16 August 2020 / Fiction The Dialogues of the Acolytes: The River of Mercy and the Table of Delight So came the two freed prisoners to the citadel of the olden King, each wearing nought but a garment to cover their extremities. They climbed the stairway leading to the entrance of the Hall of Wonders, where the King established signs that were in keeping with the grace of the One. The city lay beneath them as they climbed the towering staircase of Time, white and blue in the light of midday, a straight beam of stone piercing the heavens. They gazed in unmitigated awe upon the grandeur of the king's city, like a heaven of the earthen kingdoms, spires tall in the sun, banners flapping and dancing in the breeze, citizens filled with laughter and joy, and knights in gleaming, plated armor lining the staircase to the very summit of the king's holy mountain, where the hall was built; then the King standing over the River of Mercy, which did run through the very stone of the hall's floor, the king, old but hale, his armor of youth garbing his chest, still broad though bearing many years. Where the river ran into a culvert in the wall and departed the Hall of Wonders, from thence it ran to the very foothills of the northern mountains and steppes, where it lost itself in a cool mountain lake of blue and emerald, waters of purest hue. Such did the king desire of his mercy. Beside the River of Mercy did the King prepare and bedeck a table of fat and rich food for all people as desired to eat of it, people who had no money – yea, people who desired provender free from price, people who thirsted and hungered to the depths: such found every satisfaction and every delight. So it was called the Table of Delight.Many others climbed the staircase to the Hall of Wonders that day, among which were also the Acolytes, the clerics which they sought to train, and the Preacher himself. The ceremony gradually came to hold a certain sacerdotal signifiicance due to the illuminating nature of its symbols and signs of the One's truths. Thus did any as had desire climb the staircase to go and see what the king had prepared to show the people."Hast thou considered what the King thinkest of the Oracle? How mightest he summarize it into one word if he were given the charge?" So asked the Acolyte of the North as the university's pupils climbed in accord."I have heard of his table of many fine foods and variegated fats. Perchance he bringeth it together under the word 'pleasure' as the foods are delightful to the eye, the smell, and the taste?" Spoke one pupil."Verily, thy answer falleth near to the mark, O cleric. Art there any other contestations towards an answer?""Perhaps joy?" One said, and "Perchance he calleth it 'happiness?" said another.At last the Preacher timidly attempted to speak, "Thinkest it a thing seemly and aright, O Teacher, to summarize it as 'Love' from the King's perspectival bearing?""Verily, this answer lieth nearest unto the King's actual teaching, as thou sayest. Now consider ye if such seems correct in the fullest measure, although such a word holds many warm depths of hearty truth and significance to the One's blessed word? Doth the King summarize aright in the fullest degree befitting perfection?"The Acolytes and clerics continued their upward journey, and not a cleric spoke to contradict the King. One voice only from the crowd spoke to meet the Acolytes' challenge."Hath the King allowed such questioning of his splendiferous person?""Verily, O good cleric, the King hath allowed all questions full consideration in this university, for such is the purview of shepherds. The stupid man cannot know and his reason must be honed. What sayest thou?" Queried the Acolyte, attempting to pull an answer from the cleric who timidly spoke from the crowd."Hath the king even allowed inquiry unto the point of searching out pagan sorceries and worshippings demoniacal?""What foolish query is this, O pupil? This followeth not.""Yea, it seemeth unto me to follow. Whence cometh the fixed line of allowable questions so drawn, and wherefore must it stop at considerations of the King's religion?""Thou art most foolish in this, O pupil, and must needs learn more. Prithee cease from thy railing against inquiry."The Preacher laughed in his inner man, perhaps unto the emitting of slight mirth in his voice."Who shalt deign to laugh at such teachings of wisdom? Be sober-minded and circumspect, ye clerics. Woe to those who laugh here! Verily, such is like the thorns in the fire, with the crackling thereof. Such is the laughter of fools."The clerics were thoroughly corrected in their way, and the Preacher held his tongue. "Know ye that the Oracle pertaineth unto all matters of life and godliness and therefore must be summarized by one word and one word only: Wisdom?""The Oracle pertaineth unto all matters of life and godliness: most chiefly Wisdom in such. Love merely falleth under the banner of Wisdom; love is one waterway leading into the mighty ocean of Wisdom, which Wisdom the One holdeth in its purest form, graciously revealed in the scrolls of the Oracle. This is the lens through which thou must view the King's coming ceremony, for it is a ceremony of mere shadows, pictures, and images, no matter how close they fall to the mark of truth. Remember my words, ye pupils." The assemblage being gathered into the Hall of Wonders, the ceremony began. The two freedmen walked the length of the Hall, which was built in the long form of kings from the olden lands, except not of sturdy cedar from the west, but stones cunningly hewn in the mountains. As they passed, each knight saluted with his fist and planted his foot to face the king at the end of the hall's length. One heard as it were the sound of many waters roaring in a waterfall, growing in gathering intensity as the voice of the One, but knew not from where it came. Some speculated it was the King's waterworks opening from beneath and allowing purified waters to flow in the River anew, for the water was always chilled, with a coldness felt to the bone. As the two freedmen approached the King, two knights more splendidly garbed than the rest emerged from behind the King's back carrying new suits of armor and robes of many hues, sewn in loving detail by the Distaff guild. And then the voice of many waters ceased, and it was as if silence itself reigned in Heaven. So spake the King:"Ye who hail from the dungeons of the deep, and ye who hail from the dungeons in the clouds, for what hast thou come seeking pardon this day, and on what grounds might thy persons be saved?"The tall lad of beautiful face and form stood forth to speak first:"O King, thou knowest: I have murdered, raged, wantonly loved strong drink and wantonly loved maids not given unto me in troth, verily, looked upon wine when it was red in the cup, and the forms of comely maidens not my own. I have delighted in these things and do ask of thee now to find mercy for me, and grant me a place in thy House, wherever that might be, that I might never leave thy sight, but always be nigh unto thee."The young lad then fell on his face prostrate before the King, as the next lad, somewhat older, swarthier and muscular, approached to speak with reverence:"O King my sins are too many for me to enumerate, but thy righteous throne knoweth them all. That which I remember is little, for so long have I been bound in the deep. Might I simply say I have not loved thee, nor have I loved the path of righteousness? Forgive me, O King, and do with me as thou wilt. The voice of many waters rumbling in the deep renewed in majesty and the King made reply:"Shall any here bear the guilt of these two before me? Can there be any found who might bear their burden, any who hath any right to release them from it?"The voice of many waters rumbled beneath and all were silent. "I shall bear it."So spoke the King, who unlaced his plated armor, removed his jerkin of leather, and removed the linen sheet clothing his muscular body. A knight handed him a serrated knife, and he lifted it to his skin, the skin just over his heart, where he made incision, which poured blood down the whole of his right side. At that exact moment, a waterfall did burst from the wall at the southern end of the Hall of Wonders, filling the River of Mercy with an amount of gushing water beyond human words. The assemblage gasped in awe and delight, even unto the point of laughter and smiles, like to those of children. The Acolytes remained stoic and expressionless. The King walked to the river, submerged Himself, and rose again, washing his blood from his chest and hand."When I see the blood, you two men, I shall pass over thee, and my wrath shall not touch thee." So said he with one majestic arm outstretched to the two prostrate men, who could do nought but look in awe and tearfulness from the ground.Two knights approached them, lifted them from the ground, and walked ahead of them to seat themselves at Table, as the King left the River and clothed himself in a fine robe."Come, you two poor men who have no money. Come and eat; come and drink, for I have set a table for all people, where death shall be remembered not, neither tears or sorrow!" The King approached them as they came to the table, and he garbed each in a garment, like unto the beauty of those seen at the weddings of those days. "And you, friends, come and eat!" The King said to the assemblage. "For two sons who were no more live again, and joy shall be in all this House and throughout my Halls!"And there was a great roar from without the Hall, as if the the whole army of the King knew and heard and called out from afar. The feast began, and when it was finished, the two men were given new names, known only to them. They were clothed in plated armor over their wedding garments, handed swords of honed, western steel, and sent to the army as knights, where they would one day do battle for the King.