Title: First Impressions
Prompt: (for au_abc challenge) Quetzalcoatl
Word count: 1,321
Summary: An Au based on the Atlantis myth for au_abc challenge community.
Disclaimers: 1.The concept of Bentan Brides came from SAPayne’s beautiful original fiction Snowflakes and Embers (the free chapters posted at adult-rated SAPayne.com have since ended but if you get the chance, it’s well worth a read) I’ve used a slightly different interpretation however, to bring it into context for this story 2. I have no claim to the Power Rangers characters and concepts. And finally, 3. No money is being made from this, it’s created purely for the love of fan fiction – long may the plot bunnies rein!
A/N: As always, I couldn’t have done this without my amazing beta
Tommy started nervously as the temple gong sounded across the city.
From his perch by the window Jason threw his bro a sympathetic look before returning his attention to the activity in the street outside. Already people were gathering to witness this momentous occurrence, and the sounds of the crowd were setting them all on edge. They had been in Atlantis long enough to know the way things were done by now; and, as he had expected, the procession of priests could just be seen between the crisp white buildings opposite making their way slowly through the streets of Celestine. Taking a deep breath, Jason stood up and made to indicate that it was time, only to find that the others were already standing.
Aisha and Kim were fussing with the ceremonial robes Tommy had been given to wear for the occasion, straightening the collar and cuffs of the garment so that the white, blue and green layers lined up neatly at the seams, and fastening the belt that held it together loosely at his waist.
Making their way down the stairs and out into the late afternoon sunlight, the group fell into the procession; soon leaving the city behind and following the path as it led into the foothills. Before the city was lost to view behind a tall screen of trees, Jason couldn’t help glancing back one more time. Beside the endless blue of sparkling ocean, the white stone of Celestine was magnificent.
Starting out as a gradual incline through the wide meadows that surrounded the city, the trail became much steeper as they began to ascend the side of the mountain and the group was forced to work hard to keep up, their breath forming ghost-like shapes in the crisp air as they neared the temple on the high plateau. With their destination almost in sight, Jason glanced frequently over at the silent figure beside him in concern, meeting eyes with the girls as they did the same. Since they had left the city, Tommy had been understandably withdrawn. None of them could imagine what their friend was going through; they could only hope that their presence offered some small measure of comfort.
Avoiding all attempts by his friends to catch his eye, Tommy was keeping his attention fixed instead on the slope ahead of him, focusing on placing one foot in front of the other and not tripping on the hem of his robes.
It had been three days since the arrangements had been made; three days whose passage he had marked with prayers to whichever gods presided over these lands that rescue would find them in time, and that he would not be forced to go through with this charade. But the gods, if there were any, had chosen not to hear him, and now he was making his way to the high temple where he was to be bound in ceremony to a companion of Atlantian blood by order of the land's supreme power.
A Bentan bride, they had called the man chosen to be his companion, one who was dedicated to the Goddess of the moon, in the manner of a female child, in order to maintain the vital balance of power between the Gods. In the absence of female heirs, as tradition dictated, he had been raised to perform the duties of a second wife in the household of his future companion and, Tommy had been told, he was to be prized as a diligent and skilled worker.
As they reached the temple doors, the priests formed a semicircle facing Tommy, with Billy acting as translator between them. Jason and the girls flanked him, and he could feel the firm grip of his best friend's hand on his arm.
"He's inside waiting for you," Billy explained, trying to maintain his composure. The tall man Tommy took to be the head priest said a few words and Billy took a moment to clarify their meaning before translating them. "This time is for the two of you to spend in seclusion to prepare yourselves," he said quietly, "consult with your Gods and Ancestors as you will but be ready for when the moon rises, when a priest shall enter to perform the ceremony."
Tommy caught Jason's eye as he turned to enter the temple, and he saw the concern on his friend's face. Steeling himself, he schooled his expression to one of determination and squared his shoulders. With his head held high, he strode confidently through the high arch of the temple's entryway and didn't look back until after the heavy doors had closed behind him.
For the first time since the arrangements had been made Tommy found himself standing alone, and he desperately wished he hadn't skipped taking leave of his friends. He felt an overwhelming need for the strength Jason's presence imparted, for Kimberly's light and easy smile that always seemed to melt away his fears, and for Aisha's positive attitude and her conviction in their imminent rescue from this seemingly insurmountable predicament.
Then he saw movement in the corridor up ahead, and his heart froze in his chest as the realization hit him that this must be his intended companion. Carefully, he slipped into the shadows between the pillars and the wall and made his way forward until he had almost caught up with the robed figure. Then, standing behind a column, he craned his neck around the smooth stone.
The light hood of the Bentan's robe was drawn up, hiding his features from view, but as he paused for a moment to contemplate a mosaic, flame from a nearby sconce cast light across his face, allowing Tommy to catch his first glimpse of his intended.
Like all the Atlantian’s they had met, the blue-green tabarra swirled over one half of the surprisingly young looking face in complex pattern. After having spent almost a month in the lost kingdom, Tommy had considered himself accustomed to this unusual racial feature, but his experiences in the market place and the council chambers had still left him completely unprepared for the sight revealed. In each line and curve of the intricate markings, nature seemed to have given a subtle bias in the design that highlighted the delicate features of the Atlantian. His almond shaped eyes, from Tommy's vantage point looking almost black, were lined with Kohl and shaded in teal on the upper lid; and his perfectly straight nose led to a wide, generous mouth that quirked at the corners as evidence that its owner was given to smiling easily. The clear complexion beneath the tabarra led Tommy to believe that the Bentan's age was relative to his own, although taking the Atlantians' extraordinarily long lifespan into account he knew that this would be impossible to judge with any certainty until they had spoken.
As if waking from some reverie, the Bentan began to move again, making his way over to kneel before an altar set in an enclave to one side of the room. Bowing deeply to an idol Tommy recognized as representing the Goddess of the moon, he took an incense stick from an earthenware jar and lit it against a coal on the small altar top brazier. The flame was blown out to achieve the slowly spiraling fragrant smoke that Tommy had grown used to in the past weeks, and then with smooth practiced motions, he traced out symbols in the still air. On some level Tommy could almost understand the wraithlike shapes formed, but when he reached for them they proved elusive and the moment passed.
When this short ritual was completed, the incense stick was placed carefully in the sand piled dish suspended near to the altar.
Then, standing up, the Bentan pulled his hood back revealing a thick mop of glossy dark curls, and, in a moment that made Tommy's heart stand still, turned deliberately to meet his gaze.
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