Tuesday, 20 September 2016

In the name of Noxon (part 3)

The old woman continued with her tale, recalling how she - along with many other girls of her age -  arrived to the great city, to become an officiant of - or an offer to, depending on the point of view - the 'god' Noxon, it who keeps the world turning around the Sun. 

It is customary that new officiants, like us, do not enter the city until the day after the local rites, and we made no exception.

It would have been a while, twelve days, before we could see the Ziggurat in full regalia - I spent that period studying and being tested, in the mornings, along with the other 30 girls in our introductory class, and visiting the city in the afternoon.

We all did the same, in that period of peace before being inducted into the House of Noxon.

Then we'd had an escort, if and when we wanted to go to town, in the form of a discreet Black Guard that would ensure that we didn't indulge in activities reserved for the service of the 'god', and that we were back to the House by the fire time.

Back then, the Church had more than enough volunteers, and conscription hadn't been enforced, so it was a time of freedom, for the officiants.

The Black Guards hardly ever had to reign in deserters back then, and were very laid back companions in the strolls around the city... I miss those sorties, but I will be back on that some other day.

The introductory classes were a bit boring, as they mostly re-hashed things that kids of my generation learned through the gospel studies organized by the church. Nowadays, even non-believers learn most of them in middle-school, so they skip a bit more on the common knowledge parts, now.

Then, the lessons started delving more into the "mechanics" of service, with a lot of data that is usually ignored by the most. As it was going to become my very life, I paid more attention, from then on.

The first, scary piece of information that we received was that one in twenty of the officiants dies in a service-related accident. If you consider the length and the harshness of an officiant's duties, it really is surprising - for how few they are. Works with similar physical loads, like soldiering or house building, had twice or more the fatality rate.

At the time, I didn't fully realise it - I was young and naïve.

At your age, we always think that statistics are meant for the others... we are better, luckier, smarter, and it will not happen to us. We can't help but think so, even entering a life path in which, for year upon year, we will be denied to make any personal choice.

How can your smartness influence your life, if choices are taken from you? It is impossible, yet a young brain indulges the fantasy - "I am smart, it won't happen to me!" - till it happens, to you or one of your best friends, and you learn that it can happen to any body.

It is just luck, good or bad.

We were taught then that the path of any celebration, the list of rites to be undertaken on the great ziggurats, is decided using six-faced cubes, which is the reason why the paragraphs in the Book of Rites are numbered on base six. I had always wondered about that, before the preliminary training.

This was a detail usually left unspoken - the 'god' speaks through very localized manipulations of hazard, that becomes causality. It is a little miracle, but one true nonetheless... there are "holes" in the rites numbering, in places were ancient rites were removed once they proved to be too dangerous, as well as the last rite in the book was 4604 - today is 4636. The  cubes used to select the rites, in a great Ziggurat, never hit a void spot. They dodge erased rites and don't overshoot the last one in the book, a statistics impossibility that becomes a certainty, but only in the cube chamber that lies at the heart of each Ziggurat.

Little temples like the one in our village, that only offer a volunteer or two every quarter with the most basic rites, overshoot and hits holes all the time. I think that the god doesn't devote too much attention to what happens here... volunteers, many over the officiant age, doing mild things. Of course, Noxon is not the only 'god' interested to offers - it is the most bossy, though. 

I remember when it became my duty, many years after, when I was near the end of my term, to represent the officiants at the rite's selection ceremony that is done, once every month, to prepare the calendar. In three years, never once I saw the cubes choosing what was not there.

The rest of the world may have needed a  global consensus of scientists over the expected decadence rate of our planet's orbit, to see that the 'god' exists and watches over us, but in that chamber his finger - or whatever appendage it truly uses, to fiddle with the dices - manifests itself every month, when the calendar of rites for the fourth month after is chosen.

We were taught other details that usually are not publicised - beyond acting as breeders for male sperms, some of the rites involve been breed with the para-sperm of one or more of our officiant companions, chosen through dice throws - the daughters that are born this way are considered fully owned by the 'god'.

They are allowed to grow in the House of Noxon till they reach major age, whereas sperm daughters must be evaluated year by year, and they may enter its service whenever they like.

They may also be asked to enter its service on moments notice.

I too, like others, had my twin daughters this way - Ilene and Johanne.

They live in the House in Fraglbar, where they were born, and officiate in that city with their daughters. They represent a branch of this family, genetically, and yet are not part of it, as they never were in this valley, or grown to respect our name and crest.

In reality, the Houses of Noxon are roughly self-reliant: they breed some of the finest children in the world, from arguably the very best women in the world, and train these kids extensively, mentally and physically.

Even the ones that are discarded, and thus allowed to grow in the outside world before they come to age, are downright gorgeous.

However, even being raised inside the very belly of the Church, where training for the rites is the norm and knowing the warmth of the embrace of Noxon is a given, does not make a vocation.

Many of them, at their 22th birthday, decide to join the greater society - they know all too  well the hardship of a life of service, and it is easy to understand why they do not mind losing the social clout associated to the service.

They are the most beautiful kids in the world, fully trained in quite a few disciplines, not the least of them the ways of physical pleasure.

There is hardly any figure of power in our world that does not covet one of them, either as a lover or as a mother for their children.

They represents one of the more subtle ways in which the Church maintains a foothold into civilian authority - of the last 15 Empresses, all but two had a former Daughter of the 'god' as womb-mother, and those two were from the sister-empresses.

The "Daughters" do not need the Church to open a path for them any more than what it already did, so if their vocation is just a bit shaky, they have no outside reason to go on.

On the other hand, those that feel the vocation and want to service the 'god', are particularly pure in their faith.

If so many Daughters of the 'god' did not chose other paths for their lives, there would hardly have been any need for untrained peasants like me or - if luck smiles upon us tomorrow - any of you.

However, the acceptance of volunteers is another way the Church keeps connected to the larger, civilian society, and in a more democratic way than indirectly catering to the companionship needs of the rich and powerful, I might add.

It is clear that the leaders of the church, back then, purposely avoided houses self-sufficiency in order to have reason to invite externals, like us, into the Church.

Today, the interference of the state and the rise of the ranks of faithlessness have changed the equilibrium, so that they are pushing things to convince more daughters to keep in the service. Mostly, stressing the bleak points of becoming a prize-wives during their education.

After two months of instruction, we had a more complete view of the life of an officiant. We realised that the service was a lot more than just climbing the 1024 steps to the top of a ziggurat and be tortured to an inch of death, for the sake of one very voyeuristic 'god', once every quarter or so.

It meant that every day of our lives, some hours would go into physical conditioning and some would go into studying this or that subject, as chosen by the 'god' or by the clergy.

This second duty was in order to be able to take the clergywoman mantle , at the end of our service, if so the 'god' asked of us.

Finally, if a normal woman may expect to give birth once or twice, depending on the arrangements with her wife, an officiant usually gives birth four to six times, during her service, with the effects on her body shape that you can imagine.

Those of our numbers that had more issues learning new things took notice, as much as those that were there mostly for the social cachet the service provided and had a lot of interest to a gorgeous life after it. I have to confess, I was one of them.

At the final day of the preliminary training, reunited in a great hall, when we were offered to go back home, free of charge, one last time.

From then on, there would have been a hefty price to pay, to back off, and in some moments, when the heart is known to falter, we would not be allowed to resist or decline service at all.

More than one third of us walked out of the hall and of the service. 

I stayed, I must confess to my eternal shame, mostly out of pride.  I had gone that far, and I would have gone on to the end - whichever it was.

Of course, I didn't die.


The girls around the old woman giggled, as they felt the enchantment of her tale momentarily fading away.

They were hungry, and all agreed joyously when grand-ma proposed to take a tea break, before going on with her tale.

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