Ladimin and the Shrine (Part 2)

By morning, Ladimin woke up with a new sense of confidence, he felt with conviction that it was his duty to eventually come back a learned scholar, and bring back honour to the village. His mother wished him well again, and the neighboring men and elder waved to him as he started on the road. It would be a week long walk, and he was going to take it. The elders had told him that the shrine would be at another fork ahead from this one, so he made his way to the left. He continued his way onto the road, and know he had taken the long route. It would be several days. As he trekked, he peered to the countryside. He looked to the left and saw the forests that were adjunct to the plains on the right. Yule and yellowood ran to the right of him, and overhead, the province mountains ran far in front of him, looming with peaks of prominent height. It was a gentle and beautiful sight, he seemed to be walking towards the mountains. “At least they would let me know I am always going in the right direction.” He thought. “I could never miss these peaks.” There were few houses that he passed, but by this time, there were none to be found.

That night, he went to lay down by a small patch of grass he lay down by the road. It was not uncomfortable, he often slept on the floor when his bed broke down. The night sky was clear, and seemed to fill his stomach with their soft glow. His sleeping was well that night, and he woke to the bluish sky. Ladimin rose again. He always loved the twilight, but while at home when he finished his chores the day before, he often would lay in the morning, missing it. “The souls of the knights rise in the twilight after battle.” They had always said. He climbed up feeling reinvigorated, and he started by the road again as the day came about again. It would be a long one, he could tell. The day was hotter than yesterday, but it was coming to late summer, perfect temperature for walking. Winter would have not been so kind to him at all, with it’s harsh breezes. This was more ideal however, it wouldn’t take too much of a toll on him. He took the next fork again to the right, and continued onwards. It got hotter and hotter by the middle of the day, so he decided to alleviate this by walking more slowly. Sometimes he stopped by the road to rest to catch his breath. His feet were slightly sore from walking for hours, but surprisingly he was not too much exhausted, as his light body was easy to carry. When he finished, he went on and continued on the same road. It was a few hours before he stopped a small spring to refill his water by the side. The heat had sucked the moisture out of him, and he was thirsty. Leaning down by the stream, he washed his face in the clean, uncontaminated water that ran slowly through the earth.

There were still no houses on the way, and it grew on him in concern. “How much longer would he continue?” There was no way of knowing, and in any case, he continued into the night, kept up by his own thoughts, until he went to sleep again by the side of the road. As he nibbled the last pieces of bread and cheese, he lay down ruminating over the prospects that lay ahead. The shrine was a sacred place, he could only imagine the strict rules. “What if they perform initiations?” He asked himself. It couldn’t be likely, he thought as he lay there. Ladimin was still concerned though. What if they cut my arm as a right of passage? He was terrified by the sight of blood, but Merenemian people were typically not such barbarians as the tribes that lay outside of the land. The truth was, he knew very little about religion, but from what he sensed, there might be some very dark ones in the world. Many contained unsavoury elements such as mass sacrifice to them. He shuddered. Even though such things only took place outside of Ura, he still felt as if it was somehow close to home. Why not let himself relax though, he wouldn’t allow himself be troubled with such thoughts this much into the night.

The next day he woke up even earlier. The clouds accumulated around the sky on him. He was shielded from the sun first thing in the morning. Getting back up to his feet, he might have to walk another day before reaching his destination. The road this time led through the forest. Ladimin shuddered. This is where it ended. He could not go into the forest. The lord managed to do well to protect the roads, but travel was still quite dangerous. The forests could always be expected to contain Bandits with arrows and such. He looked at the road ahead, and then looked at the field to the right of him. Which one was safer? He decided to lead off from the forest, and he got off of the road. It wasn’t reliable, but it was certainly a lower risk than going through a forest full of wolves and archers looking for people with coins. Yes, going off trail was reliable. According to the directions he received, a village would come up in a few hours. So he made his way off the road and onto the field.

Walking briskly along, the grass was soft beneath his feet, but the occasional sharp rock made a tear. His shoes were getting more and more worn by this time, so he still had to go more quickly, to reach the village in time. The field illuminated a soft glow as he walked, and birds ran through the tall grass. He was getting more and more tired, and more sore as he kept walking across the land. At least he was not going through somewhere where eyes were on his back. Hunger took his toll on him, he had run out of food. He had to keep walking, and his instinct told him to stay with the small hills in sight, it had to work. So he continued, and to his relief, he eventually came across a few houses. “This must be in the middle of Seidequev.” he thought to himself. There were the houses. If noone would let me in, at least I would be near people, who could guide me to the shrine in the shortest way possible. Maybe I could buy food as well with some of my coins.

He ran carefully through the dikes, taking care not to come onto the wheat fields that were there. Looking around to see the fields, the crops were growing well. He saw plentiful stores of wheat, compared to the meager stores that they had in his village. They were quite hungry compared to everyone else in these lands, but this might not be the case for him soon. He wondered what they would be doing with all that grain. He continued his way, and decided not to just stand there. If he just stood as some foreign boy from another village, they might think of him as an intruder. This occurred to him. So he decided to come to the front of one of the largest houses he saw. If he introduced himself to the richest man there, then at least they wouldn’t be suspicious of him. Coming to the door of the largest house, he tapped the door lightly. He stood ready to bow, as it was considered courteous, and waited. The door creaked open, and a young woman came to attend. She eyed him carefully, and then scowled. “What are you doing here?” “We don’t want wanderers from Traivil around these parts.” Ladimin froze. “Good, good afternoon Baia,” he stuttered. “I am from another village in this Seidequev province, and I just seek to find the local shrine if you would be so kind.” “I come here meaning no harm, I am not carrying anything dangerous at all.” The woman turned from him. “Wait here a minute young man.”

She came back into the house, and brought with her a tall, slightly heavyset bearded man entered. “He must be the master of the house.” Ladimin thought. “Good evening Baiern,” he said as rehearsed. “I am Ladimin of the Eiser house, I come from the outer side of the province, and I just wanted to inform you that I am passing through here on the way to the shrine.” “I do not come with bad intentions.” The man was undeterred. “That is all well young man, if you are trying to make your way to the shrine, it is a few more hours from the village, who sent you?” Ladimin offered his coins. “The village elders sent me, and I have had approval from my mother to go.” “I also offer these coins to you Baiern, as a gift from my village.” The man put his fingers on Ladimin’s palms, and took a few coins from him. “Very well young man, we have no problem with your presence here” The man leaned at the foot of the door. “So,” he went on. “Tell me,” are you descended from a scholar by chance?” The young man shrugged. “Yes sir.” “I am.” “My Patr was a scripture writer, and my Masr is just a craftsman’s daughter Baiern.” “Oh,” the man responded. “A mixed caster I see, I myself hail from the merchant class of Qunaw.” “I just came here to retire.”

It was becoming late. “You know young man, I commend your decision to study at the shrine, but it is not a life of luxury.” “You have to dedicate your life to quiet study.” “You would have better chances earning money as a knight, or an apprenticeship with a swordsmith.” “Are you sure you want to become a scholar?” Ladimin was convicted. “Yes,” “I might pursue luxury one day, but if I really wanted to live a certain way, it would be through books.” The man sighed. “Well, I wish you luck, the shrine is only a little further from here.” “I advise you rest for the night in these parts, you will need enough energy by morning.” “Thank you too merchant.” The merchant stood up, “Yes well, I must get going now.” “Farewell.” He stood up and closed the door. Ladimin stood there. He ran through what he had accomplished with this man. “Good,” He thought. “I might be on good terms with these villagers.” “Also good, he told me the directions.” “Bad, I’m still hungry.” He did feel right to beg for food however, he didn’t know if they still trusted him. He would just have to go to sleep hungry again, and hopefully berries might be somewhere on the way.

He had no choice, as he went to the outskirts of the village to sleep in the grass again. This time, the night was colder, and he had only a worn wool shirt and pants on. It was torturous to lay in the cold, rough grass, freezing his thin body. He had been able to sustain a long walk with his lankiness, but the lack of flesh did not protect him well from the cold. His belly was empty, and his stomach muscles were cranking in frustration. He hadn’t any food for two days, and it was taking his toll, but he was too tired to do anything more, so slowly he drifted off to sleep. It was an unpleasant occurrence, but at least he was almost at the shrine. It would soon be over.

A thick smell drifted through the air. From a distance it could only be described as sweet and luscious, it was quite a rich smell. Some of it caught by his nose and awoke him. Ladimin’s eyes widened. He had never smelled something like this before, and it completely enveloped him. It was something of roasted meat and smokiness, with a lingering of some flowery scent. It was incredible. He closed his eyes, and sat there inhaling it as sharply as he could, almost trying to taste it. It was incredible, and almost seemed to hug him from the cold. Yet it was delicate. It was incredible. He could drift off the sleep again. Only a young girl came by his side. “Evening.” She said. Ladimin was startled, he stood up. “What brings you here?” he asked. “Oh nothing.” she smiled. “You just seemed so lonely really.” “My Patr invites you to stay at his house for the night.” she told him. “Who?” He asked. “The merchant?” “I’d be pleased to come so long as he lets me.” The girl nodded her head. “You are invited, why don’t you come along?”

The adolescent stood up, and came along with the girl. “They walked towards the village. “So anyway, Patr told me you come from three days away.” “What are you up to?” They came closer and closer to the smell, it was even more satisfying the closer and closer they were. “Well, I am just coming to study.” “I’ve been for days on the road to this place.” Ladimin replied. All of a sudden his mouth started watering, the smell was unbearably good. “I have to ask you, what is that?” He inquired. “The girl took a whiff.” “Cock dulenaur.” “I know, it’s heavenly.” “My Masr only makes it for guests.” “We killed two of our fat chickens for it.” They went to the foot of the house. The merchant welcomed him as a guest in their house, and owed him the pleasure of his company. The merchant had been impressed by his courtesy, and respectable character, and decided to have him seated with them. Before they knew it, Ladimin was invited to sit at the family table. The room was large for a family kitchen, and to the left was a small clay stove, from which the intoxicating aroma seemed to be emanating. The merchant was seated, along with his wife, and the girl he was with. Forest nuts, fresh grapes, and pickled cabbage were set on the table.

The young woman that he saw earlier took a cloth and pulled out a casserole that was lined with something incredible, and they set it on a plate of wood. She also brought out day old bread to come with it. Ladimin was allowed to some of this incredible dish. From what he could gather, it seemed to be dark and moist chicken flesh braised in white wine, goat’s butter, carrot, ramps, sage, cilantro seed, and fenugreek. It carried some sort of intense savoury taste, with garlic and smoke as well. He was happy to be eating at last with these generous hosts. He sunk his teeth into the tender, well seasoned flesh, and mopped up the palatable broth with a fresh piece of bread. It was one of the best things he had ever eaten in his life, not even roasted kebab could compare. He had a full plate, and a few grapes and nuts before he reclined slightly. “Thank you,” He said. “That was one of the most incredible meals I have ever had.” The merchant was happy to have this food complimented. “Oh yes,” He agreed. Reiva here is the best cook I have had of yet. He pointed to the young woman, and she smiled at him in approval.

He was then offered a comfortable mat to sleep on in the opposite end of the room for the evening, and this served him well. He lowered his head onto the linen mattress, embracing the soft and yielding surface that cushioned him. He had not gone to bed with a full belly for a long time, he compacted into a fetal position, and drifted off to sleep again. It had been an incredible night. Soon, his mind unfolded into this spectacle that enveloped him during sleep. Would he be dreaming already? He found himself standing in an open field. An accelerated flowing feeling overcame him, as he saw the stars of the night sky revolve around him. This had been the land he was trekking through a day ago. Some sort of bright light began to emanate from the sky in rays, and it flowed down to the lands in flashes. Darkness then came to envelop the area that surrounded him, and somehow every detail was unobscured by the illumination of his own aura. More and more his surroundings turned dark, and the night sky merged with the earth. He was surrounded by thick, flowing darkness, but it did not discomfort him. It was a dense, thick, cool sensation that overcame him, and he looked to the sky one more time, to see a tiny light, which in split second filled the entire sky.

All he could feel then was a tingling sensation, and before he knew it, his eyes opened. It was early morning. His eyes fixed to the ceiling. He could hear a bellowing cow outside. The daily milking had probably begun. He lay there with astonished eyes, he had never had a dream on this level before. It took him several minutes to collect his surroundings. He stood to his feet, and swiped the dirt that was on him off the mattress. The anxiety had he had been having for the past several days melted away into a warm sense of security. He felt safe from his night with them. Looking around the kitchen, he noticed some of their valuables. Embroidered clay plates, a bronze candleholder, and a golden necklace hanging near the door. How could someone have something that can be crafted like this? They really must be well off. He made his way to the door, and gently creaked it open, to the outside, he saw a rising pinkish orange sun, and surrounding him was the slowly illuminating village. The sun streaked over his hair and blue eyes. What a serene picture. Once outside, he found the merchant’s wife passing around with a basket that was filled with various forest edibles.

“Oh, you are up quite early.” She told Ladimin. “Why don’t you take breakfast with you?” He was pleased by the offer. “Yes, breakfast would be most appreciated.” Thank you. The woman followed him into the house. “I have to say,” she proclaimed. “So unusual to be seeing a young boy like you so far from home.” “It must have taken some determination to come that far.” “Are you almost were you need to be?” Ladimin nodded his head in response. “He told me that it is just a few hours more from the shrine, it isn’t too far really.” He breathed deeply. “The merchant’s wife gave him a small package of cheese and gooseberries. “You know, our daughter might be interested in learning a few scriptures as she gets older, perhaps you can teach her after a few years at the shrine.” “She’s always asking me to tell her stories and teach her things, but it isn’t enough for her eager imagination.” Typically he might have refused in a different circumstance out of his own occupied time, but Ladimin was too grateful to take down such an offer. “It would be an honour for me.” “I will teach her first opportunity they let me out of the shrine again.” He graciously replied. “Good lad.” The woman was pleased to hear this. She shook his hand. “I wish you the best of luck, you are such a charactered young man, study as much as you can.” “It will do you good.” Ladimin asked her to bid her farewell to everyone else in the house, and he set on his way again.

He found out later that the merchant had informed the scholars of the arrival of this strange traveler who wanted to study there. The villagers pointed him to the direction of the shrine, there was another road by. It only took him a few hours, before he came to a complex of buildings surrounded by plots of farmed land. Ladimin stood there stunned. Before him lay these stone buildings that stood in two stories. They were covered in elaborate sculptures and designs that ran to the top of the buildings. He even caught glimpse of the windows, which were stained with sophisticated patterns. This was the shrine. He came before the door, and was pleased to see a few men around the door. One was completely bearded, and the others shaved to be waiting. These men turned to look at him. They had long grey robes, with white hats covered on them. Ladimin put down his things, and bowed his upper body. “My name is Ladimin, son of Rewan Eiser and Jadna Eiser.” “My father hath been a scholar, and my mother a craftsmen’s daughter.” “I pledge myself to any of you and your teachings, as I seek to learn the ways of Ein.” The men looked in understanding. “We have been expecting you.” The eldest man said. “Wait out here, while I consult the master.”

The men entered the templar, and left him outside briefly. He waited patiently for around a third of an hour, before they let him in. He entered and felt something cold below. It was a firm, stone floor. He looked around to see a hall going down this building, and several rooms all lined with stone. “Follow us,” The scholars said. Ladimin complied. “The villagers told us about you, and we have been expecting you.” “This, is the shrine of our province.” He explained as they came down the hall. “Long ago, the lord had this place constructed to house the sacred scriptures that have been written here, and so that men like us could both teach and practice the way of Ein peacefully.” “This is not a place where common people worship.” The young man looked around, to see men passing by with scriptures in their arms, some with graphite pens, and some with with small containers of water. The ceiling ran quite high in the far hall, and he could feel the thick walls surrounding him. “We shall take you to meet the priest of this shrine, he shall introduce you to this place.” They led his way to a garden outside. It was a peaceful place. Light flowed to reveal shrubs and a small fountain, along with a line of flowers, which some of the scholars studied.

Most of the men around were shaved, and all wore the same white caps that designated their status. Ladimin turned to the front of him. An elderly man was seated before him, wielding an extremely delicate lighter gray robe and seemed to be editing a scripture as carefully as he could against a block of wood. The man’s receding forehead was wrinkled in intense concentration, the man was giving intense focus to the task he had at hand. He seemed so at peace, but he turned his head to meet Ladimin. The young man froze in his presence. This elder was obviously very important, and probably deserved the utmost respect. The elder relaxed his gaze, giving a faint smile. “Ah,” He exclaimed.” “The son of Eiser come at last.” Ladimin was surprised. “You knew my father?” The elder smiled. “Yes, he was a deeply devoted scholar at this shrine long ago, he knew the entire library and even took some of his best ones with him when he left.” “His own father sent him here when he came of age, and he forever found solace in studying heaven.” “It led him to question the relevance of caste however, and he gave up his scholarly status to marry Jadna.” “My mother.” Ladimin responded. “Right,” the elder said. “So you have come here to study heaven is that correct?” He asked with a glint in his thoughtful and wise eyes.

“Yes,” Ladimin responded. The elder stood up. “How long did it take you to get here, how did you get here?” Ladimin told him the entire story of his arrival, how head walked for three days in the wilderness with very little to reach the shrine, and the guests who provided him with shelter for a night.” The man was pleased with his dedication. He thought it apparent that his motivation would make him a worthy student. “You have the will to study young man, follow me.” The elder and another scholar led Ladimin into a comfortable building. It was apparently made of wood and brick, and could shield heat and cold easier. They led him into a large room, with beds situated in large rows. To the right of him, some kind of water clock was at the side, and all around him were the row of beds. “Take the one over there.” The younger scholar said, pointing to a neat bed near the middle. Beside it was a small shelf. “This is where you will be sleeping,” He said. “Leave your things, and we will have you ready to join us in prayer.” “We’ll give you a minute.”

Ladimin sat down by the side of his bed, taking off his crumbled leather shoes. Springing on the bed slightly, it was rather soft and pliable. He looked around. Everywhere the scholars beds stood, and light flowed in delicately from glass windows. There was a quiet, solemn feeling that resounded in it through the room. The air felt cold and satisfying, he could stay here forever. Leaving his belongings behind, he gave his new teachers, his leather shoes to throw away, and they presented him with new clothes. “Hurry,” they said. “The prayer starts in an hour.” Ladimin was led into a small bathing room, and washed himself in the cool flowing water. It felt incredible to be cleaning himself again after all these days. He smelled of dust and dried sweat, and it all flowed away as he stood under the running water. His skin felt cleared, and slightly vulnerable again, as he dried himself and put himself into the thin, silky gray clothes they gave him. It was a slightly smaller and simpler version of the robes that they gave him earlier. It felt soft and yielding on his skin, not like the rough clothes he had earlier.

He came out of the room, and saw a procession of scholars making their way somewhere. Asking them where they were going, he followed their way down to the hall. Eventually, they were led outside into the courtyard and garden, while a bunch of other robe clad men followed him into the second smallest building in the complex. The door was wide open. Coming in, he was led into the first shrine of worship that he had ever been in. It was a powerful site. A large procession of wooden seats were rowed up in the room, and the walls were made of carefully polished stone. Near the top, characters and elaborate designs ran into the ceilings, and he saw the windows to the side again, stained with images of the great deer and nature. It was a beautiful place. Near the front, a podium stood with a scripture on top of it, and to the side of it was a large bronze bell suspended from a frame. The bell was also heavily decorated. Merenemian craftsmen and carpenters were skilled workers, and they spared no effort to build excellent shrines for their esteemed scholars in this land. Ladimin seated with everyone else. He looked to the right and left, and everyone was upright and silent as a blade of grass. Another elder man came to the front and spread his arms to speak.

“Here Come fellow scholars into the afternoon prayer, as heaven honours our presence here.” “Ein est ajanav.” He said. “Ein est ajanav.” They repeated. “heaven is the mother and father.” “Ein sed gradel Kesad ten,” “Ein sed grad kesad ten.” They repeated. “heaven birthed our presence.” “Ein vakrin au kuthem faun, estel au naum.” “heaven brought forth the skies and earth, and the light.” “Ein sakhnid retavel ai kesad.” “We thus embrace the presence of Heaven in all existence.” The men repeated. Ladimin followed along. They were giving the beginning. “Heaven is our way of life my fellow men, heaven is our guidance and our understanding, we truly embrace heaven in every waking moment and walk of life.” “Forever we shall be with heaven,” “Let us begin,” The man turned to the large bell, and held up a ringer.” He stiked the bell six times in concession. Then he rang it gently in pattern. A powerful, mesmerising sound erupted from it. Ladimin’s eyes widened, and he was captivated by it. He had never heard something like this before.

Immediately in response the men began to sing gently. As the bell rose, they raised their voices in response. “Ausum, aidev, ausum, aidev,” they chanted. The man in the front rang it more gently now, lowering the pitch. Their singing rose to a climax. “Aidr, he gav, en aidr.” “Aidr, he gav, en aidr.” “Aidr, he gav, en aidr.” They raised. Ladimin could not help but to join along, it was the most splendid thing he had ever heard. He could almost imagine himself rising to the ceiling, above all the other men, light and dark rays emanating from the roof. “Just like, just like in my dream.” He thought. The procession then ended. The men stood up, bowing to the front with their hands to their heads, and Ladimin followed. The men left along with Ladimin to continue their daily work. He was mesmerised by this.

Another scholar was designated as his teacher, and led him into the library. There he studied for the rest of the day. The scholar was surprised that Ladimin already knew how to read, and he was hungry for knowledge. Ladimin read through the first basic scripts, which taught him about the significance of heaven. As the scholar told him, it was a dark and cool, yet powerful flowing realm from which light came. It was above all of existence, even above the stars and planets beyond. It absorbed into everything, and was the source of creative and intellectual inspiration. While animals could be connected to nature, only man could truly understand Ein, for he was unique in his mind. While Ein created existence, it did not necessarily influence it. This was the job of it’s inhabitants. This is why respect was so important in our culture, because we treat each other with respect to what Ein had created. He enjoyed reading through these countless scriptures, the library held hundreds of them. The insights and poetic language of the scriptures were remarkable. Some were more literary, holding tales and fables, others recording history, astronomy, and science that came recently. It was a wealth of knowledge. He even found out later that they had an observatory, where the elder and others examined the stars from above to determine their positioning.

Ladimin spent the next weeks studying and praying daily with the rest of the scholars. They worked hard in the fields surrounding their shrine, but it was a sort of communal effort where everyone assisted each other to the fullest. Farm work went by more quickly here. Everyday was so relevant, as there was a productive routine of work, prayer, study and dining that Ladimin never felt like a day was wasted again. They always went to bed at sundown, and woke up at sunrise, sometimes staying up during the night to observe the movements of the stars. It never failed them, and their days went on in connection to their beliefs. Talk went on spreading the teachings to commoners and townsfolk, and in the future, arrangements would be made to build a commoner’s shrine in Ladimin’s old village. Eventually, Ladimin grew up to be a learned adolescent man, he had read a significant portion of the texts in the library, and was even good at deciphering ancient ones to include into the library as well. The elder priests were astonished at how quickly he learned, he studied carefully and voraciously.

One day, after prayer, the young scholar was called into the elder priest’s place of study. The elder man was pleased. “You study well young Eiser, we see your progress in understanding our works.” “I believe you would be fit to stay here for a long time, and still be able to visit your mother occasionally.” “So what do you say young man?” “Would you like to also join the shrine as well?” Ladimin shook his hand. He would be very pleased to be able to learn under him. “Perhaps I can even teach you to eventually become an elder as well, you would do good for our name.” “I would be pleased to welcome you into our religion.” That afternoon, a ceremony was held as Ladimin took his baptism. In a small procedure, he was lain across a stone table, a cloth was placed over his genitals, and heavenly water poured from a ladle onto his crotch. Every male born into the shrine had their genitals baptised in heavenly water a few days after birth, but for grown men they had to place a cloth over. Now he was not only a scholar, but he had now joined the shrine as well, like his father. He felt proud to be able to put on a thick robe and cap with the rest of them, and he was now officially one of the many Einist scholars here. It was good.

For the rest of his time, he would continue studying as well with the rest of them, sometimes alone, and sometimes with some of the more experience to guide him. He was also allowed to visit his mother with other scholars, proud to see her son a respectable man on his path to become a learned scholar like his father before him. They also came to the village to teach them more about the way of heaven, as the lord has sponsored them to help to spread it. Ladimin truly was proud, it was in a way what he always wanted, he now truly understand. Now he found his place, there was still so much to learn, so much to understand. As circumstances were right now however, he was one with his destiny.