The Sisters walked barefoot and dressed only in simple white linen smocks. Their bare feet drank in the verdant grass as they joyfully made their way, singing temple hymns as they washed communally in the freshwater of the river, their clothes drying on the shore.

Every day without fail they set forth up the mountain to the plateau. The lush vegetation of the Valley stretching far up beyond the mountainside and distant across the plateau. It was a mirage in green. In twos and threes they sang, carrying baskets of goods for the temple, the sun granting their steps lightness.

Upon reaching the top they stopped, silently absorbing in the nature. The trees of ash, oak and willow; of rowan, holly and cedar. Still as statues, they watched the approach of the sisters. Grasses swayed a path as they walked. Golden corn stood proudly, beneath cracked white arches and distant mountains tailing off obliterated as wisps of smoke into the sky.

Before them lay the Gardens. Older Sisters who could no longer take the creaking of their knees, the ease of youth long dissipated; tended Her Gardens. Slowly, they walked. Solemnly they knelt and tended to the plants, filled the troughs, pushed the wheezing pumps. The water sluiced around the Gardens, dripping a cascade over the plants.

The young Sisters gave them grace and food from the Valley. At the temple gate they met with Sakrisan, a scholar and priest of Hers.

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Delah walked barefoot to her home. Beneath a large cedar, her bed of needles and leaves bade her welcome. Slipping to the floor with the fading refrains of the final hymn on her lips, she sank down into a slow, cool slumber. In her drowsing moments, the visage of Her wove in and out of sight.

To Chapter Two – The Young Recruit

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