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Fantasticoe 2000 Contents


The Dancing Idol

Aliya Khan

Chapter 1

     The town, Gweneth, was a small one. It was full of empty wide green fields which seemed to stretch endlessly. From time to time one could see a few scattered houses. The small houses each looked exactly the same as the other. The only thing that really stood out in this town was an abandoned, broken down building. The architecture was ancient.

     On this particular day, a warm summer's day, when the little town went about its business, and the quietness was broken only by the occasional cry of the birds and the crows, a small girl about ten stepped out of her house and skipped out into the road. Her house was the only one close to the temple and although her mother had warned her never to go there, she still did so. Maggy was not very close to her mother, Nemi. Nemi was a strong, stout woman in her forties with dark hair and peachy skin. Her eyes were a strange shade of blue and would storm up in anger every time she looked at Maggy. The sight of Maggy reminded her again and again that Nemi was unable to have a son. It was because of this reason that her husband had left her. Maggy sensed her mother's dislike and stayed away from her, hoping some day to find the maternal love she longed for.

     Today, Maggy had on a tattered pink dress, the soft color flowing ever so softly on her small body. Her dark hair, which was the color of midnight, was tied up in a pink bow. Her eyes were a dark brown; when she would get angry they would change into charcoal black. She was a frail little thing and as she skipped towards the temple, she clung to her doll tightly, afraid of letting it go. As she reached the temple, she stopped for a minute and waited with bated breath. Till today she had not had the courage to go near the temple. As she stood in front of it, she gazed at it with wonder. She had heard all kinds of strange tales, that those who had ventured into this temple never returned quite the same. Men and women in the town never entered the temple. They said that they felt an odd sensation as they climbed the stairs. It was almost as if someone was clutching at their hearts and wrenching at them. Those who had been brave and foolish enough to go further had come out of the temple screaming and gone into a strange madness that they never got out of.

     The people in the town said that they had heard the sound of footsteps and laughter and the jingling sound of bangles. They were all afraid of the temple and thought that some ancient culture must have built it to worship their gods. No one knew when it was built, why or who had worshiped within the stone walls. The temple was a mystery.

     Maggy shivered as she thought about the tales she had heard. She clutched at her doll and decided she had to find out what was inside the temple. She had to find out if the temple really had any magic to it. Maybe she might to able to use the magic to make her mother love her. Maggy climbed the few steps leading to the huge door of the temple. The air seemed to blow ever so slightly, whistling through the old nooks and corner. She felt that it was trying to say something. As she stood on the stairs she looked up at the tainted white marble structure. Wild foliage had crept around the once white grandeur and now covered it with its green tentacles. Maggy had seen nothing like it. The temple looked old and tired. Maggy noticed how two huge columns supported a broken down room; all that was left of this once magnificent monument. The rusty white marble columns had strange drawings carved on them. Drawings of people bowing or with raised hands offered in prayer. At first glance the carvings looked so realistic that Maggy had to step back for a second and shake her head before realizing that they were just carvings, nothing more.

     Maggy pushed open the huge wooden door which was full of carvings of women and men praying and let out a gasp.
 
 

Chapter 2

     The floors were made of colorful marbles, contrasting against the rusty white columns inside. This was the only room that seemed to be still intact, the rest of the temple was broken down. The ceiling, or what was left of it, and the walls were full of pictures, painted in reds, oranges and blues, making mad dashes of color. Despite the dust, the decaying walls and the cobwebs, the faded colors brought to life the paintings of women and men holding each other in a sweet embrace. Others seemed to stare up at a light above them. They were all clothed in gold dresses and robes. One woman, however, stood out in the picture: A dark haired beauty who stood above them in a cloud of light, the one who everyone looked up to in prayer. Her dark hair and eyes were unearthly, yet beautiful. There was an aura about her. Her mouth had a stern shape to it almost as if she was warning those who entered the temple of some harm. In her hand, she wore a bangle, a gold one. Maggy touched the painting of this woman and felt a shiver go through her. As she turned around, she froze with fright as she noticed the one object in the room--an idol

     The idol of a woman. On close inspection Maggy realized that it was the same dark haired woman from the picture. It was made of white marble. Time had decayed it and given it a reddish tinge. Yet the curves and the details had been done with such care, that Maggy felt like reaching out and touching those beautiful cheeks. A bangle and an ankle bracelet hung from it.

     Maggy remembered the townspeople talking about an idol inside the temple. They had said that it must have been an idol that the ancient culture used to worship. No one dared touch the gold bangle or bracelet, scared of facing the same fate as the mad men. And so they hung on the still idol, sparkling in their brilliance. A sharp arrow of sun would hit it from time to time and the bangles would radiate in its light. As Maggy stared at the idol, the wind swished through it and made the bangle dance with it.

     Maggy crept up at the idol, one step at a time. She was scared and excited at the same time. A voice within her urged her to go forward, the same voice that had urged her this morning, on her tenth birthday to go to the temple. Finally Maggy was close to the idol. It was taller than her by a good couple of inches at least. She dropped her doll on the ground and reached out her dainty, white hands. Slowly she touched the idol and felt the oddest sensation. Tiny prickles began to run through her body. She tried to move her hands but she couldn't. As she gazed with amazement, her dark eyes became wider and wider. The idol began to move. Maggy began to pull and finally she was able to free her hands from the idol's body. As she watched with bated breath the idol started to move it fingers, then its marble hands began to move. Maggy watched, mesmerized, as the idol moved its legs and soon was dancing around the room; spinning and dancing faster and faster, forming a circle around Maggy. The more she danced, the more power she seemed to gain and a light began to glow around her, growing brighter and brighter. Maggy shielded her eyes and saw that the idol was melting and gradually revealing a woman in flesh and blood.

     Suddenly, the light disappeared and there stood in front of Maggy the most breathtaking woman she had ever seen. It was the same woman as in the picture. She had a beautiful gold dress on her, which molded to her soft curves. Her lips were the sweet pink of a rose and her eyes were as deep and dark as the bottom of a fathomless pool. Her eyes looked around the room and finally rested on Maggy. She looked at Maggy and smiled. Maggy was too scared to do anything. The woman smiled at Maggy and as she spoke he words echoed in a melodious way.

     "Maggy, don't be afraid. I would never harm you. My name is Ethera and I am a goddess. I have been waiting a long time for a person with a pure heart to stop in this temple. You see, only one with a pure soul can enter this temple. Anyone with a dark heart turns mad."

     "How do you know my name?" asked Maggy beginning to find her voice. She was fascinated by this strange woman who had appeared from the idol.

     "Oh Maggy I know a lot about you. You see, I possess a lot of power and for a long time I have been interested in you." replied Ethera in a soft voice

     "Why have you been interested in me?"

     "Because you are special, because the stars under which you were born were just the right ones." Maggy thought about this for a few seconds before gazing back at the goddess.

     "Can you make my mother love me?"

Ethera's eyes changed into deep purple and her mouth took on a stern shape.

     "I am afraid, Maggy, even goddesses cannot make human beings change their personalities. But there is so much more that I can and will do for you. All I ask in return is that you visit me every day and keep the temple clean."

      As she said this, Ethera turned and looked with sadness at the broken down ancient temple, which only bore a few resemblances to its past glory.

     "You know, Maggy, millions of years ago before man even came into this world, I was here. A race of men then came to Gweneth and although at first I was not sure of them, I realized that they were capable of greatness as well as destruction. I shielded those who were good and punished those who were evil. People began to worship me. But one day, I found out that the chief of the village had treated his wife cruelly. I punished the chief by making his skin break out in sores. The chief of the village turned the people against me and made them do evil things. Those who continued to believe in me were murdered and after that, no one said another word about me. I didn't do anything, for I wanted to test the humans. You see, I can take the shape and form of anything and I watched as they destroyed my temple and conspired against me. In anger I decided never to help another human or show my presence to them. I made the people in Gweneth turn into dust and then I joined the other gods in Paradisia. I left this idol that the people worshiped in the temple, hoping someday to use it as a medium and watch the temple without showing my true form. For years, no one came. Then the elders of this town came. I watched them from afar, but they were too afraid to come to the temple. I waited as the years went by, hoping that one day a pure soul would come by. But only the greedy and the dark hearted came and I turned them mad."

     Maggy listened with bated breath and despite being so young she understood everything. Ethera led Maggy to the center of the room and said,

     "Maggy, I needed to find someone that I can trust who will transform this temple into its past glory. But you must not tell anyone about me.' Maggy nodded her head in understanding.

     "Ethera what is Paradisia?"

     Ethera smiled "That's where the gods and goddesses reside when they are not on earth. It's a special place for us. I am not the only goddess, you know. There are many more like me. Mother nature and its creations need a lot of looking after, you know. My powers are for helping those in need, especially nature."

     "Why haven't I seen you before?" asked Maggy, feeling more and more relaxed at Ethera's presence.

     "Because I was angry with people, because the gods and goddesses try not to show their forms too often to mortals, we prefer that they believe in themselves and not spend their time trying to please us, in hopes of miracles. We are only here to look after them, not create miracles for a race which has been blessed by so much intelligence."

     Ethera raised her hand in silence as Maggy was about to ask her more questions. She took Maggy by the hands to the middle of the room. There she snapped her fingers and made a dish full of food appear. Maggy had never seen so much food. Plums, apples, chocolates, cakes, roast chicken and so much more. Maggy looked at Ethera and the goddess nodded her head. Maggy the food with gusto. Nemi had never let her eat more than a few spoonfuls saying that she was too fat.

     After she had finished eating, Maggy jumped up and hugged the goddess, she smelled of flowers and rain. Ethera smiled and stood up

     "Maggy you must go now, tomorrow come over and start cleaning the temple. You might not see me any more as I don't want others to learn of my relationship with you. But remember, I will always watch over you. Maggy smiled at this and headed toward the door. As she turned her head she saw that the temple was empty save for the idol. She turned around wondering if she had imagined everything.
 
 

Chapter 3

     The next morning Maggy was up by dawn. She was too excited to sleep. With the first ray of sun shining on her face, Maggy got up and ran to wash her face from the pitcher sitting on one side of her room. She quickly brushed her hair, grabbed a cleaning rag, and ran out of her room. She opened the door leading to the outside of the house and quietly stepped out into the sunlight. Nemi was still asleep, she wouldn't be up for another hour. Maggy started to run towards the temple, and as she came upon it, she clapped her hands with delight. Only she knew about the goddess, only she was the chosen one.

     Maggy climbed up the stairs and was taken aback by a jingling sound. She stopped in her tracks and turned around to see if Ethera was there. But there was no one around. Maggy opened the heavy door and stepped inside. As she went inside she was once again amazed by the beauty of the temple inside. Maggy walked up to the idol and stood in front of it. Nothing happened. She gazed up at the idol and called out, "Ethera, Ethera it's me Maggy. I have come back to clean the temple. Where are you?"

     There was no sound. The wind swished into the temple and made the gold bangle dance. Maggy stood there, not understanding why Ethera did not respond. She remembered what Ethera had said about not showing herself. But Maggy wished she would, there was so much she wanted to know.

"Ethera please answer me. I promise I will clean up the temple very nicely."

Still there was no sound, except for the echo of Maggy's voice. Heartbroken, Maggy was about to turn back, when she had an idea. Maybe if she made the temple as beautiful as before, then Ethera would show up again. With this thought in mind, Maggy took her cloth and started wiping the idol. She worked at it for over an hour before remembering that Nemi would be getting up soon. Maggy ran home as fast as she could, but Nemi was already up.

"Where have you been you miserable girl? I have been up for more than an hour and there was no one to bring me a pitcher of water to wash my hands and mouth." Said Nemi while grabbing Maggy's ears.

Maggy kept silent, knowing better than to say anything. 'I knew the day you were born that you were no good. Your father would have been with me still, were it not for you. Oh, if only I had a son.' Nemi shook Maggy, till Maggy felt that her head would come loose. Nemi slapped her a couple of times. The sting brought tears to Maggy's eyes, but she didn't want to give Nemi the satisfaction of seeing her cry. Finally Nemi let her go but Maggy knew that this was not the last of it. Nemi did not forgive easily. As Maggy went about her chores, her mind formed pictures of Ethera and the wonderful food she had eaten. Hence the day went by until it was darkness and time to go to bed. Maggy stood around for a while and watched as Nemi plumped up her soft bed and sang.

Every time Nemi sang, chills would run through Maggy's veins. It meant that Nemi was plotting some way of hurting her. Maggy drew back the covers on her hard and tattered bed and sat on it quietly. He room was dark as Nemi did not let her have lanterns in her room. Maggy breathed a sigh of relief and lay down wondering about Ethera. But her body started to scratch and Maggy started to yell as she felt little things crawling all over her, biting her soft flesh and making her cry with pain. Through it all her heard Nemi laughed in delight.

"I thought that putting thousands of ants in your bed would make you less lonely and remind you who was in charge. If you are ever late again, it's not harmless ants that you are going to find on your bed."

With that, Nemi turned the lantern off. Maggy ran across the room to where the pitcher of water was and poured it over her body. She tore at her dress and the rest of the night she spent in agony. Maggy shivered from the cold night, but at least the scratching had stopped. As she sat naked in the darkness, Maggy vowed to clean Ethera's temple as best as she could so that Ethera would grant her a wish--- to get away from Nemi.
 
 

Chapter 4

Maggy's days were the same for the next few years. She would get up while it was still dark and go over to the temple, cleaning away the rust, the cobwebs, trying to mend as much as she could. Still there was no sign of Ethera and Maggy began to wonder if she had imagined it all. Maggy would get back home before Nemi was up and pretend that she just got up from bed. Before going to bed at night Maggy would go outside and try and find flowers and insects and soil, whatever she could get her hands on and crush them in a little bowl. She would then form a paste and use the colorful paste to repaint some of the drawings in the temple that were fading. As time went on and there was no sign of Ethera or any kind of magic, Maggy began to wonder if there was any magic left in the temple. While she cleaned the temple, Maggy would talk to the marble idol. She had no friends and Maggy would pretend that the idol was a little girl like her and would chat with her about all kinds of things. Maggy continued to go to the temple despite the emptiness there. She continued to hope, and soon the days turned into weeks and the weeks into months and the months into years.
 
 

Chapter 5

It had been seven years ago that Maggy had first met the goddess and now, at the age of seventeen, a pretty Maggy stood in front of the idol once again wondering for the millionth time if she had imagined it all. Maggy had changed a great deal in these few years. She had grown tall, almost as tall as the idol. Her hair was as dark as midnight and her eyes were two dark pools. Her features bore a strange resemblance to the idol she cleaned, and the people in the town often whispered about how odd it was that Maggy did not look like her mother. Those who had known Maggy's father, before he had left, said that she looked nothing like her father either. Maggy was unaware of the similarity she bore.

     Maggy stepped back and looked at the idol. The temple was not completely restored but for once it looked clean and well kept. Maggy had done her best over the years to keep the temple clean. She dropped her cloth on the side and headed out of the temple, wondering why she bothered to talk to an idol who never talked back. She was pretty convinced by now that Ethera was just a figment of her imagination . She didn't even hear the sound of bangles any more while entering the temple. With a sigh Maggy turned around and left the temple. She started walking towards her house, hoping that Nemi wasn't up as yet. While coming closer to her house, Maggy noticed a strange man standing in front of her house. He was a tall, thin man, with a cynical mouth, pale skin and a beard that hung frailly from his face. From time to time he would raise his thin bony fingers and pull on it distractedly. As he turned and his eyes rested on Maggy, she felt a shiver run through her. His eyes were an icy blue and as he ran his eyes over Maggy's smooth body, she felt a shiver of disgust run through her.

"Can I help you?" asked Maggy in a not so confident voice.

     The man bowed slightly, "Why you must be Maggy. Your mother has told me a great deal about you. I have actually come to see you."

     "See me why, I don't even know you."

The stranger laughed, "Allow me to introduce myself . My name is Hawk and I have seen you many times in town Maggy. I don't live in Gweneth, but I stop by from time to time to check up on my investments." As he said this he gave Maggy a knowing look.

     Maggy was feeling more and more frightened by this stranger.

"What is that----?"

"Why hello there," said Nemi as she opened the door . '

"Why Hawk, you are early. I didn't expect you to come so early." said Nemi in the sweetest voice. Maggy was about to head outwards when Nemi's sharp grip caught her. Nemi ushered Hawk in and pulled Maggy to the side.

"Now listen to me you little bitch. For a long time Hawk has helped me financially and in return I promised him that I would give you to him. He wants to marry you, but why I fail to see. So a month from today you will be married to him. In exchange for you, I will be getting a new house and lots of money. So if you spoil it for me, you know what I will do to you, and its going to be worse than any of the punishments that I have given you so far."

     Maggy shivered at this, touching the recent scar on her arms that Nemi had left for putting too much salt in the chicken. Maggy felt frozen, as if someone had clutched at her heart.

     " Please mother, I don't know him. I have never even seen him before today. I don't think I even like him."

"Liking has nothing to do with it. You will marry him and provide a son for him. He needs an heir. I don't think you will be able to give him a son, but he seems to think so. He is smitten by your looks apparently. I don't really care what happens to you, as long as I get some compensation for looking after you for so many years. And if you defy me, I will tell the people in the town that you are an evil witch and you are possessed with the evil spirit of the temple." Said Nemi when she saw Maggy's look of surprise.

"Oh yes, I knew all along."

     Nemi went on in her calm voice to tell a stunned Maggy how Hawk had seen Maggy a few years ago and had approached Nemi with a proposition. They had decided to keep him a secret until today. Nemi left Maggy and went to talk to Hawk. Maggy stood there and tears began to fall down her face, trickles like rain drops, clear and smooth, yet bearing the burden of sadness and despair.

     "Please, Ethera, if you were real help me." said Maggy silently. But she heard nothing back.

     The next day Maggy woke up at dawn and left her house to go to town and the bazaar. Today she didn't go to the temple, the first time in seven years. As she walked to town she prayed for a miracle. Maggy was lost in thought when she bumped into someone. Maggy mumbled her apologies, but when she looked up to see who it was, her breath caught in her throat.
 
 

Chapter 6

     Maggy gazed at the stranger smiling down at her. A tall man with broad shoulders and a twinkling smile. His eyes were an odd green and the sun made it glint. His hair was a dark rich color. It, made Maggy long to run her fingers through its softness. Maggy smiled at the stranger shyly. He beamed at her and said with a smile,

     "I am sorry, I didn't mean to bump into you like that. My name is Ethan and I am new in Gweneth and I wasn't sure which way I was headed." "I am Maggy, and you are headed in the wrong direction, the road ahead will lead you to the forest. I am going to the bazaar. I can show you the direction to the town, if you want."

     Ethan gave a big grin which made Maggy's knees feel like jelly.

     " Nice to meet you Maggy. I was actually looking for a place to stay, an inn of some sort."

     "Well there really isn't an inn in Gweneth, but there is Mrs. Applebee, who sometimes rents out rooms to the occasional visitor."

     "Maggy, I will be forever in your debt if you could take me to Mrs. Applebee's place," said Ethan with a twinkle in his eyes. Ethan was amazed to find such a beauty in such a small town. Just looking at her made his heart beat faster.

     Maggy agreed and they began to walk. They started talking, Maggy learned that he was a craftsman, he went from town to town trying to find something to do. Maggy was fascinated with him, with his gentle voice and his worldly ways. Before she knew it they were in front of Mrs. Applebee's house. Maggy smiled shyly at Ethan, not wanting to say good bye to him.

     "Well I guess here we are. Say Maggy, since I am new in this town, would you show me around?" said Ethan, not wanting to let go of this beautiful creature.

     Maggy's heart leapt up. She smiled and readily agreed, but not before warning him that she would have to be careful, as her mother and some of the townspeople would not like her associating with a total stranger. So they made arrangements to meet at dawn in the forest. Ethan readily agreed. He felt a connection with her, something that he had never felt before. Maggy skipped home, forgetting all about the bazaar and grocery. Her feet felt like they were walking on air, and a warm feeling was filling her heart with joy. Maybe Ethera had heard her prayer and granted her wish. Maggy ran home, but that day, she wasn't able to go to the temple.

     Maggy wasn't able to go to the temple any of the following days. Every morning she would wake up, while it was still dark, and meet Ethan. She would show him around, while the town still slept. This was their time, their time to be together. They would walk through the field and lay under the hanging light of the sky wondering, wishing. For the first time Maggy had a friend, someone she could talk to. As she would watch Ethan and see the way his dimples would lift up at the corners, she would imagine them getting married and living happily ever after. She was sure Ethan felt the same way too. He would touch her gently and brush his strong lips on her soft ones. Maggy would feel like she was in Heaven on these days. Ethan didn't have any family, and he knew what it was like to be alone. He would hold her close while she would cry about Nemi and Hawk. His eyes would glint in anger and he would run his hands gently on her scars.

     "I want to give Nemi a piece of my mind," said Ethan one day, after Maggy had a new bruise on her forehead, the result of spilling milk on the ground.

     "No Ethan she must never know about you and me. She will kill you and me. You don't know how wicked she is."

     "I don't care. Why don't you stand up to her? I am here and I want to stop her from hurting you."

     "I can't defy her Ethan. I am too scared. Promise me you are not going to do anything silly?"

     Ethan gazed at her soft dark eyes and knew that he had to promise Maggy, but his heart was wrenching with pain to see her suffer in this way. "I promise."

     One night as Maggy lay in his arms he said, "Maggy run away with me. We will get married and live happily together. We will travel the world. These few days have been like being in paradise. But I am sick of hiding our feelings from others. You do know that I LOVE YOU?"

     "Well I knew I loved you the minute I set my eyes on you, but I wasn't sure about whether you felt the same way or not."

     Ethan smiled at Maggy, and sat up to gaze at her eyes, which shone like the stars above, "Lets do it then, lets do it tomorrow. We will run away, by the time Hawk comes back we will be long gone."

     Maggy thoughtfully looked at Ethan's eyes and was once again amazed by their beautiful, emerald color. "I don't know Ethan, I am too scared. I can't bear to be without you. And I can't bear to marry Hawk. But I am soooooo scared of Nemi."

     "Maggy, it's time to stop being scared of her. It's time to show her that you are not scared of her."

     Maggy chewed at the bottom of her mouth thoughtfully and looked at Ethan's strong face. "Okay, lets meet tomorrow at the temple. There we can say our promises and run away. I want you to meet Ethera, the goddess who brought you to me."

     "You don't really believe in goddesses, do you Maggy?"

     "After meeting you, I am sure that Ethera was real."

     Ethan sighed and realized that no matter what, Maggy would not have the courage to tell her mother about them. He had hoped that he would be able to talk with Nemi and try to convince her to let go of Maggy. But seeing how scared Maggy was, he realized that he had done the right thing in suggesting that they run away. But he wasn't sure. So Maggy and Ethan made plans to meet the next day, late at night, in the temple. It was almost time to go as the sky was turning into the orange of daylight. Maggy and Ethan parted reluctantly. Ethan kissed Maggy sweetly, wanting to protect her and hold her in his arms. Yet he had to let go of her. He was a poor man and he knew that there wasn't much that he could offer her, but he knew that he would love her forever.

     Maggy went home and found Nemi still asleep. She prayed that all would go well. She had not been able to go to the temple, but hoped that Ethera would understand.
 
 

Chapter 7

     The next day Maggy woke up and found that Nemi was already up and in a good mood. Nemi was singing and that immediately made Maggy uncomfortable.

     "Maggy did you know that there was a new man in town, apparently he's been here for several weeks now. A secretive man, stays very much by himself. His name is Ethan."

     Maggy froze but tried to appear as calm as she could. "Oh really? No I didn't know that."

     Nemi smiled at this and told Maggy that she wanted her to go to the bazaar and get a few things. Maggy readily agreed and ran out of the house. She was hoping to see Ethan in town, to warn him, that Nemi might suspect what was going on. But she wasn't sure. But Ethan was nowhere in sight, and Maggy was too scared to ask anyone. At the bazaar she had the oddest sensation that someone was watching her, but every time she would turn, there was no one there. Maggy headed home, the uneasy feeling was creeping more and more. She walked faster and faster, all of a sudden an arm grabbed her from behind and Maggy let out a yell.

     "Hello Maggy." It was Hawk. Maggy almost choked at seeing him. He wasn't supposed to be back for another week. Maggy was scared that he had found out about her and Ethan's plan, but hoped that it was only a coincidence.

     "Well you don't look too happy to see me. Is that how you are supposed to greet your future husband?"

     Maggy remained quiet. His bony fingers were biting into her soft flesh."I have to go home, mother is waiting for me."

     "Yes I am eager to meet your mother again. I think I will walk you home."

     Maggy felt like a prisoner and wondered how she could get away from him. As she came upon her house, Maggy's fear increased more and more. Nemi opened the door before they knocked.

     "Hello Hawk, I was expecting you. I am glad that you are here. Well, well, Maggy, who knew you had so much guts,"

     "What do you mean?" croaked a petrified Maggy. By this time Hawk had ushered her inside the house. As they went inside Maggy gazed with shock to see the slumped body of Ethan on the chair.

     "Ethan, what are you doing here?" screamed Maggy breaking from Hawk's grip with sheer force. As she came upon him, she realized with horror that he was dead. His eyes were closed and he sat peacefully on the chair, as if taking a snooze. His chest and white shirt was filled with blood.

     "Ethan, oh Ethan, what has happened to you, wake up please wake up," screamed Maggy in agony. Her screams tore out of her heart and she fell defeated to the ground. Nemi laughed,

     "Can you believe it, the poor fool had come today to ask for Maggy's hand in marriage, saying that he would fight me till the end if I didn't let Maggy get married to him. I pretended to cry and he bought into the guilt act and I fed him some of my herbal tea. The kind that puts you to sleep. Then I stabbed him in his heart. It was quite easy." Hawk laughed with her.

     Maggy sat on the ground in a trance, all the while thinking that Nemi wasn't just cruel, she was mad. Grief made her feel paralyzed. Hawk came upon her and grabbed her by her hair.

     "Come now my pretty bride to be, how about a kiss?" Maggy scratched him on his face and tried to run. But Nemi was blocking the door. Maggy was out of her mind, but she knew that she had to get away. For the first time in her life, Maggy shoved Nemi. Nemi was as shocked as Maggy. But Hawk grabbed her from behind. Maggy screamed as Nemi struck her a blow on her cheeks. Maggy closed her eyes in pain. But when she opened them, she was surprised, when with a snailing sound, a white cat appeared from nowhere and attacked Hawk and Nemi. They were so surprised that they broke their grip and Maggy ran out of the house. She had to go to the temple. She had to find Ethera.
 
 

Chapter 8

     Maggy ran into the temple screaming, "Ethera, Ethera, help me please," Maggy burst into the temple. She shook the marble idol, but Hawk and Nemi were behind her.

     "I told you she would be able to get us inside the temple. I knew it. All these years she thought she was fooling me, but she was just fooling herself. And now Hawk you get Maggy and we get the gold bangle of the so-called goddess."

     "No, you are not going to take anything, you'll see you will go mad, only the pure hearted can come inside the temple." Nemi and Hawk laughed at this.

     "Do you see us going mad? Besides, we have you as protection, in case anything goes wrong."

     Maggy looked around crazily, but Nemi had already grabbed her. Nemi slapped Maggy and Hawk went to the idol, trying to free the bangle from the idols hands. But it wouldn't come off. Maggy was fighting with all her might. The vision of Ethan sitting on the chair with blood on his chest was tormenting her soul. Maggy screamed in agony and great droplets of tears began to pour down her cheeks. "Ethera, please help me."

     As Hawk tried to remove the bangle, one more time, he felt a force push him to the ground. Dazed, Hawk looked up to see the idol and was shocked by what he saw. The idol was moving. Nemi starting backing towards the door, but the door closed with a loud thud. Hawk gazed in amazement as the idol began to move her hands and her legs. It started to dance faster and faster gaining its power. A light began to shine until in a burst of brightness, the marble gave way to show a beautiful Ethera standing in front of them. Her eyes were storming with anger, and her voice when she spoke, thundered like lightning; it wasn't melodious like Maggy remembered.

     "How dare you try to steal from me, and how dare you step into my temple with your evil hearts. How dare you hurt Maggy who is the chosen one. For this you will pay."

     Hawk raised his hands as if to throw something; it was a knife. A loud thundering noise was heard and Hawk was turned into stone. His face bore the look of fear. Even the knife had changed into stone. It was as if time had stopped, and frozen him.

     Ethera turned to look at Nemi. Nemi gripped Maggy tightly. Ethera's hair was blowing in the wind that seemed to echo her anger. "Don't come near me or your precious Maggy will be dead." said Nemi. Maggy could feel a sharp dagger on her back.

     "The last time I saw you I only scratched your face." Said Ethera on seeing the blood pour from the ugly gash that the white cat had left on Nemi's face a little while ago.

     "So it was you, you were the cat," screeched Nemi.

     "Yes I was. I was late to save Ethan, but I wasn't about to let Maggy suffer in your hands. How could a mother treat her daughter this way? I have seen the evil within you. But I never interfered. For I wanted Maggy to stand up against you, and she did that today. But so many times I have wanted to punish you, but I stopped myself. But today I knew you would come to my temple and I would finally get my chance." With these words Ethera raised her hands and the dagger melted in Nemi's hands. Maggy moved away, but not before slapping Nemi. Ethera smiled at this and said, "Nemi your punishment will be that you are going to become mad, and each year you will lose a part of your body until nothing exists. You will suffer the way you have made your daughter suffer, all because she was not a boy. You will pay for taking Ethan's life, before his time."

     Nemi shrieked and ran out of the temple. Maggy wanted to follow, but Ethera stopped her. "Maggy let her go. She will not be troubling you anymore. As for Hawk, his statue will be placed outside the temple door, as a warning to those who try to steal again."

     Maggy hugged Ethera, but she was sad and looked at Ethera with desperate eyes. Before she could say anything, Ethera stopped her. "Maggy I know what you want to ask me. Its okay, go home, Ethan will be there. You see I was waiting for the right moment to give you a gift for restoring my temple. You have the gift of healing. When you touch Ethan he will revive. People from all over will come to you to be healed and only you will have the power to heal them. You will also be able to heal animals and plants, with certain boundaries of course," said Ethera with a laugh

     "But Maggy, I wanted to give you a part of me. That's why you look so much like me. I made it so. Now you will help me in looking after nature and its creations. I am so pleased with the work you did with the temple. You see this is also my home. My home on Earth, when I am not in Paradisia." Maggy was surprised, happy and ecstatic. Ethera smiled and the doors opened.

     "Now go Maggy, and begin your life with Ethan. Remember I will always look out for you, and if ever you need me call my name three times and I will appear."Maggy hugged the goddess one more time and ran home.
 
 

Chapter 9

     Maggy ran home and burst through the door of her house. Ethan was exactly in the same position as she had seen him last. Maggy put her shivering hands on his chest and watched with amazement as a light began to glow and Ethan's blood disappeared. Maggy stood up and Ethan began to open his eyes. Maggy jumped with delight and hugged Ethan. Ethan was dazed and happy as Maggy told him all that had happened. Ethan's eyes clouded as he remembered how he had believed that Nemi was coming around.

     "And guess what, Ethera said that I have a healing power, that's how I was able to bring you back to life. But she said that there was a certain extent to which I could heal. Oh, I am so happy, all my life I wished for Nemi to love me, but now, I can share all the love I have within me, to share with you and to ease the pain of those who have suffered like me."

     Ethan looked at Maggy with pride. Maggy looked more beautiful than ever. Her skin was glowing with color, and her voice was filling his soul with life. He hugged her tightly and thanked Ethera for bringing them together. Ethan and Maggy were soon married, and the pot of gold that suddenly appeared in their house made them lead a comfortable life. But their greatest joy, was in the love they shared with each other and those who came to seek their help. Maggy and Ethan's kind hearts made them very popular in Gweneth and other places, although the people were still amazed at all the odd things that had happened. They couldn't understand why Nemi had gone mad all of a sudden. She always hung around the temple and every year seemed to lose an ear or a toe. It was all quite strange.

     In course of time, Maggy was able to convince the people that the temple was good and did her healings in the temple. Although Ethera did not show herself to the people, they were quite sure that they heard jingling noises whenever they went there.

Acknowledgments: My class members for their feedback and Terry Heller for his patience.




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