by Uncle Phineas
Eel's Reverence by Marian Allen
This is how I'm introduced into the narrative of Aunt Libby, true priest of Micah--as if I'm not a true priest, just because I insist my congregation make service worth my while:
I slept soundly, unusual for me. I only woke once. Though alone in the moon-dappled darkness, for the space of five heartbeats I had the uncanny feeling of being surrounded.
When I awoke again, the sun poured gold and green through the trees. The green/gold light before me was solid, though, blocking out trees instead of illuminating them. I blinked and sat up. The odd patch of light wasn't light, of course, but a reaver priest, an Uncle, in a cassock woven as much of gold as of green cloth. He stood about 6'6"--a goodly size, even when the measuring stick isn't a wizened old woman--and broader than proportion required. White-gold hair and sapphire blue eyes sound attractive, but the sapphire blue glinted from small, close-set, squinted sockets. A large, bony nose and a jowly, thrusting jaw framed thick and liver-colored lips. He held out a pair of hands, each big enough to encircle my head, to help me up. Rings sparkled on eight of his fingers.
The reaver smiled a hideous smile, a deformed smile, turning down at the corners and showing teeth white as bleached bones. "Aunt Libby," he said, in a raspy growl of a voice. "I'm Uncle Phineas. Come with me."
"True" priests are foolish. They depend on the voluntary contributions of their parishioners. They own nothing but the clothes they stand up in. Our tradition tells us that Micah lived so, but it also tells us that he had no settled abode, and they see no hypocrisy in snuggling down in a parish for life.
Priests like myself--popularly called "reaver" priests, recognize that Micah's example is only an ideal that we're meant to revere, not follow. We provide services for our congregants: counsel, a place to network with other movers and shakers or to rub elbows with people more important than themselves, an easy conscience. Why should we not collect tithes? Why should we not write and sell indulgences? Isn't an easy conscience worth a little cash, especially if it's the only way you'll have one? Why shouldn't we hold property?
I, myself, am very much attached to my temple on the coast, to my robes, my rings, my horses, my cottage in the country, and, of course, my food. I've earned everything I own, if only by listening to hours of people with no real problems droning on and on about their sorrows, or assuring people who suspect their own rottenness that they needn't feel bad about the thigns they intend to continue doing.
My wolves? Ah, you've found my tender spot. I don't own the wolves. Zarni, Zurka, and Rozda are my companions. They don't serve me, they indulge me. It outraged Aunt Libby that wolves bonded with me, a despicable reaver, but perhaps wolves are less judgmental than true priests, hmm?
If you're a member of the Facebook community, please look me up. I have a "Like" page. Some people would be gratified to know that not many people have clicked that "Like" button for me. I can bear the lack of popularity there, so long as my congregants pay their tithes.
Marian Allen's book Eel's Reverence is complicated. When an elderly priest of Micah--Aunt Libby--goes on a Final Wandering, she's accosted and then befriended by an amphibious mugger. The area known as The Eel is infested with worse than minor criminals--it's under the thumbs of a coalition of greedy, brutal priests. Aunt Libby is a frail barrier to stand between peace and violence, and the worst violence may not come from her enemies...but from her friends.
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