March 15, Year Unknown
The breeze rustled through Joan of Arc’s short dark hair as she looked up the long slope towards the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. She knew it as The Origin. The building had stood there long before the Greeks discovered it in the 7th century BCE. Fire and earthquakes threatened to demolish the building but to no avail. Only thousands of years had caused a few pieces of the structure to fall. Yet, its power remains.
Joan hated coming to this place. Even as she stood at the southern wall, she heard the eerie chanting coming from The Origin, nearly a quarter of a mile away. The chorus, hidden from sight, seemed to drone on without end. Each step that she took up the slope felt heavier. How she wanted to turn and bolt away from this place.
As Joan drew near the entrance, she looked up at the Doric columns. Their impressive size served to further intimidate her. The Pythia had summoned Joan, which frightened her all the more. The Pythia rarely summoned anyone and she knew it was because she failed in her mission to kill Caesar. Run, Joan, run, her mind kept repeating. She had to remind herself that there was nowhere to go. If she ran, the Pythia would have her hunted down, then death would be a blessing.
Joan recalled a story about someone similar to her, a time traveler. After he discovered his ability, he started changing the timeline, not knowing any better. The Pythia summoned him, told him to stop, which was unusual for The Pythia. They typically put an end to anything that they didn’t like. But according to the story, he didn’t understand the consequences of his actions, so the Pythia simply wanted to warn him. The man appeared before the high priestess to listen to her warning. He apologized for his actions and promised to stop. The Pythia let him go, free to do as he liked, as long as he was careful not to disrupt the flow of time, if you could call time such a thing.
When this man was released, he headed back into the world and continued his ways. In fact, over a short period, he became malicious and violent, thinking that he was above the law. He started killing people. Some were innocent, common people. Others were world leaders. The future held so many uncertainties; the timeline was unstable. The Pythia summoned him again but this time he refused the audience.
Shortly after, a band of immortals commanded by the Pythia were sent to find him. It didn’t take long before he was captured. The Pythia knew where and when to find him: they always knew such things.
According to the story, the man was brought into a secret chamber where a group of priestesses ordered the man to be stripped down. He was then drawn across a spiked table, which wouldn’t pierce him, as long as he stayed still. His hands and feet were tethered to posts.
The high priestess put him under a spell, sending the man into the place where there is no time. Joan could barely imagine how painful that must be. Simply moving from one time to another caused so much pain that she tried to shift as little as possible. The pain was caused by that moment of timelessness. It felt like every cell was slowly being torn away from each other, like tearing a cloth, one thread at a time. Accordingly, the man was forced to stay there for hundreds of years, though it must have felt like an eternity to him. He stayed there until, one day, the high priestess deemed his punishment to be appropriate.
No one ever heard from the man again. He simply disappeared. Joan didn’t know if the story was true or not but the threat was enough for her to come to Delphi when the Pythia called.
Joan stood in the vestibule. Between two large pillars stood a massive statue of Apollo. The walls were lined with pictures of the god, some showing him in acts of heroism while others showed both gods and mortals worshipping him. Ornate crown molding added to the grandeur of the room. Most impressive of all was the gold-plated door to the ceremony room, with yet another image of Apollo carved into it. The door was guarded by two armored men with tilted poleaxes crossed to form a threatening X. Joan stared at the doors, waiting to be admitted.
Finally, the guards raised their weapons, righting them to a perfect vertical, then smashing the blunt ends onto the floor causing thunder to rumble through the vestibule. The heavy doors moaned open revealing the room that filled Joan’s nightmares.
Hundreds of candles outlined the circular room. At regular intervals between the candles stood a priestess. Joan had counted eight of them in total. They stood with cloaks covering their bowed heads, hands neatly folded in front of them. At first, Joan thought that they were statues. While she still couldn’t be sure that they weren’t, she decided that they were real – at least as real as the Pythia could get.
Despite the number of candles, the room was very dim, except in the center, where a small opening in the ceiling allowed for a beam of sunlight to splash down the middle of the room. The high priestess sat in the light but was veiled by sheer curtains hung in a circle all around her. There appeared to be a pit in front of her, from which, a thick steam escaped.
There was a single chair placed in front of the curtain for the visitor to sit. Visitors knew that it was best to wait in this spot until the priestess spoke. Any attempt to speak first would result in a rough visit from the armed guards who couldn’t guarantee that the guest would leave with their head intact.
Joan sat, heart thumping in her chest. She swallowed hard, trying to calm herself down. She clenched the edge of the chair in hopes that she could at least stop shaking. Please, get on with this, she thought to herself. What does she want with me?
The high priestess began chanting in a strange tongue. Even with the ability to hear language the way that Joan did, this was the language of The Origin. Only the Pythia knew it. This language was the source of their power.