pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death - Chapter 1 - Luvo (2024)

Chapter Text

Kristen Applebees kneels down to pray. Cold floor presses into her knees, a stray rock presses into her shins, she folds her hands together, she bows her head. She prays.

She opens her eyes in the forest of Sylvaire, and she’s never known peace such as this before, she’s never known it was possible to breathe air so pure it almost tastes sweet. She opens her eyes to see her Goddess smiling at her, and in her chest, Kristen’s heart beats with a certainty she had never known it was possible to possess before, not even when she was still the chosen one of Helio.

Her Goddess reaches out a hand, and Kristen takes it. She cannot help but marvel at Her, the ever changing swirls of nebulae, the glimmer of starlight on void-dark skin, she drinks in the face of her Goddess and it is a reflection of her own. Kristen’s chest aches in awe of this divine being, tears well in her eyes, Kristen is a saint undying but she cannot help the voice in the back of her head that calls her unworthy—

“Hey, hey, Kristen,” Cassandra reaches out and cups Kristen’s face in her hands. Her eyebrows furrow. Kristen leans into her hands and closes her eyes, drinking in the divinity both cool and comforting. Cassandra’s palms are smooth at first. It’s just another reminder that She is, unlike Kristen, so much more than human. Within seconds, Kristen is able to feel creases form in the palm resting against her cheek, and she knows they are an exact mirror of her own palms.

“Kristen,” Cassandra repeats. Kristen opens her eyes to look at her, blurry through her tears. Cassandra looks worried. “Kristen, what’s wrong? Why are you crying?”

“Nothing,” Kristen sniffs and shakes her head, putting a hand on Cassandra’s wrist to prevent Her from pulling away. She offers a watery smile. “It’s nothing. I’m just…I’m really glad to see you,” she croaks.

Cassandra smiles, stars sparkling across Her teeth and glimmering in Her eyes. “I’m really glad to see you too.”

This makes Kristen’s eyes well up again. She sobs and leans forward, allowing her Goddess to catch her in her arms.

“It’s okay, Kristen. I’ve got you. It’s okay,” Cassandra hushes. She rocks Kristen gently in her arms.

Kristen cries, clutching at Cassandra’s shirt. She knows she’s getting tears and snot everywhere and she can hardly stand it, she can hardly bear it, doesn’t Cassandra know who she is? Doesn’t Cassandra know what she’s done, she’s abandoned two gods before Her but—

It was all done for Her sake. All of it, even before Kristen knew Her name, she knew her. Cassandra is her savior, her true god. If Kristen had never learned how to doubt, she does not know if she would have survived. Before Kristen had known there was a God she would need to save, that same God had saved her.

Kristen kneels down to pray. She opens her eyes in the forest clearing, she sees her Goddess. As many times as she sees Her, the awe does not abate.

“Kristen!” Cassandra turns, smiling brightly. “It’s so good to see you! How have you been?”

“Good!” Kristen clears her throat. “You know, it’s been…it’s been good. A little, uh. Well, you know about the, uh. The. I don’t think we’re supposed to say its name. The yight norb. You know. So, been busy.”

“Yes, I know.” Cassandra nods her head, galactic ponytail bobbing as it floats in the air. “If there’s anything you need, if you need spells? Or, I don’t know. Just, if you need anything, you only need to ask. Are you—are you asking? Do you need something?”

“No, I just—” Kristen’s throat clogs up. “I just…I don’t know. Wanted to see you.”

Cassandra beams. “Well, you know you’re my favorite cleric! I always enjoy talking to you Kristen.” She reaches out and takes Kristen’s hands in her own. Her eyes glow, Her face shines, and Kristen thinks about her clothes that are a week old and have yet to be washed, about her skin, face, body that’s sweaty and covered in dirt and dust. She cannot help the shame burning like bile at the back of her throat, she does not know how to rectify the sin of her appearance in this holy place.

“Yeah,” Kristen chokes out. “Yeah.”

“Cassandra?” Kristen stumbles into the forest. “Cassandra, I’m…”

“Kristen!” Cassandra stands up from where She was sitting on the grass, beaming. She walks over to Kristen and takes her hands in Her own. “It’s so good to see you! I was wondering, of course you’re busy, I know you’re busy. So you don’t have to…you don’t have to think about it yet, but I’ve been thinking about it. You know how you’re my only priestess?”

Kristen’s throat closes. She nods.

“Not that I don’t love having you as a cleric!” Cassandra rushes to reassure her. “I love having you as a cleric. I love you, Kristen,” She beams impossibly brighter and pulls Kristen’s hands towards Her chest. “I was just thinking, it would be nice, wouldn’t it? If maybe…if maybe there were others? I just…I think it might be nice. If it wasn’t just you. And I do love having you with me, I really do. I just thought it might be nice.”

Cassandra smiles hopefully at Kristen, face gleaming, sparkling, glowing with an innate radiance. It’s Kristen’s face, perfect and Godly and holy. She is filled with hope, She is filled with joy, She is filled with love, and Kristen thinks about Yes. She has tried to lead a church of her own before. Saint Kristen Applebees, the undying, the doubtful. She remembers how that church met its end. Saint Kristen Applebees, the god-killer.

Kristen looks into the face of her Goddess, smiling at her with unbridled devotion and belief, and it is her own face looking back at her. What else can she do but nod mutely in agreement?

When her mind returns to the waking world, she stumbles up from where she had been kneeling at the side of the road. Her knees are scraped, there are shallow red divots in her skin where rocks and stones had pressed into her legs.

Ecaf, sleeping, is nothing more than a regular mirror. Kristen catches a glimpse of her reflection and is startled by the curve of her cheeks, the slope of her nose. She does not know what to do with a face that no longer belongs to her alone. She does not have a lot to offer her Goddess. She has not known how to be devout after Helio, she has not known how to evangelize since Yes. If she can offer her Goddess nothing else but her face, if all she can give is her body, then she will give all that she is able to.

Kristen finds a pair of scissors and begins to hack at her hair. Later, Fig and Adaine will find her crying in the wreckage she has wrought upon herself and do their best to fix the damage. It will, surprisingly, be Fabian who manages to smooth Kristen’s hair into flattering bangs and a new hairstyle.

The next time Kristen catches a glimpse of her reflection, she might even be able to breathe.

“Kristen! It’s so good to see you!” Cassandra smiles, as bright and radiant as She has ever been. Kristen tries to smile back, she remembers that she hasn’t had time to brush her teeth in a week, and closes her mouth.

“Have you thought about what I said? The last time we talked?” Cassandra asks hopefully. “I know you’re busy, but I thought maybe, we could start working on it when this is done?”

“I…” Kristen trails off. “I don’t know when that’s going to happen. It’s been…I don’t know how long this is going to take.”

“That’s okay,” Cassandra reassures her immediately. Kristen relaxes. If She says it’s okay, then it must be. “You can just keep thinking about it, okay? I just…I know you’re busy. You’re doing really good work, and I know you can’t…you’re doing really good work. I love talking to you Kristen. I’m just…a little lonely, sometimes. I know you’re busy, trying to save the world. Just…” Cassandra’s face falls, and every cell in Kristen’s being revolt at seeing Her upset, she wants to reach out, she wants to comfort Her. (she sees her own face fall, the face that turned from Helio, the face that betrayed Yes, and cannot help but feel that any upset is deserved—)

Cassandra shakes Her head, reaches out and grabs Kristen’s hands in Her own and smiles determinedly. “I love talking to you. I can’t wait until I can talk to you more, and maybe even some new people!”

Kristen looks down at her hands in Her hands, and they are the same, the same fingernails, the same fingers, the same creases in the same palms, the same arms, the same body—who was it, that determined Kristen worthy? Who was it, that chose Kristen?

She had failed Helio, the unchosen chosen one, she had killed Yes with her own two hands. She is only a saint, she had only risen from the dead after dying. Kristen has never been able to fulfill the role set out for her, there’s always been something, there’s always been something

She does not know how it might be possible in this world that she will succeed as the sole cleric of the Goddess who has saved her, time and time again. She braces herself preemptively for her third failure.

“I’ll think about it, I promise,” Kristen says. She is one of the sole followers of this new religion, she is their saint, she knows there is only the mystery of a hell waiting for her, if anything at all. In the deepest part of her soul, she cannot help but feel the truth that she will end up in hell regardless.

“That’s great!” Cassandra beams, “How do you think you’ll—”

Kristen laughs, uncomfortable. “Later!” She shoots Cassandra finger guns on both hands, and returns to the waking world.

Fabian finds her struggling to do push ups, arms shaking. He shakes his head.

“Kristen, what are you doing? Your form is…” His nose wrinkles.

“I’m…trying…to get stronger!” Kristen pants. She collapses in the dust.

Fabian sighs and helps her up. “Well, you’re not going to get stronger like that. But don’t worry, between you and me, we shall get you up to fighting form!”

So Kristen starts training. Under the endless night sky, as they travel the continent, as they fight battle after battle after battle, Kristen trains. She changes her diet, she works her body until she looks down at her arms and finds a new strength. She looks down at her arms and no longer sees a divinity she is unable to hold herself up to.

Kristen’s learned a new term. It’s something like, training until failure. Kristen doesn’t see how she can do anything else. She’ll train until failure. She avoids praying to Cassandra. She does not know how she might be worthy of it. She does not see how it might end in anything but disaster.

So she ignores it. She gives Cassandra as little attention as she can manage, because she really is busy, like she really, really is. And maybe if she doesn’t have to look at Her face, she’ll be able to ignore the guilt burning in her chest. Maybe if she doesn’t have to feel the comforting coolness of Her hands, she’ll be able to ignore the shame burning in her throat. Maybe if she doesn’t have to confront herself, maybe if she changes, maybe if Kristen just gets better because she has to get better even if she doesn’t know how because she doesn’t know how she’s supposed to learn how to be better than she used to be, how is she supposed to be better than she used to be if she’s haunted by the ghost of who she used to be in the very body of the Goddess she is trying to be better for—

Kristen ignores Cassandra and tells herself it’s for the best.

pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death - Chapter 1 - Luvo (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Roderick King

Last Updated:

Views: 6255

Rating: 4 / 5 (51 voted)

Reviews: 82% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Roderick King

Birthday: 1997-10-09

Address: 3782 Madge Knoll, East Dudley, MA 63913

Phone: +2521695290067

Job: Customer Sales Coordinator

Hobby: Gunsmithing, Embroidery, Parkour, Kitesurfing, Rock climbing, Sand art, Beekeeping

Introduction: My name is Roderick King, I am a cute, splendid, excited, perfect, gentle, funny, vivacious person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.