This is my first real foray into an OC as main character. I came up with the idea for Tira one evening, and it wouldn't let me go. As a completely new character, I spend a few chapters explaining her world and her background, before G-Force comes into the picture (G-Force is in the story...I promise!) so I humbly ask that you bear with me until the narrative reaches that point.

If you're still willing to read, then I hope you enjoy State of Enlightenment.

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Chapter 1

"I have to leave now, Mother."

Her mother did not answer. She merely sighed, continuing to look out the window at the city beyond. Tira leaned down, kissing her mother's cheek.

"I'll be back soon." Her mother seemed to wake up with these words.

"You're going to the Temple?"

"Yes." Tira nodded.

"Mind the High Priestess." Tira's mother lectured. "Learn your lessons and serve her well. Make sure she is pleased with you. So pleased that she will want to keep you always."

"I understand, Mother." Tira nodded again as she walked out the door. She closed the portal quietly behind her, doing her best not to disturb her parents. Mother was always sad at this time of orbit, as they approached the date when Tira's aunt had gone away.

Mother and Aunt Jani were twins, born of the same womb within the same turn of the glass. They were special: both first daughters, and the Family Reva was fortunate to be able to claim this special honor. It had given both girls status, and even as children, great families had sought to contract them in a joining. In the end, both girls had been betrothed to twin brothers of the Family Grini. The Grinis had much status, and were thrilled to add to it the prestige of joining two first daughters to their two first sons.

It was a perfect matching, until it had all fallen apart.

When the girls were twenty-five orbits of age, they were sent to the Communion Ceremony, as was required of all young girls that age. They had been excited, dressing in their new gowns and preparing themselves for adulthood, for after the ceremony they would no longer be children, but women.

No one had expected Jani to be chosen. The Chosen was always a girl of low family, with little status: never a girl of high status who had already been contracted in a joining. And never a first daughter.

Until Jani.

After Jani had been chosen for communion, Tira's mother, Jana, had wept for three rotations. As twins, Jana had had a special connection with Jani, and she had taken her sister's loss the hardest of anyone. In comparison, the breakage of the joining contract with Family Grini had been nothing. Twin first sons were rare, and highly desirable in joinings. As such, the Grinis did not want only one first daughter, but two, and so Jana had been refused. Such a refusal had created a black mark on her status, and no one else had wished to join with her. At last, a third-ranked son of low status from an unremarkable family had agreed to join with Jana.

For the most part, Jana had been happy, and had been overjoyed to give birth to Tira, her own first daughter. Yet each orbit, as the date of the Communion Ceremony approached, Jana would become lost in memories of her sister.

It ached Tira to see her mother this way, but she pushed it from her mind as she ran through the streets, making her way toward the temple, where the High Priestess awaited her. She moved confidently through the business district, nodding respectfully to the administrators and merchants who were conducting their daily activities. However she kept her eyes down as much as possible, preferring not to catch the eye of such distinguished people. Whenever anyone of importance addressed her, she found herself losing her voice and staring at her shoes. Technically, Tira was on the verge of womanhood, yet she still felt like a child when amongst adults. Their words carried great weight with her, and she found it difficult to refute their decisions and opinions, even when she disagreed. She preferred to remain as anonymous as she could, keeping her thoughts to herself.

It had been torture when she had first had to work with the High Priestess herself. Tira had said little, but had worked as hard as she could, hoping to escape notice. Yet it had been this meek and mild nature of hers that had brought her notice. Her diligence had been observed and rewarded with a position where Tira served the High Priestess directly. She had been terrified every moment for ten-night after ten-night. The Lady had simply smiled and gone quietly about her way, rarely addressing Tira directly, but simply observing her actions. Until one day, she had needed assistance, but had refrained from asking for help. Tira had seen the older woman struggling to reach a scroll on a high shelf and had run for the stepladder. When she had returned, the High Priestess had smiled at her so warmly that Tira had suddenly felt as if she were with her own mother. Since that time, the Lady had been the only other adult, save her mother, with whom Tira felt truly comfortable.

Tira discovered that she had passed through into the Temple District while she had been lost in her thoughts. Now priestesses and acolytes lined the paths. All were female, for while men could excel at commerce and government, only women had the nurturing hearts necessary to deal with the Gods.

Tira had to move slowly here, to respect the Gods and their power over the Piirian people. She glanced at the time glass and relaxed. She was not late.

Silently, she passed through an open portal, moving from the warm outside air to the cool interior of the Temple. She paused at the Place of Reverence, bowing toward the sign of the Gods emblazoned on the wall of the chamber.

"Good, you're early. Nearly a quarter turn of the glass in advance of your assigned time."

"I seek to be early, rather than insult your kindness by being tardy." Tira replied respectfully. "I greet you, my Lady."

"And I greet you, Child." the High Priestess smiled. "Come here, that I may see you better."

Tira moved forward, into the light, and closer to the eyes of the High Priestess. The Lady of the Temple appeared ancient to Tira, having just passed into the third hundred of her orbits. Such an age was rare, but not unheard of, and stood as a sign to all of the High Priestess' devotion. To Tira, her mere twenty-five orbits seemed to pale into insignificance, and she wondered if she would ever be deemed worthy by the Gods to achieve such a great age.

The Lady's eyes peered at Tira, and she smiled again, her tiny, wrinkled face lighting up in pleasure.

"You have an inquisitive mind, Child, and a sweet soul." she said. "Gaze upon the sign of the Gods and tell me what you see."

"I see the purity of the White." Tira began, recalling the many rotations of lessons she had endured as part of her Temple Initiation. "I see her Mate above her, and her Son below. Her Mate is as white as she, while her Son is black, signifying his trials to come."

"Very good." the High Priestess approved. "And what else?"

"To her right sits the Guard." Tira continued. "And to her left, the Guide. They stand as Earth and Sky, showing the boundaries of our world."

"And where is the White?" the Lady asked gently.

"She is in the center. She is the core. All others circle around her, for she is the nurturer, and the bringer of life."

"And how did we come to know of our Gods?" the examination continued.

"In ancient times, the one known as Surra looked to the sky, and saw visions in her eyes." Tira went on. She spoke somewhat more slowly now, as she had only recently learned this part of the lore. "She was blessed to see our past, and our future, gazing into the secrets of Time itself."

"You have memorized your lessons well, Child." the High Priestess declared. "And as a reward, I will grant you a glimpse of what lies beyond. Attend! The First Lesson of the Acolytes!"

Inwardly, Tira groaned. The Lessons were tedious, and she resented the time they took away from her music. Yet they were a necessary part of working at the Temple. While the stories and lore were fascinating, and the words few, the Lessons had to be spoken with the proper cadence and vocal inflection. The recitation Tira had just given had taken her nearly three orbits to master.

Still, it was an honor to be deemed worthy of the First Lesson of the Acolyte. Tira was still an Initiate, and could not become an Acolyte until she became a woman. That the High Priestess was revealing this information to her now strongly implied that Tira was to be made an Acolyte after her Communion Ceremony. This was a relief beyond measure. Although the chances of Tira being Chosen were small (she was one of only a thousand girls who would be participating in this year's ceremony, after all) given what had happened to her Aunt Jani, Tira and her mother had been somewhat apprehensive regarding this matter. To know that the High Priestess herself had selected Tira for an Acolyte's rank spoke volumes.

This was exactly the kind of favor Jana had sought for her first daughter, when she had offered Tira as an attendant to the High Priestess, three orbits ago.

"Thank you, my Lady." Tira replied nervously. "I am honored to be given this chance."

"It is a little early for such knowledge," the Lady admitted, "but I did not want you to worry. Be assured, your position here is safe. I have long sought someone of your quick intellect, sweet soul, and talent for music. I have seen the Signs. You are to be my new Handmaiden, and the one upon whom I can rely."

Tira found herself unable to respond. This was an honor far beyond any she had ever expected. Yet, it was difficult to be grateful as the Lady's voice droned on, revealing the Lesson to Tira's ears.

"The White One moves through the waters, and she dwells far beneath the surface of the oceans, away from the wickedness of those who would wish her ill. Yet she can also travel on land. She moves so fast, she appears as a blink of an eye: gone from one moment to the next. And even the skies are her domain, and she grows wings to soar amongst the clouds."

Tira nodded, doing her best to take in the sound of the Lady's voice, so that she could repeat the Lesson later. Her musical training was very helpful in this regard, yet still, it would take Tira many repetitions before she was sufficiently eloquent for the Higher Acolytes to listen to her recitation.

"But that is enough for today." the High Priestess smiled as she saw the expression of intense concentration on Tira's face. "Bring me my robes, Child."

Tira rose from the kneeling position she had assumed for the Lesson, and began to assist the High Priestess with her duties. The tasks were familiar enough to her that she was able to perform them perfectly with only a bare minimum of concentration, and she found her mind wandering.

The Lady had all but told her that she would become an Acolyte. If she followed this path, then she would be committing herself to a life of devotion to the Gods. It was an excellent vocational choice, as the religious orders were both highly respected and secure, and the Temple community was well provided for by the Piirian people.

And yet… Tira wasn't entirely certain that this was what she wanted. The Priestesses did not join with men, although many of them did share consorts amongst themselves, and did not bear children. Priestesses were not involved in the day-to-day lives of other Piiri, except for religious matters. Although Tira's natural temerity created an instinctual appeal for a life of isolation, and her heart contracted at the thought of never being a mother. She tried to picture herself twenty orbits older, holding her own child, and was unable to sustain the image in her thoughts.

Did that mean that it was never to be?

Tira was one of the few Piirian people who had a touch of the Sight. Three quarters of the children born to Piiri were female, and of those, fewer than one in twenty could even vaguely attempt to claim this talent. Ability levels amongst the talented individuals varied. Most with the Sight were privy to occasional, uncontrolled flashes of foreseeing, the majority of which were vague, and not easily interpreted. But even women of this low level of talent could be trained by the Priestesses.

The ancient Surra, first of the High Priestesses, had been the most talented woman in recorded Piirian history. She could control her Sight, seeing both past and future. When she had looked far into the future, a thousand orbits ago, she had seen the Gods who were the saviors of the Piirian people.

It had been a dark time. A large group of Piirian men had discovered their own 'God', who had apparently appeared to a man named Pector. Most women of Piiri (there had been roughly equal numbers of men and women at that time) had not believed Pector's tale of his visions, as no man before had ever been blessed with the Sight. The matter had become heated, and eventually Pector and his followers (mostly men, but a few women as well) had left to form their own community. They had never been heard from again.

The women of Piiri, and the few men who had remained, had been cast into a state of deep despair, until Surra had had her visions of the future, and had introduced the Piirian people to their own Gods.

Still, Piiri continued to bear the scars of this ancient separation, as evidenced by the disproportionate births of female children. No matter how many offspring the women of Piiri had, four in every five were daughters. This meant that many Piirian women did not join with a man, and those of lower status often had to share a mate with one or two others. Certain professions, such as Priestesses and Healers, never joined, and merely shared a minimal number of consorts. These exalted women rarely bore children, and when they did, the children were invariably daughters.

Since Surra's time, the High Priestess had always been the woman who had the greatest talent with the Sight. Thus it was that women with this talent were encouraged to the religious orders, and trained to bring their talents to their maximum potential.

Tira did not know what her own potential was; yet a part of her was eager to find out. Untrained, she had only experienced a handful of vague, uncontrolled visions, but she was curious to know if she was capable of summoning or interpreting such messages from the Gods.

At the end of the day, Tira rushed home, eager to tell her mother and father the good news she had received from the Lady about her future.

"I am to be an Acolyte!" she called out, as she entered her home. "The Lady told me that I was to serve her!" Of course, it had been more than that, but Tira felt a selfish need to keep that potential for greater things to herself. Partly this was because she wasn't entirely certain that she would ever achieve the exalted rank of Handmaiden to the High Priestess, and she did not wish to humiliate herself if such a thing did not come to pass. But mostly, she just wanted to hold that golden secret inside of her, treasuring it and letting it soak slowly into her being.

"She did?" Jana's face lit up, showing none of the depression that had marked it for the past ten revolutions. "Oh, Tira! She would not have told you such a thing if it weren't true! The Lady has such strong Sight! You are safe! You will not be Chosen during the Communion Ceremony." She embraced her daughter warmly.

"This is outrageous!" shouted Dantar, Tira's father. "How can she promise you such a thing? The girl Chosen during the Communion Ceremony is a secret until that moment! Even the High Priestess is not permitted to breach that confidence!"

"She knows Tira has been worried." Jana soothed her irate mate. "If she has plans for our daughter, it was thoughtful of her to let Tira know about them."

"It is inappropriate!" Dantar grumbled, but he let his mate's skilled fingers massage the tension out of his neck and shoulders. Jana shot Tira a look, and Tira instantly understood. Dantar had had a bad day at his employment. As a third-ranked son of a lower status family, he had been trained as a technician, and this had been his expected profession. However, his joining into the Family Reva had elevated his status, qualifying him for a higher position. Unfortunately, Dantar did not seem to be suited to such responsibility, and as a consequence, his merit compensation suffered. Jana and Tira did not mind, but Dantar always seemed to take their genteel poverty seriously. It was hardly unusual for Tira's father to come home in a foul mood.

Still, it would have been nice if he could have been made happy by this exciting news that was such a relief to Tira and Jana.

But Tira did not let her father's lack of enthusiasm dampen hers. She stayed awake, late into the night, relaxing fully for the first time she could ever remember.