Chapter IXX.

19 Jun

Ranid now found himself on two opposite tracks. Sporadically, he studied the scroll of the gnomons. But most of the night and day were spent on the difficult secret essay of Glia Tragus.

Each day in the librarium sanctum, he asked her scores of questions.

“What is the concrete meaning of hypostasis?”

“Its root has the sense of a base, a foundation. The underlying substance or essence of an entity. In other words, its central principle.”

“But how does all this pertain to the odyle and its medium, the frog?”

Glia answered him slowly and patiently.

“The odyle is the creative force, the spermatic power that produced everything in the universe. Within every existent being, therefore, there is this subsistent floor, this foundation. We can think of this as the hypostasis of the odyle, but it is inside every separate particle of our world. And the hypostasis of each and every individual entity is also inside the odyle, as an idea or a thought component.”

The softum persisted questioning. “Then, all of the created cosmos contains something of the original being, the odyle. That must be so, according to what you conclude in your treatise. That is how I understand the situation.”

Cautiously, the tutulary nodded. “What are you getting at?” she demanded.

“Why is the medium of the odyle defined so narrowly, when everything partakes of the same hypostasis? Why define it so exclusively, when one and all are interconnected as if by strings?”

Glia looked shocked. “Narrowly, you say?”

“Why can’t any being become a medium? Specifically, why are all amphibians except the frog excluded from primacy in the Anuran system?”

She seemed to turn pale.

“There are historical reasons, for one thing. We live in a country of swamps and marshes where one amphibian is often considered supreme. What you are saying might be used by a Salamandrite to elevate the salamander and negate the frog’s importance.”

The pair stared at each other without speaking. All at once, Glia changed the subject.

“I forgot to tell you that my father is feeling even worse. His pain is excruciating. No one can say when the illness will turn around. And it is only a short while until the Encaenia, our greatest holiday at Feretrum. He says that he must be up and about when the throngs of outside visitors come for our celebration. But how can he recuperate so fast?”

“Has there been any determination on what the illness is?” asked Ranid with concern.

She shook her head. “No, there is no way to be certain. He is receiving several medicaments from our hygeist, Brother Omphal.”

“I have never met such an individual. It would please me to speak with him. Do you think I could make a short visit to your father when this healer happens to be present? That way I can become acquainted with the man.”

She thought a second. “I can take you this very moment. Come along, Ranid.”

The two of them departed from the librarium, the young woman leading the way.

The Mandator lay motionless on a straw pallaisse, under a pale yellow sheet. His face possessed a flavescent gauntness. The once plump figure had dropped much of its weight. Desperation and despair dimmed his eyes of emerald. They no longer had the luster of gems. The voice he spoke with was dry and weak.

“Thank you for coming to see me,” whispered Keigo Tragus, letting go of the hand of the softum after holding it tightly. “My daughter says that you are making large strides forward in your studies. I am pleased to hear that. You are on the road to genuine enlightenment.”

“I have the best instructors, sir,” smiled Ranid, not looking directly or indirectly at Glia, though sensing her body to his side. “But there is still much more for me to absorb. I am only a beginner in odylogy. I have so much further to go.”

The Mandator suddenly fell into a state of reverie and reminiscence.

“I remember how it was for me when I first arrived here. Do you know who it was that made me come to Feretrum? It was my wife, Glia. My daughter was named for her mother, a fervent believer in the frog. She convinced me to enroll as a novitiate, along with her. We worked and studied together. Her help was indispensable. She, in the most profound sense, made me what I am. But now…”

He halted, his face suffering a severe spasm of pain. Glia stepped forward to the side of the paillasse and placed a hand on his temple.

“Your fever is back, father. Rest and quiet is what you need at this time. We will leave and let you fall asleep again. That is what you need at this moment.”

“I can’t sleep any way, Glia,” the sick man murmured. “This torment comes and goes by itself, and I can’t do anything to stop it. Nothing at all.”

“Where was I?”

His emerald eyes found Ranid and held him in sight.

“My wife, she was the cornerstone of everything I achieved. It was for her that I delved into my studies. Never did I have any idea of rising in rank. But growing responsibilities were given to me. I began at the Frog Sump. The lowest of labor was assigned to me. That was where I first became a manager and then a leader.” He thought of something and quickly turned to Glia.

“How are the frogs now? Has any change occurred there?”

“It is the same as before,” replied his daughter. “A few more die each day.”

Keigo’s face became an expressionless mask over his inner ruminations.

“Something must be causing this,” he said darkly. “But what can it be?”

All of a sudden, an inspiration arose in the mind of Ranid.

“Sir, could I request something of you?”

The Mandator turned his head toward him. “What is it?” he inquired.

“Although I am still only a softum, there is no reason why a work task cannot be assigned to me. Therefore, I ask that you send me to the Sump. I have already met Ereth, who would supervise me. We appear to get along with each other. I would work under him, assisting in whatever he chooses. Would such an arrangement be possible?”

“Certainly,” replied the ailing sufferer. “Why not? If that is what you desire, I shall grant you permission to join with Ereth at the Sump.”

So it came about that Ranid was granted access to the highly distressed facility where frogs were bred for medicinal purposes.

As Glia and the softum made their way out of her father’s bed-cube, a lanky man with inky hair and eyes to match approached the two.

“I’m glad I found you, Glia,” said the tall, skinny figure. “We must talk about your father and his deteriorating condition.”

This is the hygeist treating the Mandator, surmised Ranid to himself. That became clear when the young woman introduced the two men to each other. Neither offered a hand to the other.

“You can speak before the two of us,” indicated Glia to the coenobium’s medical healer. “Has your prognosis changed in any way? Has any improvement at all occurred?”

Omphal replied to this in a subdued, cautious manner.

“His cycle of pain and temporary relief spins on, each time dropping to a lower level than before. Much damage has already occurred to the organs. Nothing has been able to halt the regression of his health, despite the many palliatives I have tried.”

He stopped, looking into the daughter’s face with desperation. When he began to speak again, his voice was low and hollow.

“Serious intrusion into his body may soon become necessary. I foresee the need to perform organic chirurgery within his interior areas. Even now, that appears to be inevitable. There is no way I know to avoid the necessary surgery.”

For several moments there was silence. But then Glia asked an important question of the medico.

“Are we at that point yet? Do such serious measures have to be taken before too long?”

“The critical moment is quite near, I am afraid,” replied Omphal, his eyes downcast now. “I will not conceal from you the high degree of risk involved should surgical intervention be left as the last, final alternative. Perhaps I have already waited too long. That is always a real possibility. Your father’s condition is a very serious one. It is approaching the point of becoming critical.”

The medical hygeist went into the bed-cube by himself.

Ranid took leave of Glia, saying that he was going at once to the Frog Sump to discuss his new duties there with Ereth.

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