Chapter 41 = Revelations
Disclaimer: Although all characters here are of my own invention, the original idea of Yoshies, Birdos, etcetera, are copyright of Nintendo, and I make no money from writing this.
Inside the church, many rows of benches stretched towards the altar, all of them padded slightly; not so much to be luxurious, but enough to make them comfortable to sit on. Around the edges of the vast room, lit torches in brackets cast light across the empty space, aided by many candles in free-standing floor-length holders on the polished marble floor, casting clear reflections in the shiny surface. Here and there along the sides of the church were six stone statues of the Yoshian gods, as well as another behind the altar, and an empty pedestal on a ledge set into the wall with an arch over it, though Marcus couldn’t make out the plaque inscription at the distance he was at. The altar itself was made of polished wood, something dark like mahogany, and a large, thick, leather-bound copy of the Octotheist holy book rested on it, though the pages were sheaves of vaell with the letters cut into them instead of paper. As Marcus stepped forwards, his footsteps echoed in the empty room, deserted except for a Yoshi behind the altar, reading from the book and occasionally licking his right index finger before turning the page gingerly, so as not to fold or otherwise damage the pages.
He was extremely dark grey, verging on black, and was wearing a black satin scarf with white stitching, a sign of his position as a member of the Octotheist clergy. He was holding a monocle up to his right eye and turning the pages with the other hand, scanning for something among the texts, but as Marcus got closer to the altar he stopped and put the monocle down, stepping down to greet the cloaked brown Yoshi.
“Greetings.” The grey Yoshi said, nodding slowly. “Welcome to this holy building… how may I be of service?”
“I have a problem that I want to ask you about.” Marcus replied, trying not to sound casual. “Would it be alright for me to ask for your guidance?”
“Yes, but it is not just my guidance, but the knowledge and guidance of the gods themselves as well. What is wrong?”
Marcus took a seat at one of the benches, and removed his dripping cloak, hanging it gently on the bench in front so it could drip and dry off. “Almost a month ago, near the start of Lazrin, I was far from this place, living a peaceful life on Yoshi’s Island in the Shoreside Village… but then, some mercenaries came and destroyed the village and everyone in it, except for me, my best friend, and a close friend of his who has died since… we weren’t there at the time, you see. One of the lives lost was that of my girlfriend, and needless to say I was extremely distraught…”
The Yoshi nodded and sat down next to him, listening intently as Marcus continued his story. “A bit later, close to the end of Lazrin, I met a feral female in a feral community on the other side of the mountain range in the east… at first, she didn’t seem to be much, but soon she expressed an interest in me, and I let things happen. The first time she tried to kiss me, I pushed her away, but I gave in a day or two later, and it’s progressed from there… we’re very close, and I’m happier on the whole, but I want to know… does seeking companionship this soon after my girlfriend’s death make me a bad person?”
After nodding slowly and thinking for a moment, the Yoshi put a hand on Marcus’s shoulder and answered, “It depends on how you felt for them, for a start…”
“I love Shiala dearly, and I loved Alziana with all my heart while she was still alive… I don’t get into relationships for any reason other than love.”
“Well then, if what you say is true, there is nothing wrong at all. You see, when Vizorvy was still only a demi-god, he came up with a set of ideas and suggestions for dealing with members of the opposite gender… philosophies of love, if you will… and one of those was that if the love was true and shared by both members, nothing should stand in its way and prevent it from flourishing. For it is in love, he said, that our feelings are strongest, and we can gain many positive things from successful relationships. Love should flourish wherever it exists… and also, if it would make you sad to stop seeing this ‘Shiala’, and it would equally affect her, then why should you stop it when you are both in love and happy together?”
Marcus was deeply moved by this reply. It made so much sense to him, and was such an intriguing response, that he pondered on the matter for many moments before realising that the Yoshian clergyman was waiting for him to reply.
“You’re right.” Marcus said. “Why would I want to stop it? She helps me to get over Alziana’s death, she makes me feel happy when we’re together… we have differences, of course, but those differences make our lives interesting, and we can overlook them if they become a problem.”
“Variety is the spice of life.” The Yoshi quoted.
“Yes… exactly… thank you.”
“Is there anything else?”
Marcus paused, before turning to the Yoshi and looking into his eyes. Even though Marcus was just a stranger who had walked in off the street from a torrential downpour partially to escape the rain, he could see in the grey Yoshi’s eyes that he was genuinely concerned and wanted to help if he could.
“Well… this may come as a surprise, but I’m actually an atheist…”
A smile flickered across the Yoshi’s lips. “Do not worry. The church accepts anyone who needs help… to deny it would be pointless and hurtful.”
“But… I’m having doubts. I know a little bit about Octotheism, but I think I want to learn more… would it be alright if I ask some more questions?”
“Assuming you can get through the crowd.” The Yoshi replied with a smirk, and Marcus gave a chuckle.
“By the way, my name is Marcus.”
“Vachez. Nice to meet you, Marcus.” The Yoshi replied, taking Marcus’s hand and shaking it.
“A pleasure… well, Vachez, what happens when you die?”
Vachez took a deep breath before continuing. “According to the Fayen, -the Octotheist holy book,- when you die, one of three things may happen. Most people go to the afterlife, a plane of existence separate from here, where you will be reunited with certain people depending on what you did during your life. Your parents, children, and siblings will be there… as well as anyone who you truly loved, but not anybody you merely lusted after.”
“I see… so I would see my parents and Alziana again if I died now… who else?”
“Well, any close friends… and by close, I mean truly close friends, who would always support you and help you out, and you would do the same to them… powerful, unbreakable friendship, you understand.”
Marcus nodded. “Is there any way to… talk to them?”
“From the mortal world? Not very easily… only elite oracles can do that, and I’m talking about the best of the best, the most adept at the art of second sight. There are probably only about three or four people who can do that… and they won’t do it for free, I imagine.”
“What about… bringing them back?”
Vachez took a deep breath. “Theoretically… it would take an incredible amount of magic to summon someone from another plane of existence, the kind of power that only the gods possess… and also, unless you could fuse that person to a new body in this life, they would become a ghost. Although, there is an Octotheist legend that somewhere in Chyrus is a hidden holy place… ‘The Marble Altar’… perhaps you’ve heard of it. They say that if you find it, it may be possible to bring a loved one back, but nobody has ever found it yet, and chances are that only someone like a saviour or a demi-god would be allowed to do that anyway. But I digress… if you don’t go to the afterlife, you’ll either be cursed as a ghost to forever walk the mortal world as a spectral animation, or you’ll be damned to the underworld for all of eternity, to live in pain and torture until the end of everything.”
Marcus swallowed heavily, and Vachez chuckled before continuing. “Don’t worry, though… not many go there. You see, you as a being are comprised of three parts; your body, your soul, and your mind. Losing any one of the three means you are no longer a person, no longer whole… If you lose your body, well, that’s dying… if your soul and mind are still intact, you pass on to the afterlife. If you lose your mind, you go insane, no longer capable of rational thought. Losing your soul means you have become irreversibly corrupted by evil, and you will be banished to the underworld when you die, never to return from the inner crust of Chyrus.”
“Wait, the underworld actually exists on Chyrus?”
“Yes… the portal sealed by the goddess Karshina is far in the southwest, but the exact location is unknown… though they say it is possible to summon back individual beings through advanced magic. If you lose your mind and soul but still have your body, you are merely a zombie, a creature incapable of thinking and doomed to die shortly. And of course, if you lose your soul, mind, and body, then you simply cease to exist and are erased from time… a fate that very few suffer. But remember; all three can repair themselves if damaged. If you take an injury, it heals itself if it is not a mortal wound and does not become infected. If you start turning evil you can always redeem yourself and restore your soul… and if you have just started to lose your mind, it can be recovered.”
Marcus couldn’t argue; to him, the words and the stories and legends behind them made so much sense that he found himself believing in them… he drank in every word and memorised it, retaining the knowledge he was being imparted with.
“One other thing… can you tell me about the saviours?”
“There have been five to date… though their full stories take many hours to retell. The first two became gods when they died, the third and fourth legends forever, and the fifth, as you may well know, struck down the God of Death… but was killed in doing this. His name was Sévar, and we believe that one day, he will be reborn in another body, and finish what he started… though, of course, the parents who name him will know nothing of the legend. We of the Octotheist religion wait for that day, knowing that he will fulfil the prophecy and free us all forever.”
“Prophecy?” Marcus inquired.
“Yes… about a year after Sévar died, the best oracle the world has ever known, second only to Miyala, suddenly lapsed into a heavy trance and made a series of predictions, all of which have become true so far… except for the final great prophecy, which was recorded and became an important belief in Octotheism. I can’t remember the whole thing, but it’s in the Fayen…”
Vachez stood up and made his way to the altar and the book rested on it, turning to a page close to the end before flicking backwards through the pages until he found what he was looking for. “You don’t mind if I read it in Yoshian, do you? It’ll save me time translating it from the language it was written in.”
“Not at all.” Marcus said, still in awe from everything he was being told.
After clearing his throat, Vachez picked up the monocle and held it to his right eye, reading in a loud, clear voice that didn’t so much as echo as it did resonate and reinforce what was being said. “The Prophecy of the Cursed Yoshi reads thus; ‘On the day that the sixth saviour is born, the God of Death and Destruction, still alive but sealed by the other gods, will set many plans into action to stop him from becoming a holy warrior and leading to his defeat. The saviour’s feral heritage will unlock a long-forgotten great power, which the Lord of Darkness will attempt to acquire for his own devices and use to destroy the world. He will suffer many losses and so many injuries and defeats, forever having all he has gained taken from him, with such frequency and such devastating consequences that he despairs that nothing will ever help him, and the path of darkness is the only one to take. After falling under a curse that forever changes his life, he will face a test… should he fail, the world is doomed and Sévar will never return to aid us in our darkest hour. However, should he triumph, the gods will reward him richly and return that which was taken away from him… a direct blood descendant of him will be the seventh saviour, Sévar, though the parents will be ignorant of this prophecy and all the legends. He and he alone shall destroy the God of Death and lead Chyrus to a golden age of peace, wiping out the humans who befoul the planet’s surface, and the Koopas who exist to destroy, leaving only the gentle Yoshies and honourable Birdos on this fair land of ours.’ ”
Marcus couldn’t speak. Most of that was referring to him… and Sévar was apparently related to him, at some point in the future. Would his relationship with Shiala carry on and produce the ‘more powerful effect’ the gods had mentioned? But he had to not resort to evil for this future to carry on… and could he do that if he knew exactly what this power was that was being referred to? ‘A long-forgotten great power’…
“Marcus?” Vachez asked, seeing the brown Yoshi lost in thought.
“Sorry, sorry… I was just thinking…”
Vachez stepped down and stood close to Marcus. “Is there anything else you want me to help you with?”
Marcus drew a deep breath as he thought, putting out his hands and resting them on the back of the bench in front of him. Vachez muttered something inaudible to Marcus, before enquiring, “May I ask where you got that ring?”
Marcus looked up and saw that Vachez was pointing towards the ring on Marcus’s middle finger of his right hand. “Uh, from Alziana… why?”
“Nothing… I was just surprised you were a father already, that’s all.”
“What are you talking about?” Marcus said in confusion, looking at the ring. “I pried it out of her dying grasp. She didn’t say there was anything special about it when she offered it to me earlier that day, either.”
Vachez bit his lip and put a hand on Marcus’s shoulder. “Marcus, you don’t know what that ring symbolises, do you?”
“No… I thought it was just a bit of jewellery… what does it mean?”
“Well, different rings between unmarried couples propose different things under old Yoshian traditions… a diamond ring is a marriage proposal, for example… and a gold ring with at least two rubies set into it is a proposal for the pair to mate and have children. If you’re married you don’t do that, but unmarried couples usually who don’t want to marry, or can’t, use the ring as a proposal to raise children.”
“But wait… she offered me that ring before, and said she meant to give it to me on my previous birthday… and when I refused… wait… oh no…”
* * *
…Marcus winked, waved again, then turned and left. He looked back after a yard or two, and could swear he spotted tears in her eyes…
* * *
Marcus suddenly felt a heavy pang of grief. Even though he hadn’t known the symbolic meaning behind the ring, he felt guilty for refusing the ring in the way he had done, and a string of thoughts suddenly went through his mind.
If I hurt her feelings… she wouldn’t be mad at me, but she’d still be distressed…
And if she was upset… she wouldn’t have left the house…
And she wouldn’t have known that Foryo and his men were coming…
And she wouldn’t or couldn’t escape…
“By the gods, what have I done?” Marcus moaned aloud, surprising Vachez. “It’s my fault… all my fault… it’s my fault that all this happened, my fault that she’s dead!”
Vachez gave Marcus a consoling pat on the back and calmly said, “If fate, if Karshina, had meant for her to die, there was nothing that you could have done to prevent it. You cannot escape death… nobody can do that.”
After a moment or two of silence, he asked, “Is there anything else I can help you with?”
After a few more moments of deliberation, Marcus forced a small smile and looked up at Vachez’s face. “I… I want to be converted to Octotheism, if that’s at all possible…”
To be continued…