Ia's Devotion

By Athena

The Goddess gains Her newest priest – or, as it would seem, priestess. A problem easily fixed.

But… well, it’s Her fault in the first place.

She loves Her creations. Truly, loves all of them, as deeply as the truest romance, as purely as a mother’s love for her children, as unwaveringly as a lifelong friendship. Very few mortals can truly understand.

But She isn’t perfect.

This story has slightly lewd implications at the end.

Chapter 1

Oaths complete, offering made, I knelt at the altar of one of many sealed, private shrines of the High Temple. Few rites called for them, but the induction of a new priest was one. It could be performed nowhere else in the world.

I closed my eyes and began to meditate, awaiting Her will. I could only call myself a priest with the Goddess’ decree, and so I would sit and await, day and night, until it came, or until She allowed my body to betray and force my exit in disgrace. She had called me, She would speak to me now.

The Goddess, our creator. She who commanded all nature, who was above all kings and queens. To serve Her was the highest honor – in my mind, at least. Her Scriptures made clear that every person was to find honor in whatever tasks they took up, but to me the only conceivable path was this. And I would—

New one. My heart tried to leap out of my chest.

Open your eyes. Having waited until the command, I did. She stood atop the altar, taking the place of its statue.

I looked down at the one before Me, who returned My gaze steadily. Good. To be able to witness My presence without flinching was essential for any who hoped to serve in the blue. The final test for all new priests, one I had never spoken of. This one passed with ease.

And yet…

Her eyes inspected me, peeling back the layers to glimpse my soul as easily as opening a book. And unlike even the gentlest magics, leaving not the tiniest thing out of place as She withdrew.

Something, She spoke again, is not right with you…

A shameful ice gripped me, and I resisted the urge to bow my head. Her wisdom outshone mine by unimaginable amounts; if She said I was not right, then right I was not.

A terrible mistake has been made, I regret to say. She shook her head softly, eyes sad. Her voice sounded… anguished.

I apologize, Goddess, I—

No. Not yours, good one, no longer new one, but a title She used only for those She chose to bless; my heart spun with confusion, but I. From time to time I do err… Your soul, it does not fit properly in your body.

I looked into her eyes with confusion plain. I… do not know what-

Tell Me, do you ever look at a beautiful woman, and rather than desire, or perhaps alongside it, feel an… envy? A queer wish in your heart, that you might be as her?

I thought over the strange question, poring over my memories and… I… With this question put to me, Goddess, I realize for the first time… Yes, I have. I… I wish I were…

I am sorry, dear girl— a joy I had never felt leapt to make itself known, warring with dismay to hear the Goddess apologize for anything —for your years of pain. No soul should be so far from the embodiment it is meant for. Mistakes such as the one I have made with you… I fear some of them I never even learn of. But with the chance, it is an easy matter. She tilted her head, as if thinking, then nodded slightly. Behold yourself, My priestess.

What— I looked down to see that not only was I now garbed in the blue robes of the clergy, but I— I—

I felt a smile creep to My lips, displacing for a moment the misery of having failed one of my creations so, as the freshly-made girl looked down at herself in sheer and simple amazement. Joy of a kind rarely seen so clearly flooded her face and radiated from her soul. I gave her a few moments, evaluating her now that she was free of her misplacement. Her fervor shone bright, far brighter than most ordinary clerics; perhaps her attempt to smother the… wrongness under something else that could bring happiness.

The reasons were terrible, and it was as the physical pain I was incapable of feeling to have inflicted such a thing, but often they emerged as so much more.

It was as She said. A pain I had felt all my life, so long I didn’t even know it, was suddenly lifted. I felt— I felt right, I felt happy, suddenly my body was actually mine… It overcame me so quickly that I didn’t even feel the tears coming before they were pouring from my eyes.

I… How can I ever thank You enough? I choked out.

It is nothing, she said from above. The words were dismissive, but there was a hint of… something else in the tone.

It is everything! You have given me my life! I never imagined— How could I have been so blind?

Suddenly I was sobbing.

Overwhelmed, no doubt. It was a lot at once, for her.

I stepped down from the altar in front of the kneeling, crying girl. I didn’t need to comfort her, not like I’d needed to correct My mistake. Human theologists said my separation from humanity, that I was always above them, was important, that humans should never seek or threaten to break it.

It’s my world. I can do whatever I want.

Stand, I said softly. She obeyed almost instantly. Be still. She froze. I embraced her, gently, oh so gently; the girl was fragile. Relax, I whispered.

You are safe, She whispered to me. And I knew it to be true. It was as if my very soul was wrapped in finest cotton and silk. All worry and doubt drained from me as I felt Her presence soothe me. There had been a… noise in my mind, that was gone now. I had such clarity now, of who I was, what I wanted to be.

I would never know how long, but when She released me, I was whole in a way I had never been. At peace and content. I opened my eyes gladly and looked up at Her with pure love and adoration, and She smiled down on me. Finally, She spoke again, My priestess, Her smile quirked higher at a small noise of happiness I made, I think you will do very well, now.

Few truly understood My love, even among the priesthood, but this girl did, and returned it. It simply would not do to send her out to some far-flung temple.

Chapter 2

I released the brake on the weight-clock mechanism, meant to unlock the door if the shrine’s visitor was so stubborn in remaining as to become too weak to rise and open it, and the metal slug slid to the floor with a soft clack. The door swung open with its perfect smoothness, and I stepped outside, a new woman.

My friend and mentor, Tilla, awaited me outside. Still feeling deeply at peace, I had no concern as she stood and turned to see me.

She blinked several times, as if to clear something from her eyes.

The Goddess… She has named me. Liatara Amer. A name in the Holy Tongue. A great honor only She could bestow. Mine meant… literally, woman with a youthful and eager spirit, or… eager girl. It made me happy, to be called that.

Tilla blinked again. You’re beautiful, she said, almost reverently. I blushed. This is truly a miracle. I nodded fervently and Tilla stepped forward to embrace me. I’m happy for you… Lia. You are a priestess, then?

I nodded gently on her shoulder. The Goddess has shown me myself. Still She calls to me, I will serve Her any way I can.

As we all, she muttered back, disentangling herself. Go, then, and may we meet again, Goddess willing. We bowed to each other, and each left, her to return to her duties at the temple where I had trained, myself…

To Her, as She had bidden.

My newest priestess came to the door, and I swung the immovable stone aside for her. She stepped through without an instant’s hesitation and introduced herself to Itara Reatalis as it closed, curtsying with the awkwardness of one never taught to do so. I was glad to see the enthusiasm I had named her for.

The High Priestess of the Goddess’ Own Order laughed softly at my attempt, and I found myself blushing. That was almost new to me, and now everyone I met was drawing them from me…

You’re new, aren’t you? she asked with wonder.

I blinked. I… suppose so.

She stepped closer and whispered, So was I. My eyes widened as she stepped back. There is one, among the priests being inducted, every ten or twenty years. Most, She calls here. She gives us women names with tara, and the men with rata, that we will often be called what we are. I nodded slowly.

The High Priestess smiled and took a breath, eyes closed. You love Her?

With all my heart, I answered instantly.

Then, welcome to our Order. Know surely: She loves you, as She does every soul. It is our only purpose to show our love for Her, and to receive Hers for us.

I stared. It sounded like the most amazingly wonderful thing one could ever do. The other priestess must have seen it in my eyes, because she nodded with a kind smile and said, And that is why you are here. She would not have me say that She is perfect, but She never fails in choosing us.

She was sweet, as always. And Liatara Amer was… she was adorable.

I was loved by many, and I loved far more. Everyone. Perhaps too much, I occasionally thought… for, the very few times I had to…

But now was not one of those times. I loved so many, yet each in their own way. Liatara Amer rejoiced every moment to simply be herself. She was beautiful and amazing and… and… and I had failed her. I had allowed this wonder, her perfection of self, to be crushed for all her life by my error.


The High Priestess – she’d asked me to call her Rea for short, and though it seemed too familiar I was not going to argue with my new Order’s leader about what was proper – gently encouraged me into the chamber. We were at the very center of the High Temple, the room from which the entire complex spread out. I stood in Her chamber, where She lived among us – more or less – attended by the Order I was now a member of.

I should be nervous to be in Her presence for more than a moment, but… She had touched me, stepped down from the altar and embraced me bodily, just to comfort me when it had all been too much. I had truly felt Her love in that moment, and I couldn’t be intimidated by Her mere presence after that. My own love for Her surged as I approached, until…

I saw Her, laid in bed, eyes closed, and… She… She was… She was crying. Terrible thoughts gripped me, and I froze, but the soft-eyed priest at Her side rose from gently stroking Her hair and rushed to me, nudging me forward.

I ran to Her, kneeling to bring my face to the height of Hers, and She must have sensed me because Her eyes opened and She gasped slightly. Her arm moved as if to reach for me, then stopped. I knew instantly the reason, and something lurched within me. I was no longer thinking as a priestess; the one I loved blamed Herself for what I had suffered. Before I could stop myself, I leaned forward and pressed my lips to Hers.

She returned it almost instantly, Her hand coming up to hold the back of my head lightly, and Her kiss felt almost desperate, desperate for my forgiveness for which She should never have to ask, and I poured out my heart, my bottomless love for Her.

We separated from the kiss slowly, and I ever-so-carefully guided Her head to rest on my shoulder, wrapping my arms around Her as best I could to embrace Her again. The beauty of love rests in one part in the forgiveness of imperfection, I quoted from Her own Holy Word. You gave me myself. I would never have known. Thank You, I said fervently, into the Goddess’ very ear.

We silently held each other for a moment. I love you, She eventually said quietly. A warm feeling spread within me at the words. I love You too, I replied.

She started to separate from Me and leave, but, no, I wasn’t ready for that; if, if she left—

No, stay, please, I said quickly. She looked back, surprised, but after a moment she climbed into bed next to Me and allowed Me to hold her.

Again she kissed Me, this time free of the desperate urgency to reassure; this kiss was soft, slow, yet so deep with love. This one was not for Me, but for both of us, and she sighed with obvious happiness as she broke away again.

I had named this girl well, I thought. She was so… ready. So quick to take the next step.

Eager Girl, the Goddess named me and again a small explosion of happiness flared within me, tell me honestly—

I do not care, I cut Her off, that it was Your mistake. It was Your choice that made me myself. Please, I beg You, hear me when I say, You have made me happy and I do not think I can ever show that enough.

You needn’t.

I must! I insisted, then quickly kissed Her a third time.

I couldn’t say how, but She seemed to relax then, finally.

We laid in each other’s arms for a while, before Rea appeared, around the opposite side of the bed from me.

Are you feeling better now, Ia? she murmured, naming the Goddess. It was not forbidden, but it was reserved for… for speaking of Her as a person. She leaned down and they shared a kiss. I smiled from Her other side.

Yes, Loving Scholaress. Thank you for asking. Rea blushed slightly.

She turned back to me and reached out to place two fingers under my chin, lifting my head to look up at Her. My breath caught and suddenly I fully remembered that She was the Goddess and I was a priestess. Did you want to show Me something?

Oh, yes! I exclaimed, my heart suddenly beating its fastest pace, and leapt with my hands to worship Her.

I had never really thought about it before, but it was then that a corner of me realized: Ia meant, literally, loving one.