8 July 2020 / Fiction The Dialogues of the Acolytes: Many Meetings It was in the days of the Preacher before he met the Learned One, in the days of his youth, before even when he traveled up and down throughout the land, telling of the Oracle, its goodness unto the sons and daughters of men, its light which resplendently captures the soul, and its telling of the One of Hope for the peoples of the East.Now, in those days, the Prince had yet to hold sway over the cities of the East, for his father the wise King lived strongly and taught wisely from his seat of principality, the grace of the Oracles on his lips. The king used to read it in the assembly of the people as betided each month, for it was not his wont towards wanton display in recitation as would become his wicked son's. One day, when the city was astir with commerce and traffic, the old King called for his trusted advisors, the three remaining Acolytes, and commanded them thus:"Hail, ye acolytes! Such is my command, for such is my love toward the grace of the One which shines therefrom the pages of yon scroll. Gather a census of any able-minded men, men of good report, men of good standing, men of ready wit, able to read and learn, such men as might give their lives to the delight and study of the Oracles. These men take and assemble in an open place before me, and there await my further command.""As thou hast commanded, O King, it shall be done!"And so the Acolytes went up and down throughout the land and found men of good report, men of good standing, and men of ready wit, keenly ready to read and learn all which the Oracles had commanded. Thus it was that the Preacher was found, working at his labor quietly in the cool of the morning, communing and delighting in his heart inwardly at the presence of that Good One, whose words he loved from his youth up. "Hail, ye carpenter, artificer of wood!" Spake the Acolytes unto the Preacher. "We come bearing words from the good King.""Hail Acolytes, and well met," for the Acolytes were well known throughout the land for wisdom of life and wisdom of word, "there is none good but the One, but let the dictum be read in my hearing as you say." "The King seeks any such as love the Oracles of the One, willing to read and learn before him all of the days of their mortal lives.""These words have I loved from my youth up. What doth the King require?""Assemble thyself with the men chosen in the marketplace of the Distaff Guild, three moons from the morrow. There the King shall proclaim his edict concerning thee." And so the Preacher went about his labor, fitting the wood of his workshop into cunning designs, wherein his character showed itself most readily. Thus did he for the three moons more until the time of assemblage arrived. This time of assemblage was at the time of the spring feast, the time of giving and taking in marriage, for which the sons of men await most heartily, when the Preacher departed his village in the hinterlands of the east, set atop his trusty donkey, to present himself before the King. The city was garbed in silken banners of pink and gold which flapped in the westerly winds bearing the new season, like the flowers of the northern woods at bloom. The daughters of the country were beautiful, and many was the son who found his darling's hand in marriage, pledging his troth unto her with most somber countenance. The Preacher looked upon these things and felt his yearning, but awaited the blessing of the One and the words of the King with steady patience.He rode through the city and mused silently in the quietude of his inner man:A time for everything under heaven there is A time to love and a time to hate there isA time to embrace and a time to refrain there is Now is the time to hear, and speak, and chew, and delight,For great is the food the One doth give aright.So mused the preacher as he rode through the bustle of the city, feeling the renewal of his inner man as he did so, untouched by the raucous laughter redounding from stone and timber. At last, he reached the market of the Distaff Guild, where the spinsters of the land prepared their cloth, garments of lavish purple, threaded through elegantly with accents in every color under the sun. Men of every station in life, small and great, of means or less, sat in dusty circles about the dusty ground of the market, talking in joyous voices, of the Oracle and their joy at the King's summons. As if the heavens opened, silence fell in a great blanket over the assemblage as the Acolytes appeared on the dais at the head of the marketplace."Behold, the great King, Lord of the cities of the East, arbiter in judgements in which he judges most wisely, endowed with the spirit of counsel and wisdom, the captain of the armies of the East, the great lover of the Oracles, from which he receives light to spread abroad. Hail!"The marketplace stood as one man and thundered the word, "Hail," for the king, their symbol of the might of the coming One, arrived to give his delcamation in the marketplace. "Learned men of the Eastern Cities, for this purpose hath my command reached thee wherever life hath found thee in recent days. Let it be known unto thee that I shall create a University for Learned Clerics of the Oracle. In this place, if thou shalt acquiesce unto my invitation, thou shalt learn of the Oracle in greatest detail from the Acolytes, my great counselors whom the One hath seen fit to endow with especial wisdom and insight. From them, if thy heart hungers within thee, thou shalt also gain insight and wisdom as thy learned pursuits one day take thee across the lands, that the words of the One may be heard in every nation and tongue of peoples, that the light of Love, Faith, and Hope may shine unadulterated as the stars of heaven.Learn ye the ways of wisdom in greatest depth, know the One, and mortify carnal conversation from thy house. Make purification for thy sins; for the Oracles, a clean home prepare. Learn ye to wield the Oracles in truth, and they shall be a diadem to thy head and a garden of delight to thy progeny. This shall we do. Thus I have spoken."The men assembled in that place talked amongst themselves in hushed, excited whispers, for such a thing had never been done in the lands of the East and perhaps would never be done again. Such was the great excitement at the King's command. So it was in the spring of that year, at the time of giving and taking in marriage, when the banners flapped and danced in the breeze, that the Preacher quit himself from the work to which he had been dedicated, left his house in the hinterlands of the kingdom, and gat himself to study the words of the Oracle, with his fellows at his side and the Acolytes at his head.