Chapter 5 – I Can Watch Her Eyes Too
Was Maria ill? It seemed so, but Gabriel knew what was going on. It was not an illness, but Maria did need to stay a few more days in Duc.
The night the Gods’ Tear appeared, Maria had fainted. Days of strict praying exhausted her. The environment of Duc made her uncomfortable, as well as Lord Drick. Besides eating and sleeping, Maria spent most of her time in prayer, and it had exhausted her. It was not surprising that a sudden respite from the enormous tension had caused her to sink into an exhausted slumber.
Maria had a housemaid doing rough work and a close maid. In these two days, they also fell sick. Perhaps they could no longer stand this uncomfortable place after a long journey across the desert. Lord Drick sent several maids and slave girls to look after Maria, but Gabriel had decided that they could not serve the Adoratrice directly.
Gabriel told Drick, “If you believe that Maria is going to be the Adoratrice after she has obtained the Gods’ Tear, then you should treat her like an Adoratrice from now on.”
The Isis Shrine had a vast amount of farmlands and countless slaves, but the Adoratrice was beyond the secular world. She could not use things that was presented directly by slaves, thus slaves could not look after her. She could not contact a grown-up man in any way. Her food and clothes could not be brought by women who had had a man. So those sent by Lord Drick were not appropriate.
Lord Drick had thought a lot, but he had failed to consider that. Truth be told, this wasn’t a measure of his carelessness. Only after the formal ceremony in the shrine of Isis would the approved candidate become the Adoratrice. What Gabriel was doing was to treat Maria as strictly as the true Adoratrice in advance because she did not want anything to go wrong from the moment she had secured the Gods’ Tear.
The good side was that the delegate of the Isis Shrine had recognized Maria as the Adoratrice.
In fact, Maria was not ill. It was Gabriel’s duty to protect her, no matter from enemy or from disease. When Maria woke up after a night-long, coma-like stupor, Gabriel healed her using [the Blessing Theurgy]. After that, her body was fine enough for Gabriel to escort her across the desert.
Gabriel had other things to do. She did not even tell Rod Drick, but she was teaching Maria the fundamental magic of Isis Shrine, [the Test of the Gods]. Having the Gods’ Tear was not enough to be the Adoratrice. Maria had to awake the divine power. And that was exactly what Gabriel was going to teach her.
It was extremely difficult, but with the help of the Gods’ Tear, it would be much easier. That was why the Gods’ Tear was so precious. Only after Maria awakened her divine power and passed the Test of the Gods could she prove that she was able to use the Gods’ Tear and give blessings to her people.
Since Maria had acquired the Gods’ Tear, if she could awaken her power before she arrived to the Isis Shrine in Memfis, she would be uncontestedly the true Adoratrice. But if she could not pass the test in a short time, there might be new troubles. Gabriel had escorted Maria through the long journey to Duc. She had witnessed the birth of the Gods’ Tear and Maria’s devoutness. She deeply believed that Maria should be the Adoratrice. Hence she could not wait to help her pass the test.
It was not against the gods’ will. When Maria reached the shrine, the priests there would teach her the same magic step by step and assess her achievement by schedule. Gabriel just shifted the process forward as a bonus.
One thing that Lord Drick was worrying about was whether the priests of the shrine might thwart her from being the Adoratrice by not teaching her the real magic or just delaying the process. He was considering whether he should pay a public tribute or a bribe. Gabriel had actually solved his problem but told him nothing. Now the rest only depended on Maria herself.
When looking back at all they had gone through to get the Gods’ Tear, Gabriel really believed that they were blessed by Isis. She felt a sense of kinship with Maria that made her willing to protect her.
The magic Gabriel taught Maria was a specific way of praying. But it required strong concentration, faith and tranquility. The special ritual would awaken the power given by the gods, which then meant the test was a success.
“How will the test be?” Maria asked her.
Gabriel gave her a smile, “Pray to the Gods’ Tear in the way I taught you. You will soon receive the power from the gods, and you will awaken the desire deep in your soul. You have to learn to face it, till it can no longer influence your heart and your faith. That is the Test, the threshold to the palace of the magic. Your heart is pious and pure. It will not be difficult for you to pass this test. You also know how to behave as the Adoratrice, I have nothing to add.”
Maria hesitated and asked, “Shouldn’t I wait till we’ve arrived at the shrine and gone through the ceremony before I try to pass the test? Wouldn’t it be against the gods’ will if I do it here and now?”
Gabriel shook her head, “You are not acting against the gods’ will. The Test of the Gods is open to all. If you cannot pass the test, then you will not get the blessing from the gods. But I know you can.” Seeing the hesitation in Maria’s eyes, she added, “I can tell you something that just happened today in this town.”
She told her about the dispute that happened in the square. At last she said, “I think Mister Aristotle has his point. The gods’ will is the premise of all. Once you pass the test, it means you are approved by the gods, since you are the candidate of the Adoratrice and you have already obtained the Gods’ Tear.”
Maris fell into thought, blinking her beautiful eyes. At last she nodded and said, “Yes, you are right. And you know better about the rules of the Isis Shrine. I will not disappoint you.”
Gabriel shook her head again, “No, not me. You will not disappoint our goddess, Mother Isis the great.”
Maria suddenly realized something and asked, “You have been with me since morning. How can you hear every word from the people on the other side of the town when I hear nothing? Is this the power of the gods?”
Gabriel smiled, “This is the power given by our goddess. I could hear the words of every one of them because I focused and listened. As the Adoratrice, you will have an even stronger power than I. I, as a warrior, can no longer learn the supreme magics. But you will master the supreme magic given by the gods. ”
As she finished, the maid downstairs called, “Lord Gabriel, Mister Aristotle has found the attendant you’ve asked for. He brings him here.”
Amon knew well that Aristotle and Crazy’Ole had saved him today. It did not surprise him that Crazy’Ole would save him. But this strange young mister was apparently a nobleman. Why would he help a miner’s son whom he was not acquainted with? Amon appreciated this mister very much and was glad to work for him. A servant for three days was not a big deal, let alone the nice reward of one gold paran a day.
On the way to Maria’s residence, Amon thanked Aristotle for what he had done. He even wanted to kneel down and kiss the soil in front of his feet, which was the greatest way to show gratefulness as far as he knew. However, Aristotle stopped him and said, “My child, you don’t have to do this. You are not my slave and I am neither a god nor a king.” He then looked at Amon and asked, “Do you want to ask why I helped you?”
“Yes, I do. Sir.”
Aristotle looked into the distance and mumbled, “I come from a faraway place called Hellen. There are many cities there, and I was once a student in one of their Academies. There, my teacher once expounded on the aim of learning. He said virtue was knowledge, and as such, a smart man should be a kind man.”
Amon blinked and asked, “Hellen……Have you heard of a savant named Thaetus?”
Aristotle was surprised, “I have seen him at the Academy. He is the student of Theodore, who is a friend of my teacher’s. How did you know his name, my boy?”
Amon answered, “I was told by an old man in the town. The one who talked to you a while ago.” Amon had heard Crazy’Ole mentioned the name Thaetus. He was told that the savant claimed that there are only five regular polyhedrons in the world, and that the dodecahedron was the most special one. That it was the shape of the world designed by the gods, containing information about the secret fifth element, and that it was the symbol and source of the mystical powers.
Amon thought that it was just the ravings of a drunken old man. That man exists.So what Crazy’Ole said should be true.
Aristotle’s interest in the boy grew as the two continued to walk to the south of the town. He asked, “We were talking about the oracle of the shrine. Do you know the spirit of the deity? Why would the goddess who has left the oracles be called your town’s patron?”
Why was a god a god and why was an oracle an oracle? Nobody in the town cared to think about these questions. Amon did not answer, he just said respectfully, “Please enlighten me, sir.”
Aristotle smiled, “Well, I myself don’t have a definite answer either. I just want to discuss it with you. The oracle is said to be from the patron of the town, because it protected the people of the town. The parangons produced here are extremely precious, with the technique passed down from generation to generation. What was done to stop the people from succumbing to their greed and forcing underage children and women to do the heavy labor? Why were the young able to grow up healthy and the women able to raise the children peacefully, which has in turn protected the whole industry?”
Light suddenly dawned in Amon’s head. He felt like he had caught onto something and said, “The oracle. It banned underage children from learning the technique and women from using it.”
Aristotle nodded, “That is why the goddess in the shrine is called the patron of the town. No matter how the oracle has become in history, the people here need it. My boy, if you become a priest in the future, you should be one who defends the oracle but with true knowledge about the spirit of the deity and its origin. Don’t be the priest we met on the square.”
He meditated a little after saying this, then smiled and turned to Amon, “The spirit of the oracle is that children under sixteen cannot learn the technique of Duc. But in your language, the word ‘can’ means both ‘be able to’ and ‘be allowed to’. You understand it, right? That is why that priest could not argue with me today. But you should be aware of this nuance, otherwise you will be as confused as the others were.”
Amon fell into thought for the rest of the way, which did not take a long time. They soon saw the villa where Maria lived.
“He is a man.” Gabriel looked at Amon and said to Aristotle in a slightly dissatisfied tone.
Aristotle smiled, “He is still a boy. He meets your demands. As you can see, my lord, it is too hard to find a person in this town with no dust on their head and no mud under their nails. He is the only one I found. And I have to tell you that he is the miner that extracted Gods’ Tear. How can one without a pure heart and Isis’ blessing welcome Gods’ Tear?”
“Oh”, Gabriel moderated her tone, “I heard the discussion there and I know what kind of person you are bringing to me. So the parangon this boy extracted was Gods’ Tear, which almost got him punished by the priest here.”
“That’s right……So, can he stay?”
Amon turned up his head and had a look at Gabriel. He found the warrior staring at his face with a piercing look. Their eyes met and Amon could not help but lower his head. This lady is beautiful. She was the most beautiful woman Amon had ever seen. But Amon found an expanding aura from her severely upright figure, like an invisible pushing force. What he beheld at first sight was not her beauty but her majesty.
“Amon, you can stay. Your job is simple. You are going to prepare the needs in daily life for Lord Maria……Hmm, even you are a child, you should still be careful not to touch Lord Maria when you pass things to her. You have to stay away in silence when Lord Maria cleans herself and takes rests……And most importantly, you can tell nobody anything about what you see and hear in this place, not even a word! Otherwise you will be punished. Follow the maid, and change your clothes.”
Gabriel spelled Amon’s name, though it was the first time they met. Although Amon was still a boy, she gave him orders that were even stricter than those in the shrine. She warned him not to touch Maria or he would get punished. But she did not tell him about what punishment it would be. Upstairs, Maria had heard the whole dialogue.
Gabriel called the maid to lead Amon to change his clothes after frightening him. Amon’s clothes were clean, but they were worn. There was another reason why Gabriel need a person from the town to be Maria’s attendant. She did not want anyone to know that Maria was learning magic. The Ducians knew nothing about magic so unlike Rod Drick’s servants, it was impossible for a Ducian to leak information.
Amon had thought that Gabriel was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen, but he almost immediately changed his mind when he saw Maria for the first time. When Amon’s gaze fell upon her, he admired her from the bottom of his heart, and affirmed that she should be the most beautiful woman in this world. Stunned, he saluted subconsciously and said, “Dear Lord Maria. I am Amon at your service. ”
Maria was about the same age as Amon, maybe a year or two older. She was about as tall as him too. But Amon had to call her Lord Maria. A gentle amber shine gleamed through her chestnut hair, while her hazel eyes hid a blue glimmer, like a star deep in the night, or a glint in a pond.
“So you must be the miner who received the Gods’ Tear. Thank Isis for her blessing, and thank you.” Maria eyes rested on Amon’s eyes when she spoke, with peace and tenderness. She tried to be calm and serene, but failed to hide her speck of curiosity.
Amon grew nervous, lowering his head by force of habit. Her face was so perfect, especially her eyes. It was like what one can only imagine in the dreams. Amon’s lowered face turned red. There has never been a girl like her before in Duc. Why is she always looking at my eyes? She is actually a girl of my age. I can watch her eyes too.
Amon’s work was simple. He prepared all the things Maria needed, like food, drinks, and so on. He took them to the living room in the first floor, then waited for Maria to use them, then cleared them and handed them over to other servants. For example, he delivered the meals to Maria. Maria did not eat much, not even as much as a third of what Amon ate. But there were many other things than food for Amon to prepare.
Amon had to wash his hands clean before he put all the silver tableware on a small table. Then he cut the food to proper pieces, put the knives and spoons to the right place. He placed the little silver pot of milk, the cup of water and the little saucers for salt and spices to the two sides of the table, then put the whole table in front of the place where Maria sat and ate without making a sound or spilling the milk or soup on the table.
The table with all the meal on it was quite heavy. Carrying them by hand to the first floor and laying it down without a sound was not easy for a 14-year-old. But since Amon could already wield a hammer to extract parangons, it was not a challenge for him.
Maria made little sound when she had the meals. Even the tableware seldom made a noise. It was indeed a sign of her good breeding. At her side, Amon bowed as she finished meal, brought the table away and passed her the water and towel for washing her face and mouth. Then he went out and waited till Maria finished the washing. And he came in and brought the utensils and towers out, standing on the stairs for the next call.
As the Adoratrice, Maria could have as many attendants as she wanted if she was at the shrine of Isis. But Maria was in Duc and so, all the things had to be done by Amon alone.
The longest moment Amon stayed with Maria was at mealtime. Born and raised in Duc, Amon had never seen a person as clean as Maria. Maybe “clean” wasn’t the right word. The correct word would be “pure”. Amon could not speak to Maria unless he was asked to. But during the meals, after Maria took a sip of water or milk, she would ask him some questions, sometimes about Duc, sometimes about the parangon mining. She was curious about them.
Amon replied in great detail. He found that Maria seemed to have a habit of watching his eyes when speaking to him. Her lips curled slightly with a light mild smile. It made Amon a little uneasy. His heart beat quickly and he didn’t know where to put his hands.
She is so beautiful. I want to watch her. But why don’t I have the courage? Her eyes aren’t scary at all. But why do I fear? Amon was frustrated.
What Amon did not know was that Maria was not used to this either. She did it because Gabriel told her to do so. Gabriel instructed her along with the magic,
“Lord Maria, you are pure and simple. Those are the qualities the Adoratrice should have. But you are still too young and they make you look a little submissive. As the Adoratrice, you guard the majesty of Mother Isis. So you should not let people feel that you are timid. From now on you should try to form a habit; you should watch people’s eyes when you talk to them.”
“You should look kindly at them, but don’t give them the feeling that you are trying to flinch or to dodge. You should watch them like a goddess watching her people. Whether a king or a slave, you should gaze at them in the same manner. This is what the Adoratrice should do. No one should dare to look down on you. Your eyes will convey the great Isis’ mercy.”
But there was hardly anyone for Maria to “practice”. The easiest target to find was Amon. Poor Amon had no idea, and continued to be rather awkward under Maria’s watch. Amon did not know who Maria was. Even if he was told, he had no idea what the Adoratrice of Isis Shrine signified. All he knew was that Maria was a noble miss. He had to call her Lord Maria and could not offend her.
Would it be an offense to watch this beautiful girl, welcoming her gaze? Crazy’Ole had never told him about it, nor had his drunken father. It shouldn’t be. She watches me first! Amon was uncomfortable with his awkward behavior, especially the rapid drumming heart beats he often felt. What a loser!
Fortunately, there were no other issues besides that. The job itself was simple. However, in the first night Amon stayed, an accident occurred.
Amon was sleeping under the stairs, in the midst of a hazy dream. In the dream, Maria was gazing at him, and he reciprocated with the same intensity, He felt strange, almost like what he felt after bathing in the cold spring in the Charcoal Forest and having a rest beside the spring.
Suddenly Amon heard a scream. The scream wasn’t very loud, almost subdued, but the fear was palpable. It was coming from Maria’s room. Amon jumped up, but his head was still foggy from his dream, and he ended up smacking his head on the board under the stairs.
But Amon did not care about the pain. He shot out from beneath the stairs, jumped over the rail to the stairs and rushed to the first floor. He crossed the living room and reached the door of Maria’s bedroom.