It was the day dedicated to Artemis, the goddess of the moon. Aleta and Chrystal led the way to pay homage to her, Bartlett behind them carrying a round cake decorated with lighted candles. They walked up the rocky mountain to the cave which had been carved into a temple for their goddess, Aleta and Chrystal hopping from one rock to the other, dodging a slippery pebble here or a spiked bush there. Bartlett followed carefully; his movements were measured and calculated, while the rest of the group hovered around him, forming a sort of close protection around the sacred cake. The cake was a tribute to Artemis, the roundness of the cake symbolized he roundness of the moon, and the lighted candles signified the glow of the moon. So, the cake carrier treaded with caution, lest anything should happen to the cake and he be eternally cursed. The orange, yellow flames danced on top of the waxed columns.
The temple was finally reached, and the cake was offered to the one it had been painstakingly and meticulously made for. The worshippers proceeded to kneel to the ground and prostrate obediently to the grand statue that stood watching over them in the temple. A strange hum resounded from the little group of people as their foreheads touched the ground. A sort of praise intermingled with a plea to solve all their troubles. It echoed in the stone temple and finally resided. Then, one by one, with their eyes lowered – not daring to lift their heads in front of the stone picturization of the goddess – they slipped out of the temple, their backs bowed till they exited.
Aleta and Chrystal rubbed together a few sticks and started an immense fire outside the main door of the temple, while Bartlett arranged the group around the fire in a circle, himself included. He spoke in hushed tones,
“We now pray. Let no one pray with their tongues, and only use your hearts, for Artemis hears everything. We have done our duty; now let us hope the smoke of these flames is not wasteful, and that it carries our wishes, desires to the goddess above.”
The company closed their eyes and directed their heads to the starry sky, visualizing the moon and their revered goddess seated on a great throne, and prayed with intense devotion and belief that she, Artemis, would certainly be looking out for them from the vastness of the night sky.
* * * * *
Roman was troubled with the most helpless situations. He had lost his job as the Emperor’s cook and with the loss of his job; his home too had been confiscated. It was a cruel time indeed, his friends and relatives had all left him because he had no resources and so associating with him would only be a wound to their status, and of course no one wanted that to happen. Roman was left with no choice but to pray, and so that was what he did.
He sold the one ring he always wore, it had been a gift from his friend the day he had been appointed Royal Cook, but that seemed ages ago. He had no use for it now; it would only bring back unpleasant memories, something Roman sought to avoid. So he sold them, and got himself a couple of candles – those sacred, magical things. He obsequiously placed them in the corner of a gymnasium, surely nobody would mind him there, especially when he was there for only a short time and when no one else was using the place, and lit them one by one, being careful not to let any of them blow out. Then he sat on his knees facing them, a sort of semicircle he had made, and started to sway side to side, as if he was possessed. He breathed in deeply, closed his eyes, and started to pray, having faith in the powers of the miraculous candles and believing that they would make sure his prayer was fulfilled.
* * * * *
It was little Fritz’s birthday. It was one of the first to be celebrated of a child, anywhere in the world. Germany led the way to “Kindlefeste”, a little party for the kid whose birthday it was.
Fritz was in the highest of spirits. His friends and relatives would be coming over, with lots of nice flowers and presents for him. Presents were the most important part of the whole event – if not for presents, the atmosphere would not have been so very cheerful. Birthdays were not supposed to be bad days; no, everybody ensured that the birthday kid stayed happy and in good spirits.
It didn’t take them long to arrive. In burst everybody, singing birthday songs and laughing at the jokes Uncle Ludwig was always coming up with. Fritz was glad, and after a while he was even gladder – for now mother brought the round little iced cake with the candles on top too! Chocolate with vanilla ice cream – Fritz’s favourite. He eagerly bounced towards it, his family surrounding him. Fritz’s father handed him the knife, and while he cut the cake, beaming with delight, everybody around him sang,
“Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday to Fritz dear!”
“Go on, honey, blow out the candles and make a wish. Remember not to say it out loud!”
Fritz shut his eyes tight and took in a deep breath, and then he puffed all the candles out.
“I hope you have a lovely year ahead!” Aunt Mirjam cried out, ruffling his hair lovingly, while the smoke from the candlewicks journeyed to the skies.
* * * * *