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Fiction Fantasy Coming of Age

Hestia awoke to the sound of ringing bells.

"Today's the Day" she thought as she danced to her wardrobe. From the very far left end of the closet she pulled out a purple-and-gold silk robe. She slid into the adorned coat like a snake who grew its new coat rather than shed for it. She made her way to the ruby-and-diamond studded mirror in the hall and set to work, combing her hair and applying her powders. Hestia made extra sure to align the brush carefully to her face, so that her face would look as smooth as a porcelain doll when she was done. She glanced to her right just in time to spot the tiny compartment right below the counter top.  The one that held her mother's old ivory hair clip. She hesitated for a while before reaching to open it. She would finally take it out and wear it, just for this moment.

Today was the day.

The Saubirmal, or "The Day of the Blooming Sun" was probably the most influential day of the year for Hestia's clan. On the First Sunday after the Summer Solstice, The men of the clan would Pray for the first three hours of the morning, before traveling to Mount Icarus, the dormant volcano fifteen miles away from the village, and harvest small rocks of magma that had just bubbled to the surface of the mount's base. They would then bring the rocks back to a town full of dancing, cheering and eating citizens who would welcome the men with praise and kisses. The Hozarin, a woman descended from the line of queens who ruled the land long ago, would then have the rocks crushed into little seed-sized morsels, which she would then sprinkle in the ancient gardens behind the Sanctuary of Spirits. Once the seeds were planted, The people would await the Inamirol, or "The Nectar Harvest", when the buds that grew from the seeds would be plucked for their several resources. Hestia remembered the last Inamirol festival, where she got to try hotcakes made from the nectar from the flower's center. That was the most memorable celebration she had ever witnessed, for the soul reason that it was the last celebration that her mother had commanded.

Now, she was going to be the next Hozarin.

It was going to be tough, living up to her mother's legacy. Hestia's mother, Maron, was beloved by the entire community. A kind, easygoing peacekeeper was how most described her, and when she danced along with the other women at the festivals and celebrations, every eye in the world seemed to be swept up by the air and landed onto her. Hestia wasn't anything like that. Hestia spent more time indoors, reading and studying the ancient stories of long journeys, adulterous misfortunes, and exhilarating adventures of her culture's goddesses and heroes. Usually someone would have to go after her to get her attention, and even then, she'd be too ashamed of taking someone else's time to make out more than a simple 'hello'. Whenever the other girls would invite her to dance, she would often have to watch them for some sort of instruction in the choreography, creating an overall awkward mess for the rest of the town to view. Hestia was one of the most intelligent girls in the clan. Surely she would find a way to usurp her mother as Hozarin.

"You look imaculate, darling."

Hestia looked to her right to meet her father's calming, melted hazelnut eyes. They really popped against the simple white Shera, a ceremonial, shawl-like garment reserved for mourning spouses.

"Hello, Father."

"Your mother would be proud. You look just as beautiful as she did at her first Saubirmal, at half her age too."

"Did you know what she was like at fourteen, Father?"

"All I knew were the rumors and stories told be neighbors, of a beautiful maiden that lived on the edge of town. She always wore her hair down during every celebration, so that it would flow to and fro whenever she danced. Of course, as a new-comer, I did not understand the tradition of Hozarins or Inamirol festivals."

Her father took her arm as he escorted her out to the Sanctuary. The carriers of the stones would be arriving soon.

The majority of the afternoon went by in a haze. Hestia remembered people dancing, although she tried to participate as little as possible. She had been caught by the eye of a sixteen-year-old carrier, and, in the name of tradition, did her best to twirl in the lightest imitation of a dance and place a small kiss on his cheek. The young man blushed with honor.

Soon, it came time to crush the rocks. The small, black, almost spikey ovals were gathered in a large marble bowl in the middle of the sanctuary ground in front of a large pool in the center of the room. Hestia kept her eyes on the bowl as she was escorted by father and the four Shefou, two men and two women in charge of cleaning and protecting the sanctuary. As tradition, they all bowed before the bowl before Hestia was handed the pestle and all the others left the room. Immediately, she set to work. Hestia crushed, ground, scraped, and pounded until every rock was broken. Each stone felt surprisingly soft, like fluffy dough was all that lay below the brittle, black surface. Once every stone was broken, the magma within flowed over the pieces and crumbled them even further. Without delay, Hestia carefully picked up the mortar and walked over to the pool in front of her. She slowly lowered it into the water, pulled it back out, and observed the small, seed-like pieces left behind. With that, the final step was all that was left. Without a word, Hestia exited the sanctuary, not realizing the one seed that had fallen next to her foot upon leaving the doorway. A hushed silence blanketed everything as Hestia stepped out. People gathered on either side of her as she made her way with the bowl on her head. The deal made between the First Queen of the lands and the Spirit of Fire would be sealed once again. Just like it had been every year for three millennia. Hestia made her way down the winding path to the ancient gardens, where she stood for a few seconds to take a deep breath. She then gathered a hand-full of seeds into her left hand, and closed her eyes.

"Alright Mom, this is for your honor."

Hestia walked the center path formed into the gardens, sprinkling each seed onto the carefully formed hills, one by one. She held her breath as she reached the end of the first line. She turned to her right, and began the next set of hills with the last of her first handful. She then reached into the mortar for the next. Hestia made sure not to doddle with her task, but moved carefully enough to evenly distribute the seeds. By the time she had completely finished, about three and a half hours had passed. Hestia took a deep breath, scanned the outcome of her handiwork, and turned to exit the gardens. As she stepped out, the deafening silence greeted her once more, as she walked to the Shefou, her father, and handed him the bowl. He would take it back to the Sanctuary for cleaning and re-placing. As soon as he made his departure, the village cheered and danced and sang. The proud Hozarin bowed to the people she had just served. As the sun flew over the sky and bounced of the golden tiles of the obelisks and village rooftops, Hestia smiled as she slowly raised her head. A single tear betrayed her otherwise perfect face as she released a speck of her true emotions. It was then that she saw the smoke.

Hestia stood frozen. This was her first year as Hozarin, and she had already allowed the Sanctuary to be set on fire. Her mother. What would her mother say? What would she even do in this situation? The panic was rising, and Hestia needed to calm everyone down.

Instead, she ran straight for the Sanctuary.

The smoke was pouring from in between the outer pillars, and it smelled strong and sweet, possibly from the incense, but fire itself wasn't large. There was still time.

Quickly, she ran to her father, who had just returned with the mortar. She took it into her hands as she nodded at him. He nodded in return. Hestia rushed to the pool and dipped the bowl in, sloshing water to and fro as she nearly slid to the fire. She poured it onto the tall, skinny flame, but rather than putting it out completely, it simply pushed it to the ground, spreading into many, smaller flames. It didn't matter. If Hestia was calm, she could fix this. Hestia again ran to the pool, collected water, and tossed it in the general direction of the fire. The water seemed to miss completely.

"Ugghhh! Why can't this stuff just go out?!!" Hestia screamed loud enough for herself to hear. She stopped in her tracks.

The flames came together and soared to the ceiling, towering over her. The simple outlines of a face formed from the meshing reds and oranges. In pure terror, Hestia collapse to the floor, hands covering her head. The embers around her sizzled, the heat roared around her as the sweat off her back dripped and evaporated away. Hestia closed her eyes as she prayed, to the entire line of queens and Hozarins before her for instruction, to the Spirit of Fire for forgiveness, to any force that would bother to listen.

"Please, Forgive Me!!! I didn't mean to!! I promise to do anything to praise the Spirits! I'll spend hours upon days in the Sanctuary to please you. I'll....I'll"

Hestia looked up. The fire was gone. There was no face, no sizzling heat that steamed away her sweat. In fact, Hestia was sopping. She couldn't tell if it was water from the pool, or if she was just that nervous. As she looked up, Hestia saw the source of the recent panic, a small ember-like seed, still glowing like a dying firefly, though nowhere near starting another uproar. Hestia slowly picked up the little pestilence and cradled it in her hands. She paused, taking in a small whisper in the remaining silence.

"Alright. I will," was all she said in reply.

Hestia straightened her hair into a bun as neat as she could salvage, and straightened her posture and composure as well as she could. One thing was for certain. Hestia was not her mother, and was not going to be viewed as such by the people, especially after today. She took a deep breath, and exited the sanctuary, the people around her once again bowed, though whether this was out of respect, or they wanted to avoid eye-contact with her, she was not sure. Hestia walked all the way home, leaving a trail of water to soak in the ground behind her. As she re-entered her home, Hestia walked to her fireplace, and tossed the last seed into the hearth. It immediately created a small fire, one for warmth and content peace. Hestia retreated to her kitchen table for a small glass of beaucrose, a sweet wine that was popular in her village. Her first drink in her life.

Hestia went on to become a valiant Hozarin, although, you probably would not have heard it like that, since around the time she was twenty, the term had switched to Hokirzou, women descended from the "lonely one." That is not the only change she brought along, though. After the flowers she had sprinkled her first year had bloomed, she demanded that a third of whatever resources the people were to gather would be sent to other villages, asking for a third of the other's resources in return. She also demanded that after the long day of dancing and cheering in the streets, that the people spend a week in their homes tending to their families and praying to the spirits. No one expected such vast changes from such a young leader, and no one knew the reason why. Hestia never spoke about the strange encounter she had with the Fire Spirit, not that she ever tried to. Not even to her own first-born daughter who went on to become the next Hokirzou. One thing was for sure throughout that villages history.

Hestia was the First, and the Last, of her kind.

April 01, 2022 00:43

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3 comments

Kate Armentor
13:38 Apr 07, 2022

The basic plot of this story was an idea I had for a while, although I didn't have nearly as much ideas for names or prior traditions when I first came up with it. This may be one of my favorite stories that I wrote, since I incorporated nods to the actual character, the greek goddess Hestia, into this story, in what I think were pretty subtle touches. Please share your thoughts, as I had quite a fun time writing this one.

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John Hanna
01:56 Apr 07, 2022

What a descriptive story! I was with the leader as she went about her business. picked up the little pestilence - this is just one example of the word crafting that I like. Oh, I got your story from the critique circle. I'm required, or maybe requested, to point out problems that can be improved, for your benefit, but I can't find any errors in this story. Great job! It was a pleasure to read, and I hope to see more from you.

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13:14 Apr 05, 2022

Very nice. Wonderful worldbuilding.

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