May 12th, 1294
Derbent province, Georgia
The abbot’s office, unlike the others Ask had visited, was plain, almost shabby, except for the large golden crucifix on the wall and the well-worn praying mat beneath it. The abbot himself was a little man, thin in an ascetic fashion, with piercing gray eyes; he said nothing as Ask was shown in, rising to extend his hand and sizing up his guest. There was the usual brief awkwardness when Ask took his hand and shook it rather than kissing it, but this abbot did not make an issue of the matter. Others had had him thrown out for that.
It seemed that Ask had guessed right; out here in the sticks you might find abbots who were Christians first and politicians later, unlike the greasy, wealthy examples closer to the major cities. That wasn’t all good, of course; a genuine Christian would be all the more opposed to the Yngling agenda if he knew what it was about. And bribery was right out – but then, that was why Ask had been trying the major cities first; on the subject of the Angel, the abbots and officials, so clearly corruptible in all other ways, were remarkably honest. Scared, perhaps? The ones who had tried to warn him off had not seemed to be lying; they might actually believe their own propaganda.
Still, although a truly faithful man was likely immune to bribes of gold, he might succumb to flattery – not personal, but of his faith. That was an angle the city abbots were clearly immune to; Ask hadn’t even bothered to try. Hence this carefully-selected monastery; prestigious enough to have some clout, poor enough not to be considered a plum post to be intrigued and bribed for.
“I understand,” the abbot began, “that you wish to speak to the Angel.”
“That is true.”
“What sort of Christian would hear of a true messenger of the God, on this Earth, and not wish to speak to it for himself, to be strengthened in his faith?”
“Communion with the Angel is dangerous. Men have had their minds broken by the glory.”
Again with the danger! Surely these men couldn’t all be liars good enough to fool uptime training. They must really believe their warnings. Then again, the Angel clearly wasn’t anything of the sort, whatever the Georgians believed; perhaps the ‘broken minds’ were merely those who were unable to reconcile its revelations with their preconceptions. Indeed, a sufficiently orthodox mind might interpret mere honesty as madness. Oh well, on with the pablum:
“In the search for salvation, risk to one’s mere mind is taken lightly; it is the soul that matters.”
The fool was eating it up; and however faithful, he couldn’t have gotten his position without some thought for politics. To convert a powerful emissary from a far-off land to the correct faith – how much prestige might there be in that? And, honest Christian that he was, the abbot was likely genuinely concerned for Ask’s soul. He would not lightly turn down someone he might save from hellfire.
“That is true. Still, not everyone can benefit from the Angel’s words. Come, let us pray together.”
Ask sighed internally, but smiled and nodded, following the abbot to the prayer mat and kneeling. He had never been any good at the meditation exercises at school, the ones that were supposed to bring you conscious control of adrenaline and endorphins, but for lack of anything better to occupy his mind, he went into the initial blanking anyway.
An interminable time later, the abbot rose, smiling and refreshed; Ask followed suit, doing his best not to look like a man contemplating murder from boredom.
“You bring me good tidings, my son; my prayers were answered. It is rare that I feel the presence of the God so closely. It has been made clear to me: You shall visit the Angel, and hear truth.”
To be continued.