30 August 2020 / Fiction The Dialogues of the Acolytes: Vestments of Wisdom "Behold, thou knowest now, after these moons of study, how verily the Oracle existeth not apart unto itself, seperate from the minds of men. Thou doth understand the need of the carefully wrought interpretation, bounded in its place in the tapestry of Time: such is truth of Deity incarnate in the One, a system of thought in which thou must be chastened that thou mayest shepherd aright. Now thou mayest put the Oracle into its proper place: a writing of men, flawed in every way, like unto the ways of natural script. Perchance thou askest thusly: 'Wherefore the adoration of the Oracle as if it were a piece of divine body from the One's Sacrifice itself?' Shan't shrines be built unto it that these idolaters may come and bow down before it?' In this query lieth great wisdom, indeed! For verily, what shalt thou adore, the parchment of the Oracle, or the One Himself? Shalt thou live as an idolater? Know the One in Wisdom, Ye clerics! Quiet thy mind before Him in the sequester of thy privacy. Verily, He shalt not leave thee alone in thy place, but shall speak unto thee as the wind once whispered unto the heathen among their sacred groves! Thy words unto the One in the darkness of the night, at rest upon thy pillow, matter most in the path of Wisdom in which thou must walk till judgement day."It was the final lecture of the Acolytes until the day of the receiving of vestments, when the clerics would receive their shepherding cloaks, symbolizing their status as leaders of the people. From the day of the last lecture until the day of vesting, the clerics were to cloister themselves in their homes to consider the many moons of study, some thirty moons of hearing the teachings, and decide how those teachings would lead them in future allegiance. The word, 'allegiance', was not spoken aloud, but nevertheless, it became an integral denominator of action in the days which followed. The Acolyte of the West finished the lecture with his customary kindness in charging the clerics towards high minded living:"Think ye now, clerics, of that day when ye, having died the death we all must die, stand before the One on that day of judgement. What shall ye say unto Him then? Shalt thou claim thy love as cloak for thy wickedness, or shalt thou claim the wisdom of thy living wherein thou sought out every contour of His manifold Being? Shalt thou claim the depth of thy feeling, intangible and meaningless, or shalt thou claim thy knowledge of His truth, noble and good, love indeed, though it seemeth not so. Consider ye such in thy sequester in the coming moons, for in this time, thou shalt hear no voice but the wind outside thy window and the Wynd of the One within thy heart. Hear ye, and repent of any wrongdoing!"The Preacher got himself to his sequester, a path known to him, but now different, in that his scrolls were sealed and shut, his doors were fastened, and his windows bolted. Such was the requirement of the Acolytes: listen, that ye may know. So went the course of his action in his bedchamber, as day after day, week after week, receded into memory, with little provisions to lift the Preacher from a malaise of physical exhaustion. He listened, and heard naught but silence, a most soul-devouring and horrendous silence, as if Heaven also had sealed its gates and stilled its music. He beheld a city, white and beautiful, a city like unto the city of the East, where the Olden King did reign on his throne. Knights glistened and shone resplendently around the city, while their songs thundered unto the very seat of Heaven. The Knights came and went from the city as the King did sit upon his throne, and the song of thought continued in the Preacher's mind, from a place so far hence he knew nothing of its name:At the gates there is a judgement seat,And there, the Farmer wields and sifts:The wheat and chaff divide and blow away,One up to endless day,The other departs, far away.O who shall sit and judge the people there,Arrayed in many numbers 'round the square,Caring oft' for things which they prepare,So certain of the wheat they sell,Not thinking it all tares, grown most fell?The Preacher ceased in his writing to open his window and gaze upon a disturbance, a slight tendril of smoke arising from the furthest reach of the city, to the north along the Old Pagan wall. He thought naught of it and resumed his meditation on the nature of the spiritual world in which he found himself. That night was the night of vestment, and other concerns occupied him. And his meditations often revolved around images, parables, and pictures: he knew not why this one was different than the rest, for he did not see with the eyes of the One the affairs proceeding to the north.North of him, the mouth of hell opened its jaw for a brief moment, as the Eastern One uncloaked himself before the market square, speaking to the few guilds assembled there."Ye good people, hast thou ever seen a work such as this since the days of the One walking among us, in our very midst? I shall stand as a signal and sign to you this day, ye people. I shall show you, verily, things which thou know not, deep dark sayings of old, hid in the mind of God! Yea, thou shalt know it to be true when this, this young maid of tender age shall rise again from the dead, her flesh renewed with vigor, her bones imbued again with life, her eyes lit with the flame of youth. O maid, arise, be not dead, but breathe again."The Eastern One stood upon a well, which had long since gone dry, in the days of the pagan kings, while before him on the ground lay the maiden, dead, having been struck in the temple with an implement of stone in the daily workings of that marketplace. The Eastern One, seeing this, was filled with passion and stood to reveal himself at last. "Arise, ye perished one!"To the unmitigated awe of the people in that place, the maiden stood and breathed again. She gazed upon the Eastern One with worshipful eyes. The people were in awe of the Eastern One, and some called out, "He is a prophet." Others said, "He is the One returned among us." Still others said, "He is a mighty man of the One." But all knew him to be a man of goodness, for his works were too mighty to not show the face of the One. The people had read in the Scrolls of Telling that verily the One's return would proceed in such a way, and they did not feel themselves ignorant of the nature of his return. Many believed that day, and bound themselves to the Eastern One, some one-thousand souls, in the marketplace beneath the old pagan wall.But the well upon which the Eastern One stood remained dry, full of dead men's bones. A fire spontaneously burst into life in the well beneath the Eastern One's feet, and he leapt from it to the ground beside the maiden, who embraced him lovingly. Men came with water to put out the fire, lest it cause a stench in the market. So began the march of the Eastern One through the city, where he went from street to street, market to market, healing the infirmities of the people, touching the blind that they might see, and lifting the lame to walk again. As the day progressed, many of the clerics threw open their windows, and, on seeing the Eastern One's procession, left their studies to follow him with joy, proclaiming, "The One has returned among us, and not with fire, judgement and sword, but wisdom in love!"As the eventide fell, the Eastern One got to himself some ten-thousand souls of the people, after which he took them and marched to the halls of the King, where the Acolytes prepared to grant the clerics their vestments.And there, the Acolytes in their ceremonial robes and the clerics not attached to the Eastern One, arrayed themselves in orderly display before the King, for the grounds before the citadel gate were exceeding broad, such that many chariots might ride therein. A third of the King's army also assembled itself in that place, many of the chiefest among them, worthy knights in shining armor, proud to see their King's delight in the Oracle, such that he lifted up shepherds of the people. The King stood to initiate the ceremony, and, at that moment, the sound of many voices broke upon the ears of all in the court before the King, such that his speech was stopped. The Eastern One's foot was the first to defile the ground of the outer court, a torch held firmly in his hand."O King!" He called with martial vigor, his cloak pinned to one side, revealing a sword and buckler secured to his leather belt. The torch lit his face in the receding light of day, and his eagle-like features were fell and dark. Blood was in his voice and in his eyes."O King! I have tested the spirits, considered thy ways, and now stand I before thee, commanding repentance! Thy spirit hath been tried and found lacking! Cease from leading the people astray! Cease from giving them to false rumours of the One! Follow the One in truth, as these good people behind and beside me have chosen to do!"The Eastern One chose his words with an immense carefulness, for in his first speech, the people saw him as living in the ways of the prophets of old, but more mighty in every way, on account of his many wonders and signs.A great clamor of derision arose in the outer court as many took offence at the Eastern One's words. Yet many clerics saw their fellows standing among the mighty throng arrayed behind the Eastern One, and listened in full assurance of faith to the words before them. The court might have devolved into full wanton riot, had not the King stood and lifted his hand gently, peace maintained upon his brow. The people could not help their reverence for the old King, for their duty of old still bound them. Thus spake the King:"We see men before us with swords and bucklers strapped upon their thighs, men who have been the citizens of this kingdom since the days of tumbling childhood. We see many, who felt themselves spurned by the One, now healed, using their newfound vigor to hold a torch ready to burn. We see all of them arrayed behind a man who lies in his very being, for he is not what he hath proclaimed himself to be. Look upon thyselves, O people, for these things ought not to be! Wield ye the sword against your fellows even in jest, even in mere show of force? Is this the way of the One, the way towards which the Oracle hath shepherded thee since birth? Lay down thy arms and sit here with the assembly that we may speak and reason together, and let this lying prophet be put in chains and tried, for his signs proceed from a power, a pagan power from of old, which worketh in the sons of disobedience. Let not blood be shed this day, but let there be peace!"The Eastern One responded, "Nay, thy spirit hath been tested and found lacking. It is thy day of judgement, O King, not mine own!"At that moment, one of the Acolytes standing before the King rose and lifted his arm in request before the King. The other two Acolytes had departed speedily when the Eastern One entered the outer court. Only later did their errand reveal itself."O my King, may I speak before the People?""Thou mayest.""O clerics, O People, O Knights, hear and learn. Verily, the Oracle hath spoken of the manner of the One's return, how on that return it shall be unto judgement, fire, and sword. Consider that such might be before thee at this dark hour. Consider ye that this Eastern One is in fact the chosen vessel of the One's return. For did not the One first come in a way unlooked for? Is not this also unlooked for, but mighty in every way? In such, ye do well to hear him, though ye may not understand or believe as of yet! His words are spoken that ye may know he is the One of God, prophesied aforetime in the Holy Oracle. Such is my humble request of thee. Hear, though ye may not believe at present."At that moment the sun hid itself behind the western hills, and the King gazed upon the Acolyte beneath his throne with utter disbelief. The Acolyte returned the gaze with a look of pure compassion, but a compassion that struck the king as if by a poisoned dart. His mouth was stopped, and a murmur spread throughout the people, even unto some leaving the throng before the King to join the throng of the Eastern One. At this sight, the sight of the Old King's elderly countenance breaking before the subtly treacherous words spoken, the Preacher felt a fire imbue his limbs which he remembered not in any of his days before that night. He was incensed with a holy rage, and stood to speak, taking the Acolyte and the Eastern One by surprise."People, hear me, for I will speak words of zeal, and might'n no longer remain silent and weak! These men speak of testing the spirits, and speak of such from an Oracle which they, from their own words, hath called fundamentally flawed, a work of men's hands, a work of faulty vein. Upon what authority then doth they execute this trial of falsehood and arrogance? Upon the authority of the One? Maybe it is so, but how can one know it to be so? Doth their judgement execute itself on the basis of their sensing of the One's presence, the imbued feeling of his nearness? Yea, the devils also feel the One present and most terribly near at all times, and tremble. Then perhaps they execute such on the authority of their powers and works of wonder? Verily, pagan sorcerers fed living, newborn babes to the maw of flame-carrying idols on the basis of such signs and wonders! So then, O people, on whose authority doth the judgement proceed and from whence come these works? Thanks to these men, no Oracle remaineth to show us the truth aright, and the shepherds themselves have turned away. Woe unto you people, for the King hath taught thee the way most excellent and right. If you follow this man..."At this moment the Preacher's voice, young and shrill in the outer court, broke with emotion, but he found the strength to speak:"If thou shalt follow this man, for that is what he is, a man most mortal and fallible, thou shalt bring upon thyself the judgement of everlasting torment, where the fire quencheth not and the worm dieth not! O people, flee your demise, love the truth, lest a strong delusion come to thee and lead thee to hell! O people rend your hearts and not your garments, for this is a judgement, indeed, but not of our King who loveth the One and loveth thee most deeply with a father's compassion. O my people..."At that moment a torch was hurled at the Preacher, and he fell from the perch upon which he attempted to sway the people from the precipice of doom. The ranks of the King's knights closed on those within the camp of the faithful, the whole of the Eastern One's throng charged the knights with drawn swords, and the war of the Great Falling Away began.