Dom (bateleur) wrote,

Oracles of Soris

Two broad attendants with shaven heads stood to either side of the path. When the hour came, a gong was sounded and between them they lifted the unsecured middle section of the fence and carried it to the side. The petitioners were then admitted in single file, each stared at as they passed to assess what threat they might pose.

The petitioners were very poor. Many wore the traditional clothes of the Northern farmers, but patched and darned from a dozen years of wear. Others seemed to be soldiers from the wars whose wounds had left them too weak or lame to be of use in the field. There were no children amongst them, but neither were many of them old, for people such as these seldom lived to see old age.

Raised on her palanquin, the oracle spoke to each individually and her judgements varied enormously with a pattern none could discern. To some she gave small coins, or oranges, or carved wooden tokens. To most she gave advice of one kind or another. One man was told he was to serve on a ship fifty miles to the West and must set out at once. Another woman was told she must drink a half cup of vinegar every week to keep the demon within her at bay.

The last petitioner of the day was a very young man with sunken eyes, carrying a bucket. The oracle beckoned him closer and whispered to him, then her attendant bestowed upon the man six silver half suns and a red cloak of good quality. He lifted his head and a dignity came over him as he walked from that place. All looked upon him as he passed and they called to him to say what words the oracle had whispered, but he would not.


As the cult of Soris spread through the six castles during the Age of Wars it quickly passed outside the control of Soris itself and even of the priesthood. Although the first oracles of Soris were chosen and blessed by the priesthood, rural communities quickly realised two things. First, that no oracle would ever be established by the priesthood anywhere far from the cities. Second, that the credentials of oracles were never challenged or verified, so there was really no need to involve the priesthood at all.

The earliest oracles were those established by the priesthood. Later oracles were devout worshippers of Soris who believed themselves able to channel its wisdom for the benefit of all. After a few years had passed, most oracles were charlatans, manipulators or even politicians with no connection to Soris or the priesthood at all.

Confusingly for historians, these later oracles were collectively so influential that by the end of the Age of Wars the majority of written records of the cult of Soris were those recorded by the false oracles.

Although the early oracles of Soris truly did provide its guidance, this was seldom in the interests of anyone but Soris. They were a tool of control, aimed particularly at the wealthy and influential warrior lords who ruled those cities ostensibly in the name of the monarch.

The false oracles sought much the same thing and in the process created a period of moderately enlightened governance since the people of the islands were effectively manipulating their rulers into doing things which needed doing.
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