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The great temple of the Holy Ennead, on Al-Benu where it all began, was full of
friends and strangers. Ianus was stunned. So many people came for his day of
Ascension, but his adopted father was a very popular predicant in Shiloh. They must
have come for him. Standing quietly in the narthex, he straightened his white robes
nervously. He closed his fox brown eyes, and recited his prayers. His chestnut skin
paled, when he heard his cue to enter the nave.
As he walked slowly down the center aisle, Ianus scanned the crowd for his
adopted parents. They were sitting in the front row, smiling. Maya, his mother, waved at
him. Her cinnamon eyes shimmered with tears of pride.
The spicy, sweet smell of the altar incense wafted down from the dais and filled
the room with otherworldly warmth. Ianus’ footsteps resounded off the marble floor.
Sterile echoes broke through the sound of his breath. So many people sat quietly staring
at him. Ianus gulped; he could see in their eyes how much they expected from him. The
tender touch of the incense that only a moment ago invited him into the heart of the
mystery now only numbed him. He felt caged in. He wanted to run. Even the familiar
bas-reliefs carved into the granite oppressed him. The legends were remote; today, they
lacked grace. Taking a deep breath, Ianus tried to let the scent of the incense relax him,
but the great responsibilities he would soon carry weighed heavily on his mind. After
today, he would be an adult in the eyes of his community, and a guardian of another’s
life. Stopping before the dais, he bowed to the altar.
“Ianus Akeru!” The green robed predicant behind the altar cried out. The
oversized, leathery wings of the tiny dragon-like Ceeri hanging onto his back opened.
“You have come to this place through many trials and tribulations, and may I say a few
more than most.” A whisper flashed like lightning across the congregation. “Do you
come to this place willingly, knowing the consequences of the choice you make today?”
Ianus smiled at the predicant behind the altar. He wished that his father could
have performed the rite, but that was forbidden. Family members were not allowed to
officiate the ascension ceremony. At least his good friend Aashen could initiate him. “I
do.” He pronounced confidently.
Looking down at the golden laver on the altar, Ianus blenched at the sight of his
own boyish face looking back at him. Beyond the mirror-like surface of the water, he