Join Date: Aug 2011
Current Game: Arcanum
"This is not the first time that the Faceless has ceased speaking to us."
I couldn't believe it! "When was it? Do you know?" The flame illuminating the room rose and flickered, as if it were as frightened as Mother seemed to be.
"Eight years ago." She trailed off. "I'm starting to doubt that this particular occasion I'm remembering was the first time, but it was truly the beginning of the end for me." With a quivering sigh that she let out slowly, Mother said, "Only you saved me from joining your father after..."
"After what?" My stomach felt hard and twisted, like a rope tied in knots.
"Eight years ago, very near the time you were born, the Exarch made the same announcement that he made tonight. He and his Masked Ones could no longer hear the Faceless, because our god had closed his mouth! None of us in our fair city knew why, but the Exarch warned us that we had indeed transgressed and forgotten the one we worshiped. He said we should pray."
"Like tonight," I said slowly, "but what did he mean when he said to pray as we ought? Is there a particular way to commune with the Faceless at a time like this, or did he simply say that praying is what we ought to do?"
Mother did not answer, and her silence was as chilling as the draft that seeped in through our cottage's stone walls. "That admonition was only the key that unlocked the door of our nightmares. Prayer and nighttime curfews were things to which we gladly consented, but soon the Exarch held another evening service in which he called for...offerings of highest faith." A pause. "You know that we give eight percent of what we earn through honest labor to the Masked Ones, and the Oegon--the temple of the Faceless." I nodded. "You also know that we are called to serve in whatever capacity we can when the Masked Ones receive such revelations. I myself read the sacred scrolls that are only given to those who reach sixteen, to check for errors."
I nodded. "I've never heard of offerings of highest faith, however."
"And well you haven't! Your father volunteered, along with seven others, to cast himself into the Maw of the Faceless willingly, on the night of the full moon, so that our god might speak again." I was so scared that even though I knew full well how to use the privy, I felt something dribble between my legs. "That was not the worst part, however. These seven souls who so bravely gave their lives so the rest of us might live were heroes, and even then..."
"Something else was wrong, wasn't it?" I could barely hear my own rasping.
"Yes." After a moment, Mother continued: "Your father, though he sacrificed body and soul for us and this sacrosanct city, did not die as a paragon of faith in the eyes of the Masked Ones. He perished as a heretic, because he claimed to hear the Faceless." Another pause. "I believed him."
"You did?!" I was so loud that I startled myself and jumped. "Why?"
"I knew what your father said was true, even though the Exarch, the Masked Ones, and our friends and neighbors denied it. Daughter, I weep for you! You are the only living child of a man deemed a blasphemer and a woman who held fast to what he said, although quietly! The only way that the Exarch allowed your father to redeem himself before the Faceless was if he offered to cast himself into the Maw first..." Sobs crept out from between Mother's wet, trembling lips. "He did, and the Virtuous Seven followed. I have no doubt your father is in the arms of our god, as are they. However--" She sat up very straight, and looked straight at me. "Promise me something."
"Anything!" After her unveiling of the dark secret that had haunted her for eight years, even before my birth, how could I deny her this one comfort?
"I want you to promise me this: that you will never ask, as long as you live, what it was your father said that caused him to be branded a heretic."
I was so curious about this that I thought my very skin would burst, and my body die, if I did not learn the answer to this question. However, I steadied my breath and my voice. "I promise, Mother. I will never inquire about it."
Rising up from the table, Mother darted around it and gave me such an embrace that I thought I was being crushed! "Good. I love you. Be safe."
All I could think was, O Faceless! What heresy could be so horrible as to torment Mother so? Will the Masked Ones call for what they did before?!