Children think with minds asleep. Peasants work all day and night and have no time to think. Greybeards think with minds ossified. Undying think with minds half-rotten. Rememberers don’t think at all; they rely on crystals and others to think for them, training their minds to fall silent that they may hear the thoughts of others, living or Undying or memory-stone. Nature-priests have heads stuffed with leaves, academics traded in their brains for sheepskin. The only people who think thoughts deep and real are monks.
Not all monks, of course. Taken as a group, monks have their own problems; monks get their heads stuffed full of pablum and rhyme. But different orders learn different things, and there is one group I know, who think clear thoughts with minds awake and clean. The Children of the Waters of Mercy philosophize and rhaphodize and do other things I don’t know the words for. They think their own thoughts, and record them in books, and they don’t foist their books on anyone. They have no holy writ.
The Children of the Waters of Mercy lack for members, in these dark days and years and centuries. When last I visited their enclave on Gentle Island (off the West Coast) their numbers had fallen to eleven, and three of them were ill. Old Repeating-the-Mistakes-of-Youth, the eldest of the Children and their leader on my previous visit, had fallen at last to the weakening-disease that forever infests those islands. It left behind for me a letter.
Salutations to you, Zully.
I harbor no illusions that I will survive the coming thaw and live to see your face again, but I seek to give you as a free gift some imago of the limited wisdom I have collected in the days of my life. For that purpose, I now record these words.
For over one hundred and twenty years I lived in the Mother Countries. Half my life I lived in the world of the giants. I call it the world of the giants: those realms of thought, deed, politics, warfare, diplomacy, arrogance, and greed that have been the footprint of the Tall Men’s glorious new world. Half my life I have lived here in the Kingdom of Weal and Woe. I call it the Kingdom of Weal and Woe; it was the name of the country of tales my aunt told me when I was a child. The one is a land of murder, corruption, and the glorification of cruelty and inflicted pain. The second, a land of imagination, possibility, reason, and poetry.
My wisdom, as it is: which of the two lands is the greater? Which the more real?