To My Friend in the North
You would think I’d get less nervous after writing one of these letters, not more. Yet even as I write this, my hand is shaking. My claws grip the wood near me to steady myself. Perhaps it is fear of what I will have to say or…perhaps old age.
There is a strange disconnect between writing this and the events that happened in the past. In the time since I have grown old, stories of the Keep have grown past its cursed boundaries. Some names are well known even to people who have never entered the Keep. I could tell a story about my first encounter with someone like the accursed rodent, Brightleaf or…you know, you will find out.
Instead let me tell you the next story in my sequence and my meeting with someone I rarely hear stories about. Too bad, the individual is or was a wonderful chameleon. For my growth it was important that I met him.
Old age makes me reflective. Now I can see how it fits together, but at the time these events in life were random. At the time I knew so many things, how foolish. I apologize for again I ramble.
May Eli bless you, my friend, and me as I continue this venture.
March 26th, 707
My life is over.
I woke up thinking that. I went to sleep thinking that. I chanted it so often that the words began to sound like a chorus in my head.
A very good chorus if I do say so myself.
Nemo looked after me, as I was busy trying not to kill myself, a difficult task sometimes. No, I focused on little things, walking, breathing and not screaming at every monster that approached me.
The Keep was a series of formless gray blobs with faceless shadows slinking throughout it.
I don’t deserve to be here. I leaned back on my new bed. I’m intelligent. Handsome. Heir to a city! Why would the Divine curse me?
When you're a very annoyed agnostic, as I was, all supernatural forces fall under the vague purview of "the Divine". The Divine is never around when things are going great and they wont leave you when things are terrible. And they hate you personally of course.
I hate this place. I don't want to meet people. I wish they'd burn this stain on a map to the ground.
My new bed was in my new room, in my new dwelling, all completely new of course. As for where this dwelling came from, I had heard them explain that it essentially grew out like from the wall, like the new branch of a tree. Of course I knew that was non-sense, what kind of Keep can change size or add rooms?
It’s their fault. They kept me here… I shook my head. You’re being a moron James. You know that’s not true. You’ve been an ass since arriving, why would they want to keep you?
“I’ve got to apologize to…the raccoon and whatever the hell the other lizard was.” His name was Copernicus. I treated him like garbage. I sat up. I asked for this. I deserve it don’t I?
The sinking in my stomach had not gone away. If anything it had gotten significantly worse. When I wasn’t trying to block out my depressing, I instead tried to block out my guilt.
I wasn’t any better at that.
What day is it? The 26th? How did so much time pass? I need to get out. I made no move off my bed. “Maybe I could vanish into it…”
Our dwelling was three rooms, one main sitting/eating/greeting room in the center with Nemo’s bedroom to the left and mine to the right. My bathroom back in Isenport was larger than the entire thing. Much cleaner as well.
Laying on my back was becoming painful due to a new…growth sprouting on me. Still it, like everything else, extended slowly and right now I had used fabric to create a shawl for my lower torso. I wrapped it around my waist and it went down to my knees, hiding my backside and anything that may grow above it.
I was doing well when it came to denying anything was wrong with me. Nemo had managed to acquire some tools for sewing and so I had sewn a much better shirt. Most importantly, my new shirt hid any scales that would (or had) emerged on my upper body.
Nemo’s happy. Maybe…Nemo’s a moron too. My backside screamed in pain but I refused to change positions. Instead I finally stood up. “Maybe I need to get out more.”
My room was decent sized I would discover, but it felt claustrophobic. How do people live in a room only ten paces across? Savages lived like that!
As I stood up I stretched my stiff back out and rubbed the lump in my sarong.
With all things in Metamor Keep, my bed was unusual. Specifically, it was suspended off the ground. It grew sideways out of the wall and hung off the ground high enough I had to work to climb up. “Why does my bed have to be like that? Stupid asses built this place.”
A squeaking noise interrupted my whining. I glanced down to see a gray rat scurrying across my floor. It paused for a moment and sniffed the air near me.
“I’m glad someone is happy here.” I smiled at the little rat. It scrambled back from where it came, to the space under my bed. “Sir Ratticus would have liked you I think. Maybe.”
In the days since I began to develop scales, the air had seemingly grown colder. Now March is already not a warm month but the air felt colder. Or maybe more like heat was in absence. Those may be similar ideas but I assure you, when you are cold blooded you know the difference.
As you might have guessed the cold made me miserable. And with me, misery was concomitant with both whining and stubbornness. Nemo repeatedly offered to build a fire to warm us but I refused.
“Why is it so cold?” I snapped, stepping out of my room. “Why won’t this place warm up?” When you face a problem, solve it. I did not. I did the next best thing, I complained about it. Yes complain about the cold and then order someone not to fix it that's the logical course of action. Yes complain about the cold and then order someone not to fix it that’s the logical course of action.
“If you want warmth, I will build you a fire.” Nemo said, not looking up. “I can accomplish more with one than simple food preparation.”
“I don’t need a fire, the damn Keep needs to be warmer.” My loathing for the Keep was ineffable, it makes writing these letters rather difficult. What also doesn’t help was that I was such a delightful individual.
“I’m glad to see you wearing your skirt again.” Nemo said, still not looking up. “It makes you look quite masculine.”
“It’s not a skirt! It’s a lower body full coverage shawl!” It was a skirt. Just because it touched the ground didn’t make it less of a skirt. “I’m thinking I’ll stay inside again today.”
“You’ve not left once since we left this place. You will have to eventually.” Nemo said. “What’s the worst that can happen?” They hold me down and cut out my tongue for being a mouthy smartass. And I would deserve it.
“I don’t want to talk to freaks and monsters.” I grumbled. “They’re all ugly and smell like shit.”
“I don’t smell anything.” Nemo said. I rolled my eyes. “James, I’ve been up to my knees in blood and watched my comrades in arms die before my eyes. I endured. You have to be nice. You will endure.”
“I will not.” I said. “I’ll die alone and unloved.”
“Then I’ll miss you at first.” Nemo said. I focused on the table. “Let me ask, what do you believe you are becoming?”
“I don’t know that I’m becoming anything.”
“The scales disagree.”
“Maybe they can find a way to reverse this! My father has money; he can pay people to reverse this.”
“Then why didn’t the people in the Keep do that already?” Nemo asked. “Or do you believe they enjoy being isolated from the world and hated by everyone on instinct?”
“Shut up!” Always the most eloquent of speakers. Nemo ate and ignored me. “Where is my food?”
“I fixed you none. I asked last night, will you eat breakfast with me? Your response was a series of profanities that lead me to believe the answer is no. If you have changed your mind I’m afraid it’s too late.”
“I’m not hungry.” I said. “Just…do I have to go out there to buy food?”
“Yes. You will have to talk to people.” Nemo said. He turned back to me, smiling now. “James they’re nice people. They’ve opened up to me, they want to know you.”
“Have you been talking about me?” I asked. “I didn’t give you permission to do so!”
“I had to when you asked me to go out and buy you fabric.” Nemo said. “James, I understand your fears. Your vicissitude of fortunes would leave anyone upset. But if you chose to wall yourself off like a hermit, things will never improve for you.”
He was right. I even knew it. I didn’t want to admit it though so I sulked like a small child. “You also need to seek employment.”
“I am employed, I’m nobility.” I said.
“Yes and you have the important job of being better than others but only in Isenport.” Nemo said. “Here they won’t pay you for being a surly child in the form of a man. You will need employment.”
“How much money did my father leave us?” I asked.
“Much more than I expected. The man never could understand how money worked so he gave us a bag full of coins without any idea of the amount inside.”
“How much?” I asked.
“I’m not telling you.”
“Wha!” I smacked the table. “It’s my money, you tell me.”
“No, your father gave me control of our finances.” Nemo said. “If I give it to you, you will spend it. My goal is to make sure we can remain fed and alive until both of us find employment.” I nodded my head while mumbling profanities under my breath.
“Okay why haven’t you gotten work yet?” I asked. Nemo pulled out our money bag and began to count out coins. “I asked you a question!”
“This I give you for today.” He said, sliding a small amount towards me. “As for why, there is no point in me yet finding employment.”
“That’s a lie!”
“The curse will strike me soon.” Nemo said. “Should I lose limbs it would be best for me not to be working at a job that requires them. You are becoming a lizard and given the development of your arms, you will still have your basic shape.”
“…Ugh, you’re worse when you’re right.” Nemo smiled.
“I have that way about me.”
For personal reasons I’ve chosen not to say just where in the Keep Nemo and I were located. If you wish to know our door opened to a hallway but it did not take long for me to emerge in the bright sunlight.
It was growing less cool as the month of March moved forward but conversely I noticed the temperature more. I also had begun to notice people more as I wanted them to stay far, far away from me.
Stay calm. You’ve got this under control. I walked out from between two buildings into the main square of the Keep. After a morning of walking just from my abode, with lots of time spent in hiding, I was growing tired.
Nemo was right though, I needed to leave my room lest I turn into a mad man. Or a more mad man, I digress.
I emerged in an open square with throngs of phantoms mulled about. A cacophony of voices and an ocean of incidental sound created a symphony of noise. For the first time in days I felt myself begin to relax.
Metamor Keep is inconsistent and loud. Except when it’s quiet. It’s also both empty and cramped at once. You can see why descriptions escape my aged mind.
Various creatures in shapes, sizes and colors milled about. I stood in the shadow of a building, trying to remain invisible. A massive bovine carrying logs walked by. I sniffed the air.
If I have an improved sense of smell it’s not working. The bovine’s tail swatted back and forth. My eyes followed it while my hands drifted to the back of my skirt. “No no no no. Gods no no no.” I took a step forward, into the light.
Stress briefly let go of me as the light fell onto my inhuman form. One hand, uncovered and scaled shielded my face from the bright light. My other hand, still gloved, instinctively covered the lump above my rear.
I can see well. I could see the fur ripple on a silver fox talking to some kind of dark furred creature. I turned to the bovine from earlier as he turned around a corner. Drops of mud tossed up by his hooves, flies buzzing around his back. “If I were up high…I could see everything.” I grinned.
My head snapped around to the sound of footsteps on something. A stick, a stone, something. What is that? I spun around. Sounds. Distinct. My heart began to pound. Out in the open. No! Relax James.
The air was cold but the sun warmed it and me rapidly. It felt amazing on my scales. I closed my eyes for just a moment and let it wash over me.
“He looks happy.” My eyes snapped open again. I moved forward, each step was trembling. The voice had come from a human of indeterminate gender and ebony colored skin. They were dressed in a light blue tabard and cloak with an emblem of a lantern. I barely noticed them.
Beside them was a solidly built, blue female lizard. She stood just shorter than me but possessed a form more muscular than my spindly one. Her shoulders were stiff and her hands clasped behind her back.
Her scales reminded me of lapis lazuli while her eyes two large opals. They focused on me with perfect precision. Her tail was massive and the only other part of her body moving. Running up it I could see a massive sail fin.
She wore the same uniform of the androgen. Except hers was unlined, unwrinkled and seemingly untouched by light or dirt. How do I know it’s a she? She has no breasts.
I did know though. She cocked her head and I mirrored her. “Why are you so happy lizard man?” The androgen asked.
“Uh…what…” The rest of the Keep fell away. Now was just me, the speaker and the watcher. “Happy? I’m not happy.”
“You’re smiling aren’t you?” The androgen said.
“Who…what do you do here?” The androgen shot the lizard a glance.
“By here do you mean the Keep? Keeptown? The continent? The planet? As to all of them, I’m Bantry of the Watch.”
“Who names their child Bantry?” I asked. Bantry frowned. “Watch? Are you…you’re guards. Isenport had a watch also.”
Except in Isenport when I passed the City Watch, they moved out of my way. They took notice of who I was. They did not speak to me because I did not want to speak to them.
And their emblem was more interesting.
“Ah you’re from Isenport!” Bantry said, continuing to talk to me on equal terms. “And rapidly becoming a lizard like my friend here,” They gestured to the female lizard. “I wonder what. Want to place a bet on what you’re becoming?”
“Place a bet. It’s fun, you set down a sum of money on what you think you’re becoming, if you’re right you double your money.” I frowned at this.
“If you’re on the city watch, should you be taking bets from people?” The female who had yet to speak smirked at this.
“Actually I’m off now.” Bantry said. “This is a side business I run.”
“You don’t know me. You just met me!”
“Money never waits!” They grinned. I took a step back. “I bet that’s a no?”
“You bet correct.” I snapped. “Do you know who I am?”
“Somebody new to the Keep.” Bantry said. “If not for the scales I’d assume you were a transgender like me, especially since you’re wearing a skirt.”
“It’s not a skirt!” I yelled. If people weren’t looking at me before, they were now. “I am nobility; you should not just come up talking to me.” The female snorted and Bantry rolled their eyes.
“I’m sorry your highness, I didn’t know we had to follow protocol.”
“Don’t talk to me. Stay away from me.” I started to walk away but my eyes fixated on the blue lizard. “I mean…I don’t want to be here.” I turned and stomped off.
When you live as I do, being brought into Metamor Keep makes you feel like a passage falcon. Or a passage lizard in my case. In many stories I have read and rejected, once the main character undergoes the big shock he is changed and there are no lasting impacts.
Except that’s not what happens in real life. After the big shock comes the little shocks, the constant reminders that your life has changed. The moments when you behave irrationally as you grapple for direction.
Now how were they supposed to know you were nobility James? I kept walking, mumbling curses under my breath. Even if they did know, why would they care that you were nobility from a different town?
I winged over back in doors. In doors of the Keep but where in the Keep….that is the question. “He should have known what I was by the way I carried myself.”
True because only a noble can carry themselves with that air of arrogance. Smart ass. I turned down a hallway, light coming from somewhere in it. Torches? Windows? Arrow slots? I can’t quite remember.
“I am not arrogant.” I mumbled. “I am the victim here. The victim of a world that does not care enough about the poor crushed people like myself.” Was I always such a whiny eyas? I stopped in the hallway and looked around. “Wait…where am I?”
The hall had narrow windows and carpeting. So at least it wasn’t cold on my nightmare feet. Unfortunately that was all I could say about it. I’m not the only one who has this way about them, ending up in places you never want to be by accident.
“No wait…” I glanced back. The corridor curved to the left and from there went to another place. Or was it a different place? I turned back around. “Okay if I go from here where will I be?”
You might know that if you hadn’t spent the last week holed up in your mews. I could go back or foreword but not both, so foreword.
Metamor Keep is odd. That goes without saying. It is simultaneously stuffed to the point of rupture with living beings, yet filled with empty hallways. I ran my fingers along the cold stone as I walked along. The cold on my scales was a series of jolts, each shooting into my skull.
For some reason I couldn’t quite turn around. I wanted too, a voice in the back of my head told me to do so. Yet foreword I marched, indefatigable.
My walking brought me too another bend. As I approached it another set of footsteps came up behind me.
“Who are you?” I froze.
The watch is going to arrest me.
“Haven’t done anything.” I mumbled. I turned around to face the speaker. “I’ve not done anything wrong. Uh…what are you?”
The speaker was a lizard like I refused to admit I was becoming. He was primarily green, with circular scales covering his head. From his face was a U-shaped ridge that framed the top of his head and flowed above his eyes.
He wore a white surplice and carried with him a golden dove statue with a panel on the back. He held it in his broad right hand. On the surplice was an emblem I didn’t yet recognize in gold.
What I most noticed about this man were the eyes. While my eyes had changed color (and changed field of movement), they hadn’t changed shape. Not so with this strange reptile.
His eyes were two bulbs both focusing on me. His irises were pricks of black surrounded on all sides by green and focused on me. He’s a chameleon. He’s boring into my soul.
“I don’t recognized you.” He said. His eyes (moving independently of each other, scanned the few exposed scales I allowed. “You have yet to finish changing.”
“How do you know that?” I asked. “You can’t prove I’m not done changing. I could be done!”
“You still have hair.” Point taken. I frowned and focused in on the dove statue he was carrying.
“What’s in there?”
“I am bringing the Host for those who can’t leave, that’s why I carry this peristerium.” The chameleon said. He smiled. “My name is Patric.” His voice was strong but carried a hiss with it when he spoke. Mine has since done the same, though less of a hiss.
“Good for you.” I said. “What’s the Host?”
“You’re not a Follower are you?”
“I’m not much of anything.” His left eye turned to look at my skirt. “Hey! Both eyes up here! That is really creepy.”
“Is there a particular reason you are wearing a skirt?” Patric asked.
“It’s a full covering lower body shawl.” I snapped. “And I can wear whatever I damn well like.” He returned both eyes to my face. His smile became pained. “What is it?”
“How did you find this hallway?” Patric asked me. “Do you know where you are? Or where you are about to be?”
“I uh—“ I laughed. “Uh funny thing. I was out walking and someone who hated my nobility insulted me so I stormed off. Except I then got lost and, well here I am. Where am I?”
“You don’t seem terribly noble to me.” Patric said.
“I am a noble!”
“I don’t see it.” He said. “You ended up here by accident then? Interesting.” Patric cocked his head. “I wonder what you’re becoming. Reptile of course.”
“Yeah well not turning into one of you.” I said.
“No not a chameleon, the eyes are wrong.” He smiled. “Your scales remind me of Tabitha’s.”
“It’s someone I know. Someone you would enjoy meeting.” Patric said. “After you are fully changed of course.” I wouldn’t meet Tabitha for thirty-five days after today. “Actually I believe there is an entire group you would like to meet.”
“I don’t think so.” I said. Oh but there are people you should meet. If you would stop being such a sniveling idiot you might be happy. Even if you can’t see it.
Around the bend was what I couldn’t see, a set of massive double doors. Inside was the Fellowship of the Egg, a place for those of feather and scale in need. And I was desperately in need.
But I wouldn’t enter those doors until May 1st, still a ways away. More on that later.
“Are you okay?” The chameleon asked. “I think you are hurting.” His tone was gentle, even the way he carried his body was relaxed. By comparison I remained stiff enough that you could balance objects on my shoulders.
“What do you care?” I asked. “I’m fine anyway. This place isn’t worth me getting upset over.”
“Tell yourself that.” Patric said. “I have time if you would like to talk. Do you believe you’re okay?”
“Of course.” I said. “I’m just fine.” I clenched my skirt in my hand. “Just fine. Why are you carrying the thing of…what is it?”
“It’s the Host. Not all worshipers may receive it in person. I have the honor of bringing it to them.” His dark eyes lit up at this. “I’m blessed you see. Not everyone can serve Eli in such a simple but purposeful way.”
“The guy my father had on the payroll never talked like you.” I said. “He was a Follower priest.”
“On the pay roll? To avoid confusion, I am not yet a priest but—”
“My father believed in having the right priest for the religion of whoever we were doing business with.” I interrupted. “He knew how to not offend someone because of their superstitions.”
“A trait you have not picked up.” Patric said, smile never leaving his face.
“You’re damn right! I don’t care what they think.” I said, completely oblivious. “We had money, we had a port, they should want to do business with us no matter what they believe."
“From your accent…Sathmore. Where are you from?”
“I am from Isenport.” I said. “I am James of House Dorothea, servant of the Empire and future Lord of Isenport.” How did I so easily say that word salad without tripping up? I wonder.
“I’ve never been to Isenport.” Patric said, walking over to the side of the hall. I moved with him. “Is it nice?”
“Way better than this place.” I said. “The streets are wide and clean,” When you’re in the noble quarter, “The markets are filled with goods,” many of them illegal, “We have more businesses than Metamor Keep,” like brothels, casinos and drug dens, “You guys need to be more like Isenport.”
“Us guys? You don’t say.” He shifted the statue to his other arm. “It sounds like a wonderful place. Where do you live in it?”
“In the manor house.” I said. “We…well Isenport had a Keep, sort of. A little one but it’s old and crumbling. My grandfather built the manor house for us to live in.” I smiled. “Everything in there is warm, all the floors are carpeted. In the grand hall, that’s where we meet people, it has this massive fireplace made of marble.
“I…I loved it.” I sighed. “I loved living there with my mother and…even my father.”
“You’ve mentioned your father.” Patric said. “What about your mother?” I swallowed.
“She’s….uh not around. My father remarried….why am I telling you this?”
“We were just talking.” Patric said. “You seemed like you could use someone to talk to. I’m willing to listen.” He smiled. “Are you liking Metamor Keep?” I don’t know. I want to hate it so bad don’t I?
“Not at all.” I whispered. “I—uh I don’t like it.” I stepped back from the chameleon. “I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to be here but my father left me here so I’m stuck.” My hands shaking, I had to brace the wall not to fall over.
“That’s terrible.” Patric said. “I’m so sorry for you.” He smiled. “It’s not all bad being here though.”
“I’m turning into a lizard monster.” I said, “I’m not seeing how it isn’t crappy. Who would want to be like this? I mean, who could live like this? You’re trapped in this city and if you leave you die. Everyone outside of it thinks you’re dangerous monsters.”
“I’ve been called worse.” Patric said.
“I haven’t and I don’t want to be.” I said. “I’m supposed to be groomed to lead a city, to be important in the Sathmore Empire. Instead I’m stuck in a keep that wouldn’t qualify as a stain on a map!”
“I’m not sure what that means.” Neither am I. When I get mad I tend to babble. “You don’t see a positive I see though.”
“What?” I asked. “What could you possibly see?”
“Now you don’t have to lead a city.” Patric said.
“As you’ve told me, you were groomed from birth to have one job.” Patric said. “Did you have much say so in this decision?”
“Of course not.” I said. “I obeyed my father like I was supposed to…” I dug my clawed feet into the carpeted floor, again to keep myself from falling over. “I was a good little boy. Ha!”
“Now you can decide what you want to do.” Patric said. “You no longer have the weight of an entire city on your shoulders. You’re free!” I frowned.
“Free? In what way is this freedom?”
“Did you want to lead a city?” Patric asked. “Be completely honest now.” I laughed at this.
“Of course. Why uh, why…” I swallowed. “I don’t know.”
“Well now you can find out.” Patric said. “You’ve got a new form and a new life. You can meet people you never would have. I’ve enjoyed speaking to you.” The chameleon seemed sincere. I couldn’t for the life of me understand why.
“Well I haven’t.” I said. “Now go away. Get back to whatever it was you’re doing.”
“If you would like to talk more you can—
“I do not care!” I interrupted. Patric ignored me and told me where to find him anyway. “Damn it why aren’t you listening to me?”
“Because you yell a lot without saying anything.” He said. “If you want to speak to a friend, come and find me.” I leaned against the wall. I don’t want friends in this place. I want out of here. I looked down at the dove statue he had again.
“What’s in there?”
“I already said; I am bringing the Host to the faithful. This peristerium is a eucharistic dove. The panel in the back holds the pyx. It’s—“ I made a grab for the statue. “Excuse me, what are you doing?”
“I wanna see so let me see.” I grabbed again, this time pulling the back panel off. “That’s it?”
“Do you know what you’re looking at?” Patric asked. Yes I did, little circular things sitting in a dove.
“You’re bringing people crackers?” I asked. “They’re going to still be hungry, you better have a lot.” The chameleon shook his head.
“It’s not that simple.” He said. “I’d love to explain it to you though if you have the time. You can come to see me whenever you’d like.”
“I don’t want to see you again!”
Eli forgive me for what I did back then. Eli forgive me for the man I was.
“Get out of here and take your stupid fucking crackers.” I made a third grab, this time dumping the Host on the floor. “Take your—
“You insolent brat!” Patric screamed. He then froze. “I’m terribly sorry but what you did was wrong.”
“It’s just fucking crackers.” I snapped. He cocked his head. “What? What are you looking at?”
“What did they do to you?” Patric asked. “What…made you so angry? I want to help.”
“Well I’m leaving.” I stormed off, making a point to stomp on one of the Host as I left.
“I’m sorry also for what’s hurting you.” Patric called out. I paused.
He’s forgiving. He means what he says.
I walked on in silence.
So I’ve messed up again. I couldn’t silence that voice, it chanted all the way back to my hovel. Now I’ve got a priest mad at me and a fellow lizard.
“I’m not going to be one of them.” I reached my door but didn’t go in. Instead I paused before it for just a moment. “I’m not. I’m still human and I’m going to…I’m not a lizard.” I closed my eyes and said a quick prayer to the unknown Divine.
This was not the gods of my father or the god of Nemo, but something more primordial. The Divine to me was the unknown force that existed simply to taunt mankind.
The hovel was warmer than it was before. Nemo had lit a fire in the room and the warmth soaked into my bones. Thank you Nemo.
“It’s too blasted hot.” I said. Nemo gobbled up a piece of bread and shrugged. “Put out the fire.”
“I am cold. If you want to be cooler, go to your room.” I rolled my eyes and sat down beside Nemo. Pain rocketed up me and I tried not to show it.
“You okay? You look like you’re in pain.” I didn’t do a good job of hiding it. “Your skirt is still clean, that’s something.”
“Stop calling it a skirt.” I grumbled. “It’s a full lower body sarong.” I focused on breathing and not on the pain.
“At least you got out of the house some today. I am proud of you for that James.” I shrugged. “Just trying to provide a compliment.”
“I don’t want one.” He sighed.
“Fine. What were you doing out there James?”
“I was exploring this awful castle.” I said. “You know, in Isenport we no longer live in a castle that’s been around since the Suielman Empire fell. We built a manor house.” I gestured to our walls. “It always stayed the same size, the same layout. It’s not ugly gray rock.”
“This place…never mind.” Nemo kept eating.
“I spoke to a lizard named Patric.”
“Oh? And what was he like.”
“He’s okay I guess.” I said. “He’s an Ecclesia priest, or he’s going to be one. I don’t know, I wasn’t listening.” Nemo went stiff.
“A what now?”
“An Ecclesia priest or something, did I say something wrong?” Nemo frowned. “What? What did I say?”
“It’s not you.” Nemo mumbled. “Don’t talk to any more of…those priests. They are wicked and pernicious councilors, falsifiers.”
“I thought you believed in that crap!” I said. Nemo glared at me.
“Do not refer to my beliefs as crap. And do not associate with those people, that I am telling you now. They are corrupters of the highest order; they pervert the Way, the pervert Yashua and Eli.”
“Are you a….What’s the other one?” I asked. He sighed.
“A Rebuilder is the term you search for. No I am not one. Rebuilder implies a desire to rebuild, the faith I follow wishes for no such thing. I am telling you now, whatever you wish to believe is fine but do not speak with one of them.”
Believe what you want but do as I say. Even Nemo wasn’t immune to that.
“Whatever, I’m not planning on it.” I said. “He called me a lizard. He acted like I was one of them.”
“You are a lizard.” Nemo said.
“I don’t consider myself one. You can’t see any scales on me.”
“Except for the ones coating your face.” I didn’t respond. I kept my eyes on the table. “Did you enrage him?”
“I yelled at him.” I said. “I threatened to stomp on his damn crackers. I did stomp on one, wish I had on more.” Nemo smiled at last. “Why didn’t he yell back?”
“I kept screaming at him, the stupid priest didn’t yell at me. He kept talking about faith, understanding and crap like that.” I said. “I don’t get it. If those crackers were so important why didn’t he punch me for wanting to crush them?”
“I can’t explain how Ecclesia think.” Nemo said. “I can assure you they’re all insane.”
“I guess.” I sighed. “Why the hell did I yell at him? He was so nice…”
“He deserved to be yelled at if he works for the Ecclesia.” Nemo said. “They are worse than the pagans. That’s what I believe.”
“I believe he was wrong. I know he was; I’m not going to be a blasted lizard like he is. I won’t.”
“If you wish to believe that it’s fine.” Nemo said standing up. “Stay away from the Ecclesia unless you want them to corrupt you as well. I say this as your protector and your friend, they are dangerous.” I missed most of this, too trapped in my own head.
I’ve just made things worse haven’t I? I buried my head in my hands. Yep, much worse. I need to apologize to these people…why can’t I get out of here? I stopped the tears this time, too tired to cry. Why can’t I get out?
My room was cold and I refused to make a fire. This despite having a small fireplace. For now my body would still warm itself and I was going to take full advantage of it.
The ache was down into my bones. I brushed it off and climbed onto my bed. I had a piece of bread still with me to eat. I laid down on my back.
Oh damn why do I do this to myself? I could have rolled onto my side but instead I chose to stay on my back. Even as the pain rolled into my skull I wisely refused to move just to prolong my agony.
“Squee!” I bit my lip and looked over the side of my bed. The little rat from earlier looked up at me. It sniffed the air, standing briefly on its hind legs.
“How’s your day been?” I broke off a piece of bread. “Afraid mine has been a bit of a mess. I yelled at a priest over crackers. Can Ecclesia priest curse you?” I frowned. “He’s not a priest though…does it still count?” I rolled onto my side to feed my little friend. The wave of relief was instantaneous.
The little rat scurried over and ate the bread from my fingers. I stroked its back while it did. “I think they can.” I smiled at him. “Probably deserve it.” The rat made a noise of thanks and briefly rubbed against my hand before scurrying off.
“Come back any time.” I whispered before rolling back. The pain returned, even worse than before, now I felt it splitting me apart. “Damn it…Got no choice…” I rolled onto my other side, again letting relief overtake me.
Much better. My new tail drooped over the side and soon I fell asleep.
Again my hand grows tired, so I will end here.
Patric was a good man, I wish I had known that then. I would learn that in time but my first meeting with someone who would help me so much ended with me screaming at him. I disrespected the Eucharist but to my credit I wasn’t struck dead right there as I probably should have been.
Life is so odd. In that night I had been given my first introduction to being a Follower and been informed about the Fellowship. Yet I wouldn’t come into the Ecclesia until by my own choice nor would I seek out the Fellowship until I needed it less. But I’ll get to that later.
I wish I could hand these letters to my younger self, or perhaps to those who I would soon meet. Still, looking back it’s not all bad.
My attitude had not changed but that night was the first night I was able to do something important.
I surrendered. If we want to change, we often have to begin by doing that. It’s never easy.
Your friend in the South