Chapter 67: The Acolyte Path

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While some of the Albic cultures reject the presence of the Luminous Religion, others embrace it. And yet, unlike what the pessimistic philosophers say, the Luminous Doctrines haven't erased the "pagan" history of the land. Instead, as befits the nature of the religion, they've taken customs and sanctified them, turning practices like Acolyte Walks into an acceptable religious activity.

-Tsarma Kehn, A History of Religion, Vol. 2, Albic Paganism and the Luminous Doctrines

***

There was a storm brewing.

It was hiding in the sky, in the soft, feathery grey clouds, but Laidu knew it was there. He could feel it, brooding behind the softer clouds. And, being raised on top of a mountain, Laidu was sensitive to these things. Like a murderer's anger, the storm festered behind the soft, feather-down clouds.

"Indra!" he snapped. What in the world was she doing? He turned back to see her staring at a pile of rocks, stacked in a once-symmetric pattern.

"Is this what I think it is?" she asked.

"What?" Laidu asked, hopping down the path towards the scholar.

"This looks like an old pagan shrine," Indra said, suddenly animated and excited. "It's a remnant of old Albic culture!"

"No it's not. It's a league-marker," Laidu said. "The shrines tend to be higher up."

"Oh." Indra frowned. "How can you tell?"

"There's a lack of moss on these rocks," Laidu said. "Mountaineers measure their paces out and mark these up after every rainstorm." He paused. "That, and I don't remember any Albic pagan myths about worshiping disorganized rock piles."

"Ah, yes. That's a point." Scholars were supposed to be smart, supposed to be educated. Yet many Laidu met were rather vacuous in the realm of common sense. They were knowledgeable in the realms of history and science and philosophy and rhetoric, but throw them all on an island with a few hatchets, two cords of wood, and a mission to survive for a month, and they wouldn't last the week.

Wow, she is kind of stupid, Rhaem said, bored.

Really, Host, why do you keep her in your company? Is she important to you? You do not value her like you value the other one, Tasron said. Laidu knew Tasron was talking about Kyra. He could feel the voice in his head remember her. He remembered the smell of her, the scent of her hair when she fell asleep next to him, the faint brushes of her fingers as she stroked the scars across his back at Three Pines, the kiss on the cheek outside Rhea's inn at Baton's Mill.

Now she was distant, as if he had frightened her off. Reserved, but not in the demure sense a lady often possessed. This apprehension was born out of fear, Laidu could tell. Fear of him? Of course, there could be no other reasoning.

So, painful as it was, he stopped remembering those. He pushed them out of his mind, instead forcing himself to recount all the paths up the mountain. Why do you flee from the memory? Tasron asked. He seemed genuinely curious.

You see my mind, Laidu mentally snapped, throwing all his venom and irritation at the voice. You tell me.

Pain. You act like an animal, like a dog, flinching every time your master looks your way in fear of his belt on your back. Pain. You're running from pain. If Tasron had a body to spit, he would have. You disgust me.

Don't mind him, Rhaem cut in, he's just stingy. Stingy and mean. But he's supposed to help. Rhaem paused. Though you do seem like you're avoiding the problem. Shouldn't you confront it?

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