The Pelphine temple was the largest of all the buildings in the city of Altea, standing almost as tall as the castle Allura called home. It was composed of three floors, and a hidden sub level that served mainly as storage space. In times of need, the storage space was converted into a shelter for the citizens of the city, the people hiding during freak occurrences of nature, such as the stray tornado that occasionally blew through Altea.
Pelphine wasn’t the only temple that existed in Altea, the city was large enough to support several, the buildings smaller and not as frequented as the main one. They were spread throughout the city, so that people might have a place of faith within walking distance of their homes. Of all the temples, Pelphine was Allura’s favorite, the girl having had her coming of age ceremony performed within it’s hallowed walls.
Pelphine temple was marked by countless favors of the royal family, Alfor donating money yearly towards it’s upkeep. The white marble that made up the outside walls of the temple was always clean, the lord high priest Fordham obsessive in his need for maintaining the building’s clean state. Windows were carved into the marble, the ones on the ground floor bearing no glass, allowing the air to constantly circulate through the rooms.
The windows on the second and third floor held colored glass, pale hues that brightened when the sun hit their surface. The colors formed patterns, depicting importing moments of their religious history, and they guarded the upper levels from curious eyes. As a princess, Allura had been granted rare access to the upper floors, the girl enjoying seeing the secret inner workings of the temple.
The ground floor was the only part of the temple that was open to the public, a huge room serving as the main church. Rows upon rows of stone benches were crammed into the room, all facing an elevated dais, where Fordham and his priestess preached the words of the Gods. Smaller rooms were reserved for confessionals, and the act of conferring with priestesses. The holy women would, for a small donation, pass down the words of the Gods to those trouble individuals who were desperate to seek out a divine answer to their problems.
And in the very back of the temple, was the sick room, an area that almost rivaled the room used for the church. Bed upon bed was there, the sick and dying convalescing, apprentice priests working to heal them, and to offer up a kind smile and a prayer. Some got better, but many died, the weeping of their families filling the temple with their grief.
It was no wonder that when Allura’s carriage arrived at Pelphine temple, there was already a crowd of people surrounding it’s front. She did however note that it was a crowd that was larger than normal, Allura realizing the Gods must have already arrived, their ships drawing attention to the temple. She waited until she was outside the carriage to glance up to the sky, but saw none of the ships hovering in the air.
She didn’t know where the ships went after leaving the castle courtyard, becoming dark blurs in the sky that were reported to have flown to the South. A part of her wondered if they had gone to visit one of the other kingdoms, to make the same deal they had offered her hesitant father. Allura understood his hesitation at inviting the Gods to live amongst them, but her practical side was pushed aside by the disappointment she felt.
It was why she was so eager for them to work their miracles, Allura hoping these Gods could change her father’s mind. She didn’t want to turn them away, nor did she want to invite disaster on her people by incurring the Gods’ wrath. Her father did not want that either, but he remained guarded towards the Gods, even going so far as to doubt their divine status!
Allura shook her head, hardly believing the exchange that had occurred the day before, when her father had insolently asked if they were truly Gods or demons. She had nearly paled in shock, so mortified was she by his question. The King of the Gods, Lotor, had taken it in stride, ignoring the insult her father had done in daring to compare him and his companions to those monsters.
She didn’t, couldn’t believe they were demons, and not just because they were beautiful. The King had been so kind, so polite as he talked, never losing his temper regardless of how her father acted. What’s more, they were willing to help them, to perform some much needed miracles in the city. Miracles she was determined to bear witness to, Allura allowing her escort of four guards push a clear path to the temple entrance.
The people were so excited over the Gods’ arrival they were slow to move, but eventually she was inside the temple, dismissing the guards. “Wait here for me.” She told them, and they nodded, taking up positions besides the entrance. Allura turned away from them, and headed deeper into the temple, noting it was empty for the most part. She spied an altar boy, the youth’s head shaved, and wearing reddish brown robes that were tied with a black sash around his middle.
“Excuse me.” She called out to the youth, and he turned in her direction. He recognized her on sight, the altar boy doing a low bow of respect to Allura.
“Yes, princess?” he asked when he had straightened, and she smiled at him.
“Can you tell me where is everyone? Are the Gods in the sick room?” He shook his head no at the question, Allura just remembering to hold back her frown. “If not there, then where?”
“They are on the second floor.” He said, and her brows lifted.
“The second floor?” The second floor was mainly the offices and training rooms of the temple, the third floor bearing the kitchen and sleeping quarters of those who made the building their home.
“Yes.” The youth nodded, looking excited. “The lord high priest has given special permission for the sick to be treated up above.”
Her eyes widened, Allura amazed to hear that. “He has?”
“Yes. The Gods insisted, finding the sick room unsuitable for their needs.” He flushed then, looking embarrassed. “At least until we clean every nook and cranny of the sick room that is.” Surely Fordham would be flustered to hear that a room in the temple had been deemed dirty by the Gods, and Allura realized the altar boy must be one of the many assigned to clean the room immediately.
“Ah I see.” She nodded to him, and strode towards the stair case located to the side of the room. He didn’t try to stop her, knowing Allura had permission to ascend to the higher floors. She reached the summit of the stair case, and here there was people, various priestesses and apprentices moving about. Except for customary bows, they paid little attention to Allura, busy with their own duties.
The girl began walking down the hall, wondering what rooms the Gods had commandeered for their work. Deeper and deeper she strolled, passing through an archway and entering into a large room in which rainbows glinted on the floor, the result of the colored glass reflecting from the sun light. This room was one of her favorites, being a kind of museum that held holy tapestries and statues of the Gods.
The tapestries all told stories, pictures woven into the fabric, showing tales that were significant to their history. Many of the tapestries were ancient, their colors dull and faded, rumored to have been woven at the time when these stories took place. The statues were huge things, some brushing the ceiling, and carved out of not only marble and granite, but other rare stones. Stone so rare and valuable, it was dangerous to leave the statues on the floor open to the public, for it would only invite thieves to try and take them.
She strode deeper into the room, passing by twin statues that held their arms up to the heavens, their faces left blank and without detail, the artisans who had created them unable to imagine the true beauty of the Gods. All the statues were like that, bearing no faces, just a smooth surface with hair sculpted around the circle. Allura wondered what the artisans would think to now have a face to their Gods and Goddesses, the girl smiling as she thought how lucky she was to have met them.
He was standing almost hidden in the shadows of one of the larger statues, the God in deep study of one of the tapestries. She stifled her gasp, her feet silent on the floor as she drew closer to him. It was Lotor, the King of the Gods, dressed differently from the uniform he had worn the day before. That outfit had looked too hot for the spring weather, but this one looked as though it would prove better suited for the current temperature.
His long white hair had been tied back with a ribbon, allowing her an unobstructed view of his profile. She nearly sighed, overcome with how handsome he was, the girl feeling heat rise to her cheeks. The color bloomed redder on her face when he spoke to her, the God still staring at the tapestry. “Your people have a very vivid and imaginative history, according to these rugs.”
“Tapestries.” She blurted out in correction, than grew mortified at the way she spoke to him. “Forgive me…we call them tapestries not rugs.” Allura suddenly shook her head, feeling like she was babbling to him. He took no insult, turning instead to look at her, giving her a smile that made her weak in the knees.
“According to this one…” Lotor gestured at the one he was studying. “Your Gods have visited you before.”
“Yes, but it’s been centuries.” Allura replied. “Centuries of silence.” She added with a sigh.
“I thought your priestesses conveyed the Gods messages?” Lotor asked, tone curious.
“Oh they do!” She exclaimed, hurrying to explain. “But it’s not the same as talking directly to you. The messages the priestesses receive are often complicated, and cryptic….many do not understand the message until it is too late for them to make use of it.”
“I see.” He said, then gestured at the tapestry. “This one…am I correct in reading that two women ascended to the heavens?”
“Yes.” Allura nodded, daring to come closer to him on a pretense of tracing the air over the pictures. “They were divine maidens, trapped on Arus. For a time they wed a mortal man, bearing his children. Then they returned to the heavens, though the children remained on Arus.” She gave him a sidelong glance, blushing harder. “They say my family is descended from those children.”
“So you would be part divine too?” Lotor asked, a teasing note to his voice.
“So they say.” She murmured, dropping her hand down to her side. “But surely you already know all this?”
“It happened centuries ago.” Lotor’s next words stunned her, Allura staring at the God in open mouthed shock. “I wasn’t alive back then.”
“You weren’t?! But…but Gods are eternal!”
“Maybe so, but Drules are not. We live, age, and die….just like you humans do.” Lotor told her.
“Such a concept confuses me…” Allura murmured. “Unless you mean you die after a few thousand years have passed?”
“I’m afraid not!” He chuckled, and she blinked rapidly, trying to hide her confusion. “Even the secret to extending one’s life has escaped our grasp.”
“But you can save lives can’t you?” Allura asked, feeling anxious. “You can do the miracles you promised?”
“We can indeed.” Lotor said, though he was quick to remind her of the following. “It just takes a little time and effort.”
“You set my preconceived notions of the Gods on it’s side.” Allura confessed. “I’ve never imagined Gods to get tired, or to need time, or to have to exert themselves!”
“Maybe we are a new kind of God then.” Lotor chuckled, Allura finding she liked the sound of his laugh. “One that will prove better than the Gods you have known.” She hoped so, though she kept from voicing it, merely smiling at him. “So princess…” He held out his arm to her, Allura staring at it in surprise. “Are you ready to see where miracles occur?”
“Ye…yes!” She said, tentatively reaching out to loop her arm with his. She practically vibrated with nervous energy, hardly daring to believe she was once again touching this God.
“I’m surprised to see you here.” He was guiding her through the room, towards the door opposite of the one she came in through. “I didn’t think your father would let you come.”
“I’m acting as his representative today.” Allura explained. They stepped through the doorway, and entered a new hall, passing by people as they conversed. “I’m to bear witness to what goes on in Pelphine.”
“I see. And your teacher doesn’t mind you skipping out on your lessons?” There was that teasing tone, Allura embarrassed to realize he remembered what her father had said about her teacher Sashell.
“It is both a duty and an educational journey.” She felt so hot in the face, Allura thought she might pass out! “My father as well as my teacher think I can learn a few things watching you work your miracles.”
“You just might.” Lotor agreed, and now he led her into another room. A room Allura had to stop and stare at, the girl seeing strange things she had never even dreamed of. They were all over the place, in many different shapes, large gray boxes or sculptures, with colorful bits of some type of string attaching them all to a large glowing cone that sat situated in one corner of the room.
There was several Gods in the rooms, ones different from the ones that had accompanied Lotor to the castle. They rushed about, tending to the objects, pulling paper and charts free, and studying what was written on them. A door was open, leading to another room, and there she could see a few people seated, their pale color hinting at their sick state.
“Wh…what is all this?” Allura had regained her voice, gesturing at the devices. Lotor looked at her, as though the God was trying to determine what to say.
“We call them machines.” He said, and she frowned, repeating the word.
“It’s complicated.” Lotor said, and guided her towards the glowing cone. “This here is a portable power source, the thing that allows these machines to work. These wires…” He gestured at the strings, and continued to speak. “Connect the machines to the power source. As long as they stay plugged in, they will continue to do their jobs.”
Wires, machines, plugged, it was all words she wasn’t familiar with, Allura feeling a tad overwhelmed. “And these….machines….will help you heal the sick?”
“Oh yes,” Lotor nodded, and guided her towards a section of wall that held black paper. A light was behind the paper, allowing white sketches to appear. “These are x-rays. They allow us to see inside a person’s body, to tell if there are broken bones or if something else is wrong.”
It was all to much for her, Allura just staring, even when they were joined by a Goddess. She was tall, though still short when compared to the God, and pretty in an oddly masculine way, her stern face gazing at what Lotor had named x-rays. Her skin was the palest of lavender, and her black hair was wounded into a braid, not a stray strand escaping. There was bits of purple in her hair, darker than her skin, and almost hidden in the inky blackness of her braid.
Her silver eyes were covered by a small pair of spectacles, her fingers reaching to adjust them on her face. “This is not good…this person’s lungs are filled with fluid.”
“Fluid?” Allura echoed, and Lotor nodded at the Goddess.
“Princess, this is Doctor Reaver, our healer.” The Goddess Reaver looked at Allura, but her eyes were distracted by the x-ray.
“Hello.” Allura said, feeling shy. “Why is it not good that the lungs are filled with fluid?”
“He’s very sick…he’ll have to spend days in recovery.” The Goddess tsked, already moving away from the God and Allura. “He’ll have to stay here so we can monitor his progress…I don’t trust these people to take the medicine at the right time, and in the correct doses!”
The Goddess hurried away, moving over to check on vials that contained a dark red liquid. The liquid reminded Allura of blood, the girl surprised when Lotor started to laugh. “It is blood.” He said, and she knew her face bore a horrified expression. “Blood can tell us many things about what is going on inside a person. We can find a way to help them, maybe even heal them.”
“I see.” Allura murmured, though she was still reeling from the thought. The Goddess Reaver hurried past them, and into the next room, approaching one of the patients. Lotor continued to hold on to Allura’s arm, carefully guiding her out of the way of the other Gods.
“Reaver’s assistants” he explained, nodding at the Gods rushing about the room. “They help take care of some of the work, so she can diagnose people faster. It will be better when we can start giving beds to those who are in need….the conditions of the sick room in this temple was appalling!”
“Appalling? How so?” Allura asked, curious as to the reasons why they refused to use the temple’s sick room.
“It wasn’t clean for one thing. All those germs were airborne. It was no wonder so many people were dying instead of getting better. A good scrub down is needed of every surface, as well as all the bedding to be replaced, the old ones burned. Masks should be given to prevent people from spreading their germs, and the people should be given regular baths in addition to medicine.” Lotor’s lips quirked, the man amused. “They say cleanliness is next to Godliness.”
“Is it?” Allura asked, and he shrugged.
“It certainly makes a difference in helping people get better.” He sighed. “Immunization shots also play a key role in avoiding getting sick.” Another big word, Allura’s eyes widening in confusion. “Perhaps that is another thing we can offer your people. I’m sure your father would be thrilled at the chance to prevent sicknesses before they happen.”
“He would.” Allura agreed. “We….we lost my mother to sickness. There had been nothing our healers could do, she just withered away, a shell of her former self.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.” The God said, expressing his sympathy.
“Thank you.” Allura whispered, trying to shake the sadness thoughts of her mother brought her.
“You’re an only child Allura?” The God asked, surely trying to fill the awkward silence that was developing between them.
“Yes, I…” She trailed off at a shout, the Goddess Reaver hurrying into the room, a woman from the city following. The woman was weeping, carrying a child that could not be more than seven years of age. Old enough to walk on his own, the boy was limp in her arms. His skin was reddened with a rash, and Allura’s eyes widened as she realized he bore the dreaded Scarlet Fever.
Lotor was already backing her up, not wanting her to go near the sick boy. Reaver was calling out to her assistants, the other Gods hurrying into another room. “What are they going to do?” Allura wanted to know. “There is no known cure for Scarlet Fever…that boy is doomed to die, and slated to infect anyone that comes into prolonged contact with him!” As sad as she was for the boy’s condition, she was appalled that his mother had brought him to the temple where so many other people were. From the murmurs of the patients, they were just as upset, fearing for their health.
“They’re going to quarantine him.” Lotor told her, staring into the room. “Only medical personnel will be allowed to see to his care.”
“Won’t the Gods run risk of getting sick?” Allura asked worriedly.
“We have shots to protect us from most diseases.” He assured her.
The Goddess Reaver reappeared in the room, silver eyes flashing with excitement. “His fever is spiking at nearly one hundred three degrees! I want him covered in cold compresses, we have to keep him cool.” She hurried over to a book case, the shelves filled with tiny vials and bottles of some kind of potions. She selected one of the larger bottles, Allura spying a strange item in her hand. The one end almost looked like a sewing needle, but it held a tube at the other.
A tube that was filling with the blue liquid of the potion, the Goddess hurrying back into the room. “What is that?” She asked, hearing the boy wake up long enough to cry out in protest.
“It’s a vaccine.” Lotor explained. “One that will hopefully save that boy’s life.”
“It truly will be a miracle if you manage that.” Allura said, knowing they lost to many people to scarlet fever each year. Usually when one person got it, their whole family caught it, never leaving any survivors behind. She heard the boy’s mother cry out, and realized they had administered the vaccine to her as well, surely not wanting to take any chances of her getting sick.
The Gods continued to fuss over the boy, but Reaver came back out, heading over to a bucket of fresh water. She began washing her hands, using a green soap in the process. “It’s important to clean yourself after dealing with a patient like that.” Lotor explained. “We wouldn’t want to accidentally transfer germs to anyone else via our touch.”
“I see.” Allura murmured, watching as the Goddess dried off her hands. She was all brusque in her business like manner, walking back out to the room with the waiting patients. They had lessened in number, many fleeing in fear after seeing what illness the boy had. She couldn’t blame them, Allura wanted to run too, but greater was her desire to be around the Gods, the girl fascinated by them and their strange machines. If she was brutally honest with herself, she’d realize the real reason had nothing to do with witnessing miracles, and everything to do with the handsome God whose arm she clung to.