Join Date: Aug 2011
Current Game: Arcanum
It wasn't long before my worst fears, and Mother's, came true. As she had suspected, the nighttime curfew was only the first new commandment in a long list of "shalls" and "shall nots". I couldn't remember them all, being eight, but those that I did remember confused and frightened me. It wasn't just the tone in which they were written; there was something intangible yet insidious in the rules themselves. I had to ask Mother about quite a few of them, such as these:
32. You shall not read anything save your assigned sacred scrolls.
33. You shall dress in white at all times, whether morn or evening.
34. You shall conduct your business and yourselves in all possible silence.
35. You shall keep your countenance reverent and somber.
36. You shall keep your mind on sacred things.
37. You shall pray unceasingly.
38. You shall not profane yourselves in carnal indulgences.
39. You shall not listen to any sort of music.
40. Offerings of highest faith are to be holy, or made holy.
I didn't know what a "countenance" or "carnal indulgences" were, and also couldn't fathom why we weren't to read anything except sacred scrolls or listen to music. It was one of the greatest delights of my life, especially Mother's singing. Why the emphasis on silence? Mother said it was because since the Faceless was not speaking to us, we should be ever-alert for the sound of his returning voice. I nodded, but then thought for a moment.
"Wait: if the Masked Ones are the only people who can hear him, then why have they told the rest of us that we can't enjoy music?" Mother stood tense and silent, and then gave me a hug for a reason I couldn't explain. Was she as afraid of these new rules as I was? Something told me so, but why? What made them so frightening? None of them scared me as much as the fortieth one, however: "What does it mean to be holy, or to be 'made holy', if you're going to be an 'offering of highest faith' like Father?"
"Shhhhh. Hush, child. Please don't speak of him, or of that. The process is painful, and some do not live through it!" I shuddered. "What you need to know is that I would give my own life for you, and that these new commandments are for our own good. If we follow them, then our lives will be better. Perhaps, in time, the Faceless will see that we've made ourselves fully worthy and blameless. For now, however, we must work very hard to do so."
Even though I nodded meekly, I still didn't understand. What did all of these recent rules have to do with seeking the face of the Faceless? Once upon a time, not so very long ago at all, there were only eight laws that he would have us follow, eight utterances from his bottomless Maw. If he had fallen silent, as the Masked Ones said, then the rest of these sixty-four precepts had come from somewhere else, or someone else. Humbly, I asked:
"Mother? If the Masked Ones are the people who have truly written all of these new commandments, then why won't they tell us why they did that?"
She closed her eyes and opened them again, like she had on one stormy night three years ago, when I had first asked about the Faceless. "They have not told you children why," she said slowly when she regained her voice, "because they believe you are too young and simple to understand. The Faceless may be silent, but that's all the more reason why we must trust the words that emerge from the mouths of his priests. The Masked Ones said that since we had become impure and complacent, since we had taken the Faceless for granted, then we had to purify ourselves through austerity. We must follow these new commandments to prove that we're ready to hear his voice again." She knelt down before me. "Promise me that you will, yes?"
I smiled impishly. "I won't promise anything unless I get two more questions."
Why was there a tear forming in the corner of Mother's eye? "Ask them."
"What's a 'countenance'?"
Mother returned my grin. "That's the look on your face. Keep it serious."
"I see. What about 'carnal indulgences'?"
She pondered this question, then leaned forward and whispered in my ear. I flushed hot, and then started giggling all of a sudden. Slapping my hand over my mouth, I couldn't keep the laughter from bubbling out of me, and neither could Mother! It was a good thing we weren't in the Oegon, or we would have been severely punished by the Exarch and High Priestess. Once all of our merriment had poured out of us like rain, we wiped our eyes and went to bed.
Oddly enough, that was when the rains began. The skies above our city clouded over to an ominous degree, slate-gray instead of softly glowing blue. The never-ending storms made showers cascade endlessly into the Maw...