A little after their last talk, at a stop to look over a swollen stream, Berra comes up to Xenofos. Her feet are clagged in mud, and she has not found a way across, but she seems cheery nevertheless. “Hey. Scribe? I got a word I don’t know. I think it’s tradetalk.”
Xenofos’ face brightens as he turns to look at her. “Yes, little cousin?”
“Um.” She concentrates a little on this one. “Prolesel…etise?” A brief pause. “No, wait. Proseletyse?”
He raises eyebrows. “That does not sound like proper Tradetalk to me. A bit like New Pelorian, could be a loan word. Proselytize?1Xenofos defines this as a Pelorian term.
Yeah, that’s about it.” She keeps her concentration on him, other than the fidgeting of her feet as she tries politely not to wipe the mud off while listening.
“I have seen it in descriptions of what Seven Mothers do. Their missionaries preach to people and persuade them to take up faith in Sedenya and the Lunar way.” Xenofos explains calmly2Failed hate Lunars..
Berra nods. “Right. Thanks. Yeah… gotcha.”
“What was the context where this came up.” he asks curiously, pausing and continuing in Heortling “Where did you hear the word?”3Xenofos fails Insight Human. ‘She is cute when she hops like that from one rock to another.’
“Nala asked if I was. I didn’t answer that bit because I didn’t understand it, but I said what I was doing.” Now she is done with talking to a scribe, Berra takes a stick to the worst of the mud.
“Spreading word of a new hero and cult? I suppose you will at one point? But not yet?”
“No, I wasn’t. I was trying to tell her that Lord Eril wasn’t a thing she’d said. I mean, that wouldn’t count, right?”
He looks thoughtful. ” If you were trying to persuade her he is a hero it kind of does?”
“He is one, though. Although it’s a funny word for telling someone she’s wrong.” The Humakti shrugs it off, then pauses. “What do you mean by taking up the faith?”
“Basically acknowledging that this new thing people are talking of is a God. Or Hero to be worshipped through a cult. In some cases cajoling or bribing people to worship new gods and leave old ones. Feels like a really weird thing to do. Not something Allmother does. Nor Lhankor Mhy.”
“What do you call telling people about Lhankor Mhy, then?” Berra looks like this is confusing but there must be some key that will unlock it. Or, more likely, some blade that will cut it.
Scholar looks a bit confused. “Teaching the Truth? He has been around since Godtime. And those who seek his teaching will get it, if they are admitted in. But as far as I know the Library does not seek students. Students seek the Library.”
“But if it’s a new god, or a hero, then it’s prolet… it’s different? Alright.”
“If you are telling people they must believe new things. Like the Lunars have done.” He shrugs. “I know things change. Irillo and noble brothers were not always divine. Only Old One ruled over Holy country once. Pharaoh ruled after him until his disappearance. But I am deeply suspicious of any novelties when it comes to cults and worship.”
Berra nods. “I was out in the country, I think, when… wait, maybe. But that wasn’t too pleasant. Still, he’s a Hero, and I won’t even get to say it to most people.”
“If you are trying to make those select others to believe it… “
“Yeah, but it is true. I mean, I prayed to him. So I can’t see how they don’t believe it.” Berra has got most of the mud off her shoes now. “Why don’t you take money for writing?”
“I don’t believe it. I would not pray to him. I don’t deny it either and I know you believe it to be True.”
“Um… what do you think believe means in Heortling?”
“I do not know that it is True. I know you believe it. “
“But you … alright. I think we’ve reached the point where words don’t help us so much any more. Why don’t you take money for writing? I asked that before but you wanted to answer … look … he gave me Magic. That was him. I mean… what more do you need?” Maybe she too wanted to answer that one.
“I do not think I need anything from Lord Eril, little cousin, and there is very little I would be willing to give him. He gets respect due to his rank and that is it for me.” He looks at her tugging his beard. “For me this hero quest you talk of is all about you. If Eril gains anything from it that is immaterial to me.”
“Uh…. but that’s not what believing is. Believing’s just thinking something’s true. Like you don’t say you don’t believe I’ve got a stick in my hand just because I hide it and tell you I have.” Berra puts the muddy stick behind her back. “I’ve got a stick.” Her smile is suddenly broad, like she seems the inherent silliness of that. (edited)
“But now I do not know it. You could have dropped it behind your back. I only know because you say you have it. And I think you do not lie.”
“Yeah, but I was figuring you’d hear it – but you’d believe that, right?” She has a loose bit of wool and must tug, or else is just tangled up in her own thoughts.
“I don’t think you would lie to me. If you say you got Magic from Eril I believe that you believe it happened.” He shrugs “I don’t think you have ever explained what exactly makes you you believe him to be a Hero. So I have not seen the stick.”
“That I can do that. It means he’s a part of the God – a bit of something that hadn’t been realised before. That’s what a Hero is – someone who walks a new path. But…” She shrugs. “I dunno. Different people use the same words to mean different things and it’s confusing.”
“Yes? But that does not tell me why you believe that Eril is part of Humakt, one yet unrecognized…”
“I don’t understand the question, even. It’s … I… I’ve told you all the things I know, haven’t I? How I got the sword? That!” She manages half a dozen confused or bemused or befuddled expressions in the course of as many moments, ending with a beseeching gesture spoiled only slightly by the muddy stick.
“You told you got it from the Iron Lord? And that it should go to Eril’s hero cult.” He shrugs. “I do not think you have told me you would have prayed Lord Eril or gotten response from him.”
“Right. I got it in the desert, when I asked Humakt if Lord Eril was worthy of worship. And I gave him the power that he needed. Or gave it to the Sword – but it was to both, really. And I learned how to seal an Oath.” Her left hand, slightly muddy, falls on her sword hilt, and she closes her hand away from it, as if she didn’t meant to do that.
“I see.” He does not sound convinced.498 on Truth . He does not want to believe Eril is worth worship.
“And then I’ve prayed to him, and he’s given me that power, which I’ve spent in shields and combat. He’s sent Humakt’s power back into me.”
He shrugs. “If you believe it is so I will not contradict you.”
“Do you even believe I worship Humakt?” Now the cute little face is scornful, maybe angry. Maybe hurt.
“Of that I have no doubt, be- little cousin… Sometimes to my chagrin. But since that is one of the things that makes you you I don’t think I’d change that even if I could with a wish.”
Berra passes through further confusion, and then her settled calm comes over her once more. “Change is hard to understand,” she says. “Harder if you are made of Stasis. Not even easy if you’re me.”
He shakes his head. “Not what I was talking of. But it does not really matter… I know you walk the Sword Path. I know you may fall any day or pass so far over the chasm of Hell that you are separated from me. And I try to be resigned to that and most of the time have managed to do so.”
Berra takes that in calmly, but says, “We should get on with the river crossing,” like she doesn’t care what the words were.
The dun horse seems scared of the flowing waters and Xenofos needs to concentrate on his mount. “Quite. And cross other obstacles when we come to them not before…”
“Nah. We’re in different conversations again. It’s fine. Words can mean different things. It’s what’s behind that matters.” Berra nods to the river bank. “That low bit there. Aim a bit uphill of the yellow bush.”
This time the skittish horse gets into the water, making its dislike of cold and wet quite clear by raising of its hooves.
Followed does not live up to her name immediately. Berra waits on the bank to give the horse room, and to stand on the saddle checking for guards.
- 1Xenofos defines this as a Pelorian term.
- 2Failed hate Lunars.
- 3Xenofos fails Insight Human. ‘She is cute when she hops like that from one rock to another.’
- 498 on Truth . He does not want to believe Eril is worth worship.