Mara's temple sat opposite the palace, so I saw it nearly every day but only went inside three or four times a year during festivals. I thought that, like everything else, was a pattern that would never change.
But now I had seen the wards come down, and I had heard the goddess in the woods, and rumor held that the king was angry with me. It seemed like just one more thing when an acolyte appeared and all but dragged me into the temple. I was sick at heart with worrying, and so it was hard to drum up any kind of reverence or wonder at the temple itself.
The acolyte left me in front of the goddess's altar and I looked at the ground, unsure what to do.
"Look at me, child."
I wasn't sure who had spoken, and I looked around the room for another acolyte or servant, but I saw no one. Then I noticed movement in front of me out of the corner of my eye and I looked up.
The statue of Mara in the temple is carved from a single, huge piece of wood. She is eight feet tall, enough to make grown men feel like children before her. It didn't seem possible that the voice had come from her and yet I heard it. A statue couldn't move and I couldn't even tell you what part of her had shifted, only that I'd seen movement. Wood-grained hair shifted in the breeze. A carved chest rose and fell with breath.
"What comes for you will hurt," she said, "but please understand that there is a greater plan here than your king's anger. I can't stop him, but I can protect you."
"Aren't you a goddess?" I asked her. "Why can't you stop him?" I was half-ready for her to strike me down there and save him the trouble.
"Our relationship is complicated," she said. I recognized the tone from conversations with my father, when I asked questions he didn't want to answer. "I am not all-powerful, and it will be better if he thinks he has everything under control."
"Doesn't he? He's the king."
"There is a great deal more than this kingdom, Ausrine, none of which is under his control." I thought she smiled. "You'll see soon enough."