The Return of the Prophet

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Chapter One: The Return of the Ship

Almitra the seeress stood on the hill without the city walls and looked seaward. Statuesque, her alabaster face turned gently to the breeze, her gaze fixed on the approaching ship on the horizon. For twelve years, she had prayed with every breath, waiting for his return.

She longed for the melody of his words, the song of his voice that sang as softly as the summer breeze dancing through the narrow winding streets and through the branches of the trees.

Ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation, she pondered. She had waited as patiently as the autumn leaf clinging to the branch, calmly awaiting the wind to blow it to down to the safety of the forest floor.

Her heart rose and sank with the tide, and her soul called out silently across the waves to the ship as it carved its way slowly through the heavy mist towards the shore. The days of her longing had been long and the nights without his voice punctuated the somber solitude that wrapped around her like a white virgin gown.

She would often recall the deep emptiness that had filled her soul that day on the seventh of Ielool in the month of reaping as he made his way from the vineyards and walked towards the city gates to the hillsides that rose outside the forest and dropped brusquely into the sea.

And now she was slowly making her way out of the confinement of her sanctuary, drifting over the moors towards him, softly uttering the very words her heart had concealed from him all those years he had remained amongst her people.

On her face, she was now wearing the same pale visage she had that same day twelve years past, and her lips now faintly murmured the same words she did then.

The vision of that solemn memory danced in her head, the vision of that distant day of parting, now so clearly unfolding like the petals of a rose gently opening to greet the morning dew.

The years had embraced her in their folds and the hands of time had carried her back to the same place near the cliff where she stood the day of parting.

Her spirit drifted between past and present and she spoke ancient words of rapture, their meaning hidden beneath a veil of beauty as deep as her eyes. Words that only she could decipher. Words that now betrayed her isolation. For until this moment, these words remained silent all these years, but now the promise of return brought them back to her lips and they sprang forth from somewhere beneath the beating of her heart and the silence of her thoughts. Now as then, she walked towards him as slowly as he had walked away from her that day.

Finally, she whispered above the wind. Had I told the sea what I felt for you, it would have left its shores, its shells, its fish, and followed me.

For it was Almitra who had first sought and believed in him when he had been but a day in their city. It was she who had stood beyond the trees, at the edge of the city gates, and watched him from afar as he walked through the streets where the children danced in circles around him.

The menfolk, tilling their fields after the first harvest, came and walked at his side to listen to the wisdom of his speech.

On that day in Ielool, Almitra reached the hill where the menfolk had congregated around him. She hailed him and her voice rang out like the song of a thousand doves singing in quiet unison. The melody of unspoken love.

He looked upon her with exceeding tenderness as she addressed him.

O Prophet of God, in quest for the uttermost, long have you searched the distances for your ship. And now your ship has come, and you must needs go. Deep is your longing for the land of your memories and the dwelling place of your greater desires; and our love would not bind you nor our needs hold you. Yet this we ask ere you leave us, that you speak to us and give us of your truth. And we will give it unto our children, and they unto their children, and it shall not perish.

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