The Foreſt of Shrines.

The treeline of a forest.

You awaken, quite unſure of your ſurroundings, in a fremd foreſt. You’ve never been here — at leaſt, not that you can remember — and yet it ſeems ſo familiar, like a half-remembered noſtalgic dream. As you walk along its ancient earthen paths, gliſtening leaves crunching under your feet, a fork in the road appears. Which way will you go?

Cleanſe yourſelf.

You gather up ſome ſtray ſticks and herbs laying around the foreſt floor, and, after ſome trial and error, ſucceed in lighting them on fire. You plunge the ſmouldering wood into a conveniently-located nearby pool, and waſh your hands and face in its waters.

Say a prayer to Hestia.

It’s the right thing to do, after all. Words flowing out of your mouth like butter, you give thanks to the Goddeſs in hopes that She may protect theſe ſhrines:

Chæ̂re o Hestía, Goddeſs of hearth and home! If ever i have given to Thee the firſt and laſt of every offering and ſacrifice, cleanſed my home of filth, fed the flames of Thy hearth, or burnt incenſe in Thy name, pleaſe, keep theſe ſhrines warm and ſafe. Euchariſtô.

You also recite an Orphic hymn in Her honour:

Daughter of Crónos, ven’rable Dame,
the ſeat containing of unweary’d flame;
In ſacred rites theſe miniſters are Thine,
Myſtics much-bleſsèd, holy and Divine.
In Thee, the Gods have fixed place,
ſtrong, ſtable, Baſis of the mortal race:
Eternal, much-formed ever-florid Queen,
laughing and bleſsèd, and of lovely mien;
Accept these rites, accord each juſt deſire,
and gentle health, and needful good inſpire.
A clearing in the trees.

You ſtumble into a meadow of golden graſs. The riſing ſun beckons a chorus of birdſong — perhaps audible only to ye — backed by the æthereal ſtrumming of a lyre, with no apparent ſource. A ſmall houſe of well-preſerved marble preſents itſelf to ye in the centre of the plain, glowing with the ſort of ambiënt warmth and light that could only be faſhioned in a dream.

Viſit the ſhrine of Apollon.
A meadow.
Deeper inwards.

You trek deeper and deeper into the foreſt, bruſhing paſt nettles and grape-vines, frantically manœuvring over and under ſtray logs... and finally, wiping the ſweat from you brow, you make it into the heart of the woods. An almanac’s worth of animals have gathered to watch, but none ſeem aggravated by your preſence. At the back of this reſpite lies a well-worn temple whoſe floors glow with an inexplicable purple light, and from which an overpowering ſmell of wine emanates.

Viſit the ſhrine of Dionysos.
Thickly-layered woodland.
A deep, dark cave.

The entrance to the cave is darker than night’s blackeſt black, but nevertheleſs, you brave your primordial fears and enter. Scaling the unlit twists and turns brings thee to an enrormous atrium, lit by roaring flame and fire which fails to burn the tufts of graſs around it. The mere thought of worſhipping here intimidates ye to no end... and yet, the cavern’s warmth is comforting, like entering the embrace of a loving mother. A verdant green gate catches your eye, its flowering walls a ſharp contraſt from the ſrounding rock and fire.

Viſit the ſhrine of Gæa.
The entrance to a cave.
Faintly-heard running water.

You tip-toe ſilently over the dirt and mud, trying to trace the ſource of a nearby brook. The water is clear as owt, but ſomehow glimmers nonetheleſs with ſplendid cerulean and violet the cloſer it gets to its origin. Legs covered in wounds from the ſharp rocks, you come acroſs a lowly pond framed by a majeſtic cliff-ſide. As you dip your feet in, you find your ſcrapes and cuts diſsipating in its healing glow. You notice a peculiar grotto in the rocks— a ſolitary candle ſeems to flicker, but otherwiſe there is no ſign of life; you deduce that the Deïty of this ſhrine might not be well-worſhipped.

Viſit the ſhrine of Hermaphroditos.
A pond shimmering with vibrant blues and pinks.
Continue along the path.

With a flutter in your ſtep, you continue to walk the path, which ſeems to have been here longer than the foreſt itself. You walk and walk for what ſeems like hours, but your body never tires. Miles and miles along, ſtill firmly inſide the foreſt’s bounds, the way ſplits in two. Further along the twin branches lie what ſeem to be the ſtalls of a ſeaſonal market — you can only imagine its conviviality when in full ſwing. Tucked between either ſide lies a ſhrine flanked by two well-endowed ſtanding ſtones.

Viſit the ſhrine of Hermes.
A three-way intersection with a waypost.