Chapter 46: God’s Servants
Nisha was almost ready to explore the interior of the Hall of Light while she waited for the priest to return — the solemn air inside not deterring her from exploring more of the place — when she felt a trickle of blood escape the bandage.
As she lifted a hand to her wound, she contorted her face into a grimace; the excitement from earlier had repressed any pain from the wound, but now she was able to feel the pain of the gaping injury again.
Lifting a hand and shifting it under her yellow dress resulted in crimson liquid staining her finger tips, and a soft sigh escaping her. Nisha decided to stay put until the priest returned.
I really should try not to get injured this often. I can’t even remember the last time I was injured when I was in the [Dragon’s Den].
Luckily, she didn’t have to wait for long, as the party spent their time praying or observing the hall in silence.
Nisha herself was impressed with the straightforward design of the interior She was by no means an expert on architecture, yet the recurring theme of the seven pointed star hidden cleverly in murals and icons throughout the room caught her attention. The painting of a large white figure, roughly similar to the large floating being above the altar stone, caught her attention especially.
If she was able to move around, Nisha probably would’ve tried to touch the entity’s large dove-like wings, curious to see what they were like, as she missed her own — even if she didn’t have any feathers.
Fortunately they didn’t have to wait long. The flustered preacher from earlier returned, clearly still upset from the treatment that the lance corporal had administered to him.
“The High Priest, in his grace, has granted you an audience. Follow me.”
Turning around and walking away in the same direction that he’d come from, he muttered something else under his breath.
“Even if I don’t know why the prior would welcome savages such as you.”
Since they didn’t have a dragon’s pair of sharp ears, everyone else had most likely missed the insult, but Nisha’s dislike for the man consolidated even further — she wondered why he was being this unfriendly.
The pain had returned, and now that she was aware of the injury, there wasn’t anyway for her to repress it again; however the dragon was too proud to show any signs of discomfort and worry her friends.
Their destination turned out to be a simple door at the end of a corridor that was completely bland and indiscernible from the other doors in the hallway.
Contrary to this however, the presence behind the door was enough to be palpable, even through the simple wood, as it radiated dignity and wisdom.
Two knocks on it and a short response later, the priest led the way inside. Hale went first, while Nisha was escorted in with Annabelle and Lydia on either side.
The room itself was fairly bleak as well, with a flat bed in one corner, a statuette resembling the winged being above the altar in a small niche in the wall, a closet in the second corner, and a writing desk in the last corner. No unnecessary decorations or opulence were anywhere to be seen, the only thing that caught Nisha’s attention was the man sitting in front of the desk, who was wearing the same kind of robes the other priests had.
A large golden book, oddly out of place, was spread open on the table.he man rested one of his fingers on the passage that he was reading when he turned around to face his visitors.
He looks a bit like grandpa, but I don’t like his eyes.
True to Nisha’s impression, the high priest, akin to Eldrin, reminded her of a spider web, his skin covered in wrinkles. Just looking at him, she got the feeling that the man was important and used to make decisions. She got the feeling that there was no hesitation in him, only the conviction that one would gain after living a life dedicated to the service of the gods. This was the High Priest, and neither his short white beard, nor his balding head of white hair, could diminish the dignity he radiated.
“[Soleil] welcomes you into His house. My name is Father Roland, I am the head of this hall. May I know who you are, and what your purpose here is? Brother Lennard here told me that you presented him a sigil ring with the emblem of the Dharnas house. While I can’t say that this is the usual procedure, I can’t deny that I was curious as to why a Terus officer carried it. Can you enlighten me?”
Something about him just feels off.
Compared to the kind and caring grandfatherly impression Nisha had always felt from Eldrin, although Father Roland was certainly courteous enough, his friendliness also appeared to be put-on.
Thrown off balance by the insincere greeting, the otherwise eager elven girl left the talking to Hale, who stood in front of her like a living shield, and protected her from this unknown man.
“Your eminence, we are here under the request of healing. A member of the Dharnas house has been injured severely and requests your help. I’m not here in my capacity as a Terus soldier, but as a medicus. All life is precious, and the injury is beyond the limit of what I can treat.”
Hale is speaking normally to him. After she told me to treat the other priestess differently I thought that she had a problem with priests. Maybe it’s a thing between women?
“It is a strange practice to come into a temple and threaten a son of the church just to ask for a favour, lady. I don’t know if this is common where you come from, but here in Leandar, we are more humble when asking for a favor!
Very well, [Soleil] teaches us to share His gifts with others — even though a medicus tried to reject His workings at first. Bring me to the patient, I will see what I can do.”
“High Priest! Why are you going personally?”
The cold demeanor he treated Hale with didn’t seem to impress the younger priest enough to bar him from defying his decision.
“It is beneath you, they should bring the injured person here! Just because they’re nobles, doesn’t mean that you have to go personally!”
“Lennard! I know what you think of nobles, but that doesn’t mean that they deserve our service any less than a commoner would! Like everyone else in life, a position or a title doesn’t make a person. I am the High Priest, that is true. But so what? It just means that I have served our lord [Soleil] the longest in this humble place of residence. Does that mean that I can’t go outside and do his work? Or should I deny someone that I don’t even know my help, just because he or she happens to be born under parents he or she couldn’t choose?
You disappoint me, Brother Lennard. In our service to the lord, we don’t differentiate between people, we only exist to lessen the burden on the world until we are in His embrace. Go back to your cell and think about what I’ve said.”
The admonished priest named Lennard bowed curtly, and swiftly left the room, his expression unreadable for the dragon as it happened too fast.
Nonetheless, the High Priest’s speech had earned her respect. One of the things she’d learned in the cottage was to own up to one’s mistakes, and to not make any difference in treatment based on someone’s birth.
Grandpa once said that if I treat someone beneath me just because they’re a servant or something other than a citizen, it’d be the same as if I’d insulted Anna and Lydia. How could I bear to do that?
“I am sorry for this display. No matter how correct Brother Lennards point was, I’ve already noticed his unhealthy prejudice against nobility. He might be the head of our hall one day, so I had to take this chance to correct his ways.
Even so, in a certain regard, his concerns were right. If you wish to receive healing at the temple, you should bring the person in question along. It’s not uncommon for the temple to be asked for help, but usually it shows more respect to ask Him for His blessing in this place, in His house.”
With an amused glint in her eyes, Hale saluted in a mocking fashion, and prepared her answer.
“Indeed, we meant no disrespect, Ser High Priest. In fact, the patient is right here with me. Nisha, would you come here please.”
As Father Roland seemed to be a though, but fair human, Nisha had no reservations in stepping forward and doing a curtsy. As someone serving the gods, he deserved at least this much courtesy. The two goddesses Gabriel and Bael had left enough of an impression to elicit this respect.
“Good day, sir.”
Father Roland looked suprised, at least, that was the impression the elvish girl got from looking at him.
His eyebrows rose as he inspected her, taking his hands from the books, and he scratched his ears — probably unsure of what to say, or what was wrong with her condition.
He didn’t even take his hands off the book when he disciplined that other man. I wonder what’s written in there.
“And what exactly can I do for you? You don’t seem to be hurt very much, at least, I can’t discern your illness. Tell me, what can I do for you?”
Happy to be able to see a temple healing, Nisha complied with his inquiry, and promptly pushed aside the upper straps of her dress, revealing the bloodied bandage beneath.
Without knowing the matters between a man and a woman yet — although she had a rough hereditary knowledge due to her origins as a beast — she felt no shame exposing herself yet. Hale, as a medicus, didn’t comment on it either, as she was professional enough to know this was necessary.
Only Lydia and Annabelle started to show a crimson shade on their cheeks.
“I’ve been hurt here. It’s not too bad, but it’s uncomfortable when I move.”
The priest’s attitude had already turned serious when he saw the bloodied bandage, and his entire demeanor changed to one of compassion and sympathy when Hale revealed the horrendous hole still running cleanly through Nisha’s body.
Putting the golden book aside, High Priest Roland rose from his chair and crossed the distance between himself and the elvish girl.
Before he laid a hand on her injury, the man asked for permission, which Nisha regarded as unusual, but still nodded her head, shifting slightly to show him the wound at a better angle. While being injured wasn’t something she liked, she didn’t understand why he’d become so quiet so suddenly, and she peered at him curiously.
Annabelle and Lydia were anxious as well, as they’d never ever seen the High Priest of [Soleil] before — he wasn’t someone a servant could meet — and even someone of importance like him had grown quiet in front of their younger sister’s injury.
“Here I was, preaching to Brother Lennard just a minute ago about servility and humbleness in the name of our god, and here I am, the same fool as he is. You see me, ashamedly, rambling on and on, while you’re in pain — enduring this while I embarrassed myself. I hope you can forgive me for that.
As for your wound, I’m afraid that without a powerful offering, I also am unable to heal you. I can see the work of the medicus here, it’s truly splendid.”
This remark struck Nisha as odd.
“Don’t priests and medici usually not get along? At least that’s what I thought so far.”
Her childish inquiry amused the priest, as he smilingly gave her the answer that she was searching for.
“It’s an old rivalry between priests and healers of other profession to dispute who is the best at healing patients. It’s not something that’s unique between the Terus healers and our priests, but rather between all healers, to squabble who’s the best for the welfare of those who suffer under them.
But the older I get, the more I see how pointless these conflicts are. The care your friend over there has shown you might have saved your life so far, so I’m not one to discredit that. I can see the cuts and the treated patches where magic has worked.
Miss, what did you say your name was?”
At least they get along now. I wonder what Hale has against that priestess we met earlier.
The last part was indeed directed at the lance corporal, who’d relaxed her guard by now.
“My name is Cordia Hale, medicus and Lance Corporal in the Second Legion under the Terus banner. However, I’m not here in either function. I’m here solely as a friend to accompany Nisha, it’s my fault that she was injured in the first place. Is there truly nothing you can do?”
High Priest Roland glanced towards the golden book at her question, deep in thought for a moment, before answering. His attitude still wasn’t amicable , but he showed their party some respect at least.
“It’s not that I don’t want to heal your friend, but that it’s beyond me to provide the mana necessary to heal this girl by myself. The gift to heal is a bestowal of my god, [Soleil]. Without a large amount of priests joining me in prayer, or a special offering sacred to Him, I’m afraid I can’t completely heal this wound on my own.
But you’re right, we can’t just do nothing. Even if it will only comfort you a bit, and speed up the healing, we can try and believe in a miracle.”
Annabelle and Lydia looked distraught at the news that their sister couldn’t be healed right away, but for Nisha the information about this new god, [Soleil], was more than worth it to endure the pain for a while.
It’s not too bad after all. I guess he’s the god of light?
“What would you need as an offering to heal her?”
Hale surprised both the girls and the priest, the determination in her voice enough to tell them that she would move both heavens and the earth to provide whatever was necessary to heal Nisha — she’d already said it was her fault, and she meant it.
“Something sacred to the light: an ore filled with heavenly energy, a plant that has grown for many years in one of his temples… anything along those lines. If you bring it to me, I can tell for sure, but those types of items are usually holy relics, and are very rare.
On the other hand, we can ask Him for a healing first. There might be a miracle after all. Is that alright with you, Nisha?”
Somehow, the dragon was pleasantly surprised that he was able to remember their names in such a short time, and that the issue was important to him, even though he didn’t need to care about her at all.
When she nodded, he walked towards the other side of the room, pulled a white robe out of the closet in the corner, and handed it to her.
“When you are ready, put this on, and we can head to the altar in the hall — His power is the strongest there.
I’ll go ahead and prepare the healing. You can cover up and follow me once you’re ready. Once again, thank you for teaching me more about the nature of my service today, I hope you can forgive me for ignoring your pain.”
His remorse seemed genuine, and Nisha didn’t think the pain was bad enough to warrant such a huge reaction.
“There’s nothing to forgive, sir. You’re already offering to heal me, therefore, I’m the one that has to thank you. Please just don’t be too hard on Brother Lennard, I don’t think that he’s a bad person, just that he was probably surprised earlier.”
Inclining his head in contemplation, the High Priest accepted her request, looking one last time at the bloody wound on the elvish girl’s body, before leaving the room.