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:
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.