Sanctuary – Snippet 19

As Chefer Kolkin did. And the pack chafed. Especially in the morning.

True be told, he was feeling pretty peevish himself.

Lavi Tur

As it happened, an Mrem still too young to be a warrior was contemplating the same idea. In his case, though, without the irritation of a heavy pack weighting him down since he was walking alongside the litter carrying what few possessions his Mrem band had retained when they joined the Kororo and — never let it be said that diplomacy didn’t have its uses — Achia Pazik had persuaded the Kororo to give them two beasts of burden to do the work of hauling those possessions.

True, the beasts had their full share of reptilian sullenness at this high altitude. You had to be careful not to place your feet when they could step on them or the rest of your body where they could nip you. Surly brutes.

But they didn’t smell bad — they hardly seemed to defecate, either — and a bit of wariness was far less tiring than hard labor, when you got right down to it.

Lavi Tur also had the benefit of his age. He’d often been irritated by the limits that age placed upon him. But he also lacked the much deeper irritation of a full life spent being limited by experience. His mind could range freely; more than those of most Mrem.

So, he was contemplating the possibility that the very nature of the Liskash could, at least in some circumstances, give them a mental advantage over Mrem. Less able to deal with reality by the use of sheer vigor, perhaps they compensated to a degree with reflection and meditation. An Mrem had to remind himself to look before he leapt; to measure before he cut; to think twice before he acted. To a Liskash, those things came rather naturally.

This much he had concluded so far, in the manner that brash youth sniff disdainfully at the stolid certainties of their elders: even from what little Achia Pazik had translated for him, it was clear to Lavi Tur that the Kororo creed was far more sophisticated than the one he’d been raised within.

When you got right down to it, Mrem tribal beliefs — he thought they barely qualified as religion — were child-like. Downright silly, in many cases.

From what little he knew of them, he thought traditional Liskash creeds were no more sophisticated, and probably even less.

The teachings and beliefs of the Kororo, on the other hand…

The day before, Achia Pazik had explained to him that the old Kororo priest (or was he a shaman? possibly even a sorcerer?) named Meshwe did not believe any gods were real. Not, at least, in the way that the Mrem envisioned Aedoniss and Assirra — as real beings, who could not be seen simply because they were so gigantic and powerful that their forms fell beyond mortal vision.

Meshwe didn’t believe in any of the Liskash gods, either — even though the Liskash had far more of them than did the Mrem. They had gods or goddesses for everything, it seemed. Achia Pazik had told him of some of them:

Huwute, the sun goddess.

Ishtala, the moon god.

Ghammid, the god of good fortune.

Yasinta, the goddess of the evening.

Morushken, the goddess of thrift. She also seemed to be a deity given to pity and compassion, but those aspects were less prominent. The Liskash had a thrifty sense of mercy, apparently. As an almost-warrior, Lavi Tur didn’t really disapprove.

But however many deities the Liskash professed to believe in, the creed of the Kororo was that none of them were truly real. They were simply manifestations of what they called “the Godhead,” produced by the inherent limits of mortal minds. In the very nature of things, neither Liskash nor Mrem could grasp divinity in its full and complete splendor. So, mortals essentially invented “gods and goddesses” as a means of comprehending at least some of the aspects of divinity — and those, only poorly and in part.

Meshwe had told Achia Pazik that mortals were like insects trying to grasp the nature of a Liskash. (Or an Mrem, he had added, perhaps out of politeness.) With their poor vision, able to see only a portion of a Liskash at a time, they would come up with the idea that there was “a toe goddess” and a “claw god.” And they would imagine those toes and claws in their own insectile manner.

Lavi Tur had no idea if Meshwe and the other Liskash priests were right in their beliefs. What he did know was that those beliefs were far more interesting than the tales of Aedoniss and Assirra.

What a marvelous adventure this was turning out to be!