Tales Post 6 continues from Tales Post 2 where Ameryl found herself at the temple steps in El'Psassmet. She has become a pariṣā, a student, of the Philosophy of Nothing. She attends a class held by Gaje Hash who pulls one of his infamous tricks to break the concentration of the students by farting loudly in the silent room. Ameryl is unable to stand it and flees from the room to the garden where she meets with another gaje, Gaje Orien Aspurr who is a blind falleen. He talks of the Paths of Nothing and how she must find her own path as one of the gana, the followers, of Nothing. Then she sees, unexpectedly, Peysiant Guril and she rushes to see if she's even real. Ameryl tries to dismiss her old love and retires to her room where she takes a milk bath. Wishing to shed her past she changes the colour of her hair from pink to white as a symbol of that but when Peysiant Guril enters she cannot help but have sex with her in the bath. Britt the Writer then refuses to write in the details of the sexual encounter despite the protests of Al Ciao the Writer before attacking him while wearing a bird's mask in vengeance for Zhuge, who was killed in Pan Post 132.
The Story of Ameryl
Ameryl follows darkness to cloud her sight as she closes her eyelids. She sits there quietly, breathing slowly, deeply. She closes off her more colourful senses too - her ability to sense aether in the air, her ability to feel the minds of the people around her, her ability to feel the veil between universes.
Everything is off. Nothing surrounds her.
It is a strange sensation. It is nothing yet the absence of something feels like something when one has only ever felt something constantly. It's like a pressure, a weight, a feeling of hollowness, of weakness.
Suddenly there's a noise in the room.
Someone cut the cheese.
A loud, thunderous fart that echoes in the silent chamber.
Her senses come plunging back into the real world. She keeps her eyes closed in a valiant attempt to ignore the interruption and not grow indignant. Unfortunately the waft of bad eggs, cheese and beans blows into her nose and she quickly begins to gag.
Her eyes burst open, watering, and she scrambles along the floor in desperation to escape the horrific, scented assault.
She pins herself against the wall, far away from the torment and peers through tear-stained eyes. The other gana members are still sitting, motionless with their eyes closed. She's the only flincher today.
Sometimes one of the gaje would throw in a disturbing event to encourage the gana to better focus their minds. Or rather better unfocus on the material world around them.
Letting a wet one rip, however, takes the biscuit in Ameryl's mind.
She gets to her feet and draws a deep, disgruntled breath.
Then regrets it and coughs with a whimper of disgust.
She leaves the room a failure today.
The passage is long and narrow with thin open-air windows through which light streams, warm and hot, against the smooth stone of the wat. On the opposite wall are hanging scriptures, each with its own tenet of the Philosophy of Nothing.
Everything is silent, even the tree in the garden seems to be resisting the urge to rustle in the wind. Sometimes she likes to consider the garden as her garden when sitting there alone. A small, precious place that she might inhabit in solitude. As she passes the arch leading to the garden she happens to spy a gaje there as he gently sweeps the cobblestone. The brush he uses has very soft bristles and his motion is slow and steady. He sweeps once and steps, sweeps again and steps, making smooth, practised progress across the garden. Ameryl stops to watch.
When he reaches the bench before the tree he sweeps the bench and then seats himself down for a rest. He bears the manifestations of old age; folds of limp skin creating wrinkles all over his face, the last remnants of wisps upon the top of his bald head, the thin and frail frame with which he propels himself through the physical world. From the way he moves his head she realises that he must be blind, although his eyes show no signs of the ailment. As she watches for a moment he raises a thin, gnarled arm in her direction and beckons her over to him. He doesn't lift his head, still staring down at the cobblestones, so she isn't sure if he's actually gesturing towards her. She takes the initiative and ventures forth.
She identifies him as a falleen, the most obvious feature of the species being the large, flesh mane around the back of their heads. The old gaje's mane is limp and sagging lazily backwards as though it has given up any pretence of importance. Upon his cheek is a white tattoo, a mark that Ameryl knows to be a caste symbol given at birth.
He lifts his brush and sweeps the bench beside him gently. He then pats the freshly brushed wood and she accepts.
Gaje: "You have left your meditation early, young pariṣā."
It's a statement but the implication is a question. It's structured in a way that she may choose to see it as a question and answer it, or choose to accept it as a simple statement of truth and leave it at that. This is a common method for certain Paths within the religion. Having so many paths can make learning the truth very difficult and yet more difficult because most of the Paths assert that there is no one truth but many.
She nods slowly.
When he doesn't acknowledge the gesture she remembers his blindness;
Ameryl: "Yes. Yes I left. Today's test was... unsettling."
Gaje: "I think I can guess which test you're referring to."
He chuckles, his high pitch voice dancing through the sounds.
Gaje: "That'll be old Gaje Hash up to his old tricks."
Ameryl recalls Gaje Hash as the most serene, old human she has ever seen. The idea that he plays any tricks, let alone dropping nasty arse belches, seems incredulous to Ameryl. She trusts, however, that this old falleen knows his compatriots much better than she does.
Ameryl: "And what should I call you, gaje?"
Gaje: "Perhaps you just answered your own question?"
Ameryl: "If I called every gaje as just gaje, everyone would be very confused."
The gaje gives his soft, lilting chuckle again.
Gaje: "True enough. You can refer to me as Orien Aspurr when you gossip about me later with the gana."
Ameryl: "I doubt I'll be doing much of that."
Gaje Aspurr: "You have friends."
She doesn't really want to answer that question and considers taking the offered liberty of accepting it as a statement. There's something about the gaje here that makes her want to open up to them, even if they couldn't possibly comprehend her problems. She shrugs.
Ameryl: "No I don't. Actually I don't think I ever have. I was... I was considered too important to have friends. Any friends I might have made would have only befriended me for their own position and the rest were too afraid of my position. My sister, I would have thought to be my friend but... apparently not."
Gaje Aspurr: "Well then. This is good."
Ameryl wonders if she heard that correctly.
Ameryl: "It's good?"
Gaje Aspurr: "Aparigraha. Have you heard this term?"
Ameryl: "I have. It means non-possessiveness. I thought it referred to material effects?"
Gaje Aspurr: "That's for beginners, young pariṣā."
Ameryl: "Oh, I see. The beginning of that Path?"
Gaje Aspurr: "The beginning of every path to Nothing starts with releasing possessions. One cannot be Nothing when you are tethered to Something, whatever that something is. Be it your favourite frying pan or your closest friend."
Ameryl: "So I am to be friendless?"
She is disappointed by that. Now being in a position to have friends, finally, she's being told she shouldn't have them. The gaje sweeps his hand across the garden, indicating the whole temple.
Gaje Aspurr: "All are friends."
Gaje Aspurr: "Your personal attachments will not lead you to Nothing, they will tether you to the physical, the emotional, the mental Something of reality. Instead all are friends. They are not your friends, they are just friends. They are guides, they are listeners, they are aides."
Ameryl: "I am to accept everyone I come across as a friend but not grow attached to any specific one? That seems... difficult."
Gaje Aspurr: "It seems so now, like any new venture will be daunting at its outset. With time, you will wonder how you ever lived any other way. I am a friend. You are a friend. If you consider everyone thus, you will always be in good company."
He leans back on the bench and rests his clasped hands upon the handle of his brush, which stands up off of the ground. His eyes, being falleen, are much larger than a hypericumite, are massive and round as they stare out into nothing.
Ameryl: "Remaining so unattached from the world is almost impossible for me. I can meditate on Nothing, I can clear my senses and my mind yet I am so easily distracted from it. How do you maintain such detachment all of the time?"
Gaje Aspurr: "Do I seem so detached right now?"
Ameryl: "Well, no..."
Gaje Aspurr: "We are limited beings, pariṣā. We are fallible. We require the physical world. We require something. It is not expected that you should be eternally detached until you reach a state of Nothing. When you are Nothing, you will not need Something..."
Ameryl: "You mean when I'm dead."
Gaje Aspurr smiles, picking up on her question as a statement. The use is a little clumsy, given the circumstance of the dialogue, but he evidently values the attempt from the amusement on his face.
Gaje Aspurr: "Do you know of my species, pariṣā? The falleen?"
Ameryl: "I do. I know of your kind at any rate."
Gaje Aspurr: "My... kind, as you say, emit pheromones. A quirk of our biology. It's not so uncommon, most species do, but ours tend to be far more potent than most - to the extent of affecting non-falleen to such a degree a falleen might control them. Did you know this?"
Ameryl: "I didn't..."
She begins to feel uncomfortable now. A moment ago he was the kindly old gaje, a teacher of Nothing, but now he is a man that could potentially control her will.
Gaje Aspurr: "Fear, young pariṣā, is a defect in our character we should strive to quell."
He points affirmitively with his finger, evidently sensing her sudden tension. Once said he puts his pink hand to his chin and strokes the wisps of wiry hair there.
Gaje Aspurr: "Most falleen could not perform this act without specifically training themselves in the act. I hope you do not harbour a distrust for my kind based on this minor revelation..."
Ameryl: "All are friends..."
He barks a jolly laugh at that and pats her robed knee.
Gaje Aspurr: "Good! Good! You have quick wits! That may help you defog the way to enlightenment for you, though be cautious that wit does not become hubris. That is a very short path and will not end positively..."
He trails off for a moment.
Gaje Aspurr: "Oh! I was talking about my people."
Ameryl couldn't help but smile at that. Using the stated question to mask forgetfulness.
Ameryl: "You were."
Gaje Aspurr: "Some of us have a genetic anomaly where our bodies will expel these pheromones in high doses constantly, without respite. It's a disorder. I was born with this disorder..."
He points vaguely towards his eyes.
Gaje Aspurr: "As luck would have it, I was birthed with two major disorders. I would attract many people to my side and never even know about it. Wandering around, I would have a trail of people following after me."
Ameryl: "If I couldn't sympathise with you I might have thought that image pretty funny. But I guess that would be terrible. A line of unwitting stalkers..."
Gaje Aspurr: "Falleen with this disorder must learn control. It takes more than medicine, it takes willpower. My physical body was a hindrance that had to be controlled by the power of the mind--"
He taps his pink skull clumsily.
Gaje Aspurr: "Mind over body."
Ameryl: "But isn't the mind also a hindrance?"
He smiles, enjoying the thrill of a smart student, an insightful pariṣā.
Gaje Aspurr: "Yes, it is. But the mind can be easily guided by the mind itself. The body, however, is a very difficult vehicle to steer when the driver is intangible."
Ameryl: "The mind being the driver."
Gaje Aspurr: "Correct. The Path must first begin with mental acceptance, education and thought. Then the body. I learnt to inhibit my pheromones. Every minute of every day, a part of my mind performs this task and every day it shall be until I am truly Nothing."
Ameryl: "You don't consider yourself to be Nothing already?"
Gaje Aspurr: "We cannot be Nothing, we can only become Nothing. Once we are Nothing then we cease to be anything. So long as you can be, then you are Something."
Ameryl: "So death is the final goal?"
Then the gaje sighs. His little pupil has not followed the message.
Gaje Aspurr: "Nothing will come. It conquers all. It is the inescapable Truth. The Path is not Nothing. The Path is Something on the road to Nothing. The Path is how you intend to reach that state. Once Nothing, you have reached the end of your Path. We have to overcome the limitations of our existence, the limitations of Something, be those limitations the flaws of the mind or the flaws of the physical realm."
Ameryl: "I do understand..."
She thinks of her life, her sister. And she knows that that is her limitation. Her Path must be to overcome this limita--
She jolts to her feet as she sees a figure sweep by the open archway. Orien Aspurr feels her sudden movement and looks bemused at her sudden energy. She dashes to the arch and looks down the corridor at the receding figure.
Ameryl: "It... couldn't be..."
She turns back to the falleen gaje but as she approaches him again he holds up a hand to halt her.
Gaje Aspurr: "I have taught you all that I can for now, pariṣā. You must meditate on your Path before you seek further guidance. The Path must be walked down lest you arrive at your destination too soon..."
She nods slowly and then remembers her words;
Ameryl: "Thank you, gaje. Your wisdom astounds me... and perplexes me. I do have to meditate on this but I think I understand my Path..."
Gaje Aspurr: "And please, be careful not to disturb the Path of others. Even the smallest of us has a Path to tread. Be weary that you do not tread upon their Paths as you go..."
He slowly gets to his feet with considerable effort.
Gaje Aspurr: "Investigate for yourself and you may find new questions. Take care, pariṣā."
He resumes his little sweeping motion as he makes his way to the opposite end of the garden where he would retire to the rooms he stays in. As he goes his broom gently sweeps aside a scuttling cockroach, which then franticly scurries away - spared the boot.
Ameryl turns and steps back through the arch, considering if she ought to get a brush too, when she bumps straight into somebody. She grunts with the unexpected body but finds herself suddenly entangled in whoever it is. Initially she thinks she got herself into the mess, then realises she's being grabbed. She reels back until she sees who the diminutive body is.
Ameryl: "It is you!"
Peysiant Guril: "Yes, it is I! And I am very surprised to find you here, my queen! Such serendipity!"
Ameryl: "I am no queen, Peysiant Guril! But to meet you here is... the chances are... impossible!"
She awkwardly fumbles with her fingers. She's never felt this way before. Both enraptured and resentful at once. She is ecstatic to see the object of her affection after all this time and yet she hates her very presence, knowing it is interfering already with her attempt at a new lease of life. How can she be free of her past if it keeps following after her.
Peysiant Guril: "What's wrong? Aren't you happy to see me again? I'm happy to see you! If only it had been you that I had married... your sister she--"
Ameryl raises her hand for immediate hush.
Ameryl: "Do not speak of her. I do not wish to know anything."
Peysiant Guril: "But-- I-- It's been so hard, I thought you'd... listen..."
Ameryl forces a smile. She isn't wearing the usual dresses she enjoys, instead she's bound in a beige robe with bandage wraps around her legs and arms, but she has allowed herself the indulgence of pink lipstick.
Ameryl: "Then your first lesson as a seeker of Nothing is to release yourself from your past and start from the very moment you arrived in this wat."
She must unburden herself of Peysiant Guril and their former relationship must be as nothing. Yet all are friends. That must mean Peysiant Guril too.
Peysiant Guril: "Oh... I really only just arrived. I met Gaje-- I mean a gaje -- when I was -- I was -- here in El'Psassment. How long have you been here?"
Ameryl: "Quite some time now. At first I just watched them--"
Peysiant Guril brightens at that, though Ameryl doesn't know why.
Ameryl: "I felt lost. But the tranquillity here is infectious. They allowed me to stay, to heal and I began to learn."
Peysiant Guril: "So, am I to call you gaje?"
She gives Ameryl a teasing smile and the pink-haired Ameryl cannot help but blush and laugh.
Ameryl: "No! Absolutely not! I am nothing. Or rather I shall become Nothing."
Peysiant Guril: "Are you sure you're not a gaje, you sure sound like mine."
Ameryl shakes her head.
Ameryl: "Your attachment to this gaje is incidental, Peasant Girl. He is not your gaje, he is a gaje. If you find the Path he teaches is your Path, then he is a guide for that Path and you are a pariṣā of that Path - like many others."
Peysiant Guril: "You... really have been here a long time, haven't you?"
Ameryl isn't sure if she's being rude, but this religious discourse helps to keep her from saying what she is feeling. Her breath is shallow and her mind unfocused.
Ameryl: "I have to go and bathe now, Peasant Girl. I am... glad that you are well."
The smaller girl looks saddened, obviously having wanted a much warmer reunion. Ameryl can't help but wonder if Peysiant Guril has stalked her here. Perhaps she's even a spy for her sister, come to manipulate her in her choices - just like the butler has been.
Ameryl sighs. If she treats Peysiant Guril as she would treat any fair weather friend, then she cannot get close enough to hurt her - whether she is in cahoots with her sister or not.
Ameryl bows her head to Peysiant Guril. She gasps and looks horrified at the gesture. Ameryl just shakes her head and says, as she walks away;
Ameryl: "I am not your queen, Peysiant Guril. I bow just as others would bow to me..."
Some time later Ameryl slinks into her milk bath. The water is hot and the milk is like silk against her bare skin. El'Psassment is a hot city, with the sun forever beating down upon the land, and already her delicate white skin is showing not only the signs of a tan but weathering. Milk baths stave off the ill effects of the ultraviolet light of the star, the lactic acid removing the dead skin cells. She's added nutmeg to the mix for the wonderful fragrance that will cling to her body for days.
She rests her head upon the back of the bath and looks up at the tiled ceiling. The temple is nothing like the temples of Hypericum, where 'big' was never 'big enough'. Each temple would have to be bigger than the last, the apse forever expanding upwards and outwards with ever more intricate murials within the dome. A single roof is never enough when you can have many roofs all on one roof! The Bochka system[Ext 1] employed, having many cylindrical roofs sitting atop each other to reach upwards to the skies. A tented roof would stand at the very top, its tip often peaked with some glorious symbol or statue of some past monarch or saviour. Support columns had to do more than just prop up the roof, they had to be examples of greatness and wonder. Pilasters would line the walls to create the illusion of strength and integrity.
That was once what 'temple' meant to Ameryl.
The wat she is in is almost the inverse of everything she once knew. It is squat, with just two floors, and mostly shaped in a practical, if somewhat uninspired, box. It's lack of height is made up by being fairly broad, with several wings being used for accommodation, teaching rooms, meditation dens, prayer rooms. There's a large congregation room for those that engage in mass gatherings and there's a canteen for the bodily needs of those that live here. Even the garden is quite small and simple, maintained by the practitioners themselves, usually out of want to encourage life rather than an obligation or duty to keep it in order.
Her room is actually more spacious than she would have expected given the outside dimensions. The floor is smooth stone, but is covered in several rugs to be easier on her feet. There's a single open-air window that she could clamber out of if she wished to. She does have a double bed, which has plain but very comfortable bedding. The bath is at the foot of the bed and is pretty rotund. The most frustrating aspect of the wat's rooms are the lack of toilets. It's chamber pots or nothing.
The embarrassing act of emptying her own chamber pot, along with everyone else doing the same, has never really worn off. She'll often sneak out at night to do the dirty deed when there's fewer people around.
She looks down into the milk where her long pink hair is floating on the surface. She does love pink. But releasing herself from the association of pink hair may well be a step away from what made her Ameryl the Hypericumite and a step closer towards Ameryl of the future. She touches a lock of her hair and whispers a short chant to induce a magical flower of aether into her hair. The pink drains and is replaced with the same warm white of the milk she's bathing in.
Peysiant Guril: "It suits you."
Ameryl's heart skips a beat.
Before she can turn around to look at the intruder, Peysiant Guril's face slink up next to her own. Ameryl's left cheek meets Peysiant's right cheek and the sudden warmth of skin sends a surge of delight through Ameryl. Through drooping eyes she looks at the beautiful face of the woman she had once intended to wed. She was a young woman filled with romantic sentiment and love, something Ameryl was instantly enamoured with when the girl first made her proposal. Highemperor had also had the charm that invoked adoration, but it was false. It was forced upon her by his powerplaying the part. Peysiant Guril, on the other hand, had nothing but her heart on her sleeve.
Ameryl leans forward and gingerly her lips grace the soft skin of Peysiant's cheek. Peysiant slowly turns her head so that her lips would stroke Ameryl's, a sensation like silk sliding against silk. The warmth of the bath and the scent of nutmeg in the air seems stronger than ever as her senses open up to take in the delights of the physical world. Nothing is forbidden, everything is permitted, and the tenets allow for indulging in the real world whenever desired. It is the concept of possessing it that is a broken Path. And so Ameryl allows herself to succumb to the stimulation.
She gives an unconscious whine for more contact Peysiant's fingers caress Ameryl's cheeks, holding the royal-born into the passionate, tongue-locked kiss. With nary a word, the low-born peasant deftly lifts one leg up and then slides into the bathtub atop of Ameryl - revealing that the girl had gotten herself naked before ever approaching the tub. Ameryl might have been angry at this presumption, but right now her mind is under the control of her body. Ameryl gasps at the warm air as Peysiant starts to firmly make out with Ameryl's neck. She clutches at Peysiant's bare, white back, pulling their bodies closer together. The milk acts like a lubricant, causing frictionless, movement like two sheets of white chiffon.
Ameryl: "I need you, Peasant. I need you so much right now. I've been so lost."
Ameryl implores through a whisper into Peysiant's ear.
Peysiant Guril: "I'm here for you, my -- my Ameryl. I won't go anywhere."
Peysiant Guril, the more experienced of the two, takes charge as she inches apart her once queen's legs.
Britt the Writer: "And the rest is in your imagination."
Al Ciao the Writer: "Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!! It was just getting to the good stuff!!!"
Britt the Writer: "Alas, I seem to have come over with a sudden illness that means I shall never be able to write any more on this post. I think it's called 'Imnotapervywriter...itis'. Enjoy what ya got! Now, I must leave!"
Al Ciao the Writer looks up from his computer screen with a frown to see Britt the Writer is wearing a bird mask.
Al Ciao the Writer: "Uh..."
Britt the Writer: "Revenge of Zhuge! CAW CAW CAW!"
Al Ciao the Writer: "Yaaaaaaaargh!"