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020 Tribute to Illya

A tribute to Illya, to whom I was devoted.
 
It seems odd to me that life caused all of this to happen. Why did this world need to be so bitter? If life is to be lived, let it be joyful. Sorrow serves no purpose, so it ought not to exist. Nonetheless, our world was not to be a world of joy, so I mourn your loss.
 
However, I rejoice in your memory just as strongly, for you know that I always cherished you. It is strange that affection and harmony are so different, for that which bound us together is not what kept us together. What should I say? There are great tragedies in life that even our hopes cannot overcome.
 
You and I both were long devoted to a wise woman, and our allegiance to her never faltered. Your service to her was impeccable, and you knew that I thought this.[1] It is good that we all carry such commitments, for we are all attached to something in life. Thus it seems to me that we are all devoted to another woman, if only a metaphorical one. Three great forces move us, and to one or the other everyone has great fealty equal to what we both had for her highness.
 
The first, Lady Gnosis, is truly exquisite. To her, we were both once devoted, and her beauty radiates forth. She is the voice inside each of us that propels us toward accepting belief. For Umanites, she urges them toward full commitment to Qualiae’s all-powerful rule and his final judgment. For Fricolics, she urges them to believe in reincarnation and see examples of it everywhere. For Jaipnites, she shows them how each forest and streamlet displays the beauty of a different god.
 
For us, she brought fantastic visions of the Umanon to life: of Naith in the earliest of times, of Railif as he struggled against the Moramarg riding a Borag, of Raimail as he brought justice to Naithan and defeated Roth, and of Uman as he wrote in his solitude the great words of Qualiae.[2] Lady Gnosis always kept me focused on those men, excitedly sitting with her arm around me as I heard them speak through the Umanon. She leaned her head on my shoulder as I looked at the sunset and told me that it was a mere glimpse into the great divine realm. She gave me hope as I mourned the dead, telling me that they continued. She told me of things far away and otherwise too bright to perceive. She was a source of love, hope, and joy, and my devotion to her seemed endless then.
 
Today, you might expect me to proclaim her a seductress, a lying vixen who led me astray, and to hate her for it. However, you always knew that I would do no such thing. I shall not fling such accusations against Lady Gnosis. She is far too sincere and caring to deserve that.
 
Furthermore, she has another quality for which I must credit her: she cared about my character and tried to build it up. As she always reminded me of Qualiae’s presence, she likewise reminded me of his rejection. Sometimes she felt the need, and appropriately so, to display his torment in all its horror before me when I committed a particularly foolish act, but she did so to remind me of his love. She constantly pointed out the pits and snares of this world and turned my eyes to the divine for help, guidance, and protection. She refined me, wanting me to be pure in Qualiae’s eyes. If nothing else, she showed me the richness of life and the value of righteous conduct. Finally, I also loved her for molding you, for you became the embodiment of all of her strengths.
 
In the end, though, as you never forgot, I left Lady Gnosis, and I found the second woman, Lady Truth. Devotion to her was not at all similar. While Lady Gnosis was so bold in displaying her good qualities, Lady Truth is more reserved. She finds no pleasure in looking at the sunset with me (at least in the way Lady Gnosis did) or of discussing the joys beyond death. She is too blunt for all that. She is always unvarnished and frank. Lady Gnosis seemed ever excited and hopeful, but Lady Truth celebrates caution.
 
I have often asked her why she is far less passionate, and her response is, I think, that which makes Lady Gnosis’s devotees distain Lady Truth: she teaches that in life there is less cause for joy than we want to think. Even when Lady Gnosis talked to me about something unpleasantespecially when we discussed my poor conductshe was always reminding me of love. Thus even in the worst moments, there was something fundamentally optimistic about her. However, when I started listening to Lady Truth, it was the opposite. Our first conversations were as depressing as my conversations with Lady Gnosis had been uplifting. Lady Truth sat me down and went through all of the error that Lady Gnosis had told me. She said, “Your only reason for belief in Qualiae was that you wanted him there. You were not justified in this view, so you must live without it now.” My heart broke when she said this, but I followed her anyway. Deep in my heart, I knew that her teaching was simultaneously and equally both devastating and true.
 
You know that I spent years sobbing on Lady Truth’s shoulder for the loss of Lady Gnosis’s joy. You and Lady Gnosis looked on with alarm and concern, for you could not see why I would turn from Qualiae and embrace such misery. However, during that time, Lady Truth showed me compassion in her own way. As I eventually began pulling myself together, she was always there, albeit quietly and reservedly. Eventually, she nurtured me back in her own way. In one of her rare moments of passion, she told me that while she had the gift of brutally tearing down my false perception of the truth, she could help build it anew on real foundations. She reminded me that this would be slow and hard and that the truth would likely never glow as brightly as Lady Gnosis had taught. However, Lady Truth said, what she built would be far harder to tear down.
 
I wish that you too had grown to love Lady Truth. I know that I desired this as strongly as you desired for me to return to Lady Gnosis. Neither of us, however, achieved our hope, and our devotion diverged, yours to your lady and mine to mine. When you looked to the mountains, you heard them sing the songs of Qualiae’s servants and testify to the stunning feats in ages past.[3] When I looked, I saw merely mountains, mute and bound to eternal silence never to disclose what had transpired in the valley below. When you saw the Golden Steps, you saw a great manifestation of Qualiae’s power and action, his devotion to Naithan for all time. When I saw them, I saw old hewn rock with neither purpose nor authority. I thought that you naively found meaning in meaningless wind, and it brought me great sorrow. You thought that I found dull grey in the brightest of colors, and it broke your heart.
 
It is true—and you know that I never said otherwise—that I had very little to offer you given your hopes and dreams, for hopes and dreams are in the province of Lady Gnosis and not Lady Truth. You had such a vivid conviction that the Umanon taught truth, and all I had to offer was to strip you of that conviction and, while bestowing stronger truth on you, strip your heart in the process. You rejected that offer.
 
However, did you really want to live life blind? Your lady spoke to you with such eloquence, but you knew that across the Liantin she was whispering into the hearts of those people a very different message.[4] The passion of your heart that said, “love Qualiae,” was the same passion that led others to say, “love Jaipni and his many gods.” Unlike Lady Truth, Lady Gnosis’s passion was not universal. This should have been a warning to you. However, it was not. She was too beautiful.
 
How could you know that you possessed truth when only a half day’s journey away, opposite teaching flourished with equal passion? Between you, them, and the many other peoples under the sun, Lady Gnosis was telling most of you lies. Even you acknowledged this by affirming your own truth and rejecting that of the others. Because of my devotion to you, I wished that you had been the one with the real truth, but their men were just as devoted to their wives and assuredly felt the same.
 
Did you ever consider that the error was yours and not theirs? I think not, for Lady Gnosis had trained you not to think this way. She told you, “look: see the beauty and splendor of your own belief.” However, she drew your attention away from everyone else’s, and she did the same with them too. Ultimately, by displaying a different beauty to each village under the sun, she did the unthinkable: she blinded the truth by making the very illusion of truth dazzle everyone’s eyes. Her intentions were, I am sure, good, but her actions were tragic. Why did you follow her down the road to blindness? It was because blindness comes from seeing great beauty. At least that beauty brought you joy, and in this I am, I suppose, glad. Nevertheless, I must believe that she led you astray. I wish that I could know that you stand now before Qualiae, for that would give me the greatest of joy. However, my hopes cannot determine my knowledge, so I ever fear that, if you are anywhere at all, you are somewhere else. You would not even say goodbye to me, for you thought you would see me again.[5] You approached your end in this world with great confidence, but confidence and truth are not the same. I weep for this.
 
What else is there to say? Perhaps this: there is a third woman whose devotees walk the earth and reject both Lady Gnosis and Lady Truth. This is Lady Apathy, and while I mourn the error of Lady Gnosis, I must never forget that I shudder at Lady Apathy’s heinous acts. She is the true seductress, and her followers undergo destruction from the moment they join her. Unlike her two counterparts, she dislikes talking. Instead, she simply shows things: a human body, a delicate food, or a mind-altering stimulant. She has an ability, sometimes far beyond that of the other two, of getting a devotee’s gripped attention, but she can never sustain it for long and must continually find new objects to dangle. Unlike the other two, she has distaste for the mind and ignores it as much as possible, wanting us to focus exclusively on our carnal desire. She leads her devotees to a ruinous end not because she wants to but because she does not care.
 
Some devotees of Lady Gnosis have said—and it is surely false—that because Lady Truth’s followers do not recognize the great beauty of Lady Gnosis, they too will fall into depravity. This is not true, and I tried so hard to show you this. The wise followers of Lady Truth hate Lady Apathy. Her hedonistic ways are abhorrent to us. Nevertheless, when Lady Gnosis’s lovers say that we will rot without her, they assume that Lady Truth and Lady Apathy are the same, but this is incredibly untrue. It is one thing to shun Lady Gnosis because you think her unreliable; it is quite another not to care.
 
Back when Lady Gnosis and I would talk about the gloriously lives of Naith and Railif, it brought me joy, but I had to learn that my beautiful thoughts about golden times long ago were nothing more than beautiful thoughts. Lady Truth was frank that nothing could fully dull the sting of this. However, Lady Apathy did nothing of the sort. Whenever I tried to discuss this with her, she would simply direct my attention to some attractive woman or tasteful food or slothful conduct. She did not even say that she disbelieved Lady Gnosis. She simply did not care. To her, it does not matter whether Lady Gnosis is correct or incorrect, inconsequential or profound. Qualiae could be standing right before us revealing his presence, and Lady Apathy would be encouraging me to think of nothing but eating some delicacy.
 
Because Lady Truth and Lady Apathy are so totally different, Lady Gnosis’s lovers ought not to equate the two. He who lives a loving and gentle life while saying, “I know neither Qualiae nor Jaipni and his gods,” is a wise man indeed and rejects Lady Apathy. He serves Lady Truth simply, wisely, and righteously.
 
If only you had come with me and followed Lady Truth, our lives would have been better. The road would have been more somber and less colorful, and I never disputed that. However, life itself is often somber and lacking in color. We do no ill in acknowledging this. Tragically, though, you let Lady Gnosis blind you, pointing out false beauty everywhere, in your heart, in nature, in the Umanon. To whatever she pointed, there you saw the divine, and it was beautiful and brought you hope. However, much of it was a dream, an illusion. Lady Gnosis tried to help you but did the opposite. For this, her failure is complete.
 
Only Lady Truth, blunt and upsetting as she may be, provides real knowledge. She would have refined knowledge in you like molten metal being purified, and it would have been an equally scalding process. She would have been relentless, slowly but justly moving you toward knowledge. It might not have been pleasant knowledge, but it would have been true knowledge. I pleaded with you to take this difficult road, but you did not. Now I fear that what you expected to greet you at death did not. Wherever you are—if there at all—my love is with you, but my love will be of little help to you now.
 
I keenly know that awaking from these beliefs would have been the hardest and most painful moment of your life. You felt the love of Qualiae, and turning from it would have tested you harshly. Life without Lady Gnosis, you felt, was dark, dreary, and anarchic—the antipathy of your life. I myself have known this feeling, for Lady Gnosis’s influence on me was just as powerful.
 
Nevertheless, know this: when you do not embrace Lady Truth, you continued to have your beliefs, your images of paradise, your feelings of Qualiae’s love, and your sense of purpose, but you lacked one thing: truth. Should you and I have given up all for harsh truth? I think so. You valued love, hope, and belief above truth. As for me, I pledged myself to truth and truth alone, and if truth brings me to love, hope, and belief, then I shall accept them gratefully. However, if truth does not, then I must not embrace them, for they lack truth. I surrender all of Lady Gnosis’s love, hope, and belief to Lady Truth. If I do this faithfully, she will give me truth.
 
In the truth I rest, whether it brings joy or pain. You chose another road. If you hear me, I hope that it has found you vindication, but I doubt that it did. Remember me if you can, for I remember you. If I could have, I would have set all at rights for you. I would have even—just to bring you joy—created Qualiae himself had I the power. If your belief had been true, I would have found great joy in this.
 
However, I am but a man, and gods and cosmic powers would be so much greater than me. I will not lie to you: I am too small, at least as of yet, to see them if they are there. I stare into the abyss and hope that you found your comfort. However, my hope means nothing, for, if you are somewhere, you are where you are regardless. I shall not say, “my affection for her makes me know that she is awake and at peace somewhere.” That would be meaningless. I simply say, “I know not, for my perception is dim. What is is.” Hope dies at truth’s doorstep, and what remains is truth even when masked to us. Am I capable of seeing through the mask? Surely I am not.


[1] This is a reference to their relationship with Princess Raitrialla, Renent as her guardian and Illya as her handmaiden.

[2] These are various references to major figures in the Umanon, and both Renent and Illya would have been fully familiar with them from their childhood. Naith was the divine choice to found Naithan. Railif was a warrior who defeated the Moramarg, a group of sorcerers who opposed Qualiae and who possessed a large flying beast called the Borag. Raimail was a man whom Uman appointed to take a vacant throne of Naithan and defeat the evil usurper Roth.

[3] Among other things, this is probably a reference to the defeat of the Borag monster by Qualiae’s divine actions. The Umanon says that the Borag flew between the mountains that comprise the east and west sides of the Velian Plains as it moved toward attacking the city of Tilial. A devoted Umanite would likely have thought of this event when looking into the mountains around the Velian Plains.

[4] This is a reference to the Jaipnites. Prior to the First Jaipnic War, the Liantin River was the traditional divider between Jaipnite and Qualiaite.

[5] As a Umanite, Illya would have believed that Qualiae would judge Renent after his death, but nowhere does Renent say what Illya thought the judgment would be. By “see me again,” she either could mean that they would stand together briefly at judgment before Qualiae separated them permanently for Renent’s apostasy or that Qualiae would judge both favorably and reunite them permanently. By leaving this unclear, Renent may be indicating that either scenario was painful to him.