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The Halls of Blossoming Enlightenment, Imladínen

I have found the essence of Bushido…

Tsunetomo Yamamoto, The Hagakure

I have been the whole day without eating, and the whole night without sleeping — occupied with thinking. It was of no use. The better plan is to learn.

Confucius Analects XV. 30.

Forgileill had found Fienthin, the leader of the small community. However, her own search for answers to questions that she herself was only just beginning to frame had quickly given way to Fienthin’s quest to find the inner Forgileill. The questions kept going into areas which she did not want to revisit. Already Fienthin knew more about Forgileill’s triumphs and ignominies than anyone else in Oerick. Knelt in front of the unnaturally calm priestess, Forgileill was squirming and could feel her pulse and breath quicken. Doubtless Fienthin could see her beginning to gather essence to herself (involuntarily, as part of her adrenal reaction to the situation). Abruptly the questioning stopped. There was a pause during which Fienthin allowed Forgileill to regain her composure.

“Do you believe in freedom?” Forgileill paused and thought. This was not a question about chains and doors. This was about accepting responsibility for ones actions. She could have shouldered more fully the burdens of her birthright at any time, she’d just chosen not to, just to spite Thranduil the pompous. She could though; if she needed to, she could be just as ilin as he could; did he really think that she lacked the ability (the bottle) to die for a cause?
“Yes, I believe in freedom.”
“Do you believe in beauty?” Again, she decided that this was not about fine arts or gorgeous people; it was about appreciating the innate quality of something. There was a beauty in nature that art could not match, no matter how talented the artist. There was a sort of beauty in the common persons of the empire, toiling away at their daily lives; a sort of nobility in the way they trusted the empire to keep them safe. And then there were the flows…
“Yes, I believe in beauty.”
“Do you believe in the truth?” Forgileill had lived a lie for a while, as Evie. That hadn’t been too hard; at times it had been fun. But then she remembered with a shudder that she had also been Sythyss, denied her own volition and identity, her very thoughts bent to suit the whims of an evil master. That had been a vile lie.
“Yes, I believe in the truth.”
“Do you believe in love?”
“I’ve never been in love.” She knew that this was not what was meant. Forgileill instantly regretted the childish evasion. The question was not repeated. The representatives of her gods just stood there looking at her, showing neither pleasure nor annoyance. In a small voice she said “Above all things I believe in love.”
“Then you are ready to be confirmed as a true child of Corellion and become a part of the Seldarine?”

Forgileill fought down a momentary surge of panic. This meant an oath, surely. Weren’t oaths for the Frunze and the Dwarves? What need of oaths had the children of the Celebrinoth? The feeling subsided. This was her religion, not someone else’s. The Seldarine would not require of her something that she was unable to give. She nodded dumbly. This was normal for Nostir royalty and warriors when they achieved adulthood. She had witnessed her brothers and sisters take the very same oath.

Fienthin stood in front of her, and placed both hands on Forgileill’s head, as the priestess began to speak, Forgileill could feel the flows tingling as they flowed from Fienthin to her. It was a quite pleasant experience.

“Be without fear in the face of his enemies. Be honest and upright that he might know thee. Always speak the truth, even if it leads to your death. Safeguard those weaker than you and ensure that no wrong is done to them. This is your oath to Corellion.”

“I will be ever thus.”

There was then a surge in the flows from the priestess to Forgileill. A hundred thousand fire ants danced under her skin – an unbearable itching burning sensation. “And that is so you won’t forget it.” She heard as she lost consciousness.

“That doesn’t normally happen to oath takers. Most report that it’s like being bitten by midges or brushing through stinging nettles. A moment’s discomfort certainly not enough pain to cause unconsciousness. Obviously Corellion Larethain believes that you need more reminding than most.” Fienthin stood over her. She’d been moved and now lay on a bench in the cool dark of the main hall.

Slowly and with wan smile, Forgileill sat up, eyes watering with pain that had now passed. “How now, daughter?”

Stifling a sob, she grimaced by way of reply. Fienthin sat down next to her and took both her hands. “As well as reminding you of the Seldarine intentions, we are also here to help you achieve whatever it is you want to achieve. As an institution dedicated to Labellas, our prime asset could be said to be information. I prefer to think of it as the interpretation of that information, so that it is useful to those who would know those secrets. As well as providing emotional intelligence for the interpretation of that information, I am as you see, Sindelie like you are. I have served the Seldarine for nearly a century now and I am the mother of two children about your age. Require of me what you will, if it is within my gift you shall receive it.”

Hesitantly, Forgileill outlined her concerns. “I don’t know if I can do it. I sometimes just do things without thought of the consequences. I enjoy… Sometimes winning seems more important than playing by the rules. All my life I’ve lived under the shadow of my greater and better relatives. They’ve all done so much and all I’ve done has been to lurch from one life or death crisis to another.”
“So you’re worried that you’re not good enough? Let me tell you a story. It is an old story that you have heard before and will doubtless tell to your ilin and children.

‘An elderly C?ango woman had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole which she carried across her neck.

One of the pots had a crack in it while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water. At the end of the long walk from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full. For a full two years this went on daily, with the woman bringing home only one and a half pots of water. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments.

But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it could only do half of what it had been made to do.

After two years of what it perceived to be bitter failure, it spoke to the woman one day by the stream. "I am ashamed of myself, because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house."

The old woman smiled, "Did you notice that there are flowers on your side of the path, but not on the other pot's side?" "That's because I have always known about your flaw, so I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back, you water them." "For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house."’

That’s the story. Now, what would be your interpretation of that?”

Forgileill replied “Each of us has our own unique flaw. But it's the cracks and flaws we each have that make our lives together so very interesting and rewarding. You've just got to take each person for what they are and look for the good in them.” She thought that she’d well hidden her disappointment in such an obvious morality tale.

“I know that at the minute that this answer is not what you are hoping for, that your young heart yearns for a starling revelation of a hitherto hidden clear and unequivocal truth. But the truths that there are in the world really are the simple and easy ones. Truth is almost never hard to understand.” Fienthin released Forgileill’s hands and smoothed down the front of her robe. “It’s just very hard to accept, a lot of the time.”

“Your forefathers would also have felt that they were lurching from crisis to crisis and wondering about their place in the world and their worthiness to attempt and competence to complete the tasks set before them. They must have wondered at the Nostir gathering behind them, it must have seemed an over awing responsibility.”

Forgileill nodded, knowing that most of the individuals the empire thought of as lords of the Celebrinoth were the age she was now around the time of the unicorn jihad. Laru himself must have only been the age of Thranduil.

“You must know that because of those forefathers, many will be looking to you in the coming months for some direction. Both those of the empire and also the Nostir as well. For not only are your family lords of the empire but also leaders of the Nostir. You must prepare yourself for this.”

“Corellion, Labellas and Hannali are not the only gods of our people. Irevan was the patron of our Bathamîr ancestors. From him the Celebrinoth took view that a lie told to an enemy is not a lie, it is a weapon. And that a certain stretching of the truth could be viewed as a tool, rather than a falsehood.” Fienthin could see Forgileill cheer up as she said this. “Just remember not to bear false witness and that ultimately, any lie you tell will catch you up.”

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