“Are you excited to see the finished fane?” one of the twins, Adah, calls back without turning.
Tamar blinks to attention, remembering that she will meet with the architect they commissioned to build the temple that would serve as their headquarters during their solstice visits.
“Yes. I hope it meets Mother Aviva’s expectations. ”
“Do you think the architect is very old and bald?” the other sister, Zillah, asks.
Tamar’s hush comes out like a hiss as the twins giggle to themselves. The merchants hop into the shallows to pull the boat ashore as the black cliffside towers overhead. Tamar recalls a dream from the night before in which she stood waist deep in the sea and looked up at this very cliff, grasping a silver key in her hand. Her seven sisters stood in the water behind her, waiting as the waves lapped against the small of their backs. Tamar notices the merchant’s hand reaching to help her out of the boat and takes it as the memory of her dream dissolves.
“More comfortable in the water than on land, eh?” asks an older man with a craggy face.
“You should know,” she says, smiling as she steps onto shore.
Tamar did not expect to see the stained glass windows and the oak altar encircled by benches of shaped wood and stone. Breath stolen, she approaches the center, noticing light falling from above. She tilts back her head to see the window depicting an ornate silver key surrounded by panels of blue and green glass. She remembers her dream, the feel of the key in her palm, and her desire to find it’s owner.
A priestess acolyte approaches, bowing her head before speaking.
“High priestess, this is Liam Eklund.”
Tamar turns around, meeting eyes with a man a little over half a foot taller than herself. His beard is full and betrays his youth.
“Hello, Liam. I am very pleased with your master’s design,” she offers.
The acolyte’s eyes dart toward Liam and a flush spreads across her face and neck, but he is smiling.
“Oh, Tamar. Liam is the master architect, the one Mother Aviva commissioned for the fane,” the younger priestess stammers.
The architect is laughing now.
“It’s really fine. I’m used to it. You’d only know if you noticed the ink on my hands,” he says as he raises them.
Tamar sighs and covers her face for a moment before looking up at him.
“I am sorry, master architect. I only assumed because you are young. I was expecting someone…”
“Old and bald?” Liam interrupts.
“Well, if it makes you feel any better, I didn’t expect the high priestess to be so young either. I guess this means I don’t have to be too formal?”
Liam rests his hands on his hips and leans back to look up at the skylight.
“Mother Aviva said the image of a key came to her in a dream. When she was searching for architects, she found me because I tend to place it on my work,” he says.
“She had a dream?” Tamar asks, brow raised.
“Yes. She dreamt that her priestesses stood in the sea and one of them held a key. Then, she heard a voice say that love would reveal the truth of our desires.”
Tamar is silent, beginning to sweat beneath her arms.
“Anyway, that’s how she found me. And now I’m here.”
She swallows, hearing the chirp of birds outside beyond the heat of her ears.
“The stars know better than we. I’m very glad to meet you, Liam.”
“Me, too, priestess.”
The town is quiet and the moon is high as Tamar cracks open the door of the temple and slides in, closing it with a backwards lean. Her eyes are drawn to the altar, to the moonlight that bathes it and the cold silence emanating from the stones. She takes a seat on a bench and grips bunches of her cloak in her hands, thinking of Mother Aviva.
“Love will reveal the truth of our desires,” she whispers, wondering at the meaning.
“Priestess,” Liam murmurs, stepping into the light.
Tamar looks up, startled, and sighs with a laugh.
“Hello, Liam. I guess you couldn’t sleep either?”
The architect rubs the back of his neck with his hand as he takes a seat next to her, then leans forward with elbows on his knees.
“You and me, both.”
“What did you dream?”
Tamar takes a moment to consider her response, then takes courage as she says, “I’ve been dreaming of your key, Liam. Even before we got here. And in the dream I’m desperate to return it, knowing it is lost and precious.”
“The key represents my mother. She passed after giving birth to my sister, whom I also lost.”
“Your sister did not survive the birth?”
“She did, but she was taken by female relatives. My father did not trust himself to rear her properly. I want to see her, to know her name, but all I remember is the darker patch of skin across her foot.”
“Brother, I am here.”