Journal Entry 13: Salt

ISLAND IN THE SALTED MARSHES

COLD OPENING

JANUAE

I’ve just arrived at this unknown place, the air ladened with the smell of salt. The ocean can be heard breaking against a seawall I can see several meters away. Once again, I have no clue where I am. I see someone, a woman. Perhaps she can tell me where I am…

NARRATION

JANUAE

It takes me several moments to get my bearings, as it always does after a jaunt. All I know is I am somewhere near an ocean by the heavy taste of salt in the air and the sound of the waves beyond the seawall. I do see a large hall or basilica in the distance and I’ve caught sight of a woman wandering the area by herself. She sees me and is approaching me. She wears a deep blue loose fitting set of pants and a tunic, and she is draped in a cloak. Her hair is a mix of crimson and gray, set in braids that run nearly the length of her body before they bend back up to touch her head. As she comes closer I can make out several small circular objects around her ears and her eyes are quite large, but unnatural, perhaps artificial. She wishes an audience with me…

GABRA

Hello? Hello? Excuse me…

Januae stops walking as the woman approaches him

GABRA

Sir? Are you lost?

JANUAE

(laughing slightly)

I’m always lost… yes, pardon me. I am lost. Can you tell me where I am, where I happen to be right now?

GABRA

You are on an island in the Salted Marshes. I am Halite Gabra. And your name is…?

JANUAE

Januae. Where is the… Salted Marshes?

GABRA

On the coastal edge of the Ba-Adenu Forest…

(beat)

Off Sere Marica…

(beat)

Do you not know of either of these places?

JANUAE

No.

GABRA

How about Navae Marica? Hayrest? Maybe Nebalich or Seshar?

JANUAE

I’m not familiar with any of those places.

GABRA

Then I’m afraid I can’t help you understand where you are, other than to say you are somewhere in the Beyond. Where are you from, do you know? Do you have your memory-

JANUAE

Yes, yes. I remember. I am from a city called Qi-

GABRA

Qi. Of course. I know of Qi all too well. You are quite a long way from home, good sir. How did you manage to find yourself here?

JANUAE

I- I uh- I just came here. Suddenly. I appeared here. You might say out of nowhere.

GABRA

I don’t understand.

JANUAE

I- well, I’m not sure you would believe me-

GABRA

I’m not one to discount things off hand. Go ahead.

JANUAE

Well… I’ve not divulged this to anyone before, at least since it started happening. I- teleported here.

A long beat follows

GABRA

(with a slight chuckle)

The numenera, I suppose. Well then, Januae. This should make for an interesting story. Are you hungry?

JANUAE

I could eat, certainly.

GABRA

Then let’s get something in your belly. I will see if I can help you in your time of need. Come this way.

They make their way to the basilica and enter the building

GABRA

Please, have a seat.

GABRA sets a plate and a glass of water before JANUAE

JANUAE

Thank you. This looks delicious.

JANUAE take a bite, then grimaces

GABRA

Is it not to your liking?

JANUAE

It is a bit too salty for my palette…

(takes a drink of water, then spits it back into the glass)

I can’t drink this. I think you may have given me seawater.

GABRA

(with a slight chuckle)

Oh, yes. I forgot you’re probably not accustomed to so much life in your food.

JANUAE

I’m sorry?

GABRA

Life. Salt. Salt is life. Salt is god. Salt is meaning, existence.

JANUAE

I see…

GABRA

We are Our Order of the Lady of the Salt Way. Saint Eseld revealed to us several generations ago how Salt is the bearer of life. Its divine presence is ubiquitous throughout the Ninth World, but here in the Salt Marshes Our Order can be closest to Salt to bask in its divinity.

JANUAE

I have noticed the persistent briny taste in the air. Everything here seems to be covered in a glittering crusty layer of grey. I take it that is salt?

GABRA

Yes, the breath of the divine itself. Salt blesses us by allowing us to make many wares from it which we can then sell for our livelihood. It cures the meats which we eat. It comprises the healing remedies we use to tend to our wards. Our Order of the Lady of the Salt Way is that of a life of simplicity, with a few simple tenets: When one joins our order they vow to worship Salt as god and life, as… the truth. We also vow to never leave this island unless personally called upon by Saint Eseld to do so. And we must vow to help those in need, such as yourself.

JANUAE

I do appreciate your help, Gabra.

GABRA

And my apologies about the food and water. It will take some time to prepare something more palatable for you, but I’ll make sure we do so.

JANUAE

I would appreciate that as well.

GABRA

So, Januae… tell me about how you came to… teleport here.

JANUAE

Well… I… came upon a cypher that I handled carelessly which resulted in teleporting me a great distance to a strange land. The cypher was of course expended upon use, so I was unable to return home. The local priests there were gracious enough to perform a ritual that created an esotery within me which enables me to jaunt to various locations. Unfortunately I have no control over where I end up or when it occurs. So I now suffer this itinerant way of life with no notion of how to correct this… condition.

GABRA

That is rather unfortunate, but not beyond belief. I have seen what the numenera of the prior worlds is capable of. While I sympathize with you over your plight, such items are not to be trifled with. I have learned that a simpler way of life such as that of the Salt Way is the most enriching.

(pause)

So tell me, what was it you did before you became afflicted with this… jaunting condition?

JANUAE

What did I do?

GABRA

Yes, what was your vocation, or field, or employ?

JANUAE

Oh.

(pause)

I was… a student, I suppose. Yes, I was one who sought knowledge.

GABRA

Of the numenera…

JANUAE

Yes, among other things.

GABRA

Your grasp of the language of Truth is pretty keen. You speak it quite well, such a crisp dialect. You are from Qi, you say?

JANUAE

I lived in Qi, yes.

GABRA

In the Durkahl?

(silence)

An Aeon Priest. Playing with the Numenera-

JANUAE

Studying-

GABRA

-and it bit back. Now you find yourself in a nasty predicament, I see. Here is the truth that The Order has left you with; that devotion to this prior world technology is dangerous and foolhardy. As is evident by your condition, no good can come of it.

JANUAE

(after a moment)

Yes, I am an Aeon Priest. It was my study of the numenera that caused this to happen. But there is much you may not understand living here on this remote island who knows how far away from the seat of the Papacy?

GABRA

Thousands of kilometers.

JANUAE

Well then. You are a long way from the Order’s influence. I’m not sure what you have heard of us, what your impression of us is, but the Order of Truth serves humanity. We learn how to utilize the numenera to improve the lives of others, to lessen our toil and to ward off the dangers of the Ninth World, even for those in remote places such as this. I suppose with your simple way of life here you may not understand, but as I look at you-

GABRA

I understand all too well!

(beat for composure)

The Order of Truth serves its own interests, dressed up in a facade of altruism. Where is the good in the Order when one’s blind devotion leads to one’s exile?

JANUAE

I was not exiled! I simply suffered an acc-

Wait, you were-

GABRA

An Aeon Priest, yes. When I beheld the vision of Saint Eseld calling to me from a dinner plate of salted fish, I thought it to be a curse, so I blinded myself. When she then spoke to me I ruptured my eardrums to mute her words. I felt my faith in the Order was being tested and I did what I felt I had to do to preserve my resolve. But what use is a blind and deaf Priest to the Order? I wandered the land in search of a clave or semblage that would take me in, show me how I could serve the papacy in my state, but none would have me. I eventually found my way here, and the scent of the air was the same scent as that of the Saint when she first revealed herself to me. The loving and kind women here took me in, cared for me, and showed me the Salt Way. I believe it was Saint Eseld who guided me here.

(pause)

Perhaps she brought you here as well. You defend the priesthood, yet you were reticent to divulge to me that you are an Aeon Priest. Have you yourself become disillusioned by the Order?

JANUAE

And you denounce the numenera yet you use it to see and to hear?

GABRA

I employ it as a tool. I do not worship it through the guise of a misguided quasi religion as does the Order of Truth. But tell me, Januae… why did you not openly admit to being an Aeon Priest? You almost seemed to hide your affiliation. You do not display their symbol. Is your… faith in the Order shaken?

JANUAE

In my travels I have found that many are not… friendly toward those in the Priesthood. I feel it is prudent to not lead with that, and sometimes not to divulge it at all.

GABRA

No. You are questioning. Something happened to challenge your view of the Papacy. You have been carrying that doubt, I can feel it.

(there is an uncomfortable silence for a moment)

Nevertheless, it is my privilege and duty as a halite to tend to you in your time of need. You are welcome to stay with us so long as you do not present any business having to do with the Order of Truth to me or the other halites. You may find perhaps, over time, that the truth is in the Salt Way.

JANUAE

(after a pause)

Your hospitality is appreciated, Halite Gabra. If you don’t mind, jaunting takes a lot out of me and leaves me terribly weary. If you have a place for me to sleep, I would be fine to wait until morning for a meal.

GABRA

Of course. I promise you’ll get something to eat that’s a bit more to your taste. Let me show you to where you’ll stay tonight.

NARRATION

JANUAE

Gabra and I have gotten off to a bit of a rough start, but she does not curb her compassion for my plight. My tenuous connection with the Order has me a bit on the defensive, and I will have to learn to curb my attitude. I have no idea as to how long I may be here or when I will jaunt again, so I must do my best to remain in the good graces of her and the others in their Order. If they do not strongly embrace the numenera I may be here awhile. I will make the best of it and comply to their expectations as best I can until my circumstance changes.

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