Of Cherished Moons and Buttered Bread
By: R.J. Judges

The first moons of winter had already risen high into the crisp, clear sky when his spark stones caught light, bringing the small bundling of kindling and driftwood to flame. The fire was small and burned low, but the dancing waves of orange and yellow were a comforting sight to Bern. Using his heavily laden pack as a pillow to support his aching back he held his hands out, doing his best to rid himself of the chill that crept into his bones.

"A few more days." Bern said to nobody as he prodded the embers with a stick causing some of the larger pieces of wood to shift in position, allowing a better airflow to create a higher heat to cook with. Satisfied with the results, he got to work on his supper, his stomach already rumbling with anticipation.

As he ate thick slices of toasted black bread with salted fish, Bern allowed himself a few minutes to relax and take reprieve from the day's efforts. The elder had walked far longer than he should have, and he knew his back and ankles would swear at him in the morning. Yet as with many of his kind, the Nul, he was stubborn to no end.

Shifting so he could pull his thick cloak tighter around him, he hid much of his body underneath it. The coasts were bitterly cold at night, and he prayed a silent prayer to the Goddess that his fire would offer him enough warmth and the sand dune that he camped behind would give him ample shelter from the night's winds. Looking up with his one good eye to the Goddess and her sister, who had risen to the throne of the sky, he knew in his heart of hearts that his prayer would be answered. After all, what use would a travelling priest be if he did not have faith in his own prayers.

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Rhara sat on her hunches watching as her master lay with his back to her. The Haloian's sharp, gold eyes were unmoving, unwavering as she peered intently. Stretching as she watched, she ran a hand through the ivory waves that hung down to her waist, hair wild and untamed, a perfect match to her personality.

"You can stop watching now. You know how much I hate it when you sneak up on me," Bern said rolling to face the young woman, much of his body still wrapped in his travelling cloak. "What did you learn under the guidance of the all mother?" The priest asked sitting up and reaching for his water skin.

"This sand is softer, more moist than the dry sands of home. The rocks worn, rounded not rough nor jagged." Rhara spoke, her Haloian accent gentle yet thick. Rising, the woman would stand and stretch once more; her defined arm muscles naturally flexing underneath her tunic. "The cherished sister glows brightest here. It seems the further north we get the happier she is yes?"

"Correct," Bern acknowledged as he fumbled through several of the pockets that lined the inside of his cloak. Pulling out a long thin pipe, hand and a half in length, he added a selection of powders to the basin. "Tell me why, why does the cherished sister glow brightest here?" Bern asked, lighting the pipe with a spark of his stones.

"We are getting closer to the world's end. She can hear the prayers of her sister's children easier?" Rhara answered chewing on her lip in thought. Unsure of herself, she scratched her cheek, the dusty red of her skin darkening slightly as she scratched.

"A wives tale." Bern retorted as he puffed a single ring of elderberry smoke into the crisp morning air. "The all mother did not just create our land; her expanse does not end with the ever shore."

"How do you know this, Master? No soul has ever returned from the ever shore; we have no knowledge of it other than the etchings of the first circle?" Rhara said as she frowned, thin eyebrows furrowing as she eyed the Nul carefully as he rose. Leaning on his staff the elder would cough, the smoke that he loved so much must of gone down the wrong way, lungs not being what they used to be.

"And it is said that the children of the all mother shall one day meet with their creator and her cherished kin at the point of points, the shore of shores. Hand in hand, one as one they will pass on to a new land, a land further formed by the tender embrace of their creator." Bern recited from memory his hand turning and moving with a somewhat dramatical flare courtesy of a previous role in life.

"And it is said." Rhara finished the scripture as she touched the single iron ring that hung from her necklace. Unlike her master she had not gained the honour of holding a complete trio of Rings. Each one symbolising an edict of the All Mother's teachings. "I'll continue to my studies. I shall find you for lunch." The Haloian said and without the slightest hint of a further goodbye left the priests camp almost as silently as she appeared.

Finishing the powder in his pipe the priest yawned. His pupil had once again woken him too early, and by his calculations, he would not be wasting much time if he indulged in another hour of sleep. Wetting his throat once more from his water skin, the elder stretched and retreated back under his cloak, and before long he was already in slumber.

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Bern awoke with the rays of the eternal flame casting gently upon his face. The great sun, a beacon of hope in the sky. It wouldn't take the Priest long to pack up camp. After spreading the ash of his fire to the Northern winds, he was away again. The only sign of his stay was his footprints in the breaks of sand from the mostly pebbled coastline. He had a destination, but he also knew not to rush. He was right, his back and lower legs were already causing him grief enough so that he had to lean even more on his walking staff that was mostly used for displays of theatrical amusement to go along with his sermons; yet, today, he was grateful for the polished wood.

"She shall shelter us from the ever dark with her eternal light and at night she shall watch over us. I Bern, priest of Treesea and humble pilgrim wish you good night my cherished Goddess. May you slumber well and awake to watch over your children," The priest said for none to hear but himself as he disappeared over a rolling dune, a whistling tune leaving his lips.

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