Va’il collapsed in sleep before anyone else. After they had all decided that it was too dark for a second game of Go’tei ball, they had walked back to camp and ate. Va’il ate all he possibly could, then lay down in the tent that Kelin and Pete would also end up sleeping in. He stirred when the other boys came in, but instantly went back to sleep.
In the middle of the night, Va’il suddenly awoke. He was hot and cold at the same time, but he wasn’t ill. He felt like he should walk around, so he very quietly made his way out of the tent without stirring Kelin or Pete. Kelin happened to be on his side and smiling widely, probably dreaming of pig’s tails or lupus girls. Pete was solid and boring. He only moved a bit as he breathed, and was otherwise motionless.
Outside the air was colder than expected. The lake was to blame, but blame was the last thing Va’il wanted to give that lake at the moment. The moon was in the sky and reflected in the lake. The blue light being reflected in the blue water was a beautiful sight, and it made Va’il think of home. He had just said goodbye to Mai’ou a little while ago, and now here he was, alone and uncertain. He had stayed overnight at Pete’s house just a few times in the past, but that was nothing like the kind of separation this trip was creating.
He turned his head to look at his tail, and felt a bit sad that, for once, there would be no threats of it being bitten the next morning. As he was looking at his tail, something moved in the forest. Va’il instantly turned his entire body and looked closely as he saw a flash of white appear for only a second in the forest nearby. He strained his eyes and ears, but if there really had been anything there, it was gone now. He lost interest and instead walked towards the lake. Picking a spot a few meters away from the water’s edge, he sat down and looked up at the moon.
The sound of someone exiting their tent grabbed Va’il’s full attention. They were very quiet and didn’t disturb anyone who was sleeping. The entrance to the tent was in the shade of the moon, and the person exiting appeared to be darker skinned, so Va’il couldn’t make out who it was at first. Then the lionel took two steps from the exit towards Va’il. Yan scanned the area first, and then continued walking until he was close to Va’il.
“Oh, it’s just you.” Yan spoke as if he hadn’t noticed Va’il until now. Va’il wasn’t sure how to respond, so he nodded and continued to stare at the moon. Yan sat down a few feet away from Va’il and also looked at the moon. “Sendes is radiant tonight.”
“I hope it looks just as good there as it does here,” Va’il said while staring upwards.
“Do you mean home? Do you miss it already?” Yan had turned towards Va’il, who kept staring at Sendes.
“I haven’t been away like this before. I don’t know why, but thinking that I’ll be away for a while makes me sad,” Va’il said.
“I understand,” Yan said while nodding slowly, “because I’m away from home as well.”
“You’re older; does that make it easier to be away for a few extra days?”
“Yes and no.” Yan laughed once to himself, which confused Va’il even further as to the meaning of Yan’s words.
“That’s not right,” Va’il said.
“Yes, because once you’re older you want independence. No, because the older you get the more you realize that you need people to rely on. Even more so when you live separately from your family.”
“Live separately? Well, I’ve never met him in the first place, so I don’t think I need to be sad that I’m living separately from that man.” Va’il was referring to his absent father; however, that wasn’t what Yan meant.
“You have a situation, I see. I live in Rising alone. We lionel are very territorial. My family lives on its territory, and will never leave. I left,” Yan said. Va’il was shocked that Yan was telling him something so personal and astounding.
“Alone? Really? That’s amazing, but kind of sad too.”
“True on both, little Va’il. But I resolved to make the capitol my place, my territory, and the holder of my goals. Part of the way of life I plan to live involves a lot of self-sacrifice. So sacrificing my home will only strengthen me for the future.” Yan was really starting to sound like a kind of noble hero.
“Don’t you like your home though?”
“Of course,” Yan said emphatically, “there is nothing I love more! Every instinct I have tells me that I have to go back to the domain my clan lives on. But there is a part of me that screams insistently. It compels me to ask myself what I want, and then forces me to take action. It’s my head and heart in unison, fighting the only part of myself that I truly trust. I knew that I must let go in order to be happy, and that I have.”
“Wow. That’s amazing.” Va’il’s words made Yan laugh.
“You already said that, you know?” Yan smiled and poked fun at Va’il, who looked like he wanted to say the words again.
“Well it just is. Those are the best words I know for amazing things like that. I think things should be said directly.”
“That’s an interesting explanation.” Yan crossed his arms and nodded.
“Yan, what makes you want to be the priest of Rising?” Va’il thought about it for a moment, but he really had no idea what a priest was or what he did. He had never seen the priest before, and was too young to notice many of the things going on in the nation.
“People, all people,” Yan said with an extremely warm feeling. “I want to help everyone feel better about themselves and others. There is only one person who is charged with that in all the capitol, and that is the priest of the nation.”
“Okay, make people feel better. But how? What does he actually do?” Va’il still had no idea what the position involved. It took a minute for Yan to think before he could reply.
“First, the priest organizes meetings of the people on a regular basis. Once every few months a day is picked when many people in the nation gather, and the priest gives a speech to them, and then listens to their concerns. The speech is usually about how to be happier, and how to help others. It also is about the history of the world and how the past wars and misgivings between all peoples have shaped the world as it is now. The priest promotes unity of creatures on Fervi. That is one part of his role. The other is to find out what is in the hearts of the citizens, and relaying that to the royal court. Of course, that means he talks with the king about how the people feel about his decisions. The priest is one of the few members of the nobility that can speak frankly to the king in front of the court. Because the priest relays concerns and problems, he can also offer suggestions, or even rebuke the king without fearing retribution.” Yan paused to catch his breath.
“Can you slow down some? I think I get it. The priest tells the king what the people think of him, and is free to say it truthfully.” Va’il scratched his head thoughtfully.
“I’m sorry; I did get a little worked up. One more thing. The reason the priest is free to talk like that, and another special part of the position, is that the priest is the moral authority for the nation. A man of upright standing with others, maybe with one loving and exemplary wife and even a few children, and free from corruption and the desire for power is what the priest is. Honestly, even when I think of it, it seems like a challenge to be upright when so many desires exist. But my greatest desire is to please; therefore my natural desire to be honorable greatly advances me towards my goals.” Yan looked up at the moon and smiled. He had finished his lengthy explanation of what being the priest of a nation meant. He opted not to speak of what priests of other nations or species did, as it might get even more complicated. A priest communicates with the people, Yan thought. It occurred to him that that might have been a much better explanation for the young Va’il, who might not get all the nuances of the job.
“So my father definitely could not have been the priest,” Va’il said, but not in Yan’s direction.