The monk comforted the crying elf until the sobs finally died down.
- "I am so exhausted," Joneleth whispered. He looked embarrassed, staring at the floorboards of his cabin.
- "Sit down, Jon," Ilmater offered. "Let me pamper you a little. I will finish your cooking for you, and give you something to drink. A shot of rum perhaps, or wine?"
The elf shook his head.
- "I do not wish to drink alcohol," he said in a small voice. "It frightens me for it intensifies these strange... emotions, and it muddles my thoughts and yet sprouts new ones - just like weed chaotically growing up in a perfect bench of flowers if you are not careful."
- "Hm," Ilmater said. "I am not saying that you should drink alcohol. It is your choice, and it is not healthy in large quantities or enjoyed too often. But what you said about it is interesting. Care for a cup of tea instead?"
A frail nod, a tentative smile. Poor, broken thing, the god thought.
- "Just a minute, I will put the kettle on... a little bit of chaos never hurt anyone's soul, Jon. It sounds as if you want to examine your own thoughts and feelings from a distance and with scientific accuracy label them, with no surprises. You likened your mental landscape, in non-frightening state, to a 'perfect flowerbed'."
Joneleth looked blankly back, frowning.
- "Of course," he said, uncomprehending.
- "There are people," Ilmater smiled, "who would find the very thought horrible. There are those who ride the chaos and love it that way."
- "Peri." Jon's eyes sparked with a complicated emotion.
- "Yes indeed! The one who gave you the chance. Well spotted, Joneleth!"
- "It was her actually that..." the elf's voice died away and he frowned, as if looking for words.
- "Yes?" Ilmater's face was full of expecting kindness.
- "I was thinking of her when I... felt the anger this morning," the elf said, looking away, his pale cheeks flushing.
- "You were thinking about her when you felt the need of me and I wasn't there?"
- "Yes. I... this is very... hard," Joneleth spoke as if someone was pulling his teeth, "... can you forgive me for my bad behaviour?"
- "Certainly. I am a big god, I can take it. I am very impressed by you saying so." There was barely concealed mirth at the monk's face.
- "I was just like a spoiled brat," the elf muttered, the blush deepening.
- "Again, an accurate observation you can generalize on later," the god chuckled.
- "Oh, never mind. We will get back to it later on. Really, you are quite forgiven. Tell me about Peri." He sat down and gently took the elf's hand into his own.
- "Yes. You know, I have not even met her that many times... but I held her soul... because I had stolen it." He winced as he said it.
- "She said that she doesn't hate me," Joneleth went on, his eyes now fixed somewhere far away, "But how can she not? I hate myself for doing it. This soul is a mixed blessing, or curse! I must have a picture of myself, of what kind of man I am... but it causes me pain to loathe that picture, for this body and soul, everything they provide me, they ARE it! It is hard to exist when the image of self is a one you feel contempt for - living consists of committing acts aimed for survival and gratification of your needs and wants... I am confused, and not making sense, am I?"
- "Jon. You make sense well enough. Someone less prone to trying to define things might simply say that it is hard to live hating yourself. And you have got that one right."
- "And there is more. It is not only that it puzzles me why Peri would not hate me. It also makes me somehow resent her, in case it is true. It feels humiliating that she would have mercy on me, for I can not understand it! It is as if I am not someone to fear or loathe, but someone worthy of pity or mercy. And then I loathe myself even more for daring to resent the one who gave me the chance and then all this became such a mess that my intellect would not be enough to make sense of it and..." he gulped down tears of frustration and anger, balling his fists.
- "Jon... your intellect is not the part of you that needs the most practise, I dare say. Peri doesn't hate you, because she can sympathize with you for losing your soul. She thinks your punishment was cruel and senseless."
- "I TORTURED HER!" the elf screamed, then hit his face to the table, crying unconsolably.
- "So you did. By now she has forgiven you that. There are people, my followers, who have been tortured, and prayed for their tormentors, healed their wounds when the roles have been reversed..."
- "Peri is no Ilmatari... she is a Bhaalspawn," Joneleth said, drained.
- "Yes... but she has capasity of compassion, though she chooses her own ways whom to feel compassion for and whom not. Like we all do."
- "But I can't go on thinking like that, can I? That all I did does not really matter because I had no soul? You are not saying that, are you?"
- "Not at all. It would take you nowhere. But I was talking about Peri. You are a different matter. You know well that you deserve punishment, though I would have chosen a very different method than the Seldarine did. But self-loathing will not take you anywhere either. You must learn to love yourself, in spite of your crimes. Perhaps, when you are ready, you can commit an act of atonement. But for a long time I think you will need my help still."
The elf nodded.
- "I would like that... but I am not ready. I don't want to leave. I am frightened."
- "You don't understand ties of love and friendship, the power that is in kindness and compassion. Yet. I will never drive you away. You can stay as long as you like, and always come back should you later choose to leave."
The First Apology
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