Bonus Story: Locking Horns

on January 12, 2008 in Other Tales

Lord Khersis looked out over the mounds of coins, the piles of weapons and armor, the pots of potent potion, and the casks overflowing with precious gems, and the art objects, and every type of treasure there was, and he said, “Tell me, some of you, what means this multitude?”

And Stefan came before his Lord and he said, “My Lord, the wealthiest of your followers and the great men of the city have sent this to you in tribute, to show that they know that you are come.”

Then Lord Khersis looked upon the tribute once more and said, “It is just and it is good that they should think to honor me so, but I have no need of gold and art objects. They would do better to deliver this tribute unto my brother in my stead.”

And Stefan said, “My Lord, have you a brother? I did not know.”

“Yes, I have,” Lord Khersis said to him. “Go you and tell the crowd my wishes.”

When Stefan had done so, there came a great cry of acclamation.

“Tell us, Lord Khersis, who your brother is and where we may find him, that we may pay tribute to him,” the crowd entreated.

“You do not know?” Lord Khersis asked them. “But how can you not? You have all seen him, many times.”

At this, the crowd fell into a great confusion, for none among them could remember a time when they had seen anyone imbued with such lordly might as Khersis.

“Please, my Lord, we have seen your brother if you say it is so, and yet somehow we knew him not,” said Stefan, humbling himself upon the ground.

“Very well,” Lord Khersis said in a thundering voice that reached the distant corners of the crowd. “I shall tell you of my brother, so that when you see him next, you shall know him.”

The crowd, eager, exclaimed “Tell us, oh Lord!”

“You will know him first by the clothes he wears, for they shall be torn and exceedingly dirty,” Lord Khersis said. “You might see him in the market or on the temple steps, though never inside it, but you shall find him most conveniently this day if you seek him by the ditch which runs outside the city. He will be stooping to drink from it.”

The crowd howled in disgust and disbelief.

“My Lord Khersis, such a man is your brother?” Stefan asked him.

“I say to you that he is,” replied Lord Khersis. “But I think you should also share some of this tribute with my sister.”

“Have you one?” Stefan asked him.

“Yes. Mark me, for I shall tell you of her,” said Lord Khersis. “My sister has three children that yet live, and they are all hungry, yet not so hungry as she. She makes her home in a rude shack in the shadow of the poorest houses the likes of you will have ever seen, and you must seek her there, for she does not come out often. She fears the derision of other folk, for her children have no living father.”

“Are her children as gods?” Stefan asked.

“They are as bastards,” Lord Khersis said.

The crowd howled once more, but Lord Khersis looked upon them and they were silenced.

“I tell you that this woman is my sister,” he proclaimed.

“We do not doubt you, my Lord Khersis,” Stefan said to him. “Only… can you tell us how your brother came to be drinking from a filthy ditch and how your sister came to be raising her children alone and in shame? Can you tell us how your own kin have fallen to such a state?”

“I can, for it is no secret,” Lord Khersis said. “My brother and my sister have fallen so because they were allowed to by men.”

The crowd grew angry at this news and dire threats were offered against those who had done this great crime against the family of Lord Khersis.

“My Lord Khersis, please tell us,” Stefan begged of him. “Tell us, in a city that can produce wealth such as you see before you, who could have allowed any brother or sister of yours to come to such a condition?”

And Lord Khersis said nothing, but he looked at each man in the crowd in turn, and they grew silent. Then every man gathered up what treasure he had brought.

“Remember this, all of you,” Lord Khersis proclaimed. “Let him who would give tribute to me find one of my deserving brothers or sisters instead, for they number as many as the drops of blood in your veins and they shall be with you long after I have ceased to walk the plane.”

When the girl finished reading, she briefly dropped her head, incidentally pointing the small, curved horns on her forehead towards the rest of the class. She was a plump girl, and looked positively overstuffed in a pair of jeans and sea-green sweater that were both sizes too small for her. The snickering which she had ignored throughout her presentation grew louder. The teacher stirred as if she was about to say something, but she was interrupted by the bell.

As everybody else dashed for the door, the horned girl returned to her desk to gather her things, including a textbook which a passing classmate knocked to the floor and another stepped on.

“Twyla, stay a moment,” the teacher said. She was a thin woman with an owlish face, and her brown hair was streaked with gray.

Twyla came over to her desk with a smile on her face, but with obvious trepidation. The teacher held up the copy of the paper she’d turned in.

“The assignment was to orally interpret a piece of literature,” she said rather pointedly.

“Yes, ma’am,” Twyla said, nodding. “I picked a reading from the Book of Deeds and Exaltations.”

“The Librum isn’t literature,” the teacher said.

“I wouldn’t have thought so,” Twyla said. “Only… you said it was.”

The teacher drew back, affronted.

I? When?”

“When I tried to bring up its historical accuracy in class,” Twyla said. “Although you’ve called it ‘an interesting historical document’ before, that time you insisted it was just ‘an ancient work of literature.'”

“Don’t get smart with me,” the teacher said. “Do you know how much trouble I could get in if somebody complains that I let you preach sacred scripture to the class? Or how much trouble you could get in? Spring of your senior year’s no time to risk a suspension just to make a point.”

“So, it is sacred scripture, now?” Twyla asked.

“Be serious. You’ve obviously been bringing your Librum into school to work on this,” the teacher said. “You’re lucky nobody confiscated it.”

“With… um… with all due respect, I still think you misunderstand the Dread Tribunal’s ruling on religion in schools,” Twyla said. “Anyway, you let Jenny present a passage from the Rites of Autumn.”

“That passage was one of the samples included in the text. It has cultural relevance beyond its religious meaning,” the teacher said. “And don’t talk to me about court decisions… you’re still only a child.”

“I’m at least seventeen,” Twyla said. “Maybe eighteen.”

“That’s still a child,” the teacher said. She sighed. “Well, by all rights I should give you a zero since you did not actually do the assignment…”

“I did!” Twyla protested.

“…but since I believe you think you did, I’ll give you a C,” the teacher said, marking the grade on the corner in purple pen. “Besides, I know you couldn’t afford to fail any more classes.”

“This is the only class I’m in danger of failing,” Twyla said.

“Well, yes,” the teacher said, fidgeting in discomfort. “But even that would be enough to endanger your scholarships. I’m just thankful you’ve decided to attend an Imperial university instead of a religious school. Maybe you’ll learn to open your mind a bit in that kind of free-thinking, liberal environment… and of course, the students are likely to be a lot kinder about your, ah, appearance than they would be at a doctrinal college.”

“The fact that private schools are more expensive had a little to do with it,” Twyla said.

“I know how important it is for you to fit in,” the teacher said. “But throwing yourself so blindly into the worship of a god of humans isn’t the way to do it.”

“I have human blood,” Twyla said. “‘Human blood, human soul.'”

“You told me you were interested in finding out about your real parents,” the teacher said.

“I meant my birth parents,” Twyla said. “I do want to know where I came from, but that’s not going to stop me from worshipping Khersis, any more than it will make me forget who my real parents are.”

“That’s a sweet thing to say… well… you should probably get to your next class,” the teacher said. She held up the graded paper. “Oh, and don’t forget this.”

“Thanks, Mom,” Twyla said.

“You’re going to break my poor, old heart one of these days,” her mother replied.


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One Response to “Bonus Story: Locking Horns”

  1. C says:

    Interesting.

    Current score: 0