(excerpt from Beyond The End)

 

In the Empire, statues of the Gods were almost always carved from marble and tended to be at least twice the height of a man. The Manu statues were life-sized and carved from their sacred redwood. So finely wrought were they that I expected them to step down from their dais at any moment. The overall effect was a much more intimate portrayal of the Gods.

“Azava,” the old man said, lifting his voice to the statue standing resplendent with a trumpet in one hand and a sword in the other, “Lord of the sun. God of virtue, honor, freedom, and truth, we pray to you. We ask that you continue to light the path of the just.”

He turned to the next statue, which stood upon an anvil, and wielded a hammer in one hand and a chisel in the other. “Vastuvit, the Great Maker, God of forging, crafting, and building, we pray to you. We ask that you guide our hands to create wonders worthy of your greatness.”

He turned to the statue of a woman in a flowing gown with a crescent moon upon her forehead, her arms outstretched, and said, “Ananda, Mistress of the moon, Goddess of love, healing, compassion, and pleasure, we pray to you. We ask that you soothe our pains, and open our hearts.”

He turned next to a form I recognized very well. “Tarka, Lord of dragons, God of knowledge, learning, and reason, we pray to you,” I noted with some annoyance he left magic off the list. “We ask that you open our minds to learning and leave us ever hungry for knowledge.” That was an invocation I’d never heard before. I rather liked it.

He turned to a figure seated with legs crossed and hands folded in his lap staring to the heavens. “Rocana, Lord of the stars, God of time, fate, and the night sky, we pray to you. We ask that you help us find peace and understand the great mystery.”

He turned next to what must have been a statue of Suravani, but she was as I’d never seen her depicted. Elegant antlers still graced her head but feathery wings stretched out from her back and one of her hands was that of an eagle’s claw while the other was that of a lion. She wore a long dress made of leaves while dainty cloven hooves poked out from underneath the bottom hem. The old man cleared his throat and spoke again. “Suravani, Mistress of Nature, Goddess of seasons, storms and all that walks, swims, flies, and grows, we pray to you. We ask that you help us walk in balance with all your creations.”

He turned to the statue of a man with a pan flute in one hand and a cup of wine in the other, bearing a look of joyous abandon. “Kavi, Master of journeys, God of wine, music, and roads, we pray to you. We ask that you keep our feet firmly and safely upon the long road.”

He turned to the image of a man with a scale in one hand a parchment in the other. “Varga, Lord of law, God of commerce, cities, walls, and gates, we pray to you. We ask that you guide us always toward order and prosperity.”

He turned toward the image of a woman clad in leathers wielding a flail in each hand. “Arati, Mistress of darkness, Goddess of suffering, redemption, growth, and death, we pray to you. We ask that you help us to always find the lesson inherent in suffering.”

He turned stiffly to the last statue. This one, too, differed substantially from the Zuran version who was usually clad in legion armor. Here he was dressed as one of the Rangers. “Irin, Lord of war, God of strength, conflict, and battle, we pray to you. We ask that you grant us the strength to defeat our enemies both within and without.”