This is written as part of my NanoWrimo 2020 Compendium of Completion.
After the – he’d been counting – seventh she, Sparrow decided that he needed to be brave before one of the more junior members of the temple got themselves in trouble. “And then – pardon, your brilliance. Many of the books of the temple list, for instance, Jonnarrin the Night as he. And yet you have referred to the Night One as she on all but one occasion – when you referred to Holy Dark Jonnarrin as they. Could you please explain?”
“The books are wrong.” The smile on this particular oracle’s face was amazingly smug. Sparrow had to wonder if that was the oracle or the god inside. “That is – ah, your language is a little bit limited in this case. He, she, they – these refer to positions of your bodies, yes? That is, you are a he, the body this one is is a she. These two and those who choose to eschew those two make up both your genders and your biological sexes, correct? Baby-seeder and Baby-carrier, and those who do neither.”
Sparrow blinked. That was – “That is. Ah, your most illuminating one-”
“I can tell when you’re worried, Friend Sparrow. You might call me Friend Eralon, if you wish.”
“Friend Eralon-” he was going to be struck down where he stood. “Yes. That is what he and she mean in the language we are speaking, the primary tongue of Foros, usually referred to Farou, although some of the oldest literature calls it Afararan. And that is how, ah, how we as beings work.”
“Yes.” This smile was a little bit condescending. Sparrow could accept that from a god. “We are using the same terms, that is good, and understanding them the same. So. In the places where the Gods of Foros live, there are several more genders, and there are no words for those in the minds of these vessels, which is how We tend to use language when We are speaking to you. Thus: the closest approximation in Farou for the gender of Jonnarrin the Night is She. Many of the Gods of Foros are also most closely referred to as She, and I myself – well. The gender I am is not particularly associated with any of the human genders, but I would suggest they as being the closest. Does that answer you question, Friend Sparrow?”
“Your Most Brilliant Light, it does indeed, although I will note it opens up nearly as many more questions as it answers.” He was already writing them all down. “Perhaps – perhaps when we have completed the task of the Books of Callorme, I may ask a couple more?”
“Friend Sparrow, the better you and the others of this temple understand the word of the gods of Foros, the better. And thus yes. I will answer your questions. . All of your questions. However, from the looks of this, this project is going to take us a great deal of time. Are their things to which the personnel of this temple need to attend in the meantime?”
Sparrow looked back at the Higher High Priest of Evening; Eostrix, in turn, frowned thoughtfully and stepped forward with a very cautious and polite bow.
“Your most brilliant light, I believe that if we continue as we were here, with two to three priests, two to three duty scribes, and a rotation of the oracles, we can with with the Lesser High Priest of Morning and Noon to arrange for all other duties of the temple to be handled. There is time that many of us spend in learning or contemplation; this will fill that time. However.” He looked thoughtfully at the duty scribes. “I believe the scribes will be the most taxed by this. And I believe it would be better if we had more scribes on for shorter periods at a time. When I was young, I worked as a scribe, you see-” He seemed to remember his audience and bowed again to the god-in-the-oracle. “-that is, your most brilliant light. I know that after a couple hours, one’s attention wanders.”
“There are always youth who wish to be scribes,” Sparrow put in. “The towns around the temples – ours as well as the smaller temples – are the most literate in Foros, and, from our small knowledge, in the known world. We could simply send out runners – and I know, as well, that the temple in Antorre and the temple at Joecled have more staff than they, ah, need, despite their elder priest’s protestations.”
“I will send word to those temples.” The god-in-the-oracle nodded. For a moment, the girl slumped, regained control, and looked around, shaking her head, getting her bearings. Then she chuckled ruefully and her posture once again changed. “There. Although one elder priest is not very happy with me. Yes, hire more scribes. They are the most important backbone of this temple – well, no, they are one of the very important backbones. It is important that the word is known and is relayed. It is important that it is understood. And it is important that the Deeds are done and the Restrictions heeded. All these things together make your world stronger, better, healthier, and brighter.”
Sparrow bowed; Eostrix bowed. They shared a look, then the Higher High Priest of Evening stepped out of the room to hire more scribes.
The entire temple had been turned upside down. And yet Sparrow had yet another question. “Please forgive me, most brilliant light, friend Eralon, but ‘Deeds’? The Restrictions?”
“The restrictions, yes, but also those Deeds which will make your community turn in the proper manner, much like turning over your garden with the waste from the previous year makes it grow properly. Goodness, what did Callorme relay to you? You.” He pointed a finger at a lower priest. “You write down and remember that when we are done with the books of Callorme and Friend Sparrow’s questions, we are going to discuss the Deeds. And you,” the finger was delicate, tiny, the nails painted with little cherry blossoms. The gesture was imperious. The second lesser priest took a step backwards. “Go consult with any available priest or scholar who is not in this room, or who is here but has no job at the moment, and bring me – oh, say, in a week – every available references to the Deeds, the Restrictions, and the Requirements you can find in that time. Do remember to sleep, eat, bathe and such,” the god-in-the-oracle added kindly. “If you need more time in a week, that can be arranged.”
The second lesser priest bowed and darted out of the room. Eralon watched the priest go before turning the full force of their gaze back onto Sparrow.
“There is much we have to do, friend Sparrow. And there is much We have to learn.” The second we involved the god-in-the-oracle gesturing at their own body and sort of upwards, as it to take in all of the gods. “I believe that you and I are going to write two Books of Evening… one for your priesthoods here and one for the Gods themselves. But in order for that to happen – in order for that to happen, we have much work to do indeed. I do hope you intended to spend a lifetime in the Priesthood.”
Sparrow cleared his throat. “It is generally a lifetime commitment, yes. But I am not young, Friend Eralon. I have had much time already in the priesthood. Perhaps Dawon; he is a young scribe and has much life in front of him.
The oracle jumped down from her dais and thumped Sparrow on the shoulder. “Ah, friend Sparrow. I am a god. You will have the life you need for yourself, and the life you need for me. And so will Dawon, and so will the oracles I have Called here. We will do this, Friend Sparrow.”
The god in the oracle smiled so broadly that it lit up the room.
“I have not been this excited since the world was first formed, Friend Sparrow. This will be amazing, just you see! This will be amazing!”
In a way that he had not truly Believed in decades, Sparrow Teleme Believed.