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Daughters of The Witness

While most prayers go unacknowledged, those which aren’t are sometimes answered in ways that have repercussions beyond even the loosest interpretation of their intention.


On the outskirts of a little settlement near Medina, in a small garden on the grounds of a private mosque, there is an ancient statue whose history has been handed down through untold generations of a secretive order. Depicting a woman kneeling (eyes closed and beatific, as if in prayer) with her hands and forearms plunged into the earth almost to the elbows, at first glance she is so lifelike - despite the glittering igneous rock of her skin and clothing - as to almost confound the senses. This initial appraisal cuts against the most striking element of the scene though: The jagged halo of iridescent, milky blue crystals that seem to have pierced through her veil before it was turned to stone.

Attuned to some otherwise imperceptible energy, this crystalline crown resonates and quietly hums an atonal, unrepeating melody - an unfiltered song central to the beliefs and works of the group who protect and attend to the mosque and its grounds - in the closed-off quiet of the garden. Though most of their faith is common to other, more well-known interpretations of Islam, it also includes and incorporates an additional parable. The story concerns a girl, no older than fourteen, whose father and brothers had travelled to some distant and dangerous shore on a charitable mission. She prayed for their success and for them to come home safely return, but when they didn’t return, she began to pray for something else.

With dwindling hope of knowing what had befallen her family, she begged Allah to bring her visions of them - to share His perfect sight and reveal their fates - and, though these entreaties seemed to go unanswered, her faith never waned. One morning, months later, she was found walking the streets near her home in a serene but insensate delirium. Resisting all efforts to being slowed or stopped, stepping around obstructions and slipping free from grasping hands, she eventually found whatever she had looking for. Dropping down - falling as much as kneeling - she laid her palms flat and still against the dirt. She closed her unready unseeing eyes, murmured something inaudible, and her hands sank down into the yielding ground.

After a moment, she began to speak: Falteringly - almost whispering at first - as if the words had been discovered rather than chosen, they quickly became a steady stream. She spoke plainly and evenly, a matter-of-fact reporting of events that must, without context, have nonetheless seemed like nonsense. Whatever desperate or divine impulse had driven her to act, she had connected with something deep inside the earth; something that let her see every event that was unfolding and, it would eventually come to be known, some things that had not yet happened. That understanding would take time though, and well-meaning bystanders initially tried to pull her loose. They might as well have tried to lift the ground from beneath their feet.

She was of, and was now part of, the world entire - witness to all of humanity’s works, to our trials and travails and misdeeds. Over the years, nourished by her deep connection to the planet and never ageing, a garden grew around her. Decades passed, and the women who tended to her and kept records of her testimonies took to calling her The Witness and - although it was an honorific earned in spirit and not one conferred by blood - referring to themselves and each other as Daughters. Their habits became their traditions, their traditions became their orthodoxy (as is the manner of such things) and their group became known, albeit not at all well-known, as Daughters of The Witness.

It was centuries, hundreds of years of faithful service, before circumstances would force their mission to change. The Witness, ageless but still mortal - in spite of the power she was connected to - could not live forever. She started to petrify and, although the process began irregularly (a slow spread with long periods where the transformation appeared to have halted altogether, her fate was unavoidable. The Witness, her true name long since having become something holy (a closely guarded shibboleth entrusted to and shared only between Daughters - and then only after many years of dedicated service), grew the blue crown of crystals and turned entirely to stone: Her last words were the first she had addressed directly to her Daughters.

Taking shards from the still-growing crown, several Daughters volunteered to undertake the order’s first pilgrimages. Already something of an ascetic group, Daughters who saw this as their vocation were agreeing to eschew even the limited comforts of home. They were to leave their home (wearing the crystals against their skin and close to their hearts) and to search the world for the places where The Witness intended them to be. Not missionaries in a traditional sense, and with no continuing support from the other Daughters, they would know that they had arrived when the crystal grew warm and melted into them. With the crystal infused into every part of their being they were connected, body and soul, both to The Witness and to the source of her visions.

Although the torrent of information that had overcome her was diffused somewhat for her Daughters (The Witness acting as a break and buffer against the deluge), it could still be overwhelming. The changes varied, their effects unpredictable, but those Daughters who had embarked on pilgrimages would lose something of themselves in exchange for the knowledge and the purpose they had gained. Many found their new communities unmoved by (or unresponsive to) their sometimes-unfocused prophetic gifts. They struggled to share what they knew, or struggled to know what to withhold to avoid causing upset or offence. More than not became itinerant seers, reliant on small kindnesses and acts of charity to survive as they tried to spread their testimonies from behind begging bowls.

Despite the risks to themselves, and the distinct possibly of suffering through desperate privation, Daughters of The Witness continue to take up these missions even now. At least one crystal-bearing Daughter attends The Witness at all times, doubling as a conduit who relays the words of her far-flung sisters back to those who remained near their homes, but the group remains selectively small. Beyond the bounds of their original mosque and garden, outside of centuries of writings passed from one custodian to the next, their existence is all but unacknowledged. This anonymity has been their shield, at times, but is also their burden: When the testimonies shift from reportage into prophecy they almost always fall on deaf or disinterested ears, and what use are they then?


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