Non Sum, In Arcadia

Across the world, each tribe and nation had its own way of honoring the Earth beneath their feet. Some honored local spirits of place, or the large and silent mountain spirits, or the groundwater or the mothers of the roots. Some who had learned to cultivate from Mara honored her above or alongside the spirits, and she in return visited these men and women regularly and answered them when they called to her.

South of where the earth froze, north of the warm sea breezes, west of the great civilizations descended from the Ascended Ones and east of the places where her siblings fought the spirits into submission, there was a small nation that won particular favor from Mara. When the nation took shape, one woman in particular asked Mara to favor her cause in taking control, and seeing the woman fight and lead, Mara decided to help her. When the woman then became Queen, she saw that a large temple was built to Mara across from the palace, and she herself led the worship of the Daughter of Earth. When her children and her children’s children came up after her, they remembered what Mara had done for them and kept up her worship.

Over time, it became tradition that the ruler would marry a ratha who could speak for Mara, so that the goddess’s will would always be known. One heir, however, unsure how he felt about this, went to the temple alone and sent away all of the servants of Mara, demanding that he be left alone. Then Prince Adalric sat at the foot of the statue like a child, laying his head against warm wood and poured his heart out to the goddess – his fear that he would disappoint the ratha that he was supposed to marry, or that she would be unhappy among the prince’s other lovers, or that none of it would matter because the news they were hearing of advancing armies was so grim. What would happen to his people then?

Adalric had been raised from infancy to love Mara and trust her, and when he came to her to openly, Mara could not help but answer. She took a human form and walked with him. Over months and years, she guided him to be lover and then husband, prince and then king, and he both honored her publicly and loved her fiercely in his heart.

Though she did not tell him, Mara loved him too in return.

And then the day came when the invaders were at the mountain pass, and while King Adalric readied his small but dedicated army, he prayed to Mara for a miracle. They rode out, hoping to cut off the invaders in the narrow mountain trails and do as much damage as possible. Instead, when they reached the edge of the kingdom, they found themselves turned around, riding back the way they had come.

Adalric sent his men and women back to the city, and when he was alone, he swung down from his horse and stepped away from the animal. In the silence, Mara came to him again.

“I have answered your prayers,” she told him. “Your lands have been moved aside, into a space between existence and non-existence. It is not a place easily reached, and you will be safe here. I will keep your lands and your people.” The Daughter of Earth stepped close to him, pressing her hands against his chest. “And I will keep you.

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