Temple of Fyre


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Sold by her family to the priestesses of the Temple of Fyre, Ria soon masters using each of the four fyrestones, white, yellow, orange and scarlet. Her curiosity leads her to the archives and there, she learns things that disturb her. There are no men serving as priests but in the past there were. Men are kept in the harras where the priestesses visit. On the day of her testing she is ordered to perform a task she dislikes and refuses to destroy a town. Many of the priestesses fall into unconsciousness. Melera, the chief priestess, beats and banishes Ria for the carrion crows to consume. Ari was abandoned as a child and found by two elderly firestone miners. He has pursued this and is the best of the finders. He goes to the temple to sell the stones he has gleaned. On leaving, Ria attempts to steal the fyrestone he has worn since the day he was found. He thinks she is a boy and a thief and he takes her to his room at the inn. On discovering her identity, he refuses to turn her over to the priestesses and they leave town. They are searching for the fabled blue fyrestones. They also learn to use them they must be bonded physically, emotionally and spiritually. Can they learn to master the blue stones and defeat Malera so they can rule the temple with love and understanding?



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Date de parution 09 août 2015
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EAN13 9781773620404
Langue English

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Temple of Fyre Island of Fyre Book 1
By Janet Lane-Walters
Digital ISBNs EPUB 978-0-2286-0078-7 Kindle 978-1-77145-376-9 Amazon Print 978-0-2286-0079-4
Copyright 2015 by Janet Lane Walters Cover Art by Michelle Lee All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights un der copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this boo k. Dedication To Denny who says when I speak of my writing, “She just makes them up.” Thanks for allowing me to pursue my dreams.
Chapter One Ria stuffed the scroll she’d taken from the shelves beneath her caftan and tightened the sash to make sure the cylinder holding the roll ed papyrus remained hidden. Beads of perspiration covered her forehead. She rubbed th e sleeve of her robe over her face. The night air held sultry remnants of the heat of t he day. Usually, the thick walls of the temple complex kept the rooms and corridors cool. T onight was different. The usual night breezes were absent, so the heat remained. Pe rhaps the approaching solstice was the cause? Or, maybe her fear of discovery caused her heart to thump against her chest and her muscles to tighten into confining bands? She wa s in a place where she had no right to be without the presence of one of the priestesse s. Acolytes were forbidden full access to the scrolls in the scriptorium. She drew a deep breath. She’d acted out of necessity. The scroll beneath her caftan was one sh e’d discovered during another of her night searches. She wasn’t permitted to read th is one, but she had, and the words stirred questions her tutors refused to address. On the morrow, her ability to control the flames of the fyrestones would be tested. She would be ordered to call flames from a pair of scarlet crystals and blend her blaze with those raised by the priestesses of the circle. Then, the chief priestess would assign her a task. Ria believed the things she’d read in t his particular scroll would help her during the ordeal. The test was not without risk. O ne slip and the flames she sought to control could turn her into a living torch. She crept to the scriptorium door and peered into t he hall. With senses alert, she listened and searched the shadows cast by the flick ering torches on the white plaster of the walls. Sensing no one was nearby she scurried a long the corridor toward the living quarters of the priestesses and acolytes. With luck , she would reach her room without being discovered. Her hand pressed against the scroll she wanted to r ead again. The words of this particular one were vastly different from the lesso ns she’d been taught by the priestesses. Had they lied? Were the ways to use th e fyrestones described in these writings true, or were they only a fable invented b y some ancient scribe? There were other scrolls which told tales that seem ed unreal. The aged priestess in charge of the scriptorium had laughed when Ria aske d about dragons with eyes the color of the scarlet fyrestones. The old woman scof fed when Ria showed her passages describing wands wielded by wizards that sent lashe s of bright or dark flames to control people. There was no one she could ask if this scroll conta ined truths. Questions weren’t encouraged. Still, she wanted to believe what she’d read in this scroll about the uses of the stones. They told of helping the people, and th at appealed to her. Ria sighed. Since the day she’d been bought from th e slavers by the chief priestess, her life, though interesting had been lo nely. Not for her the crowded classrooms, or the dormitory where she could form f riendships with the other acolytes. She had her own chamber and a private bathing room. During her lessons, she’d been
the only student. Even her meals had been taken wit h the priestesses, not the other acolytes. Why had she been kept isolated from the other acoly tes? What make her so different? Like Ria, most of the others had been br ought to Rosti by the slavers. At twenty, she was a year or two younger than most of the young women who had entered the temple with her. She’d learned to call fire from every color of the crystals and learned how to blend the flames to form sheets of fire. She could impose maps and pictures on the sheets and knew the ways of sending spears of flame to var ious places. From the tiny flames of the white, to yellow, orange, and scarlet fyrestones, her progress had been steady. A peal of laughter made her stiffen. She ducked int o a shadowed alcove. After the evening meal, acolytes were to be in their rooms, n ot wandering in the halls. A pair of senior priestesses, their orange robes gleaming in the light from the hall torches, appeared. The women hurried past Ria’s hiding place and entered the harras. Ria trailed behind them. The noises from the studs’ quarters stirred her curiosity. The men seldom left the harras, except for exercise in the garden, or when they were summoned to the room of one of the priestesses. Unt il Ria passed her final test, she wasn’t allowed into the rooms where the men were ke pt. Several times, she had spied on the studs, but only during the day, and never in the evening when the priestesses visited. She paused beside the beaded curtain and p eered inside. Her eyes widened. Most of the men were nude or scan tily clad. Priestesses reclined on low couches. Studs offered beverages and finger foods. Ria watched as one of the men fondled a priestess’ breasts. Another man swaye d to the sound of a flute. He held his organ in his hand. Ria felt a stirring low in h er belly. Her breath caught in her throat. Malera’s husky laughter rolled toward Ria. Before t he chief priestess could discover her, Ria ducked into the hall leading to her chambe r. When she reached the doorway, she carefully parted the beaded curtain and slipped into the room. If she’d been caught, Malera would have been furious. The chief priestess ’ temper outbursts often ended in an injury for the culprit. Ria sank on the bed. The scene in the harras filled her thoughts and stirred her curiosity. What would have happened next? Though sh e’d been betrothed before her clan had sold her to the slavers, he had died, and the women hadn’t yet instructed her on the ways of a woman and a man. A frown wrinkled her brow. The lessons of her teach ers arose. Acolytes were forbidden to interact with men, except for official business. A priestess was permitted encounters, but she must never allow a man’s organ to enter her body. Such a surrender would destroy her ability to control the flames she drew from the fyrestones. Memories of her first training session with the chi ef priestess had been a series of commands. Once again, Ria had heard Malera’s throaty voice raised in warning. “A priestess is not permitted to bear a child. To g ive birth means the loss of power. She must find a daughter among the acolytes. For th at reason, I called you from the plains before your clan brought you to the marriage bed. If I hadn’t, your talent would
have been lost. When my days as chief priestess end , you will take my place. Though you are not of my body, you are the child of my spi rit.” At first, those words had brought Ria pleasure and a sense of smugness. Of all the acolytes in the temple, she was special. Lately, sh e’d begin to question her mentor’s motives. Ria remembered no call. All she knew was h er betrothed died suddenly, and the next day, her clan sold her. Had Malera sent th e slavers? Ria pushed her questions aside. She lifted a white fyrestone from the bedside table and gazed into the multi-colored depths. With care, she called a flame and lit the candles on the low table. She drew the purloined sc roll from beneath her caftan and extracted the rolled papyrus from the metal contain er. After finding a comfortable position, she carefully unrolled the scroll to read again the words that had intrigued her. Since the prime temple in the hills was abandoned, a circle has been established in each hamlet. The circle of fyrestones and their wie lders will call forth the flames to protect the people. These crystals should be used t o heal, to cleanse, and to bring peace and plenty to the hamlet. Male and female wil l be trained to use the stones for the benefit of all. Ria sighed. Should she believe her mentor or the wo rds of the scroll? How often had Malera told her the commoners were there to ser ve the priestesses? Ria ran her finger along the next lines. There are five varieties of the opaline crystals be aring fire in their depths. All hold the power of the sun. The smallest is the white. Th is stone holds all the colors of the flames in its core. Any of the people of the land c an use this fyrestone to kindle a blaze on the hearth and to light candles to illuminate th e darkness. To use the yellow, orange, or scarlet, the wielder must be trained. The rare blue stone needs two to call the flames, Male and female who must be united in body, heart, and mind. Woe comes to the person who tries to use the blue crystal without the triple bond. What did it mean? Until she’d seen this scroll, she ’d never heard of a blue fyrestone. She lifted the white she’d used to light the candles and studied the swirl of colors. She saw yellow, orange, and scarlet. She also saw blue. Unable to answer the questions plaguing her, she hi d the scroll beneath her bed. After bathing, she sought sleep. Tomorrow for the first time, she would take her place in the circle and play a role in the temple rituals. S he would control the flames raised by the priestesses who drew on the yellow and orange, and blend them with the fire of her scarlet. Curiosity about the coming test surfaced a nd colored her dreams. * * * Ria stood at the window of her chamber and stared i nto the inner courtyard. She glanced at the sky. Before long, the sun would appr oach midday. That moment marked the time of her final challenge before becoming a p riestess of the Temple of Fyre. Though she’d bathed before going to bed, she smelle d the scent of fear on her skin. She wet an herb-scented sponge and washed. As she d onned the white caftan worn by all acolytes, her hands shook. Once she completed t he test, she would be entitled to
wear the scarlet robes of a high priestess. Only Ma lera, and the two priestesses too old to work in the circles, were so honored. Her stomach clenched and she feared she would be il l. She rubbed her hands on a towel and sat on the edge of her bed to await the s ummons to join the circle. Once she reached the temple’s inner chamber, she would take her place on the topmost tier and direct the flame as Malera ordered. For a moment, t he room wavered. She inhaled deeply and sought to calm her stuttering heart. The whisper of sandals on the stones of the floor b rought Ria to her feet. She stared at the doorway. Malera parted the beaded curtain. “Come. ‘Tis time.” Ria’s hands tightened. She walked toward the older woman. “Are you sure I’m ready for the trial?” Malera smiled. “I chose you from the slavers’ pens. For five years, I’ve nurtured and honed your abilities. You are the daughter I dared not birth.” Ria took the chief priestess’ hand and brushed her lips across the back. She tasted anger roiling inside her mentor. A part of Ria reco iled from the strength of Malera’s emotions. Who had angered the chief priestess? Woul d the fermenting fury guide Malera’s choice for the test? “When I call fire from the stones, how will I use it?” Malera’s thin smile increased Ria’s inner quaking. A glint of smug satisfaction in the chief priestess’ dark eyes tinted Ria’s thoughts wi th uneasiness. What did Malera plan? Suddenly, Ria was afraid. She looked away to keep h er mentor from reading these emotions. “Do not fret. The task will be within your abilitie s.” “When you joined the circle for the first time, wha t was your task?” Malera pursed her lips. “A most enjoyable one. My m entor bade me cleanse the temple of the malcontents who tried to destroy the rights of the women who use the fyrestones. Though several of the women escaped, I succeeded in destroying most of the rebels, leaving only those who had fled years b efore for my mentor to purge.” Ria frowned. “What did the malcontents do?” “They gave fyrestones to men who were unfit to use the crystals, and to women who were untrained in the proper ways of this temple.” “How could anyone not trained here use any crystal other than a white?” “The rebel priestesses diluted their power. They jo ined with men. They permitted studs to use the stones. They were fools. A wise wo man never cedes her power. She does not share control with anyone. As the only tem ple in the land, all must obey us.” She lifted Ria’s chin and gazed into her eyes. Malera’s eyes narrowed. They compelled obedience. S omething inside Ria made her resist the compulsion. Confusion filled her tho ughts. Acid flowed in her gut. A need to rebel arose, but how could she act against the c hief priestess’ guidance? The older woman rescued her from forced service in one of the pleasure houses. Malera had shown the kindness Ria’s mother had withheld. Ria’s hands clenched. Just because the old man chosen as her betrothed died under mysterio us circumstances, she’d been declared cursed and sold to the slavers. No one had cared about her fate until Malera.
The chief priestess released Ria’s chin. “’Tis time for you to face the test, as all who are selected to serve the temple must.” Ria nodded. “I am ready.” As the knowledge of how s he wanted to use the crystal solidified, her stomach fluttered. Even if she must defy her mentor, she would use the stone to help, not harm. Malera led Ria into the large rotunda where those w ho came to petition the priestesses waited for a summons. Tiles reflecting the colors of the fyrestones covered the floor. Benches lined the side walls. Tables whe re the petitioners placed gifts of food, cloth, spices, and gems, flanked the doorway to the inner chamber. Here also, the tithes from each hamlet were collected. When Malera parted the curtain made from strings of white crystals like the one Ria had used to light the candles, her stomach clenched . She stepped inside and faced the circle. Three priestesses stood on the first tier a nd Ria studied the fyrestones in the depressions carved in the limestone of the circle. They glowed with power. The chief priestess led Ria to the topmost tier whe re a single scarlet crystal glittered in the cup. With a flourish, the chief priestess ha nded Ria the scarlet stone. “This is the one you used in practice and have imprinted with yo ur spirit. Use the crystal well.” She retreated to the base of the tiered circle. “Prepare for the testing.” Ria drew a deep breath. She noticed a glint of scar let in Malera’s hand and wondered why. Ria raised her crystal. The sun edged over the opening in the roof above the circle. “Let us begin.” The three women holding yellow fyrestones called fi re. Then two spires of orange appeared. Ria stared at the stone balanced on her p alm. The sun centered in the opening. She basked in the warmth. Her crystal glow ed and a flame rose. With care, she blended the yellow and orange tongues of flame with those from the scarlet. “Seek the hamlet of Gydon,” Malera said. Ria molded the fire into a sheet. A map of the land from the ocean shore in the south to the northern mountains appeared. Using a finger of fire, she sought the farming hamlet near the hills beyond both wastes and the gr ove. Houses appeared, then people, mostly women and children. Three elderly me n and several youths led scraggly beasts to a pasture beyond the walls. Some of the b uildings looked as though they’d been scorched by fire in the past. The gardens were ill tended. The people looked beaten. Ria smiled. She could help them. “This is your task,” Malera said. “For years, the h amlet of Gydon has failed to send the tithe to the temple. You will destroy the field s, the flocks, the herds, and the orchards, to force the people to leave.” “Where are the men?” Ria asked. “Sold into slavery to pay the tithe. Twenty years a go, there were those living near Gydon who attempted to use the fyrestones in ways o pposed to the chief priestess’ dictates. I cleansed the temple of their ilk, but t hree remained until my predecessor challenged them and won. Gydon must become a lesson for all the people of Fyre. They must see what happens to those who defy me.”
Ria held the flames steady. “How can those who rema in pay the tithe? Don’t you see how poor the people are?” “They have children to sell. Young girls for the te mple. Older girls, women, and boys, to serve in the pleasure houses. Destroy the flocks, fields, herds, and orchards. Lay waste to all. Show the hamlets of Fyre what hap pens to those who refuse to pay the tithe.” Defiance built within Ria. How could she use the fl ames to punish the innocent? “Do any of the rebel priestesses still live?” Malera smiled. “They are dead and their studs with them. Do as I command.” “Priestesses should use fire to help. I’ve visited the scriptorium and have read many scrolls. What you tell me to do is wrong.” Ria saw the thin line of scarlet flame flow from Malera’s hand. Ria felt the chief priestess’s attem pt to use the fyrestone she’d been given. “No.” Ria braced and fought her mentor. The gathered flames coalesced. The pictures faded. Spires of yellow, orange, and scarlet, shot higher and higher until they filled t he opening in the roof. For an instant, Ria faltered. A blazing arrow of scarlet shot towar d her. She felt a burn along her skin. With determination, she gathered her waning strengt h and held against the battering of Malera’s mental thrusts. Ria staggered. Screams echoed in her head, as one b y one, the priestesses fell from the link. When the flames died, she saw the fa llen women. Were they alive, or had her defiance killed them? She held her breath until they stirred. She looked down. The crystals in the cups of the circle were blackened c inders. Malera moved toward the circle. “Traitor. Even befo re the slavers brought you to Rosti, I chose you as my successor. When you were a child, I watched you in the flames. I saw you grow. I sent fire to kill the old man they wanted you to marry. And so, you came to me. I have nurtured and cherished you, and betrayal is how you repay my care.” Ria left the top tier and made her way down the lev els. “I cannot harm the innocent for any reason. You are evil.” Malera fisted her hands on her hips. “You have betr ayed not only me, but the temple. There are no stones to replace the ones you turned into cinders.” Ria met the glare from the chief priestess’ dark ey es. “I did what I was meant to do.” She stepped through the beaded curtain and strode a cross the rotunda. The slap of sandals on the tiles came from behind her. Goosefle sh rose on her skin. “We have been betrayed,” Malera cried. “Acolytes an d priestesses, join me. Drive her from the temple. Stone her. As was done in the past, the temple must be cleansed of those who deny the proper ways.” Terror gripped Ria’s shoulders in a vise. She heard the footsteps of those who followed. Though cries for flight beat steadily in her thoughts, she refused to show her fear. Ria reached the outer door and stepped into t he lane. The first rock thudded against her back and drove the breath from her lung s. She staggered, but managed to stay on her feet.
As though the flames she’d sent skyward had trigger ed a solar flare, the sun brightened. Ahead of her, the wide lane leading to the temple was deserted. She glanced over her shoulder and knew she would never reach the market square before the women were upon her. Panic engulfed her. She ra n. Rocks slammed into her body. One smacked her legs. She fell. The caftan tore. On hands and knees, she slid across the rough cobbles of the path. * * * Malera stood over Ria’s body. “Traitor.” The chief priestess turned to the acolyte who had been the last to join the stoning. “See wha t happens to those who defy me. Next time, do not be so slow or you will face the s ame punishment.” Another of the young women shrank back. A third kne lt beside the body. “She lives. Should we call the alders to take her to the slavers?” Malera ran her hands along the handle of her flail. “Let her lie.” She pointed upwards. “The sun will drink her essence and the ca rrion crows will dine on her flesh.” She indicated the dark forms that circled against t he blue sky. “See, they gather for a feast.” Two huge birds, the color of the midnight sky, land ed on the path. Their orange beaks gleamed. One hopped forward and focused its g aze on Malera. The chief priestess laughed. “Soon you will eat.” The bird’s wings spread like ebony fans. “No,” one of the acolytes cried. Malera pointed to the temple. “Since you have no st omach for what must be done, go to the temple and tend the priestesses the traitor harmed.” The young woman backed away. “What about the fyrest ones she destroyed? What will we do for the solstice rites?” “Soon, the stone seekers will arrive.” Malera strok ed the thongs of the flail. Most years, they arrive before the solstice.” She raised the flail and lashed Ria’s back and legs until blood seeped through the caftan. The acolyte who knelt beside Ria jumped back to avo id the thongs. Something flew from her hand and skipped across the cobbles. “Why did you beat her?” Malera laughed. “How else will the carrion crows kn ow a feast awaits?” The young woman covered her face with her hands. Sh e scurried to the temple. Malera spat on Ria’s body. “I am the chief priestes s, the chosen leader of the Temple of Fyre. This land is under my control. The commoners bow to me. Rewards and punishments are mine to mete.” She spun, strode to the temple and hurried to the harras. The fires raging in her body needed to be q uenched as only the studs could do. * * * Ari paused at the edge of the grove and peered at t he sky. The sun stood just beyond midday. Stay or go? If he pushed the burros, he could reach Rosti just as the sun set. Should he take the chance? The rocky plain between the grove and the hamlet was home to the lopestas that emerged to hunt after the sun set. One stumble on the
rocks could turn a profitable season into a disaste r. Tomorrow would be soon enough to head for Rosti. He would have a ten-day to sell the fyrestones and depart before the solstice began. He staked the burros and lifted the near empty pann iers from their backs. He piled digging tools and the tent beside the wicker basket s. Beads of sweat collected on his forehead. The scarlet fyrestone he’d worn on the day the pair of stone seekers had found him pulsed. He pressed his hand against the lump beneat h his tunic. What did it mean? He stared toward the distant walls of the hamlet. His eyes widened. A plume of fire rose toward the sun. What were the priestesses attemptin g? Had one of their fires escaped from their control? Not his business. The only traffic he had with the temple was for the sale of the opaline crystals he carried in his haversack. With the fyrestones he’d found, he would have enough coins for supplies and to buy some answ ers to the questions that had bothered him for years. Who was he and why had he b een abandoned in the grove? Which hamlet had been his birthplace? He started a fire and ate the remainder of the lope ar he’d snared that morning. After setting several snares, he dozed until sunset. He c hecked his snares and cooked two grass hens, ate one, and slept. When pre-dawn lightened the sky, he loaded the burros. He set off across the rocky plain, taking care to avoid large piles of rocks wh ere the lopestas burrowed during the day. At the gate into Rosti, he paused to pay the entran ce fee. “You’re in early,” the guard said. “Any luck?” Ari nodded. At least the guard asked out of curiosi ty, and not the prying questions asked when a man left the hamlet. Ari often wondere d if there were bonds between the guards and the thieves who preyed on solitary stone seekers. “A bit,” he said. “Found whites and a pair of yello ws before the site played out.” That had been the first of his finds, but he wouldn’t me ntion the others. “Sale will bring me enough for supplies and a few nights at an inn.” The man stepped closer. “You’re the first stone see ker to arrive. With crystals in your pack, the priestesses will welcome you. Did yo u see the flame yesterday at midday, the one that rose above the temple? Heard o ne of the priestesses tried to kill Malera. Someone said all but the white fyrestones turned black and have no power. Ari laughed. “Then mine should bring a good price.” The guard nodded. “Might reward you with more than coins. Could offer a night with one of the priestesses. Or you could be chosen to j oin them for the solstice celebration. Hear they like the things a man does.” Ari forced a grin. That was one reward he had no in tention of collecting. If he gave a priestess too much pleasure, he could become a pris oner in the harras. He led the burros past the guard and turned into th e first lane where stables abounded. He stopped at the one Jorg had always use d. His thoughts turned to his