by J.P. Fischer
A priest hosts a fantasy sermon. Gives slight insight and mythos to this world.
"In the time of dust, before the kings of men and the churches of the holy Vvarden were built, many peoples wandered the land. They had no home, for it was a bitter and untamed time, and man received no guidance for his actions, which were often cruel and foolish. These times went on for many centuries, and scientific and religious progress crawled to a halt. The state of the world was only worsened with the discovery of the dust, a malicious, sinful powder, which poisoned the minds of men. They became drunk with the pleasure of the dust. War began, as dust became more and more valuable. The hearts of men were easily manipulated by it. Friend turned on friend, wife on husband, as the sinners resorted to murder for the vile stuff. Some wise men of the time, spoke out for the holy Vvarden.
"Repent!" They would shout. "Repent, and lift your hearts to Vvarden!"
They were slaughtered for their purity, their rejection of the dust. The foolish people blamed Vvarden, may his blessings never falter, and shunned his guidance, for he prohibited the dust, which he knew was a by-product of the trickster lord, Feln. But they did not believe his knowledge, for they had willingly given their hearts to Feln, as they had willingly submitted to the dust. The worst of these people were the Thol-Ren, the ancient and wicked tribe of the witch people. Their hearts belonging to Feln, they took the dust, and forged it into a blade of gold. With this, they built a great tower, aiming for the heavens. They plastered it with obscene images, which insulted his holiness Vvarden greatly, but he was powerless to stop its construction, for Vvarden must work indirectly, and all his followers were dead, or fooled by Feln. Eventually, they reached the heavens, where Vvarden lived. Their leader, the wicked Empress of witches Gorok-Thur, took the golden knife, and with it, pierced Vvarden's body in an attempt to murder our holiness. But they were foolhardy to try and kill one as pure and eternal as him, for he did not die. His body was split into seven forms, seven different aspects. Some were fair and wise, but not nearly as much as the original holy Vvarden. Others, poisoned by the dust, were as wicked and cruel as Feln himself. The Seven were banished from the heavens, bound to this earth by the sinful nature of men. Feln and the Thol-Ren remained in the heavens, but only for a short time. The witches grew greedy at the beautiful sights of Vvarden's realm, and wanted it only for themselves. They ran at Feln, the golden blade at hand, and attempted to kill him, as they had done with Vvarden. But Feln can never leave his frozen domain under the earth, and he had sent a mere image to accompany the Thol-Ren, so they were unable to pierce him. Furious at their betrayal, he used his brute strength to flip their blasphemous tower on its head, and the witch people found themselves not in heaven, but in Feln's icy realm of despair. They were imprisoned there, just as the seven aspects of Vvarden were imprisoned on our earth, hoping one day to be restored. His aspects are worshipped individually by many, now that the age of dust has passed, but only two are truly holy, as he originally was. When the time comes, and Vvarden is restored, the Thol-Ren will be punished in full, and the followers of the two will be rewarded in his true realm of heaven. Until that day, we may only wait, and hope."
There was a polite applause as the priest finished his passage, bowing to the church community with a sheepish grin. Most grinned back, but it was only a gesture. They had all heard the story several times, and most could recite it in their sleep. In fact, some did recite it in their sleep, as some of the elders were prone to sleep talking. As the priest continued on with his passages, a few members of the audience zoned out of the speech, taking in the architecture of the building. The church they were seated in seemed to be severely yellow, though really this was just because of the butter yellow walls, which reflected the sunlight well. It wasn't a huge church, but it could house a moderate forty or so people, although this limit was often stretched to around fifty, as people squished together in order to seat latecomers, making the wooden pews creak under their weight. Today was one such day, as every church for miles around became packed to the brim for celebrations.
"For today marks the anniversary of the splitting of Vvarden!" Continued the priest. "As well as the emergence of the two divine aspects!" He gestured up to the ceiling, which was decorated with a large image of a man, tall and regal, wearing a mask of a serene expression, and a woman, old and bent, her hand outstretched and filled with tea leaves.
"Aurel, the folk of healing;" He said, looking up at the man in the mask and bowing respectfully. "Always hidden from identity, so as to see who is kind enough to help a stranger."
There was an enthusiastic round of applause, as some looked around wildly, as if they expected someone in the church to be Aurel in disguise.
"I'm not hiding no mask in there, so get your grubby nose out of my handbag!" Shouted a lady in the back somewhere. There was a dull thwack accompanied by an 'ouch!' as someone was hit with a very large and very heavy handbag.
"It's okay, it's okay, no need to get overenthusiastic, as I'm sure Miss Proudnym back there would agree;" Said the priest, turning his gaze towards the picture of the old lady.
"Tanma!" He declared, as the church cheered. This lady, it seemed, was very popular, as the priest raised his hand to quell the rampant clapping. When the clamour had died down, he continued.
"Folk of gifts and unexpected opportunities! Now," he said, bracing himself for the worst. "Is there anybody with an offering of tea leaves for Tanma, perhaps to improve your fortune?"
There was an immediate uproar as people all through the church stood, digging into pockets and bags to retrieve offerings of tea leaves. They scrambled towards the priest in a big clump of people, which eventually singled out into a jagged line. One by one, they thrust their tea leaves under the priest's nose, using some variation on 'my tea leaves are the best'.
"These ones here are orange flavoured, love;"
"Picked fresh from the garden, we used manure right from the cow!"
"Filled with spices, Tanma will love it!"
"Thank you, thank you!" The priest said wearily, as the last few people returned to their seats. "I'm sure Tanma will appreciate these greatly, and at the rate we're going, you'll all be flooded by unexpected gold!"
Suddenly, although it was quite bright outside, the boom of thunder rang through the air.
"Sorry, sorry!" the priest shouted to the ceiling. "Tanma can make no promises, folks!" he finished, waggling his finger in reply to the general aaaww of the audience.
"Now that that's out of the way, we can get on with the festivities! Shall we begin with the puppet show?" There was a murmur of general agreement, as two men carried a small makeshift puppet theatre in front of the altar. The children in the audience straightened in their seats, as they craned their necks to get the best view of the theatre, as the priest ducked behind it. The audience proceeded to watch the show with good (although slightly put on) interest. It consisted of a re-read of the story of Vvarden, the supreme-being, getting split into seven aspects, accompanied by shadow puppets, as a candle was lit in the puppet box and the curtains were wrenched shut. There were several ooohs and aaahs as the audience watched the heavily dramatised stabbing of Vvarden, and the flipping of the Thol-Ren's tower.
All of this was watched from the gallery of the church by a man by the name of Bridgemore Blue. He sat with his back to the gallery railing, occasionally glancing over the edge to get a better view of the mass. He sat alone up in the gallery, which was unpainted and had no seats, as he swiped his paintbrush over the wall, coating it in more butter mellow, though he hadn't gotten much work done that day, for he had stopped working to hear the tale of Vvarden's splitting, which he had never heard in full before. Below, he could hear the priest finishing up the mass, the pews creaking as many people shifted, eager to stretch their legs.
"Thank you all, so much for coming! May you all go forward from this place with blessings of healing and good opportunities this day!"
There was the sound of many feet hitting the ground, as people scuffled one after the other, the heavy footfall of Miss Proudnym the handbag lady leading the charge outside, while everyone chattered excitedly about the quality of their tea leaves.
When the last of the church community had left the building, their conversations and footsteps fading away, the priest took off his golden overcoat, folding it carefully and seating it in a chest behind the carven stone altar.
"Now Bridgemore!" He called up at the gallery. Bridgemore popped his head over the railing in response. "Am I going to see you at the festivities tonight?"
"Of course! Wouldn't miss it for the world!" Replied Bridgemore, nodding his head enthusiastically.
"Good! There might be something there you'll enjoy!" The priest sunk out of sight with a knowing look, tapping the side of his nose.
"Good luck sorting all those tea leaves!" Yelled Bridgemore out the door, and the priest groaned loudly. Chuckling to himself, Bridgemore scooped up his painting equipment, put a leather covering over his paint and scrambled down the spiral staircase, racing out the door.