815 - Is it possible for mortals to manumit Gods?
Performing the Ten Tens: A Description
By Fourth Shefenkas Shaearanoias
Pages of Arko, Mikas 24, 51st-to-last Y.P.A.
Editor’s note: The day after Shefenkas performed the Ten Tens for the second time, I received a note from him saying that, if I would allow the space, he would write his account of it.
Astonished—who ever heard of an Imperator recounting the experience of the Ten Tens in any way, let alone in writing in the Pages?—I answered with an eager yes. Not a day later, I received the manuscript in his firm, hurried script.
Thus you hold in your hands, and are about to read, a historical document. The Pages of Arko, priding itself on having been the publication of record in the City and the Empire for 476 years, is deeply humbled and grateful to the Imperator for having been granted the honour of publishing this narrative.
- Intharas Terren
I UNDERTOOK the second Ritual of Ascension so as to test the Gods’ favour for an Imperator by fodaisin, and thus Their favour for fodaisin itself. The ritual has been shrouded in far too much mystery in the past, in my opinion, and in the new Arko, the Arko of fodaisin, I think an Imperator has even more of an obligation to reveal what he experiences. I meant it to be a Ten Tens not only dedicated to the people of Arko, as every honestly-performed Ten Tens is, but owned by you, in a sense, as well.
I offer my account partly in that spirit, and partly because not all citizens of the Empire of Arko can fit into the Great Temples, so I also consider it my duty to describe the extraordinary and unprecedented things that happened from my perspective for the sake of those who were not there. I hope subsequent Imperators will see fit to do likewise and make this a tradition.
For the sixty-day cleansing of the Temple, I fasted during the day as per tradition, as I understand a goodly portion of the Arkan population also did. I was too busy in the office to meditate, though. I had just one divine dream, about three nights before, in which Selinae took me in the way I need not describe, since it has so often been depicted in artworks—a reminder of the technique of giving my will over to Them that is necessary for the ritual.
The morning of the day is traditionally spent in preparation with the Fenjitzae, and much of it consists of being anointed with the Ten Divine Scents as the priests chant, which helps bring on the proper state of openness. Something I wonder: do pretenders find some way to do a version of this? I’ve never had the chance to ask one.
As I was carried in the chair out to the Temple, the first thing I noticed was the feeling of the crowd, so different from last time. No one jeered at me that the Gods would exact revenge, or made cheery bets on how They’d do it. It was pure support and ecstasy in anticipation. While I knew that I couldn’t take this to represent precisely how all Arkans feel, since ones who chose charcoal likely weren’t there, I also knew that a majority had chosen chalk, even in the City. Hearing people cry, “Do it for my fodai, Shefenkas!” I sensed that you who were there were claiming this Ten Tens as your own, as never before, just as I’d intended, and dearly wished. If you saw tears in my eyes then, that is why.
At the top of the Temple stairs, the Fenjitzae stood waiting in the crystalline robes, blinding in the midday sun, that they wear only for a Ten Tens. There was one pretender this time, a middle-aged Aitzas I didn’t know, who clearly had no use for this newfangled fodai thing. Once Skorsas and Niku took the Imperial Robe off my shoulders, so I was wearing just the golden head-band, sandals and loin-cloth, he held his hands with his version of the Seals out to me imperiously, looking down his nose.
I wanted to say, “Keep your humility here more than anywhere else on the Earthsphere,” but I could tell he wouldn’t listen. I touched my hands to his as required—his touch was imperious, too—and knelt on the top stair while the Fenjitzas read him the Ten Tens instructive scripture, and he turned to the great golden Temple doors.
He spoke the word I remembered speaking the first time so well that I was sure for a moment the doors would open for him. They didn’t, however, though he spoke it three times, increasingly loudly and insistently. I was facing the crowd, which was giving its opinion of him even more loudly, so I didn’t see or hear the Fenjitzas gently convince him to give up and let me do it, at which point he’d have his chance to perform the rite. I did hear the Fenjitza, though she is soft-spoken as a rule, call my name, and the Fenjitzas reading the scripture to me.
I went to the doors, which gleamed starkly with having just been cleansed, raised my hands and waited for the correct word to come to me instead of speaking by memory. I was hearing an internal whisper that this Ten Tens would be very different from the first, for some reason. To my horror, no word came to me. Was I making a mistake—was I supposed to do it by memory? But then the Temple spoke.
I’ve researched this since. The scholarly opinion, at least up until that moment, was that references to the Temple’s Voice in sacred literature were metaphorical. As it turns out, there are historical accounts of the literal Voice being heard before, which date back a millennium. (Editor’s note: see page 3. –IT)
The sound of the Voice very much matches the ancient descriptions. It’s as if a mountain had a voice: huge, deep, low, with a stone-like and yet also a metallic tone. It could be heard clearly all the way across Presentation Square; right in front of the Temple it was so deafening it actually hurt the ears, and set the very stone to vibrating under our feet. Everyone was struck silent, the whole crowd frozen as if they’d died. The words were in a language even older than ancient Arkan, I think: rak ognaiz rajistruuzer renel. Then the Voice began singing a single low note, that went right into the heart and bones.
I didn’t see, or even really follow it except distantly by weapon-sense, but the pretender broke and fled. The Honour Guard this time was half Arkan (including Frenaria Moren) and half mixed Yeoli and allies (including Niku); but same as last time, Kallijas Itrean moved fastest, striking the man dead in one blow. The whole portico had begun to glow gold, without heat, which it hadn’t done before. The word came to mind, a repetition of part of what the Voice had said, rajistruuzer, and it answered me, uuzer rak ognaiz, ergas ak nallag. Being in the trance-state didn’t make me understand the words, but the door began to open.
A song I didn’t understand except in feeling insisted on me singing it, so I did—and then the Voice sang with me. I don’t have the words to describe how this felt, to hear these divine, unearthly-enormous notes in harmony with my puny human ones, as if I were somehow worthy of this. It was hard to maintain the knowledge that I was not in a dream, to believe this was happening even as it happened. Part of me wanted to break and run; a good part of why I didn’t, I think, is that it’s hard to be scared while you are singing an ancient, ecstatic hymn. I went inside as I did, the people following me. The Voice said, subru tinri payaer sit’m nishi etad, walk um yuuzaer, sabsak shoan abeohon.
Inside—Imperator and divinely-favoured or not, I don’t understand the nature of the statues of the Gods inside the Temple, except that during the Ten Tens, to my perception, they seem to come alive. As far as I know, the statues had been as they were before when the Temple had been sealed at the start of the sixty days, so no artist could have entered. But now they were changed, and everyone who found a place inside can be my witness. The manacles and fetters were gone from the wrists and ankles of Imbas and Anae; instead They, along with Oas and Mella, wore identical marriage-rings, with the threads of divine hair within glass glowing. Becoming all of one caste, They had become a four.
Is it possible for mortals to manumit Gods? I hadn’t thought so; but then if you’d asked me if it were possible for Gods to be slaves, before I came to Arko I’d have said no. Questions for the philosophers.
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