Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Messenger: Introductions

St. Luke's Temple was not what Phelps had in mind.  It took him two hours to make the 20-minute walk through New Sidon; two hours of feeble excuses rehearsed over and over, none of which could overcome the weight of the apparition outside the transport window.  He had paced back and forth over the same three blocks, bumping constantly into traders and pilots, and eliciting curses in a dozen languages.  With his training, he could have understood them all, had he been less distracted.

When he finally arrived at the Temple, he thought he might be in the wrong place.

It stood in a gap between two tall pseudocrete buildings, one gaudy orange, the other a matte white.  He had not been thinking of a temple in the N'aaa fashion, certainly not for a temple to Christ.  But there it was, the unwalled patch of blue-green sand, the surface fused into glass and polished.  Like a calm, rolling sea of Earth, frozen between instants.  On the back left corner of the patch sat the arrangement of transluscent red stones, as expected.  But, Phelps noticed with a start, they depicted not the traditional N'aaaian sacred runes, but a cross.

He was about to step onto the undulating glass when he heard the voice.

"Rrrraun i'i'al-hn-cta'i."

The only N'aaa phrase he knew.  Phelps looked down and tried unsuccessfully to hide his surprise at the creature who had addressed him.  She wore a blindfold, a single, wide band of dark green cloth which covered where her nose would be if she were human.  Or rather, full human.  Her skin was more like a carapace - deep brown, with bright white dots like freckles - and her scalp smooth and hairless.  She had four thin fingers on each hand, all of which ended in claws.

And the collar of her polyfiber vest was distinct in its round design.  She was clergy.  A deacon.

"...Deacon Mariah?" he said, mumbled and at a whisper.

The half-N'aaa priestess thrust forward her head in surprise.  Then, she smiled.  "Fel-uufs.  Hallelu."

And once again, Phelps had no words.

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