Salt City

Salt City Cover Art


The waiting was the hardest part. Moir thought it would never end, that long grey silence while the senior priests debated. He could hear them, just barely, and only because the door, swollen under a barrage of spring storm humidity, didn’t quite shut properly at the moment. Their voices sounded even, but senior priests rarely got emotional over something as routine as a novice being confirmed as a junior priest. Getting emotional was the sort of thing novices did. Especially while waiting for that confirmation.

Moir couldn’t stop himself from going over every mistake he’d made during his training, re-examining every twitch of expression and inflection of words to see if he’d somehow failed. When the seniors had withdrawn to confer, s’iope Anac had seemed displeased, but he always looked that way. Moir had never seen the lean man really smile. His expression remained as severe as his plain, harshly starched robes. S’iope Enouk had been friendlier, but again, he always radiated a comforting sense of amicable goodwill even when delivering a blistering reprimand. N’sion Cabrach, the head of the Northern Church, had listened to the two senior priests interview Moir, keeping his gaze fixed firmly on the ceiling the entire time, and had made no comment at all.

Did that mean the n’sion was displeased? Was it normal behavior? Moir had no idea. Novices had little unsupervised time to gossip, and most of that wound up being about what was for dinner that night, in any case. The voices went on, murmuring just below clarity. Moir shifted his weight from one foot to the other and studied the grey stone floor, desperately fighting the urge to edge a tiny bit closer to see if he could make out a few words. Eavesdropping was not proper. Such thoughts were based in anxiety and insecurity, which this morning’s sermon had addressed. Insecurity and anxiety come from an improperly balanced soul. It had been part of a long, droning examination of the Fifteenth Creed. Keeping your soul’s balance is the primary task of a righteous man.

Moir looked at the shadows on the white walls, then tilted his head to squint at the angle of sun coming through the narrow windows, trying to estimate how long he’d been waiting. He’d come into the examination promptly at noon. This room had the same north-facing window style as the lecture room, so if the shadows were comparable, it was currently drawing on towards dinnertime. That worried him. Surely they didn’t always take so long to decide on the fate of a potential junior priest?

Potential. That had Moir gritting his teeth. His posting application hadn’t been approved yet. It should be. It would be. He hadn’t done anything wrong. Not really.

But if they knew about Seffan, they might not agree. His parents would certainly not agree. Their son and a mere servant? Unthinkable. And if Moir lost Seffan . . . no, best not to think about that. It would all work out. Everything would be fine.

Moir began working through the Creeds, trying to calm himself to an appropriate level of serenity for the upcoming audience. There were over a hundred of them. He mixed up the Twentieth and Twenty-second, as he always did, and had his usual flash of irritation that they were so very similar. Sometimes he suspected that the priests who’d developed the Litany of Creeds hadn’t really been paying attention, but that was a disrespectful thought. He paused in the Litany to offer apologies to the Four, and promptly lost track of which Creed he’d been about to recite.

The door of the n’sion’s conference chamber creaked open, aided by a shoulder, from the sound of it. S’iope Anac beckoned Moir forward, his lean dark face creased in a slight, irritable squint that probably had more to do with the recalcitrant door than with Moir. Probably….

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