write about a ceremony
A week had passed since the rest of SG-1 had returned to earth and Daniel had thoroughly enjoyed that time. He couldn’t tell if it was the break from daily life at SGC, the culture around him that he was learning about, or just the time spent with Annalii. He had learned a lot in these few days. The culture in this world was so rich and diverse. It was, in Daniel’s opinion, what Earth’s ancient cultures could have grown into if overpopulation and conflict hadn’t taken over.
Right now, Annalii was at a neighbor’s home, being prepared for the day. Even though Daniel could have a conversation with her right now if he chose, he thought he should leave her to the hands of the ladies getting her ready. He loved to listen to her describe her world. As one gifted greatly with her abilities, Annalii was well versed in the history and customs of her world. She had taught him as much as he’d ever learned about another culture in this short amount of time. The ability to communicate without spoken word and even without being fact to face was something he couldn’t get used to. But right now Annalii was getting ready for a ceremony called paratum. It is the ceremony that all young people on Androsia go though if they have completed all their education and training. It was much like a graduation, but here this ceremony was performed for one person at a time with much more pomp than even a college graduation on Earth. All the beauty and pageantry that went into it was more close a wedding than a graduation.
This paratum was not for Annalii but a friend of hers who had been her training partner for years. Annalii’s own graduation would come within the year. Her training had been more extensive than today’s young man. She was working to achieve the highest level of accomplishment. She was training to take over a leadership position. Because she excelled so in her field and because of her level of dedication, she would be welcomed as a guest of honor today. Daniel knew he would be attending as her special guest and was looking forward to seeing the ceremony.
When she was finally ready, Annalii walked into the room like a bolt of light. She was radiant. Not only because of the dancing lights that radiated from her body, but because of the beauty that radiated from her. Daniel had seen the sparks before – mostly when he touched her hand or brushed against her, but today was different. She was not only beautiful in a traditional sense, but she seemed aglow with a sense of purpose. Daniel was beginning to realize that things on Androsia were just more ovbious. The same way a person becomes more attractive with confidence and friendship on Earth, the people here showed it in visible ways. Annalii caught Daniel staring at her and flashed him a radiant smile. The lights around her head seemed to dance with her movements. She was wearing a traditional dress of rich, shimmering fabric that fell from her shoulders and cut in at the waist before flowing to the ground around her feet. Around her head she wore a simple sivler band that made her almost angelic. Daniel again wondered if these people had evolved from a refined version of early Christianity.
She spoke to him aloud, “Daniel, thank you for your patience.” She liked to speak out loud to him from time to time as she knew he was still growing accustomed to mental communication.
“My pleasure.” Daniel rose and went to her. “You look amazing. I fear I will be entirely underdressed. Is this affair so formal?
“You are most welcome in the clothing you posess. You are a very distinguished guest at today’s ceremony. We are honored to have you from so far. However if you would prefer traditional dress, I have brough along some items you may borrow.”
Knowing the importance of blending in with a culture while learning about it, Daniel excused himself to change into the items she presented. He returned wearing pants and a long tunic of similar fabric to Annalii’s. She smiled as he walked into the room. “Shall we go t the temple?”
The walk was short and before they got to the doors they could hear the celebration. Being under a dome at the bottom of the shallow sea, the weather was always mild. The sun was shining brightly above the surface and created a beautiful diffused glow all around. There were children lining the path to the temple doors that were holding a chain of flowers. They called and reached out for Annalii as she passed and she touched many of their hands along the way. At each touch, both the child and Annalii seemed to glow even brighter until it seemed Daniel was the only one there without twinkling lights dancing around his head.
When they entered the main doorway of the temple, the mood changed from brightly festive to reverently relaxed. The musicians were here playing their stringed intstruments and softly singing. The next set of doors brought the two of them into the Sanctuary. This room was the most beautiful of all the sights so far. Those with the gift of beauty had worked magic here. The place was always lovely with the polished white marble and rich fabrics, but now with the addition of candles, floor coverings and gold the room was breathtaking. Finally, the work of the historians was visible as Daniel caught sight of them in the front of the room, gathering the experts of the area into the front row and finalizing the details of the ceremony.
He and Annalii were shown to a seat on the side of the stage area and waited for the ceremony to begin.
The crowd grew quiet (wonderful what mental communication can do to signal the start of a ceremony) for a few moments. The silence was broken by the unaccompanied singing of a small choir. Daniel guessed the singers to be close to Annalii’s age. She confirmed this by telling him, the singers you hear are the top of their class. They are in the penultimate program for the music gift.
Without turning, Daniel said, Wow they really go all out for this thing don’t they?
Annalii smiled and kept her attention on the doors to the sanctuary, You will see.
The doors opened to reveal 4 young men and 4 young women, about the same age as the singers, leading the processional. Each pair had between them a ball of light. They all moved forward to the four chairs at the front of the room. Behind each chair was a column and the young pairs each walked to one of the columns and balanced the orb atop it.
What do I see? Daniel prompted Annalii.
These eight people are the leaders of the class of beauty. They have been put in charge of the decor of today’s ceremony. The orbs they carry are not just for beauty but are quite sacred. I will explain further when the elders have been seated.
Daniel turned his attention back to the doorway and saw that the first of the elders had entered. This was Winthrop, the elder historian, who entered first. He was followed by Devonia, the elder of beauty, then by Lisbeth, the elder healer (and Annalii’s mentor). Finally Etani, the elder of sound and music entered with today’s graduate at his side.
I can tell you remember the names and gifts of the four elders, Annalii turned to Daniel and smiled. Today they will take their seats of honor. The orb they are seated before is the orb of all knowledge for that gift. These are only brought before us on special occasions due to their frailty and value.
What is their value?
The hold the essence of every elder that has ever served in that field. As you know, parents pass on their gifts at childbirth. Since elders do not marry and therefore have no children, they retain that gift until their life ends. During the death process, that essence is given up and joined with those that have gone before.
What will become of it?
Those who brought our ancestors here told us there would be a day when we would unlock the secrets of the orb. That we would be able to use the knowledge and memories of those who had been preserved. Until that day, we guard these spheres and keep them safe.
They both turned their attention back to the front as Etani began to speak. Jernnesh, the young man who was to graduate today, was seated in the center of the four thrones. Etani stood before him and spoke, “Jernnesh, you come before us having completed every course of knowledge available to you. You have shown yourself firm in knowledge, steadfast in commitment and gifted in music. Do you submit to one final test?”
Jernesh stood and addressed his mentor, “I do, and I welcome a true and noble test.”
“Let us begin,” said Etani before moving to his seat.
What followed was a single question by each of the other three elders. Winthrop asked for an editorial essay on the breakdown of tribes’ locations and customs. Devonia requested a critique on a famous work of art within the village. Lisbeth quizzed the young man on healing herbs that benefit all Androsians. Then it was Etani’s turn. From his seat he spoke, “It has been said that perfect music calls forth the true nature of us all. We are all here with a spirit of celebration yet you know well that we cannot all be without grief. Jernnesh I challenge you to seek one here who is harboring a secret emotion and sing about it. Sing those emotions for us all to hear.”
Jernnesh closed his eyes as a hush came over the room. Daniel was afraid to ask Annalii what was happening, even in his mind. He didn’t want to interrupt what was happening before him. He was looking at Annalii to see her reaction to it and caught her eyes as she looked at him. A quick smile passed between them at the same time Jernnesh opened his eyes.
After a few breaths, Jernnesh stood and began to sing. It was a love song about someone confused by feelings. Feelings that weren’t supposed to happen, a future that was designed for something else. Annalii knew within the first few phrases that it was her feelings Jernnesh had locked onto. It had happened in that moment when she shared a smile with Daniel. It took all of her training to keep her thoughts hidden from that point. She let just enough flow the feed the song but give nothing away around her. She knew the singer was atuned to her so would be more able to hear her thoughts.
When the song was over, Etani looked around the room. “Now for the test. Is there one who this song seems to be about? Did Jernnesh speak of your heart.”
It was then that Annalii’s heart began to pound. She couldn’t let anyone – not her father, not Lisbeth, certainly not Daniel – know of her feelings and confusion. A few tense moments passed before someone in the back of the room jumped up. It was an older lady who had lost her husband years ago and had been seen following a certain young man. She was visibly shaken and tears were streaming from her eyes. “It was me, I know it was me! I have tried to deny it but the young man knows it’s true.”
Etani went to her to hear her story and confirm the song, but Annalii knew better. She was safe for now though.
Soon enough the test was passed and Jernnesh was crowned with a gold band to replace the silver one. He was officially an elder in waiting and a councilman to his village. Now the feasting and parties would last into the night.