The next morning we left Valdis in a generic south-easterly direction, first passing a small market-garden village close to the Order Keep, then onwards. Around noon, we sat down to have cheese and bread and kisses. Arni was silent, though, and very thoughtful. Suddenly, she turned towards me and asked me, “Are you sure about all those things of my Guild that you have told me? Could they be lies that your teachers have told you?”
I was a bit huffy, and answered, “Of course not! We don’t lie, there is a reason the Nameless is called the Deceiver in Iss-Peran!”
“Well, he’s called the Just Judge in Solay!” she countered — and that must be something she had learned in the Royal Library in the past week. “But I want to ask Anshen. Last time in the Temple, it was too much, and too new, and I didn’t know how to begin… Well, I still don’t know how to begin!” She was in tears now, all confusion and completely lost in herself and about herself.
I could help there… It helps to first make a foundation in yourself, and even that she hadn’t been taught, she’d been taught to find her center in her Master, and do his bidding and be nothing more than a source of power to him. So that’s where we started, and then it helps to make a foundation in the world, and Amre and Venla have taught us how to do just that, when they brought their tales of the Field Temples of Dadán to Turenay.
“But who is going to make this Temple, and how should that be done?” Arni asked me.
“You gather eight stones from the brook, good, round, stones, of a similar color (well, that’s not needed, but it’s neater), and a similar size (that is also not needed, but it’s more practical), and you place them in a field, marking eight corners. We know it’s eight corners, and Anshen knows, but it’ll look like a circle unless you add some smaller stones to make the straight edges. Then you collect firewood and light it. Chanting of the Invocation is optional, but it helps us. The Gods know they’re present anyway, it’s us who are sometimes ignorant of their presence and need a reminder.”
That she did, and then came the moment when we had to make fire. I cannot make fire with my spirit; and neither could Arni… We’d have been stymied if I hadn’t suggested she make a flint from power, and she did! She made a flint, and it looked and felt like a real flint, and she struck it on the stones we had used to make the temple, and she lit the fire… I made a small chain, also from nothing but spirit, for her to wear the flint, around her neck, later on.
But first she was… Not in conversation with Anshen. As the quip goes, if you meet one of the Twins, and He tries to sweet-talk you into something, He tries to reason with you, He tries to convince you, you can be sure of one thing: it’s the Nameless. Anshen is silent, but compassionate. They were together, near the fire for a long time, and I was almost, but not quite, beginning to feel jealous!
Then another figure appeared, from the edge of the copse, and came walking towards Arni. “Arni, my dear, do I not have a valid claim to you then? Have you not sheltered for all your life under my mantle? Have I ever deceived you, or done anything that gives you cause to leave me? My child, give me your trust, which is what I value more than anything in the world!”
Anshen looked on, and in the silent, grave way He has, smiled at Arni, and touched her shoulder, to draw her attention to His Brother. She hadn’t even heard him, lost as she was in the contemplation of the One she had built a Temple for, with her own hands.
Then she turned around, saw the Nameless… And said,
And the Nameless left. Anshen let his hand lie on her shoulder, lightly, a little longer, and then also took his person away.
The fire kept burning though, and even after we’d finished our midday meal, it was still burning. And when we continued our road to the south-east, it was still burning.
“Do you think it will keep burning?” Arni asked me.
And I answered, “I do not know! I have never seen something like this — your journeyman’s trial will be famous — but, to be honest, I suspect, that yes… Yes, it will keep burning, for a long time!”
And then we stopped, contemplated the Gods, the world around us, and each other, and when we looked into each other’s eyes, giggled and kissed and stopped our travel then and there to dance, and eat and let Dog hunt, and Donkey graze, and look at at the stars and sleep and be as alive as anyone can be!