816 - Our greatest strength comes by love
Shefenkas/Performing the Ten Tens continued:::
I knelt at the starting place until the people were settled, ready to prostrate myself to Anae again. This time, the statue of Imbas had His arm outstretched, over my head, as if blessing me, and Anae held not the broom, but a cradle. Different, the internal whisper warned me again. The cradle is usually a thing of Selinae’s. What did this mean? A coming birth was all I could think of; I didn’t think any deeper. The Ten Tens is not the time for overthinking.
The drumming began, signaling the start, and the God looked down at me, smiling, and asked, “Are you ours?” There is only one answer to that: chalk. “Then open yourself to Me.” His limbs flowed into mine, something difficult to do justice in words, again. There is no force in it; They never impose. The Imperator must fully surrender his will, down to his very power of motion, and welcome the Gods’.
The feel of His will was different. Always full of strength, this time He was full of freedom, His physical power constrained by nothing outside, all His own. Beside Him, the great block of stone that I would put my hands to slid smoothly out of the wall; He made me step back out of its way, and it lowered gently to the ground this time. “If you are Mine,” He said, “turn your back on the stone and see my Wife.” This will be the same, I thought. They will make me be Them in Their love for each other. I saw the beauty of the Goddess as the God did, in my heart and in my loins.
The Ten Tens is about love, in every sense: the divine love that binds together the universe, the procreative love between the male and female principles, the mortal love of individual humans, the bonds between the castes, the love of Imperator for people and people for Imperator.
“Come to me, love,” She said. The God freed me to do as I willed for a moment, so I did the solas-style prostration to Her, banging straight down onto my hands. The Goddess laughed with delight, sending ripples down Her gown. “So strong; bless you, my son. Gehit, come to me.” She held the broom, but the God led me to take the cradle from Her other arm, and it came free in my hands, empty and perfect and ready for a new child. “Will you work with Me?” I assented and let the God lead me through the ten steps, feeling with ecstasy the perfection of my motion, impossible if it were merely by my own will, then to lay the cradle at the feet of Selinae’s image. From a distance like a tunnel, I heard the crowd’s cries of “One of ten! One of ten!”
As I returned to Imbas, Anae spoke in my inward ear: “Will you give yourself to Me?” I don’t know how it has been for other Imperators, but I cannot answer “Yes” to this question without it being from all my heart and all my soul, and in the ultimate ecstasy.
Her presence in me was freer, too, lighter, happier, unweighed down with the misery of work unchosen. The Ten Steps to Imbas were much more a dance than a chore this time, even though the moves were precisely identical. She stopped me before the stone, and said, “Lift it.” I saw crystal-clear the meaning of this part: our greatest strength comes by love.
As it was, even with Anae in me, the stone wouldn’t budge a fingerwidth. I fought with my inclination to try harder; for so much of my life, I have succeeded by trying harder. I felt my mouth open and the voice of Anae come out, unearthly high from a man’s throat. “Second Husband, will you help Us?” Oas was beside me. “None of us can do these things alone,” I said, with my own voice.
Then all four of Them entered me—again, something I can’t describe, except that I knew what it was to be… I cannot say four times stronger. It was more as if my strength were limitless. You need only study the history of Arko; the okas and the slaves, collectively and over time, were capable of anything. The stone rose so easily, I could have danced with it on my fingertips, again. I clicked it into place.
Then I was drawn to move to a certain stone on the floor, knowing I was doing the Tens to Oas, the labour-dance again, whirling and leaping and performing a thousand tasks. The sense of immense strength had not gone away at all; it was coalescing into something else, an internal wildness and heat. My heart started hammer-banging even more than while lifting the stone. The pattern on the stones my feet jumped onto was the same, I realized: the image of an eagle.
The heat increased; I felt myself violently flushed all over and an unnatural sweat start pouring off me, as in a fever—yet that was nothing compared to the heat and excitation and expanding wildness I felt inside. This had not happened last time, but was familiar, though I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. Suddenly I knew I had to control my body—the flow of my blood, the sparks along the nerves, the tension—so I knelt on the last eagle-stone, and slowed my breath. It needed more; I closed my eyes, willed relaxation by standing just on the hardness and balance of my bones, and gave my mind entirely to the sight of a pond still as glass, then to being immersed in its coolness. My heart slowed, and the all-but-searing, and yet painless, internal glow began to ease.
Less intense, it was more familiar, and I suddenly knew why. It was like what I felt when the hands-healers worked on me after I took the Hayel-rain, but much more powerful. Was I being healed somehow, of something? As it faded off, that feeling was familiar again, the light, cleansed-to-the-soul sensation I’d have just after they finished. It was a healing; I had no doubt of it now. The Voice spoke: Trnel virom etre jested. T’mr sri moft. It had the tone of a report.
I was standing; without knowing it, I had done Mella’s Ten, a thousand more chores, this time those traditionally given to oka women. Her image held out a cloth to me in one flesh/marble hand. Oas in me guided me to know it was a way of giving Her sacrifice: that of my sweat. I ran it over my face and neck and chest until it was soaked to dripping, then gave it to Her, with the headband too, its silken and golden threads all sodden. The moment they touched Her skin, they both burst into flames, and were ash all but instantly.
I need to rest. There is little time in the Ten Tens; the drums keep beating and the Gods enter on Their own schedules. I came out of the state a little, like a dolphin emerging from the sea for a breath. The crowd was tossing and roaring like a forest in a gale. Can it be that there is not a person in here whose ecstasy is any less than mine? I thought. Ten Gods, I prayed—I couldn’t be closer to Them than this—let it be so.
Continued on page 5...