In the Realm beyond the Seventh Circle, a young princess prays to the
mother goddess for a man to fight her enemies. She asks for a man skilled
in the arts of war and says she wants a man who will excite passions and put
the plans of her enemies to nought. By chance, a suitable candidate is
conducting bizarre experiments beside a holy spring in the Realm beyond
the Sixth Circle (our realm). He arrives in the princess’ camp and her
prayers are answered ... but not as she imagined.
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.