Labora et Ora 3: Paying the Price

Hexxenacht. A time to turn your back to the door, to refuse the velvet hush of night. Yet even when warned, when argued, when pleaded they choose to walk with him. His chilling presence, like a cruel ray of moonlight, unsettled every step. His alabaster robes a draw out the long shadows weighing heavy on all our bones.

Petya watched in mute horror as he moved among those who can not see. Our heroes, our hopes, our hearts, ignorant of their hooded attendant. The fragrance of his impassive consideration hung in the air, a lullaby that clung to souls he marked for his embrace. The nightmare played out in the recesses of Petya’s mind. Ruined and broken bodies cast aside. It leaves Petya with an unbearable weight.

His approach was subdued, an owl to whom we all await. His favored, unbeknownst to them, to became his children. Ordinary folk, innocents, and warriors alike, unaware of the fate that was their sheppard. The horrors of war, of monsters and traitors, had already claimed too many lives. Petya recoiled at the thought of innocent souls sacrificed to feed such sinful perversion.

The darkness of our situation deepened, like the ceaseless nights of war. His presence grew constant, fevered, Petya knew that he would not remain idle. That he would snatch any who were too close to sinners, innocent or otherwise.

Wards against malevolent influence, to distract and save the lot of them. A decision, painful, like cutting out ones own heart. Petya searched among the ranks. Petya prayed until he saw the evils that clung to their soul, the fractured artistry of their façade. Petya weighed the sins within their hearts.

Those who had transgressed would be require much attention, he would be forced to care for his broken child as they are ferried into the abyss. It may occupy his attention long enough for God’s light to return, to warm the hearts of humanity. One can not ask forgiveness of such a task, only acceptance. If he came to collect the sinner and demanded Petya as well, there would be no protest, no bargaining, just rest.

Petya had learned in the monastery that the path of righteousness was often paved with thorns. The weight of Petya’s actions, the sin, nearly drove the will from the body, but it was a stone only Petya could carry.

The last bit of dirt fell from his shovel. All that is left for Petya is to work and pray, to seek redemption, knowing that there is no forgiveness, only acceptance. “I swear before the Archangel Lurian, bearer of the fallen, and before the Almighty Lord God, to never harm thee, to protect thy body and thy soul, from this day, until my last day.” The countless, silent graves offered absent gratitude.

Speaking the names of those he remembered Peta felt regret not knowing the letters across some of the graves. The graveyard of Runeheim was already too tragic, too large, too full. In a pleading whisper to his alabaster companion, “In the aftermath of these times, gaze upon the work that Petya’s hands have wrought and wondered who has been my guide.” Their gaze rose and landed on a pile of recent overturned earth out in the forest, a child of Lurian had been plundered.

Labora et Ora 2: Twice-worn Knuckles

His hand flashed out smashing into the wall. Petya awoke with a start and yelped. He heard the sudden shift, creak of a bed, and song-sigh of a sword being drawn.

“Saurry. Nitemare” Petya said softly. There was a short grunt of response and the blade slipped back into its sheath. He stared at the dark wall and gingerly touched it. His fingers came back chilled and slick. He frowned to himself, he would not be able to clean up the mess until dawn. The others deserved to sleep, as long as they were able. He rolled over and saw Sir Sven staring at him. The grizzled knight hardly slept anymore. Sir Sven’s eyes caught the flame of a candle causing them to reflect some barely contained malevolence. Petya did not move, like a rabbit who wandered to the wolf without thinking. In that space between heartbeats they stared at each other.

Petya felt his breath begin to tighten and his muscles protest. Sir Sven, he must know. The thought, the spell, the frozen heartbeat freed all at once. A sound of a guttural moan and the idle scratch at the door. Sir Sven stood without word and Petya moved to begin assembling the shell around the knight. They worked for a brief few minutes as the scratching became more insistent. Others stirred and saw the duo preparing, considered the noise, and promptly rolled over and went back to sleep.

Once clad in armor Petya handed the knight his shield and took up place nearby. His eyes wandered over the nearby table of food scraps and noticed a dull knife. With a shrug Petya took the knife in hand and prepared himself.

As they took a step into the knight the night seemed to deepen. The stars pulled away, tucked behind tree boughs and cloud. Petya shut the door behind them as they began their patrol. They moved back and forth. The practiced knight moved as if he had cut their surroundings into their own diminutive territories and was proceeding to check and clear each. Petya rotated, ending up with his back to nearby foliage. He felt the sense of fear and impurity run up his spin before he heard the snap of a branch. Sir Sven moved past Petya and readied himself. Nothing leapt from the bush, no creature, just stillness. Sir Sven took a cautious step into the foliage and then another. Stepping off of the path and out of what little excuse for light existed.

Petya waited.

The soft squelch of something behind him shifted his attention. He turned to see a hideous, rancid, pallid creature. Its maw gaping wide and dripping with bile. Petya considered calling out but doing so might distract the knight. He stood his ground and leveled the knife. The creature circled slowly as if measuring the meager farmer. In a single motion it made up its mind and launched itself at Petya. He thrust forward and shut his eye tight waiting for the pain to rip through his body.

But the pain never came. He did not feel the creature collide into him. Petya opened his eye experimentally and looked around. The creature was gone. No sign it had even been. Petya glanced around to see if it had run off.

Petya turned to see the figure of Sir Sven towering over him, his features replaced by that terrible creature! It collapsed down on him bent on devouring him whole or in whatever pieces it could get.

His hand flashed out smashing into the wall. Petya awoke with a start and yelped.

He felt the weight of bad sleep under his eyes and saw that the dawn had already come. He could hear the sounds of the others quietly chatting and preparing to break the morning fast. He considered telling Sir Sven about his nightmares and asking his thoughts or maybe Sister Solace.

Regardless, there was nothing he could do right now. He knew what was expected of him and all that was left was to work and pray.

Labora et Ora 1: A Heavy Coin

A cruel ray of light pushed past his sleeping mind gently rubbing at the edges of his consciousness. The offending light brought other concerns to his attention. Petya caught the smell of twice-burnt wood just beginning to turn to charcoal, the sound of seabirds and hammers meant they were close to the settlement, and the uneven roll of the cart placed an unbearable pressure on his bladder.

With effort he opened his eye and squinted at the indifferent daylight. Timing the sway of the cart he let the next opportune shift help him roll free from his wedge sleeping nook. A few of the travelers nodded at him as he wandered from the procession and found a larger tree to step behind.

After his relief Petya walked on in companionable silence, rejoining the convoy. He listened to those around him speak of their concerns, hopes, and goals. He wanted them all to find the things they wanted and to avoid the worst of what they feared. Though he imagined that not half of these would still be with them when the thaw came. The nights were growing longer and the fields as stiff as iron. He recounted watching a shovel snap just yesterday. Some of the Gothic born had met the morning with the same vigor they would have back home. They didn’t know that the handle of the shovel needs time to warm from its work. The wood too brittle from the nights-chill.

Petya let his hand continue his idle work. They mindlessly wove back and forth moving a pair of crooked sticks as he knit. He paused looking at his work and with a sigh began to unweave the last few rows. He had not been giving his craft any attention and he had absently switched patterns. Without letting the frustration settle he began his plodding walk once more.

As he walked he thought of all the various things to happen in Runehiem since he arrived. The terrible creatures, wonton suffering, and disingenuous ploys. It was enough to make one turn up their nose and return to lands of proper behavior and understanding. Petya shook his head as if to dismiss the thought. He learned to love God and the Throne. He traced his memories, his time in the Monastery. The contemplative and reserved nature of the monks was often just the moments between great bursts of energy and fervor. It was all one could do once a monk caught that spark of insight to not get caught up in the excitement and pursuit. Petya felt a chill in his palm. The weight, the solidness, the chill of those heavy doors still lingered on in his hands. He may have grown with them, learned with them, and loved with them but always kept separated.

He knew somewhere in the mindful part of his head, that it was not personal. They sought to protect him along with all others of humanity who were not ready for the misadventures of unsanctified knowledge. He wondered if the priests of Zuriel would have come up with a way to prevent his homeland from turning to this fetid stalemate.

A call came out from the head of the convoy. They had reached the stockpile and were going to begin to unload. He moved to start unpacking but stopped himself short. With a calming breath Petya pulled his hand back and stepped off the path. He knelt down on his haunches and bowed his head. The words flowed like a mumbled stream from his lips. The prayers of blessings, favor, hearth and home. The small honorings and chiding of the tiny spirits who only hear in whispers. The calling of the Archangels and their dominions and reverence. Someone leaned in close and briefly placed their hand in his pouch. Petya neither moved nor let the matter distract him from his prayer. Almost as soon as it started the individual removed their hand and wandered away. Petya finished his prayer, standing and stretching. He moved to collect a load to transfer to the stockpile. He felt two weights, one was the sack placed on his shoulders, the other hung lightly from his belt and heavy on his mind. He would have to wait till later to see what he had been given.

For now, all that was left was to work and pray.

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The Observer, Aab’oran Bariq Primer

As those who are familiar with His teachings know, insight was distilled into 142 Precepts that form the foundation of our understanding towards greater enlightenment and the advancement of our Eidolon.

While enumerating and expanding on each precept might provide progress for one already familiar with the teachings the purpose of this pen is to serve as a primer of some of the basic concepts core to the teachings of Aab’oran Bariq.

From that foundation, we will attempt to draw on metaphor, simile, and imagery to help illustrate to those who may not possess an appropriate perspective. That position, the intention to gain perspective, will be referred to as The Observer and will serve as our medium for exchange.

Conceive of, if you will, a feast before you. From end to end is the longest table you can imagine and arrayed upon are all the options to eat that you can both imagine and can not. Dishes lost to time or yet to be thought of, as well as food that exists but yet you have no knowledge. This feast and the food presented is the Verge of your Observer. You can not see more details from your Verge than you are able, unable to perceive what is at the endless terminus of one side of the table nor the details of the dish piled behind others just in front of you. If you choose to remain stationary then your choices are finite but not any less gratifying. From your position, you select an item and you may find that perhaps the fruit you sought has rot on the side which you could not view thus making you ill. Or the fruit was obscuring the pastry you wish you had known about. Selecting the fruit that makes to you ill may mean that you can not select the pastry, or it may mean that while you can still have the pastry your taste of it is soured or compromised because of your illness. This is the seminal issue with the single perspective Observer and why the ultimate goal of pursuing one’s Eidolon is key to Bariq.

Continuing from the example before, previously your Observer was stationary and permitted only their single Verge. But if you allow your Observer to travel, as many of us do, then you will find that it opens up the entire possibility choices within the feast. Now your only limit is the time it takes to travel and inspect this never-ending feast. As such we arrive at our next concern. The meals within the feast do not remain in place nor are they ever present. You may have an option for a roast but that roast will go cold with time and deprive the meal of satisfaction or the unseen hands of fate may remove the cold, or even fresh, roast and replace it with some other item. This means that after long or even unending scrutiny you decide you wish for that roast is may be cold, moved, or simply no longer present. So how do we accomplish our seemingly endless choices, we must create new Verges to share the burden of our hungry trial. When we look up from the table we realize that we are not the only ones around the table. In fact, there are dozens if not hundreds of mirrors of ourselves also looking for the perfect meal. While we all may vary from slight changes to radical anomalies what we all share is a single mind as to what we would find to be our perfect meal. So we begin to coordinate, to call out to one another to gain the advantage of time, distance, and perspective. No longer operating within a single Verge we magnify our pursuits many fold, but we still find limits.

Expanding on the limits described previously, while we have found a unity of purpose our methods are crude. Shouting to one another can create a cacophony that is almost as unhelpful as it attempts to further our goals. Perhaps we must carry the perspective of our Observer over a great distance which compromises time and risks clarity. Thus the concept of Meditation develops. The practice of rising above the din at the tableside. You gain an advantageous perspective that grants not only greater personal view but also clarity among your peers. You can be a single focal point to collect and disseminate the options of choices before you. If others also join you then your relays of information grow in clarity and can travel more quickly to all the endless edges of the feast. But tragically none can remain in meditation forever. While you search for your perfect meal you also must feed and rest yourself. Thus the chain of communication breaks and the collective loses your perspective and personal knowledge when you lower yourself requiring others to learn what you once knew and piece together your progress until you return.

With a method for a clear exchange of information our greatest limitation appears to be our physiological failings. But even those can be advantageous for those willing to wait. For if you realize that your existence and your perception of time is entirely contained within the measure of your expectations you can free yourself of that pressure. There will come a point when your physiology will break, it will cease to function through misfortune, strife, or entropy and when that occurs the prepared Observer will rise and claim a timeless presence among those who Mediate. Providing an unbroken stream of knowledge and wisdom. With a single perfect gesture, they can relay all they once knew, all they know, and all they foresee. They are the cornerstones to our pursuit of our perfect intent.

Thus within ourselves, we possess everything we need to locate the perfect meal the first time and every time. But we must know what we need before we want something that we are distracted by. We must free ourselves of the confines of our expectations. When we first Observed the table we knew it to be a bounty of food because we were told it was food. But we made the mistake of assuming or someone told us that there were options on that table that are NOT food. This could be the cutlery, the dishes, the candles, or the flame. Once we free ourselves of the expectations of limits we can observe the meal that does not exist as a choice in the first place. We can consume the essence that is the concept of the perfect meal rather than the fruit, dessert, or delicacy of our misinformation.

This is the pursuit of Eidolon and by conducting yourself within the expectations of your Atma you may cloud your possibilities with the tradition, bias, and restrictions yoked upon you by those who found themselves yoked by others not knowing any better. If unclear by not the perfect meal you seek is an allegory for choice. They are the choices that are presented to us each moment and in every breath. Sometimes you will have to choose between your loyal friend or your lover as the hand of a madman swings a blade beseeching you to choose. While limited the pursuit of Eidolon allows you to observe that your options may include to accoste the madman, to deliver news that brings them to their knees or has them weep in anguished regret. The truth is that there are rarely any good choices from our single Verge as a single Observer. We must do all we can to elevate our understanding so as to take the single perfect step and bring out our perfect cascade for then, and only then, will we have walked the path.