The God-Voices of Settler's Rest
by Ken Scholes
Mother Holton grieved when the god-voices returned because she remembered
what it had cost Settler's Rest the last time, when she was a little girl. It made her
But they were tears of sorrow, not fear. No, she was not afraid. She knew that the
voices came around like Gussuf's Wheel and that after the god-voices quieted, they
would have peace for a season. But this was the second visitation in a century.
They would visit sooner and sooner until eventually they ushered in the next Age
The Seventeenth age, if the Book spake true. "So many," she heard a dry reed-rattle voice whisper into the darkened bedroom. Her own voice, she realized.
The room bell chimed and she sat up from the blankets. With each year, they'd
piled more of them onto her. "These winters are growing colder," she would say.
"What do you think of that?" And they would heat the blankets near the fire that
night and her bones wouldn't ache from the cold nearly as much.
The door opened and a wedge of light pushed into the room. A girl stepped into it.
"Mother, they have started," the girl said. Mother Holton couldn't tell who it was.
Perhaps one of the younger, newer converts. Was that a hint of the Northern
Coasts in her voice?
"I know they have," the old woman said. "Help me to prayer, girl."
The girl shook her head. "I am not permitted, Mother."
Mother Holton laughed. "Them that's told you not to answer the voices are
already on their knees, I'll wager." She coughed and tasted copper in her mouth.
"Whether or not we answer is irrelevant, regardless of what you've been taught."
The girl stepped forward, uncertainty in her voice. "Why do we want it so badly?"
For a moment, Mother Holton allowed herself to hear the whispering god-voices.
Comehomecomehomecomehome, they whispered, toaplacewhereyouwillbeloved.
Only the whispers, when they blended, were a choir that balanced perfectly
between chant and song. Mother Holton forced the voices back down. "Because
we cannot bear to be alone in the Universe," she finally said. "Now help me to my
The girl came to her side and helped her up. There was a time when Mother
Holton would have pretended to accept the assistance without resting any weight
on her helper. But now, she knew she needed all the help she could get. The girl
gently lowered her to the floor. Mother Holton folded her hands and bowed her
"Now pray with me," she said.
The girl shook her head more vigorously. "I can not, Mother."
Mother Holton smiled. "This is your first time, child. You do not know it yet, but
before they pass, you will bend your knee to them that's bidding. It's better to do
it now. It makes what comes later more easy to swallow."
Trembling, the girl knelt beside her.
Then Mother Holton, Settler Priestess of the First Home Temple, answered the
voices from her childhood so long ago.
"Oh," she said, feeling the lump grow in her throat, "I've missed you."