Xenofos — On The Wheel
????, Storm Season, Season/Illusion Week
Storm Season/Illusion Week/Clayday eve/ [[[s02:session-29|Session 29]]]
Warning for seriously syrupy fluff
Xenofos has been outside the temple of Uleria, but returns to pray and sleep. He spends quite a long time in the chapel. When he comes to sleep he takes out his sword and sharpening stone. There are no nicks, it does not look like there would be any need.
Aranda is waiting for him when he returns. She looks him up and down, then takes him by the hand and leads him to the room he has been given.1 He looked more tired than simple walk in the town would merit. No red eyes. Confused. The sword and whetstone are left behind. As she has done before, she pulls him to the floor to sit and talk. “Tell me?” As she usually does, she speaks to him in the language of their homeland, her voice soft and sweet.
“Why does pity hurt?”
She looks thoughtful. “Perhaps because it leaves you feeling exposed? Pity is remote. Disconnected.” She is seated across from him, holding his hands in her. “But tell me, where does this question come from? What is the question that underlies it?”
“I met her at temple of Humakt.” He shrugs ” She told me this was to be expected. She was quite nice about it, too.”
“And you felt pitied?”
“Pitied, disdained, unworthy. And I do not think she meant to make me feel bad. Quite the contrary.”
“Oh, Xenofos. Is it possible you confused compassion with pity?” Her thumbs press gentle circles on the backs of his hands.
He shrugs. “I told you before, I think she pities me. She shielded me from meeting my fears and I felt it obvious she knew even then.” He looks up, at her ” And you know, I was ashamed, but also so comforted I did not care of the shame…”
“Compassion comes from a place of love. Of caring. Your Humakti… she might understand this differently, but remember that you are in our Mistress’ house and compassion comes from Her. I think that Berra shielded you out of compassion. She saw your pain and acted to ease this. This is not pity or disdain, both of which would lead to turning away from you. Instead, she turned toward you and offered you her hand. In this, she was an agent of the Goddess, whether she knew it or not.”
Xenofos is quiet for quite some time. “She… She is not my Humakti, Aranda. I… What you are saying…. I know love comes in many forms… I don’t want to hope things that are not to be.”
He looks incredibly relieved and longing at the same time.
She smiles gently. “I’m not encouraging you to look for what isn’t there. You already know that she cannot love you as you love her. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t love there. Humakt cut himself away from his people. Uleria teaches that this was an act of pure love and sacrifice, though I admit, the Humakti perspective may differ.”
She continues, “Uleria lies within all. Her love takes many forms. Among the warriors who seek to cut themselves away from others, there are those who do so for power. Those who do it for love of violence. But, those who come closest to their god are often the ones who do it for love and their sacrifice follows His.”
“I know. She told me love is not in her vocation.” he sighs “I do not want to bind her or distract her. I want her to become what her path demands. And then her simplest smile can make my heart flutter and all that feels distant and she fills my presence with warmth.”
“Yours is a generous love, Xenofos. It is a love that asks only that the other person be happy. This is good – it pleased the Goddess to have Her followers be thus. That warmth you feel when Berra smiles at you? Bask in it for a moment, then give it to Her.”
“I don’t know if I have it in my to give those away, Aranda.” he smiles ” And I told you her smile can make my conviction and logic feel distant, very distant.”
“I’m not asking for your logic, scholar. Uleria requires only your love. You do not need to surrender your love for this Humakti completely. But in those moments where your heart and mouth begin to stutter and your knees feel weak? Hold on for a heartbeat, then pray. Use the prayer to offer that love to Uleria. She will return it to you and the exchange of love will make you stronger.” Aranda is as patient as the water that wears the roughness of rock into smooth pebbles on the river’s bed.
“I am greedy, Aranda. I would hold fast to what She has given me. But I will try.”
“That is all She asks of you.”
“But still, when she told she expected to me fail, that trying to live upto what is right was not working for me… That I was just trying too hard. No judgement, and all the judgement in the world. Like icy knot in my stomach. And she was just trying to make me feel better?”
“Berra is fallible too, Xenofos. She is only human and one who seeks to cut herself off from others, but struggles to do it cleanly. I heard about her visit here a few days ago. She doesn’t understand our ways.”
“She did see I was upset even as I was trying to be impeccably polite and wanted to know why. So I told her how ashamed I am of my fear and how fragile I still feel.” he looks at the walls “She tried to convince me this is just like been wounded, that faltering courage bears no shame. I… I can’t quite believe that. But last week I could not have said these things. At all. Lest my shell crumble.”
He wipes his eyes.
Aranda lets him talk without interruption. Though she does not say the words aloud, it is as if she is in his head, murmuring, “You are safe…”
He takes Aranda’s hands again, but falls silent, his head hanging.