Happy Saturday and welcome to the 19th installment of Dark Soul. For those who have just joined this series this is a draft of a novel I have been writing (for way too long if the truth be told!). I am posting it here in serialized form in the hopes of getting some feed back.
If you are indeed just joining this series you can find the previous chapters at the links below. I am treating this as a learning experience so any comments good, bad or indifferent are completely welcome.
Dark Soul, Chapter One
Dark Soul, Chapter Two
Dark Soul, Chapter Three
Dark Soul, Chapter Four
Dark Soul, Chapter Five
Dark Soul, Chapter Six
Dark Soul, Chapter Seven
Dark Soul, Chapter Eight
Dark Soul, Chapter Nine
Dark Soul, Chapter Ten
Dark Soul, Chapter Eleven
Dark Soul, Chapter Twelve
Dark Soul, Chapter Thirteen
Dark Soul, Chapter Fourteen
Dark Soul, Chapter Fifteen
Dark Soul, Chapter Sixteen
Dark Soul, Chapter Seventeen
Dark Soul, Chapter Eighteen
Trasbello and Crelotan walked through the City towards the Council chambers. It would surprise no one in the City that they were arguing. Since they had been boys in the care of their clans Bethainal, they had argued. Trasbello had striven with words, and sometimes fists to make Crelotan agree with him.
In general he had failed, not because Crelotan was contrary, and would not agree, but because, in his own soft spoken way the Saltori of the Stafovsian was as sure of himself as Trasbello. Once he had come to a decision, the god himself would be hard pressed to move him.
Each man would tell those that would listen that these arguments took far too much of their time, and each would abandon the eternal fight, if only the other would be more reasonable, just a little more of the time. In truth, the fights acted as heat does in a crucible; burning away the impurities and leaving only the hard blackened nugget of refined will. Without these challenges it is doubtful that either man would have risen to the level of Saltori.
“Can you not see the threat?” asked Trasbello plaintively, “Carlinus and that fool Getovan will bring us to our destruction. They will undo all we have built in since the Empire fell. We will once more have the blessing of the god, and all that leads to!”
“You do not know that, my friend. It could be as Brother Carlinus says that the days of the god directly helping us is over. We have been apart from the world for so long, who knows what has changed, for us and the rest?”
“We are Celesti! It matters not at all that the rest of the world might have changed. I do not care if they speak to the god, nor how the god helps them or not! My concern is what we will become.”
“And have you no faith in our people. Come now, Trasbello, you are the one that says we embrace new ways.”
“Aye, new ways, not old ways! We know what has happened when we had the god’s power with us. Are we any wiser than Xatala or Altesal? The one lead us into our power with the help of the god, the other lead us into exile without the help of the god. We have a clear record of what speaking to the god gets us, and is not what we have today better?”
“We ruled an Empire, now we only rule a City”
“Bah! You know your stories better than that! We ruled through constant war and bloodshed, and in the end were nearly destroyed because we could not find a better way.”
“Do you think that we have not changed in a thousand summers? Might we not be able to find the better way now?”
“I do not know, and neither do you. So, I ask you Saltori of the Stafovsian, would you risk your clan, all the people of the City of Rushing Water on the chance that you are right?”
Crelotan did not answer the question directly. Instead he said, “I do not rely on only my wisdom, but the body of wisdom that all my clan holds, as should you.”
“I still put the question to you, and your clan, is this combined wisdom greater than those that have paid the price for this lesson?”
Shaking his head, Crelotan said, “I will do what I feel is best for both my clan and all the Celesti, as will you. In the end, that is all we can do. Now, let us set this aside, at least until we have heard Brother Carlinus out. If nothing else we should present some dignity to our clan members as Saltori.”
Muttering under his breath Trasbello could be heard to say, “What good is dignity if it means the end of the Celesti?”
Brother Carlinus walked Getovan and several of the Sczench towards the Council chamber. He felt as though his feet were heavy and his head was light, like the fluff of a dandelion. Tonight was the night that he had been waiting his whole life for; the night that would prove conclusively that God had called him to a great purpose. All of the snide comments, the whispers at the monastery when they knew he could hear. They would all see that it was not ego, nor pride that drove Carlinus, but the true fire of one called by the Lord of Lords, to do the work of the Light!
Taking a deep breath, he reproved himself lightly, for truly there was no way for those that knew him in his youth to know that the Lord had a special place for Brother Carlinus. It was only his own faith that had allowed him to become this vessel of greatness. Now, he must finish the job and bring this whole remarkable city and all its people to the Word.
“You look very confident, Brother” said Getovan in a quite voice at his side.
“I am confident in the Lord, Saltori. If it is God’s will, then I will be successful this night.”
“You know that you have the support of the Sczenchi, and I believe that there are far more in the City that are ready to return to a closer relationship with the god. I know that with your help, we can end our thousand summer pout and return to our proper place in the eyes of the god.”
“It will mean many changes, but together we can accomplish them all.”
Getovan smiled, hard and tightlipped, “Indeed there will be many changes, and all for the better. Things will be as they were when we ruled the Empire, and all we once again will be right with the world.”
The two men walked into the Council chamber, their supporters trailing behind.
Tyrone, like most warriors, was superstitious, and he was having a bad feeling about this Grand Council meeting. It would have not only the Saltori in council, but it also every Celesti above the rank of Delmorael in attendance. He still did not understand how
Carlinus could have made such an impression on the Sczenchi this quickly. Asking to have a vote on whether to end the Celesti estrangement from the god, it boggled his mind to think that in a few short weeks the fat monk could have made such a radical idea popular enough to bring before the Council of the City.
“I do not like this,” he muttered to Krenchi as they hurried along.
“Aye, you have said that at least once on every street we have walked.”
“And does that make it any less true, for me having said it before?”
“Not at all, just more annoying. What is it that actually troubles you, Sly Tongue? You were not raised in the City, and for all that you are taking to our ways, would you really be upset if we did as your people do and pray to the god?”
“Yes, no, ach! I don’t know. If you’re asking if I think it is a bad idea for you to break the silence with the god, I have to say I do. Your people are not like mine. When we pray, we only have faith that we are being heard, and know that the chance of having
God respond in a clear way is low at best. But the Celesti have had a response, the god used to help you defeat your enemies. All of you have that potential in you. Who knows what it would be like, after more than a thousand summers?”
“But, again, would that be such a bad thing?” she asked intently staring into Tyrone’s eyes.
“I don’t know, but if the choice were mine, I would not risk what the City is simply for what it might become. That is not a trade this Noy will willingly make.”
Krenchi’s eyes twinkled and Tyrone was blessed with a huge smile. “You are truly a Celesti, no matter where you were born, Sly Tongue! You look for the best for our clan and our people, even if it would make us more like your born-kin.”
Even after all the time he had spent with Krenchi, when she would shine her smile on him, it warmed like the sun. And if she combined it with words of praise, well, it embarrassed the warrior, that he was still capable of blushing and being tongue-tied.
“Come on, now. We will be late, and you know that no one believes me when I tell them that the hard as rock, Telethan of the Stafovsian says such things about the Cities tallest noy!
“And who are you telling the things I say to you? Surely you would not be so foolish as to add grist to Night Eyes’ mill?”
“No; but I have to have some explanation for how it is that I can get baked treats from your work-hall and no one else can.”
Well, perhaps I will just explain it myself, tonight in the Council. You know that anyone present may speak to the assembly. I will simply tell all that it is clear you are a liar, and a braggart and that if I hear such things again; I will have to challenge you for staining my honor. That should fix things, no?”
“Ach, I knew I had a bad feeling about tonight.”
The Shadow had come early, wanting to watch as the clans arrived, to see if he could identify the various factions in this meeting. He had positioned himself so that as each person came into the Council Chamber, they would see him. Knowing how Carlinus would talk about him, he assumed that he would be able to learn who was secretly on the priest’s side.
So far, he had been able to identify a few obvious supporters, but the Celesti did not seem to react with guilt in the way that he was used to. He was waiting there when Trasbello and Crelotan entered. He greeted them both, and received a mere nod from the Saltori of the Stafovsian. Trasbello greeted him and made him walk away from his perch, and join his clan behind the Saltori’s seat.
To his surprise, Eb, motioned him over to stand with him. “Hail, Eb. I would have thought that after the way Cytralin and I have sliced each other up, that you would have rather been exiled from the City, than stand with me.”
“Hail, Night Eyes. You act as though I do not know my own daughter. She is seplon to the core, and cares not who knows it. Even if I were unhappy about the way that you have treated her, I would still owe respect to the man that could take such punishment, time and again. Indeed, I worried that you might have been cut by more than her tongue, from the way she talks of you.”
“I can say in all honesty, that the Emlirat gives at least as good as she gets. I have not met a more dogged challenger in a very long time.”
“Aye, I have to say that it is a good thing that she is already wed, for yours would be one of those affairs like the strike of lightning, nothing near you would have been left standing,” chuckled Eb.
“What! Delmorael, you know me a little, and know Cytralin from the time she was a child, so how, even in jest can you suggest that we would, ever, want to be with each other?”
“Ah, Night Eyes, you are a man not a boy, you know that very few bonds are as tight as those that start out as near hate, no?”
The Shadow stared at Eb for a long moment, and then said. “I think that you tease me, Eb of the Kirecti, in truth I do.”
Smiling, the Delmorael said, “Only a little my dark noy, only a little. Remind me to tell you the tale of Cy’s mother and me. Then you can decide how much I was teasing and how much I was warning. Not to worry, if you stay with us, we will be sure to find you a nice spelon Celesti, so the two of you can argue your way to Elder status together. “
The Shadow was saved from having to make a reply, as the Questoria swept in to the council chamber, followed by the Andon. All conversation stopped as Skoltrella took her place in the center of the Hall.
“Celesti ; Draw near and give your wisdom and consent to the Council of the Saltori.” All eyes turned toward her and heads bowed. There was a murmured response of “Lead us, Questoria, “
“Tonight, we gather at the request of the Saltori Getovan. He has a proposal for the future of the Celesti and the City of Rushing Water. We will hear him and all who wish to speak on this issue. I tell you now, that we will not make our decision this night. I expect that after you have heard all sides you will wish to talk as clans before the vote is taken.
Saltori Getovan, you may present you proposal. “
Getovan rose to his feet, and scanned the room with his eyes. His look was solemn and composed. “In the long ago past our Empire was destroyed. We all know our stories of how this happened; this can not be in doubt. At that time Shridrial called a meeting like this and made her impassioned plea that we abandon our special place in the eyes of the god.
It was a popular and sensible decision, at that time. We had become complacent and decedent, sure of our rightful place as rulers of our Empire. We needed to change if we were to survive as a people.
Our long path has lead to this valley and the building of the City of Rushing Water. We have lived in peace and safety for more than a thousand summers. We have grown and learned and now we are once again worthy of the attention of the god. So it is now that I propose that we break our silence with the god.” This produced some heated whispers among the gathered Celesti. Skoltrella silenced them all with a hard stamp of her foot.
“We will act like the leaders of the Celesta here, or we will not have this discussion. You are not younglings, who need to blurt out whatever comes to mind when someone makes a surprising statement.” She swept the hall with her hard eyes, and all fell silent, even the Saltori, felt the weight of her gaze. “Continue, Saltori,” she said as she sat back on her bench.
“Thank you, Questoria. I know that this is not an…option that we have considered in a very long time. In fact, until the recent events, it is not one that I would have advocated, all that has changed with the arrival of Brother Carlinus.
He came here on a mission from god, to find us, and show us the way back to the god’s heart. That he is here at all, one of only four to ever find our valley, must be taken as a clear sign that the god would not only be willing to welcome us back, but is inviting us to break our silence.” There was no words spoken, but there were many looks exchanged at this flat statement. “I know what you are thinking ‘How can he know this, what special wisdom does the Sczenchi Saltori have?’, and the answer is a simple one. As this Council has decreed, I have learned form the Good Brother Carlinus and now stand before you with this proposal.
I do not ask you to take these statements only on my honor, no, I will give you the same opportunity to realize the truth as I had. To do this I ask out honored visitor Brother Carlinus to speak.” Getovan turned to Carlinus and motioned him forward.
Standing in the torch lit hall Brother Carlinus bowed his head, and was silent for a moment, whether he was praying or merely gathering his thoughts, no one can say. Finally ready, Brother Carlinus lifted his head and gazed around the hall.
“As Saltori Getovan has said, I have come here on a mission from the Lord God. That mission is easy to explain, I am here to bring you back into the loving embrace of God. I knew from the moment that I found Father Delatora’s map and notes that God wanted me to come here and bring you the Good News. Our Lord God has sent his only Son to us, and He has died to wash away the Sins of the World. We have only to accept this gift and all of our sins can be forgiven.
I know that this is a strange for you. To imagine that God would do such a thing, but it is true. You, I, all of mankind are so loved by God that he was willing to give up his only born son, for us.
This is the news that I come to bring you. I come to ask you to break your silence with God, and once more bask in his eternal love.” Brother Carlinus held up his hands as if someone had spoken some objection. “I know you say, ‘We have not spoken to the god in so very long, why would he take us back now?’ and it is a good question, but let me tell you a story that God’s Son, Jesus, once told.
There once was a rich man. He had many lands and cattle and lived as prince among men. This man had two sons. The older would inherit the lands and title, but this man was so wealthy that he would be able to also leave a good amount of gold the younger son as well.
The younger son did not want to wait, and asked his father to give him his fortune now. The father did as his son asked.
The son left home with much gold in his pockets. He went out and foolishly spent all of the money, never thinking of what he would do when it was gone. Soon all the gold was spent and the son was forced to beg in the streets to survive. Eventually he decided to return to his home and beg his father to take him back, in spite of his foolishness and selfishness.
When he returned home, his father met him with open arms and ordered a great feast to celebrate the return of his son.
It is the same with you and the Lord. You have been the children of God; have basked in the warmth of his love. Then, for what seemed like good reasons, you have left the Lord’s house. Now, I come and say to you that the Lord, the Father of the Celesta and all Mankind, will welcome you back, if only you wish it.”
Crelotan rose and waited respectfully for Brother Carlinus to acknowledge him. When the monk nodded, Crelotan said, “Brother Carlinus, you say that the god would welcome us back, and this I do not doubt. None here has ever doubted that the god would welcome our return to worship. That is not the problem. The problem is what it means when the god is with us, what we have become with the god’s power filling us, lifting us to triumph over all our enemies, no matter the cost.
It is this cost that we fear. Our stories, the stories of our history show what it means to have this power at our disposal.”
“But you do not rule an Empire now, nor are there other people to conquer here your valley”, interrupted Brother Carlinus.
Crelotan smiled a tight little smile, “You do not have the benefit of our education, Brother Carlinus. If we had the power of the god again, these mountains would not be a hindrance to our conquering those that live near them. But that is not what I mean. Even between Celesti, there was strife because of the power of the god. How can we know that this will not happen again?”
“Ah, an excellent question, I am so glad that you asked, Saltori. You see while the Celesti have labored to build this wonderful city, Christ Our Lord came to the world. As I said He has washed away all the sins of mankind, the Celesta included.
But it would not be enough to clean our sins, if we were not given new rules on how to treat each other and live a life that is good in the eyes of the Lord. I have lived under these rules my whole life. If the Celesti will adhere to these rules there is no chance that they will be overwhelmed by the power of God.”
There was a low muttering in the hall, but as Brother Carlinus seemed to have finished the Questoria did not bring them to silence. As he looked around at the faces in the hall, Tyrone could see that Carlinus’ words had made an impression. There had been nodding of heads, and while there were many thoughtful frowns, he did not see outright rejection.
Trasbello slowly rose to his feet and waited for the gathered Celesti to come to a respectful silence. “The Chositha would speak to this issue.”
“We welcome the wisdom of the Chositha,” said Saltori Getovan, not waiting for the Questoria to acknowledge the request. Trasbello however did not speak nor move until Skoltrella nodded her white haired head in his direction.
“We have heard Saltori Getovan and Brother Carlinus on their desire to break with over a thousand summers of silence toward the god. I say that there can be no reasonable decision where all that is heard is one side and that in favor. To balance this, I ask our newest Noy, Night Eyes to speak for the Chositha.”
Again, impolite muttering filled the Council hall. Krenchi leaned close to Tyrone and whispered, “That has the wolves in the fold, and truly. Trasbello is signaling that the Chositha will oppose this, as a whole. Making Night Eyes the speaker is a direct slap at Getovan and you’re Brother Carlinus.”
Once again the heel of the Questoria’s staff struck the stone floor for to call for order. As the Shadow came forward to the center of the hall, Saltori Getovan’s voice rolled out in bored self-assurance. “Questoria, I must object. This is hardly appropriate. This meeting, was called for those among us that had attained the rank of Delmorael, the speaker for the Chositha is not even Doci. This is highly disrespectful of the Council and our ways. I ask that he and the other noy present be sent home, as befits children.”
Tyrone expected Trasbello to rise to this clear challenge of his authority, but instead, he merely nodded to the Shadow.
Standing his ground, the Shadow turned to face both Getovan and the Questoria. Bowing respectfully he said, “Questoria, it is true that I am Noy here in the City of Rushing Water, but that is hardly my only standing in this issue. Out in the world beyond the Valley of the Celesti, I am and have been a principal adversary of the god that Carlinus represents. It is in this capacity that the Chositha, the clan that has adopted me has asked me to speak.
As I am by Celesti law and your command, both a child and a man, I ask for your judgment as to whether I dishonor this gathering by speaking for the Chositha.”
Skoltrella stood looking at the Shadow, with slightly narrowed eyes. “Have you asked Saltori Trasbello to speak before this Council?”
“Yet you are comfortable representing your clan’s will in this?”
“I am, Questoria. My Saltori knows that I oppose this, and oppose Brother Carlinus’s Church. I believe that what the Saltori says is the unalloyed truth, that to decide an issue of this importance, there must be a balance of evidence. I can provide that balance.”
“You may speak, then. I will allow you and Sly Tongue to stay and comment as your Saltori wish, though you will have no vote in this, as Brother Carlinus will have no vote among the Sczenchi.”
“Questoria! I must strongly object! This noy is so spelon as to be contrary, just for the sake of argument. Is that the level of discourse that we want to bring to this great decision?” said Getovan, rising to his feet.
The Shadow slowly moved his gaze from the Questoria to Getovan, his black eyes hard and bright like polished onyx. In a low voice, that none the less carried to every corner of the Hall, the Shadow said, “Careful now, Saltori, careful. I very nearly think that you are calling my honor into question. In fact, it sounds as though you are challenging the honor of my Clan for asking me to speak. Is that what you meant to do?”
All in the hall froze in that moment. The Shadows words had left no doubt that if Getovan continued with this argument that he would indeed be calling the Shadow and the Chositha faithless and honor-stained. There could be but one response, a challenge of honor.
Getovan blanched, seeing that he had been trapped by his own strong words. “No, Night Eyes, I do not call your clan’s, nor your honor into question,“ he said biting off each word as if it were some bad tasting fruit. “I merely am concerned that we do things in the proper manner, as befits Celesti”
Bowing from the neck up, the Shadow smiled and said, “I thank you Saltori, for vouching for the truth and honor of my words,”
“Ah, that was well played,” whispered Krenchi, “he has really tied Getovan in a knot now. He will not be able to say anything against Night Eye’s argument, without being foresworn. Your friend has a tongue as sharp as yours is sly!”
The Shadow stood still for a moment, taking in the gathered Celesti with a sweep of his eyes.
“As I have said, I am opposed to this idea for the Celesti. Now, those that want break the silence with the god will say, “Ah, but did you know that Night Eye’s is an enemy of the god? That his whole family has sworn fealty to the god’s enemy?” and it is true, I have been and will be Yahweh’s enemy. But that does not mean that I am an enemy of the god of the Celesti.”
“Like you, and Saltori Getovan and Brother Carlinus, I am not sure that my enemy, Yahweh, is the god that you used to speak to. Even if I were sure, my advice would be the same. You have achieved the goal that I have hardly dared to think possible; you are outside the influence of the powers Below and Above. “
“Five generations ago my ancestor, Otho the Strong, made a pact with the Bringer of Day. That pact was an alliance, an agreement to fight Yahweh and all his minions. Together they devised a plan that would not only bind Otho to the service of the Day Bringer, but his sons after him.
I am the result of this plan, though my cursed fathers’ treachery has delivered me into the hands of one of the Enemy, I was the instrument that Otho looked for when he made the pact.
I tell you this, though it will make those that think the god of the Celesta and Yahweh are the same distrust my words. I tell you this so you will understand why I envy what the Celesti have achieved. All my life, I have had few choices. I was born into a conflict that I could neither win, nor quit. Six generations of my family spent all of their lives training, plotting and fighting a war that was thrust upon us by our ancestors.
We have fought implacable enemies of enormous power, for a promise made to an unforgiving ally of enormous power. I, personally, have killed men bound to Yahweh’s will. Men that had no grievance with me, indeed that had never seen my face or heard my name, until Yahweh forced them to attempt to kill me.
I am a proud warrior; I do not regret the battles that I have won. But over time I have come to resent the fact that I kill men whose only offense to me is their ally. That there are men sworn to kill me, because of my ally; allies that see us as no more than convenient tools, pieces to be moved around a game board, and when we are no longer useful, to be discarded.
I see the Celesti, and you are outside of this fight. You neither ask for, nor accept otherworldly help. I see the Celesti, and of all the people that I have seen in my travels, you are the first that are truly free! You are Seplon and Olitao, but you owe no alliance to the Forces of the Dark and Light! You stand or fall by what the Celesti can do themselves. You neither wait for, nor ask for help from beyond. When there is a challenge you turn to those of your clans, and are sure of their help. This is the Celesti way, and you have achieved marvels with it.
This is why, in the name I hold in the outside world, in the noy name Night Eyes, and in the name of my adopted Clan, I call on all here not to sell that freedom for, even for the power that is the Celesti heritage. When you traffic with the powers beyond this world, you always give far more than you receive.”
The Shadow bowed his head slightly to the Saltori, and waited for any questions.
There was a moment of silence in the Hall. From the ranks of the Chositha, Cytralin calmly walked up and stood beside the Shadow. Her wide strong frame nearly eclipsed the Shadow from behind. The Questoria cocked an eyebrow, and asked “Emlirat?”
Cytralin bowed deeply and said, “Questoria, I come to stand with Night Eyes, my clan mate.”
“Surely all the Chositha stand with him, your Saltori has asked that he speak in your names.”
“Aye, that is true. I do stand behind him as a Chositha. But I come to stand with him in my own name too. In this matter, his voice is mine. I place my honor and standing in his hands and put its weight behind his words. So say I, Cytralin Ne’ Chositha Pa’ Kirecti.”
The Questoria stood still giving Cytralin a long considering look. After a moment she said, “Heard and Witnessed. I say Cytralin speaks true.”
“What is going on?” asked Tyrone only to be shushed to silence by Krenchi.
“A question for Night Eyes, Questoria” said one of the Sczenchi. Skoltrella nodded her permission. “You say that you do not know if Brother Carlinus’s god is the same as ours, and that you are the sworn enemy of his god. My question is this; if they turn out to be the same, will you be the enemy of the Celesti?”
The Shadow nodded as if he had expected a question like this. “Let me answer your question with one of my own. Do the Celesti war on those that oppose the god? I speak not of your history, but now. Even if the answer was yes, it does not matter. You do not speak to the god. You do not accept nor seek the god’s help. If it were true that Yahweh is the same as your god that does not put me in position of split allegiance. I fight Yahweh and his minions as directly as I can. I do not care who worships him, except where they oppose me for the fact of my alliance with the Bringer of Day.
But your question itself troubles me. Questoria, if you decide to break your silence with the god, will you force all Celesti to do so?”
“We have not yet decided, when we broke with the god, all were bound to that decision. Should this be any different?”
“Yes, at least, I believe it should be. When you broke with the god, it was to save the Celesti. All could see what the god’s power had brought you to. Now it is proposed that you break that silence, not to save your people, but for some undefined benefit. You would be trading what you have for the hope of something. If as the Sczenchi suggest Yahweh and the god are the same, then the benefit will be for the individuals, not the whole of the Celesti.
Brother Carlinus will tell you that his god values free will, that is that each worshiper must come to Yahweh of their own will, not that of their rulers or clan. It defeats the supposed purpose of faith to force those that do not want to speak to the god to do so. I urge you not to make this decision compulsory. If, against my advice, you choose to speak to the god, then it must only be those that think this is the right course that do so.”
“If I may, Questoria?” asked Getovan, from his seat. The Questoria nodded her acquiescence. “Let me rephrase the question you were asked. If this Council decided that all Celesti must break their silence with the god, what would you do, Night Eyes of the Chositha? Would you obey the will of the Council of Saltori?
The Shadow’s eyes filled with fire as he stared at Getovan. Tyrone knew he was caught between his given word on two sides. This was not a question the Shadow wanted to answer honestly, but knowing that there were many in the Hall that would see the change in his aura, there was no choice.
“I do not speak to Yahweh, Saltori. I have suffered too much at the hands of his minions. You have not shown that Yahweh and the god are the same. I have suffered far too much at the hands of his minions. But I will answer your question, lest you rephrase it again and again until you have trapped me in a corner of honor. I would not, speak to Yahweh, or the god, even if that is the will of the Council. I would, instead, offer myself to Celesti justice, so that I would not stain the honor of the Clan that has taken me to its breast. Aye, this I would do, even if the penalty is death, for I can not be Celesti without my personal honor, nor can I be Celesti when my actions would dishonor the Chositha.
There, now you have what none of the enemies that I have faced have ever had, the knowledge of how to destroy me. Congratulations, Saltori. But I would warn you, if you choose this path you will destroy far more than this noy. There are many in the City that feel as I do, though for other reasons. If you forced them to make the choice between speaking with the god, and dieing, you would be knee deep in the blood of your own people. So, think hard lest you win all you want, and still lose.”
“Strong words for someone that has lived in the City of Rushing Water less than a Moon,” was Getovan’s drawling reply. “I would suggest that you confine yourself to those matters that you have some knowledge, Night Eyes.”
“Then hear my words, Saltori,” said Cytralin. “We of the Chositha oppose this proposal, as one. We will strongly oppose any attempt to make speaking with the god compulsory. “ Getovan’s hard stare did not intimidate the solid Emlirat, and she returned it, strength for strength.
After watching this contest of wills for a moment, the Questoria decided to speak.
“Are there any other questions for Night Eyes? No? Then I thank you for you words, Noy of the Chositha.”
There was a quite murmur as the Shadow and Cytralin returned to the ranks of their Clan.
“Are there others that would speak?” this question was greeted with the same level of response that the question ‘who would like cake?’ is in a group of five-year olds; a near wave of Celesti stepped forward from their respective clans. Tyrone rolled his eyes to the ceiling; this was truly going to be a long night.
A Bethainal of the Stafovsian gave long rambling synopsis of the decision to stop speaking with the god, complete with stories. Two Sczenchi rose to refute the lessons that were commonly drawn from these stories. They bickered back and forth, getting into more and more obscure stories and interpretations, until the crowd in the Hall was restless with boredom. The Questoria cut them off finally by declaring that they had given all of the information that the stories could provide on this issue.
Tyrone felt that while the Bethainal had the advantage in terms of the weight of the stories, but the Sczenchi had succeeded in muddying the water of the debate. He began to suspect that this was Saltori Getovan’s plan. For those that were not sure that speaking to the god was a bad thing, having two sides of an argument, given equal weight in Council, would still allow them to vote for changing the policy of the last millennium.
After that there were fewer who still wished to speak, but there were still many. Some stood to only offer their support for or against, before sitting. After seven or eight of these the Questoria asked that all that did not have something substantive to say, to speak to their Saltori of their position.
Zolothroa, the ancient woman who was Saltori of the Bethainal, stood for permission to speak. Tyrone found himself very interested. In the three times that he had been to the Council, this venerable woman had never said a word.
“Celesti,” she said in an age softened voice, “you all know me. At one time or another I have taught you or you children the Stories of our People. So it is as your teacher that I raise to speak now. “
“What I have to say is not in our stories, nor is it supported by reason. But I will say it all the same. This proposal, this idea of Brother Carlinus and Saltori Getovan, is the same for the Celesti as if we were being offered a piece of poisoned fruit!” The crowd reacted to this with the beginning of mutters, quickly silenced as Zolothroa’s voice rose to a surprising level for an old woman. “Poisoned I say! While I do not accuse the men that bring this idea to us, all the same it will destroy what we are. Why, Saltori, why you may ask?
Because this idea is not new, far from it. Time and time again it is has been proposed to remedy some ill or another. It was brought up in Council when the coughing sickness killed so many. Should we end our silence with the god, to stop the dying? Our answer then was no.
Some one hundred summers ago, when the rain did not fall and the crops failed, the Council was asked to break the silence, and again the answer was no.
If we would not, did not, break our silence in the face of dangers that were killing the children of the Clans, endangering the very existence of the Celesti, why should we now? Brother Carlinus comes from the outside world, and I say, so? What has this Sczenchi of the Outside to say that is better than what all Celesti know? He can not even show that the god, and his Holy Jesus Christ are the same.
What do our own Sczenchi offer us? The chance for glory restored, the same as their argument has been since the day after Sheridrial convinced the remnant of the Celesti that we must abandon the god’s favor if we were to survive.
As with a piece of poisoned fruit, this offer looks flavorful and healthy, but eating of it will sicken the Celesti, to the death. So say I Zolothroa, Saltori of the Bethainal.”
It was amazing to Tyrone, the way that the aged Saltori’s speech affected the gathering. It was as if as she spoke, the thoughts and ideas of supporters on both sides had hardened. Those that supported the change were shaking their heads from side to side with angry expressions; those that opposed, were showing grins at the strength of Zolothroa’s argument. Even within the Clan groupings, there was a physical separation between the two sides. It was the first time since he had come to the City that he had seen such disunity in the Celesti, and was not a comforting sight.
Perhaps the Questoria saw and felt this herself, for she step forward and said, “Has anyone anything else to offer? Anything that is new to this debate?” after waiting just a few heartbeats, she continued, “No? Then I say this meeting is finished. We will meet again in tomorrow after sun set, to decide the Will of the Celesti on this matter. Tell those of your Clans what you have heard here, find their will and bare it to your Saltori. Let none say that this decision was forced on the Clans without their knowledge and consent. This Council is over.” With those words she struck her staff on the stone floor of the Hall.
Skoltrella nodded to the Andon of the Garshon and walked with him to one side of the hall to talk quietly. The various Clans and the factions within them began to talk and leave together. Krenchi had excused herself to talk with her clan mates, leaving Tyrone standing on his own, lost in his thoughts.
Looking up he noticed the both the Questoria and Andon looking his direction. The Questoria nodded to him and gestured for him to join them.
“Hail Questoria, hail Andon,” he said as he walked up.
“Hail Sly Tongue, “said the Questoria. “You did not ask to speak on this issue. I would know why that is?”
“In truth I do not know what I would have to say.”
“What’s this? Sly Tongue without words, that is not the noy I hear of,” said Hadronat in a light hearted voice.
“Andon,” said Tyrone, bowing his head slightly, “I stood ready to speak, if asked. For myself, I do not know what I could have said that would not make the issue less clear. I heard some of what I told the senior Garshon at your request, and it was well stated. I did not put myself forward because I am not sure where my stand on this issue is. What I was taught and what I see are at conflict. How can I offer advice to the Celesti when I am not sure of the truth myself?”
“So, you would stand silent rather than offer poor council?” asked the Questoria.
“Aye, for I have heard the stories of my Clan and I have seen the good and bad of the Church that Brother Carlinus serves. Truly I can not say what it would gain the Celesti to end their silence with the god, nor can I say what the risks are. I am sorry, I would like to help, but all that I can offer now is the attempt not to do more harm,”
This earned Tyrone a chilly smile from the Questoria, “Would that more of the Doci of the Celesti felt like you, Sly Tongue. “
“There is a swell of support for this change Getovan supports. If I did not know the currents of power in the Council and the Celesti, I would almost think that there was some outside force bringing this to the fore. But I am Questoria, and I sit atop the shifting will of the Celesti, and I can see the maneuvers of those that would hold power.”
“Questoria there is a worry that I would share with you, though it is not directly connected to the question in front of the Council. While I have seen tension and argument between Celesti before, it was nothing like what I have seen tonight. I fear that whatever the decision of the Council is, these divisions will not heal. I think that is the bigger danger that the Celesti face.”
“I agree, Sly Tongue, I agree. It is something that my time as Questoria has not prepared me for. Let us hope that we are both wrong, yes?” With that uncomfortable thought, the Questoria left the Council Hall.
Bill Egnor is a life-long Democrat from a political family as well as a Daily Editor here at The Seminal. A 2009 Democracy For America Netroots Nation Scholarship Winner and long time Daily Kos Poster under the name Something The Dog Said. He’s been a Six Sigma Black Belt (process improvement project manager) and a Freelance reporter for Govtrak.org and is open to new opportunities in writing, baking and process improvement.