A Chance Encounter: A Father For Us All
Chapter 8: Pirates and Cowboys
Location: The deck
Timeline: Day 6 after arrival
"Non, non...pregit Vsevolod..." Melisande woke in a cold sweat seeing streets completely obliterated filled with crying people dying from taint. Her mind began to race seeing a shivering Elphin boy, Xanthippe slamming an Elphin infant on the ground, Elpis grabbing the arrow lodged in her throat in vain as her eyes bulged with fear, an Elphin man equipped with a flaying knife with a twisted grin, being in a court room and seeing her father crying, and seeing a man in rags begging at her feet. She felt herself shaking and hyperventilating as she pulled down the rail of the cot that prevented her from falling.
"Calm down. Calm down. I can only stop one from happening, the doomsday plan, project Vsevolod," She thought to herself as she grabbed a nearby lantern and decided she needed air.
As she got on deck, she realized she barely needed the lantern as a bright full moon shone in the sky. It was peaceful and quiet when she decided to do one of the few things that calmed her. Putting the lantern down next to herself, she kneeled on the ground, crossing her arms in front of her chest, and began to quietly chant to her gods, half talking and half singing each word. Suddenly, she woke from her trance as she heard a footstep close to her.
It seemed there was somebody else unable to sleep besides Chago. Miyra had been behaving strangely lately, and he wondered why. He could say that she was hiding something from him, at least a worry if not something more serious, and she was avoiding any discussion regarding her plans for the future. If she really loved him how she said, these were supposed to be their common plans... so he would have needed to know.
Prey to doubts and worries, Chago was on the deck when he saw the young woman the captain had recently hired coming up with a lantern, kneeling and singing in a foreign language. He approached quietly, without disturbing her.
The sound of yet another footstep, this time with the snap of a small twig missed from the daily cleaning, startled Melisande, "Who's there?" She looked out into the darkness to see the shadowed outline of a man.
"Chago Moreno, deckhand," he introduced himself briefly. "Or should I say another sleepless moonshiner like you?" he tried to smile. "I know who you are since you beat Carol. My crewmates were rooting for you."
She cringed at the mention of Carol and the crew and responded coldly, "It wasn't like that! After the battle, she fell backwards from a cliff into razor sharp plants. I merely brought her back up the ship. Please do not think I am some bloodthirsty killer."
She doubted that he believed her, but she remembered her mother tell her growing up that if you spread a lie around far enough some one was going to believe it eventually, so she was certainly going to try. Melisande thought about her 'bloodthirsty killer' comment and remembered to when she stood over Carol and kicked dirt into her face. At that moment she almost was. It felt like Carol's rage spilled into her like an inkblot, yet she doubted others had ever felt that way.
"Yes, I have never thought you are one. I am sure you had your reasons, and I don't judge you for it. The falling backwards... might be true, but don't deny your contribution to it!" Chago smiled.
There were times when he had to call a spade on its name. He didn't condemn her, he didn't want to hear to her reasons, he just accepted them from start. Had she been just offended? Was she a mercenary coming after Carol? Or an arch-nemesis from before the pirate life? He didn't know and didn't care about it. Or, plainly be said, he didn't care too much about Carol either, as she had made a fool of herself enough times, in Chago's opinion.
As the wind twirled her loose hair, she saw Chago's cross around his neck and she worried about what exactly he heard. Lekly was founded on the oppression of various groups of people oppressed by the newly Christian Romana Empire. To prevent internal strife the religions of the groups were consolidated into the three gods. Logically Melisande knew that most modern Christian factions didn't believe in killing polytheists, but some still existed. She doubted the man in front of her came from one that did, but she was injured and left her swords and revolver in sick bay.
"Um...how much of what I was doing did you hear?"
As she asked, she began nervously twisting her ring, still in her kneeling position.
Her question confused Chago more than anything previous.
"I had heard enough, but it doesn't mean I understood anything. I think you were praying somehow, and I didn't intend to interrupt you."
He didn't hate people of other religions.
"Perhaps I was," She responded a little more gently, but still staring at the cross, "I try to do so privately and did not intend to do so here. I had a nightmare and needed air. Praying helps calm me down."
He could understand about nightmares. As a young army officer, he had his share of nightmares after the pacifying mission, and this had led to him asking to be sent overseas, because he couldn't bear anymore facing directly his sins against his mother's people. Yes, he had obeyed orders...but was this an excuse for killing priests?
"You are free to pray whenever you feel like. You are right, it helps. And nobody can tell you anything about it. The same sky is above us all, and I think God is the same, no matter what names different people give him."
Melisande was looking at the cross at his neck, but felt herself relax a bit at the response, "Your cross...what sect is that from? What are their beliefs?"
He blinked at being called a sect. But well, he had heard this before from the Britannic sailors. And... could he answer her by repeating exactly what each of the priests said?
"Each priest might say something different, how he understands the Holy Scripture. So, I don't claim I have the universal answer. But we believe there is one faith, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all, who gave His own son to sacrifice for the mankind's sins, and a Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceeds from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified in the Holy Trinity," he repeated what he had learnt with the monks in his school years.
His younger brother, Josema, who had chosen the path of religion, and was now a priest in a remote mission in the wilderness, would have been proud of him.
"There are more details to add to this, of course, the saints, the baptism meant for the forgiveness of our sins... but I am not sure I can explain them properly. What is your belief?" he asked, at his turn.
She knew a bit about Christianity from her short time in the Merovingian Kingdom, and trying to study the various factions for the Old West, but none of it really clicked and the more that she learned the more it just confused her. What Chago said just seemed incredibly strange to her as well as needlessly complex for its own sake.
"So the god, the spirit, and the child are all male? How does that work?" She mumbled to herself before deciding on how to answer. He did seem to be open of other beliefs and secure in his own, many knew nothing of her nation including it's religion, but she still felt reluctant none the less. Still he deserved an answer.
"Well, it works," he answered, not sure how to explain it.
"Where I am from, our nation and religion are one. We believe the world and all life were created by the goddess and that all life is sacred. Her rules are the most paramount. Then there is her husband who created the virtues over humankind to guide us: honor, temperance, courage, justice, and piety. They cannot exist separately. Lastly, there is their son, who encourages generosity and kindness with all things. Together they are referred to as the trinity, similar to your own holy trinity. Many choose to place more importance on one of the gods. I believe in balance, which places the importance on each equally."
Chago followed her explanation with attention.
"Actually this is another vision of the Holy Trinity," he said, "and the values are the same. I can see a few differences, but also many similarities," he noted. "Only that to us, Saint Mary, the Holy Virgin Mother is one of the saints, not among the Holy Trinity."
Even if his own mother was Christian when his father had met her, he knew that her people, the natives, believed in a goddess mother too.
"You are not the only one with a symbol," She grudgingly pulled her necklace out of her blouse and held up her pendant. Being made of gold, it had three gemstones, sapphire, ruby, and topaz, each representing a god. Inside of the circle connected to each gemstone was a piece of chain which formed into an interconnected spiral.
He admired the gold necklace with precious gemstones.
"It looks beautiful. Where do you have it from? I have mine from an old monk. And, as you asked me, it is my patron saint's. A military saint, who has led in battle enough knights. I was once in pilgrimage to his remains... there I met the monk."
The old monk had listened to the young lieutenant's confession, he gave him the absolution from his sins, together with lots of encouragement and wise words, and the cross to protect him in his fights. Since then, Chago had been convinced that he had a role, a mission in this world, that nothing in his destiny was casual.
Melisande smiled as she remembered how she received her necklace, "My father gave it to me before I was to go on my first trip outside of my nation. It was the day I graduated from my military training. He told me, 'The world is a dangerous place. Always remember where you are from.' My parents were so proud of me that day."
Chago blinked. He had no idea what position she had been hired on. People hadn't gossiped yet about this. They had been too busy with the fight. But she had been in the army? Interesting!
"This is a thing we have in common. I was in the army once too. And I like how your father was thinking." he smiled.
She turned her head away slightly, wondering if she should have told him so much. Still, she had many questions.
"You keep mentioning saints and sins, what are they? Are saints like religious heroes, as in actual people?"
"Yes, they are."
A discussion about religion between open minded people was a pleasure. It would have escalated quickly into conflict if they were fanatics, claiming each of them to hold the absolute truth.