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The midday sun beat down on Ellanora’s head, but she didn’t mind. Walking along the dusty path, she sighed contentedly as she looked around at the bright countryside. She’d always loved summer, especially out in here in the flatlands, and as she kept moving, she made sure to keep her eyes peeled for wildlife. To her amusement, two starlings flew overhead, spinning and dancing in the wind. She sighed again. Life was peaceful.
All around her, great fields stretched off into the distance, filled with a mixture of golden wheat, barley, and other grains. As she walked, she passed the occasional farmhand or fellow traveller and said hello before passing on her way. She even bumped into a young merchant couple, on their way to Redthorn, who travelled with her for a few hours before turning away, their journey taking them off in a different direction.
No one was ever unhappy to see Ellanora. Her kind eyes and bright smile put even the wariest at ease, but it was the blue and white robes she wore under her mantle, signifying her as a priest of Iluvia, that really made her stand out. Clerics were rare in the flatlands, especially outside of the towns big enough to have a temple, so when people saw her coming down the road, they always had something to ask her.
Ellanora loved her job. She’d always loved being helpful, even from a young age, and knowing how much of a difference she made to people filled her heart with joy. A lot of villages weren’t big enough to support a full temple, most not even a chapel, so when it came to matters of faith, the villagers either needed to travel to somewhere larger, an often dangerous and expensive trip, or wait for a priest to come to them.
And that was what she did. She travelled around the countryside, visiting the villages and providing them with all the clerical care they needed. From officiating marriages to blessing newborns, there were always reasons for people to need a priest, and she was always glad to help. A lot of clerics demanded payment for these things, but not her. The satisfaction of helping people was more than enough. All she ever asked for was a place to sleep, a hot meal, and occasionally donations for the temple back in Windcliff.
A lot of the time, when she visited places, she would offer to deliver a sermon. While she was quite handy at healing the sick, a talent all clerics learnt early in their training, she also knew how important it was to look after the villagers’ spiritual health as well. Reminding them of the gods, and their love for all mortal beings, filled her with a great sense of pride. Even after devoting herself to the goddess of art and beauty, she still revered the entire pantheon, giving thanks to all the gods in her nightly prayers. After all, Illuvia couldn’t make the world on her own, or maintain it without their help, so why shouldn’t she give thanks to them as well?
Walking down the road, she started humming to herself nonchalantly, a cheerful little song about a dormouse her mother had taught her when she was a child. After a while, she started to sing along, under her breath at first, but soon loud and proudly into the warm summer air.
“Under the hedge, I found a little conker, found a little conker, dum-de-diddle-dee”
As she sang, she heard a voice start to join in.
“I’ll put it in my pack and save it for the winter, save it for the winter, dum-de-diddle-oh”
Looking over into the fields, she saw the grinning face of an old man, dressed in dirty overalls and a large straw hat. She gave him a wave, and he waved back.
“Hello, missy!” The man replied. “Fine day isn’t it?”
“It is indeed.” Ellanora looked up at the clear blue sky, with a deep breath of satisfaction.
“Forgive me askin’, but are you a priestess?”
“I am indeed. I’m on my way to Heatherdale, is it near here?”
The man pointed a finger in the direction she was travelling. “About two miles that way, you’ll be able to see it before long.”
Ellanora smiled thankfully at the man. “Wonderful, thank you so much!”
“Don’t mention it, missy. Gods be with you.”
“Gods be with you too.” Over her heart, Ellanora traced the Sign of the Nine. The man nodded in thanks, before turning back to his crops. With a spring in her step, the cleric carried on her journey, and before too long the farmer’s prediction came true. Cresting the top of a small hill, she looked out over the farmland below and saw a tiny huddle of buildings, nestled in the crook of a small river, no more than a mile and a half away. She smiled to herself. The village of Heatherdale.
Arriving in town, Ellanora found herself in the middle of a hive of bustling activity. Dotted around the small central square were about a dozen market stalls, each flogging a variety of fresh produce to the eager villagers. Looking around, she caught the eyes of a young man, working at a stall selling fresh fruit. He had a soft look to him, with light brown hair and a clean-shaven face, and as he made güvenilir canlı bahis siteleri eye contact with her, she saw him start with surprise, before looking away sheepishly. She giggled to herself. He was pretty cute.
Weaving her way through the crowd, smiling as a group of children ran past her, laughing happily to each other, she made her way towards the stall. Seeing her coming, the man started to blush awkwardly, not sure what to do. Reaching him, she gave him a friendly wave.
“Oh, uh, hi.” The man sounded even more nervous than he looked. Undisturbed, the cleric carried on.
“Could I buy an apple please?”
“Oh, of course, yes. They’re two copper pieces each.”
With a smile, Ellanora reached into her pouch, withdrawing her coin purse. She took out two copper and gave it to him, and he took it with an awkward nod and a smile of his own. Before Ellanora could move away, he blurted out a question.
“Excuse me for asking, but… are you a priestess?”
She couldn’t help but chuckle. “Yes, yes I am, of Iluvia. Why do you ask?”
“Oh, uh…” Clearly, he hadn’t thought that far ahead. “Just… curious really. What brings you to Heatherdale?
“Well, I’m a travelling cleric. I go around villages, helping people who need it.”
“Oh. Right.” Simon struggled to find something else to say, looking for a way to extend the conversation. “How long will you be staying?”
“Well, that depends how badly I’m needed. Usually not more than a few days, maybe three?”
The young man nodded in understanding. Changing topic, Ellanora had a question for him now.
“Is there a mayor, or village elder I could speak to? I’d quite like to hold a sermon while I’m here, and I think it’s polite to let people know.”
The young man shook his head. “Sorry, no, Heatherdale’s a bit too small, but it might be worth asking Herschel if you want to get the word out? He’s the landlord of the local tavern.”
Ellanora’s face lit up, which made him blush slightly. “Wonderful, thank you so much!” Offering her hand over the counter, she introduced herself. “My name’s Ellanora by the way. What’s yours?”
“Oh, uh, Simon. It’s Simon.” The young man shook her hand.
“Nice to meet you, Simon.”
“Nice to meet you too.”
Stepping back, Ellanora took an apple from the stall and bit into it. It was sweet and crisp, and she gave Simon a nod to show her appreciation. Watching her walk away, back into the crowded street, the young man let out a sigh of relief. He’d never been good at talking to pretty women.
Walking into The Field and Plough, Ellanora was surprised to see very few people inside. Behind the bar, a broad-shouldered man stood polishing a glass, but apart from him, the place was empty. He turned as she opened the door, giving her a quizzical look.
“Good afternoon.” Making her way to the bar, the cleric dropped her heavy satchel to the ground. “Are you Herschel, the landlord?”
“Indeed I am. And who might you be?”
“Ellanora. Priestess of Iluvia. Hence the robes.” The two shared a warm laugh.
“I was gonna ask.” the landlord replied. “What can I do for ya?”
“Two things actually. I’ve just arrived in town, and I’m looking for somewhere to stay. Do you have a room I could rent for a few nights? I’d be happy to pay whatever you ask. Within reason, of course!” The cleric chuckled, a warm and pleasant sound. Herschel couldn’t help but smile.
“Of course, don’t worry. Yeah, we’ve got some rooms, although they’re not exactly fancy. Probably nothing like what you’re used to, I’m afraid.”
“Don’t worry, I’m sure I’ve slept in far worse places.” Again, her smile made Herschel feel a warm glow in his chest.
“In that case, just five silver a night will do fine.”
“Wonderful!” Reaching into her coin purse again, she slid a gold coin across to the landlord. “I’ll just pay for two nights now, if that’s alright? I don’t know if I’ll be staying any longer than that.”
“Don’t worry. Just let me know if you do. Not like we get many visitors here.” The man replied, pocketing the gold. “Did you say you had another request?”
“Yes. I’d quite like to give a sermon while I’m in town, tomorrow, around noonish? I was wondering if you could help me get the word out. It’d be an awful shame if no one turned up.”
Herschel nodded. “Yeah, yeah I can do that. This place does get quite busy at night, hard as it is to believe at the moment.” He gestured around to the empty room. “When the market’s closed up for the day, I’ll let people know. Should be able to rustle you up a decent crowd.”
Ellanora smiled happily. “Thank you, you’re an angel.” The man smiled back, chest puffing slightly as he accepted the compliment.
Feeling a sudden yawn, Ellanora covered her mouth with the back of her. “Sorry to ask, but do you have a room ready now? I’ve been travelling for a while, and I’d quite like to take a güvenilir illegal bahis siteleri nap.”
The man chuckled. “Yeah, yeah, that’s understandable. Just wait here, I’ll go make sure it’s set up ready for you.” Leaving the bar, he slipped out and up the stairs, leaving the priestess to settle into a corner seat. Looking out of the window, she watched the townsfolk going about their day, enjoying the mid-afternoon sunshine. They all looked so happy, and she felt a warm contentment in her chest.
Before long, Herschel returned, handing her a key as he made his way back behind the bar.
“There you go, first door on the left. If you need anything else, just come and let me know.”
Ellanora smiled, and thanked him, picking up her satchel and climbing the stairs towards her room. Coming to the door, she unlocked it and stepped inside, dropping her bag as she fell onto the bed. The room was small, but cosy, with an oak wardrobe in the corner and a large window looking out over the market place. Getting back up, she made sure to lock the door before drawing the curtains and slipping out of her travelling gear.
As her robes fell in a pile on the floor, the cleric lifted the blankets and slipped into the bed, naked but for her modest cloth underwear. She lay on her back, enjoying the soft feeling of the mattress beneath her, before closing her eyes. Before long, she’d drifted off into a peaceful sleep.
Opening her eyes groggily, Ellanora quickly realised more time had passed than she thought. Looking over at the curtains, she could see the dim light of dawn seeping through the fabric. Rolling out of bed, she rubbed her eyes and yawned, before standing up and making her way over to the window. Throwing the curtains wide, she looked out over the village. On the horizon, the sun was just cresting the sky, and she guessed it must be around six o’clock.
Closing the curtains, she returned to her bed, rifling through her satchel in search of clean underwear. Slipping off her cream panties, she replaced them with an almost identical pair; simple, decorated with white lace and a tiny blue bow. Slipping on her blue robes over the top, she fastened her belt, before donning her mantle and sitting down to fix her hair. Soon, she was ready to face the day.
Coming downstairs, she saw Herschel already behind the bar, red-eyed and a little groggy himself. She waved to him.
“Good morning to you too, miss.” His voice sounded gravely. “Up early, aren’t we?”
The priestess nodded. “Yes, although I did head to bed a bit earlier than I’d intended.” The landlord chuckled warmly.
“I wish I could say the same.”
Approaching the bar, Ellanora rested her arms against the counter. “Did you have much luck, telling people about the sermon?” The man nodded.
“Yep. You should be getting yourself a pretty decent crowd.”
Ellanora smiled. “Good. Thank you.”
“Don’t mention it.”
Stepping away from the polished wood, Ellanora turned towards the door. “I think I might go for a walk.”
“Have fun.” Herschel chuckled again.
“Thank you, I will.” With a happy spring in her step, the cleric opened the heavy wooden door and stepped out into the morning light. She inhaled deeply, before setting off into the brisk morning air.
Standing in the village square, her holy book open in her arms, Ellanora looked out over her congregation. A group of about twenty or thirty villagers stood around, eagerly looking up at her as they waited for her to start speaking. She recognised Herschel, as well as a few people she’d bumped into in the marketplace. Children sat wide-eyes on the ground, and people from all around the area stood with their eyes locked to her. With a flourish, she began.
“In the beginning, there was nothing. And then, from the nothing, came the gods.”
As her audience stood, enthralled, Ellanora began to recount the story of the world’s creation. She told them of the gods, the nine great deities, forging the world from nothing. She described Arumafex, goddess of craftsmanship, forming the world from a ball of clay, while Aquarion smothered it in the waters of the seas. She described Bellarion raising the land from out of the waves, while Pantilus, Lord of Beasts, populated it with all manner of plants and animals, including humans themselves. She even mentioned mad Hedonis, the god of debauchery, whose drunken laughter gave the world it’s colour. Lastly, she described Sidonia, weaving her threads throughout creation, giving birth to the magic that kept their world alive.
“And then came Iluvia, goddess of beauty, to breath wonder into the world. It was she who taught us speech, so that we may share our thoughts with each other, art, so that we may desire to create, and love, so that we may cherish all that is around us. While we give thanks to all the other gods for creating our world, it is Iluvia we have to thank for all the beauty in it, and for our güvenilir bahis şirketleri ability to appreciate it. Erus gave us law, Mortus gave us purpose, but it is Iluvia who gave us joy.”
“Remember, seek beauty wherever you can. Be kind, be thoughtful. Happiness begets happiness, laughter begets laughter, and through this, we can all do our part to make Erosia a better place. Love is the greatest gift of all. Thank you, and may the gods bless you all.”
Repeating after her, the townsfolk chanted “Gods bless us all”, before turning to talk amongst themselves. Stepping down from her plinth, which in reality was nothing more than an overturned vegetable box, she shut her book and prepared to answer their questions. A few people came forward, asking for blessings and wisdom, which she happily shared, before spotting a familiar face coming towards her through the crowd.
It was Simon, the young man from the fruit stand. With a smile, she waved at him, and nervously he waved back. Saying goodbye to the elderly woman she had been talking to, she turned back as the young man approached.
“Simon, it’s good to see you.”
The young man smiled, his cheeks blushing slightly. Ellanora couldn’t help but think he looked adorable.
“Good to see you too. I heard your sermon, it was really nice.”
Ellanora smiled. “Thank you. I like telling that story. And it seemed people enjoyed it as well!” She gestured around at the happy townsfolk, still milling about in the square.
“I think they did too, it’s not often we get priests coming through. Most people here don’t know much about the gods, other than their names. It’s hard to give thanks to them when you don’t really know anything about them.”
Ellanora chuckled, which made Simon blush harder. “I know what you mean. Still, I can’t fault anyone for not knowing. I can’t imagine it comes up much in farming!” She chuckled again, as did Simon, slightly less awkwardly than before. With a new sense of confidence, he asked a question that had been bothering him.
“Um, did Iluvia really teach us how to speak?” Immediately, Ellanora’s quizzical look made him start to panic.
“I, uh, it’s just that I always assumed that we could, uh, always speak, so I just…”
Ellanora laughed, loudly and warmly, putting her hand on his shoulder in reassurance.
“Haha, it’s alright, calm down. Yes, she taught us language, or rather, she taught the first humans language, obviously that’s not what we speak now.” Sighing, she looked off into the distance wistfully.
“Sometimes I wonder what it sounded like. It was probably closer to Celestial than our common tongue. Full of music and melody.”
“Music?” It was Simon’s turn to look quizzical.
“Oh yes. Iluvia is also the goddess of song, and it’s said that her voice sounds like a choir singing.” Ellanora thought for a moment, before continuing. “Do you want to have this conversation somewhere else? We could go back to The Field and Plough, maybe get something to eat?”
Simon looked like a rabbit caught in headlights, equal parts excited and terrified. “S-sure, that sounds great, actually.” He gestured towards the tavern. “Lead the way!”
Sat across from each other, the pair laughed merrily, wiping their eyes as Simon finished his story.
“I swear, I’m not making this up!”
Trying to catch her breath, Ellanora stuttered out “Oh, no, no, I believe you, don’t worry!”
Finally calming down, the two relaxed back into their chairs, empty plates in front of them as they nursed cups of ale. With a deep sigh, Simon shook his head.
“But then again, I’m sure you’ve met more than your fair share of strange characters over the years.”
Ellanora chuckled. “Oh, I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t. One of the quirks of the job, I suppose.” With both hands, she took a sip from her cup. Simon’s face took a more serious look.
“I think it’s really brave of you, doing what you do. I don’t know many people who could travel around like that.”
Ellanora shrugged. “What can I say. I like helping people.”
“But, isn’t it dangerous? Out there on the road, all by yourself?”
The cleric thought for a moment, running over the few unpleasant encounters she’d had over the years. “That’s… not entirely wrong. I’ve had a couple of run-ins, but I find most situations can be resolved peacefully. And when they can’t… ” Instead of finishing, she gestured towards the loop on her belt where her mace usually hung. Simon nodded in understanding.
“I see.” He paused, before continuing, struggling for a while to find the right word. “You’re… really remarkable.”
Ellanora blushed, smiling in appreciation. “Thank you, but I’m really not. I’m just a priest, trying to make the world a better place.”
“You’re more than just that.” Simon’s words hung in the air as he again struggled to think of what to say. “The other priests who come through, they… well, they’re not like you. They’re… Brash, and self-important. They don’t really care about us, just collecting their donations and heading on to the next village. But you… You really care. Hell, you’ve spent the last hour and a half sat talking to me, and you barely know me at all!”
Ellanora gave the young man a warm smile. “Well, all friendships have to start somewhere.”
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