Prosatio Silban and the Divine Gaze

(THIS TALE IS FOR THOSE who have wondered about Those Who watch over, and occasionally interfere with, the residents of the Uulian Commonwell. Read it in good humor.)

Prosatio Silban finished his evening meditations, stood up on his ornate braided rug, and drew back the black silk curtain dividing his sleeping-berth from the rest of the galleywagon. A long busy day brings both profit and rest well-earned, he quoted to himself, and climbed in. Drawing up the parrot-down coverlet, he exhaled a long and grateful sigh, reached out to his collapsible night-table for the well-thumbed book sitting there (Barbatus the Elder’s Poetries’ Emotion) , thought better of it, and curled up on his left side. Good for the digestion, this, he thought, and closed his eyes in prayer as much as in lassitude. O Galien, the All-Mother; Hopmon, God of the Ever-Full Purse; and Scofi, Goddess of Culinary Impartation; thank You for yet another full day of life. May I be worthy of Your attention for a good night’s sleep. O my gods, mysterious and sublime: through all my prayers, I have yet to see Your face or hear Your voice. If only I could, I … I would … would …

Of a sudden, the beefy cook was poised above a landscape spread below him like a living relief-map. A chill wind cut through his thin nightshirt and raised the hairs on his flesh; he hugged himself for warmth.

“Take this,” boomed a woman’s voice from behind him. Prosatio Silban turned to see a large, thick fleece. As if by reflex, he grasped the gift and slid his glance upward from the enormous hand that held it. A kind face looked down on him, flashing a smile both mischievous and welcoming.

“Who are you?” he asked in wonder.

“I am Paqtor, sometimes called the Goddess of Unreasonable Expectations,” she replied.

“I am Paqtor, sometimes called the Goddess of Unreasonable Expectations,” she replied.

He knelt, wrapping himself in the pelt. “Thank You,” he said, and averted his eyes. “And what brings You to cast Your attentions on Your humble servant?”

“Do not be so humble. You are an accomplished tradesman who has brought comfort to many who lacked it, food to many who lacked that, and I desire your company for a time. Take pride in those accomplishments, and raise your gaze.”

He did so, taking in sable ringlets, a noble nose, generous mouth and iridescent eyes; a white silk kaftan flowing over a well-proportioned body five manheights tall. Try though he might, Prosatio Silban found himself unable to look away.

“I have heard your prayer and am intrigued,” she went on. “Why do you wish to behold us?”

“Well … to tell You the truth, I am not certain. I once served You and the Others as a Sacreant but it wasn’t until I became a mercenary cook that I truly felt that service. I feel closer to You all now in a way I never did then.”

“That is the way of divine service. Anyone can pray or light an altar-fire. But it takes true dedication to perceive holiness through persevering among one’s fellow-creatures, simply by using the gifts we gave you.”

“Why did You give me these gifts?”

She gestured at the landscape below. “See that island, where those three rivers converge into one? That is your people’s greatest city, epicurean Pormaris, just west of what you call the vast Emerald Incessance. Why do you suppose your people never colonized it?”

“I do not know.”

“Or the Azure Void, far to the city’s southwest. Why do you Uulians have such a predilection for definitions and descriptions?”

“I … do not know that either.”

“I could tell you our names for them, but your mouth could not wrap around their syllables…”

“I could tell you our names for them, but your mouth could not wrap around their syllables. Being a deity has its advantages, but those do not always translate well into other forms or skills.”

“You are not going to answer me, are You, Goddess?”

Paqtor smiled. “I just did.”

Prosatio Silban frowned at the lush countryside below. So many lives down there, he thought. So many mysteries. And not many answers – if any at all.

“Here.” She offered her hand, fingertip and thumb pinched together. The cook presented his open palm, and the goddess released her fingers to let drop into it something mounted on a small chain. He held up a stylized eye, apparently made of gold-gripped diamond, and cast her a quizzical look.

“For when you need perspective,” she said with a grin.

Prosatio Silban sat up, eyes a-blink from sunlight washing through the small window above his sleeping-berth. What? How? he thought, his mind a bemused haze. Did I … could I have … wait.

He felt at his throat, fingers touching something mounted on a small chain which he raised to his field of vision. A stylized golden eye with a diamond pupil.

“This cannot be!” he exclaimed, and the amulet and chain dissolved into sparkling mist.

So much for needed perspective, he thought with a rueful smile. I must choose my words with more care.

(If you’re new to these tales, here are the preface and introduction. And if you want them all (so far) in one easy-to-read package, here’s the e-book!)

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