History of the Keeper’s Prophecy Child and the Fountain Zoi
The shimmering pool hidden in the hollow called to me in my dreams but was forever out of reach. In all my years at the abbey, I’d never touched the unearthly reflective liquid, though I had often wondered what might happen if I did.
Mattra Ona and her head matrons knew the power we were called to protect, but the rest of us served and lived in the simple knowledge that what we guarded was worth more than our meager lives.
I accepted this, and after one hundred seven years I found myself trusted with the key to our modest abbey’s strong gates. Many found this odd as I’d never been named a diaconessa. But only a select few knew the roots of my history, of why I was within the abbey walls to begin with, and they were sworn to secrecy by Mattra Ona. She wouldn’t even tell me.
Still, this simple life, and the haunting mystery of the fountain we lived each day to keep hidden from the world were enough to keep me content. Except when I was not. Mattra Ona was the only one who knew what it took to relieve the restlessness that filled me, but inevitably, it required a steep penance of humble service. In my early years I pressed against this lesson, but those days were few and far between in recent days.
Even the mystery of my identity and why I had been at the abbey all my life did not compare to the pull of the fountain’s untold mystery.
We were not only forbidden from touching the unnatural liquid of the pool in the hollow, but any newcomers were never to speak of the outside world once accepted into our walls. Secrets multiplied at every turn, but none had ready answers.
The state of those coming to the gates was always such that I wondered what could leave such filth, brokenness, and strife on the faces of those women seeking refuge and solace within our haven.
It tugged at my heart, the desire to know their secrets, the ones time and gentle care often seemed to wash away. Mattra Ona’s strict order to never ask questions when a woman appeared at our gates was enough for me to let them pass, as was her strict ruling that no man should ever enter our gates. Thankfully, the outside world seemed to know this rule and rare were the occasions I had to turn anyone away.
Some of those women who came didn’t stay, and often I watched them leave slumped, as if weighed down by an invisible burden; I almost imagined it was the world which they carried on slim shoulders, too weary to hold up their own body let alone the worries of the future.
The ones who remained were not told of the existence of the fountain until they’d attained the level of diaconessa, which took many years and much service to prove their faithfulness. I might never have been told save for the fact that as a young child of ten I’d been hiding from one of the novices who was charged with my writing lessons, and I’d stumbled upon the secret hollow, hidden in the depth of the abbey’s keep.
Mattra Ona had sworn my young heart to secrecy and allowed me to stay, though I had unwittingly broken a rule the matrons insisted required I be forever ejected from the safety of the walls. While I waited with baited breath to hear my fate, I could not miss the look of sorrow and love mingling across our Mattra’s face. I could not betray her trust without also breaking my own heart.
From that point forward, I never hid from my responsibilities, neither did I speak of the fountain except in quiet inquiries to Mattra Ona that were always answered with a raised eyebrow and sealed lips pulled tight to hide her smile. She had once called me incorrigible, but I knew that to be true so took no offense.
My life was fully of the abbey and yet wholly separate from the lives of those within the abbey since I was not truly one of them. I’d begged, on more than one occasion, to become a novice, but Mattra always told me no; she said my life had another purpose not yet revealed, but she would say no more on the subject.
I gave up after my thirtieth year. And only days ago, my one hundred seventeenth year was celebrated, marking ten years since my naming ceremony. Most residents of the abbey would have been given a new name upon becoming a diaconessa, but I’d never received that honor. I’d always been called Maly, or small one, but when I was given the role of gatekeeper I was allowed a new name, one that would be mine forever.
It was an odd name by any standards of the abbey, meaning “friend in strength of purpose and courage.” In general, the name did not define anything of my personality with the exception of friend, though I had never had a true friend outside Mattra Ona who was more of a teacher. I could be a true friend if given the chance.
When I inquired about my name, she told me that it had not been hers to give but had been saved for that day and that in a short time I would need the power it held. I will never forget her words to me: “No longer are you my Maly, the little one left at the gate, but soon you will know your full purpose in a world where courage will be needed as you’ve never imagined.”
I shivered at the remembrance. She’d kissed my cheek in a way I imagined a mother might do, and left me alone by the fountain where I stared for who-knew-how-long into the gently undulating, brilliantly shining liquid of the secret fountain. Would these strange waters reveal my path, or would only time tell?
*I’m writing this piece as back story to another book I am mulling over in my mind. I hope you like it! There is quite a tale that shows promise of blooming from these meager roots!
**picture courtesy of: https://pixabay.com/en/water-wave-macro-photography-1579915/