pretentious cosmic picture


   There is a small peninsula outjetting from the Southern coast of Honrar. Well travelled by pilgrims, the main road leads to villages built up of beggars, of the blind and the crippled, who rely on the charity of those who walk this road. Next you come to a river, which has a single bridge, easily destroyed; it leads to a priestly college, called Embers, an immense complex of buildings. The road leads through it and past it, and travellers are quizzed as they travel on their way. The road leads up, and there is only room for one to walk at a time on the clear path. At the end of the road is a small, unpretentious shelter , almost a gazebo, next to a humble house, overlooking the sea. In the shelter is housed the Flame of C'Don, a flame from which the creator of Tu, the World Waterrimmed, can be quizzed. In the house lived the Voice of C'Don, the head of the C'donite religion. The Flame would only answer when the Voice initiated it. This was on a cliff overlooking the sea, and the salt air mixed with the Flame's smoke, and the crackle of the fire mixed with the sound of the surf.

  The Voice of C'Don is only attended by one servant who lives with him or her, since the Voice is usually an older person and needs help with some tasks. Wood is constantly brought to feed the fire. Pilgrims, more often than not, bring food regularly. The Voice has a humble sleeping cot, and a reasonably large private library. Not only is the Book of the Flame, the C'Donite holy book there, but many rare items from centuries back, reaching back to the Cathurian Empire. There are three bedrooms, one for the Voice, one for his servant, and one for a guest. The Voice is rarely lonely. Usually there is a pilgrim who wants to ask C'Don a question, and who cannot find an answer in the clerical college, Embers, that satisfies them. Even so, the Voice will try to find the answer in the Book of the Flame before he quizzes C'Don, whom he is loath to bother for any minor cause. Or it might be a book expert, wanting to look at the cottage's library. Or it might be a ruler, to ask the religious leader his opinion on a weighty question. Or it might be one of the Words, the under-Voices who lead the C'Donite religion in a certain district and whom the priests work under. Sometimes they come to ask the Voice's advice and direction.

  Sometimes the Voice will walk out during a particular magnificent sunset. He will step in the gazebo, and look at the beauty cascading across the sky. "How beautiful," he might say.

  "Thank you," would come the voice of C'Don, he who made things as they are, from the heart of the Flame.

The cottage and gazebo were known simply as Flamehaven.

   For at least an hour each night, even if no other duties called for it, the current Voice would go out and talk with the Flame. It was not easy, but dauntingly difficult. Every petty thing the Voice had ever done, every bowel movement and masturbation, every thought...was already known to C'don. Yet the Flame was fun to talk to, a friendly, engaging voice, tinged with hidden sadness. The Voice had grown to think of him as a friend, not a Master, not a Creator...but a friend.

  Sometimes C'Don would speak of past times, of what Dahnmaya was like when he was young, or he would get more personal, and speak of the Voice's mother, and what she was like as a child. Sometimes, though the Voice would ask a question about a person, and the Flame would answer back,"No. Some things I cannot tell you, just as there are some questions about you it would not be fair for me to tell someone else."

  Sometimes the Voice would sing to the Flame. He was not sure why it soothed C'Don, cerrtainly there were many greater singers. He once asked the Flame this. "Yes, I could and do listen to everyone throughout the world. But you sing to a friend, not a Master. It makes it much sweeter than you know."

  The seabreeze would come in and chill the Voice, and he would huddle near the Flame. From far off he would see the reflection of the Flame against the water. Then he would see an especial glory. For the reflected light of the Flame would change, and he would see scenes of wondrous beauty, from the Undying Lands, where C'Don rules in full force. Beauty so great that he could not look for long, anymore than he could stare at the sun...but not for the brightness, but for the beauty of it.

  Sometimes instead, he would see other parts of the world...high Chialta, where the Kaanho live, that no mortal man sees. Scenes from the past, like the dragon-army of Lilung rising from the sea and ending the Cathurian Empire.

The one selected to be the Voice of C'Don can learn much...with such a friend.

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Copyright © 1997 Al Schroeder