Synergy - June 1998
The Beginning - ShadowCat
(page 2/15)


The wooded grove was silent. The light from countless stars was caught and reflected from the four still pools grouped in its centre. A single torch stood at the centre, its light flickering on the statue of the four-fold goddess. A figure knelt quietly at its feet, head bowed. The light glinted off a single tear that splashed on the ground.

The baying of hounds echoed through the trees. The figure started and whipped her head around towards the sound, fright evident on her face. She shrank back against the statue as the dogs burst into the clearing, followed by their master. He dismounted and walked forward to where she crouched.

"It's over girl," he said, standing before her. "There's nowhere left to run." She shook her head and tried to back away. The statue pressed against her back, cold, unyielding stone, preventing her escape. He reached out his hand to take hold of her arm but before he could touch her a gentle white light swept out from the statue to encompass her. She held her hands in front of her face, looking at them in wonder.

"Halt!" came a gentle yet commanding voice, "She is under our protection. Leave now and take thy dogs with thee." The man looked up, then left, his hounds trailing at his heels. The Lady turned to face the statue, kneeling before it in gratitude. "He shall not be thine," a slightly different voice continued, "For thine is a different task. In token of this, accept our blessing, Beloved." The white light coalesced into a bright point less than a handspan across and pulsed with the voice's words.

"I grant wisdom, that you might know when to fight and when to surrender.
"I grant courage because sometimes it is harder to submit than to fight.
"l grant dignity. None may take it from you though you kneel in chains at a man's feet.
"I grant compassion enough to melt the coldest of hearts.

"Now stretch out your hand and touch the light." The Lady did so, gasping quietly as the chill struck her fingertips. The light flashed brightly for a second, forcing her to look away. When her sight returned there was a small clear crystal lying in her hand.

"Now go. Do not worry about him, for he has gone and should not trouble you again."

The figure rose and curtseyed gracefully to the statue before leaving the grove.

Bryony awoke confused, wondering where she was. She looked around and remembered. She was in Goddess Grove and it was her wedding day. Her parents had insisted she enter the grove the previous evening in accordance with tradition, to seek the blessing of the Four-Fold Goddess on her impending marriage. As the moon rose, she had drunk from each of the four wells, representing the four faces of the Goddess; Judge Huntress, Queen and Lover. Then she had knelt in prayer before the central statue, from where she had been woken by the early morning sun.

She sighed and pushed herself to her feet. If she told her parents of the vision they would only claim she was lying in order to cancel the wedding. They had too much depending on this alliance to listen to her and let it go that easily. As she pushed herself up she felt something cut into her palm. Opening her hand she saw a crystal sparkling in the sunlight. She smiled, she knew what she had to do...