Green Island Book I
Greenways
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some excerpts from Greenways
by
Dave Patterson

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first page chapter 15

Chapter 15: The One IV - Faro


We could all hear clearly enough what the speakers were saying, and it was in no language anyone had ever heard - it didn't seem to be very sophisticated, though, as there was quite a lot of sign language as well, drawing symbols in the dirt, body language (thumps to the ear with an accompanying fearsome glare), that sort of thing. Regardless of the apparent simplicity of the language, however, it seemed able enough to deal in fairly complicated concepts according to some kind of running translation in our brain, of what it all meant - and there didn't seem to be much doubt about it all - there were no discontinuities between the words we were hearing and the actions we were watching.

The night scene was lit from flickering firelight from torches in holders along the walls, which enclosed a rather large, well appointed chamber of some sort, with rough wood frame and roof but various decorated cloth hangings on the wall to add a suggestion of a couple of steps removed from caves or simple mud and thatch huts or something. There were three males present, one sitting in a quite nicely designed and constructed wooden chair at the head of a table upon which lay some food remnants and goblets of drink, a second in a more common chair also at the table, and the third squatting on the floor between them at the corner of the table. They were dressed in cotton robes of similarly decreasing elegance, barefoot, leather sandals could be seen beside the door on the dirt floor of the dwelling. All, that is to say, to suggest these were not cavemen of some sort, but rather more advanced in their societal ways. I recalled from some distant reading that what we were seeing, anthropologically speaking, meant we were seeing something from an agrarian based society with fixed abodes rather than hunter-gatherers, with time for division of labour and thus the construction of permanent dwellings, primitive though they might be in the beginning, and thus again accumulation of goods, and that such things begin to translate into wealth, however that wealth is counted or divided. And then we begin to have some problems with the division of that wealth ....

The man who appeared to be the dominant one in the group, seated at the head of the table, long straight black hair framing a long narrow face with oval black eyes, a muscular looking lean upper body with broad shoulders and shining tan skin where visible, spoke to the other man at the table.

"Mephi," he said, draining the wine from his goblet and carelessly dropping it in the direction of the servant on the floor, who ably caught it and scurried around to the other side of the table to refill it from a larger jug, carefully setting it back in front of the speaker, who acknowledged his actions in no way, then scurrying back around to his corner, "I really want to build a big home to live in, with many rooms and embellishments, and slaves and lissome young maidens, and not work every day like everyone else, chasing grasshoppers from the grain heads or drying the fishing nets in the hot sun or tending the cooking fires or whatever. I would rather be spending my time with the sweet girls, or on horseback chasing the antelopes, my evenings in feasting and song and games with my comrades. I would have many servants to bring my wine and wash my robes and make me comfortable in every way.

“And I think I have that right, because I am big and strong and other men fear me and I can take food or women from them when I want. Indeed, I can do a lot of things now - but keeping the people in the village under control by personal fear - " and here there was a casual if solid backhand thump to the side of the head of the servant, who immediately fell upon the floor cringing, " - is tiring, day after day, as many resist and I cannot defeat many together if they resist strongly, and others constantly run away and it is boring chasing them all the time and beating them into submission every day, and having to listen to their whining about how unfair it all is and asking me what is wrong with me that I behave thusly and do not support the community - I know not what they mean. There must be a better way for me to have what I wish, when I wish it, without this constant bother!"

I saw the Blackness had taken some interest in the proceedings here, the tiniest of smiles lifting his upper lip from the yellow boarfangs, as if he was remembering something pleasant, or amusing. And in the swirling void floated by what appeared to be a swirling birthday cake (made of something that looked like brown mud with a black icing in which tiny tortured figures writhed in pain, burning from the heads like candles) with one large candle rising from the center (I record only, the candle appeared to be a thick black phallus with oversized testicles, flame shooting from the top), and a small dark figure barely visible in the surrounding darkness in black silhouette reaching a small trembling hand out for the cake, very puzzling, until I realized some time later what it probably meant. The One also noted - s/he seemed to miss little. The Blackness moved its eyes slightly to meet the stare of The One full on, then with the smallest lift of its chin and turning down of the smile - I cannot say for sure, but had I made such a gesture, it would have meant something like "..and not a damn thing you can do about it...". But that's just a guess.

But the one called Mephi did have a certain hint of something not quite right somewhere about him, his somewhat shifty eyes perhaps, rarely actually meeting the eyes of the one he was speaking with, or perhaps - I noted with some surprise - the tufts of hair on either side of the top front of his head creating shadows that looked, in certain aspects of the flickering light, not unlike the ebony horns of the Blackness. It is said there is always a sign. But it's also been said some of us have an overactive imagination, and experience has lent some credibility to that idea at least.

"Yes, Great One," Mephi said, glancing at the man who had spoken first somewhat out of the side of his eyes, "I have seen your frustration with the others in the tribe who do not wish to be your servants, to acknowledge your strength and prowess and pay rightful homage to one so blessed, but are somewhat stubbornly retaining their foolish traditional values of freedom and all being equal to live their own lives and make their own decisions, and hold councils from time to time about things that concern everyone where all speak and come to a decision based on the wishes of all, in the way of the women. Their fathers and mothers lived so, and to hear them talk the fathers and mothers before that, and again before that, as long as the memory goes. But I understand well your feelings also, Great One, that because you are so tall and strong and fair of features and desired by all the young women for your prowess in the bed and the hunt, as was your father before you, and your strength with which you defeat all the other warriors in the fight-play, that you should have some special privilege for your greatness - and I would help you if I could."

"I have been thinking, Mephi, about something you reminded me of the other day, although I am sure I had the idea first, you certainly are too stupid to think of anything yourself," answered the other after another moment, "that perhaps there is something we could do about the many small spirits our people call to and pay homage to from time to time - the spirits they call to of the earth, and the sky, and the waters of the Great River that come and recede, and the thanks they offer to the spirits of the animals we kill for food, and the others that they sometimes give gifts and other tributes to hoping to receive some favors in return. No one has ever actually met such a spirit that I know of - certainly I have never, and you would think that if there were any real spirits and they were going to speak with someone, they would surely speak with the strongest in the tribe. Maybe there is some way we can devise to use the beliefs of our people to convince them to at least listen to me somewhat more than they seem inclined to do without all of this tiresome violence day after day after frigging day, and maybe if I can get them to listen to me, I can start getting them to do things I want them to do..."

Mephi sat silently contemplating these words for some time, then raised his head deferentially to his master and spoke quietly, a certain mesmerizing effect seeming to be around the words, from the softness with which he spoke, the cadences he used, almost seeming to draw the other towards him.

"Yes, my Lord, my Lord, my Lord. Presently the spirits are small and no-one assigns them any real significance - but what if we were to meet a large and powerful spirit - I wonder, my Lord, if we could somehow tell the people that you have indeed met with such a spirit or spirits, and this spirit has named you as its personal friend here in this village, and this spirit had befriended you because of your great prowess and abilities, and had given you messages to pass to the people - "

"Not just friend, Mephi, representative!" interrupted the leader, taking a deep draught from his glass, " - the one who speaks with them, and conveys their wishes to the people ...."

"Yes! Their personal representative here on The Land!"

"Ha ha ha!!! It would never work! The people would never believe such nonsense! They only half believe in the little nymphs and fairies now, the ceremonies are done as much for their own pleasure and entertainment and group bonding as any real belief in the spirits they name, and they offer only such tribute as they can readily part with as it pleases them to feel some special contact with the river and the warm south wind, as if they actually had life which they do not in reality as all well know - without some proof, they would never accept the idea of a big and powerful one!"

"Ha ha! It does sound strange, but I think you could do it! You are a natural leader already - this would be but one small step higher! Some would resist, but others would welcome you! You well know yourself, there are many in the tribe who are independent and go their own way, and those might be disinclined to believe that you have some special relationship with beings that are, after all, imaginary, as we well know and others well know also - but there are many others who are little different than the sheeps in the fields, many of the women are timid and thus easily led and desire the strength of a man to protect them, and then the small men who do not have the testicles that a real man has, and gladly take direction from any strong enough to give it to avoid a beating and scavenge the pickings of the scatterings of the strong, or to associate with as protection against others - and those who are content to grow the grain in the fields and share with all to curry favor where it might be curried.

“And those few who truly do not choose to follow - well, the great new god might well show his displeasure at such in rather - ah - permanent ways... And those who are left - follow the strong Lord who protects them from the wrath of the New God, and bestows those who behave appropriately with his favors. And you, my lord, as the personal friend of this God, become the Master of the village, for none dare disobey or the anger of the New God is great and visited upon many! And then, my Lord, and then - well, the favors of the lissome women, the kneeling of the warriors, and much more, all would follow ...."

The man at the head of the table was silent as he rubbed his head with a large hand, and then a dejected look appeared on his face, as he reached again for his goblet of drink.

"No, no, it could never happen. Old Ephie, who has helped raise me since I was a babe and still swats me fearlessly and mocks me with cruel laughter and words when she is displeased with me, Old Ephie knows much and would never accept such a fantastical tale - especially from me, whom she has caught many times in the innocent tales of my youth, wanting only to avoid some unpleasant chore or acquire a little extra fruit from the harvest or entice a fair sweet nymph into my bed once again!"

"Yes, Lord - but, as you said, 'Old' Ephie. And old people often just keel over one day and speak no more nor swat no more ears, Lord. Or sometimes are called to the bedside of another old friend in some far off place - and return no more from such a long journey...."

And they carried on talking thusly throughout the evening, and into the night and into the morning, and then again other nights, until the wine was finished and they were too satiated to try to rouse the servant once more and send him for another flagon, and the Great Hunter high in the sky to greet the new day that was approaching. And one morning, after many nights of such talking, the one called Mephi drifted off to sleep, joining the servant who had been sleeping for some time in the corner, having been finishing the dregs in both the goblets and earthenware jugs as he refilled them, unaware of being the proverbial fly on the wall that so many have wanted to be...

... and that morning, some time later, as the sun touched the peaks of the mountains off to the east, the tall strong man rose only a little unsteadily, but full of the great dream the drink had bestowed, and pushed open the supple tanned sheepskin that served as a door to the small dwelling, the dwelling that others in earlier times might have thought a veritable castle, but himself thought far below his station, and went outside to watch the light return to the land, as he often enjoyed, loving this short time when he was alone and could dream as he wished, before the peasants started doing their peasant things and called him to more earthly duties.

To his land, he thought, one day my land. As the sun blazed across the sand and the Great River through the palm trees that shaded the house from the worst of the heat of the days, the man's eyes began to blaze in the reflection of the sun with excitement at the great things he was thinking, the new possibilities he was seeing down this new path that his kind had never trod before, the great majestic regular shapes he saw the tall mountains carved into before him as the effects of the weariness and the wine and the sun brought him great dreams... who better to be the all-powerful God than the bright fierce Sun itself? And who better to be the embodiment of God here by the Great River other than himself???

At some time Mephi, always a dawn riser with the other peasants, had joined the man, who now looked at him.

And then, indicating the land before them with a great sweep of his strong arm, the man spoke.

"I see now a new day coming, as the new sun comes over the mountains. It will be thus, Mephi, it will be thus!! ..."

"Yes, it is a great dream, a powerful dream," answered Mephi by and by, rousing from his nap and taking his master by the arm to lead him into the cot on the floor of the small dwelling so he did not fall asleep on the sand and suffer the effects of the sun and the passing people pissing on his prostrate form in derision on top of the hangover, "and it will surely be as you say, for the new Sun God.

“And for you, my Faro."

We began to hopscotch forward - scattered scenes through time, showing brief impressions of many things - a scene of Faro on the steps of a dwelling with a small band of unremarkable followers behind him, talking to a crowd of people, obviously inveigling with apparently little success, as some rotten fruit smashed on the steps at his feet, and a number of people could be seen laughing as if at a great joke and walking away - then Faro and some others engaged in a battle, with bloody spears and screaming dying men, and other battles - Faro becoming older and even stronger and more imposing in maturity with fancier dress and armaments and more and better armed followers each time - a group of thugs slitting a throat in the dark of the night, entering a household and slaughtering a family - Faro seated at the upper level of what was evidently a small temple, people kneeling around him, and in the background the beginnings of what was obviously a crude stone pyramid. As we lingered for a moment on this last scene we could see that Faro was an elderly man, and as we all watched in awed silence at what we were seeing, the lost beginnings of the Egyptian dynasty that was to dominate that part of the world for thousands of years, his attention was apparently caught by something he saw, and he turned his head and apparently was looking right at us - and then we realized he was not only looking right at us, but he was here with us - some kind of instant seamless segue had occurred.

The elderly Faro was now with us in the Green Island Court House, or at least in the spinning Tao sphere that had taken over the Green Island Court House, about, as we then saw, to be questioned by the One, who stood in all his/er ineffable majesty in the same place, with us yet somewhere far far away, we should never forget our status as amoebic motes in the greater scheme of things, all human hubris aside. And Faro, who struggled to rise from his throne, a dawning look of anger and frustration on his features.

"Be still, Faro - you may be as godking where you are, but there are powers in the universe that are far beyond your understanding and authority to which you are nothing, and it is time for you to answer to them," rumbled the voice of the One.

We could see anger flash in Faro's eyes as he glanced only briefly at the One before he returned to struggling with invisible bonds that held him fast in his chair, although still able to move his arms, and his implacable resistance to such a situation. No doubt at this time in his life he was somewhat more used to giving orders than receiving them - but the One was having none of it.

"FARO!!!!" the voice echoed throughout the courtroom, and apparently throughout the Faro's village as well, as we could see the dozens of people still gathered around where he was sitting (it was that kind of segue - a really weird thing - he was there and here both, at the same time, and we could see not only him but much of his surroundings, as if he was on a high platform of some kind) immediately fall on their faces.

"FARO! Be still! Do not resist! Answer my questions and all will be as it was! It is not my purpose here to change what has gone before or punish you for your many crimes against these people of the universe in your time - merely to ascertain some history for purposes of my own, in this time of my own that is not your time! Do you hear and understand, Faro?!?"

Strong leaders who have made their own destiny are not usually stupid people, although often arrogant, with some reason, and so it was with Faro, who had come a long way in many ways since we first saw him, evidently. Somewhat grim-faced, staring apparently at the One with less awe than many others had shown, although not having seen all the others had seen either, he relaxed slightly where he sat and nodded his head briefly one time to show his acceptance of the situation, at least for now. His fists were clenched where they rested on the arms of his throne, however, and his eyes flashing with anger.

"Know that I am the Faro, whoever you are that dares speak thusly to me, and all fear me and obey my commands and dare not look on my face without permission!" he spoke through partly clenched teeth, "And although for this time you appear to have the advantage of me, when I find your weakness I will strike and you will die. Slow and painfully. None resist Faro and live!"

This brought a small smile to the One.

"Indeed!" s/he replied, "And that would be a blow felt in many and far places, well beyond your imagination, were it ever to fall! But now tell me, Faro, how have you made all of these people who once were free and strong sentient beings, striving for a better time in their lives and for their children, bow to your bidding? Do they all love you so much that they have willingly given their lives to your command?"

"They do!" replied the Faro, sweeping his arm at everyone around where they lay, "They love their Godking! Shall I show you how much? Release these bonds and I shall show you how willingly they give their blood for me! I shall have ten thousand of them form a living and dying bridge across the Great River for me!"

"No, there shan't be any killing falsely in my name, Faro," replied The One, doing something to the air so that the commands Faro was apparently shouting to those below him had no sound, "and I would there had been far less in yours. But you call yourself 'Godking'? Do your people believe you to be a god, then, Faro?"

"They know me to be God, the only God they have ever known or ever will - the Sun God. The Sun is their life and the Sunking is their God. What else do you call one with the power of life and death, as I have over all my peoples?"

"We might call such a one many names, Faro - but 'god' is not one of them, in this hour of Truth. You and I know, Faro, there are no gods, is it not so?"

"I do not know what you know, you who question me. For me, I do not know to say with certainty if there are gods or not. Indeed I have met none personally - but it seems there should be gods. There are many powerful forces we cannot explain and have no control over - the Great River floods and ebbs rather than running peacefully all year through, the fire and thunder in the sky are awesome beyond the power of words to express when they become aroused, for reasons we do not comprehend!, the seas wide beyond imagination, the stars in the sky numberless, the mystery of life itself beyond comprehension, and then the cessation of life, the absence of life in the once beautiful eyes of my beloved, the drying and wrinkling of the once soft skin, the - how does life spring from the seed in my loins, my many sons as numerous now as I cannot even count anymore, and the sons and the sons and sons of the sons and sons - how can we ever understand such things if not for gods? Why should there not be gods? And if there are gods - why should I not be one of them? Maybe indeed there are gods, and they create themselves! It is what I wished - and the strong take what they wish, as I have unarguably done, and the weak die. It is ever the law here, we see it every day in the forest and the sea and the sky. And so it came to pass. And so I am the king, and I am the god!"

Faro, sweeping his arm inclusively at the construction around his throne, "Look around me, you who challenge me about something you call 'truth'! Truth is what I say is truth! Look at the great truths I have created, and feel appropriate awe! Never before on this world have such truths been manifest!"

But the One was not buying this particular argument.

"Truth, Faro? TRUTH?!?!?" The One was showing some anger again. "Truth??? let us look back once again, and see the color of your 'truth' ....."

- and another folding of the space-time thing. I wondered somewhere in the back of my head (I have never been able to stop that) if our tv people could work this out - the educational tv opportunities just boggled the mind. But there was no time to think about things like that - the younger Faro was once again speaking -

"... let me test the truth of what you say ...."

"Noone questions the word of Faro!" I could see him again trying to rise from his throne, unable to restrain his anger and impatience with his situation, but apparently still unable to break the bonds. His eyes blazed in anger - lots of life left in the ancient body yet, it appeared.

"SILENCE FARO!" The air around Faro almost literally quivered as he became silent once again, "Do not let your hubris overwhelm you! You are now in the presence of Truth, the one great power in the Universe, and we will do as we will, question as we will, and you will sit silently!"

And so he did, but his eyes were not silent at all.

From the ground below one figure, apparently picked at random, now did the space-time-fold thing and was there hovering in the air next to Faro, although apparently not aware of this, as her eyes seemed somewhat glazed, and she took no interest in what was occurring around her. We could see she was older - perhaps the choosing was not entirely random, as the questioning would indicate.

The Voice instructed, then asked "You will speak only true words to me at this time. Do you love your Faro truly?"

The old woman did not respond immediately, but various emotions ran over her face, and then she spoke.

"I must say I love Faro and honor and worship him every day, but in the inner regions of my heart and being, mostly I fear Faro, and might not love him so if it would not mean my death to say so. I remember still when we had plenty and freedom in our villages here, and happiness and security and a good life in our families, and no ruler or king or god until he began his killing. It was a simpler life, to be sure, but one I know most would joyously return to, rather than what we have now. I do not love him, in truth, but I must say I do every day or he will visit horrible and cruel deaths on my children and my family and myself if I do not prostrate myself at his feet and obey his every command without question. Love is not fear, I think - but I have not known anything else for many years, and my children and grandchildren have never known anything else."

"Faro says you all love him dearly."

A pause.

"No, it is not so. He lies. He lies to you as he lied to us. We fear him and pretend to love him, but would tear the beating heart from his body in an instant like he has torn so many himself if we but had the opportunity."

"He lies no longer on this day, but it may be he believes his untruths in his great disconnect, his great insanity. But this is what I do not entirely understand, even yet, what we who have long left the immature ways behind cannot grasp with your species. Why did you honor his lies? You were many, he even with his men few - why did you follow him? Before Faro there were no lies of consequence in your village, no gods. Why did you leave that life to follow Faro and live in fear as you do? "

"We did not do so willingly, at first. Faro talked of some new god he had met, and we laughed and mocked him - we did not believe in gods, not really, only a common spirit life between ourselves and other living things, and the great mysteries also. But Faro demanded our obedience to this new god. Many resisted. And those strong enough to lead, to oppose him, died in the night in mysterious ways, and many others in open conflict in the day as well, with Faro always having many and more strong men to help him kill and intimidate, and he kept saying how his new Sun God was making him strong and victorious. By the time we realized how serious he was, how great the danger, how mad, truly, it was all but over, with the many strong men of stupid brains following Faro and the few strong men of true hearts dead beside us. And then the Faro and his companion, his first counsel and advisor and general he called Preest, began to take our children at a young age and teach them in his ideas, his ways, what he wanted them to believe - and children know not how to defend themselves, or resist the lies, they can be taken from their true parents with shiny gifts and lies - their instincts naturally draw them to those who offer protection and fulfillment of their desires, even if that fulfillment is sweets of no substance and the 'protection' is a cruel hoax leading only to enslavement.

“They have no experience to detect such wiles at a young age, and by the time they would be old enough the parts of their brains that might save them are completely subverted to the Faro's ways, and in all important ways they are like mindless automatons, robots of the Faro. And then in time these children grow and those who do not join the priesthood themselves marry and have children themselves and, knowing nothing else, would teach their children the lies the Faro taught them. And so it progressed - in two generations the Sun God of Faro was a reality in the village and in the minds of the people, whether or not it really existed. With many to build big temples, and many to train as warriors, and young ambitious men coming from far away after hearing of the Sun King and wanting to share his glory and wealth, Faro took other villages one by one, expanding his empire each and every year of his long life, and went through the same process of killing those strong or smart enough to oppose and teaching the young his ways - and with such violent culling and selection it was not long before we had a ruling class of Faro and his followers, and a slave class of those too weak of heart or arm to resist. And soon too we had also a priest class, calling themselves the servants of the Sun God, but in reality making themselves the rulers of the people of Faro. There are few who understand this, and we dare not speak, or we die."

A rending. The woman was gone, and in her place sat a priest of the Sun God Faro. Faro himself sat as if turned to stone, saying nothing, apparently unable to, but his eyes blazing in anger.

"And tell us, priest as you call yourself, how is it you came to be a servant of this Sun God?"

The 'priest', an older man evidently used to respect, assumed a pious look. "I was called by the Sun God - " he began, and then his long, wavering scream ripped through the air for what seemed like endless seconds until it was cut short as we could see him hanging and spinning in mid-air as if held by a great invisible hand, his tongue being extracted quite painfully and bloodily by some invisible means from his mouth. The scream was cut short as the tongue gave a final short resistance and then jerked free, reduced to a pathetic sort of gurgling rasping sound, as some internal connection was severed, but the eyes were bulging in terror and pain, every muscle in his body spasming and twitching. And as his tongue was dropped at his feet on the sand, and the man dropped to his knees, hands clutching at his throat, terrified eyes like great bloodshot globes shifting from his still quivering tongue to something in the sky, dark red blood dripping from his mouth, the Voice spoke, calmly but with a sense of deep anger that was unmistakable.

"Do not lie to me, human. This is a time of Truth, how many times must I say it before you believe in your hearts, where the Truth must be known? You know as do I there was no god to do any such calling, thus no such call was made. Tell us how you came to be a servant of this Faro who calls himself Sun God, an oppressor of the people of your land, their murderer and torturer, tell us truthfully, tell us now."

- and again the priest - the man - was standing whole - but the ordeal not forgotten, never to be forgotten by him or anyone in the court room who had observed those shocking seconds, the sweat pouring from his terror-stricken face as he was quick to reply, his voice quivering in fear of more pain, rasping and quaking as he spoke.

"I - I - oh, not again, not again! - I will tell all, and truthfully! I was ambitious as a young man, I did not crave the life of work and obedience I saw was the life of my fellow villagers - I saw that the priests who served the Godking Faro wielded great power, traveled freely, had the best quarters and food and females - I thought that maybe I could become such a priest ...."

"And did you ever believe in the Sun God, priest?"

"I - I do not remember clearly when I was young, I may have in some meaningless way - but I never believed in this creation of the Faro, no, as an adult, never."

"Then why did you pretend to, human? Why did you tell all your brother and sister citizens that they must bow down and worship this imaginary being? Why did you rip the living hearts from so many screaming sacrifices in the name of this imaginary being, and cause such death and suffering to so many as they fell in numberless numbers building the monuments and temples your Faro demanded - for something you did not yourself believe in? Why did you do so with joy in your heart at the immense pain you levied on your fellow humans? What terrible thing was in your heart and soul that you could behave so?"

"I think you know well the answer, you who question!" the man who was known as Faro's priest averted his eyes, and spoke only softly.

- an image of a human figure on a huge rack, being rent limb from limb, knowledge of unbelievable agony flashed through the void around us - the priest looked up, terror in his eyes -

"Speak priest! This is a day of Truth I say yet again! We would hear it from your own tongue, if you wish to keep that organ in your mouth for longer than it takes you to even consider refusing!"

"Yes, yes, of course - "

- no will to resist the certainly of that pain -

" - I desired the power, of course! It was as I had believed - the priests live lives of great luxury, unimaginable luxury, in the land of the Sun King! We have the finest foods, the finest young women are brought to our chambers to serve our every desire, we go where we will and command what we will and we wield the great power over the people! Who would say no to such a life?!? It is far better, in my mind, to be the user of the sacrificial knife than the receiver of it, the wielder of the whip than the one with the bleeding back screaming in pain at each blow, the one receiving the honor than the one on his knees! - surely this is not difficult to comprehend! There are those who know no other way, who see no other way than to be the sheep of the Faro's flock - and then there are those who see a way out of the flock, who see a way to become the shepherd, who dare to be above the herd, who understand that the deceptions you speak of are as nothing to those who let themselves be so used - and those who can do so - do! It is as it always has been, you who speak in judgement of us surely know that!"

"Did you never feel guilt, or compunction, about leading so many of your fellow humans into lives that were very obviously pale shadows of the lives they lived previously, pale shadows of the lives they might have lived, sad and broken souls in misery where there might have been joyous and free souls?"

The priest lowered his head. His voice softened. A pause, a short pause, ever mindful that nothing but the Truth would be accepted on this day -

"Yes, there were times I felt some guilt, some sadness at the lives of the people, some consideration for those who were once my family, my neighbors..."

"Then why, again, I ask, did you persist with your lies? Why did you not go among the people and tell them the truth, and throw open the locked doors of the souls and tell them all to go forth and be free in the world, throw this Faro to the ground and rend HIS evil heart from his body and set your people free?!?"

"Oh, hahahahaha!!!!!! very impossible, unthinkable, your ripping my tongue from my head would be like a mercy compared to what the Sun King would do!!! The Sun King has many spies, and anyone who even thinks out loud of betraying him is quickly on the sacrificial altar, quickly - or slowly - losing eyes and fingers and teeth and testicles! One or two have actually managed to go to the people and start talking as you suggest, but they were horribly dead within hours of leaving the temple! So the combination of the great rewards for obedience to the Sun King, and the terrible punishment for disobedience, keeps those of us who might feel compassion from daring to try to help the people achieve any freedom. But truthfully, you must well know, you who speak with such power, that most priests feel no such compassion - people who feel thusly usually expose themselves when they are young and thoughtless and without the guile required to know that such things should not be spoken if they really want to make change.

"And then too, you would have to see the reaction as well of the people - now, after many years of Sun King rule, most of them do believe in the Sun God and the Sun King - the priests or others who try to tell the truth are not torn only by the Sun King's men, but by the very people they are trying to liberate! The people scream LIAR! to the very one who tries to tell the truth, and in mobs tear the flesh from their bodies and hang them on great crosses to die in agony! After a certain period of training, the people embrace their chains, they love their chains, they hate those who try to free them!! So what would you have us do? Commit suicide on a hopeless quest - or accept the inevitable, and let the people choose their own fates? Shall I choose life on the Golden Mount, or agony in the fire? There is no choice!

" - and truly, you would have the truth, there comes a time when we enjoy giving the pain, enjoy the way the people believe any lie we tell them, enjoy the way they make such fools of themselves in prostration before a false god, truly, enjoy the power of a god, it is a very heady beverage, as you must know - if one is to be a sheep or a wolf, if one is aware that such a choice is there to be made, for many surely are not, surely one would choose a wolf every time - and so we did, I and the others who rule under Faro."

And as the words of the priest of the sun king echo in the room for all to ponder on, and as the priest and the Sun King fade from the deep blue starry whirlpool, the Blackness rises to its feet from where it had sat watching from the table of the defendants, and speaks.

"The universe has ever and always been about Free Will, my Brother - Freedom. It is, in the end, as we know, not an option. It is, for those who wish it. It is not, for those who allow it to be taken from them. What is this nonsensical false value you assign to Truth or Lies? - they exist, both, and who is to say which is good or bad? As the Night and the Day and the Dark and the Light, the Dead and the Living, the High and the Low, the Full and the Empty, the Male and the Female, the Truth and the Lie. And some choose to lie, and others choose to believe those lies as some tell the truth as you call it and others choose to believe those words. It is Freedom, it is choice. If the Lies lead those who believe them to the Darkness, they can hardly complain - that is their freedom at work."

He might have spoken more, but the One, with a grimace as if s/he had just taken a sip of spoiled milk, made an imperious sort of gesture so the Blackness was caused to sit again silently, and spoke.

"Call me not brother, you unnatural thing, every word that comes from your speaking hole is a lie in some form, and I am no more your brother than the dark void of eternity is brother to the bountiful beauteous life of this planet which lies in the Balance of our Lady Justice on this day. The distinctions you make are real as reflections seem to have reality, but are no more real in a corporal sense than the things you conceal with your words, and simple reflection does not equate to meaningfulness any more than balance equates to equivalence.

"Yes, there is a wide gulf between Night and Day, between Being and Not Being, between the Light and the Dark, between the Yin and the Yang and the still and the moving and the lifeless and the quick and the star and the hole and the sentient and the non-sentient, but they can never exist alone in a void, the one without the other, and it is ever to be debated which comes first and which follows, and it is a question that will have no answer beyond the yin and the yang and the Way itself - it simply Is.

“But there is no equivalence to be assumed between one who chooses freely the Night and one who is penned in a cage with no choice to seek the Day, denied knowledge of the very existence of the Light, in the control of those who cruelly punish any who even dare suggest that there might be something better than the Darkness in which they are forced to exist. There is no equivalence between one who chooses to leap from the tall cliff having tired of life and one who is thrown screaming, who treasures her life greatly and wishes it not to end in such a horrible, fearful way. There is no equivalence between one who chooses to take the path to the desert freely, and one who is denied entrance to the oasis by those who would selfishly hoard the bounty of the land for themselves. Free Choice is not coerced 'choice', as I know you appreciate well," said the One, quietly but with a fierce look in his/er eyes and deep intensity in the Voice.

"And you well know also that the young of the intelligent races require much nurturing to develop their great brains, and have little capacity for intelligent choice and are easily led astray when they are infants, and insofar as Freedom is to have meaning, it must be informed by Intelligence. As again you well understand. Sit now. As you also well know, although there is a balance between the Light and the Dark, there is no equivalence. Death balances life and must ever do so, but there is no equivalence, and the power of your Lies, although not insignificant, is in no way equivalent to the power of the Truth - at all times the power of a tiny point of Light is such that it will dissipate darkness all around, but the power of a tiny point of darkness in a place where there is Light is insignificant. You know this, and although your lies can and do have fearful power for destruction at some times and places, do not attempt your wiles on us as you have on others of weaker minds in circumstances where they really had little choice. You will have a chance to explain yourself later - your words will be required on the record of the history of these peoples here for all to hear and observe and consider. But now is not your time to speak.

"I will call you when I wish your voice to be heard. The Light will beckon the Dark at its pleasure, the Truth will ever vanquish the lie, the Living govern the dead - not the other way around, in this world, in this universe. Not ever will it be otherwise."

Oddly enough, it seemed to me anyway, the Blackness argued not the words of the One, but sat quietly again, apparently content at having had this small exchange, although the figure was no less imposing than previously. Perhaps even to it the placement of the superior power seemed fitting. But a little unbalanced, if balance was the order of things.

But then, my perspective was lacking. Grasshoppers do not understand the ways of the Just Warrior. The eyes see light and dark, three dimensions, the mind recognizes readily a 4th - but of the 5th and 10th and 100th, we cannot even conceive.





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