(122-07-04) A Word to the Wizened
A Word to the Wizened
Summary: Leire beseeches the Crone on Marsei's behalf.
Date: 4 July 2015
Related: None

The Starry Sept is the seat of the Faith of the Seven. The High Septon resides here, as do any number of clergy who study here or attend him and the faithful. Seven domes and seven towers make up the structure, all of them richly decorated with seven-pointed stars, carved or inlaid or painted, or in mosaics of tiles.

The largest dome, the worship area, is a heptagon like all the others, but much wider. The seven-pointed star is inlaid into the black marble floor in massive slices of highly polished semi-precious stones: amethyst and rosy quartz, jade and lapis, onyx, cat-eye and garnet. The soaring domed roof is painted a deep blue with glittering sparkles of mica mixed in, and hundreds of seven-pointed stars picked out in gold and silver leaf.

Each of the seven walls holds a statue, larger than life, of one of the gods. The Father, The Mother, The Warrior, The Maiden, The Smith, The Crone, The Stranger. They are painted wood, beautifully and realistically carved by artists of great skill. Their gowns and robes are leafed in gold and set with jewels, and their eyes are alabaster and jet, with irises of sapphire or emerald or deep brown citrine. The exception is The Stranger. His or her statue is plain, almost stylized, the face hooded and the robes painted glossy black with minute flecks of black dragonglass that make it glitter very faintly, like the most distant of stars.

There is an ornately carved and inlaid altar before each statue, for the faithful to pray, and light their candles.

During the plague that struck Oldtown, the Starry Sept was pushed to its limits, from the structure itself (which housed the sick and suffering), to the coffers, to the servants of the faith, most of whom were called on to administer healing to those fallen ill in addition to their regular responsibilities. But with Oldtown's recovery followed the sept's, and those whose faith in the Seven might have waned were called back to the flock for having cheated the Stranger and surviving the miserable ordeal. A service has just finished under the great dome, led by a septa with long, dark hair and flowing dove gray robes. A pair of acolytes attended her, and now that her sermon and the attendant rituals are complete, they circulate to encourage the faithful to aid in replenishing the coffers, one coin at a time.

Leire is approached by noblemen and women for blessings and advice as they take their leave, her mien one of solemn piety and easy grace as she presses flesh with her supplicants.

Further back, not yet moving to receive wisdom, is a figure all in white. She wears a simple gown of fine noble make as well as a mantle and fabric over her hair, an elegant makeshift hood against the soft drizzle that falls on the city, held in place by delicate hands even now under the protection of the great dome. In white, she is striking, pure contrast to the black marble underfoot, yet the woman's very pose is demure, the way she holds herself both humbled in the presence of the Seven and slightly on-edge by something outside of the sacrosanct protection of the sept, glancing among the supplicants and to the entrance as if she somehow expects to find some threat, some unwanted face. Marsei has been here all along, devoted, an eager recipient of the sermon, whatever her distractions. She watches the septa and watches the other men and women leave, or go to pray at one of the seven statues, one by one.

Within a quarter hour the mass of nobles has all but dispersed, those that remain having moved to offer silent prayer to the Father, or the Smith, or the Crone, or any of the other faces of the Godhead. Leire surveys them with her pale, gray eyes, with the same protective aura as the Mother herself, keeping watch over her children. She has noticed Marsei as well, of course. Not only today, but on many occasions. The radiant redhead is known to her as a frequent attendant at the sept, and the anxious element to her energy attracts the septa's concern.

Briefly touching the seven-pointed star worn at the hollow of her throat, she approaches the last of the supplicants. "I am called Leire," she tells Marsei softly, her voice low to keep from carrying or disturbing those within the ring of seven statues. "Might we pray together?"

Were it not for her keen watch, Marsei could be a statue herself all the while, one of ivory — and rubies, in the rare moments that her hair slips from its cover. In truth, her red hair is pale in colour in comparison to the gems of the sept. She bows her head in both gratitude and humbleness toward the septa; nervous for being noticed alone, yet thankful that she has been. "Septa Leire," she greets gently, matching the quietness of Leire's voice, smiling with immediate sincerity. It is only prevented from being too radiant by the solemnity of their surroundings. "I would very much like it, if we could," she says with a small tone of hope.

Leire lifts a pale, porcelain hand as if to invite Marsei toward the faces of the Seven, and as they cross the floor of the Starry Sept, she asks, "Who is it that calls to your heart?" She eyes the statuesque redhead sidelong as they make their way, and though she does indeed put the question to Marsei, Leire seems to be leading them toward the visage of the Crone before there has even been a definitive answer. She wears a slight smile, and there's something about her that seems to effortlessly encourage one to be at ease in her presence.

While Marsei is a frequent visitor to the Mother, today her eyes cast about the grand idols with conflict, a split second of quiet panic in her eyes; if her heart is to be set right by any of the Seven, her troubles are such that she does not know which face to turn to. And just like that, she is led. Wordlessly, she seems to immediately put her faith in Leire, and in turn, the Crone — although as they make their way to the statue, it's the septa's calm face she watches.

As they approach the wizened image of the Crone, Leire touches the star at her throat once again, a habitual action that seems to reflect some sort of subconcious communion with the Seven. She gazes up at the statue, silent for a moment, her heart and her faith having led the pair of them there as much as her feet. Perhaps it is a sixth sense she possesses as a servant of the Godhead, to sense the unspoken and unrealized needs of those who enter these hallowed halls.

Wordlessly, Leire takes a slender taper from the altar of the Crone, lighting its wick with the flame of one already left behind, burning at the statue's aged feet. She offers it to Marsei to hold, the occasional droplet of wax but part of the burden she expects the noblewoman to bear in the course of coming before the ancient one. Lifting both hands, she traces a vertical line in perfect symmetry over each of Marsei's eyelids, urging her to close them. Her breathing is quiet and even at their close proximity, as if inviting her companion to join her in respiratory harmony.

Marsei holds the candle in both hands, a familiar communion. The flame flickers and stills under her protection, marking a halo of illusionary warmth on her white gown, and as wax runs over her fingers, she does not move. She tips her head up toward the Crone and Her knowing eyes respectfully, in silent entreaty; but it is the septa's face she sees last before her eyes close, lowered on cue. She breathes as Leire does, when Leire breathes.

Leire places her hands around Marsei's, her palms soft and warm and familiar in their touch. And then she closes her eyes, too, letting the synchronicity of their quiet breathing find a peaceful cadence before she speaks. "Blessed Crone," she begins, her voice intimate and low, but not exactly a whisper. As if her words are just for the three of them. "We stand before you lost, united by faith and flesh to beseech you for guidance. Look into the heart of your most devout child, and illuminate for her the path to understanding, that she might come out of the dark and into your holy light." She's only getting started, but she pauses to breath, to bow her head further and to genuflect. The droplets of wax spill down the taper and land indiscriminately on their paired hands.

An air of tranquility comes over Marsei, so naturally soothed, yet she is nevertheless a soul seeking and, wanting the guidance beseeched, a silent desperation for it beneath the peace inherent in the prayer. She holds the septa's hands tighter, a moment of ardency amid the synchronized breath, the eloquent words. The wax is hot, still, and before it starts to cool and has the chance to crack, they are bonded as they pray. She cannot see Leire bow her head, but feels the pause and bows her own ever-so-slightly.

Their foreheads nearly graze, the moonstone set into the silver circlet worn on the septa's brow catching the light and glittering while they pray. The wax binds them together, resonating the same symbolism inherant in Leire's spoken words. "Wise One, we know that nothing in this life is simple, that your wisdom is a rippling web of infinite knowledge. Cast us but a thread of it, that we might know some clarity. Lift your lantern and bathe us in the light of your grace. Guide us on the long road that leads to understanding and peace."

The taper burns hotter as it burns low, the flame crawling along the wick toward their cupped palms, casting off beads of wax that become increasingly difficult to tolerate. Leire's next incantation reflects this urgency, taking on a more personal note. Now it is a whisper in which she speaks. "Lay your all-knowing hand on me, that I might guide her in your stead."

Marsei clings as devoutly to the words as she does to the most devout woman who speaks them. They're more than words to the lady, more than a desperate prayer or wistful routine. Her devotion to the prayer is palpable in the warming air. Her face, unseen by — perhaps — all but the Crone, tenses from its tranquility as the invocation shifts and the wax drips more molten on her delicate skin; for a moment her eyes seek to open, to look at the septa, but still she remains dedicated.

There is no more to be said, at least not now, by Leire's reckoning. How Marsei knows the prayer is done is the feel of cool air being blown over the taper's licking flame, putting it out. The septa clasps the hands in hers just a shade tighter, in the moment when Marsei at last opens her eyes to find Leire watching her. And then she flexes her palms, breaking the tight seal of the wax and causing it to fracture and split and free them from each other. There's something about the way she does it, as if there's a little hint of reluctance in it. "Sometimes the answers we seek most desperately are the ones that elude us the longest. Tonight and tomorrow, when the moon is in the sky, sit at an open window and burn these until they are no more." She pauses, parting from Marsei long enough to retrieve two more tapers identical to the one she discards on the altar." And then, "On the third morning, return to me."

Marsei follows Leire with her gaze, blinking as if emerging slowly from the experience and too quickly, all at once. Her hands come together on their own, gently prying pushing wax from her knuckles with a thumb in no hurry, a task abandoned when she reaches for the new tapers. "Yes," she says and nods, an agreement that manages to be both eager and solemn, truly nothing more than a small bob of her dimpled chin. "I will. And…" she starts uncertainly, her voice low and soft, her light brows lifted hopefully. "And then?"

Leire's hands are splotchy with red where the wax has superficially burnt the skin, nothing that won't fade before they meet again. "And then we will beseech the Oracle again," Leire says, her luminous gaze flitting to the downturned face of the Crone. Not a kind visage, exactly, but there is a sort of comfort to be had from it just the same. She returns her gaze to Marsei and, with a slight smile, she confesses, "I do not know your name."

She'd been gazing upon the Crone as well, before she's reminded that she is nameless in this. "Oh," the noblewoman offers in apology, smiling gently, naturally benevolent. "My apologies. It… Marsei." She looks up toward the great domed ceiling — and beyond, through it, in the direction of the Hightower that looms over the entire city. "From the Hightower." It's simpler that way. She is quick to look back to Leire, more grounded in the present inside the sept even though her visit seems to come to a close. There's a subtly awestruck glitter in her eyes when they're on the septa, looking up to her as if she's something… beyond. "I will pray every night, and think of the Crone," she tells Leire in sincerity, "You have my gratitude."

Leire smiles warmly, indicating there's been neither harm nor foul in the oversight. "Marsei," she repeats, sounding a little like she might have known that already. The redhead is, after all, a steadfast fixture among the congregation. Before the noblewoman goes, Leire takes her hands once more. This time the gesture is brief and fleeting, a quick clasp to accompany her words. "And you have mine, for inviting me to share this path with you. When we reach its end, I hope your heart will be lighter for it."

Marsei's expression is bright, full of optimism that doesn't match her words; words that almost do not escape, hesitating on her lips before she confesses them. "My heart has not known lightness for some time." Yet she smiles freely, purely, contrary and yet so earnest. She takes the fabric from her hair, freeing gingery waves and minuscule braids; with this covering, she respectfully wraps the candles for the short trek home in what has likely turned to rain. "In three days."

Just as Leire led her to the Crone, now she leads Marsei to the stairs of the Starry Sept, pausing there before releasing the noblewoman out into the world, to the life that awaits her beyond the sept. She leaves more visibly at ease than when she came, and even though they have only begun to forge this path together, there is a sense of righteousness to it that contributes to Marsei's feeling of optimism. Before they part, Leire confirms, "Three days. May the Seven keep you well, and may the Crone know the flickering of your flame."

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