Prosatio Silban and the Hushed Revelation


Prosatio Silban glanced up at epicurean Pormaris’ massive dockside clock-tower, an accurate timekeeper and source of immense civic pride. A quarter-hour past fourteen, he thought. My customer should be arriving soon – and aha! here he is.

An almost-shabby youth clad in an academic’s robes shuffled his hesitant way through the makeshift lanes of the grand city’s fabled South Market, a packet of scrolls under one skinny arm. Seeing the Cook For Any Price, lodged between a fatberry-oil presser and seller of imported curios, he broke into a brief half-hearted smile and sat down at one of the two empty tables-and-chairs.

The two had engaged in this daily tête-à-tête for the past three weeks, Prosatio Silban providing Herio’s lunch in exchange for the latter’s specific researches at Pormaris’ College of Dedicated Knowing. The cook had recently taken an interest in Uulian antiquity, specifically their people’s arrival in the Exilic Lands some eight centuries past; he hoped to use the sage-in-training’s enquiries to refine his own culinary studies at the renowned Archive of Gastronomic Artifice.

“Good day to you, young Herio!” Prosatio Silban said with sincere warmth. “The usual, yes?”

“Good day to you, young Herio!” Prosatio Silban said with sincere warmth. “The usual, yes?”

“Yes, please,” the youth replied. “Are you certain you don’t mind our arrangement?”

“Absolutely! Your welfare and occupation are important to me – after all, not everyone has access to their own private scholar. Excuse me.” The cook leapt up the galleywagon steps and inside, reappearing a moment later with a steaming bowl of jaraanga beans and blue rice drizzled with yamok-sauce. This he placed before the youth with an exaggerated flourish.

“Your lunch, sir,” Prosatio Silban said, bowing. “And what have you today for payment?”

The student contemplated his lunch, a grimace distorting his mouth. “You may not wish to learn it, as did I,” he said in a near-whisper. “The truth is…well, the exact word escapes me. ‘Loathsome’ or ‘disgusting’ would be close to the mark, as would ‘horrible’ and ‘unnatural.’”

Prosatio Silban lost his smile and put a hand on Herio’s arm. “What are you saying?” he asked in a matching undertone.

“You know the story of the Uulian Exile? How we displeased the Flickering Gods and were cast from Islandhome and across the Rimless Sea? How we gratefully washed ashore here? And were thus and then promised by our gods a glorious return once we proved our worth by making fruitful again this then-desolate land?”

“Yes. And such we have done; the indigenes say it is even more fruitful than their grandmothers’ grandmothers’ grandmothers remember. Our Sacreants say that we have but to continue doing good works to be assured of being soon given back our ancestral ocean-bounded abode.”

“Well…” Herio hesitated. “That is not quite the truth of it.”


The student glanced from side to side and hunched forward, barely mouthing his words. “Have you never wondered why we consign our dead to pyres rather than burying them?”

“I have no need of wonder. Pyres are more efficient, especially with land so dear. Everyone knows that.”

“Well. Everyone is wrong. The funerary flames are in order to wean ourselves away from…from…by the All-Mother! I cannot say it.”

“Yes, you can,” prompted Prosatio Silban. “‘From?’”

Herio swallowed, hard. “From… human sacrifice.”

The cook was drop-jawed for several heartbeats. “You cannot be serious!” he finally exclaimed in a hoarse whisper.

The cook was drop-jawed for several heartbeats. “You cannot be serious!” he finally exclaimed in a hoarse whisper.

“I wish I were not. That is why we were banished by divine fiat, and only permitted to return once we had cured ourselves of our anthrothanatotheurgical inclinations.”

Prosatio Silban locked eyes with his young patron and clutched his arm. “Who else knows?” he demanded with quiet urgency. “And as importantly: what are you and I to do with this information?”

“I can answer neither question.”

“Nor can I,” murmured the cook-errant, and his tone turned resolute. “Yet.”

* * *

That night, Prosatio Silban was still turning over in his mind Herio’s revelation as he took distracted stock of that day’s stores-depletion. Human sacrifice! he thought, and shuddered. By the All-Mother! How can such a thing be? Or even have been? No wonder we – oh, how can I inventory my pantry with a mind full of shock? Perhaps I’ll think more clearly after an intervening slumber.

The triple knock at his galleywagon’s entrance startled him out of his dark meditations. He grunted in annoyance, closed the pantry, padded across the ornate braided rug, and unlatched the front door’s upper half. “Yes?” he barked, swinging it open.

A hooded figure met his curious gaze, eerily cross-shadowed by the double moonlight. Its voice was low, female, and creaky.

“Prosatio Silban?”

“Yes?” he repeated.

“You know a certain youthful scholar with an eye toward exchanging knowledge for meals.”

“What of it?”

“He will visit you no longer.”

The cook’s breath caught. “Where is he? And what do you know about it?”

In lieu of answer, the figure flowed down the galleywagon steps and melted into the marketplace-gloom.

In lieu of answer, the figure flowed down the galleywagon steps and melted into the marketplace-gloom.

After a moment, the cook closed the door and shook his head. What was that all about? he wondered, scratching at one ear. If it meant to dissuade me, then it should have spoken with greater force. I must find my studious friend and see to his welfare – but alas! I shall have to do so in the morning.

There was nothing else for it but to turn with a shrug and a sigh to his evening ablutions: removing his artificial eyebrows, dabbing at his face with a warm wet washcloth, and thoroughly chewing a twig of minted toothwood. That done, he exchanged a long teal-cotton nightshirt for his green tunic and dusky kneebreeches, then paused for a swift and sincere prayer before climbing into his sleeping-berth:

O Blessed All-Mother Galien, Dread All-Limiter Angrim, and Bounteous All-Provider Hopmon, thank You for allowing me one more day to walk and to serve You in this, the most interesting of all possible worlds. Let also my plea for assistance in the matter of young Herio’s safety and discovery reach the ears of Those Who can clarify it for me, especially in light of any action I may take or refrain from taking, and from or to whom or Whom I may so act. In return, I shall continue to serve You to the best of whatever ability You have so graciously granted me. This I affirm.

He sighed once more, and pulled to his chin the parrot-down comforter against Pormaris’ perpetual night-chill. His last thoughts before sliding into unconsciousness were three simple words: Please. Help. Us.

From his mountaintop perch Prosatio Silban overlooked a vast and verdant island. Small villages dotted the placid vista; copious grey smoke as of a hundred pyres spiraled up from their centers, together with fearsome screams and deep liturgical chanting. An all-encompassing-but-silent voice seemed centered in the cook’s chest:

“Was,” said the voice.

Lightning struck, and the view changed. The villages, punctuated by three city-sized districts, now adorned a great mountain-rimmed valley; the pyre-smoke was less dense and situated on the communities’ peripheries. Weeping and wailing wafted into the cook-errant’s ears. Once more the voice thundered in his heart:

“Is,” it said.

Again lightning shattered the landscape.

Again lightning shattered the landscape. This time no smoke at all could be seen, though towns now stretched to a distant seascape. Only the fitful wind could be heard as it whistled through solemn cairns ringing the settlements.

“Will,” said the voiceless voice.

Prosatio Silban smiled, pouring sand from one hand into the other. It’s all a process! he thought in wonder, as the grains slipped one by one between his fingers. Each ritualized moment is a link in a ceaseless chain. Separate but related; unique and united. How strange, and beautiful – and very, very much as it should be.

There came a sudden cockcrow from somewhere to his left, and the cook opened his eyes to grey light seeping through the lozenge-paned window above his sleeping-berth. Thank You, he thought, and continued to smile. Thank You all for the answer.

* * *

“How did you know?” the High Sacreant asked Prosatio Silban through an amazed grimace. “About our shameful past and projected future, I mean.”

The spacious reception-room was a microcosm of the Diamond Shrine itself: ornate, tasteful, and possessed of an imposing formality. Tall teak shelves were neatly stuffed with scrolls and codices; cryptic statuary occupied occasional low tables; warm amber light shone from well-placed sunstones; and light steam rose in lazy ribbons from two cups of yava perched on the supervising cleric’s expansive and otherwise empty desk. The entire picture screamed power, both ancient and unyielding.

“I myself once wore the Rainbow Robe,” the cook replied, eyes fixed on the steaming cups. “I still remember the forms, and every now and again I pray in the olden way as I was taught. Sometimes, as for example last night, it can be effective.”

“I should say so,” said the High Sacreant. “Did you offer a meal-sacrifice, or…?”

“Not at all. I just” – he spread wide his hands and sputtered – “and out it came. Mind you, I do not wish to topple the religious apple-pile, but mine was such a large question that I felt I needed Their help to understand my understanding, so to speak. Also, I did not know how your organization would take to my…to our researches. Which leads me to another question: Where is young Herio?”

The High Sacreant smiled. “Safe.”

“I have your word?”

“You do have it, in the name of Asiloma, Goddess of Inspired and Binding Promises. But by having it, and knowing what you now know about our progressive history, what will you do now?”

Prosatio Silban met her probing gaze and arched one eyebrow. “Now? It does not matter. But answer me this: Am I next to become…‘safe?’”

Her smile grew wider. “Not yet,” she said. “Not as yet.”

(If you’re new to these tales, here are the preface and introduction. And if you want the first 85 stories in one easy-to-read package, here’s the e-book!)

4 comments for “Prosatio Silban and the Hushed Revelation

  1. Kathryn Hildebrandt
    2022.10.13 at 1016

    That kind of “safe” could mean anything…

    If you hide people’s dark past from them, they tend to repeat it.

  2. Kathryn Hildebrandt
    2022.10.13 at 2140

    *slaps forehead
    So that’s why you call them Exilic Lands.

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