This is set in the world of the Chambourian Verses, which can be found here on Dreamwidth or here on Live Journal. This story takes place after "Tasking" and "In Which A Job Is Handed Out." Part 1 runs to 2,113 words.
Eliane hadn’t slept well in the night, but the rhythmic hard work of shovelling the fresh dung out of the cow stalls was helping. She’s started the day feeling restless and unsettled, and the familiar routine of work that had to be done for the animals’ well being was dispelling that feeling. Not even the arrival of someone important enough for her grandmother to emerge from the farmhouse and add her shrill greeting to her husband’s and son’s gruff and respectful tones was enough to agitate her again.
Besides, no visitor was going to meet Eliane in the middle of this job, unless they were buying cow manure or selling shovels.
Once the dung was removed from the cowshed and added to the latest pile in the pens out the back of the farmyard, the fresh straw and sawdust spread, and her tools were cleaned, Eliane’s after milking chores were done. There was just time for her to make sure her hands were clean, and then harvest the ready leaves from the everlasting greens section of the garden before lunch. She delivered the basket of greens to her aunt at the kitchen door, and then went back through the kitchen garden and out into the yard to get to what her family called the farmyard door. Taking the long way around meant that she could leave her work boots in the mudroom that was a buffer between the yard and the rest of the house.
Passing the herb patch on her way, she absentmindedly broke off the growing tip off a twig of red-leaved shamosay, put it in her mouth, and started chewing.
She didn’t realise what she’d done until all that was left was the unappetising wad of fibres from the stem. She took it out of her mouth with her fingers, looked at the pale pink bundle that could only be shamosay, and began to panic; the plant was poisonous, and she had no idea why she’d eaten a piece, nor any memory of putting it in her mouth.
“I must say,” the voice in her head was not the one of her own thoughts but it was somehow familiar, “you are sensible, and thus very hard to get to put things you don’t think are food in your mouth. Do you have any idea how difficult it was to get you to chew on that?”
“Who are you?” Eliane was alone in the washroom and so she spoke aloud, albeit quietly, to keep her own words somehow more separate from the voice in her head.
“You know that divine spark of The Mentor of Those That Work in Life that your family has been carrying around inside them all these years?” The voice chuckled, “Well, that’s me. Congratulations, you are the Bearer of your generation.”
“But my grandmother, she’s the Bearer, everyone says so!” Eliane stopped and then asked, “Nothing’s happened to her, just now, has it?”
“No, your grandmother is fine,” the voice assured her. “And everyone only says that she’s the Bearer because she’s claimed to be so long and loudly that these days they think she knows what she’s talking about. She was never the Bearer, and she’s convinced herself that she is based on some self-serving reasoning. It was your mother who was the Bearer before you, and when she died I passed to you. Your father’s line separated from the Bearer’s four generations back through your grandfather and six through your grandmother.”
“My mother’s been dead most of my life,” pointed out Eliane. “Why are you talking to me now?”
“It’s time to stop hiding quietly out of sight,” said the voice. “The prophecy is finally moving on, and I need to be moved into position. Over lunch matters will be worked out so you will be escorting some heifers to the big temple at Prothiarn – all you will need to do is not object. You’ll need to pack everything that you want to keep but given the length of the trip there and back, doing that shouldn’t get anyone agitated.”
Eliane demanded, “What prophecy?”
“We don’t have time for that now,” said the voice firmly. “Now, go and have a big lunch and drink lots of water. Oh, and you’ll need to open your bowels fairly violently in about an hour and a half.”
“I could have taken a dose of constipation syrup to do that, instead chewing on raw shamosay,” pointed out Eliane tartly.
“The bowel opening part wasn’t what you needed to open the lock in your mind,” the spark told her primly. “Now, go and eat.”
Everyone at lunch was bumped down a place at the table except Eliane’s grandparents. The guest, a priest of the Mentor named Ruudmund, was seated between her grandfather and uncle, and opposite her grandmother. Eliane’s father and aunt rounded out the top of the table. Great-Uncle Banning, who’d gone off on pilgrimage when he was younger and returned a decade later dedicated to developing better pasture plants, sat in his usual place at the foot of the table and the space in between was filled with Eliane and the cousins of varying degree who worked on the farm. Eliane ate a little more than usual for her and drank more water, while at the head of the table the priest was plied with the first choice from each serving platter and was given citrus cordial to drink.
At the end of the meal her grandfather turned to the table at large and said loudly, “Wait a moment everyone, we have an announcement to make concerning the Learned Ordained Ruudmund’s visit.” He turned to the priest, “Would you care to explain the reason for your visit, Learned Brother Ruudmund?”
“Thank you, Skilled Brother Almo,” the younger man smiled gratefully at Eliane’s grandfather who was, like most of their extended family including Eliane herself, a Skilled Dedicate of the Mentor. “I would be most happy to.” He turned to the rest of the table, “As you have probably heard, Jonan the Sun Emperor has claimed the seer of the Silence Under the Hills as his bride, and the temple in which she lived collapsed as soon as she left its grounds. It turns out that the priests of the Sun God have spent generations building a network of treaties through the foothill kingdoms and duchies that have activation clauses like ‘when the Sun Emperor claims his bride’, so almost overnight Jonan’s Empire went from Jokkiel’s temple holdings plus Meshtinbar, Uustridge, Pellchase, and a dozen odd duchies that had pledged to his family for protection from bandits, to most of the western headwaters of the great river. There’s a prophecy that says his empire will cover half the world, and it seems the priests of Jokkiel are working to make it come true.”
He made a face of distaste and went on, “Consequently, we are expecting a period of disruptions while the empire expands. Just to insure against unfortunate incidents, we’re spreading out the Divine Herds and Flocks; expanding their numbers and locations. Cows from here and two bulls from Prothiarn will go to a new farm in the upper Guadalfambra valley. The lands there cleave to the Duchy of Ondon which is already within the empire’s orbit, so we expect things there to remain calm and settled. Two bulls from here and cows from Prothiarn will go to another new farm near Charoix, up on the Balan Ranges. It should be a generation or two before the empire bothers going up there.”
“Excuse me, Learned Brother,” that was Cousin Gwelifra who wore her hair in twin braids, “but were many people hurt when the temple collapsed? I’ve heard that it is, perhaps was, the size of a large village.”
“That’s one of the things that has everyone talking,” admitted Learned Brother Ruudmund. “No-one was hurt. The emperor assumed that this Chambourian Verse prophecy thing meant exactly what it said and used his soldiers to enforce an evacuation of the entire complex. The place collapsed in front of them and no-one was inside it. Gossip says that the former high priest took himself off somewhere on his own the next day, but news said a lot of the clerical staff are going to some university-thing the emperor is setting up in his capital.”
He sighed. “Important members of the senior clergy are excited about both the prophecy and the university-thing, and I can understand that, but no-one has explained the prophecy to me, so I can’t explain it to you.”
“Thanks and blessings for that,” said the divine spark acerbically in Eliane’s mind. “You could probably make good money taking bets on which of your extended family would get to Prothiarn first if they knew what it was about. What we don’t want is a fuss about who goes-.”
“Send young Eliane to help take the cattle along,” recommended Great-Uncle Banning from his place on Eliane’s left plus two. “She’s the only one who hasn’t had a trip since her Dedication. She’s a neat hand at managing the muck pile, but that’s no reason for her not to see more of the world. Besides, it would be a good idea if a few more people her age on this farm had experience with keeping the thing in line.”
“It was out to get me,” said Eliane’s aunt.
“You let it catch on fire,” pointed out her brother, Eliane’s father.
“I didn’t let it do anything,” she tossed her single braid back over her shoulder with one hand. “It charged ahead and did what it wanted despite my best efforts. Cheese is a more sensible thing to work with. You can reason with cheese.”
“You can reason with cheese, dear,” her husband teased. “It’s not something that works for the rest of us.”
Everyone else at the table laughed, giggled, or at least smiled, even Learned Brother Ruudmund who looked like he wasn’t quite sure why he was smiling. Then Eliane’s grandmother said, “I think Banning is right, no matter who else goes we should send Eliane. As you’ve come here, Learned Brother, I suppose that at least some of our heifers will be going to the Guadalfambra valley? Will more be coming from the other subherds our family’s families look after?”
“I wasn’t one of the people making the selection, Skilled Sister Liadra,” replied the priest, “but I’m told that they selected the animals in question with a view to establishing a vigorous bloodline and a herd with experienced animals to guide it from the beginning.”
“So, you’ll be taking some of the older cows then too,” commented Almo. Then the conversation moved onto which animals would be going, and Eliane’s participation was an accepted fact.
“That went more smoothly than I feared,” commented the divine spark as they left the lunch table. “I hadn’t considered that everyone might already believe that you were owed a trip away. I was told that it would all work out, but I’ve been inside the minds of members of your family for a long time, and I’ve known more of you than the Bearers: I was worried.”
In her thoughts, Eliane asked, “Who told you?”
“My…principal? Technically, in theological terms, I’m an independent autonomous aspect of Rhenasanamofa, Mentor of Those That Work in Life. We talk sometimes, well, a lot very recently. I know you, your predecessors and your wider family very well. She knows a lot more people.” Eliane got the impression that the divine spark was very happy about all of that in a child-like skipping on her way manner.
“So, do you have a name?” Under the circumstances, Eliane didn’t want to be rude to the other person in her head.
“Rhenasanamofa,” replied the divine spark. “We’re both Rhenasanamofa. Or perhaps it’s all of us are? I shall have to ask.”
“That sounds complicated,” allowed Eliane.
“And that’s before we go into why I am what I am and what my function is.” The divine spark giggled and then added in a serious tone, “You have your normal work to do this afternoon and I’m sure that you’ll need start packing tonight, although things won’t be organised for you to leave for a few days yet. We’ll talk again later. In the meantime, make sure that you’re near a privy in about three quarters of an hour. Oh, and plan to take anything you’ll miss if you don’t have it with you when you leave.” The voice in her head went silent but Eliane thought that there was a background hum to her thoughts that she hadn’t noticed before.
The advice about the privy was very much on point.
This is now followed by Part 2.
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