The Chosen Course
“So… You’ve survived the test but still failed it. You’ve done the impossible. You were the most promising of my students. I’m very disappointed. Do you feel that you have fulfilled the Source’s intentions? Or do you feel that you have cheated death… And thereby cheated the Source?”
“I am sorry to disagree with you Cardinal but if what I did was impossible I’d have suffered the fate of Sinneff. If it were the will of the Source that I should be dead then rest assured that I’d not be here to disappoint you. I sense by your use of tense that I am no longer to be one of your students… how odd; am I not every bit as promising as when I entered the sea five days ago? Alas that is how it so often is, that we are remembered only for our failures and not our successes. But I digress, my dear Cardinal. To answer your questions: no one can truly know the intentions of the Source, so I cannot logically answer your first question. And as for cheating death… I am not alive in spite of the Source, but because of it.”
“It’s shocking to see such hot words coming from such a tattered frame. If you were in full health, I’m sure that you would not speak to your Cardinal in so assuming a manner. Your wounds seem grievous. It seems that perhaps the Source has deemed that you should live, as you suggest, but has also allowed you to suffer greatly. The Source did not offer up the answer that would have saved you this physical turmoil."
The Cardinal then leaned toward Sagesse and placed two healing hands upon Sagesse’s raw and ravaged leg. The Cardinal’s words sank in and shamed the poor acolyte who had suffered much over the last several days. Where he was and what had happened was all beginning to settle in his mind as if it were a complex algorithm that needed to be solved. He had to undress the wound in order to work with it, but even as he did, the pain of the injury subsided to a great degree, and Sagesse remembered that it was his ability to channel the power of the Source that he had always respected with great awe. The young, failed acolyte also had the strange sensation that he understood exactly how the healing was taking place, and perhaps that he could perform such a healing.
“I’m afraid that this wound is too great to be completely healed," Said the Cardinal as he finished examining the wound. Sagesse realized that the damage was quite considerable, and could possibly cause him a disability for quite some time.
“Now… As for you being my student. You have obviously learned a great deal, but I cannot advance you to the robes of the white bishops. The ceremony has ended, and obviously you were not freed from your bondage.” The Cardinal then handed the young man a shackle, which was not attached to a chain of any kind. It was simple and fairly light, but looked very much like the shackle that Sagesse had worn for five days in the ocean. When the boy held it in his hands, he felt the warmth of magical properties within it.
“Perhaps there is another way,” the Cardinal said, searching for words. “Do you recall the story of Linus? In ancient times, our priests earned their way into the robes on a mission of conversion." Sagesse did recall the ancient story of Linus, of course, who traveled to far reaching lands opening others’ eyes to the Source.
The Cardinal Continued, “I know of a place that requires that the Source be revealed to its people. But if you would rather rejoin the new acolytes, I might consider allowing you to go through the training again. It just seems that you would be ill suited to such a youthful pursuit now. In the four years that the acolytes would spend in training, you would not have many opportunities to challenge yourself and expand your knowledge… What do you suppose would be the best path for you?”
While Sagesse sat quietly for some time the Cardinal saw that he was in one of his ‘calculating’ trains of thought, staring almost blankly with his eyes moving slightly as if looking at parts of a problem in the air itself and solving them as he scanned them over. He broke back into the conversation. “I apologize for my haughty retort Cardinal. I have indeed been through a great deal, and my response was wrought more from my own personal frustrations than anything else. My initial view of things caused me to see my inability to pass the test as a failure, and in my years as an acolyte I’ve failed at nothing. However, upon your mention of the path of Linus, I can now see that this is the way it was meant to be for me. While I do feel that had I passed the test I would have learned a great deal among you and fellow Bishops, and that may still come to pass, I believe I will learn a great deal more in travel, things that cannot be taught but must be experienced. For, in my time under the waves, I was given insight into the very nature of the Source.” This last remarke drew a strange glance from the powerful Cardinal. “And outside the monastery, I’ll be more likely to be challenged and expand upon what I have learned. I believe this to be the will of the Source, and as such, I accept the path of Linus.”
Sagesse accepted the shackle from the Cardinal. He slipped the shackle onto his wrist, and it became uncomfortably tight immediately, though no physical change was visibly evident. He tested it, and indeed his wrist was trapped fast in the cuff.
The young man sensed that his decision had placed the Cardinal at ease. He was free to make his decision, but it did seem as if the fatherly man was pushing, guiding in one direction. That may not have been an altogether bad thing though, Sagesse reasoned, reflecting on his very awkward place at the end of his path as an acolyte. Perhaps he needed a little guidance. His reaction seemed curious, though, causing Sagesse to wonder about an ulterior motive. The Cardinal told him more about the opportunity that he had begun to describe, the Linus-like mission trip.
“Perhaps all of this is the Source’s intent,” Smiled the Cardinal. “It’s not as if you wanted these terrible things to befall you; it’s not as if you intended to fail the test. After all, only the human will can run contrary to the Source.” The idea that human will could run contrary to the Source caught Sagesse off guard, and it seemed to make the Cardinal pensive as well. His tangled brown locks fall over his face as he leaned forward, pressing his chin into his hand.
How could anyone or anything run contrary to the Source? Even man, after all, is a part of nature. Sagesse’s mind passed again into mental exercises that tested the idea of human will working against the Source. Is denying that the Source exists a betrayal of It? How could ignorance be a sin against the Source? What about killing? Life is the most vivid culmination of the Source, so killing seems like it would run contrary to the Source, as the acolyte’s had been taught. But death is a part of the natural cycle, even when animals or hunters kill. What about killing out of greed? Isn’t greed a natural thing as well though? Is the human animal somehow more than natural? We are not outside the dominion of the Source, after all. And war – just then the Cardinal’s eyes flashed on the boy, and he rushed into details about the voyage he must make.
“Prince Aidan Maybourne II has been exiled for treason against his father the King, for some secret willful insubordination. I am sending you with the Prince to a small island city, Baytown on the Bay de Paz. You can do a great deal of good there. The native people are completely ignorant of the Source, mostly praying to primitive versions of the Source, many ‘gods’ of different elements, seasons, and other such things. We are interested in recording what their religion has been. It is possible that the Source has been revealed to them only partially or that something particular about the Source can be learned from their perspective. But the Truth must be revealed to them. It may be easiest to first show them how their beliefs reflect the Truth, and only then reveal to them the Truth in full – after you have earned their trust.” This suggestion seemed to reflect some ideas from the Story of Linus. “The methods and the path of your mission will be your own decisions though,” the Cardinal continued.
“Also, it is important that you monitor and accompany the Prince often. It is altogether possible that he may yet ascend to the throne one day. If his brothers do not outlive him, then he would, despite his exile status, be called back to rule Westend. Let us hope that is never the case. Long live the King.” The Cardinal makes the blessing sign of the swirling conch over his heart.
“Prince Aidan would be a horrible potential ruler unless he gains an understanding of the Source such as his father displays. The Prince’s ship is already being loaded. Is there anything at all that you desire? Anything that I could do to help you on your path?”
Sagesse again took all that the Cardinal had offered into consideration, in his familiar trance once again. Many questions formulated in front of him, most of which centered on the news of this to-be-exiled prince, and what purpose his monitoring might serve. And what of these natives? Before his mind could drift too far down too many paths Sagesse honed in on the last question the Cardinal asked. What would be needed? What was afforded Linus on his path?
Figuring that the political and religious aspects of the trip will be revealed in time and are not of great consequence at this very moment Sagesse addressed the Cardinal, “I shall need very little; only adequate clothing and a quarterstaff, sufficient provisions for the trip, and a few coin or other unit of barter for once I arrive. To chronicle the religion of the natives I’ll need whatever parchment and writing implements you deem necessary. I should also like to read up on any knowledge we have regarding the Baytown area, flora, fauna, native customs and symbology, etc. Any books I can take should be packed, any that must remain here I’d like to peruse before the ship leaves. Many thanks my dear Cardinal for this opportunity, I only hope that I can live up to the legacy of Linus.”