Over the last year I have both dreaded and looked forward to this moment. I have debated just how I could write this letter without embarrassing either of us. Sister Agnes told me that you wept when you heard I was leaving. And that you were too distraught to see me off. I understand. That alone bolsters my confidence beyond any blessing you could bestow upon me.
The last eighteen years have been the best of my life. Who knew growing up in a monastery could be so fulfilling? I count myself lucky the day my poor mother left me on your doorstep. I shudder to think of the miscreant I could have grown into without your keen eye and swift cudgel.
And I know just how blessed I have been. With the constant mayhem and destruction that has swirled around the monastery, I feel lucky to have survived. I do miss brothers Jacob the rheumy, Melvin, Elijah, Norm, Cassidy, Jacob the lesser, Karnov, and most of all, Sister Edna, may she forever rest in the bosom of our ambivalent mistress Semaunya (may her scales always remain moist). I am grateful for Sister Edna’s patience in teaching me the secret ways of worship.
I know I was not supposed to speak of this private training but with her being crushed during the winter celebration, and my pending exodus, I felt I could assure you I have been given the highest praise for my knowledge and skill. I remain astonished at Sister Edna’s ministrations during the long hours of her teaching and how, even from her knees, she showed me the way to the most explosive of religious expression. I am proud to say I became quite adept at the rituals she prescribed. My quick mastery of certain esoteric somatic gestures, remarkably specific verbal commands and even certain oils and fragrances as material components, were key to helping heal her many ailments. With my budding skills and her enthusiastic encouragement I was able to help her achieve enlightenment, frequently calling out to the gods, sometimes several times in a given session. I will not lie, I miss those sessions.
After the untimely crushing of Sister Edna, Sister Agnes took up my training with a slightly different slant. Beyond those lessons where she pronounced Sister Edna’s teaching to be quite satisfactory, she has also suggested that perhaps I could learn a few more variations on worship that proved to be exhilarating for both of us. I never dreamed that religious study could be so satisfying.
With the collapse of the east tower, and the untimely deaths of brothers Carl, Jacob the third, and Bruce, Sister Agnes thought perhaps it would be better for everyone involved, especially her, if I were to take my mission out into the wider world, to share my gifts with others who are in need. I have her to thank for my inspiration. She has helped guide my decision while continuing our private lessons up to the very hour I have written this letter.
Sister Agnes helped me prepare me for my travels according to my need. She assured me that you would not mind me taking the old mace that lay on the altar. And she liberated several sets of vestments from your personal laundry. I know you suggested the last time we spoke, that I should be cast into the world with only the items I arrived with. I thank you for that confidence in my abilities, but Sister Agnes thought I might catch my death of cold.
As Sister Agnes smuggled me out through the kitchens, I was surprised to hear the cook weep openly at my plans to progress out into my true calling. Cook, who has always greeted me with gestures and words that Sister Edna confirmed were a special blessing, shook with grief upon my entrance to her domain. She threw salt at my back as I passed. While some of it got into my eyes, I’m sure she meant me no harm. I am confident the words she used were meant as a warding for my protection and not a prayer that I should never return. I will need to consider her entreaty to never spawn, but Sister Agnes believes it was an eager wish that I continue to dedicate myself to my true calling.
In the ruins of the east gate, Sister Agnes and I were rudely interrupted in our final moment of worship by Brother Durham, which was a real disappointment. However, he more than made up for his impetuousness by kicking me down all ninety-two steps from our holy landing to the first reaches of the Blackwater Swamp. He assured me it is our order’s custom for one about to leave the seclusion the monastery provides. He explained that the action symbolizes my ability to pick myself back up when the great world knocks me down. I am truly blessed to have such a thoughtful compatriot.
I look forward to the coming weeks when the welts and scratches of my private tutelage will heal and the lessons you have taught me will begun to bear fruit. I am unclear if there are any others of our order beyond our walls, but I have faith I can find someone willing to administer the loving , open-palm strike of penitence you bestowed upon me so frequently. I know I will continue to fall short of the great Semaunya’s vision for my life and future. May her utter contempt for my existence remain steadfast and strong.
Lastly, I want to leave you with this promise. Though you have done all you could for the likes of a poor wretch like myself, know that I will never forget you. I implore our great god to mete upon you adequate reward for the treatment I have had at your hands.
When I mentioned this to Sister Agnes, she just smiled and assured me that you have already been rewarded just by knowing I go to pursue my work for the unperturbed Semaunya. May she hatch a thousand offspring.
Your most unworthy novice,
Useless Lump, first novice of Semaunya, she who rules the lizards.
P.S. Sister Agnes thinks perhaps I may have misunderstood parts of the liturgy and that we don’t truly worship Semaunya (may her cudgel always strike true). She said our order favored Yondalla, the Halfling goddess of fertility and protection. And that their symbol was a shield. She claims my misunderstanding of our rituals and the misreading of the symbology led to my error. We both agreed the term moist definitely played in the rituals, so I stand confirmed in my convictions. In the end, we agreed to disagree.
P.P.S. Sister Agnes suggested I choose a name other than Useless Lump. I will pray on this.
P.P.P.S. Lizards Rule.