Xenofos — Meeting With Aranda
1627, Earth Season
Late Earth Season in Boldhome [[[s02:session-54|Session 54]]]
A day in late Earth season in Boldhome. A man in robes of a scribe enters the temple of Uleria. He asks the attendant for a chance to pray and if after that priestess Aranda would have time to have a word with her disciple Xenofos.
“Would you care to bathe first, Xenofos Saiciae?” His name is known here.
There is a fleeting smile on the scholars face. “I suppose that is almost a tradition now. Very well. Talk with the Veiled one, bath and then a discussion with reverend Aranda.”
He is guided into the temple to a meditation room, where he can pray in some privacy.
Xenofos starts to sing but falls into his thoughts without finishing the hymn. He looks at the paintings of the goddess, smiles and shakes his head.1 fail sing, fail devotion Uleria, passlove Aranda
After a while he bows towards the altar and walks to the baths.
In the anteroom he divests of his robes and swordbelt, looking long at the sheathed rapier.
There is a bathing attendant waiting. Someone he has not met before. She is silent as she offers him supplies to clean himself with.
Xenofos thanks her and scrubs himself clean. There are traces of ink in his hands he cleans those with great care.
While he is focused on his hands, there is the quiet sound of movement, then ripples in the water as someone joins him there.
There is a fleeting moment when Xenofos’ glance darts towards the anteroom where his sword is before he looks who entered the bath.
Aranda glides through the water to him, her dark hair bound up on top of her head in an Esrolian style. She hardly disturbs the water as she steps through it.
Xenofos’ face is lit with a smile.
He bows as respectfully as it is possible in a bath.
Her smile is warm. “Welcome back, scholar. How fares your heart and body?”
She speaks to him in his own tongue, her accent that of the northern reaches of Esrolia.
There are new scars on Xenofos’ right thigh. “My body is hale. My heart filled with joy from seeing you now.”
She peers into his eyes. “It is good to see you looking well. Would you like me to help you wash your back?” She smells of lavender and lemon. Familiar smells.
He nods. Then tilts his head and answers with a smile “If such services are not beneath dignity of a priestess.”
“I am Uleria’s, Xenofos. A loving touch is an act of worship.” She says no more as she slips behind him to wash his skin. Her touch is light, gentle.
Lingering tenseness in the scholars back melts away under the touch. “I was surprised by how much I missed you, Aranda. And I am afraid expectation of seeing your face quite distracted me when I was trying to pray.”
“Your heart is generous, Xenofos.” She steps around, so that she is in front of him again, now so close that he could kiss the top of her head easily if he chose. “We are bound together, somewhat. By your learning of Uleria, by the magic I have done for you, and by your pain and love. It was inevitable. But there is room in your heart for many loves. This is why our goddess speaks to you.”
He leans his cheek against her head. “I think I understand. It is confusing sometimes. Like being drawn to many directions at same time.”2 She is too short to lean forehead against forehead…
“Tell me, scribe, do you wish to celebrate Her love with me? Do you wish to learn more of her wisdom through conversation? Or does something else draw you here today?” From previous visits, Xenofos knows that none of these suggestions excludes the others.
“Maybe all three. Even though when asking the attendant if you have time for a word I was thinking of a discussion.” Scholar answers after thinking for a short while. “But I thought at time I could give my prayers to the Veiled one undistracted…” His smile is half apologizing, half tender.
Sometime later, Aranda and Xenofos are seated on cushions in a small chamber. A light meal is laid out between them.
“I am probably travelling to Prax quite soon.” scribe looks at the priestess and shrugs “I don’t know if I should, but I think I am still going to.”
“I see. Do you wish to update the letters you left with us?” she asks before taking a sip of wine.
He tears a piece of bread smaller and smaller “I don’t know Aranda. That woman I told you of, Neela. She is with child. Expecting one that is.”
Her face lights up. “A child?”
“So I heard.” He looks at the mess he has made of his bread. “Begotten by spirit of her late husband they said…”
“Ah, I see. How do you feel about this?” Gently, she removes the bread from his fingers and gives him a fresh piece.
“Blessing of Ernalda, or maybe here one should say Eiritha…” He leaves the bread in peace and looks at the Ulerian. “I want to be there if she needs help. And talk with her. If she will agree to see me, that is”
He traces infinity rune on the table.
“Are you concerned about what it means that she has not named you as the child’s father?”
He nods. “But that is solely her right. Ernalda names the father. It would be rude of me to suggest otherwise.”3 In Esrolia that would be true I think.
Aranda nods. “It is her right, as the child’s mother. I don’t know enough about Praxian customs to know if it’s any different there, but surely you know that at home, it is possible for a child to have more than one father?”
He nods. “That is a thing I would like to talk with her. But when we last met she asked why I do not make separation clean and quick. What right do I have to come back and then travel away again?”
“What do you want of her, Xenofos? What do you offer her?” The priestess studies him. “You must have those answers clear in your own heart before you speak with her again.”
Xenofos nods. “You speak wisely. I don’t have those answers yet. Just a feeling I should be there for her. For them. Even if I leave come Sea season.”
“But you intend to travel sooner? It is a dangerous time to travel,” she warns. “Valind takes over the passes in Dark Season.”
“I think she is due mid Dark Season. I try to be there before that…” Xenofos shrugs “Not that I know if that would make any difference. But a childbirth is as scary as it is wonderful.”
“Then travel swiftly and safely. May Uleria guide your heart and help you to learn what it is that you seek. Remember that when it comes to matters like this, even Lankhor Mhy found wisdom in love.” Her words are both blessing and admonition.
“Thank you for the light in your words, they will light my path.” Scribes answer sounds ritual, but mangles Ulerian and Lhankor Mhy phrases together. “I will travel as soon as I see Varanis.”
He traces the runes of harmony on the table in his thoughts. “There is a thing I promised my cousin to speak you about.”
She takes a precise bite of apple and waits for him to speak.
Xenofos strokes his beard. “My heart has fared well. My dreams have been beset by dark shadows though.”
“That is not unexpected,” she says. “The nightmares you’ve had are not the sort to let go easily. This does not mean they won’t ever go, Xenofos.” She reaches across to stroke his cheek, her fingers smooth and warm. “You must draw on the persistence of Ernalda and the compassion of Uleria to help you.”
“It seems the spectres came sooner this time.”he leans towards her hand. “Maybe they fade away faster, too…”
“Tell me, do you still seek to avoid dreaming?” she asks.
“I know I have to sleep. No herb has taken away the dreams…” he looks at her “I tried to drown the first ghost in wine and coumiss, but that did not succeed.”
“As you know, dear one, avoiding the dreams does not make them go away. It only increases your distress and makes you more vulnerable and confused when you do dream.” Her fingers trace a path from his cheek to his neck, down his arm, until she takes his hand in hers. “The distress this creates gives your dreams more power over you.”
“He did not really deserve to die, Aranda.” scribe says. Tears are falling from his eyes.
“Share your pain with me, so that together we can give it to the Goddess.” Her voice is full of compassion. “Give your grief to Her and She will give Her love to you.”
“It would probably have come to blows anyway so I ordered a charge. And took his life. Like those two others in Alda-Chur.” He lets his head fall. “It was war. That is what I was supposed to be doing.”
“But you don’t like killing,” she tells him. “That’s good. Taking a life should not be easy, beloved. You can do what you are supposed to be doing and not find joy in that task. Even when there is no doubt that killing must be done, it doesn’t have to feel good.”
“Indeed it does not. But why do those shades not rest. Berra said to me it is not the dead, but I don’t know. Mellia wondered if someone could enter my dreams and find out.”
Aranda looks intrigued. “That is an interesting possibility, Xenofos. I shall ask one of the senior priestesses. Can you meet with me again tomorrow? Or perhaps even tonight? You know that there will always be a bed for you here when you want it.”
“I can come tonight. ” He looks at priestess with a sad kind of smile “I see no nightmares within these walls though. Like fear and shades of dead were banished outside.”
“That is why I wish you to sleep here. The Goddess can give you peace. But, we shall see what we can learn about walking in your dreams.” She brings his hand to her lips, placing a soft kiss within his palm.
“With light spirit I sleep under the shadow of her wings, Aranda.”
“That is part of Her blessing.”