The Owl and The Eagle: Aristonice by Meghan Sullivan

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The building's narrow colums threw ominous shadows across the earthy pathway, and the lofty rock wall of the cliff of Phaedriades to her left was shrouded in darkness. Most of the clear sky was still the color of a faded bruise, except in the east where a rose-colored blush hinted at Dawn's coming. It was too early for most to be awake, and so Aristonice walked solitary down the sloping path that led to the sacred spring. She did not mind; solice was what she needed. To listen with her heart. The god wanted something, was waiting for something, and she would need to be ready for it when it came. There was an eeiry beuaty this morning, the birds quiet and the wind a mere whisper. A glace to her right exposed the land around her.

Aristonice loved Delphi. She loved the sweeping view of the leafy valley below and the surrounding mountain chain. Delphi was situated on the flanks of Mount Parnassus, said to be a favorite ground for Apollo and the Nine Muses. She loved the clean cool air, the vivid blue sky, the green rocky hills. This day a gentle breeze ruffled her long silver-blonde hair as she made her way down a winding path made of stone, wild flowers blooming through the cracks. "The day is strangely beautiful", she thought. Just like that other day.
It was the day the Spartan envoy arrived in the small polis of Delphi ten years ago, when Aristonice was a young maid of sixteen, newly annointed to the priesthood of Apollo the Far Striker. Then, she was a naive girl who imagined the Pythia as something romantic, something frivolous. Ever since she was little had been facinated by the Oracle of Delphi, by a woman who had the power to speak for an immortal Olympian. Aristonice used to imagine she could bathe freely in the Castilian Spring near the shrine, said to purify the body and mind. She had wanted to drink the clear sacred water from the Kassotis Spring that was kin to the Castilian, sit on the golden tripod that held the priestess of Apollo above mere mortals, let the steam from the fissure that ran through the shrine bathe her face, let her body sink into a spiritual trance like a warm milk bath. When her parents were unable to find a politically astute suitor to up their social position by her sixteenth name day, they were more than happy to be rid of their useless daugher. "They dressed me in virgin white and decked me in golden bracelets and did not even come to the docks to say goodbye". Her only companion, the love of her life, was the golden god known as the Far Striker. Tales of his beauty and wisdom, his healing powers and athletic feats, especially with a silver bow, mezmorized her. All the lonely nights in the womens' quarters in her parents massive estate were filled with dreams that the god would swoop down and save her from her bleak existance, would carry her away to the heights of Mt. Olympus, the mountain eternally wrapped in whisps of clouds and the home of the twelve Olympian gods. When she arrived one sun-kissed morning on the sacred steps of the souring temple of Delphi, glittering like gold in the sun, she knew she was home.

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