Part 7: Godliness

Mareva stepped across the corridor, to Viral’s cabin. The red light was off. She pressed the chime, and a few seconds later, he appeared in the door.

“Oh hello. I had a feeling it might be some gorgeous creature to sample, but this is… beyond hope!”

Mareva grinned. “Stop it, you slime. I need your help. I’ve got a disconsolate Huttite in my cabin. Gur’dan broke up with Oraya!”

“What?” Viral looked at Mareva. “We’re talking about the cute brunette right? The one that you’d need chains to pull off that lucky sod of a boyfriend of hers? Has fire gone cold and ice gone hot?”

“Apparently so. Haven’t been able to get much out of Oraya, but could you please go and beat some sense into Gur’dan?”

“He’s big.”

“So are you. I’d be ever so grateful.”

“Ooh… magic words. My hooves are like wings. Where is he?”

“Temple of Hut, most likely.”


Mareva looked at the little heap of misery sitting on her chair in her cabin. She had to do something. Coffee? Sex? Tea? Qrovna? She considered. Tea, probably best. She opened the box that she’d inherited from Old Mhaari, and took out two bags, chucked them into mugs and poured over the boiling water. While she did this, Oraya hadn’t moved or said anything. She wasn’t even crying anymore. Mareva tapped her shoulder, and put a hot mug of tea in her hand.

“Drink. Pay attention, it’s the good stuff.”

Oraya nodded, took a small sip. Put the mug down. Said nothing. Mareva raised an eyebrow. Oraya was usually bouncing all over the place. She’d banged on her door, fallen into her arms, blurted out that Gur’dan had left her and burst out in tears.

“What happened?”

Oraya closed her eyes, shook her head.

“Hey, they say you can have the most amazing sex with girls who’ve just broken up with their boyfriends. And I could use the points. How about it?”

Oraya looked up at Mareva, murder in her eyes.

“Sod you.”

Mareva grinned. “Come on. Start talking.” She hit the button and her bed came rolling out of the wall. “If you don’t, I’ll find ways to make you.” She sat down on the bed, took Oraya’s hand between her own, and looked at her face. “Tell me.”

“It’s the Zealots,” said Oraya. “I love them, really I do. Stupid silly rules. Never a dull moment. Would you believe I’m an Exulted High Priestess now?”

“Oh yes. You are good at it. One of my samples said you’d knocked him back from Lesser Priest to Novice with a single denunciation.” Mareva grinned smugly. “I consoled him. Three-pointer.”

“Gur’dan is starting to take it… seriously.”

“Wait… what? He is really starting to believe in Hut?”

“Prais- Oh sod it. Yes, he is. And he’s fanatic about it, too.”

Mareva’s jaw dropped. “By the Light! The Gnomic Heresy proven before our very eyes!”

Oraya started to laugh, but half-way it turned into a sob.

“He spends all night in prayer, hours and hours. Gets upset if I disturb him!” She sniffed, took a sip of tea. “You remember that thing I bought? Blue mageweave. Practically see-through.”

“You showed it to me,” said Mareva. “Without even a hint of taking it off. Cruel woman.”

“I showed it to him. He took one look at me, put his hands on my shoulders, and do you know what he said?”

“Take it off?”

“Yes! But not because he wanted me! Because it was blue and it was the First Day!” Oraya took a deep breath. Her eyes blazed with anger. “So I told him what I thought about that, and the bastard denounced me!”

“Oh my…”

Mareva looked at Oraya, young, bright, beautiful, completely and utterly devoted to her boyfriend, which was of course why Mareva flirted with her shamelessly. What a shame that that boyfriend, usually a nice enough guy, had of late gone funny in the head. Oh well.

“Don’t worry about him,” said Mareva. “Viral is having a chat with him. He’s nothing if not persuasive. Ask any girl.”


“But don’t you see? It makes such sense!”

“Oh come on. You spend two hours listening to the Music of the Spheres, and suddenly, you just know that Great Hut…”

“Praise be.”

Viral looked at Gur’dan.

“Yeah. That he wants you to chew your food thirty-two times, no more, no less, before swallowing. Have you any idea how stupid that sounds? Some crackpot deity talking to you through the medium of background radiation?”

“Of course not. That would be silly.”

“Oh good. Glad to hear you talk some sense.”

“The crackle of the Eternal Voice is only to bring your mind into the state where Great Hut, praise be, can reach into it. It is a meditational technique, nothing more. And through it, we learn.”

“Learn what?”

“About the proper way to live.” Gur’dan’s eyes glowed with joy.

Viral winced. “You mean not picking up a bloody fork in the wrong hand?”

“Yes, yes. That’s part of it. These trivial things have a function. They remind us, as we go through our daily doings, to remember who guides us, to whom we belong. Lest we forget. To those who have not tasted the joy, it may look silly sometimes, but we know better. Using these techniques, we are constantly reminded of who guides us. And changing them now and again keeps us sharp. Focused on the Glory of Hut.”

“Praise be,” said Viral, shaking his head. “Come on, Gur’dan. Your girlfriend is in my girlfriend’s cabin, and Mareva is doing what she can to console her. I don’t know what you said to her, but…”

Gur’dan sighed. His eyes turned down to his hooves. “I did not want to denounce her, but she was blatantly flaunting her colours in front of me. I had to. A commandment for one is a commandment for all. I pray that she may forgive me, and be forgiven.”

“Eh?” Viral opened his eyes wide. “Hold on. Even I know about that night-shirt, because Mareva described it to me. So she was standing in front of you wearing that, and all you can think of is that it’s the wrong bloody colour? I give up. There’s no hope for you.”

Gur’dan stared in front of him, sighed.

“When you see her, tell her that my prayers are with her, that she may see.”

“Do you have a bloody death wish?”


“So what does make you think that this Hut really exists?”

“Oh Mareva. What makes you not see? In every colour, every shape, every spoken word, the hand of Hut is plain to see.”

“No it is not. This Hut, he signs his work, no? So show me the signature and I’ll believe you.”

Gur’dan laughed. “Do you expect the Creator and All-Father to use our alphabet perhaps? That is what faith means. To know without seeing. To see, not with your eyes, but with your very spirit.”

Mareva gave Gur’dan a Look.

“And how do you distinguish this marvellous spirit-sight from common or garden delusions?”

“The same might be said for anything. You and your Elemental Spirits. You say the Spirit of Air has spoken to you, once. How do you distinguish that from delusions? Still, you know.”

Mareva pointed her hand at Gur’dan’s coffee mug and shot a lightning bolt at it. Coffee vapours shot up in the air as the mug jumped off the table in molten fragments of metal.

“That’s how. The Spirit of Fire may not speak to me personally, but he does allow me to call on his power.”

“And how do you know that Hut has not created those spirits for you to call on?”

“Well, I know that because Supreme High Priest Aqaar pulled the whole religion from under his tail! Which he did to entertain and amuse the masses, which is a noble cause, but that doesn’t mean that the whole thing isn’t complete and utter…”

“How do you know that? His Holiness Aqaar’s motivations are unknown to me, so I would be rash to comment on them.”

Mareva’s eyes narrowed.

“Right. Don’t move.”


Supreme High Priest Aqaar came out of Gur’dan’s cabin. His face was a very deep purple, and steam came out of his ears. Mareva and Viral watched with interest as he took a deep breath, shook his head and came towards them. Aqaar was a gentle man, portly of figure, with a razor-sharp mind, and usually, an indestructible good humour. In accordance with his newly-acquired faith, he was wearing blue and yellow striped trousers, a lime-green shirt with pink spots, and a black hat. Thus might he be attired in the right colours at all times, in accordance with the commandments of Great Hut, praise be. He looked at Viral, then at Mareva, over the rims of his dark blue sunglasses.

“Mad,” vouchsafed Aqaar. “Completely, utterly bonkers. Here I am, trying to make this deity so silly, so preposterous, that no sane man would actually believe in him, so as not to insult any who truly believe, and by the Light! Nature mocks me by producing a more advanced form of insanity!”

Aqaar took off his hat, and rubbed his head.

“He is absolutely, and utterly convinced that Hut is real.”

“Praise be to Hut,” said Viral.

“Very funny,” said Aqaar. “So I try to explain this to him. Talk some sense into him. It’s just a game, I tell him.” Aqaar raised his fists into the air. “He thanks me for testing his faith! I’m not testing your faith, you zlotnik, I’m telling you you’re a few components short of a circuit board!”

From his pocket, Aqaar produced a red handkerchief with black stripes. Mareva blinked. When she looked at a blank piece of wall, she thought she could see after-images left by Aqaar on her retina. Aqaar thankfully put away his handkerchief.

“So. I explain to him where I got the name ‘Hut’ from. Actually, I was running along with some soldiers, and the Sarge is shouting out orders. You! Go there! And the soldier shouts ‘Hut!’ and goes there. Then, you! Guard that entrance! You! shoot that man, he annoys me! And they go ‘Hut! Hut!’ And it occurs to me that it’s almost like a short religious observance. And thus we have great Hut.”

“Praise,” said Viral.

“You’re not a Believer, so shut up,” said Aqaar. “So I explain this to him. Guess what he said? Go on.”

Mareva shrugged, and shook her head.

“He says, and they all survived, didn’t they? And then he just sits there grinning at me.” Aqaar took a deep breath. “I give up. He needs a real priest. A sodding head priest!”

Aqaar turned round. “I’m going to the airlock, to meditate. It’s usually nice and quiet there. And then I’ll call someone on the Intercom, and if I hear the words ‘Praise be to Hut’, I’ll bloody well open the outer door!”

Aqaar turned round and stomped off.

“Oh Merciful Light,” said Mareva. “Now what?”

“Well, let him stew for a few days. At some point, he’s going to miss Oraya, and then he’ll see the Light.”


“Come along, Oraya. Sitting here sulking isn’t going to help anyone.”

“You go. I don’t want to.”

“Oh come on. They’re really very good. Besides, your emotional aura is polluting my cabin. People come in and are overcome with a sense of the futility of it all and I don’t get any points.”

“That’s a load of transgoto and you know it.”

“Look. Cheer up. Gur’dan will come round, see what an arse he’s been, grovel before you and you can jump on his bones. You’re the best thing that ever happened to him in his life. He’s not going to forget that just because he’s caught a hit of the stupid stick.”

“Seriously. I don’t want to go to this concert and watch you and Viral all cuddled up.”

Mareva put her hands on Oraya’s shoulders and looked into her eyes.

“For you, only for you, mind, I will try to keep my fingers off Viral for the whole of the concert.”

Oraya’s eyes shone at her. Then, from the depths of her soul, a tiny little laugh bubbled up and broke the surface.

“You’d do that for me?”

Mareva grinned.

“You can even sit between us.”

Oraya frowned. “And no feeling me up, either!”

“Aww…”


The Exodar Starlight Singers took the stage, assisted by a string quartet. How anyone, in the confusion of the battle and the run to Exodar, had managed to get a cello and three violins on board was a mystery, but it was very welcome. Some enterprising artificers had also made a harp, and some drums, but for this concert, those were not needed.

Mareva glanced at Oraya as she sat next to her, listening. Her face looked, if not happy, then peaceful, and her eyes had regained some of their usual sparkle. Despite her promise, Mareva had her arm round Oraya’s shoulders. Viral sat on Oraya’s other side, and occasionally ran a finger over Mareva’s arm, which she ignored as best she could.

 

“I liked that last song,” said Oraya. “Carry me safe to land?”

“They weren’t singing it right,” said Mareva.

“Sounded alright to me,” said Viral.

“Oh, there wasn’t a note out of place, and they have good voices, but still, they weren’t singing it right. Not their fault. You’d have to make an entire choir of spacers. And then, you’d know what I mean.”

As they headed for Mareva’s cabin, Oraya suddenly looked over her shoulder, then resolutely straight ahead of her, just in front of her feet. Viral looked.

“It’s him,” whispered Viral in Mareva’s ear.

Mareva sneered. “Good. Let him see that his girlfriend is having a good time.”

“Not deaf, you know?” Oraya took a breath.

They arrived at Mareva’s cabin. Mareva tapped in the code, and the door opened. Mareva pointed inside.

“You know how to put out the bed, yes?”

“Aren’t you coming in?”

“No. I have been a good girl. I have kept my fingers away from your transgoto. I am going with Viral, and make perverse and lewd suggestions to him.”

Oraya put her arms round Mareva and hugged her.

“Thank you for tonight,” she whispered.

“Unless you want to join us,” said Mareva.

Oraya slapped Mareva’s bottom, gave her a Look and went inside.


“Look, she’s a lovely girl, and she’s welcome to stay as long as she wants. But I can’t invite people into my bed with her in it. She’s not a member. And I can’t just turf her out as and when. Spoils the moment. So I’m reduced to going to their place all the time. Which cramps my style no end.”

“Hey, you still get the points don’t you?”

“Well yeah, but it’s hard work. I think I’ll go and have another talk with Gur’dan. See if he’s growing any sense yet.”

 

Mareva walked up to the door and pressed the chime. Nothing happened for at least thirty seconds. She pressed the chime again. Nothing. She rubbed her cheek with her fingers. This was worrying. She frowned, hesitated a moment. She wasn’t really suposed to use this unless in dire emergencies, but who knows? he might be lying unconscious on the floor from too much fasting or something. She frowned, tapped in a special eight-figure code only told to Engineers. The door opened, and she stepped in.

Gur’dan was sitting in the middle of the room, chest bare, thankfully wearing his trousers, legs crossed, hands on his knees, a beatific expression on his face, gently humming to himself. Mareva looked round the room. Well, at least he wasn’t starving. A bowl was on the table, and bags of Emarree were neatly arranged, in alternating colours.

“Mareva.” Gur’dan opened his eyes.

“Gur’dan.”

“I saw you without seeing.” He looked down. “Oh. Pardon my attire, or the lack of it. But I wanted to see if I could meditate upon the Wisdom of Hut for two days at a stretch, with only the interruptions needed to sustain the body. So I could not wear a shirt, because it would go out of alignment half-way through, interrupting me.”

Gur’dan glanced at the clock, and an expression of pure joy appeared on his face.

“And I’ve done it! Oh Mareva! I’ve done it!” His face fell. “If only Oraya could have been here to share this moment with me.”

“You’ve been sitting here? Meditating? For forty-eight hours?”

“Fifty-one, actually, not counting pauses for the filling and the emptying of the bowels. For the Mind cannot be turned wholly to the Glory of Hut if the body is in distress.”

Fifty-one hours?

“Yes! Praise be! I have done it! Oh, I must tell Supreme High Priest Aqaar!”

Mareva rolled her eyes. “Entertaining though it may be to watch Aqaar try to override the safety protocols on the airlock, I think this has gone far enough now. Put a shirt on, will you?”

“Yes. Yes, of course! I must tell my Brothers and Sisters at the Temple!”

“You do that,” said Mareva, weakly. maybe one of them would be able to convince Gur’dan what an idiot he was.


“Well, that’s that,” said the doctor. “You are as healthy as a Draenei girl can be.”

“Must be my diet,” said Mareva. “I eat only the healthiest of Emarree.”

“Well, exceedingly dull they may be, but I have to admit that they really do contain all the nutrients needed to sustain healthy limb and bone. Incredible. Well, my dear, it’s decision time again. Do you wish to be a mummy at some point in the next year, or not?”

Mareva stared at nothing for a while. It was a bit of a bad time for this particular decision, really. Last year, the answer had been a convinced no. The thought of her getting pregnant with a war on, had been absurd even to contemplate. There hadn’t been anyone that she wanted to get pregnant with anyway. This year, however… There was someone else who might have an opinion on the matter. She hadn’t asked him. It might upset him, at this early stage. Should she have? The contraceptive spell lasted a year. After that, if she did nothing, her fertility would slowly return. She sighed. Their future on Azeroth wasn’t certain. Not certain at all. For all she knew, he might just say goodbye to her there. It’s been fun, see you around. Git. If he wanted to get her pregnant, he’d just have to wait a bit.

“I think, not this year, Doctor.”

“Very well. Close your eyes.”

Mareva did, and felt one of the doctor’s hands on her forehead, the other on her stomach. Magic flowed, starting slowly, then increasing in intensity. She concentrated on her breath.

“There. All done.”

Mareva nodded. Just as last year, there was a brief pang of regret, as she was now a barren woman for another year. She smiled.

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. Is that all?”

“I think so. Well… actually. I have a friend.”

The doctor raised an eyebrow. “Male or female?”

“Male. Why?”

“No particular reason. What is the problem?”

“He’s caught a bad case of religion.”

The doctor laughed. “I do have pills against that, but they have regrettably fatal side-effects.”

“Yeah. He’s a Huttite.”

“That’s nothing to worry about. An innocent game.”

“It is not a game to him. He has just spent two whole days and nights in meditation.”

“I see. Without food or drink?”

“No. He has kept himself quite well. But still, this cannot be healthy. Can’t you do something?”

“Not really, no. Priestesses of the Light sometimes spend whole weeks in meditation. From a medical standpoint, I would much rather they didn’t, but people do other things that are much more demanding on the system.”

“But this is Hut we’re talking about. It’s a silly game, and he looks like he’s just devoted his whole life to it.”

“Well, that’s what happens with faith. He has found reason to believe. I must admit that Huttitism is rather a… young religion, but still. If it brings him joy, or fulfillment, then to him, it is worth the sacrifice.”

“But it isn’t. He’s left his girlfriend over it, and she’s heartbroken. She’s staying with me for now, but she misses him terribly.” Mareva frowned. “And I want my bed back, dammit. I have points to earn.”

“Oh, you’re a Deviant, are you? Now there’s a health risk if ever I saw one. You people do realise how lucky you are that none of your members so far has come down with a sexually transmitted disease?”

“We take all the appropriate precautions. Hygiene. Self-monitoring. The only place where people are more aware of these issues would be a brothel.”

“Oh, I know.” The doctor shook his head. “My wife is a member. You may have… met her.”

“Possibly. The end of the trip is in sight. We’re all on the final stretch and we need all the points we can get.”

“I see. Well, she seems to enjoy herself immensely, and I don’t grudge it. It’s all above board. Still, I’ll be glad to see the end of this trip, if only for that reason.”

Mareva looked at the doctor. She put a hand on his arm, and he looked into her eyes.

“She’s not really making love, you know? It’s just healthy exercise to most of us, with a bit of a twist.”

“I know that. It’s just that I don’t quite trust all the Deviants the way she does. Present company excluded of course. Well, anyway, there’s nothing I can do about your friend. If his new-found faith brings him the fulfillment he seeks, he’ll just have to adjust his life.”

“Thank you, Doctor.”


“You are not concentrating,” said Nobundo. “Something bothers you.”

It wasn’t a question. Mareva simply nodded.

“If you not want to tell me, fine.”

“One of my friends. He’s become a Huttite, for real.”

“Huttite? He not seen that clown of an Extremely High Priest? He make my eyes water whenever I see him.”

“He has, and even that did not help. Oraya is staying with me, and she’s really suffering. Poor girl. One of these days, she’s going to give up and you can believe someone else will snap her up. She’s gorgeous. And damn it. She deserves better than this.”

“Huh. Who is this boyfriend?”

“Gur’dan. He’s a cooking trainer. So there’s nothing for him to do, really.”

“What his cabin number?”

 

They had just gone to bed. Oraya was lying cuddled up in front of Mareva, who had her arm round her waist. It was the only way she could get her to go to sleep lately. Suddenly, the door chime rang, and Oraya jumped up.

“Something’s happened to him, I just know.”

Mareva blinked, as Oraya ran to the door and opened it. Framed in the doorway, Exodar’s lights behind him, stood the massive form of Gur’dan. Mareva shook herself awake.

“Oraya,” said Gur’dan, in a very very small voice.

“G-gur’dan?” Oraya’s voice quivered.

“I’ve been such a fool. Such an enormous fool. I don’t deserve it, but could you ever forg-“

“Yes!” Oraya leaped at him, wrapped her arms round him. “Yes. Yes. Yes. Please come back to me.”

Gur’dan stood motionless for a few moments. Then, he put his arm under Oraya’s knees, and picked her up like a small child. He turned round, and carried his love to his home. Mareva waved, completely stunned.

“Bye.”


“Your friends, they are alright, yes?”

“They must be. They haven’t come out of their cabin yet, except I saw Oraya hurry back there carrying a big box of Emarree. What did you tell him? I tried reasoning with him. So did several other people.”

Farseer Nobundo chuckled. “You expect me to give you secret? And even so, what good would do you to know?”

Mareva nodded seriously, quietly.

“I accept and respect that, Farseer. I just regret that, in that case, nobody will ever know just how clever you have been. I am sure it was a glorious moment.”

Farseer Nobundo burst out laughing. He looked at Mareva’s face, and started again.

“Very well, then. Will tell you. But first, must swear upon your honour that you will never tell of this. Must go no further than you.”

“I swear, Farseer.”

Nobundo shook out his sleeves, and put his hands in them in front of his stomach.

“Smacked him upside head and told him what a stupid zlotnik he was.”

Mareva’s jaw dropped.

“You hit him?”

“Yes. And told him he still had beautiful girlfriend, whose patience was running out. Have to choose. Sit on tail eating Emarree with spoon in left hand, watching someone else with hands on her tail, or take care of that important business himself. Work it out in three seconds, and run out the door.”

“Didn’t you tell me a while ago that violence was the last resort of the incompetent?”

“That is true.” Nobundo grinned. “For competent, is first option to use. Now. Concentrate. Perhaps today, Spirit of Air speak to you. Better be listening.”


Copyright: © 2008,2009,2010 Menno Willemse. All rights reserved.

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