacrifice,” Keely’s voice was startlingly cheerful
Revin grabbed Keely’s arm and spun her around.
“Sacrifice? You’re going to kill the Gold?” Revin yelled. How could these people consider killing such a rare creature? What sort of ghastly ritual were they planning?
Then all the things that had happened flooded her thoughts. How did they know I was coming and on what day? Why do they think I am this Phoenix person? Another horrifying thought came to her. What do I have to do with ritual? Suddenly she pieced together the different things she had heard: A ritual called the Gathering. She, Revin, was the Phoenix, a creature risen from the ashes. An event called ‘Time of the Burning’ which combined with the term Phoenix had an ominous sensation crawling over Revin’s hot skin. Am I a sacrifice to this dragon?
“It’s not what you think.” Keely’s panicked expression unsettled Revin even more. She roughly rubbed her forehead. “Please. Just trust me. Maeveen is waiting and we are running out of time. I’ve already said too much. It is just that you are…” Keely’s eyes started to tear. “Come.” She turned and increased her pace as she headed up the path to the meeting hall.
Revin stared at Keely. You can still run, no one’s around, some inner self told her. Then the heat rose in her body and another voice, as if it came from someone else, compelled her to follow. All depends upon you fulfilling your destiny.
Reaching down, Revin checked to make sure the knife was still in her boot even though she could feel it against her leg, then with a shrug she began to ascend to the hall and the answers she hoped she would find inside.
Revin followed Keely through an open door into the hall. Revin was surprised to see over four dozen women with Maeveen, some she recognized from the night she arrived in the village. The Daughters, the words rushed into Revin’s thoughts along with a wave of anxiety, but she willed it to the back of her mind, she had come to get answers and needed to stay strong.
Maeveen and a dozen of the other women were dressed in the same style of white robe, trimmed in flames. Maeveen was the youngest of the women-in-white, though all were attractive. The rest of the women were dressed in red-and green-plaid skirts and solid green tops, the same as Keely, in a wide range of ages. A bizarre thought crossed Revin’s mind; They all resemble Maeveen.
“Good. You are here.” Maeveen walked over, took Revin by the arm to escort her toward the others. “We have limited time.”
Revin wrenched her arm free and turned to glare at Maeveen. “Keely tells me you are going to sacrifice the Gold.”
“Keely?” Maeveen frowned back at the younger woman. Revin also looked over her shoulder at Keely.
“She is the Phoenix!” Keely argued.
“She is,” Maeveen responded, her voice rose as she spoke, “but it has not Awakened in her yet”.
“But she feels the heat,” Keely responded stubbornly, her lips tight. Maeveen’s eyes shot back to Revin.
“She told me a wild tale about my blood. Something about it being the blood of a dragon,” Revin said not trying to hide the derision in her voice.
A frown crossed Maeveen’s face. “Not as wild as you may think.” Without looking back at Keely, Maeveen said in a softer tone, “Call the Gathering.”
“Blessed be the Time of the Burning,” Keely touched Revin on the back then left the hall.
Maeveen put a hand softly on Revin’s arm. “I am sure this all seems very strange.”
“I am not this Phoenix you are looking for. My name is Revin, and I am a dragon hunter.” Was she just a stranger who happened to stumble into some gruesome ritual and expected to play this role? She wondered if this had been a mistake and if she should flee. Though slim, Maeveen didn’t look weak and might try to stop her, but Revin thought the older women probably would not. She could leave the wagon, but she wouldn’t get far without a horse. Maybe if I could get to the barn and grab the wagon’s draft horse.
“I know you’re thinking of fleeing.”
Revin froze. Is she reading my mind? Is it already too late?
“We all have.” Maeveen swung a hand out to indicate the women in white.
What’d that mean?
“And you are not the first to question why you are here.” Maeveen guided Revin toward the group of women.
Revin was unable to resist, all thoughts of escape forgotten as the heat increased as it flowed through her veins. With it came a sudden surge of energy and a sense of peace she had not felt in years.
The women stood and encircled them. Maeveen turned to face Revin, taking both of her hands.
“Keely tells the truth. You are tied to the dragons and through them to the Goddess.” Maeveen squeezed Revin’s hands and leaned her head forward, so they were only a few fingers apart. “This is why you’re here. This is your destiny.”
Revin realized that she was meant to be in this place. She didn’t know how or why, but her whole life had prepared her for this moment.
“I know you have no reason to trust me, but I have to ask you to do that for now.” Maeveen leaned back a little and moved her hands up to Revin’s arms. “You were made for this. You and only you. It’s important not just to this village, but the entire world.”
Tears ran down Revin’s cheeks. She reasoned that her life might be in danger, but her nagging sensation had transmuted into one of reassurance, a comfortable feeling that this had all happened before welled up in her. Against all logic she wiped at the tears and tried to smile. “What can I do?”