TITLE: The Shrine
SERIES: The Adventures Of Lord Sam And Lady Brooke
AUTHOR: Jos Mous
DISCLAIMER: I own none of these characters, I’m not making any profit out of this, blahblahblah.
PAIRINGS: A lot.
NOTE: Lord Sam is no longer the light-hearted silliness it once was. You might say that this one is a satirical piece that is only slightly silly. Then again, you might not say that since everybody is entitled to his or her own opinion after all.
Lord Sam wasn’t quite sure how it happened. She also wasn’t quite sure when it happened. What she did know, however, was that it had happened. The Palace, the seat of her power, had been changed into a place of pilgrimage. And, shortly after that, it had been turned into a mockery. Right at this very moment, Lord Sam was sitting in her throne watching an ongoing debate between two monks with a mixture of fascinated horror and just horror.
“It is clear what the Holy Cassandra meant.” Said monk number 1.
“Very clear.” Said monk number 2. “The eating of round biscuits is a sin and all those who eat them shall be smitten.”
“Ridiculous!” Said monk number 1. “There is nothing wrong with round biscuits.
It are the square biscuits that carry the devastation of the soul.”
“Square biscuits?” Monk number 2 said outraged. “What kind of perverse Holy Book are you reading!”
“Hah! I am reading the only Holy Book: The Sixteenth Version Of The Book Of Cassandra Written By The Orthodox Prophet Michael - Revised.”
“That’s not the one true Holy Book! The One True Holy Book is The Sixteenth Version Of The Book Of Cassandra Written By The REFORMED Prophet Michael - Revised.”
“Are you insane? That version states that round biscuits are evil, while it is really square biscuits that harbour the source of all decay!”
It was at this point that Lord Sam decided that she wasn’t going to be paying any more attention. So, instead she turned and looked at Cassandra, Divine Ruler of the World, Bringer of Heaven, Harbinger of Salvation.
“Could you please stop that?” Lord Sam asked, slightly annoyed.
Cassandra, Divine Ruler of the World, Bringer of Heaven, Harbinger of Salvation quickly broke the kiss she had been sharing with her girlfriend and pulled her hand out from under the others dress.
“We’re kind of busy here, mom.” Prince Jessica said.
“I know, dear. And in future I would like to suggest the two of you finding the nearest bedroom before you start making out.”
“Why would we do that? You and mom have been making out on that throne more times than I can count.”
Lord Sam smiled, then remembered that she was supposed to be stern. “That’s not the point. And besides, I need to talk to your girlfriend.”
“Me?” Cassandra asked. “Why?”
Lord Sam glanced over at the two monks who, by now, were busy hitting each other over the head with their Holy Books - Revised.
Cassandra nodded in comprehension.
“Hey! You two!”
For a brief moment the monks looked up and stared at Cassandra, whose tail had been curved possessively around her girlfriends waist.
“Do you know who I am?” Cassandra asked.
“Err… can’t say that I do.” Said monk number 1.
“Nope, me neither. Sorry.” Said monk number 2.
“I’m Cassandra.” Said Cassandra.
“Ah, you have been named after the Supreme Goddess.” Said monk number 1.
“No. I AM the Supreme Goddess.”
The two monks looked at each other and, in a moment of theological camaraderie, started laughing.
Cassandra rolled her eyes.
“Come on, honey.” Jessica whispered. “Just smite these two and we can get back to making out.”
“I can’t.” Cassandra said. “The minute people started worshipping me I became a Goddess. And with such power comes great responsibility.”
“Yeah, I know.” Jessica said. “I’m a Goddess too, remember? But mom won’t let us have any fun until you’ve sorted all this out.”
Cassandra thought about this for a second.
Then, in the middle of the Palace throne room against all expectations, two thunderbolts streaked through the air, hitting the two monks. Who were unharmed, just slightly singed and a tiny little bit in pain.
“Now look what you’ve done!” Said monk number 2. “Your pig-headed insistence that square biscuits are unholy has called forth the wrath of Cassandra!”
“My pig-headed insistence!?” Yelled monk number 1. “It is you who are wrong with your… your worship of the demonic round biscuit! It is you who has just felt her wrath!”
And so the argument continued.
Meanwhile, somewhere in the Rim Mountains, there was a man. His name was Michael and he was not the Enlightened Prophet who was currently revising the sixteenth version of the Book of Cassandra. He was an entirely different Michael, but he was very religious all the same. He believed simply everything. He believed that only round biscuits were evil. He believed that only square biscuits were evil. He believed that only chocolate biscuits were evil, no matter what shape they were. He believed that biscuits were not evil, even though he had difficulty accepting this outrageous claim.
He believed everything.
Including, for example, the belief that the Shrine where the Holy Cassandra was born was somewhere above the Rim Mountains.
“I can’t believe it!” Lord Sam fumed, pacing up and down her bedroom. “Biscuits! Now it’s biscuits that are the source of all evil!”
“It’ll pass, dear.” Said Lady Brooke calmly.
“Last month everybody caught wearing a yellow hat was burned at the stake! And now it’s suddenly biscuits! Biscuits, for crying out loud!”
“I thought we put a stop to burning people at the stake?”
“We did. I’ve thrown them all into the dungeons, those blasphemous morons.”
“Blasphemous?” Lady Brooke asked amused.
Lord Sam ignored her. She was in the middle of a nice angry rant and wasn’t about to let reason or something like that get in the way.
“I mean, what is up with those people?” Lord Sam asked nobody in particular. “I thought that Cassandra’s message of loving everybody in your direct vicinity and everybody outside your direct vicinity would be enough, don’t you?”
“It should have been.” Lady Brooke said.
“But it’s not. Instead they just… hate. And if it isn’t biscuits or yellow hats, it’s dragons. Why dragons?”
“Because dragons are different.” Said Lady Brooke who, in some perspectives, knew more about human nature than her loving wife.
Lord Sam once again ignored her. “And they said dragons were evil because Cassandra personified both good and evil!”
“I know, dear.” Said Lady Brooke, even though she knew she wasn’t getting through.
“And of course, her dragon half would represent evil, because there’s no way that her HUMAN half could be evil. And so all dragons are evil!!??”
“Some people just need to hate.” Lady Brooke tried.
“And then three months ago we had all this heterosexuality nonsense. I just don’t get how heterosexuality could be a sin! Don’t we teach them that love is a good thing?”
“Our entire pantheon consists out of lesbians, dear.” Lady Brooke said. “So therefore they think that everybody who isn’t gay goes against Our Divine Nature and therefore must be living in sin.”
“It makes no sense!” Lord Sam yelled.
“It doesn’t have to.”
“Well, it should.”
“But it doesn’t.”
Lord Sam stood still and thought.
“Maybe if we made that Sir Mort a God as well? I think he’d be good God of the Underworld, don’t you think? With him being a skeleton and all.”
“It could work.” Said Lady Brooke.
“But they’ll find something else. They’ll ALWAYS find something else. How can I be a Goddess and be so damn powerless!?”
“Stupidity is hard to battle.”
In a fit of frustration, Lord Sam hit the wall. “I really need to smite something right now.” She said.
“I have a map, dear.”
Lady Brooke lay out a map of P’p’l’r on the small bedside table. Lord Sam walked up to the table, closed her eyes and pointed a finger.
“What am I pointing at?” She asked.
“The Novak Sea.”
Lord Sam pointed again.
“The town of Relfan.”
Lord Sam calmed herself and took a deep breath. Lady Brooke could see the entire world light up for a moment outside the window.
“There. Feel better now?” She asked.
Lord Sam opened her eyes. “Much better.”
“What did you do, by the way?”
“A freak solar flare eradicated the local church building.”
Lady Brooke frowned disapprovingly.
“It was empty and I’ll pay for a new one.” Lord Sam quickly said.
“Alright then.” Lady Brooke said. Then she smiled. “Now then, are you interested in something more important?”
Lady Brooke didn’t answer. Instead she just flung her arms around Lord Sam’s shoulders and kissed her.
Michael looked up. The sun was shining brightly, but the moon was slowly blocking it out. Michael knew what this meant. Everybody said that exactly nine months after the very first eclipse ever the Goddess Jessica was born. Although there were a few who claimed that it had been nine months and three days. And Michael knew that this was also true.
He turned away from the eclipse and continued to climb.
There were a few things that upset Lord Sam, but one of the biggest things would be interrupted eclipses. She really hated interrupted eclipses. So now, she sat on her throne, being very much pissed off and about to break her ‘You’d better not go around killing other people’-commandment.
“Square biscuits!” Monk number 1 yelled.
“Round biscuits!” Monk number 2 yelled.
“Chocolate biscuits!” The recently arrived monk number 3 yelled.
“No, horses!” Yelled the first.
“Sheep!” Yelled the second.
“Bears!” Yelled the third.
Lord Sam looked around and saw the fourth speaker sitting in a corner, sniggering to herself.
“Look, you stop that.” Lord Sam said.
“Sorry, I couldn’t resist.” Prince Jessica said grinning.
Lord Sam drummed her fingers impatiently on her throne. There had been an emergency, she had been told. She had to be in the throne room immediately, they had said. But the only thing that was here that hadn’t been here before was that damned third monk.
Then the doors opened. A few hidden musicians played a majestic tune, five cardinals entered and in their centre was a woman, wearing a long white robe. She looked faintly familiar to Lord Sam, but she couldn’t quite place why.
The woman in the white robe halted in front of Lord Sam’s throne. She nodded politely, saying, without any words, ‘I am your equal. Possibly your superior.’
“My Lord.” She said.
“Hello.” Said Lord Sam. “And who would you be?”
A small hint of anger flashed in the woman’s eyes. “I am Pope Carly. Leader of the Church of Cassandra.”
“Which one?” Lord Sam asked.
“All of them.” Said Pope Carly.
“Really?” Lord Sam turned to Cassandra, who was still sitting next to Prince Jessica. “Whatever happened to High Priestess Angelina?”
“She leads a small congregation somewhere in the Northern Woods.”
“We prefer not to talk about her.” Pope Carly said curtly.
“Why not?” Lord Sam asked.
“Because she’s the only one actually getting it right.” Cassandra muttered.
Pope Carly ignored her. “We, that is to say, the Church of Cassandra, need your help.”
“What kind of help?” Lord Sam asked. She had become very distrusting of religious people asking her for favours. They usually involved setting someone on fire.
“There are many… sects… out there who are operating in the dark. We would very much appreciate it if you were to persuade them to join us in the light.”
“By setting them on fire?” Lord Sam gambled.
“And how many misguided sects are we talking about here?” Lord Sam asked.
“Approximately 1,730,257. Give or take.”
“So you mean, all the ones that aren’t you?”
“But… I thought you were the head of all the Churches.”
“I am. There is only One True Church and that’s the one I am leading.”
It had been a long climb. Michael wasn’t exactly sure how long, but it had been fairly long. If you had said that it had taken three days he would have believed it. If you had said that it had been five days he would have believed it. If you said that he had reached the top instantly he would only believe it if you were a religious figure.
And now, Michael looked up. And there, shining like a heavenly beacon in the sky, was his goal.
“Fine. Pope Carly. I’m not going to set all these so-called heathens on fire.”
“You must!” Pope Carly said. “The Goddess Cassandra demands it!”
“No she doesn’t.” Lord Sam said.
“I really don’t.” Cassandra added.
“And how would you know the will of the Goddesses?” Pope Carly sneered. “Are you, by any chance, the leader of the One True Church?”
“Listen, I’m the living personification of the Sun, OK? I didn’t ask for the job but since you all believe that I am, that makes me the Sun Goddess.”
“Don’t be absurd.” Pope Carly said. “I will have you excommunicated if you keep up this outrageous claim.”
“It’s the truth!”
“Hah! For one thing, the Sun Goddess Sam is a woman!”
“I AM a…” Lord Sam stopped. The question about her gender was all too familiar territory.
“Well then,” Said Pope Carly. “That leaves me with only one choice.”
“What? You’re going to call in the Inquisition?” Lord Sam taunted.
“Something much more effective.”
And then, in one swift movement, Pope Carly and the five cardinals fell to their knees.
“We pray to thee, Divine Cassandra, smiter of the unbelievers, hater of sugar-coated biscuits, to let this wretched unbeliever be burned alive in Thine Eternal And Unconditional Love…”
“You’re going to pray?” Lord Sam asked, stunned.
“And that his charcoal remains shall then be scorched by thine girlfriend’s mother, the Sun…”
“Praying is your secret weapon?”
“After which thine Own mother, the Universe Dragon Julian shall freeze that which is left in Her icy vacuum…”
“This is absurd.” Lord Sam said.
“Err…” Said Cassandra. “I fear there’s a more important matter to be concerned about right now.”
“Don’t tell me you’re actually going to answer that prayer.”
“Of course I am. I answer all prayers directed at Me.” Cassandra said. “And, in this case, the answer would be ‘no’. But that’s not what’s bothering me.”
Two seconds later, the throne room no longer contained divine beings. Instead it was filled with whispered prayers and occasional shouts of ‘Single-celled organisms that live on the bottom of the deepest sea!!’
There it was. Right in front of his eyes. The doors to Heaven. They looked just like he believed they would look. All Michael had to do was open them and step inside. After all, they had told him that within the shrine thousands of angels waited to attend to the needs of everyone who entered. And they had also said that inside there was more gold than anyone could ever hope to spend. And they had also said that mortals who enter the Shrine would become Gods.
His mouth dry, his heart beating wildly, Michael opened the gates.
And was horribly disappointed.
There were no angels. There was no gold. And he still felt very mortal. He was in a small, round hall. Several corridors and doors to other rooms could be seen. Michael, not one to give something up very fast, walked towards on of the doors.
“Halt!” Someone yelled.
Michael stopped and turned around. And there they were. The Sun Goddess Sam with her hair of fire and her eyes ablaze. Next to her, the Moon Goddess Brooke with her look of pale tranquillity. And, standing in front of them, stood Cassandra and Jessica. Michael could feel their limitless power fill the room.
“What are you doing here?” Cassandra asked.
“I am here to become a God. And where are Julian and Lily?”
Brooke and Jessica snickered. Sam looked furious, but Cassandra motioned her to silence. “The Universe and the Earth are frankly too big to fit into this place. And concerning the matter of your godhood: only We can decide who will join Us and who will not.”
“But the priests said…”
“The priests are wrong.” Cassandra said. “Down there the only power they have is to twist My words and to pervert their meaning. This, however, is My turf. And here I make the rules.”
“But the rules are written down in the Holy Books. They must be!”
“We inspired a few, yes. And then a few more copied the words. And then a few more and a few more. But We, the Goddesses, are not bound to the rules you men have created.”
“No buts.” Cassandra said. Then she smiled. “I’d like you to meet two new additions to Our pantheon.” She said. “If you would be so kind as to turn around.”
Michael turned around and looked into the empty sockets of a skeleton. He staggered back a few paces. The skeleton was dressed in a massive suit of black armour and was carrying a sword that foretold, without a shadow of a doubt, a very unpleasant experience. Next to the skeleton stood a woman of unspeakable beauty dressed in black.
“Meet Mort, the God of Death.” Said Cassandra. “And, standing next to Him, His wife, the Black Fairy. We haven’t found a job for Her yet, but I’m sure We’ll figure something out.”
“But… but… He’s a man. And She’s a woman!”
“The priests said heterosexuality is a sin! I HEARD it! They can’t be married, it’s sinful!”
“Do not dare to assume that you know the nature of sin, mortal. That is for Us to decide. And now, I think you should leave.”
Michael turned around to face Cassandra, despair evident on his face.
“What will you do to me?” He asked pleadingly.
Cassandra did not answer him. Instead, She merely nodded.
Mort raised His blade.
“Well, that was easy.” Lord Sam said when they were all back in the Palace.
“Of course it was.” Said Cassandra.
“But I wonder. If we hadn’t shown up, what would have happened?”
“Nothing.” Said Cassandra.
“What do you mean ‘nothing’?”
“What I mean is that Michael would have wandered around the Shrine and that’s it.”
“Then why did you say it was an emergency?”
“I keep my diary there!”
“Your diary?” Lord Sam asked.
“Yes!” Cassandra said. “Can you imagine the embarrassment that would come over me if he had found it? If he had read it!?”
“My innermost thoughts are inside that thing!”
“All that so he wouldn’t find your DIARY!?”
“Not to mention all those graphic depictions of me and Jessica’s more adventurous nights together.”
Lord Sam was silent for a moment.
“OK, good point.”
Somewhere in P’p’l’r a wolf was born. There had been a time that he would have believed everything anyone would tell hi,. And that belief had filled him up until he was no longer himself.
The wolf pup looked up.
He believed that the face he saw belonged to his mother.
And that, he thought, was all he needed to know.
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