I didn't exactly get a bunch of time off to think about my speech; I was still technically an officer and obliged to keep an eye on what was going on, even if Mietra was basically in charge. Part of that was that I still didn't trust her, and part of that was my godly intuition--she was looking for a way to tear me down and be in charge, I sensed, and nothing in her attitude said any different.
As dusk approached, though, and a hushed sense of excitement spread across the camp, I realized that people were genuinely looking forward to what I had to say. That was... a little embarrassing, especially since I'd been a little cynical about it. I didn't go out of my way to save these people... but it sure seemed like it to them, didn't it? If I said I didn't care, I'd be doing everyone a disservice, but if I lied and pretended I did, pretended that the religion was really about each and every one of them...
No, I decided, this had to be about people in general, the world in general, and about who Xethram is... who I am, but also, the symbol I want to become. A god is supposed to be seeing the big picture, and that big picture has to be the point. Not too abstract--it would be bad if what I had to say meant nothing, in the end--but it can't be about them, nor just about the last battle, and it can't be about me.
So I got a little help from some friendly laborers and they set up a set of barrels with a crate on top, enough that I would end up a good six feet higher than normal. After climbing to the top, I felt my blood pressure rising enough that I could feel my heartbeat in my wounds... but it also didn't feel too terrible. The rest had done a little good, and I wasn't pushing myself.
It was still stressful, so I sat while I waited.
From about the time I got on top of the crate, a crowd started to gather. Like the army itself, the crowd was mostly halfbreed races; they weren't judging me as a god because the Vicar was human, I guess, or maybe they just felt closer after shedding blood together. I watched, and there was no obvious bigotry or racism in the crowd as they waited for me to start.
When I guessed that the crowd was about as big as it would be, I spoke, trying hard to consistently project my voice as loudly as I could. I wished I knew exactly what the trick was that people used--probably another Magic Gift or something, but I wasn't aware of the exact one.
"After a day like yesterday," I said as a starter, then shook my head. That wasn't what I wanted to say. "Some days, even after meeting Xethram, the God of Eyes... I still want to damn my eyes for showing me the awful parts of the world. For showing me shit and festering wounds and monsters eating human corpses. For showing me war and death and... other awful things. My eyes... well, my eye, now... have shown me some awful things, even when I was too young to understand exactly what I was seeing."
"But what I saw was the truth," I said, and I stood up. "The truth was awful, the truth was bloody and terrible. Those creatures out there, the ones that ate flesh... I saw awful things yesterday not because my eyes were some damnable thing, but because the truth was awful, and the truth is what I saw. And you have to see the truth in order to change things in this world. We have the power, each and every one of us, to change things that we can lay eyes on. Sometimes it takes more than a man--sometimes it takes an army. Sometimes you need a mage or a medic or..." Engineer wasn't a word here, of course. Hm. "...a specialist of some other kind to do what you need to do. But it all starts with the truth."
"Xethram comforted me when I was lost, not by hiding the truth from me, but by showing me that the world is more than just the bad parts. I don't damn my eyes for showing me awful things, I bless them for the beauty that they do show me, have shown me, will show me again, as long as I live." I gestured to the horizon and the setting sun; many shadows were cast now, and the sky was turning red, although there were only a few clouds getting that reddish glow cast upon them. "Things we see every day, but forget in times of trouble. Because there is so much to this world--beautiful things, awful things, and reliable, everyday things that we can always count on, things like the dawn and the dusk that will always be there, even if they are hidden, even if we don't go looking for them."
"This last battle... I made a promise to Xethram that I haven't yet fulfilled, and so he protected us, protected me." That was an odd thing for me to just say, but it also felt right. I seemed to remember something about a promise, too, but I couldn't put a finger on it. "It is a wonderful and terrifying thing for a god to have faith in me, and not just the other way around. It feels like an enormous weight on your shoulders, a burden; it feels like you stand on the edge every moment of disappointing the most important person in the world, the one who has given me a chance, the one who picked me up out of the wilderness and led me to a place that might be my home... at the very least, a person who showed me that I could belong, that I could do great things."
"If I mess things up from here on out, it's me being a failure, because a god was looking out for me, giving me a chance. It's not the gods being against me, not fate cursing me. I was given a new chance to change myself and change the world... and it all started with seeing the truth. Always it starts with seeing the world around you as it truly is, seeing people for who they are, seeing things as they are. If you see a wagon wheel that's about to break, you can change fate. If you see a person who is clearly a thief or murderer, you can change fate. If you see a monster in the wild, you, too, can change fate." I paused.
"...Because that's what saved us," I stood up as straight as I could. "One person... seeing a goblin in the wild and recognizing it saved us. Eglare was his name, and his reaction, calling out to the God of Eyes, ensured that even though he died, even though those monsters stabbed him in the back and stole his likeness, even though they tried to sneak into the army and destroy us from within... because one man saw the truth, the rest of us were saved. And Xethram... as a man who sees all, he does not like to watch awful things happen, and so he does not ...usually go to battle. He does not like to see awful things any more than we do," I tried to put a wry tone to my voice on that, but it was hard while speaking at full volume. "He doesn't like looking at men with their bellies slit open, women with their heads bashed in. He does not relish watching a monster treat our dead like forage. But each of these things is a truth, and truth matters."
"If seeing these things can change fate, then see them," I found myself putting a little bit more heart into my words, a little bit of earnestness, and I thought I could feel the crowd react. "If seeing awful things inspires you to fight, then go witness those awful things, and end them. I won't tell you to go looking for everything that's wrong, because too often, we can't change the world--we aren't enough, not alone, maybe not even together. How long has the war raged, and we cannot end it? How much violence is done for how little gain?" I shook my head, feeling like I was getting further from the point. "But sometimes, closer to us, we discover things that matter, we discover chances to change fate. A woman raped in an alley," I could not avoid thinking of Felli here, "a person who you discover is a friend to slavers and murderers... there are always awful things we can see, awful truths, and seeing those things can change fate."
"I do not tell you to worship the God of Eyes, friends, and I do not promise you that Xethram will bless your actions when you do. But I tell you, each and every one of you, that you can change fate, and that Xethram loves you for it." I felt something stirring, in me and outside. "That you have the strength and the wisdom to see the world for what it is, that you were born with it, and that it cannot be taken from you. Xethram sees all, and he loves us for what we are and what we may yet become. He loves the beauty that we show him, and he loves us for everything we do to change fate, to keep people from awful ends, to make the world a better place. And when you ask for help with such a task... he may bless you, as he has blessed me, as he has blessed us all these past few days."
"And if it is true that we, as mere mortals, can change the world, can change fate, then imagine how much we could be capable of when a god stands behind us, empowers us, shows us what lies beyond the horizons!" As I was finishing, a cheer was rising, together with applause, and I felt a strange sense. It was much like the wave of soulflame given in worship that I was expecting--and indeed that was there--but there was also something purer there, like the enormous mass of silvered flame that poured out from the crowd also soaked into the ground, the people, their clothes and items, even the sky, and it was all resonating with the same sound or the same image. The silvered flame that was released was all knotted together, denser than the tiny wisps of flame I had seen and received before, denser than anything I had seen... except perhaps the resplendent coat of that strange woman, the coat made of soulflame. Eventually, that knot did flow to me, although it felt... odd as it did.
I tried to shake off the image, and as I sat down on the box again, exhausted, I said in a quieter voice, as much to close out the speech for myself as for anyone else, "Imagine what truths tomorrow will Show us."
The next couple of hours were honestly pretty difficult. I was pretty proud of the speech, and I got a lot of congratulations and questions, but I was also tired, hurting from my wound, and honestly a little embarrassed from putting myself at the center of attention. I forced myself to go into the crowd, answer questions, exchange small talk and pleasantries... but I wanted to hide and listen, more than speak. I wanted to watch more than be a part of it.
Perhaps that was my nature as God of Eyes... or maybe I was just an introvert thrust into a position where I couldn't afford to be so shy. Because after all I'd said, to run away would be to put a lie to it all, to suggest that I had no strength, that I had no faith in them. I couldn't do that, because in a way what I'd said wasn't a lie, but it wasn't the truth, exactly, either. I did believe that people could change the world... but like that woman had said, it wasn't necessarily that any of these people would. With the right leader, they could be picked up and allowed to see above the horizon, but a one-time sermon wouldn't do it. Even if someday I as a religious leader found a way to guide people, it would take a lot of effort.
My doubts followed me as I wandered among the people who'd heard my sermon--I wanted to call them followers, but we would have to see--and lasted long after I lay down in my bedroll for the night. My mind churned, and I wondered what I should do, and what was going to happen to me.
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- Pseudonymous bastard
A lost soul looking for a path through life. My history has not provided a stable foundation quite yet, so who knows when it will all collapse. Hopefully not soon!
I have been writing stories since I was a child but I wasn't really encouraged or taught. I have developed bad habits and gotten lost inside myself, but still intend to keep fighting and trying to get myself set upright. Fortunately and not, I am not quite alone, but it's always hard to have the wrong kind of help, isn't it?
Best of luck to anyone silly enough to find this page. Work hard and don't end up like me. It has its upsides, but it's really not worth it...