A marching band sounds off, a trail of lanterns leads into the Diamond city. The history district, across the bridge from Lake Towanda, Siobhan paced back and forth, holding her gate keeper dress up to the side as she did and in her other arm she had her shrine talisman. Her hair was adorned with flowers and pearls for the festival; her duty was to wait near the shrine. She would need to be there from dusk to dawn with the other gate keepers.
Something glowed in the dark ahead of her, Siobhan bolted up, biting down on her heart, dropping her work as the ghosts filtered through the gate. Tree spirits from the bonfire harmlessly slipped by like a garment. It was still taking her time to get used to seeing spirits more often now that she was a gate keeper.
Any minute now Ares would be returning from his expedition.
Siobhan spun around to see Luna, her younger sister, even though some people argued she looked older. Luna chuckled. “You’re such a chicken!” She had her books tied with a belt, she was two years younger and three grades below. Luna had come to see Siobhan on her first week of her being a priestess, or gate keeper, someone who guided spirit passerby and defended the Gates of Dinyu, a bearer of mikoshi. Her older sister could chant every verse from the ancient scrolls but she was obviously skittish around spirits. Walking near the woods around the Lake made her nervous too, some of the other priestesses could tell.
“You didn’t scare me. i almost reacted and well, you’re lucky,” meaning she would have defended herself if she hadn’t been so jittery. The gate keeper dress made her feel imperial. It was handmade especially for her, Luna tried not to stare at her sister as a new priestess.
“How do you like being a keeper?” she would try out in a year to see if she even qualified to be a keeper, and then the training would begin. Despite Siobhan’s frantic nature, she was strong and often surprised herself with how much she took on.
Siobhan sat down on a stone seat. She had been wondering how she could see Ares a little sooner, maybe Luna could watch the shrine for a few minutes? “Its the highest honor,” Siobhan said thoughtfully. The beat of the drums made her feet tap in rhythm. The Lake Towanda Snow Festival was starting. She had an idea. “Luna, could you stay here and watch my things while i get some more thread?” It was a half-truth. She needed thread but planned to take a way through town so she could see the parade instead of her place not 5 minutes away.
Ares should be there and she couldn’t wait any more. of course the other priestesses felt the same.
“What do i have to do?” Luna asked.
“Oh nothing really, just hold the most valuable piece from the house, this tallisman. Each one the gate keeper use have different inscriptions on them and each sound slightly different. All you have to do is sit until i come back.” She thrust her talisman in her younger sister’s hands, she twirled it with bemusement. The prestige could be hers one day. But she wanted to eat snacks and tried handing the staff back.
Siobhan insisted. “Its just for a couple minutes, I’ll be back with some food.”
“I am hungry. You better hurry back with some food.” She agreed and Siobhan sprinted off. The music kept getting louder and the first firework exploded in the night above them.
The streets were full with costumes and jugglers, school children, elders, even the panda were out. Every food stall was full with tantalizing smells and happy hosts, friends, and (armed men).
Past the restaurants and the colorful crowd, she slipped through into a sea of dancers with masks on. Up ahead she caught them walking in formation. She could see Ares, with his chiseled features and body armor, he had the finest pieces and his eyes were the deepest hazel. Siobhan ran straight forward to him to cheer him on, and he spotted her and gave her a chiefly waive. “Meet me after the festival!!”
“What?” You couldn’t hear him over the celebration.
“Meet me after the parade!” she called out louder, making a big arch for bridge. he laughed to himself that he understood her arm signs. She turned around to head back when she saw Peyton, a priestess older than her by a year with jet black hair and blue eyes. They met each other’s gaze and neither offered a friendly smile or wave, and then she turned away into the crowd. It was not a secret that they competed with each other over everything.
she raced back to her post and had to run back because she forgot to get the thread and some snacks. when she came back Luna was missing. Her flag staff was on the floor and there were footsteps leading back to the village. Luna got impatient and stopped waiting, and had left her sister’s things there.
“Luna!!” She ran up to her spot with her things, everything looked like it had only been left moments ago. The gate was still closed. No one had noticed she left during her shift. She gave a huge sigh of relief and wolfed down both their servings.
The fireworks stopped in preparation of a Snow Dance. The other shrine keepers walked out of the shrine, each of them carrying the weight of the matsuki, and it was her job also to carry the weight. Inside was a Kami spirit, and this was when the town got to give their wishes to the wind spirit.
Ares caught a glimpse of her with the other Priestesses as they went corner to corner stall, to stall, even the Princess greeted the Kami spirit with a very low bow. The small portable shrine was gilded and jeweled, with tigers engraved in the coloms. Each of the 9 gates housed a spirit, the Gate of Dinyu housed the ___, the Gate of ___ housed the ____, the Gate of ___, the 8th Gate, the 6th Gate, the 5th Gate, the 4th Gate, the 3rd, and the last two Gates, ___ and ___. The Gate of Dinyu was a powerful wind spirit.
Her shift had ended, it was a peaceful hour where she went out to wait at the bridge that went over a large pond. He came up to her with wild flowers in his hands for her. they embraced for a long time, he was rocking her back and forth because he missed holding her. Distance couldn’t keep their love apart.
“I’ll make sure to keep these in my books,” Pressed flowers lasted forever. the book was squeezed between their embrace. She still had flowers stowed away in old books from their first date a year ago. He listened to her talk about being a shrine keeper, he had left for his expedition right before her graduation ceremony.
“The spirits still unnerve me sometimes. They look right through you. I’ve seen deer spirits still graze as if they hadn’t realized they weren’t in their physical form any more.” Her voice lowered. “I wonder if they’re alone.”
“They don’t feel a thing. Its just like a dream, like when you go to sleep.” Ares and Siobhan had walked around the Lake, it was starting to snow, but the wind spirit kept the temperature eerie and beautiful, hearing the ice float around in the water.
“How long will you be gone this time?” Siobhan was afraid to ask.
The expeditions that Ares went on with the other gatherers could be a weekend to six weeks on end. He kept her close to keep her warm but also so he wouldn’t have to see her heartbroken expression when he told her that he’d be leaving soon. This time they would be hiking Mt. ____. This time he was the captain of their ___ man team. The Diamond District had the top branch of soldiers, Ares was among the elite. Siobhan knew already not to question what his missions were about. The orders came from the Princess herself. In the south there was restlessness, but here in the Northern Kingdoms those worldly problems felt worlds away.
Siobhan didn’t like the sound hed be gone, that this winter would be cold and blue for longer.
She shuts her eyes. Blows a chilly cloud of thought from her lips.
They shivered from the cold and wistfullness.
Ares decided it was time for Siobhan to be back in the village where it was warm, the quiet streets were empty, everyone had finished celebrating. They walked across the bridge hanging onto one another.
Some of the shrine keepers were hanging out near the inn. Peyton was there. She looked up as soon as she felt Ares walk up the street, and she watched him unravel his red scarf to wrap around Siobhan.
Luna met up with the two as they were coming to her small apartment. Luna shared the room with her and her classmate Dylan. They were hardly ever at the apartment. Luna and Dylan had been enjoying the festival, they both had sake in their hands and rushed past them. Luna was named after night, the kind you take risks in. Later you couldn’t tell her what to do and sometimes she was as irresponsible as a tsumani. Dylan didn’t make it and was throwing up by the couch on the hard wood floor. Another soldier from Ares Team came in, he had been with Dylan and Luna when the two got lost. He petted Dylan. Siobhan and Ares went to their side of the small apartment, and they slowly drifted to sleep together.
I’d love to know your guys thoughts. i hope this makes up for not posting in almost a month. This is something i would usually never do, but ive been thinking how much i value my blog readers and how much it means that youve read my poetry for the last year. So maybe you’ll enjoy the story I’m writing. There are still a lot of changes in my life and im still trying to stay afloat. Sorry if there are any weird gaps in the story, and i thought id share my first editing tip: use ” __ ” for names of places or people or things. I’ve been trying to post regularly on my social media so please say hello over there. Thank you guys so much for reading my story.
my poetry instagram: https://www.instagram.com/theprettypoems/
hyla brook instagram: https://www.instagram.com/hylabrookbooks/
I could picture what was going on vividly, great scene setting 👻
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Thanks so much for reading it means a lot to me!!
Enjoyed reading your story and will be watching to see what becomes of Ares and Siobhan. I think that this is a good start and look forward to seeing story continue to develop. Blessings!
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WOW!! thank you so much for taking the time to read it so far!! hoping to have the next installment this weekend. Thank you!!