Story for the Day: Aoidhe -- Part 3

Let it never be said that the Gods do not have a sense of humour. They simply have a sense of humour that doesn't agree with everyone:

A sewynpaudir of Libhan.

The cleric now wished he had not been half so grateful for Aoidhe’s blessing; a covey of old
crones coming to his infirmary to bemoan their daily terrors would be felicity to being invigilated by a diety whose only joy was a lark. Someone else would have helped the boy if he had not intruded upon Aoidhe’s plan, and now that he had made the boy’s wellbeing his concern, he must have Aoidhe looming over his shoulder, spying his every step, hearing his every breath.
You got Ogham’s blessin’ there, the voice reminded him, and that don’t bother you. So this here’s my blessin’.
There was a tinge of archness in the voice, and the cleric dreaded saying he was grateful for such attention; he feared that all the derision he had been industriously restraining might come out.
Bah, don’t worry yerself, lad. There was a curt chuff. Won’t be around you long. Other things need doin’, like lookin’ after my boy. I’m only here so’s I can codd you a bit more. If yer after bein’ a dry ol’ stick now, I might go away.
“Well, I like tea and old medical texts, and little else,” the cleric murmured to himself. “I daresay that should be tedious enough for you,” and then remembering, he added a pointed, “—My Lord.”
Nah, that’s not too terrible. Some o’ my brothers are as dry as the hills in a drought. Just listenin’ to Menor makes me yawn.
Would that he were here now, the cleric thought to himself, in a furtive way.
 Yer blessin’sake Ogham is like that too. We used to codd him a bit about his tacklin’  and about the lake and all. Sure was a right gala bein’ after him, but when he didn’t say nothin’ about it, we went aff it. Could curl the paint on a latrine faster than than the smell, I’ll tell ya that.
 The cleric tried not to laugh, hoping that by merely disregarding Aoidhe, the God would feel himself ignored and go away, and he said nothing, therefore, as he stepped over the threshold of the infirmary.
An implied grin was forced on him. Aye, yer laughin’. Think I can’t hear you, but I know her laughin’.
The cleric stopped and bowed his head. “It is not that I didn’t think your comment amusing, My Lord,” said he, endeavour to suppress a smile, “but I do not think it right to laugh at a God.”
Why not? Sure I do it all the time, ‘specially if they’re worth laughin’ at.
“If I may say, My Lord, it might be perfectly acceptable for you to mock a sibling, but it is considered blasphemy if I should concede to mock a God.”
Why? Who said that? I sure never did. Ogham and Menor are ripe for a coddin’. You got my permission for a good ol’ mockin’.
“As you say, My Lord.”
The cleric would not disparage anyone, be they friend or God, and seeing that trying to ignore Aoidhe was not an effective manner in which to rid of him, he tried to distract himself with a few busy nothings: he fussed about the frontispiece, pulled up a few lambsquarters from the flower beds, and rearranged the flagstones around the front door, glad there there was no one about to watch him doing things that did not need doing or to hear him speaking to persons who were not there. He peered into the infirmary window, half terror and half hope of finding a patient awaiting his services. Aoidhe, the cleric was sure, would not plague him whilst he was caring for someone—he hoped he would have the descency to allow him to do his work—but when he saw no one in the patient’s seat, he had a moment’s fear of being beleaguered all afternoon. A pause here, the cleric placed his ear to the infirmary wall, trinkling through the thin stone, wondering whether Aoidhe himself were not awaiting him. He hesitated, grubbling his pockets in agitation, and once he floundered a bit, intending that Aoidhe should be thoroughly dispassionate by now, he opened the door to his office, trundled over to his desk, and sat down, his eye instinctively falling on the papers before him. His hand moved mechanically toward the teapot, and his attention drawn to his usual daily activities, he had almost forgot Aoidhe’s interference. He pulled his hand away from the teapot and glanced at the ceiling, wondering whether Aoidhe were still mantling over him from his imperceptible bough when a sudden notion struck him: if I have Aoidhe’s attention, perhaps I should take this time to ask some long-debated questions. If he’s going to hover around me, I might as well make use of it. The general ‘why are were heres’ and ‘what are we supposed to dos’ were the first inquiries to emerge from the recesses of so well-furnished a mind. He knew his purpose, as he had always been desirious of healing and learning the miracles of the body, but the questions of why must there be illness and pain and devastation bore no common weight on a conscience that would ask now that the chance was given him. All the minutiae of birth and subsistence, of suffereance and extinction, the many wonderings that perambulated ideas of existence, the opalescent reverie of fleeting pernoctations which revive with the gloaming and vanish in the aubade of first light, the whys and hows of a life tolerably lived directed themselves to the ether, but no answer was given him, nor when he said, “Are you there, My Lord?” was there the wry intimation of Aoidhe’s spirit. He waited and glaced round the infirmary, believing at least for the present that he was alone.     
‘Member what I said about you thinkin’ we’re not listenin’?
The cleric, though somewhat pleased, tried not to seem pained. “That is just when you are listening most, My Lord,” he grumbled.
A fleer beamed somewhere. Usin’ that head o’ yers for somethin’ other than healin’.
“Thank you, My Lord. I’m glad you’ve noticed.”
Aye, yer learnin’ the ol’ coddin’. Not leavin’ you just yet, lad. Brother Brudha’s still with my boy, tellin’ him what’s what.
“Well if you will stay, My Lord,” said the cleric, turning to his examining table and addressing no one, “may I ask you something?”
Just did, lad. You been askin’ me questions this whole time.
“Well, yes,” said the cleric, trying for greater warmth than his exhausted spirits might otherwise allow. “Not that I mean to question your authority, My Lord—“
But you do, ‘cause yer doin’ it.
“Yes, in so many words, I suppose—but if you are all-seeing and all-hearing, why do you allow parents to harm their children, as Matias Dreen has done with your son? Why not punish them directly for their transgressions?”
By sendin’ lightenin’ down and that?
The cleric shrugged. “I suppose. If that how the thing is usually done.”
There was an ethereal shake of the head. Can’t do the lightenin’. Well, I could if I asked Frannach to borrow some since he’s got dominion over that, but I’m not askin’ him anythin’.  Sure, he’s my brother, but that don’t mean he’s kind and all. Always got a sour look on him. Can’t never enjoy himself. Always gotta be doin’ his Goddin’ and that, ridin’ his chariot and drivin’ the horses and all. The voice paused, and the cleric imagined Aoidhe stroking his chin. Suppose I could ask Fuinnoeg, bein’ruler o’ the sky and all, but lightenein’ and smitin’ don’t mean much. We don’t harm our children, just as we wouldn’t want ‘em to harm others, and smitin’ ‘em down don’t change who they are.
“But why don’t you stop people from hurting one another?”
It’d put you out of a job.
The cleric’s lips pursed. “All larks aside, My Lord.”
Aye, I get what’s botherin’ you. When we created you, we wanted to give you free reign o’ yerselves, that means all the good and all the bad. What good you do is your doin’, and what bad you do ain’t our fault. Sure don’t want the blame for things like murderin’ and thievery and cabbages.  
“But many blame the Gods anyway, My Lord.”
Aye, well, they can blame Chune for the cabbages. She likes coddin’ yous all more’an I do. I just get all the blame in it ‘cause everyone thinks I seed the ground. I don’t do that. Farmers do. Chune made cabbages to fool the farmers into cookin’ ‘em. Sometimes, you take things a mite too serious.
The cleric hardly knew what to make of this, and his eyes flickered back forth. “Are you being serious, My Lord?”
Aye. Ol’ Ale Jugs has a right laugh everytime one o’ yous starts boilin’ a cabbage. Can smell  that all the way up here.
“Not about the cabbages,” the cleric hissed, trying not to shout. “I meant do you have no control over what your children do, My Lord? Shouldn’t you, if you created us?”
None o’ you’d like it if we were just tellin’ you what to do all the time. Sure, it’d be more peaceful and all, but you’d just be doin’ what we say. Ain’t no fulfillin’ life that way. We got together to create children, not slaves. Ain’t no point in havin’ children what don’t live for ‘emselves. We get joy outta watchin’ you thrive and lovin’ each other.
“But your children suffer, My Lord. Does this not matter to you?”
‘Course it matters to me, said the voice, in an artless and serious tenor. Matters to all o’ us. Sure, you can ask us for help if you need it. Don’t mean we’re always in a way to give it to you right when you ask, though. You can help yerselves, and if you can’t, you can help each other. You help those who need you, don’t ya, and you feel fulfilled doin’ it.
“Well…” the cleric hesitated, “I do—surely, I do, but…” His brow furrowed. “But there are so many who need help—and the type of help I cannot give. I can only heal surface wounds and diseases. I cannot adopt every orphaned child. I cannot feed all the needy or house the homeless--”
Why not?
The cleric was silenced here, and though he would have amended with justifications of his having no spare rooms or desire to be a parent, he felt it advisable not to defy Aoidhe.
The Brothers and Sisters at the church do it. They raise and feed orphans, they clothe and teach the poor. ‘Member we didn’t create poverty, didn’t create money or rent or anythin’ else that would drive folk outta their homes. We gave you a land, we gave you seeds and the knowhow to plant ‘em, but farmers gotta put prices on their goods so’s they can pay a landlord, landlord’s gotta charge his tenants so he can pay the tax. We didn’t make none ‘o these things. I ain’t sayin’ they’re good or bad things, just sayin’ what is. The kingdom pays you for healin’. Would you do it if you didn’t get pay?
“I would, My Lord,” the cleric declared, but then, with a softened air, “only I would not be able to pay for food, and I would have to sleep in the infirmary. If I was given food in return for services, perhaps that would do very well, but as it is, I could not survive--” He stopped here. A knowing smile bore down his conscience, and he stared at the ground and sighed. “Yes, My Lord. I see what you mean. I agree that we can help one another to an extent, but what of things we have no control over, like weather changes and crop failures? Aren’t you and Chune responsible for the crop yield?”
Only ‘cause folk think we are. Not in charge o’ the weather or the plantin’. We can help with a bad yield, but the plants and weather got just as much free will as you do. When we made you, there were agreements we had to folla: yer souls’d folla a natural progression, no makin’ you fly or bendin’ nature and all, but we were allowed to give you blessin’s.
“So you cheated the laws of nature by giving us abilities that no other nation has?”
Exalted and invisible brows knit together. Weren’t no cheatin’ in it. Gave you things to help yerselves, like healin’ and creativity and that.
“And yet you still allow calamity in the world, My Lord? Floods and fires, illness in children—“
Now, now, the voice sang, ‘member what I said. Yous’re supposed to be helpin’ each other. Wouldn’t be no poverty if you helped each other a bit more, wouldn’t be no hunger if you fed everyone. More than enough land and food for everybody, and yet some o’ yous’re still fightin’ over fields and not feedin’ those asking for bread. Our children pray to us for help, and we give it best we can, but if you ignore the sufferin’, that’s yer doin’. ‘Member, that’s why we left, ‘cause none o’ yous’ere bein’ nice to each other. Some things happened after we left that we couldn’t do nothin’ about, like disease. Bacteria got a right to live as you do. We can’t just go killin’ ‘em ‘cause what harms one might be beneficial to another. As a cleric, you oughta know that.
“That is certainly true,” the cleric submitted, “although I admit, My Lord, I do not see how some bacteria can be a help to anybody. What about other diseases brought on by insects? Those diseases only harm. They can debilitate and even kill.”
A shake of the head reigned here. Didn’t create ‘em. Don’t like some of ‘em anymore than you do, but can’t destroy what has a purpose. Carrot fly’s gotta eat carrots, potato beetle’s gotta eat potatoes, fruit flies gotta fornicate. There was a pause. Don’t know what mosquitos are for, but I’d sure kill ‘em if I could.
“But you give life, My Lord—“
Aul’ Man Diras does that. You’ll have to ask him the purpose o’ mosquitoes. Probably just coddin’ us on those. Even Reis asked him what they were for ‘cause they were botherin’ her while she was lookin’ in on a few o’ yous. Aul’ Man said their larvae feed the fish. Aul’ Man Diras is a bigger codder than me. Don’t believe him for a second. Fish got plenty to eat without mosquitos.

Aoidhe went on, tootling to himself over the injustices of a mosquito’s existence, postulating that they probably came from the north somewhere, made by the Gods of some other people which migrated as the many nations of the continents began to meet and converge—probably a Lucentian nusance, their winters being warm and damp, giving the barbarous parasites a place to thrive—probably come down on fleet ship or a trading barge, lurking in fetid pools of stangnant water in unclean holds—had they come down in winter, they should have all died out—and the cleric listened to Aoidhe’s ramblings, and stared at his desk and sulked. There was no order to the world: it was everyone for themselves, everything was left entirely up to chance, the Gods had no say in the matter, they played no part in salvation, and if Aoidhe’s character was to be any judge, they had little inclination to hinder many of the evils that were injuring their children. Blessings like Ogham’s Gift and Paudir’s Wisdom were all very well, and they had their uses, but healing wounds could not feed hungry mouths, and knowledge, though indispensable, could not keep those like Matias Dreen from attacking his child and being heartless toward his wife. The Children of Gods must be left to shift for themselves and make their way as they could: they had sinned against one another, this everyone learned as children, forcing the Gods to leave them, to fend for themselves and learn how to be a compassionate and dutiful race once more, but that children should be allowed to be hurt—that the dispossessed should continue in destitution-- It was a terrible notion, as disagreeable to recognize as it was to accept, and the cleric leaned over his desk, his hand at his brow, and agonized over the orchestration of the world. 

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