A/N: Alright! Happy Xmas in July Iseki! Hopefully this is right up the alley you were hoping for. I really enjoyed writing this, and I'm hoping I'm not far off-base with my interpretations of this topic, and hopefully it flows well. Also, I drew from a few religions and practices old and current. I don't mean to offend anyone.
Perry smiled as he looked at the congregation from altar, it was a full house. Every member of the community as within the walls of the church, from the devout Mira to the sardonic Chase, the skeptical Jin, as well as Chloe and Paolo, the oldest children on the island, who had never once stepped foot inside the church themselves.
They had all come to hear his sermon, all motivated by Angela. She had somehow restored the island to its former glory in the short year she was there, and claimed it was thanks to the sprites, the Goddess, and even the Harvest King. This inspired the townsfolk to incorporate the religion back into their everyday life, to varying degrees.
As everyone settled down, Perry looked through the notes he made for his sermon. This was not his usual speech singing the praises of the Goddess, and thanking the sprites for not only helping her, but for protecting Castanet, as well. This sermon was new, and special, as it was the first sermon the whole town would hear, and the first sermon Perry had ever written that included the Harvest King. Not many remembered the Harvest King these days, but Angela had been adamant that he was just as important as the Goddess, and Perry had tailored his usual sermon to increase his prominence, when he was usually only mentioned in passing.
The pastor looked up from his paper to see dozens of eyes looking at him, waiting. Some were bored, like Selena, who had covered up for the occasion. Others were wide-eyed and waiting, such as Calvin, who had expressed interest in learning about the town's religious history, and the children, who looked at the interior of the building with wonder. Angela looked at him, urging him to begin, before anyone would become restless.
He took a deep breath and began, "The Harvest Goddess is the mother of the land, the ocean, and all of us…"
Angela watched as Perry began his sermon, and felt overwhelming happiness that she could bring him something he had been praying about for a long time; a full congregation. She had convinced everyone to attend one sermon together, just one. Maybe only a few would come back every week, but this once, everyone was together, for Perry, the man who married half of them. She looked down at Finn who was sitting on her lap; he was enjoying this, too. The Goddess was essentially his mother, and you could just tell he was enjoying hearing such nice things about her. She looked back up to the pastor, who was now in full swing, emphasizing and excitedly giving a brief overview before he got into specifics.
"It won't be long before he accidentally hits the podium if he keeps moving his hands like that," Finn chimed in.
Angela suppressed a laugh.
Perry continued on, "The Goddess can heal the sick, ease the suffering the dying, and can save one from a horrible fate, if one only believes strongly enough."
Was it blasphemy? Sacrilege? Jin wasn't sure, but he was sure that the Goddess could not save people that were dying, and she wouldn't heal your cold if you prayed hard enough. That was a job for doctors, for trained professionals. He spent ten years studying, and the last four practicing, medicine, and he had seen dozens saved by surgery, hundreds helped by antibiotics, and none healed through prayer. Although he was a man of science and rationality, he did believe that there was a Goddess, but that she wouldn't concern herself with individual people's problems, and spent her time worrying about larger issues, but that didn't explain why she had let the town suffer for so long with dusty fields, dangerous and unpredictable tides, and lukewarm fires.
He looked over to his wife. Her head was bowed and her lips were moving silently. She was near devout, and a proponent of natural medicine. He had no doubt that the two were related, but that was her personal belief, and he didn't want to pry or belittle her.
"When the Goddess cannot appear in person, she sends one of the sprites to approach the person she needs to reach out to," he heard Perry continue on, and resumed listening fully, for the sake of his wife and the Pastor who was always willing to help.
Gill's blood was beginning to boil. Yes, he was bitter, but of all things to speak about! Angela had convinced everyone in the town, including him, to attend. Out of gratitude for the part he was sure she played in the restoration of Castanet, he agreed. This was too much for him, however. It wasn't too long ago that Gill was berated for claiming to see the sprites. Perry, still in training, had sat in on the "meeting" between Gill, his father, and the former pastor, and sat in silence as Gill suffered over an hour of verbal abuse. He remembered it like it was yesterday, even though he wished that he didn't.
Gill had been a boy of nine or ten when it happened. He had finally worked up the courage to tell his parents about the sprites that had been keeping him company and comforting him through his mother's illness. His mother smiled and humored him, telling him that it was a wonderful thing. His father however, began to turn red. The usual happy-go-lucky attitude that Gill was used to disappeared, and was replaced with rage he had never seen before.
"Gill, don't you ever claim such a thing ever again! You do not make light of the Goddess!" He remembered his father telling him, and his mother's smile vanishing.
The next day, the pastor and Perry showed up at his house, and ruined everything for Gill. He was forced to convince himself that the sprites were part of his imagination, and eventually, they stropped appearing to him. Every now and then though, he thought he heard small voices like bells, and when he looked quickly, there always seemed to be a small glow lingering behind Angela's shoulder.
It was commonly believed that she could see the sprites, and no one ever claimed blasphemy, not even his father. The town jointly thanked the Goddess and the farmer, nearly combining the two. That was the heresy in Gills opinion. He was sure that she would have been sentenced to death centuries ago, but then again, he supposed he would have been as well.
He was hurt deeply by Perry's choice of topic at the moment. Didn't he remember what had happened a decade ago at the bottom of the hill, where he had taken the side of his teacher, but not what he truly believed?
"The Goddess is not alone in taking care of the land, there is another who is just as important, and unfortunately, not many of you have heard of him. I am also at fault for allowing him to linger in the background for as long as I have," Perry began to shift topics, and Gill began to simmer down.
"I will live until the last mortal human forgets me, and even then, I'll linger on for a while longer," the Harvest King mused as he listened in to the town below from his throne high above.
He was a god, once, centuries upon centuries ago, when nothing was definite and people feared the fall of the sun, and sometimes it's rise as well.
That was a long time ago, though, and most of the world had forgotten him, replacing him with Sephina as society grew more stable with the passing decades. This was his last domain, the peninsula and single valley to the north. He could look down on both from his mountaintop, but it was only a matter of time before he was sure he would disappear forever. Time moved differently for him, and the lives of his worshipers that kept him alive were but a flicker in the fire that composed his time. Still he remembered when he was important to them.
"Protect us!" they would yell to the sky, offering their sheep, their cows, and in some regions, their daughters.
He was feared, respected. Children were taught to avoid his rage. Once everything was sacrificed, and the war was either won or lost, the absence of fear was not love, but relief. Now however, most had never heard of him, or had only been told in passing, before the Goddess Song was sung. Their books painted him honestly, but it was considered negative.
Even after learning all this, the farmer, Angela, still approached him. She held him in respect, and said she understood why people would give him their livestock, and even other people. She didn't hold it against him, and that intrigued him, but she claimed that, in her opinion, it was just that they didn't know how to approach him otherwise.
To mortals, he supposed, it made sense to do these things to protect them. Hopefully to ensure their already short lives were not ended prematurely. Some girls thought it was an honor to be chosen to help their community, but in the end were still forced to actually go through with it. What mortal woman would willingly lie with a god? Even if Angela had proven strong-willed and rather accepting of creatures, gods, and a religion she knew nothing about previously, that didn't guarantee that she would love him, and that didn't mean what he felt was love.
Through out ages and lands, gods and goddesses have taken mortal lovers, but would it be appropriate in this time? The Harvest King hung his head, and determined that it wouldn't be. In his weakened state he cared more for keeping a decently accepted role rather than being associated with something like that.
A year previous, from his seat he watched as the Kappa formed a marriage pact with a young blonde, and then later watched her near ostracization from the community with the birth of a daughter, presumed out of wedlock. He watched as accusations of paternity were thrown at the town's pastor. The poor girl's only saving grace was that her farm was the center of the town's economy. He had grown soft over the past millennia, and didn't want to bestow that fate upon Angela.
He chose not to act, and instead decided on keeping watch from atop the mountain, and perhaps she would come to him herself.
Angela and Finn exited the church and headed back towards the ranch. It wasn't until they were separated from the rest of the town that either spoke.
"I'm kind of relieved that's over," Angela admitted. "After actually meeting those two, it's really weird to hear about them like that."
"Yeah, some of that stuff isn't right!" Finn complained, hovering above the farmer's shoulder.
"I don't think the Harvest King is as bad of a guy as Perry seems to think," the brunette trailed off, looking back at the mountain that was visible from anywhere one stood in Castanet. "Not at all."