Friday, July 3, 2015

Story for the Day: The Gods' Stone

Left from Frewyn's prehistory, the Gods' Stones, or the Gods' Seats as they are known in the south, are massive stones, dressed and decorated with images from the kingdom's past. Legend says that these stones were once the seats of the Gods, where doting devotees could come and offer tribute to their Gods in person, and while many of these stones only exist in theory, two of them exists in fact-- rather, three.



They found Eilen in excellent spirits, standing in the middle of a small pit looking with wide
eyes at a large stone beside her, clinging to her trowel in one hand with the shovel leaning on the wall beside. She glanced up momentarily as they rounded the corner, and then turned back toward the standing stone, the bottom of which was still partially buried in the loam at her feet.
“What did you find?” said Brudha, mantling over the pit and talking down to her. “Anything particularly ancient?”
“Well, yes, actually!” she declared. She gave the stone a few scrapes of the trowel, pulling some of the dirt from what appeared to be a notch or a stile toward her, and when she had cleared a plateau, she looked up and said, “It’s a Gods’ stone! Also called a Gods’ chair by people in the south.”
Cgnita canted his head. “You mean like the centre stone at the Wyn na Dail, the one that looks like a throne of some kind?”
“Yes! Or something like it.”
“And how can you tell it is one of those?” said Brudha, with keen interest.
“If you see here,” pointing to the top of the chair with her trowel, “the entire back of the seat is dressed—it’s all dressed really, from the top to where my foot is here. If you look at the back, you will see some decoration, though I haven’t fully exposed or cleaned it yet, and if you look here, it looks like someone has scrawled in the words Reis na Dail in Ault Fremhin right at the base.”
“Reis’ seat?” said Cgnita, leaning farther down to investigate. “And you are sure it is a Gods’ stone and not something else someone might have erected later?”
“I don’t think it could be anything else really. Look,” pointing to the edge of the pit, “here is the top soil. Here are all the layers of history between, with pieces of pottery nestled in—I pulled a piece of old Kileen redware from this level here, which dates back to about 200CU, so everything below it is older, which is the general rule: the farther down, the older something must be, and the soil here is very good and really hasn’t grown over that much since antiquity. About here,” pointing to a layer in the soil about waist high, “is where we get to 1CU, and everything lower is Before Clans United. The base of the seat is just at the level of prehistory. Since this hill fort and settlement was abandoned when Allun came to unite the clans, it was probably already partially buried, which is why no one has found it before.”
“And how did you find it?” asked Brudha.“How did you know to dig in this very spot?”
“I saw the top of the rock protruding up from the ground and thought this might be an excellent place to start, since there might have been some archaeology here. So I marked off a square and began digging, and after I found bits of pottery and some bone that looked quite old, and began digging round this stone, thinking it might be the footing of an old house or a foundation of something, and here it was! It has been here this whole time, simply waiting to be discovered! I still have not got to the bottom. I am only about half way. These stones seats usually have great decorated bases around them. Here you can see the image of Reis at the top and the cats lining the back of the seat itself. I expect I should find something similar running around the bottom.” She stopped for breath, eyeing the stone seat with doting veneration, and then went on. “The stones themselves are a wonder. The theory is that all the stones which were used to make these various seats all came from Karnwyl and were carted across the kingdom to their various destinations, where they were dressed and carved and then placed fimly into the ground, all in the hopes of having their patron God attend them and bless them in their daily lives. They believed that their efforts would warrant a visit from the Gods, and though we don’t know about prayers or daily rituals from back then, we know they did come to these stones during celebrations throughout the year.  It was also believed that they would come here when they wanted to ask the gods for favours or general blessings, probably for a good crop or a healthy life. We’ve found everything around these seats, from glass beads to animal bones-- I apologize if I am rambling,” said she, laughing affectedly. “I am quite overpowered. I don’t think my mind has quite caught up with my heart. I think—“ She paused, her exhilaration beginning to diminish, “--I think I am only just realizing now the enormity of what we’ve found.”
“What you found, Miss Eilen,” Cgnita kindly reminded her. “Brudha and I are only standing here listening to you. It was you who dug this hole and did your investigation.”
 “Yes…” said she, in a reverie, “but had you not suggested it, I don’t think I would have…” Her voice faltered, her gaze grew distant, and she leaned back against the wall of the pit, raising her hand to her eyes. “I think…I think I am feeling quite faint.”
Her knees bent and her body was drawn forward, but a hand was there to catch her before she fell, an arm supported her, and she hung her head as she was sat down on the partially exhumed seat of honour, panting in desperation. When she could lift her head and raise her eyes, she found Cgnita beside her, his arm around her back, his hand cuffing her wrist.
“Just breathe, Miss Elien,” the cleric purred. “I understand that you have had a little excitement, but we must take care. Lean forward slightly, that’s right, and breathe naturally.”
“I cannot believe I have found this,” Eilen continued, her chest heaving, her voice breathless. “It is really the find of a lifetime-- There are only two others like this one that we know of, one near Glaoustre and the one at Wyn Na Dail in Karnwyl-- It was always suspected that there were more, probably one for every God, or even every prehistoric settlement, but with limited research and no one willing to fund multiple expiditions—the crown is very good, and King Dorrin is very generous with his grants to the society—but doing a proper excavation—and this will require an application to the crown as a heritage site—“
“Miss Eilen,” said Cgnita, with kind solicitude, “your pulse is increasing, and you are breathing quite rapidly. Take a few deep breaths and try to calm yourself. I will administer a little sedative. This will not hurt in the least.” He placed his hand on the back of her neck, and his palm began to hum, glowing with viridescent warmth. “And inhale…”
A vibration resonated from his hand, warming all her muscles and sedating all her pulses, and Eilen felt the unmitigated excitement in her nerves gradually dissipate. The tenderness of his touch, the soothing application lulled her into a gentle sloom, her consciousness surrendering to serenity, her heart tranquilzing, her speech somniloquent. “Can’t believe I… I found a seat of the Gods… Not one in a hundred… and I never would have found…” Her eyes began to close, her head bowed, her shoulders slouched. “A Gods’ seat…” she murmured, “No one will ever believe…”
“It’s all right, Miss Eilen,” said Cgnita, in a half whisper, holding her against him. “You’ve had a bit of a shock. An exdroadinary thing has happened, and it is natural to be overcome, but you mustn’t forget to breathe. Brudha,” spying the Brother standing at the edge of the pit above, “will you please bring me some water?” but Brudha was already gone, hastening toward the church, calling out for cold water, a clean cloth, and fresh tea as soon as they could be got. “Just lean your head against me and try to calm yourself, Miss Eilen,” said Cgnita, sidling her and putting her head on his shoulder. “Brudha will be back with some water, which I want you to drink, and until then, try not to speak.”
Murmurations of discovered stones and providential fortune endured, but she soon succumbed to the cleric’s remedial touch, leaning against him as a comfortable support, her nose against his neck, her lips grazing his nape. So rapt in his clerical work was he that Cgnita had forgot to tremble at her touch, and when he did realize that her chest was pressed against his arm and her cheek was nestled against his shoulder, Cgnita was too much engaged with the study of her skin, the outline of her jaw, the lines of her neck, the curve of her collarbone to be timid and apprehensive. Well, he thought, pressing his cheek against the top of her head, this is wonderfully pleasant, despite her sudden panic. A woman is voluntarily leaning her head against me, and I am perfectly easy. Perhaps clericin’, as you say, Aoidhe, is not so bad for attaching women after all.
                Savin’ her from faintin’, said a voice, with high wrought complacence. Sure is romantic and all.
                Cgnita took her hand from her neck and touched her wrist. Her pulse is improving. I was worried for a moment. I thought she was going to go into histerics—and rightly so. It is really the find of a lifetime. Historians the world over would clamber the mountains in winter just to have a chance at finding something like this. She has made her career with such a find. Did you put this stone in the ground just now?
Naw, that’s been there th’while, lad. Can’t make what wasn’t there before just like that. S’ just been sittin’ there, waitin’ for what to find it. She was the one what found it. All that credit’ll go to her. Guess she’s gonna hafta stay here to do her researchin’ and such.
I might have to invite Beldynn here instead of writing to him. I daresay he would have a panic over—did you say she is going to have to stay here?
There was a shrug. Someone’s gotta dig this here stone up, lad. Can’t let a discovery like that alone. Gotta make it a monument for the kingdom. Gotta be right famous in the arch’alogical community for this.
Are there are more like these?
                Aye, lad. One for each o’ us.
And you would sit here and people really used to come visit you?
‘Course they did. They’d come and talk to me about what, bringin’ roasted means and fruits and such, and we’d have a right time o’ it. The voice grew sullen. Sure loved doin’ that. Had to abandon my seat when the Aul’ Man says we had to go away.
Where was your seat, if I may know?
Had a few o’ ‘em, but my two favourite were in what you call now Tyfferim and Sethshire. Had a seat right next to Chune’s. We’d go out and bless the land, everyone’d have a celebration with singin’ and feastin’ and music, and we’d have a right ol’ hashiff in the fields. Aye, with feverish pride, those were days, lad.
You would really sit amongst the people and celebrate with them?
Sure we would, lad. Yer our children. Parents what love their wee-uns always wanna spend time with ‘em. I’m here with you now, ain’t I?
Cgnita was forced to conceded that while Aoidhe was at times inconvenient as a companion and mortifying in his vulgarities, he was certainly as attentive and as affectionate as any vigilant parent should be.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Story for the Day: Cgnita and Eilen

Bilar Harvester is the royal cleric, but before he ever came to the keep, he lived with his mother and father in Kileen, a landscape known for its Proto-Frewyn architecture. His mother was a member of the Frewyn Archaeological Society, and his father, as no surprise, was a well respected cleric in the west. Here is a little of their fateful meeting in an extra long post. Enjoy!


Image by David Kernow, Callanish Stones, via Wikipedia creative commons

They had been walking some minutes before stopping to survey the grounds, Cgnita in all the fleshment of first meeting, and Eilen in all the exhilaration that ancient stones and interested Almost fell there, lad, good thing you got her, and Cgnita, while turning aside and blushing to himself, began to wonder at Aoidhe’s disappearance.  
company could furnish. Each was reluctant at first to talk of their interests, Cgnita prompting her to say more by regaling her with the history of Kileen, and Eilen tripping through her notebook for what to say in reply. She talked of ancient Frewyn, of old clans and academic theories, missing clans and geological incongruities, and Cgnita listened, glad to be entertained by one who reveled in scholarly studies, and even more pleased that Aoidhe was being merciful and quiet. Eilen stumbled a few times as they ascended the slight incline, but it was the fault of her own excitement and inelegance that made her falter, not the work of a devious god. Cgnita did put out his hand to catch her once when she stumbled over a jutting stone, but when he caught her, there was no laughter, none of Aoidhe’s snide remarks of
                Aoidhe? the cleric conceived, but no answer was given him, nor when he searched about for all the usual signs of Aoidhe did he find any. The intimations of pipe smoke billowing against his neck, the sloom of mind sitting on his subconscious, the warmth of his sacred convenience, the thrum of feeling when he spoke were all absent, and Cgnita could be easy. I know he is here somewhere, watching me like a vulture from the shadows. Any moment now he is going to swoop down and pull my robes or take my feet from under me. He is only waiting until I’ve completely forgotten about him, and then he is going to humiliate me, or he is going to say something horridly rude in my ear to make me livid. He is probably waiting to see whether we hashiff, as he likes to say. He paused here, thinking Aoidhe would interpose with some roaring exclamation about his having used a vulgar word, but there was nothing. His subconscious hummed its usual frequency, no improprieties crossed his mind, and while he must believe that Aoidhe was mantling somewhere nearby, the sublimity of thinking he was alone was all his happiness. Aoidhe had told him what to say when they first started out from the infirmary, had told him how to ask leading questions, making interested remarks, and give him hints as to conduct, how close he was to walk beside her, how attentive he was to act, how eagerly he was to listen if he wished to attach Eilen’s heart, and Cgnita was grateful for all his advice, but now that he was grown more accustomed to Eilen’s company, realizing that she was as fond of pedantic pursuits as he could be himself, he found her more conversible and easy to talk to than he could have wished and desperately wished himself alone with her. Perhaps Aoidhe had heard him, perhaps the God had taken this unconscious entreaty as a prayer and fulfilled it by leaving him for a time whilst he went on to see how his son was getting on with her journey to Bramlae. He had boasted of his omniconsciousness being able to venture anywhere without his physical form following, but he could not be everywhere at once. Eilen tripped again as they mounted the bank leading up to the last slope of the hill, and Cgnita’s thoughts of Aoidhe soon vanished.
                “Are you well, Miss Eilen?” said he, holding out a hand to her, but she had already righted herself and began brushing her knees. “You do seem to enjoy being in the dirt, as it were.” He cringed at his own joke and turned away, stabbing his thigh with a tightened fist in an agony of mortification. Why must I make horrid puns? he wrenched, looking pained. Why must I ruin everything by talking? If I am not saying something clerical, I am making abominous jokes to delightful young ladies who might have an interest in me. This was why he needed Aoidhe’s guidance. This is why he was a wreck of misery and misconstruction. Nothing could be right unless Aoidhe told him what to do. He should keep him from making such ridiculous comments, but the sound of tinkling laughter filled is consciousness and kept him from begging Aoidhe to return. He turned and was met with a most delighted countenance.
                “Haha!” Eilen beamed, slapping her knee. “That was a very good one! Yes. Yes, I see, because I am an archaeologist and I like digging in the dirt. Yes, very good.”
                “Ha ha,” said Cgnita, his eyes darting anxiously about. Is she being perfectly serious? Is she laughing at my stupid joke? He half expected a Naw, lad, she’s laughin’ at you, but no comment descended from Aoidhe’s ethereal bough. She really was laughing, with all the ingenuous felicity that a glowing aspect and sparkling eyes could furnish, and proud of himself, and feeling as though he never needed Aoidhe at all. “Ha ha, yes,” said he, curling shyly into his shoulder. “Sometimes, when I try, I can be humorous. It is not every day that I say something worthy of a laugh. Clerics can only be amusing some of the time, you know.”
                Eilen laughed heartily at this, though Cgnita knew not why, but the laugh was good natured enough, and Cgnita supposed that either he was secretly hilarious and unaware of his own talents, or she had never been used to such agreeable company before. The latter was more likely, as Cgnita soon discovered, for when they came to the plateau which overlooked the whole of the Kileen lowlands, the view was enough to send Eilen into raptures over earthworks, banks and ditches, coring and digging, ancient structures, grand halls and limestone figures. He tried once, when she stopped for breath, to ask a question about her survey work, but she began again with, “And you can certainly see the causeway round the whole area to the north, where the old clan must have made their home. We have a detailed a report of the clan who lived there! We have evidence of their roundhouses, some of their pottery from their cooling pits, evidence of hearths and kilns in the burned soil, even of burials from the time before the Gods left us.”
                “You believe in the Gods?” said Cgnita quickly, before she could speak again. “I had thought many archaeologist didn’t believe—“
                “Oh, I meant from the time before the establishment of the church,” said Eilen, laughing affectedly. “Before 1 C.U., you know, there is very little evidence of religious sites anywhere in Frewyn—excepting the Wyn na Dail and the Carin in Karnwyl—but even that is ambiguous. We can make conjectures and form theories, but no one really knows what that site was originally for.”
I know someone who does, Cgnita thought to himself, though I know he will give me a rude answer if I should ask. And this is going well. I know know if I want him intruding just now. He waited, but there was nothing beyond the sounds of Eilen’s rambling dissertation.
“It is said that First King Allun’s father was elected leader there, and we know that First King Allun visited many times—the legends say that is where the Gods first spoke to him after he went there to bury his father-- there are accounts of other kings and queens making pilgrimages and writing down their journeys, though none of their accounts are as meticulous as Allun’s, with all the minutiae of dates and conversations-- but as for prehistory, well,” with a sigh, “I’m afraid we’ll never know fully what happened. It is just the same with the great hill forts around the kingdom. We can only guess that they were all from different clans, each of them belonging to a God they worshiped, but we only know that because of the figures they made in their territories. So few records survive from before King Allun, and what we have are mostly his accounts from the time of his rule. All the rest are his father’s writings about the segregation of the clans in ancient times, but there is nothing from the time of the great rift. If only we had some writing to prove that those stones once belonged to Reis’ lost clan,” gesturing to the stone circle in the distance. “There are coins with Reis’ image on them which were found at the site, and the same coins were found in Marridon, aol of which date back to around the time of the great rift, but—“ She glanced at the cleric, looked down, and paled. “I am sorry,” said she, in rather an embarrassed tone. “I do tend to go on when talking about my work. I do forget to ask if you are interested. I should not wish to give the gapes, as they say, if you would rather talk of something else.”
She hemmed and coiled her forelock behind her ear, and Cgnita, feeling his colour rising, feared he might betray his happiness in his shameful smiles.
“I cannot tell you how pleasant it is, Miss Eilen,” said the cleric, “to hear something other than ‘Are you sure I am not dying, can you examine me again?’”
Tinkling laughter ebbed out from pursed lips, and Cgnita was rather impressed with himself for having revived her spirits.
“Well! At least I am not boring you or offending you with my research.”
“Offending?” Cgnita exclaimed. “My dear madam, how could the study of history be offensive?”
“I’m sure, being a member of the church, that you are well aware of how disliked the Archaeological Society is.”
“In truth, I have never heard of a dislike until this moment, but that is probably due to my not living very much in the world. I am quite shut away in my infirmary, and am hardly let out during the day. There is always someone who needs something, and while I am very glad to offer my services to the community, I do not often get out. I quite enjoy reading all the reports that come from the society. I had always thought that they were well respected in the scientific community.”
“Scientific community, certainly, but,” and there was a blush as she said it, “we are rather maligned amongst the religious leaders in Karnwyl.”
“Oh—“ Cgnita scoffed. “Everything under the sun that is not marriage and having children is malgined by the church in Karnwyl. You need have little worry of them. They are far too serious. They believe the Gods visit them—“ He stopped, realizing he was repeating Aoidhe’s own protestations. “But that is all nonsense anyway. Everyone knows that the Gods are here in Kileen and have no time to visit Karnwyl besides.”
Eilen held her sides and laughed. Cgnita only simpered and wished he was being disingenuous.
                “I should not laugh too much,” said Eilen, twinkling away a tear, “even though you did make a joke. If you are religious, I should not wish to offend—“ She paused to consider and confer with herself. “…But you did make that joke just now, so laughing at it might be all right. But if you are religious—“ and then, turning back toward him, “You are not religious, are you?”
“Me?” said Cgnita, surprised. “I don’t think I could ever be called so. I am certainly not observant, if that is what you mean. I never attend services, I have no sewynpaudir or shrine of any sort, even though my infirmary is attached to a church. It is the oddest thing, I suppose. I had never thought myself to be religious in any respect. I am a scientist, but I find science and the study of the natural world to be a sort of belief in itself. It is not blasphemy to marvel in the wonders of the world. Rather the reverse, I should think. Indeed, there are many scientists who do believe in the Gods without being religious. Our religion does not hinder our scientific advancement, as it might do in Gallei, and though we will not go so far as Marridon to use contraptions that might assist—and mainly hurt—us and deny Gods altogether—“ He was rambling, he knew, and Eilen’s enthralled looks made him uneasy. “In short, I do believe in the Gods, but I do not believe in them to the capacity as someone in Karnwyl might do. I have prayed to them before--” here was a conscious glance wither Aoidhe had be used to preside, “—but I would not say I worship them to any great extent. I know they are there, but they do not seem to require my attention or my supplication.”
“I think it very interesting to hear you say so,” Eilen exclaimed. “I would have thought that as one of the Blessed, you would be more prone to worship.”
Cgnita canted his head and folded his arms across his chest. “Somehow, and I do not know how this is, I do not know any clerics who are religious. All my colleagues in Diras and at the Haven are marvelously secular and disinterested. In fact, I cannot recall anyone I studied with at the Haven as being a militant religionist, but Frewyn is not a nation in general to be mad on fideism, though when compared with Marridon we might be called so. But I suppose it is only natural that one would expect clerics to believe in the divine, since we do the Gods work. We do not live in a theonomy, however, and may govern ourselves how we like. We have no repercussion for want of observance, unlike Gallei, where anyone who determines not to believe in Gallia and Uscen are flogged by their institution. Indeed, I suppose I must believe to some extent because I have been given the ability to heal. How can it be explained? As some evolutionary trait? I grant you, there could be some biological reason for it, but where did it come from if not Ogham? Is not one of the archaeological theories that Ogham and all the Gods indeed were really just persons of high status within the original clans?”
“Yes!” Eilen cried, in an ecstasy, “Have you been reading Aston’s Theories on Early Frewyns, and his ideas on anthropotheism?”
Cgnita held his hands together behind his back and dug his foot in the ground. “I have taken it from the Kileen library a few times,” said he abashedly. There was a pause, and when Cgnita remembered that Aoidhe was not present  to encourage him to speak, he said, “Miss Eilen, you effect shyness, but I know you are very knowledgeable on the subject. Won’t you tell me about your reading of Aston’s work as we go?” motioning toward the stones. “I should very much like to hear your interpretation of his continental rift theory.”
He need not say anything more to garner a lecture from her; he need only look interested and expectant, and she would fill up the blanks in conversation with archaeological and historical information. They walked down the northern side of the hill and toward the stones, Cgnita trinkling all her tender musings, and Eilen talking of proto-Frewyns, of the supposed great fissure which split the continents from their original and singular formation, and the more she spoke of coin hoards, of rock formations in the south of Marridon, of alluvium and buried loam, the more in danger the cleric was of being dreadfully attached to her. Her natural propensity to lecture, her enthusiasm over the mundane, her interpretations of stone and peat made their way to a most avid heart; her doctiloquence was delightful, and therefore irresistible, and as they came to the causeway around the stone circle, Cgnita believed he was half in love with her already.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Story for the Day: A Divine Promise Kept

The Gods do enjoy plaguing their subjects, but sometimes, even after all the japes, they do really come through:



Brudha encouraged the cleric to sit and then went to the range, to boil the water and sachet the
tea leaves, whilst Cgnita sat at his desk and slumped in his chair, staring blearily at the page before him, where he had feverishly written down every word of the dialogue that he and Aoidhe had engaged in not an hour before. It all seemed nonsensical now, to think that such a God had imparted his humble blessing and magnanimous wisdom, and he wondered at his own writing, wondered how fearful he was and how bewitching Aoidhe seemed only an hour ago. The difference that time could make in his perception was astonishing, and his mind, under the governance of realization, was all benumbed. Brudha came to the desk, placed the cup of tea into Cgnita’s hand and looked out the window, to admire the first intimations of lilacs in bloom, whilst the cleric stared at his teacup, expecting it to move, hearing the sounds of familiar and insinuating risibility in his inner ear, his trembling hand as he took up his cup all Aoidhe’s private regale. Brudha was talking to him, was saying something about Matias Dreen’s being released and allowed home until he was to be officially tried, of the boy’s being perfectly safe with a guard to watch over him, and so he continued, whilst Cgnita lifted his cup to his lips with quiet agitation. Aoidhe had said that he should not plague him while someone else was present, and he tranquilized a little, listened to Brudha’s prognostications about the boy’s going on well in Bramlae while tilting his cup. A moment’s trepidation came and passed: he sipped his tea, the delecable mire of stewed leaves and warmed milk that he had so long cherished furnishing with all its familiar comforts, and he could sense Aoidhe as being abscent. The impression of the presence had lifted, a small smile of triumph was indulged in, for Cgnita had escaped the God’s cruel invigilation, but the sensation of true achievement was not lasting.
For a moment,  it really did seem as though Aoidhe would keep his promise: a second sip of tea came and went, and all was well, but then, when Brudha exclaimed, “I think I shall join you in a cup, as there is no one else here who needs your attention,” and turned his back, Cgnita felt a familiar presence hoveing over his shoulder. Brudha returned to range, Cgnita’s gaze followed as he lifted the kettle, and when he turned back and looked into his cup, and an invisible force swiped his hand. The cup was jiffled, it fumbled and sloshed as he recovered it, but it was already too late. He was now wearing what had been in his cup only a moment before, his robes were ruined, tea trickled down his hand, he froze in smouldering detestation, and Brudha’s kind solicitations as he turned around of, “Oh, you’ve spilled it. You hand must have slipped, Cgnita. There is certainly proof that you are overworking. You really must take a few days to yourself. I will make you another cup,“ made him simmer in added disdain. He did not need to take in the early western spring to quell his qualms; he needed a someone to liberate him from a conniving and self-indulgent God, but a quiet, “Yes. I believe I do need a rest,” was all that his civilities and sanity could offer. How could he tell Brudha of the strange malaise which had overcome him as of late? How could he describe it other than in an invective against such a scheming spirit?
“Friend, indeed,” was the cleric’s murmuration, whispered under the heedless ambient titillation of Aoidhe, who said in a voice only the cleric could hear, Well, he wasn’t lookin’. Didn’t say I wouldn’t codd ya when no one was lookin’.
“I understand you,” said Brudha, with a look of commiseration. “After listening to that horrid man for an hour, I am very ready to live in a hermitage. Some nice cell facing the the cliffs to the northeast  would do very well for me.” He gave Cgnita his cup of tea and poured another for himself. “We never want to believe that such evil exists in this world,” Brudha went on, whilst the cleric’s hand raised and then descended again once Brudha turned back toward the range. “That a father could so maltreat a dutiful and innocent child—it is unconscionable that anyone should dare malign one of the Gods’ creatures that way.”
Had Brudha asserted the same an hour ago, Cgnita should have made no objection, but while the invisible force was pushing against his hand, and he pushing back with equal intensity, he could imagine a place in which torment reigned and cruelty never slept. A thousand agonies crept over the cleric as he tried with feverish desperation not to succumb to Aoidhe’s pressure. Another cup of tea was poured, but when Brudha turned back toward the cleric from the range, the force pushing against Cgnita’s hand suddenly ceased. His hand jerked forward, and his tea sloshed and spilled onto his knees. He stared at his robes, made a curt huff, and placed his cup onto his desk with a look of raging tranquility.
“I think I shall join you in your hermitage,” said the cleric, folding his hands in his lap, trying for warmth of manner. “I think I have quite done with tea and society. I shall join you on your cliff, to heal sluggish turtles and mend owls’ wings,” and then, in a derisive accent, “It isn’t as though the Gods care about us or what we do here, so might as well go off and live in a mews.”
“Now, Cgnita,” said the Brother plaintively, “we have both had an unpleasant morning. I don’t know how yours could have gone any worse than mine, I’m sure, but it has, and whatever is bothering you, I would have you tell me.” He gave the cleric his full teacup again, and took the empty one from the desk and sat down beside him. “I’m listening, if you want to tell me all about it, especially if it is something that will make me feel better about my morning by comparison.”
Brother Brudha smiled, and Cgnita glanced over the page on his desk, marking out his hasty scrawl.
“I doubt you would believe me,” the cleric muttered, in a dispondant hue.
“I am in a humour to believe anything, Cgnita. This morning, I did not believe that a man who had cared for a boy for fifteen years could suddenly assault him for discovering that he is not his son. One would think that a paternal bond should have guarded him against any folly of his wife’s. I was not pleased to be wrong in this instance.”
A meaningful look was exchanged here, and Cgnita, feeling Aoidhe mantling over him, probably contriving to somehow spill something else onto his lap, took up the page in front of him and said, “Oh, to Borras with it.” Nothing more could be lost by telling Brother Brudha of the visitat, and as nearly all the rest of the village should soon think him mad, he would show due cause for this madness. “Here,” said he, thrusting the page at Brudha. “Read that, and tell me what you think.”
“Certainly,” said the Brother cheerfully, taking the page and beginning to apply himself to it. “I’m always happy to see your work. Did you write this? It does look to be your hand writing, only somewhat more slanted. You must have written this in a hurry. Is it a new medical treatise? Will you be sending it to the Haven? The last one you sent went over well, if I remember. I will be happy to read it over, but I confess, Cgnita, that my knowledge of medicine hasn’t improved since the last time—“
 “It has nothing to do with healing,” the cleric hastily interposed. “In fact, it is rather the opposite. I’m not even sure you will understand—“
An ethereal grin looming beside his ear interrupted him, and the voice said, with smiling sagacity, Sure you wanna go tellin’ now,lad?
“You never told me I couldn’t,” said Cgnita indignantly. “You only said no one said no one would believe me if I did.”
It was you what said that. Already know no one’ll believe you.
Stifled mirth rung in his ears, and Cgnita buried his forehead into his hands and sighed out his sorrows.
Having heard nothing in the room beyond the cleric’s voice, Brudha was beginning to wonder at whether Cgnita had endured a more trying morning than himself. He was speaking to no body, it seemed, looking at ceilings and grumbling into open palms, and fearing that something was dreadfully amiss, Brudha sat back in his seat and said, “I hesitate to ask, but I never told you that you couldn’t do what exactly?”
Cgnita gavae a start. “What? Oh.” He exhaled, his shoulders withering. “Nothing. Nothing at all. You will understand everything presently, I hope.”
Here was a cautious look, and Brudha began reading the record while keeping his face toward the cleric, watching for any further effusions or odd behaviors. His eyes scanned the first few lines, his brow bent in consentration, the wrines in his forehead deepened, and when he had reached the bottom of the page, a look of astonishment broke upon him. “Cgnita,” he exclaimed, “what is this exactly?”
“I hardly know…” was all the cleric’s reply, said with a dismal aspect, his back bent, his fram slouching.
“Is all this—is this a dialogue that actually happened? Is this a fiction? Is this some philosophy of yours you discovered in a dream?”
 “A dream,” the cleric huffed. “I wish it were a dream, believe me when I tell you, Brudha. If it had been a dream—if the whole morning had—my spilling hot tea onto myself should have roused me from whatever torment this now is.”
Brudha glanced at the page and then back at the cleric. “And someone has said this all to you, about what the Gods have providence over, their views on the Good Book, and so forth?”
“Yes, someone did.”
“But who could know all this? Someone of it, I admit, I had suspected and wondered about myself, but what authority gave this to you?”
Cgnita stared at the window and said, “A divine one.”
The Brother’s hand slowly descended, the page rested on his lap, and he gaped at the cleric, his eyes unblinking, his lips slightly parted. “Are you certain?”
“Oh, yes, Brudha. I am very sure.” A flurn at the ceiling, where he felt Aoidhe’s presence had sorn itself, raining down smiles of hilarity, and Cgnita festered in silence.
“But how did this happen?” Brudha demanded, glancing over thepage again. “How is that you had a visitation? I don’t mean to say that you do not deserve it—of course, as a cleric, you should merit a visit more than most—but how did a God come to visit you?”
“When I examined the boy, I felt a presence hiding within his consciousness. I foolishly began prying, thinking  that something was certainly not right, but I never expected to find another consciousness there.”
“Another consciousness? Within the boy’s mind? But who else could have been there?”
Gotta wait a mite, lad, said the voice, with smiling interest. There was a wink somewhere. Can’t tell him all at once. Take all the craic outta it.
“Aoidhe was hiding there,” said Cgnita, after a moment’s pause. “I found him lurking about. Part of his omniconsciousness, or whatever it should be called, was looking after his son.”
“His son? And this page you’ve written—this was a conversation you had with the Great God? Is this what he said to you when you met him? But then-- do you mean to tell me that the boy is—“ He stopped, touched his hand to his chin and deliberated, recalling the recent events in the church, and when his mind had made its revolution, he said, “Well, that would explain what I saw earlier.”
Cgnita nearly leapt from his seat. “You saw Aoidhe as well?”
“As well?” Brudha exclaimed. “Did the Great God Aoidhe appear to you? I thought he only spoke to you.”
Cgnita gave the Brother a flat look. “He was here, and he has never left me since. He is talking to me as we speak, in fact, and I am desperately trying to ignore him.”
Brudha was all tremulous agitation. “He is speaking to you? At this moment? Are you sure? Are you sure it isn’t merely a trick of overfatigue or something like that.”
“Would that it were. Come to think of it, it might very well be the sad want of tea I had this morning which is adding to my irritability, but we know whose fault that is, Aoidhe.”
“You speak to the Great God by name?”
“By his desire. And if you knew him, Brudha, as your priesthood says you should, you would not be trembling in awe as you are, I assure you. He has been plaguing me ever since I examined the boy. He has done everything from call me the son of Ogham, which sent me into a panic until I realized he was playing me a pretty trick, to spilling my tea on me repeatedly.”
Cgnita shook out his robes, and Brudha effected not to smile.
“Well,” said the Brother, “He is a trickster God, Cgnita. The Lord of all Jesters, in fact. Reis and Fuinnog have a reputation for larks, ” and there was a smile as he said it, “but Aoidhe is well known for his japes toward the Gods’ Children.”
“But why must he hound me? I am certain he has better things to do, like fulfill prayers and look after his copious children. He came to me, told me all manner of things—I thought he was a benevolent god. He told me the very secrets of the Heavens,-- which is nothing much at all, as you can see on the page there-- called himself my friend, gave me his blessing only for me to discover that his greatest enjoyment in life is making me miserable.”
Aye, yer right good to codd, lad, but I don’t like to see you sufferin’.
“Yes, you do!”
 Don’t forget the bheann I promised ya.
“Oh, there is no bheann!” Cgnita sibilated, standing and raising a fist to the ceiling. “Do you really expect me to believe you have found a woman for me when you continue to harass me even though you broke your promise of hounding me when company is present?”
Brudha could not but smile. “You prayed for a companion?” said he, the glint in his eye dancing about. “Cgnita, you never told me that you were interested in finding someone, or that you ever participated in prayer. I always rather thought you a great denier of the Gods.”
“I should be after today. Oh, don’t pretend to be surprised at my praying for anything. That fatuous scoundrel of a God told me that he listens to prayers, especially those given by barren women, which is how the boy and probably many other boys got here. Everyone reveres him as though he is a great god—and so did I until I began to really know him. He is not a great god. He is a wretched, scheming, conniving, salacious—“
A knock on the infirmary door silenced him directly. The cleric turned to the door, composing himself in an instant, returning to all his usual professional hems, expecting to be welcoming a patient into his office, but before he could say his usual,”Yes? How may I assist you?” terror checked him, violent affliction rendered him silent, and his sudden revirescence vanished under the new idea his sight was receiving but his heart was too besieged to investigate: a young woman was standing at the door, a well-looking lady of about twenty-five, with sanguine spirits and pleasing aspect, tall and slender, dark hair and light eyes, with lithe limbs, bouncing step, and a book in her left hand.