Lives of the Saints

Thoughts Awhirl

For those who are curious, this was the scene that inspired (or was inspired by) my animation of “Look Through Heaven’s Eyes”.

Author’s Note

It had been a dream, but Shizzal had not been aware of that until he woke up.

The number of stairs must be intentional, Shizzal thought as he crested the top of the long flight leading up Puzzle Canal. Only a god could climb this many and not be out of breath.

He stood for a while at the top, waiting for his breathing to return to normal and the fire to fade from his legs. He stared at the door, thinking it looked ordinary, almost woeful. Why not gilded in gold? Drethas had told him to speak to Vivec like a normal person. He had doubted her, but now, steps away from the god’s humble abode, her words were beginning to make sense.

He laid his hand on the door handle, turned it, and went inside.

The room was lit with a soft golden glow that seemed to emanate from everywhere and nowhere at once. Shizzal had expected trophies or hangings, perhaps like the collection of defeated foes’ weapons that House Sarthos had on display, but there was nothing. Just the empty round room, and the god himself.

Shizzal fell to his knees and prostrated himself. It seemed like the right thing to do. His face on the floor, he could no longer see Vivec. He was aware of sweat dripping down his nose. “Sera! I mean…muthsera! I mean..serjo! I-I’m sorry. I don’t know what I’m supposed to call you.”

“Many call me lord or master.” The voice seemed to carry the wisdom and sorrow of the ages, but it also had an unmistakable note of amusement in it. “However, I am rather partial to ‘old man’.”

Shizzal sat up in surprise. “I know you!”

“One would hope.”

“You are that priest who spoke to me in the library! With the hood!”

“I am many.”

They stared at each other, or rather, Shizzal stared at Vivec. Vivec had his eyes closed. Cross-legged, he bobbed gently up and down several feet from the floor. A long polearm, reminiscent of a netchiman’s hook but viciously barbed, lay across his lap. As Shizzal stared at it, it seemed to grow less threatening, though its form didn’t change at all.

“I have other servants to attend to,” Vivec said gently in a way that somehow managed to be not gentle at all. Shizzal was eerily reminded of Hasami.

“I’m sorry!” Shizzal said abruptly, and he stumbled up to his feet. “I’ve never spoken to a god before.”

“The Archcanon said you desired an audience with me. What is the reason?”

Shizzal swallowed hard. He began explaining the situation with the Tengri and their cultist haltingly, and though the god’s expression didn’t change, Shizzal sensed an impatience about him. Shizzal tried to speak faster, with the result he stumbled over his words and was forced to repeat himself. A sudden deep sense of shame overcame him, like when he was a child questioning one of Hasami’s orders. Hasami had never scolded him, but instead listed all the altruistic reasons he had made the command, never failing to make Shizzal feel like a selfish, shortsighted wretch in the process. He felt like the same ungrateful wretch now.

Shizzal reached a point where he was about to ask for the god’s help in righting the wrongs of the Ordinators’ recent practices against the Ashlanders, when his courage deserted him. He stared at the floor and could not go on.

“It is not often I am sought for an audience and not asked for a blessing,” said Vivec after a moment’s pause.

Shizzal didn’t think that was fair and opened his mouth to say he had come for exactly that reason. But his mouth twisted as if it had a life of its own. “These are your followers, sir. And maybe I’m just an ignorant outlander, but I just don’t understand in. Why do you let these horrible things go on in your own temple?”

“A good question and one worthy of you, Acolyte. I will ask you something in return. Do you believe in fate?”

Shizzal thought it was a strange question, coming from a god. He looked up to find Vivec watching him. Though his skin was mismatched, gold and dusky, he still had the golden eyes of a Chimer.

“Not really, no,” Shizzal said truthfully.

“Nor I. Only I direct my own actions. I direct only my own actions.”

Shizzal shook his head in confusion “But you are a god! You have all the power in world! You aren’t callous or absent like the Aedra and Daedra. You could right this just by snapping your fingers!”

“You would wish me to be a slave master, son of House Dres?”

The god’s tone wasn’t severe, but his meaning was. Shizzal choked on his outburst. “N-no. I-I didn’t mean that.”

“There are many punishments worse than death, Acolyte. You come to me, your god, praying retribution against your superiors? You would ask I strike down those who love me, so that your notion of justice may be satisfied?”

Shizzal flinched, found he could no longer meet the god’s eyes. “No…no. Only that they don’t t-t-try it again.”

“Only the Daedra will such things.”

“But the people they hurt! What about them? They did nothing wrong!”

“Nothing, Acolyte?”

“Okay, m-maybe some things, but not enough to deserve what they got.” This wasn’t going at all as he had expected. Shizzal’s head whirled, and he pressed his palms to his temples, fighting the uncomfortable sensation of not knowing for sure which direction was up and which was down. He held a hand out to Vivec as the only stable thing in the room, pleading. “Please, sir, if I can’t believe in what I feel is right, what am I supposed to believe in?”

Vivec was silent for a long time, eyes closed again. Just as Shizzal felt he should break the silence, the god spoke. “The Grand Commander’s part in this is taken care of. But it will be done in my own time, in my own way. You will not ask further of me, Acolyte.”

Shizzal cringed. “N-no, of course not, lord.”

“You also asked after the welfare of the afflicted, did you not?” Shizzal nodded, shrinking under the god’s scrutiny. “…this speaks well of you, and saves you from similar punishment as that which may befall your superiors.”

Shizzal shivered despite his relief. “I-I–thank you.”

“Do not,” said Vivec, “for I merely put words to what was already true. Now the crux of the matter. You asked me why I did not do anything?”

“Please, I meant no disrespect–“

Vivec shook his head impatiently, continuing. “Being a God is like juggling many things at once, son of Dres. I did not do anything, because I knew that you would.”

Shizzal looked up, mouth gaping.

“It is not often mortals come before me without asking for my blessing,” Vivec continued, tone softened as if musing. “Therefore I will give you one.” The god brought his feet underneath him, standing, and beckoned Shizzal to come before him. Shizzal hesitantly crept closer, and the god touched fingers to his forehead. They burned and froze him at the same time. “You asked me what to believe in, if not what you think is right?”

The fingers pressed harder. Shizzal cried out, imagining the holes to be drilling straight into his skull, his mind. Through the haze of pain, Vivec’s words drifted to him.

“You should instead be asking whether the thought believes in you. Without the thought, there is no words; without the words, there is no action…”

Shizzal came awake all at once in the Ebonheart Temple. Pain lingered in his temples, and he vaguely wondered if he had been hung over. He sat up in his chair, righting an empty ink pot he had knocked over in his sleep.

He started then, noticing at last that hehad a visitor. “Can I help you, muthsera?” he asked.

“Aye,” said the hooded priest. “I am from Vvardenfell. I have a message from the High Fane, addressed to the Chaplain of House Sarthos.”

“Oh. Th-that’s me.”

The priest nodded; he already knew. “I am to tell you that we are sorry, but you have been denied an audience to our Lord Vivec. The duties of a god are manifold and of vast importance, you understand.”

“I understand,” said Shizzal softly, too disoriented to feel too badly. He accepted the scroll from the hooded priest. “Is there anything else?”

“The gods will us to see only what we wish to see, I am told.” He gave Shizzal a look that could have only been described as doubtful, before bowing and turning to leave. “That is all. Almsivi bless.”

“Almsivi bless,” murmured Shizzal in return. Bidding the priest a polite goodbye, he unrolled the pre-offered scroll. It was a charter for a Whirling School, described as a place of refuge for any Dunmer who wished its sanctuary. Buoyant Armigers — not Ordinators — would staff its defenses, and all necessary supplies had been arranged from Mournhold. The charter was only awaiting the signature of a new Master…or a Mistress. Scribed along the bottom were the words:

“Without the thought, there is no words; without the words, there is no action. By encouraging thought, we encourage the righteous action.”

Shizzal swallowed hard, momentarily overcome. “Thanks, old man,” he murmured to the Triolith when he could finally speak again.

He now had somewhere to offer the refugees of the Tengri tribe.

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