(1867-10-06) Matters of Faith and Fellowship
Matters of Faith and Fellowship
Summary: Tiadora Gerrell has a meeting with the Prophet Hashim Nejem. It goes surprisingly well.
Date: 10-06-1867
Related: None
Tiadora  Hashim  

The Guest Quarters of Sunsreach Palace
See Set
Octobre 06, 1867 IA

Late afternoon in Sunsreach Palace, and the Prophet Hashim Nejem sits quietly within the guest-office that he has been granted use of during his stay, a luxury granted only to him and the Shazadeh herself during this stay (though only due to the lack of available space to extent the courtesy to the other Alhazredi. In truth, this office was intended to serve the Shah Kabede Aman, as the second highest noble of the party, but the delegation unanimously agreed that the Prophet should have it (when Kabede offered the space). Truth be told, Hashim would have made do either way, but it has made meeting with those interested in speaking much more convenient, and as courteous and open-minded as the Archbishop Alpin Langford has been, Hashim would not be entirely comfortable conducting such meetings within a cathedral of the Church of the Edge. The Archbishop may be open-minded, but that does not mean those that also serve in the Cathedral share his curiosity and acceptance, and he would not wish embarrassment or difficulties for those that speak with the "Heretic Priest" as some of the more militantly devout have labelled him…where they don't think he can hear.

The room is well-lit with the afternoon sun beaming through the open windows, and a faintly sweet scent fills the room from an incense burner nearby. Off to one side, a steaming pot of tea and a pair of cups awaits, as well as a small tray of bite-sized sweet pastries and sweets of the kind the Alhazredi favor: Baklava, Basbousa, Feteer, and Sweet Dates. The Prophet, for his part, is in the midst of concluding a message, finishing off the last few strokes of the quill, before sprinkling fine sand on the wet ink to help dry it more swiftly.

The girl had sent a letter in advance- in impeccable handwriting in the fashion favored by the scribes of the Church. Introducing herself, requesting audience in the spirit of education and wisdom. On the agreed upon day and hour, the lady Tiadora Gerrell of Normont was shown in. Dressed as her conservative people tended to, she made a plate curtsey once admitted. "May the One ever illumine you," she says politely. "Thank you for seeing me."

The Prophet rises to his feet, briefly touching his forehead with his first two fingers and lowering the hand perpendicular with his body, adding a slight bow and a polite smile on a well-weathered face, "I greet you in peace, Lady Tiadora Gerrell. It is my pleasure to meet with you this day." He gestures to the comfortable chair before his desk, "Please, sit. Would you care for some tea? It is spiced with cardamom. Some prefer it with no additions, but my own preference is with a bit of milk." He does not lower himself into his chair until the Lady is seated, regardless. Tall and lean, clad in his black robes, it might be easy to see why some would find the Prophet forbidding, but there is warmth in his tone and his eyes now.

"It sounds lovely," Tiadora replies with a tiny smile. "I am always happy to try new things from new lands. My people are very set in their diets but I have enjoyed things from other lands. Our food tends to be heavy and hearty." She takes the offered chair and smooths her dark skirts about her. "Thank you."

"Ah, well then you must try this. It is my favorite. My mother used to scold me for sneaking too much of it when I was a boy." The Prophet smiles and indicates one of the small rectangles of baklava. The good news? There's not enough on the tray for anyone to really gorge themselves. More like a sample platter. In either case, the Prophet himself pours two small cups of the tea, and plates the two pieces of baklava, placing one before Tiadora and one in front of himself. "I have often found that cuisine is a fine pathway to polite discourse." He pours a dollop of milk into his own teacup, then glances to Tiadora questioningly, "Milk with your tea?"

Tiadora nods once. "If that is how you recommend it, then please Your Holiness." She uses the polite term of address and offers a sad little smile. "My mother scolded me for everything, I fear. Especially sneaking too much of something sweet." She takes the piece and breaks off a corner so she eats even more daintily. Her blue eyes light up in pleased surprise and she smiles more broadly now. "This is quite lovely. The honey…"

"It is sometimes served without nuts, but I find it feels…incomplete without them." Hashim studies Tiadora when her smile shifts to sadness, "My apologies, Milady. I did not wish to summon painful memories. I did not know your mother, but all penance and no praise…" He shakes his head slightly, "Well, I shall not speak ill, but it is written that we should not begrudge our children their mistakes, for this is the essence of learning. And if we do not show our children kindness along with the discipline, how then, can we expect them to know and practice it?"

"I must presume you know little of my mother, then." Tiadora gives him another small sad smile. "She believed wickedness lie in the heart of all of us and cruelty helped to purge it from our souls. Repentance came both in the heart and mortification of the body. Not all who follow the One see it that way but enough.." She takes a larger bite of the sweet dessert and shakes her head. "For there are many roads that lead towards the dawn, some rocky and some smooth. But all true paths lead to the sunrise," she quotes gently. "I fear my mother was led down a different path all together but that's not why I called on you."

"I know only what I have heard since I arrived. Which does include her fate." Hashim nods, "Within the Faith of the Prophets, there are some groups that favor the writings of certain Prophets over others. Some took a more harsh view of the world and those that inhabit it, and that sin can only be purged through suffering. But I…and many of the Prophets…believe that people are not inherently wicked, and that sin exists so that it may be forgiven, and through this people may know the One's grace and mercy." He nibbles his own baklava a moment, and sips from his tea. "But certainly, I would hear anything you wish to speak of. Or answer questions you may have. I do seem to receive many of those here." There's no resignation, mock or otherwise, in his tone at the last, though there is a touch of amusement.

Tiadora lowers her eyes as she blushes a little. "Forgive me for being another, then. My brother, Duke Symon of Normont, has basically charged me with being his eyes and ears to the world outside our borders. In my lands, there would be no polite deference. We both honor and follow the teaches of the Divine Father, but my countrymen would not hesitate to call you and your people heretics and act accordingly. He would no doubt love to offer greetings himself but to do so would cause… unpleasantness with his conservative vassals. So! His baby sister can do so freely with much less fuss."

"Ahhh, you are here as an ambassador of sorts, then." Hashim smiles, sipping from his tea once more, "I knew well when coming here that my presence would not be welcomed by all. No doubt it would be the same were one of your Cardinals to visit the Alhazred Empire. Sadly understanding is not always an easy thing to achieve, much less so acceptance of that which is different. Unfamiliar." He folds his hands before him, "But surely you must have questions, so please…do not hesitate to ask. I will answer as best I am able."

She tries the tea and is again pleasantly surprised. "The milk adds just the right gentling to it." The girl takes a deeper sip and smiles. "Very pleasant with those pastries. But if it isn't rude to ask," she says as she takes a breath, "how did the One chose to speak through you? I understand there have been and exist several Prophets who speak His wisdom."

"Yes. There are always twelve Prophets. Now…despite our title, we do not often see visions of the future…though that is a gift that some have claimed in the past…none in recent memory have done so. Not since before the Etharians came over the mountains, and your forebears still roamed in the north and eastern parts of our Empire, before invading the Edge." It does appear he's done a bit of homework himself, at least, speaking of the Kherzari. "As for how we are chosen, I fear it is likely far more mundane than you may imagine." Hashim chuckles, "When a Prophet is chosen to go serve at the One God's side in his Kingdom, the remaining Prophets gather. The fast and meditate and discuss where the search for a replacement will take place. When they have reached an accord, emissaries are sent to that Kingdom to seek out the Priests there. They are then tested on their knowledge of the writings of the Prophets. Those whose knowledge is deemed great enough travel to the High Temple, where they too fast and meditate and pray. We are tested constantly in our judgment and knowledge. After many weeks of such testing, the Prophets convene and vote upon who will be chosen to fill the vacancy at the Holy Table. He who receives seven or more votes becomes the next Prophet."

He leans forward, mock-whispering conspiratorially, "I fear the process is likely no less political than the selections of your own Cardinals and High Priests, though it would never be admitted within the Empire."

The Prophet then leans back in his chair, "Though if you ask how the Church became my calling…I was entranced by the local priest when I was a boy. His dignity and kindness were a source of inspiration and comfort. My family was very poor…my father a fisherman, and my mother a weaver of rugs, with many children. My father was lost at sea when I was still a boy, and my mother did not long outlast him. The Church took in my brothers and sisters, and though they made no demands of us beyond keeping ourselves and our spaces clean and observing the teachings of the One God, we all would eventually serve in our own way. Both from gratitude and inspiration."

Tiadora grins at the confession of politics, putting the dimples into her cheeks. "I confess I thought the process more mystical. Our family came to the Faith when Saint Sandoval called forth the spirits of the ancestors. Though I do suspect it may not have happened in the dramatic fashion in the tales, I don't doubt such works have happens in the days when the One walked with us." She bows her head over her cup. "I pray your own ancestors smile down on you for the service you have done and what you have made of your life. I had wished to become a nun, when I was younger."

"I would not be quick to dismiss your family's tale. While as you say, it is perhaps true that it may have been less grandiose than spirits appearing before your ancestor, it may well be that their memory inspired him to choose the path he did. In this way…the tale becomes true." He chuckles, "If a bit exaggerated in the retelling." He smiles warmly once more, nibbling the last of his piece of baklava and sipping his tea once more before continuing, "Yes, in theory the choosing of a Prophet is divinely guided. But if there is one thing I have learned in my many years of service to Him, it is that his workings are usually far more subtle." He adds, not hastily, "Yet no less wondrous."

"His light shines upon all things, for those who will See." Tiadora nods in warm agreement. "So the twelve of you interpret the Scriptures? And write ones own meditations on them? You said some adhere to the more… ah, physical interpretation of penance."

Hashim nods, "Yes. We contemplate the writings of those Prophets that came before us, as well as those writings that predate the Prophets, likely very similar to some of your own. We minister, and we manage aspects of the Church as well. Not altogether different from your Cardinals in that respect. For instance, within my own lands, I hold a position not unlike the Archbishop Sirrah Lancella, who leads the Order of the Vigil here in the Edge. I too oversee the Faegates within the Alhazred Empire, and shepherd those that search for new ones."

Hashim looks thoughtful a moment, "As to our writings…when we pass on to the Kingdom of the Sun, and a replacement is chosen, the Prophets read the departed's writings. All things are examined…journals, letters, sermons…They are gathered together into volumes and carefully stored within our Grand Library. However those writings that are deemed most worthy are also included in the Words of the Prophets. The volumes of collected wisdom that are the cornerstone of our Faith." He draws the obvious analogy, "In many ways, I think, similar to how your own Church venerates the words of your Saints."

"In your writings," Tiadora asks carefully, "have you ever come across a person who is… haunted? Cursed. Spirits attached to them, I mean. I've read our own writings and they talk of ways that faith and prayer can remove and protect… but some people dismiss that as superstition." She gives a sheepish smile, putting dimples into her cheeks.

"Hmm." Hashim frowns in thought, rubbing at his beard, "There are many stories of curses, both within and without the writings of the church, and of hauntings, but I do not often see the two linked, though it does not strike me as a leap that is lacking in plausibility. I cannot say for certain if such spirits are real, but I can say that I do not dismiss the possibility out of hand." He adds, "Faith and prayer are a shield to many ills. But a true curse? That may require some other means to dispel. In legends, angry spirits often needed to be appeased."

Tiadora says, "A shield, yes." She nods slowly. "I just am concerned. There are many angry dead in my life. I fear sometimes they lash out at those I love," she says sheepishly. "I've read my own texts but wondered if yours may have other insight." She takes a sip of her drink and sighs. "I just wonder what would appease them. Short of finishing their work which is madness incarnate."

"I suppose it depends on which spirits you think are haunting you." Hashim notes, sipping his tea once more, and selecting another of the pastries to nibble as he considers, "It is possible that it is simply coincidental misfortune." He considers, still looking thoughtful, "Are these people you care for being injured or worse?"

She can't quite bring herself to say it aloud, silly as it seems. Tia doesn't explain further on the who but elaborates on the what. "Rarely injured. Just… inconveninced. I feel like I'm a jinx but that it may get worse as time goes on."

"Have the inconveniences been growing more serious as time has passed?" Hashim asks, apparently taking this turn of conversation quite seriously, though perhaps thankfully not gravely so.

Tiadora bites her lip as she thinks on it. "A little. No one has died or been harmed but I dread that coming to pass. I feel as if I'm protected so whatever it is launches out at others I care for. I don't know, it's so silly, isn't it," she concludes with a weak laugh. She reaches for another baklvava square. "My friends think I may be overracting, or that it's not me that's the problem."

"Well, even if it is a curse, good Lady, it is not you that would be the problem, but rather these spirits you speak of." Hashim rubs at his long beard a few moments, considering, "I would not dismiss this as silliness out of hand. The world has many mysteries, and any who claim to know them all are either liars or fools. We must view the world with eyes, minds, and hearts open…but not necessarily unguarded. Only in this, can true understanding…" He reaches over and briefly covers one of Tiadora's hands with his own…it is warm, and perhaps surprisingly rough with callus. The Prophet is no stranger to working with his hands, it seems. "And rapport." He gives the hand a gentle squeeze before releasing it, "Be found."

Hashim leans back in his chair, "I would make a suggestion, if you would hear it. Do you happen to keep a journal, by any chance?"

The girl shakes her head. "No, I think it would rather depressing if I did," she admits with a guilty smile. "I like to forget things more than recall them."

"Ah, but you have come to the belief you are cursed. So your eyes seek those things that would confirm this belief." Hashim notes, "I do not ask you to cease looking, but I suggest you also look for the blessings in your life, however small. And in the lives of those you care for, such as you are able to see." He spreads his hands, palms upward, "In this way, you can compare the number and magnitude of your blessings against the misfortunes, and weigh them against each other more properly." Hashim smiles, "We live in a time of great change. And your family is seeing more than most. Change often brings..upheaval, and occasional unpleasantness. Not just in the world and to its' people, but within our own hearts and minds. You have endured much and been faced with many trials. It is only natural that you might feel…off balance…in the midst of all this."

"I betrayed my mother's trust and led to her capture and execution. I helped facilitate my father's death in battle," Tia says softly. "I know I did what was right and necessary; my soul would feel far heavier if I allowed them to carry out their plans… but I feel like they are still angry, still punishing me like they always did." She looks as if she may tear up and cry but holds it back. "I know there are many blessings in my life but the worry and fear tends to weigh them down and hide them from me."

"I did not know your mother and father. I have only heard secondhand of their actions, and the fates that befell them." Hashim notes, "You served your Kingdom, your Queen, and your family beyond your parents, as well as the people of the lands your family rules, sparing them the bloodshed of further war with the Crown. All these things are greater than the plans of two or three individuals, no matter how righteous they may feel in their cause." He nods, "But I know well it can often be difficult to find the blessings when you feel you are wandering in darkness."

Hashim pauses a moment, "I am told that it is not uncommon to practice harsh penances in Normont. Was this the…punishment you speak of?" He adds, gently, "If you do not wish to speak of it, I understand."

Tia is quiet for a moment, fiddling with her hands in her lap. "They were strict on everyone; their own family not withstanding. I was a willful wicked child, so they told me. Often." She stares at her fingers. "Hurting someone to get at me would not be… out of their nature. If I cannot be harmed through the One's divine protection."

"You do not strike me as a wicked child." Hashim notes honestly. "When you endure a penance…do you truly feel any relief in it?" The Prophet watches Tiadora intently, "While some Prophets have advocated harsher penances in the past, the prevailing thought among my own faith is that excessive penance…does as much harm to the soul as healing." He sighs a bit, "And fosters a dark view of the world. Perhaps too dark."

Tiadora shakes her head. "Only when it was truly deserved, and my heart was made heavy by my sins. More often than not I thought it was unjust. Which in itself is a sin to question my mother and father in that way and not trust in their judgement…"

"No. It is not sinful to question your mother and father when they themselves act in wrath rather than righteousness." Hashim replies, "I do not know if you are cursed, Lady Tiadora. In truth my belief tends to lean towards this not being the case. But that does not mean your concerns are trivial, or that you do not have great challenges yet to overcome."

"I am told this by those closest to me," Tia agrees with a weak smile. "But it's very hard to… distance my thinking from. Sixteen years of… abuse and penance leaves one locked in a frame of mind that very little can dislodge them from. I mean - my even speaking to you is an act of defiance against them," she says with a shy grin.

"It is difficult. To turn from the paths of our fathers and mentors, however flawed they may be." Hashim agrees, "Even among my own faith, there are those that weight the words of particular Prophets over those of others. Those that twist the words of the Prophets to suit their own base desires. To justify their sins. Too often, they speak of war against heretics both within and without our beloved Empire. They have forgotten what is, in my mind and heart, the most important lesson of The One God." Hashim straightens in his chair, "The greatest aspect of the One was not his skill at battle or the weapons he wielded. It was not his righteous anger at the Demons that threatened our world, or even his ability to draw men and women to his cause, and unite them in common purpose." Hashim smiles, warmly, "His greatest aspect was his love. A love of humanity so great that he would give his life in its' defense. A fundamental faith that, however imperfect we are, we were deserving of his grace and forgiveness. It was, to my mind, this faith that gave him comfort when he left Creation in our care. He believes in us all. Even if we at times do not believe in ourselves."

The Gerrell nods a slow agreement. "I always saw His greatest gift as unity. No matter the person, no matter where from, no matter who - if they followed Him and carried his love with them, it was something that strengthened them and made them better inside. But my parents weren't very much for 'love' and 'forgiveness'."

"It seems they were not, but that does not mean that you are the same. You have love and forgiveness in abundance." He adds, "And, I hope you will not think it too presumptuous if I say that I believe the first person you need forgive is not your parents, but yourself…even if it is forgiveness for that which your mind tells you was no sin, but your heart tells you otherwise. Then you can worry over your parents. They may be removed from His grace, but that does not mean forgiveness would be without value, even if they are, perhaps…less…deserving of it."

Hashim smiles with just a touch of humor, "And if you will forgive a bit of a foreigner's heresy on my part, I believe that the final authority on whether or not any soul receives the grace and forgiveness of the One is the One himself…perhaps not a…High Priest."

Tiadora says, "I had asked my brother if he might fight for the excommunication to be lifted but perhaps… what does the words of a mortal man or the church He left behind have to do with it? If He wanted to judge them, what would stop Him?" She starts to smile as she considers that fact. "Perhaps I do need to let me guilt go. It won't be easy, but I know what I did… I did for the right reasons."

"And that is a good place to start." Hashim affirms, smiling warmly once more. He moves to lift the pot and refresh both his teacup and hers. "I am pleased you came to speak with me this day, Lady Tiadora. Often the duties of a Prophet do not allow for many such conversations." He laughs, "And yet here in Rivana, I often find I have little but time, and those who share our delegation have nearly had their fill of my sermons."

Tia smiles as he refills the tea. "It was nice to talk to you. Your people are very wise to have chosen you. You carry the One's love within you. That's a rare gift."

"I do wish it were less rare. But we take our blessings where we find them. Your family is fortunate to have you, as well." Hashim sips his tea, smiling over the rim of the cup and closing his eyes a moment, before looking back to Tiadora, "You are most welcome to visit again, Lady Tiadora. For however long I remain here in Rivana." He adds, just a touch impishly, "But I would not have you leave before your finish your tea."

"It would be rude if I left without finishing," the girl agrees, giving him another dimpled smile. "Do you think you and your embassy have done what you came here to do," she asks, more politics than religion now. "My brother sent me to show Normont isn't entirely backwater religious zealots and so I can see the world wasn't the terrible picture it was painted to us as. Silly of me to use a painting example. I rather enjoy it, art."

"There is still much the Shahanshah would wish to see. More of Couviere, for example. Perhaps even Sanctum, if they should allow it, but the news we have heard of their recent troubles seems to make that unlikely." Hashim sips his own tea, noting "And the Grand Treaty we came to observe is still in the process of being written. So we may yet have some time." He chuckles, "And I often find places are less terrible than some reputations would lead one to believe. Your own lands are vaunted for their devotion to their faith. That is not a negative, in my mind, even if some may feel the need to pull that to extremes." He tilts his head, "I believe I may have seen your work at the last Tourney here in Rivana?"

Tiadora mm-hms. "I did the food sculpture to showcase my people's cuisine, and then the painting of the One called 'Not in His Name'. It was… political. I was thinking of all the harm done by people - my parents included- justified by the fact they did it for 'The One'. He wouldn't want that. That's the opposite of what He wants, far be it from me to know His mind."

"None of us can truly know His will. We can only strive to follow His example and encourage others to do the same." Hashim chuckles softly, "Art is often a useful means of communicating a message. Sometimes without the audience fully realizing it." He plucks one of the few remaining pastries, nibbling away happily, "Amusingly enough…I also find food is a fine way of bypassing barriers." He grins with that touch of mischief once more, and the conversation shifts to lighter, less consequential matters, but is no less pleasant for it. Until they finally part ways, both a bit more knowledgable than they were upon the beginning of this meeting.


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