Now storm clouds hang above the trees
and the homeward trail is long,
and darkness hides beneath the boughs
with the creeping of the cold.
There’s hunger gnawing deep within
that weakens all his limbs,
when the icy hearted temptress comes
to torture him again.
Then the gods of wind and air
demand their portion
Taipai was a priest, so naturally he talked.
Pellan hated priests, and lords, and men at arms, and all the serfs who knuckled under to them. It was a slow burning hatred that lived in his gut. Food might have extinguished it, but even when replete, the memory of hunger remained, so Pellan was always angry.
After a long time of listening to Taipai, Pellan told him to shut up. He said, “I have no use for gods. They have no place in my life.”
“You don’t deny them!”
“No, I don’t. I know they are real. I just wish they would go away and stop bothering us all.”
It was such an unbelievable assertion that Taipai was struck dumb. For a brief moment, anyway. Then he extolled the virtues of the Damesept, and Pellan replied that they had never done anything for him. Taipai fell back on praising the elder gods and Pellan admitted a grudging admiration for the Flower of the Waning Day, but added, “When they had done their work, they disappeared and no longer interfered in the lives of men. The other gods should take a hint and do the same.”
For all the kindness of his nature, Taipai still wondered if he had done wrong in giving this angry man food, and thus preserving his life. Not that he could have done otherwise, being who he was.
As they left the forest and set out across the fallow fields of the valley, the wind carried snow in billows and whorls, to blind them both and to suck the heat from their bodies. Pellan put his head down and plowed on, with Taipai in his wake. He knew that the priest would not have had the strength to breast the wind. Taipai knew it as well, and it hurt him to cause Pellan more trouble, when his life was so full of trouble already.
The wind roared and made conversation impossible. Pellan gave thanks for that, but he gave that thanks to no one in particular. He had chosen to go his way without the gods, and to hope that they would leave him alone as well.
The cold bored in and the road went on. Eventually the village and the menhir loomed up. Taipai tried to thank Pellan, but he only lifted his hand and turned back into the storm.
Taipai watched the swirling snow, long after he could no longer see Pellan’s retreating back. More Tuesday.