It took a couple of hours for Elari to leave the city proper and traverse across the valley between the islands of Varein. As she crossed the bridge however, she could see the peak of the island had some sort of ropes or large threads that ran through the night sky, connecting to the temple at the peak of the city, as well as a few others on the outskirts, and seemingly within the forest of the Gods on the second island. The sky was pitch black, the stars were clear and the flickering lights of the city behind were lighting up her path, but the threads seemed to emit a light of their own. A dim golden-red hum that was barely perceivable but also made certain the threads were seen. A testament of woven destiny across the inhabitants of the ancient islands, and of the shared knowledge and power of the gods.
There were no signs on the path up through the forest to the hill’s peak, but Elari didn’t need them. She simply walked, her eyes never strayed from the path and a strange urge in her mind driving her onward. The sensation was cold but not unwelcome, like ice in warm weather. Elari pressed on, and sure enough, as the forests cleared and the open grass of the hill stretched out, she saw the same golden threads, larger and brighter now, finding purchase at the top of a pointed structure.
As she walked closer, up the stone path on the hillside, the structure rose up before her. The spire she first spotted seemed part of the entryway, a large doorway, which itself curved to a point sat beneath. Eventually the structure thinned out so much it gave the appearance of a needle, and from her point beneath, Elari could see all of the threads she had seen were coiled around and through a hole at the top of the spire, shooting off it in their various directions, mapping out the temples of Varein.
Elari barely registered her feet had stopped moving until a silvery voice reached her ears.
“Do you understand what you see, young one?” Elari blinked her eyes, pulling them down from the threads to find the source of the voice. Eventually, she spotted a figure in the doorway, lit by the flames affixed to the outside.
The elf before her wore the deepest red sleeveless robes Elari had seen since she had entered Varein. Gold thread wove in elaborate patterns up the fabric from where in hung by the woman’s feet. Elari’s eyes traced the gold as it caught the light, it seemed to be guided in a particular pattern, as though the fabric itself was weaving a story. As Elari’s eyes trailed further up, past the robes and to the newcomer’s face, she was met with a kind, knowing smile. The woman seemed young at first glance, in appearance only around a decade Elari’s senior, but Elari knew how time worked for her kind, and looking past the first glance, at the knowledge behind the smile and the earnest kindness but constant caution in her eyes, she saw the years behind the elf before her. The woman tucked some of her short white hair behind one ear and motioned to the threads above them, then to Elari.
“They are fate threads, right?”
“Objectively yes, I suppose.” The green eyes never left Elari. “But you are not here to look at the ties of Varein, are you, miss Vael?”
Elari stared in surprise at the use of her name, suspicion crept in before a light, breath of laughter left the woman’s lips.
“Our lady speaks of all her children and follows each of our threads. She knew you would come here. She asked me to meet you. Please, come inside.” She motioned to the corridor behind her, and Elari finally noticed the rest of the building, past the initial entry and spire, a larger, curved building stretched out behind. The building itself was grey, almost silver stone, but in the light of the flames which were dotted around the outer walls, she could see the thin veins of gold that ran through the stonework. She walked forward, compelled by the same force as she had felt guiding her to the temple. The bracelet around her wrist felt warm as she passed the torches either side of the door. She took note that the flames within were as white as the woman’s hair, magic of the gods.
“Who are you?” Elari eventually asked once she had fully stepped into the small corridor of entry to the temple. Her companion glanced back with an ever consistent smile, an act which under any other circumstance would have unnerved Elari, yet this time set her oddly at ease. As the elf spoke, she opened the secondary doors to the temple, a wave of her hand lighting the brazier in the entryway.
“My name is Cordelia Aloren, I am the leader of the order of Urelaith as we are based in Varein.” She again motioned into the temple, but this time for Elari to pass her. Elari did so, walking past the priest and into the main building.
Elari entered into a large, circular chamber, the same colour as the stone outside. However, the veins in the stonework were lit more clearly, becoming a deep red, and a large golden metal circle hung suspended from the dome roof. The veins on the walls seemed to protrude from the stone itself, more closely resembling thread, and as Elari’s eyes drew upward she realised why. It was thread. Thousands of deep red and gold threads danced in erratically elegant patterns up the walls and onto the roof, some tangling with the golden circle above her. Two doors sat almost opposite where the two elves had entered, and a couple more elves, dressed in simpler red robes than Cordelia, were cleaning various parts of the temple. Metal pews and white cushions scattered through the large chamber. A slightly risen platform sat dead in the centre of the shadow of the circle above, a small set of stairs wrapped around the side. Atop the platform, there was a white stone altar, with gold and red veins running up the stone, a small cushion for kneeling was at its base, and carved into the stone in jet black ink, was the symbol of Urelaith.
She had no idea how long she was stood staring at the various decorations in the room before Cordelia breezed past her, almost seeming to float. The High Priest looked around the room, following Elari’s gaze as it lingered on the thousands of threads.
“The threads represent the members of this temple, current and passed. Every time an individual is initiated into the order, a new thread is woven into the design, hence their multitude.” Elari looked over as Cordelia spoke, watching the woman’s smile as it changed, still kind, but holding a deep set sadness to it. “My parents both have their threads up there.”
“Mine are not religious.”
“Are you certain? How did you hear about Urelaith?”
“My father told me stories, but he had stories of all the gods.”
“And our lady was your favourite? She must be flattered.” The sadness dropped out of the smile as fast as it had appeared as Cordelia’s eyes drew back to Elari. “You wish to speak to her?”
Elari faltered, unsure. Cordelia motioned toward the platform.
“A daunting thought, to speak with a god. She may not even speak, but she will always guide as well as she can.” She began to walk forward, Elari felt her feet following without really comprehending their movement. They stopped at the base of the stairs. “You’ll find a small spike on the altar, prick your finger and kneel. Then it is up to fate whether she speaks. May fate guide you softly, young one.” With a small bow and a light smile, the priest turned and walked away. When Elari turned to say thank you, she had already vanished.