Conversations with a Lorethew, Volume 1

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Conversations with a Lorethew - Volume One

by Father Ellery Danvers

(I write these volumes in memory of a very wise soul, one whom I miss dearly.)

In the time of the war between Zoluren and Sura, a great many fled the lower provinces to seek safety in the north. As a peaceful Cleric of upper Therengia, I did what I could in aid, which was not as much as I wished I could. My wife had been ill for some time; I was needed at home. I provided spiritual relief to many of the refugees that had come to our area, however, and one afternoon, I was asked to house another who had come to help.

She arrived that evening, entering my door with a bow and a respectful nod. She met my welcoming smile with a pleasant gaze of her own. Her enormous aged eyes, while serene, did not betray the vigorous spirit I immediately sensed beneath. She moved with quiet grace as she settled herself in my home, arranging her few belongings and offering hushed greetings to my bedridden wife. She had brought with her a jade figurine, a tiny representation of a green garden, which she presented as a gift. I placed it on the front window sill.

She was one of the Lorethew, Elothean scholars who sacrifice much in order to lead a life of wise service. Upon taking such a path, Lorethew must give up all ties to guilds, houses, and families, all ties except to each other. In return, they are held in high esteem by the Elothean people, who provide the Lorethew with all the necessities of life and who rely upon them in times of need. It is surely unusual for an Elothean sage to reside for a season in the home of a Human, but in times of war, one does what one must.

The first days were spent at a polite distance. Like many of the Elotheans I had met, she seemed a private woman, keeping her mind to herself or among her own. Her comings and goings were placid affairs, and curious, I began to observe. She kept a small journal tucked beneath her arm nearly everywhere she went, and in the few serene moments there were, she would scribble in it. I saw that each morning, she would whisper a prayer to Eluned, and each night, she would pray to Meraud before resting. In between, she gave thanks to any of the Immortals that came to her mind, and I noticed that she gave equal attention to the light and the dark. Indeed, she was a woman of exquisite balance in all things.

My observation was evidently not as discreet as it could have been. Lost in thought as I watched her writing one evening, I was surprised to suddenly notice her gaze upon me. Abashed, I excused myself, but with a gentle smile, she beckoned me closer. I rested my eyes upon the book she held before me, but of course, I understood none of it.

"It is a marriage agreement," she explained. I blinked.

I learned that night that to Elotheans, words hold power beyond communication. To give a name to a thing, to utter it and to write it, is to offer it to Eluned and Meraud, the creators of the spoken and written word. The Lorethew traced a finger over the open page as she explained that a traditional Elothean wedding involves vows identically spoken and written. I listened carefully as she told me more about the ceremony involved.

When a traditional Elothean man and woman wish to marry, before even engagement, there must be agreement between two families. A great deal of conversation takes place, many times in the presence of a Lorethew, until every detail is agreed upon. When it is, the promises are written to parchment to be sealed for one year, and the families share a celebratory meal and exchange small gifts.

The wedding itself is a very public, very solemn affair. Clad in colorful garments they will wear only once and then craft into bed dressings, the couple kneels before either one Cleric or three, depending on their means, their wrists bound by a silken cord. In a ceremony recited from memory, the Clerics pray for blessings from each of the gods and make offerings to every one, taking special care to appease each aspect on this special day. After sipping sacramental wine from the same cup, the bride and groom together open the sealed parchment and read from it their vows. Later, a friend or family member will embroider the words directly into the couple's bedspread, so that their promises will cover them even as they rest. Rings are exchanged, and the cord is untied, as they are now bound by words, which are stronger than silk.

The wedding party, by contrast, is a joyous affair. There is a feast, and when all attending are fed, the wishes begin. Each guest offers words to the newly married, and if they are accepted, the couple presents that guest with a small gift. Before leaving, the man and the woman leave their wedding garments behind, so that the needlework can begin anew. They change into travel clothing and leave for thirteen days, during which their wedding Clerics make daily offerings of food on altars in entreaty for immediate fertility.

I had questions, but the night grew late, and the wisewoman needed her rest. I thanked her earnestly for sharing knowledge of these customs, knowing that very few outside the Elothean culture understand them. The sage murmured a soft "asuna ferishan" in answer to my thanks, and I wished her sound sleep, hoping we would speak of such things again.

We would.