There was a line of people going into the throne room, but High Priest Odentalis and his haughty cavalry mares increased impulsion to coast past it. Only one sort of hoof-beat was allowed over the marble, those of the High Priest’s Holy Guard. Their lead mares wore gold imbued horse-shoes, forged just so. These horse-feet were louder than anyone else’s and it put penitents down on knees who weren’t so low already.
A man with fat lips and oily dark tresses even in his beard waggled fingers in way of greeting. “Another one, High Priest? Oh, and I see that it’s a woman with her robe shorn cross the back where you’ve whipped her already. This should be a fun amusement.” But King Baeltheon did not smile.
“Indeed, this one hasn’t even got bells on her feet. But yet, she’d lowered herself to consorting with those wretches… All–dismount.”
The small cavalry obeyed, and their fine animals were promptly taken away. More mounted priests by the gate settled mares that chewed adulation when the other elect horses departed. Sweetness of the animals distracted everyone.
Odentalis was busy, though. He explained so many charges the King became bored. “A moment, High Priest… Mi’Raah, is it? Did you really claim to know the true parentage of whores’ babies? Or, is this because it’s anyone’s guess after nine months?”
“I knew. Anything made in water, and the body is of that… all are my realm. I am the High Priestess of The Sea.”
“That’s just curious, I had to stop you, Odentalis. So fun, really–and anything of the water, do you mean? What about tears?”
“What of them?”
“I don’t know… well, I assumed you would know, whether or not there’s truth to the myth about the vast sea being made by tears of the gods.”
“The sea is salty because, when it rains, sediment washes from the land and dissolves in the water. It’s a complex process, but that is more or less of the answer.”
“What about tidal waves?”
“Those are the results of earthquakes, tremors.”
Next, “What if there weren’t a sea, then what?”
“Then…? We’re lucky to have liquid water in the first place. Do you know that if this world were a slight closer or farther from the sun, life wouldn’t be possible?”
“I don’t understand…”
Mi’Raah shut her eyes, then went to the beginning of time, and before even that. She described separate ages in perfect detail–clearly, her strange beliefs pegged terrestrial life as comparatively brief, human origin an after thought, when life beneath the water was real, so ancient that it might as well be eternal, the true point of existence.
Odentalis had screwed up his face. King Baeltheon edged to the last of his plush seat, amazed. “My equine-god! There’s an answer for everything isn’t there? And all of them are frightfully simple, too, Odentalis.”
“Yes, because it’s spookery.”
Mi’Raah turned on him. “It is scholarship. My sisters and I…I’ve studied the ways of the world for an impossible time. I’ve written many books. On Physics, Chemistry–”
“And Alchemy too, why not? I’ve never heard of any of those.” Odentalis snerked.
“No, Alchemy’s not a real science, Odentalis. Let’s see, but I’ve also written on Astronomy, Astrology–”
“But Astrology is not a real science, either. How can you stand there and just lie from both sides of your mouth, charlatan?”
Mi’Raah was offended. “The King is a Libra. It’s why I theorized I’d be given a fair chance now and decided to tell him all of this. So then, may I go?”
King Baeltheon scratched his head. “I suppose you can.”
“It just makes too much sense, Odentalis. Either that, or it’s so mad no one will really mind it. In fact, I’m tempted to put some bells on her feet…”
“Oh, oh! Can they be silver ones?” Now the guards and the citizenry laughed.
“Haha, yes dear, why not? My Queen would love the idea. But don’t get your hopes up, Mi’Raah, I’m joking. A man as noble as myself, and a Libra at that, would never imbalance fate so much as to put a High Priestess… of the Sea,” he consulted what had become a willing audience, “in shackles. Oh no, never. Such a charming woman should go and be free to preach. But, Mi’Raah, be clear about yourself and at least charge them admission, as a mercy.”
She pouted, to more chuckling.
“No, she should be tried! You should have heard her on the way up here, speaking about her name being that of a true intercessor to the sacred, truest and the first, in fact. Yes, she is smart, she’s done her research, but only because she knows about the four syllables, how to melt silver into her hair, of King Arudelle and the particulars of his conquest of the Wild Tribes! I beg you to ask her, and have my suspicions proved. High Horse Odeon would crave to kick this one…”
The King interrupted and his voice echoed throughout the hall. “You are closest to Odeon, I think, but just because you changed your name over it in ritual, doesn’t mean you can decide, on behalf of the god, whom should get destroyed by a horse.” Baeltheon twined finger in his beard, then let the curl go. “Mi’Raah, if you really are some priestess of the sea, then it does follow that you know so much about a person presently threatening the north side of this island.” she lingered conveniently on sudden noisome swell of the ocean, and so King Baeltheon pressed, “I know of young Arudelle, but why is he here? How did the Siren become a sea-worthy kingdom, overnight? I fear that I have no choice but to ask you about it, anyways. There are many stories about the Siren and its King, and they do call him a conqueror… but I can only prepare my soldiers and sailors with the truth. So then, pass this test if you are real: How did King Arudelle finally tame the Wild Tribes of the Siren, after so many kings before him met with defeat?”
Mi’Raah exhaled and tugged the sides of her dress, rattled chains to mind her fingernails a moment. “The world may be laughing at it, but the strongest story is the truth. Arudelle… he found their common goddess, and he raped her. Then, he made her into his slave by threatening her immortal sisters with the same. After, it became necessary for the goddess to… go to her own followers and, through heartless, savage designs, deceived them into turning from the foe, in order to destroy one another. Arudelle’s armies were able to take the rest, easily.”
“Ah, well. You see, Odentalis? That’s the same story which goes round all the taverns. My soldiers will laugh at me, and the general have all our hides for ever daring try make long tails or heads of it. She’s harmless.”
The High Priest insisted. “We must mind this one, still, I implore you. People could easily be snookered into indulging belief in the sea. Some grand, unknowable force of nature, that can never be disproved? So vast that anyone can make up anything about its secrets? And every stupid soul could gain access to it, avoid the tithes–”
“Oh, I am sick of hearing this, sick of indulging your sharp edges. How many islands are there in the world? Probably thousands? And there have to be at that many gods, you can’t keep people from believing what they want, and I can’t trade with some other King if I hate his god.”
“But if you dominate him–”
“You can finish that statement beneath a prison in Tryst, if you care to insult my royal cousins. And didn’t I just test her myself? My word should be enough for you. You seem to have forgotten that this practice of you bringing religious charlatans in here is, in itself, a compromise, meant to prevent you from rounding up everyone who hasn’t the reverence to ride or the means to feed a horse, and then forcing them into jails, in front of ironic torture devices, like ploughs or wear tack and worse. High Horse Priest Odentalis, if you are so determined to watch this poor girl suffer under our agreement, then fine. Have at her–but, the accused will finally be able to defend herself. Now, that is medicine no less than what you deserve. Scribe, have an amendment written in the Strictures…”
“For sport? To make a spectacle of this kind of belief is dangerous, my King!”
“No, because you have a dangerous imagination and I am tired of being challenged. Odeon is my horse, and was my father’s horse and so on, going back for ages. Not just an immortal avatar of Jystian royalty. We praise him today because he is good. How many wars has Jyst emerged from, victorious over the backs of black horses? How much good land here is fertile now, because of that sire? Our mares are wanted all over the known world. Our ancestors were wise to recognize that blackest, best stallion as a god. I’m glad and proud to worship. But, our holiest man who just happens to feed him can never be better than me… Therefore, you will have thirty days, and she will have thirty days. Then we will see whether religion should be oppressive or not. If she wins, maybe I can finally convince the court and appease the ancestors enough, that you be succeeded and replaced. Naah Maah Mi’Raah!”
Rider Koriandra shoved her, and Mi’Raah snapped fully upright.
“My dear, I hope you don’t mind being thus used.” Baeltheon said, “But, I hope you will take advantage of this chance, to live.”
Mi’Raah smiled soft, down at her toes. “Oh, if I had a gold piece for every time I’ve heard a King tell me so…”
1, Mi’raah’s Virtue :: 2, The Dancing Beaches :: 3, On His High Horse :: 4, Off His High Horse :: 5, Bottled Message :: 6, Horse Huntress :: 7, Rider Koriandra :: 8, Oh No He Di’int :: 9, Talking Horses :: 10, That Damned Bottle Again :: 11, Believing is Seeing :: 12, A Choice Between Two Lovers :: 13, Last Vortextual Process :: 14, End of the Prose