‘I bend to the will of The Worthy.’
‘We bend to the will of The Worthy,’ chorused the people kneeling on the rush strewn floor of the large Hall of Listening.
‘The year wanes and the time of the Gratitude is drawing to a close. This concludes the last ritual of the warm sun. Bring in the image of The Sprightly. Let him enter the Great Hall of Listening,’ Tiatra, the elderly Executioner of the Will, measured her words with care for the Devotees and people before her. The worshippers stood and turned to watch as the small statue of The Sprightly was carried in and placed on its first foothold inside the Hall doors to mark that his time approached. Tiatra smiled, of the three wills she liked the impish Sprightly most.Who could tell what The Sprightly would cause to happen. But Tiatra thought she saw his hand in the unexpected arrival of an Interpreter from the Great House of Listening to her remote meeting Hall.
‘I welcome the time of the Sprightly, time of plenty and forewarning of the dark to come.’
‘We welcome the time of the Sprightly,’ echoed the people, in one voice.
‘The will of The Worthy guide your hands in your labours. I bend to the Will.’
‘I bend to the Will,’ Ciara repeated from the back of the Hall. Tiatra smiled to herself as she watched her favourite and most able Devotee who had carried in the mask. Ciara bowed and turned to open the doors to allow the people to pass out of the Hall.
Tiatra sighed as she stepped down from the dais and went to meet the Interpreter who had attended as part of the congregation in the ritual. She led her into a small receiving room in the living quarters off the Hall of Listening.
‘You prepare your ceremonies well Executioner,’ the woman’s voice was warm and she sat opposite Tiatra at the small round entertaining table. Ciara brought in the bowls and a steaming pot of tea, set them reverently before the two women and silently withdrew.
‘The Devotee learns quickly?’ the Interpreter watched as the girl bowed out of the room.
‘Indeed she does, with such keenness and attention. Would I were that young again, with all my ambitions to be an Interpreter still floating in my head. But I have done with all that and never got above Executioner.’
‘More tea old woman, I’ll pour that into your cup instead of my tears for your lost youth.’
‘I should serve you Interpreter, but my hands shake so these days that I fear you would never have a drop to drink.’ The old lady smiled at the younger woman opposite her.
‘Tiatra, old friend and teacher I would not have you think of rank between us, it is I who have come for some of your wisdom, as all we Interpreters in the Great House are at odds with each other. The Worthy has not been heard for so long we fear that the people will stop listening. Already the voice of the Contemptible is whispering around our thresholds.’
‘It ever was, Interpreter Ariena, but we had the voice of the Worthy to drown it out. Has the successor not been found from out of all the provinces yet?’
‘Not in all these fourteen years, not a trace and The Contemptible seeks to destroy us with growing tales that The Worthy has forgotten us or has been overthrown. But I do not believe that. Yet throughout time it has not been known to have so long a period without a Hearer in the Great House of Listening. People are faltering in their belief and we are unable to give interpretations of the words of the Worthy as we do not hear them.’ Tiatra noted the tone of self doubt and worry in the voice of the Interpreter.
‘Ariena how long is it since you passed from this, my Hall?’