Friday, December 17, 2004

vignette: remuelda

I suppose what happened to us on Remuelda was unavoidable. The Church had no illusions about the enormous task of converting the entire autochthonal population of that hostile moon to the saving grace of the Divine. The road to the salvation was long, arduous, twisting and fraught with many a pitfall for the unwary, the unprepared and the faint of heart. After all, these feathered indigenes already had in place various false gods, spirits, ancestors and otherworldly beings that they feared, loved and worshipped.

None of the other historians or sociologists bothered to collate the complicated net of relationships between the native’s assorted pantheons and divinities – all the more made confusing by the fact that every little tribal grouping had their own gods, in addition to the spirits they held in common with the other tribes in other places. Historians of my upbringing were bred to interpret and record history as it unfolded, rather than look to the irrelevant past of savages.

Our religieuse had their work laid out like the imagined final image of an empty mosaic. Theirs was the responsibility of putting each tiny piece of glass together with the hope of creating a new nation of devotees, for the glory of the Divine. With each part of the picture completed, we historians would send word across the stars to the World, for the common edification of blessed humanity.

We expected the feathered savages to be grateful. After all, our motivation was the redemption of their pagan souls. In some areas, our religieuse were successful. In other places, there was fierce resistance.

What seemed inevitable was that St. Carmon de la Saldivar IV and I would encounter a priest of the dreadful moon. We were riding long into the night, returning to the misión after a futile afternoon of looking for grabenen, that heart-shaped fruit that tasted like a mango. We were in the middle of a small argument about the benefits of veils when the savage priest suddenly blocked our path, frightening our normally docile thalim mounts with his crazed appearance. He screamed something at the top of his lungs and extended the dark feathers from his back, like a grotesque flightless bird. The tattoos that covered his arms and upper chest decorated parts of his hideous face as well – a pair that resembled wings framed his mouth in a most unflattering way.

Once again, he shouted something, twisting his head and contorting his serrated lips. I turned to St. Carmon de la Saldivar IV, whose religieuse studies included comprehension of the savage Remuelda tongue. Maintaining an outward calm, I asked him what the dreadful man was saying.

“He says he’s a priest, like me,” St. Carmon de la Saldivar IV told me grimly. “A priest of what, I don’t know.”

I looked at him in astonishment. “A priest?”

St. Carmon de la Saldivar IV nodded and dismounted quietly. “This is precisely the kind of heresy I was trained to counter.”

“Wait, wait,” I told him, trying to hold him back.

“Have faith,” St. Carmon de la Saldivar IV told me, drawing his regulation firearm. “I will show this pretender the glory of the Divine.”


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