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Hellene went instantly to the sanctuary upon leaving the room she’d regained consciousness in. As Head Priestess, it was one of her chief responsibilities to ensure that the sanctuary was prepared for worship each and every night.

“How is the polishing, Aikaterine?” she asked. “It has been better with every passing sunset.”

Aikaterine glared. “And how was your time away from us, Hellene?” she sneered.

Hellene froze. “You--?”

“Of course I am aware,” Aikaterine snapped. “The entire temple is aware. You think you can order us to do work in the name of our Mother and then neglect such tasks yourself?”

Hellene froze, having no response to such an attack. After all, the words were nagging at her from inside her mind as well.

Suddenly the anger left Aikaterine. “You were meant to be my mentor,” she whispered. “I was told that you were the best person to lead by example, that you were never led astray.”

“I... It is apparent that I have been led astray despite that appearance,” Hellene responded just as quietly. “I must spend the worship time in deep prayer, it appears.”

Aikaterine smiled softly. “Do whatever you must in order to make yourself right with the Mother once more. I... without your guidance and your example to follow, I am lost.”

Hellene pulled the young priestess into her arms, embracing her as she had not done in days. “I will do whatever it takes,” she promised. “Even... even if it means surrendering my duties to another more capable.”

Aikaterine tightened her arms around Hellene. “I have faith that you will not need to resort to such measures,” she whispered. “You are amazing in your devotion, and I am certain that our Mother will remember that when she judges a few moments of indiscretion and losing your way.”

“I hope you are right,” Hellene responded before pulling back. “So, how is the polishing?”

Aikaterine smiled, showing her. The chalices and plates were all polished to a perfect shine, the brass shining gold in the light of the candles that had already been lit.

“You have done the task well,” Hellene said softly. “Know that tonight you have served your Mother well.”

Aikaterine smiled once more before leaving the sanctuary to carry out her other duties. Without the distraction of the younger priestess, Hellene picked up the broom in the corner of the room and began to sweep.

As she swept, her mind whirled. How had she gotten to the place she currently found herself in? How had she gone from devoted Head Priestess of Aphrodite one day to as lost as a wanderer the next? How had she gone so astray so quickly?

She could come up with no explanation from her own mindset. The only thing that had changed was the appearance of the man from the stars. What could he have done, though, to lead her off of the path she was meant to follow?

What was he, that he could make her feel the Call that ordinarily only her Mother gave?

She remained uncertain, even as she swept the last of the day’s dust into the street from which it had come. Clearly she needed to spend much time in deep prayer, down in the heart of the sanctuary in the room only the Head Priestess could enter, where she could speak with her Mother directly.

There were many tasks to do before that, though, and so Hellene turned, inspecting the candles to see if any needed replacing. They were all burning brightly, wicks long enough to last through the night, and so she gave a satisfied smile before turning her thoughts inward once more.

She had been led astray by the man from the stars. If she had been so easily led astray by a man--for he was a man, he freely admitted as much and she had lain with him and he had obviously been such--then there must have been some seed of weakness within herself.

With the guidance of her Mother, she would find this weakness and cast it out. Was it something in her strength of character? Was she too weak to resist the temptation of a charismatic man?

She certainly hoped not. If she was, then she was hardly fit to be Head Priestess to any god, much less the Goddess she served with all her heart.

Did she serve Her with all of her heart, though? Was that the problem that needed to be solved? Had she kept some part of herself, however small, away from her Mother?

Clearly she had. If she had truly given herself to Lady Aphrodite, given all of herself, then she would not be having this internal conflict. If she had given all of herself, then she could not have possibly been led astray.

That would be easy to fix, though, she thought to herself. After all, she was going to spend the entire evening in deep prayer. It would be easy to rededicate her life to her Mother when they were to be talking face to face, if the gods allowed.

~*~

“Wait, you want me to do what exactly?” Jim asked, even though he’d been somewhat expecting the demand.

Dianthe stood firm before him. “You are never to see Hellene again.”

“And why not?” Jim wanted to know.

“You are singlehandedly leading our Head Priestess astray,” Dianthe accused. “It was you who caused her to miss morning prayers when the sun rose today. It was you who caused her to leave the temple this afternoon without so much as a thought to her duties that she was leaving incomplete. It was you who caused her to remain so far from the temple for so long that she lost consciousness. It is you who must depart now.”

“I think Hellene deserves a say in this, don’t you?” Jim countered.

“Hellene does not know what she needs right now,” Dianthe retorted. “She is lost because you have led her astray.”

“Does she really not know what she needs now?” Jim questioned. “Or is it that she’s beginning to learn that she needs more than a life imprisoned in a temple, devoting every waking moment of her life to a goddess who may not even exist?”

“She is happy here!” Dianthe responded, her voice raising. “She was happy to serve our Mother before you came here! It was not until your arrival that she began to falter! You must leave!”

“Must I?” Jim asked. “Or must she?”

Before Dianthe could open her mouth to respond, Jim left the room, quickly taking the path that led him through the sanctuary, past a Hellene that would not even look at him, and out into the daylight.

Sighing, Jim began the walk back to the rooms he’d been given for the duration of his stay. When a fork in the path came, he deliberately took the one that would leave him out of the heart of the town for as long as possible, recognizing his need to not be around other people just then.

What was he supposed to do in a situation like this? When they had reached Ellada, he had shared his crew’s excitement, looking forward to a relaxing few days of leave before taking Ambassador Andros back to Earth. Now, he wasn’t sure what he felt, and the mysterious Head Priestess was at the center of it all.

Hellene had said she’d been serving in the temple for six season-cycles. A quick translation of their units of time left that at almost three Earth years--just as long as Bones had been missing. Hellene shared Lena’s features, too, from her brown hair that curled softly as it flowed down her back to her eyes that were flecked with green and gold to her long, elegant fingers.

Even without those clues, there were the flashes of Bones’ personality that he’d seen underlying the actions the priestess took. It was becoming more likely with each passing moment that Hellene and Bones were one and the same. How, then, had she gotten here?

He didn’t have the faintest clue, and he didn’t want to try and puzzle it out. Not when it still wasn’t absolutely certain that Hellene was Bones. Maybe all of this was just coincidence.

Jim shook his head. He believed in coincidences about as much as he believed in no-win scenarios; that was to say, not at all.

~*~

Three Years Ago

“Is there any way to tell what was in these?” Jim asked as he approached a nurse he vaguely remembered as having been on the Enterprise with them.

“Not even so much as a hello?” the blonde asked. “Wouldn’t you like to know about my day?”

“Maybe later,” Jim replied. “Right now I’d like to know about these.”

The blonde nurse--Christine, that was her name--glanced over the hyposprays. “Where did you get these?” she asked.

“I found them. Why?”

“Because these contain a sleep aid that’s been missing from our stores for a few days,” Christine replied. “Most of the vials that aren’t there anymore aren’t accounted for. So where did you find them?”

Jim stared at the vials, unable to believe what he was hearing. “In the room of a friend,” he murmured.


On to part 6

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November 2011

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