Sacred Host

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Elfangor
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Re: Sacred Host

Post by Elfangor » Mon May 25, 2009 5:56 pm

Thanks Luna and Qoheleth! *Goes to read*
You all have guns
And you never put the safety on
And you all have plans,
To take it



Don't Take It

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Re: Sacred Host

Post by Spencer » Tue May 26, 2009 2:12 pm

Story added to FFN favorites.

This story = full of win

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Re: Sacred Host

Post by Elfangor » Tue May 26, 2009 4:37 pm

Yea it was good.
I finished it last night (What has been written) And I can't wait for next chapter.
You all have guns
And you never put the safety on
And you all have plans,
To take it



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Re: Sacred Host

Post by Qoheleth » Sat May 30, 2009 7:47 pm

Chapter 4 - Without Benefit of Shamrocks

And thus it was that, three days later, as Teresa was just completing her third tic-tac-toe game (a draw, of course), a shadow fell across the floor of her cage, and she glanced upward into a familiar-looking Hork-Bajir face.

“Gef?” she said, somewhat startled.

“No,” said the figure. “My name is Toloth Two-Nine-Four. I am vag nitskaha temit…” He frowned, and clamped down on Gef’s Hork-Bajir instincts. “I am a lieutenant in the Sub-Visser’s personal guard.”

“Oh.”

There was a moment’s expectant silence.

“Well, I’m not going to curtsy, if that’s what you’re waiting for,” said Teresa at length.

Toloth grinned. “From what I know of you, I scarcely expected it,” he said. “It is not obeisance I require of you, but information.”

“Information?” Teresa said with surprise, trying to recall any compromising data she might have inadvertently discovered about the Andalite guerrillas. “Like what?”

“Could you tell me, precisely,” said Toloth, “what the name ‘Jesus’ means to you?”

Teresa stared. This was the last thing she had expected, and, truth to tell, one of the last things she had desired. A few pacifying words to a fellow slave was one thing; a detailed description of her faith for the benefit of one of her captors was something else entirely.

“Why, what has Gef been telling you?” she said, with an attempt at a laugh.

“Very little,” said Toloth, without one. “That is why I desired a fuller explanation. Begin at the beginning, and omit as little as possible.”

Teresa took a deep breath and sent up a prayer: Okay, God, I’m not crazy about this, but if You’ll stay with me, I think I can make it. Just don’t let me mess up too badly.

So – begin at the beginning. The beginning. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and…” No, that was getting into too deep waters for a first discussion. Better to start one Gospel earlier.

“Okay,” she said. “About two thousand years ago, an angel appeared to a girl named Mary…”

“Stop,” said Toloth.

Teresa blinked. “What’s the matter?”

“Nothing,” said Toloth. “I merely require a clarification. What is an angel?”

“Oh,” said Teresa. “It’s a bodiless spirit that’s directly in contact with God and, um, serves Him in various ways.”

Toloth nodded. “I see. Please continue.”

“This angel appeared to Mary,” said Teresa, “and told her she was going to have a baby, and this baby was going to be the Son of God.”

“Jesus had a son?” said Toloth.

“No,” said Teresa. “The son was Jesus.”

“Ah,” said Toloth. “My mistake. I was under the impression that Jesus was your God.”

“He is,” said Teresa.

Toloth frowned. “You have two gods, then?”

“No.”

Toloth’s frown deepened. “Then… then Jesus is his own son?”

“Well… maybe, kind of,” said Teresa, considering. “But not really… no. No, not at all.”

Toloth stared at her for several seconds without speaking. When he did speak, it was with the cajoling tone of one who is trying to humor an irritatingly whimsical child.

“Human,” he said, “I am sure that, in your mind, there is a perfectly straightforward answer for this little riddle of yours. I would appreciate it, however, if you would simply tell me what it is and not be coy about it.”

“Okay,” said Teresa, slightly nettled. “In the first place, my name isn’t ‘human’.”

“Pardon?”

“You called me ‘human’ just now. My name is Teresa.”

Toloth chuckled. “Willful little creature, aren’t you?” he said. “Very well, then, Teresa. How are Jesus and his father both your God?”

Teresa closed her eyes, thinking of all the explanations of the Trinity she had ever heard or read, searching for one that was both complete enough to satisfy an advanced alien and simple enough that she could remember it all.

“Okay,” she said. “You know the basic difference between person and nature?”

“I can’t say I’ve ever thought about it,” said Toloth.

“Okay,” said Teresa. “Basically, person is who someone is, and nature is what something is. So, if I were to ask you who you are, you would say… um, what’s your name again?”

“Toloth Two-Nine-Four of the Sulp Niar pool,” said Toloth Two-Nine-Four of the Sulp Niar pool.

“Right. So you would say, ‘I’m Toloth Two-Nine-Four of the Sulp Niar pool,’ because that’s what describes you as a person. On the other hand, if I asked you what you are, you would say, ‘I am a Yeerk,’ because that’s your nature.”

“I see.”

“Now, once you realize that, of course, you realize that person and nature don’t always have a one-to-one correspondence. For instance, if I asked, ‘What is this?’–” Teresa slapped one of the bars of her cage with the palm of her hand “– you would say, ‘It’s a cage,’ but if I asked, ‘Who is this?’ you’d just look at me funny.”

“True enough,” said Toloth.

“And the reason for that is that a cage nature is lesser than a human nature or a Yeerk nature,” said Teresa, “so that cages have zero persons where a human or a Yeerk has one. But God’s nature, if you stop to think about it, is incomparably greater than a human’s or a Yeerk’s…”

A light dawned in Toloth’s eyes. “And so he has two persons? The one, Jesus, and the other, his father?”

“Three, actually,” said Teresa. “There’s also a Holy Spirit that I hadn’t gotten to yet.”

Toloth leaned back onto his tail and spent a few moments digesting this concept.

“That is subtle,” he said at length.

“Thank you,” said Teresa.

“Extremely subtle,” said Toloth. “Simple, yes – remarkably simple, and yet…” He stopped, and attempted to put his confused thoughts in some kind of order.

“No Hork-Bajir would ever have thought of that,” he said at last.

Teresa smiled. “Well, no human probably ever would have, either,” she said. “We just happened to get it as a revelation.”

“Hmm?” said Toloth. “Oh, yes, yes, of course.” It was clear from his expression, however, that Teresa’s disclaimer had not really sunk in.

“Well, thank you, Teresa,” he said. “It has been very… very enlightening.” Slowly, he lowered himself back onto his feet and walked off in the direction of the voluntary-host area.

Teresa leaned back in her cage and ran her fingers through her hair. Her mind, while not as busied as Toloth’s, was nonetheless a jumble of thoughts, concerns, and prayers: Did I get that right? Did it make any impact on him? How did I get into this situation, anyway, Lord?

Eventually, however, one thought overwhelmed all the others by virtue of its sheer novelty. I did it, she thought. I just defended the Trinity to a Yeerk.

And hot on the heels of that thought came a second: Holy cow, I’m an apologist. I’m doing what Scott Hahn does.

And then came a third thought, which, unlike the first two, Teresa wasn’t quite convinced was her own: Well done, good and faithful servant.

Taken together, the three thoughts constituted such a gratifying and nourishing reflection that Teresa’s mind had no room for anything else, and she barely noticed when the guards came to take her to the pier. A soul that has fulfilled its calling has little time to be concerned with such trivialities as its own liberty.
****************
Author's note: My thanks to Luna May for adding the link to the FF.net version of Sacred Host. Anything that gets my stories more favoritings is okay in my book.

I'm still going to post the rest of it on this forum, though. After all, some people might prefer to read the story with the proper thought-speak symbols. (Though actually I rather like having to use guillemets for that purpose on FF.net. It's nice to see thought-speak in real quotation marks for a change.)

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Re: Sacred Host

Post by Elfangor » Sat May 30, 2009 7:54 pm

Thanks for posting it also on here. I dont like reading stuff on FFN
You all have guns
And you never put the safety on
And you all have plans,
To take it



Don't Take It

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Re: Sacred Host

Post by Qoheleth » Thu Jun 04, 2009 8:51 am

Chapter 5: The Disconsolation of Philosophy

Toloth took an unusually long time to traverse the length of the Yeerk pool and rejoin his fellow guards. He knew that the Sub-Visser would not be pleased to find him missing so long, but somehow he could not make this knowledge real to himself; there was so much else to think about.

What he had said to Teresa, that no Hork-Bajir would ever have thought of the doctrine of the Trinity, was quite true, but it was largely a cover for the real issue, which was that Toloth felt uncomfortably sure that no Yeerk would have ever thought of it, either. This disturbed him greatly, as he was accustomed to thinking of his people as the natural overlords of the galaxy, and of all other races (with the possible exception of the Andalites) as so much livestock to be caught and exploited.

His anticipation of his talk with Teresa had been colored by this assumption. He had expected to hear simplistic myths of all-powerful figures who were obviously ill-disguised personifications of natural forces (akin to the Hork-Bajir stories of Mother Sky and Father Deep), and Teresa’s mention of angels had seemed to him to fully justify these expectations – and then she had gone and stuck him with a concept so logical, so elegant, so dapsenly sophisticated, that it made the most profound conceptions of his own people’s greatest thinkers seem banal and trivial by comparison.

He tried to tell himself that it was of no consequence, that the most incongruous survivals could be found in any culture’s mythology, but it was no use. Logic kept forcing his mind back to a simple, necessary alternative: either the doctrine Teresa had just espoused was a creation of the human mind, or humans had gotten it from elsewhere. If the former, then the Yeerk invasion of Earth was based on a false principle, for it held that humans were weak-minded, easily-gulled simpletons, not a philosopher-race of such wisdom and shrewdness that it could scarcely be equaled anywhere in the galaxy. If the latter, that didn’t mend things much, since a race has to be fairly intelligent even to receive such a concept; a Hork-Bajir, for instance, could never have processed it. (Toloth verified this last assertion with a quick glance at Gef’s higher-thought centers; they showed fairly clearly that Teresa’s explication of the Three-in-One had made no impact whatsoever on the young Hork-Bajir.)

And where could they have gotten it from, anyway? Either from some wandering philosopher from another world, such as a Skrit Na – which seemed to Toloth unlikely – or from… well, from the Being that they claimed it was from. There was really no third alternative.

“And what of us, then?” he murmured. “If humans are a race of either sages or prophets, what will become of the race that attempts to enslave them?”

This disturbing reflection so preoccupied his mind that he failed to look where he was going, and thus he did not see his fellow guardsman, Lissim Seven-One-Three, until he nearly collided with him.

“Whoa, careful, Toloth!” said Lissim with a chuckle (in Galard, of course). “Watch those blades! You’re not a Gedd-Controller anymore, remember!”

“Oh,” said Toloth, blinking. “My apologies.”

“Where have you been, anyway?” said Lissim. “You’ve been gone for over an hour; the Sub-Visser’s practically breathing fire.”

“I…” Toloth began, and then hesitated, trying to figure out a description of his activities that Lissim would find comprehensible and not unduly alarming. “I was observing the human hosts,” he said finally.

“Ah,” said Lissim, with a knowing look on his face. “Of course. The eternally ambitious Toloth Two-Nine-Four, always seeking a leg up on the competition.”

“Precisely,” said Toloth.

“Well, I’m glad you’ve decided to finally rejoin us, at any rate,” said Lissim, as the two of them turned back towards the pavilion where the Sub-Visser’s entourage waited. “Though I dare say you’ll be scurrying back there as soon as you spot an opportunity.”

“I shall return, yes,” said Toloth, with a backward glance at the young woman who was being dreamily escorted to the pier.

“In three days, I think, I shall return.”

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Re: Sacred Host

Post by Qoheleth » Thu Jun 11, 2009 7:36 pm

Chapter 6: The Hand of His Own Counsel

Three days, of course, is a long time to sustain an emotion, and, when Toloth returned to Teresa’s cage the following Wednesday, his qualms about the Yeerk conquest of Earth had completely dissipated. He had not actually refuted his own arguments, of course; he had simply decided that anything so contradictory to the ideas he had believed all his life must be somehow erroneous. It was not a strictly logical thought process, but then Yeerks – as their history of emotional instability would indicate – are not a strictly logical race.

“You remember me, I trust,” he said.

Teresa nodded.

“As you will recall,” said Toloth, “I left rather hastily last time…”

“That’s all right,” said Teresa. “I didn’t mind.”

Toloth blinked. “I was not apologizing,” he said.

Teresa’s face hardened, and her tone grew sarcastic. “Oh, no, of course not,” she said. “Forgive me for thinking that you might be.”

Then, abruptly, she shut her mouth – shut it so tightly, in fact, that Toloth could see her lips whiten with loss of blood – and took a deep breath. When she spoke again, it was in a much softer and more measured tone.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I’m not always as calm as I should be about these things. Please forgive me.”

In his entire life, Toloth had never had a host apologize to him for anything. It caught him off guard, and he mumbled the first meaningless courtesy that came to mind, which happened to be a Desbadeen phrase meaning “My claws are retracted”.

As Teresa did not know the Desbadeen language, she was somewhat at a loss for a response. Conversation, accordingly, languished for a number of seconds.

“What was it you wanted to say?” said Teresa finally.

Toloth seemed to come out of a daze. “What?”

“You started to say something about the last time we met,” said Teresa. “Then I interrupted you, and…”

“Ah, yes,” said Toloth. “The last time we met, yes. If I remember correctly, you had just finished explaining to me how your God was three persons in one nature, and how one of these persons – the one you call Jesus, I believe – had become the son of a woman named Mary.”

Teresa nodded. “Yeah, that sounds about right.”

“Now why,” said Toloth, “would a god do that?”

Teresa swallowed. She had never met anyone who was quite so gifted at coming to the point as this Yeerk.

“Jesus became the Son of Mary,” she said slowly, “because we were sinful creatures, and we needed to be made right with God.”

Toloth cocked his head. “And if Jesus took the form of a human, that would accomplish that?” he said.

“Well, it wasn’t just the form of a human He took,” said Teresa. “He took our whole nature upon Himself. He became as weak and vulnerable as a human, while at the same time staying as powerful as God.”

Toloth frowned. “Is this another idea like the multiple-persons-in-a-single-nature one?” he asked.

“Um… sort of,” said Teresa. “Actually, it’s the reverse of that idea: instead of having three persons who all share one nature, with Jesus you have two natures combined in one person. So if you asked who he was, you would only get one answer, but if you…”

Toloth nodded impatiently. “Thank you, Teresa, I do remember how the distinction works,” he said.

Calm, Teresa, the young apologist told herself as she felt her bile rise again. Stay calm. He’s a Yeerk, he’s spent his whole life dominating other life-forms, he has certain mannerisms that are going to annoy you, but at bottom he’s as much a child of God as you are. Remember that, and don’t start snapping at him just because he’s not as polite as his host.

“Right, okay,” she said. “So Jesus was both God and a human. And that was important, because humans had gotten the world into a real mess. See, back when the first humans were created, the universe had been completely flawless; there was no suffering, no death, no evil, nothing. All of nature existed in perfect harmony with the Source of Eternal Goodness Who had created it.”

“It must have been pleasant,” Toloth murmured.

“I would assume so,” said Teresa, “though I wasn’t there, of course.”

Toloth frowned in puzzlement. “What does that have to do with anything?” he said. “Of course existing in perfect harmony with a source of eternal goodness would be a pleasant experience. You don’t need to experience it personally to realize that.”

“Right, of course,” said Teresa hastily, making a mental note not to rely too much on human humor when speaking to this particular inquirer. “The problem was, though, that God had given the first humans – their names were Adam and Eve – a way to disrupt that harmony. It seems there was a certain fruit-bearing tree in the middle of the garden where they lived, and God had told them that, if they ever ate the fruit off it, they would bring death into the world.”

Toloth blinked. “Wait,” he said. “Your God, your source of eternal goodness, provided the means for evil to enter the world. Is that what I am to understand?”

Teresa hesitated, and spent some moments considering the question before slowly responding, “Um… yeah, I guess so. But He didn’t make them choose it, He just…”

Toloth waved his hand. “Never mind whether he made them choose it,” he said. “If he provided the opportunity for evil to exist, then to that extent he was involved in its creation. Correct?”

“If you wanted to put it that way, I guess you could,” Teresa admitted.

“All right,” said Toloth – and it seemed to Teresa that there was a note of either triumph or relief, or possibly both, in his voice. “Now, if your God is the source of all goodness, and also the source of all evil, how is he distinguishable from nothing at all? Don’t the scientists teach us that two contraries, when brought together, annihilate each other?”

“But God isn’t the source of all evil,” said Teresa.

“You just said he was,” said Toloth, with that same curious note of a relieved sneer.

Teresa shook her head. “No, I didn’t,” she said. “I said that God permitted evil. And He does. But permitting something isn’t the same thing as causing it.”

“Isn’t permitting evil itself an evil?” rejoined Toloth.

“No.”

“Why not?”

In truth, Teresa had no idea. All she knew was that “God is not a tempter of evils, and he tempteth no man”, and that therefore, if God permitted evil to exist, that permission could not itself be evil. In short, she was operating on faith, and hoping that her reason would come along for the ride – and, to the consternation of Rationalists everywhere, it did.

“Well, what’s the alternative?” she said. “If you don’t admit even the possibility of evil, then no one can ever reject evil in order to choose good. And that’s the best kind of good there is, so wouldn’t it be supremely evil to prevent it from ever happening?”

Slowly, the look of condescending triumph faded from Toloth’s face, to be replaced by an expression of reluctant uncertainty. “Do you mean to say,” he said slowly, “that good cannot be fully good unless it threatens itself with annihilation?”

“Phrase it however you want,” said Teresa. She was speaking very quickly now, for fear that she would lose whatever was being poured into her if she stopped to think for too long. “You can say that God only permits evil so He can make good out of it. You can say that love that’s compelled isn’t really love. You can say that freedom is a greater good than existence. However you say it, it’s true.”

As soon as the last two sentences were out of her mouth, she suddenly remembered what sort of creature she was talking to. She clapped her mouth shut, and glanced up uncertainly at the enormous Hork-Bajir-Controller in front of her cage.

Toloth’s expression had grown cold and unreadable. Without saying a word, he rose from his place on the ground, turned his back on the young apologist, and walked away from the row of cages.

Teresa flopped down onto the floor of her cage and sank her head into her hands. I’m sorry, God, she said silently. I tried, I really did…

And, for the second time in four days, a thought seemed to come to her from somewhere outside her mind. Peace, child, it said. You have done all that was needed for now. Leave the rest for another time.

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Re: Sacred Host

Post by Qoheleth » Thu Jun 18, 2009 8:45 am

Toloth had no intention of ever returning to the human girl’s cage. The sense of betrayal that he felt concerning her was passionate, consuming, and, to an outside observer, all but inexplicable. Here this twin-lobed primate had been leading him on, making him think all kinds of nonsense about her God and her religion, when all the time it had been nothing more than a front for the freedom-and-equality cant that host organisms always pulled out when they wanted to justify their stupid, instinctive resistance to their rightful masters. Well, a threefold dapsen to that.

It would be unfair to the Yeerk soldier to imply that this was, even now, the only thought in his mind. A more philosophical part of himself – the part that had been so impressed with Trinitarianism – was still quietly suggesting that Teresa did not seem like the sort of creature to build up an entire epistemology merely to justify her own willfulness, that it was quite possible for an idea to lead to certain conclusions without having been conceived in order to justify those conclusions, and that, in fact, the child’s idea of goodness as something that necessarily suggested the possibility of evil was rather intriguing, and might very well be worthy of further consideration. This part, however, would not regain control of Toloth’s mind for several feeding cycles. Right now, his rage, annoyance, and frustration at being made to feel a fool overwhelmed all his other sentiments – including his desire to attain advancement by acquiring knowledge of the human mind. He understood the human mind quite well enough, now.

And there the matter might have rested, had it not been for Gef Makkil. Toloth had very nearly forgotten that it was his host who had directed him towards Teresa Sickles in the first place, and he was, consequently, somewhat surprised when, at the end of a particularly tedious day of following the Sub-Visser around at a distance of three paces, Gef broke into his thoughts with a hesitant, <Toloth Two-Nine-Four?>

Toloth sighed. <Yes, Gef, what is it?>

<Today is second day from last talk with Teresa,> said Gef slowly, like someone working out an unusually intricate chain of logic. <Tomorrow is third day.>

<Ah,> said Toloth. <So the little Hork-Bajir has learned to do math now. Well, what about it?>

<We go back tomorrow?>

<No,> said Toloth firmly. <We do not go back tomorrow.>

Gef thereupon lapsed into a reverie that lasted several minutes, and Toloth was just beginning to let his mind drift to the upcoming Esiln Kalkat festival that the Sub-Visser was rumored to be planning when the young Hork-Bajir spoke again. <Then I go back tomorrow,> he said.

<Excuse me?> said Toloth.

<When Toloth go to feed,> said Gef. <Gef Makkil kill guards, escape from Sub-Visser’s pool. Then go to big pool, meet Teresa.>

If Toloth had had a jaw, it would have dropped. <You cannot be serious,> he said.

Even as he said it, though, a glance at Gef’s thoughts assured him he was wrong. In three years of infestation, he had never seen his host so resolute.

<But see here, you great lummox,> he said, <don’t you realize that no Hork-Bajir can defeat the entire Sub-Visserial Guard single-handedly?>

<Is not easy,> Gef admitted.

<Is utterly impossible, more likely,> said Toloth. <And once they’ve taken you down, do you suppose they’ll let you off with a warning again? Remember, this will be your second escape attempt in two weeks – and pool guards don’t like repeat offenders.>

<No,> said Gef. <If Yeerks capture, will kill. But Toloth Two-Nine-Four not want Gef Makkil dead.>

Toloth hesitated. <Well… no, of course not,> he said. <You’re a superb physical specimen; it could take me half a cycle to find an equally satisfactory host body.>

<Then we go back tomorrow?>

Toloth was silent for a moment, as he digested the implications of those five words. <Do you mean,> he said at last, <that you will deliberately get yourself killed if I don’t go and talk philosophy to a human juvenile tomorrow?>

<Yes,> said Gef simply. <Gef and Toloth meet Teresa tomorrow, or Gef die.>

And Toloth knew there was no way of stopping him. If there was one thing that terrified Sub-Visser One Hundred and Fifty-Three, it was the idea of host revolt; he would never consent to let a known renegade live just to make life easier on a subordinate. And once Gef was dead, Toloth’s hope of ever making it into the second century went down the sulp-niar sieve; the way Hork-Bajir bodies were rationed, it would be a miracle if he remained in the Sub-Visser’s guard.

Toloth groaned quietly to himself; there must really be something wrong with him. Bad enough to be bamboozled by the philosophical double-talk of a human, but to be strategically outmaneuvered by a Hork-Bajir…

<All right,> he said. <We will go back to Teresa’s cage tomorrow. But could you please tell me, you great squamous imbecile, just why this human girl is so infernally important to you?>

Gef hesitated, and Toloth watched him attempt to put his half-felt emotions into coherent thoughts. <Teresa have knowledge of beginning things,> he said at last.

<Beginning things?> Toloth queried.

<Yes,> said Gef. <Things that make life, that know why things live. No point in living without knowledge of beginning things.>

<I see,> said Toloth. <And just what good does it do you to listen to Teresa talk about “beginning things”, since you can’t understand two consecutive words she says?>

<It does good,> said Gef firmly.

Toloth sighed. <Oh, have it your way,> he said.

<I do,> said Gef. <Tomorrow.>
Last edited by Qoheleth on Thu Sep 12, 2013 8:22 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Sacred Host

Post by Qoheleth » Fri Jun 19, 2009 6:45 pm

Chapter 8: The Power of an Endless Life

Teresa’s mood, as she lay in her cage on the following day, was not the sunniest it had ever been. It happened to be a Sunday, and attending Mass as the unwilling slave of a cheerfully pagan alien parasite was not one of Teresa’s favorite things to do. (She could remember a time, a few years before, when Sundays and holy days had been the high points of her week; now, she looked forward to them with something like dread.)

And, of course, the events of the previous Thursday had done nothing to improve matters. Indeed, Malcar, inspired by the gospel reading, had spent nearly the entire hour reflecting on what a shame it was that Teresa had made that terrible faux pas with Toloth, and how unlikely it now was that she would ever get another chance to "testify to the light" to the worthy Gef Makkil. What had made this particularly disagreeable was that Teresa fully believed Malcar to be right.

So all that Teresa wanted to do, now, was curl up in her cage, close her eyes, and shut out the rest of the world, and it was with a good deal of annoyance that she heard a kind of metallic twanging and realized that someone was banging on the bars of her cage. She opened her eyes and looked up wearily – and then her jaw fell open as she recognized the figure in front of her.

"Toloth?" she whispered.

"Listen to me, human," said the Hork-Bajir-Controller. "There are a few rules we will be observing from now on. In the first place, you will answer only the questions that I put to you, and not attempt to inject your own attempts at profundity. In the second place, you will not discuss this conversation with any of your fellow hosts, and you will encourage your Controller, if she knows what is good for her, to keep silent about it as well. In the third place, I don’t care what your name is; you are ‘human’ so far as I am concerned. Is that clear?"

It is, perhaps, a violation of the hagiographer’s code to mention that Teresa’s immediate emotion, on hearing this, was a rather uncharitable gratification that someone, at least, was in an even worse mood than she was. Nonetheless, it is the truth.

"Perfectly," she said.

"Good," said Toloth. "Now. The last time we spoke, you told me that your god Jesus became a human because humans were sinful. Explain to me, please, how the two things are related."

Teresa had to think about that for a moment. She had accepted the fact of Christ’s redemptive suffering for as long as she could remember, but she had never really concerned herself with the reason for it, and every exegesis she’d ever read on the subject had only served to confuse her.

"Perhaps I should have mentioned," said Toloth, after a few seconds had passed, "that I will be expecting your answers to be prompt, as well as to the point. My time is quite valuable to me, and…"

"Okay, okay," said Teresa. "How do you usually get rid of sin?"

This wasn’t at all how she had expected to begin. She had been thinking, when Toloth interrupted her, of Robert Farrar Capon’s theory that perverted creation can only be sanctified by a completely unperverted priest – a bit of mysticism which would likely have made little impact on the ruthlessly practical being in front of her. At the last moment, though, a completely different and far vaguer glimmer of thought occurred to her, and spilled out her mouth without her conscious volition.

Toloth seemed to be as surprised as she was. "What?" he said.

"How do you get rid of sin?" Teresa repeated, with a decision that would have convinced any observer that she knew what conclusion she was leading towards. "Come on, it’s a simple question."

"I was under the impression that I was asking the questions," said Toloth.

"If you answer me this one, I won’t ask you another one," said Teresa. "Now come on. How do you get rid of sin?"

Toloth sighed; it seemed to him that the initiative was slipping from his grasp once again. "A Yeerk philosopher," he offered reluctantly, "once said that every wrong thing done requires a right thing done as well, and every injury inflicted on another requires an injury inflicted on oneself."

It crossed Teresa’s mind that it was typical of a Yeerk to jump straight to expiation without even discussing repentance, but she kept that observation to herself. "Okay," she said. "So sin carries a price with it, right?"

"Is that another question?" said Toloth, his eyes narrowing.

"Um, no, not really," said Teresa. "That’s a statement. Sin carries a price."

"All right."

"And the price gets bigger the more sins you commit," said Teresa. "A lifetime of theft requires more expiation than a single candy bar swiped from a checkout counter when you were twelve. So you can just imagine what the cost is when you add together all the sins that have ever been committed, or ever will be committed, anywhere."

Toloth inclined his head wordlessly.

"It’s a lot more than a human being can pay," said Teresa. "Or even all the human beings in the world put together. The only one who could pay a price like that would be God – but if God paid it, it wouldn’t mean anything, since it’s humans who incurred the cost, and it’s humans who have to pay it." She hesitated. "That is, humans and Yeerks… and Andalites… and Hork-Bajir, I guess…"

"Sellithik," said Toloth.

Teresa blinked. "What?"

"The word you are searching for is sellithik," said Toloth. "Sentient beings that dominate their planets."

"Oh," said Teresa. "Is that Galard?"

"Yeerkish," said Toloth. "Coined by Akdor One-One-Five-Four shortly after the beginning of the Andalite War."

This didn’t strike Teresa as a recommendation for the term, but she decided to live with it for the time being. "Okay, fine," she said. "Sellithik incurred the cost, so it had to be sellithik who paid it. But only God was even capable of paying the cost, so it had to be God who paid it. So there was only one way to solve the problem."

Here she paused, waiting for Toloth to finish the thought. She had, however, forgotten about Toloth’s newfound determination not to get drawn into dialectic with her. Instead of responding, the Yeerk soldier simply stared at her for a number of seconds, and then prompted, "Yes?"

"Um… God had to become a sellithik," Teresa said.

She wanted to kick herself. It seemed like such an inadequate way of expressing the central mystery of her faith, and it was only made worse when Toloth corrected her grammar. "A sellith, you mean," he said. "Sellithik is plural."

"Oh," said Teresa, flushing. "Right."

There was another pause.

"Is that all?" Toloth inquired.

Teresa sighed. "Yeah, I guess so," she said. "As the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and Man is one Christ; who suffered for our salvation, descended into Hell, rose again on the third day from the dead. This is the Catholic Faith, which except a man believe faithfully, he cannot be saved."

And having given this remarkable abbreviation of the Athanasian Creed, she sank back down onto the floor of her cage and shut her eyes, and Toloth, perceiving that there was no further point to his remaining, rose and walked silently away.

<Well, my little gelathiir,> he said silently, <does that satisfy your craving for "beginning things"?>

But Gef’s mind was still processing Teresa’s last remark. <Saved?> he said. <Gef Makkil not saved if he not believe Jesus?>

<That’s what the human said,> said Toloth.

<Then Gef believe,> said the Hork-Bajir with an air of decision. <What Gef do if he believe?>

<What?> said Toloth, with a sudden sinking feeling.

<What Gef do if he believe Jesus?> Gef repeated.

<How should I know?> Toloth demanded. <Do I look like a student of human religions?>

The correct answer, given Toloth’s recent activities, would probably have been "Yes", but Gef did not bother to give it. <Teresa know,> he said. <Teresa believe. We go back three days, Teresa teach Gef how to believe.>

Toloth wanted to scream. No host body is worth this, he thought.

But then he saw an image of himself sent back to the ranks of Gedd-Controllers – or, worse, quasi-Controller of the mindless appetite of a Taxxon – and he knew, even as he cursed himself for the weakness, that he would suffer countless humiliations rather than accept that fate. He was a slave to his own ambition, and the fact that he fully realized it made things no easier.

<All right,> he said. Three days. <Fine. And then again three days after that, I suppose. You and the human Teresa can make a regular ritual out of it, if you like. After all, it isn’t as though I have any particular life of my own to lead. I can find perfect contentment just shuttling my host in and out of the Sulp Niar pool so he can become a more perfect professor of the Jesus cult. Nothing would please me more.>

Hork-Bajir do not generally have a finely developed sense of irony. The only thing Gef picked up from this impassioned speech was the basic idea that Gef had acceded to his request, and so he responded, with perfect simplicity, <Good.>

And Toloth fumed in silence all the way back to the Sub-Visser’s Bug fighter.
Last edited by Qoheleth on Tue Feb 25, 2014 1:35 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Qoheleth
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Re: Sacred Host

Post by Qoheleth » Sun Jun 21, 2009 2:34 pm

When he arrived at the Bug fighter, however, he walked into a scene of such remarkable uproar that it drove his collected resentments completely out of his mind. Sub-Visser One Hundred and Fifty-Three was standing in the center of a cluster of Taxxon-Controllers, berating them with all the vocal and histrionic power at his human host’s command, and all the Taxxons were defending themselves simultaneously with the standard hisses and sputters of Taxxon speech. The result was a cacophony of mismatched noise that, had he been a student of Earthly literature, would have reminded Toloth of the divine judgment on Pandaemonium in Book X of Paradise Lost.

He strained his ears to make out individual words, in the hope that he might thereby determine the cause of the quarrel, but to no avail. What little he could catch of the Sub-Visser’s tirade consisted solely of derogatory epithets applied to the Taxxons, and the Taxxons themselves, who rarely enunciated their speech precisely at the best of times, were now slurring and distorting it so badly that they could easily have been discussing the currency question on SNC-244. He decided, therefore, to seek out more efficient sources of information.

"What’s all the ruckus about, Lissim?" he whispered to his fellow guardsman.

Lissim chuckled. "Oh, our comrades-in-sixteen-arms over there failed to procure the necessary supply of chawkwa seeds to make illutillagh," he said. "So now the Sub-Visser’s chewing them out about how they expect to have a proper Esiln Kalkat festival without a tactile revel."

It is a mark of the importance of a shared culture that this summary of the situation, which will doubtless seem completely meaningless to the non-Yeerk readers of this story, not only conveyed a definite idea to Toloth, but also sounded a note of alarm in his mind. "Esiln Kalkat," he repeated. "Dapsen, I’d forgotten all about that."

"Well, you won’t likely forget it again," said Lissim. "It’s only three more days till the festivities start, and you can bet your host’s wrist blades that the Sub-Visser won’t let anyone on this fighter think about anything else in the meantime."

"No," Toloth murmured. "No, I suppose not."

"He certainly takes it seriously," said Lissim. "I suppose it comes of being a human-Controller. I’ve never been one myself, but they tell me that humans have a set of senses that have to be experienced to be believed." He laughed. "If I knew any human-Controller I really trusted, I think I might try swapping hosts with him for a day, just so I could do the Kalkat properly."

"If you knew a human-Controller you really trusted," said Toloth dryly, "you would be so busy writing your hassatiss that you wouldn’t have time for Kalkat celebrations."

Lissim chuckled. "Touché."

(Here, once again, a certain knowledge of Yeerk culture is necessary. The hassatiss is the report that a Yeerk explorer is obliged to make to the Council of Thirteen when he has discovered "hitherto unknown wonders or prodigies". It will be recognized that there was no great love for human-Controllers among the Empire’s Hork-Bajir-wearing soldier caste.)

"Still, it would be something, wouldn’t it?" Lissim continued. "To slither into a human skull cavity, connect to that odd, bifurcated brain of theirs, and just drink in all the sights and tastes and textures there are in the world. Wouldn’t it just twist your dominical nodes?"

Toloth sighed. "Perhaps so, Lissim Seven-One-Three," he said, "but I suspect that, if you actually entered a human mind, you might find other things that would twist them even more."

Lissim turned and stared at him, but, before he could ask what he meant, a commotion arose on the other side of the Bug fighter’s deck. The Sub-Visser, it seemed, had identified the Taxxon-Controller on whose shoulders (figuratively speaking) the responsibility for procuring the chawkwa seeds had principally rested, and had casually pulled out a Dracon beam and trained it on his belly. The Taxxon-Controller was now clicking his claws together frantically and making an odd burbling noise that one rarely hears from a Taxxon, since Taxxons, in their native state, generally have little opportunity to plead for mercy.

"I’m sorry for this, Temrash Six-Oh-Three," said the Sub-Visser. "If your host could stand up to torture better, I’d find some other penalty for you. But since I’ve never known a Taxxon to manage more than two minutes in the gnielza without its skin being fatally torn…" He shrugged, and turned to his attendant guards. "All non-Taxxon-Controlling personnel have twenty seconds to get back into the pool area. If, at the end of that time, someone still remains inside this Bug fighter and finds himself in the company of seven blood-crazed Taxxons, I will not be responsible for the consequences."

There was a sudden scramble for the Bug fighter’s hatch, in the course of which several of the guards, including Toloth, received minor nicks and cuts from each other’s blades. (Fortunately, none of these drew enough blood to distract the Taxxons from the Sub-Visser’s hovering Dracon beam.) Once they were all safely outside the ship, they heard a low tseew, followed by the sound of seven mouths tearing and gobbling, and the Sub-Visser exited his fighter with the expression of someone who has performed a tedious but necessary duty.

Had Teresa Sickles been there, she probably would have shuddered uncontrollably and said a quick prayer for Temrash Six-Oh-Three’s soul, but Toloth was barely stirred. He had been in the Sub-Visser’s guard too long to be discommoded by a little thing like the killing of an unsatisfactory subordinate – and, anyway, he had other things on his mind.

Esiln Kalkat. The great festival of infestation, which only occurred once in a Yeerk’s lifetime. The one day when you could count on a Yeerk to be inside her host – and it was in three days.

Now Toloth was faced with a terrible dilemma. If he went up to Teresa’s Controller while she was outside the pool and required her to leave her host so he could talk to that host about the beliefs of Christians, the Controller would have plausible grounds to accuse him of treason by sympathy with a subject species (he was skirting close to that as it was), and getting sentenced to death by Kandrona starvation was no way to spend Esiln Kalkat. On the other hand, if he failed to show up at Teresa’s cage in three days, he already knew what Gef would do – and there was no point in trying to explain the situation to him. Hork-Bajir didn’t even have a concept of festival days; how could Gef be expected to appreciate the problems this one caused?

Toloth grinned wryly to himself. Well, Jesus? he thought. Teresa says that you’re all-powerful; surely you could find a way to solve this little difficulty of mine. After all, it wouldn’t do to let it get out that you let poor Gef be killed just because he’s interested in knowing about you.

Much later, when telling the story of his conversion to his Ongachic biographer, he would refer to this, ironically, as the first time he ever prayed. At the time, however, nothing could have been further from his mind than that Teresa’s imagined sellith/god/pantheon would actually provide him with a recourse – and he was, therefore, completely unprepared when the Sub-Visser, who had pulled out a sub-Z holographic communicator and been speaking on it while Toloth had been brooding, suddenly snapped it shut with an audible click! and muttered a foul imprecation against the Skrit Na race.

"What is it, Sub-Visser?" said Kythel Three-Eight-Four.

"I just made contact with the only Skrit Na ship currently on Earth," said the Sub-Visser. "They do have a supply of chawkwa seeds on hand, and they’re perfectly willing to barter with us for them, but, for whatever inscrutable Skrit-Na reason, they refuse to allow more than two sentient, non-Skrit-Na life-forms on board their ship on this particular week."

"Oh," said Kythel. "So you can’t take more than one of us as a guard. Well, that’s frustrating, of course, but…"

"Kythel Three-Eight-Four," said the Sub-Visser sternly, "if you’re starting to think with that bark-stripping brain you’re wrapped around, maybe it’s time we dropped you back in the pool for a quarter-cycle or so. Two sentient beings, I said. The Skrit Na consider hosts to be sentient beings."

Kythel’s eyes widened. "Oh," he said. "So you would have to go in without any guards at all."

"Which is one thing I have no intention of doing," said the Sub-Visser. "For all I know, this particular ship has just sold out to the Andalites, and only invented this taboo so they could present a Sub-Visser’s head to old man Lirem. No, this is definitely a job for one of my loyal guards." He glanced around at the Hork-Bajir-Controllers, his human eyebrows raised. "Let me see, how about…"

Toloth suddenly realized, with a start, that here was his opportunity. The Skrit Na were the galaxy’s most inveterate packrats, and they collected knowledge the way they collected everything else. If he could get one of them to provide him with information on Christian doctrine, it was just possible that Gef would be deterred from seeking out Teresa again.

"If you please, Sub-Visser," he said, "I would like to volunteer myself for this task."

The Sub-Visser blinked, evidently startled. "You, Toloth Two-Nine-Four?" he said. "Why?"

"Because I have never seen the inside of a Skrit Na ship," said Toloth, at a venture, "and I would like to broaden my horizons."

The instant it was out of his mouth, he realized what a stupid answer it was, and his heart sank, for he felt sure that his real purpose would now be obvious. He was therefore somewhat surprised when the Sub-Visser laughed aloud.

"You mean you want to ingratiate yourself with me by appearing loyal and devoted," he said. "Well, good for you. I hope you’re watching this fellow, men," he added, turning to his other guards. "He’s the most sterling subject of the Yeerk Empire I’ve seen in a cycle and a half. He’ll end up a Council Member someday, if he doesn’t forget himself and actually say what he thinks at some point."

As his fellows shot various looks at Toloth – some of disdain, some of admiration, and some of annoyance that they hadn’t thought of it first – the Sub-Visser cocked an ear towards the Bug fighter. "Sounds as though your comrades have finished their business in there," he said. "Either that or they’ve all killed each other. Well, let’s clamber back in and take Toloth the Sly out to the rendezvous point."