Chapter 1 can be found here.
Chapter 2 can be found here.
Chapter 3 can be found here.
Outside the fence, in every direction, people were on the ground, some weeping uncontrollably. Others who had been there longer were slightly less emotional. Some were chanting prayers, most of which were barely audible private ones, addressed to Greev about catastrophic personal problems or special needs that could not be done without. Health and riches, good crops and luck at the gambling table, healthy children and dead fathers, full cupboards and political influence; these were requests that were overheard in the thousands of speeches directed at the tree. It was all in earnest, humorless to a fault, this clamor for attention and mass desire to control the future. Through their lifetimes they had been buffeted by events that they could not understand, bruised and bent and tortured in ways and for reasons that were nonsensical. Something, finally, was here to help them draw neat boundaries around their fears, to offer them some way to vent their frustrations, to lay their futures upon in displays of total submission and complete trust. They were being relieved of their doubts and their inability to deal with chance, a fickle and uncontrollable road to spend one’s life on.
Of the tree itself, Kron found himself little impressed. He did see that it possessed some features which might be construed to be those of a human face, but which to him bore a closer resemblance to the small apes that were so common in his own land. He was relieved, he admitted to himself, that there was not more to it than he expected. But at the same time he was surprised that there was so little. He marveled at the imagination that had worked its will upon this tree, and was more taken by the mass reaction to it than by the visual effect of its leaves and branches.
Kron’s personal escort still stood at his side, taking a rather restrained part in the proceedings. Kron understood that he was being closely watched. He knelt, an act that in other circumstances would have been the last of his options. Now, however, he was bound to preserve himself and his mission, even if it meant compromising his principles. This he could justify within himself. He wondered, though, how far he could carry an exhibition of gratitude for the dubious hospitality that had been extended to him.
“Are you now convinced, my friend?” Dalamud, leaning down, spoke into Kron’s ear. A foul odor came from between Dalamud’s lips, which was even more unpleasant than the generalized stench that hung about his filthy clothes and unwashed body.
“I am convinced,” Kron replied, not taking his eyes away from the spectacle. A large crow lit atop the tree and left a deposit on the divine brow. Several people swore at the bird and threw rocks at it to chase it off. They were in turn pushed about by others claiming that the bird must be a holy animal, and by yet others screaming that Greev did not like having rocks thrown at his image.
“And of what, friend, are you convinced?” Dalamud asked, drawing closer to Kron and brushing his ear.
“Of all you have told me. This is truly a sacred object.”
“I knew you would come to see it,” Dalamud said smiling. “Greev and I are very happy that you have been able to share this with us. Don’t you think it is a perfect likeness of him?”
“Absolutely,” said Kron, holding his breath to avoid smelling the other’s.
Dalamud stood and, raising his arms slowly and grandly, offered thanks to Greev for delivering the stranger to him in order that he might show him the truth. Each time Kron stepped away, Dalamud moved with him. He had become Kron’s shadow.
Kron could think of little else than returning to his journey. The earth had turned the sun on a downward path in the west, and that brilliant orb at a traveler’s back would make for a pleasant and fruitful afternoon. Others were deeply involved in reverie, and drunkenness was responsible for much of it. Celebration in some instances became altercation, which caused Kron to become more anxious to break away from his captor. Dalamud, however, continued his monologue, showing no sign of bringing his sermon to an end. The words were like dull blades, scraping against the grain of Kron’s nerves. He stopped listening, finally, in order to consider his own words before he confronted the other with his desire to depart.
“Well, sir,” he began at a rare pause in the other’s speech, “it is time that I should leave. The road does not shorten while I linger here beside it.” He rose from the grass.
“What?” Dalamud screeched. “You want to leave now? But that is not suitable! Places of worship should be attended overnight, and guests are expected to observe that tradition.” He spoke loudly, allowing those around them to hear and to pass judgment on the stranger’s response.
“But sir,” Kron said, “I have been so struck by this miracle that I cannot wait any longer to continue on to the lands in the east and spread word of it. In fact, it may well be that I shall spend the rest of my life in that capacity. I have been profoundly affected by this, finding myself a changed man. You do not wish, I hope, to keep me from that which has been ordained by Greev himself.” He spoke loudly also. Dalamud was, for the first time, unable to launch an immediate response. During his silence, several others expressed approval of Kron’s plan, congratulating him on his conversion.
Dalamud shrugged his shoulders in defeat. Kron picked up his pack and slung it over his back, then wished well to those near him. He thanked Dalamud for bringing him to the holy place, and then started toward the road.
“Stranger!” Dalamud shouted after him. “You have come here by the will of Greev! He delivered you to me for a specific purpose! I know what that purpose is, and it has not yet been fulfilled!”
Kron waved but did not otherwise respond to this thinly veiled threat. He turned and continued on his way, knowing without looking that his nemesis stood staring after him, and in some garish fashion was expressing dissatisfaction and indignation.