The last day of being sheltered in the convent’s cold stone and red glass, and the last day the world is sheltered from me.
The elders are standing around me, the highest ranking of all the elven orders, though we only got to learn about a few. If I mess it up and they can’t withstand me, nobody can. I wonder if they make such a fuss for the other orders as well, but I doubt it. None have quite the reputation of poisoning their listeners, after all.
I straighten my shoulders, knowing I’ll slump them forward again the moment I get distracted.
“Initiate of Cirrunan, step forward.”
I take a pointless but ceremonially relevant step forward. Nevermind I’m the only initiate of anything in the room.
Cirrunan, I pray, since it seems the time for that, I know you like to mess things up, but can we work this out? I really want to succeed here.
“Initiate. Before you speak, let us know. Have you ever broken your vow of silence in the ten years you have been learning in this order?”
Here we go. I nod.
They don’t look surprised.
“How many times?”
I shrug. No idea.
“At what opportunities?”
This would be a lot easier if they let me speak already. But protocol is protocol. I make a gesture of cutting into my hand, then raise my arms and simulate something falling on top of my head, then, how do I do the others…
Another elder smiles and speaks up. “Let us leave out the cases of injuries and mishaps and other accidental raising of the voice. We expect those. Were there any others?”
“If I may,” Birnan, our own elder, says. “It was near the beginning of his training. Another boy talked to his plant, and it died. Nandred tried to complain to me. I tried to discourage it because we regard the telling on others as part of what makes our words venomous. Something we have to guard ourselves against. But he was young and didn’t understand. He thought he wasn’t making himself clear, so he spoke up.” Birnan’s smile is fond when he continues, “I had the flu for some weeks. He didn’t talk again after that.”
Some of the others join in the smiles. It’s not quite correct, but what a charming anecdote it is.
“Is this correct?” another elder asks.
They just had to ask, didn’t they? But now’s the time to be honest. Lies are poison, et cetera. Cirrunan, if you want me, you’d better make this work. I make a vague, weighing gesture.
The elder raises his massive eyebrows. So does Birnan.
“Which part is untrue? Is it true that you did not speak up after that? Again, injuries and such exempt.”
“Then is it the circumstance of your speaking?”
The circumstance… No, that was quite as Birnan had said. Vague weighing gesture again. Headshake.
“The motivation, then?”
Birnan is looking puzzled.
Another elder smiles. I recognise her robes. Giskri’s order. “You’re raising little vipers and think them innocent? Come now. I say all’s as it should be. Ordain the lad already.”
Cirrunan’s sister’s order would be the one to accept, and to know how things are.
They murmur amongst each other, and then Birnan steps forward. “Come forth, then, Nandred, and be anointed a priest of Cirrunan. You will go out into the world and counsel the mighty. But always remember that your words are poison if you do not guard them. Do you vow to speak on behalf of Cirrunan in all things or not at all?”
Here is the time, then. Constrain the poison, and speak. “Yes.” Simple, scratchy, and not sounding like me at all. I cough.
They’re still standing. That’s good.
Birnan smiles. “Then we welcome you into our ranks. But before you leave this room, tell us: Why did you break your vow back then?”
Of course, until we leave the room, they’re entitled to the truth. I shrug. “You didn’t help me. He killed my plant.”
“Why,” Giskri’s priest drawls. “You’re just like our little brother.”
And I’m saved. By tradition, they have to accept that assessment from her, even if to many of them it is not a good thing at all.