Chapter XVII.

18 Jun

Nudum made an unusual grimace. “This sudden storm of death is dangerous and menacing to our future supply of medicinals. It must mean something, but what? I, for one, am completely puzzled by it. That is why any idea you have can be of enormous help to me as Intendant. As you know, the Mandator is not feeling well and is confined by the nurser to his cubiculum. The condition of Keigo Tragus is not at all favorable or hopeful. Not at present.”

“I didn’t know that he was so ill,” admitted the softum. “Glia did not describe his illness in any detail to me. I had no idea what he is suffering from.”

The Intendant stared with a searching look at Ranid. “We must see each other more often. I believe that you are a novitiate above the average, with sharp perception and a rich imagination. Your instincts tend to guide you in the right direction, more often than not. How do I know this? one may ask. From the shape of your head and the contours of your face. All my life, I have studied and concentrated on human physiology. What can be more important a subject than that? Some look askance at that ancient art, but it can reveal the core of a person’s character. Such useful knowledge must not be ignored or scorned. It can help us to make the best decisions in our lives.”

Ranid frowned at him. “How, may I ask, do you interpret my hand and face?”

A serious expression covered the countenance of Iwis Nudum as he stared with concentration into the face of the younger man.

“Your physical form is that of a seeker,” he said in a whisper. “Curiosity and intelligence shine forth out of your face. You are an individual who craves to know without limit or hindrance. But there is also unacknowledged, unfulfilled ambition hidden deep inside your brain. You are as yet unaware of this. These are the two attributes of your character that I was able to perceive at once, one visible and the other invisible.”

Ranid watched the other with amazement. He had never heard anyone talk like that. How should he react to such a strange analysis? He decided on a bold, risky course for himself.

“That is both interesting and exciting. I have always wished to have the ability to read the character of others. If only I could acquire that skill. Must one be born with it, or can that capacity be developed through special training?”

Nudum grinned ecstatically. He had struck the chord he intended to.

“There are physiognomists like me who can teach the principles to selected pupils with the potential to master them.”

Ranid forced himself to look excited. “Could I myself learn that arcane art?” he eagerly asked. “Is it at all teachable to others?”

“Certainly,” slyly revealed the Intendant. “I have had my eyes on you from the start. My reading of your physiognomy is highly positive. Definitely, you possess possibilities in that sphere, as an interpreter of inner character from the outer form and shape of a person.”

“How shall we proceed, then?” asked the softum.

“Your serious studies with the tutulary take up your daytime hours, but we can meet in the early evening, immediately after the vespertine prayers. How would that be for you?”

The Intendant turned and left, leaving Ranid to ponder what other matters he might learn from this odd Amuran, so powerful within Feretrum.

Glia was astounded at the speedy progress that her student made. It was as if he had come to Feretrum fully prepared already for their work together.

In his private cubby in the librarium, she quizzed him on his reading.

“Tell me what you know of the Anuran concept of the odyle,” she asked him.

Ranid recalled sentences he had memorized ahead of time.

“The odyle is known as absolutely bare of any descriptive quality or specific characteristic. Finite beings like us are limited because they possess definable attributes. We have particular limitations. But no limit whatsoever can be predicated of the odyle. To attribute any characteristic to the divine would be to reduce it, to lower it into the realm of finite existences. All we can say of it is that the odyle is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable. It is sufficient unto itself, not dependent on any limited, time-bound being. Of the odyle, we can only say what it is not, not what it is.”

He stopped and looked at Glia to see her reaction to what he had stated to her.

“But can we, then, make negative statements about the odyle?” she asked, excited by the strength and clarity of his exposition.

“Some conclusions are possible. But the odyle is the most perfect entity possible. All perfection can be contained within it. The odyle surrounds and encompasses all other things.”

“Tell me this: how can the odyle, which is perfect, have connections with the beings of this world of ours, which are all imperfect?”

“Through a medium chosen by the odyle,” replied Ranid. “Specifically, the amphibian known as the frog, which serves as its instrumentality in our world.”

“Why cannot human beings have immediate contact with the odyle?”

He remembered what the Intendant had promised to teach him, but set it aside for the time being as not relevant to this question.

“The absolute perfection, purity, and loftiness would be defiled and violated by touching directly the imperfect, impure, and finite creatures of this fallen world. Only through the mediation of the frog can there be any tie between the odyle and the cosmos. The former remains eternally without quality, but it can speak and act through its chosen creatures. Only through them can we know or reach to the divine.”

His teacher smiled with satisfaction and joy.

“You are an excellent learner, Ranid. I have never seen anyone master the principles of odylogy as fast as you have. But the search for truth involves much more than placing ideas together into a formal system. Do you have the desire to go much further on your own? I can assist you if that is true. You will become a dedicated seeker and searcher, I believe.”

For a moment, the softum battled for his breath.

“Yes,” he finally grinned in victory. “That is what I came here for. To hunt for the deepest truth I could find. To learn what it is and allow it to enter into my life. That is my highest, most cherished goal in life.”

Glia looked him directly in the eye.

“I hoped you would answer that way, Ranid. I have taken an original, individual path on my own, too. Many here in Feretrum consider my ideas unorthodox and heretical. I have had to write my ideas down in secret. Even my father knows nothing of them. He has never read my short treatise on the hypostasis of the odyle. I have kept close watch over its privacy. No one has broken into my private realm of advancing thoughts. I have organized my reflections and speculations around the concept of the hypostasis.”

“I have come across that term in my reading but don’t at all understand it,” admitted Ranid. “What exactly is the meaning of hypostasis? How is it connected to the odyle? Can you explain it to me?”

“It would be best for you to read my essay first. Then, you can ask specific questions about the matter.”

“Good,” beamed the student. “I will study your personal writing with the attention it deserves.”

What am I now involved in? wondered the spiritual explorer who had only recently arrived in Feretrum.

Two developments alarmed the inhabitants of the coenobium: the illness of their Mandator and the sudden demise of so many sump frogs. Ranid could read the worry and concern of Glia in her face and eyes. He felt helpless to relieve her trauma. What could he do?

Perhaps there was something he could learn from Nudum, the Intendant. But what might that be? He decided to go along with the man who now, in effect, ran the coenobium of Feretrum. But why was it that this frater made him so uneasy? he asked himself.

Another series of questions also bothered him. What is the Intendant after? Why is he in pursuit of associating with me? It was clear to Ranid that the official was trying to recruit him into some kind of ambitious enterprise. What could it be? What was its end purpose?

What ambitious plan did Iwis Nudum have in mind? wondered the new resident in Feretrum.

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