” ‘Friar Kerrigan, can you tell us how long you’ve been a follower of The Greenway?”
“Well, I was born to it, as they say. My family took to The Green generations agone. Me Uncle Hardin was High Greensinger and piped for the march lord Hawkins, Lord o’ Brindle. Leastways, he did until Lord Hawkins’ liege lord, the Baron Taunton, come and called him out for a greenback, put sword to throat and torch to hall. That was criminal, it was. ‘Twould be right to charge the Baron with murder for all of ’em, me uncle included, but there’s no liege to petition for redress on account o’ them’s all bein’ a bunch o’ stiff-necked belly boys right on up to the Countess.
“Sons of Belial. Followers of the Golden Rule of Gideon, they call themselves, but we of The Greenway know better.”
“I see. And the Countess?”
“That would be Countess Selyse of The Fallows. Selyse was a Darrymore from the south. The Darrymores are the worst possible combination: golden nobles with ambition. The story goes that in her youth, Selyse was promised to Lord Montgomery, the last unmarried son of the Duke of Calloway, which would make any of their issue cousins to the king. But the dashingly handsome young Lord Monty was lost at sea in a storm. Selyse’s mother, the Lady Anastasia, was inconsolable, they say.
“The next best match that could be found for Selyse was up here in the north with Lord Unger, the eldest son of Count Erving and heir to The Fallows. Well, Count Erving had one hip on the bier as they say, and his eldest, Lord Unger, was still unmarried in his middle years. As it turned out, Lord Unger was a large man of poor health and somewhat simple wit. Selyse was fine with her mother’s ambition when it led to a handsome match, but now that she was being forced to marry an “oafish lump” as she called him, she was suddenly not so supportive. Selyse was sore distressed, but Lady Anastasia would brook none of her daughter’s objections and a-fore long the two were wed.
“To make matters worse for Selyse, The Fallows had a long tradition of following The Greenway as long as anyone can remember, including most of our lords. And once Selyse was wed to Lord Unger, she found that while her simple lord would yield to her in most things, he refused to budge in his devotion to The Greenway. Even when the old Count finally found his bier and Unger was invested as Count of The Fallows, he only became more committed in his support, which vexed Countess Selyse no end. She prayed openly for her ill lord husband to find his bier.
“To hear her tell it, she wasted the best years of her life waiting for Count Unger to die, and after he finally breathed his last she petitioned the king to rule The Fallows as Countess as she refused to bear a child for the Count. She was granted her petition, and shortly thereafter she was herself invested as titular vassal to the king. Instead of bearing children, she fostered the issue of many of her lord husband’s vassals, which she saw were tutored to the Golden Rule behind Count Unger’s back. But despite her wealth and power, she still blames The Greenway for the misfortune of her wasted youth as she calls it, and she’s been set against us ever since she came to rule. By this time, most of her fosterlings have come to their seats and The Fallows now drips in gold and most of her vassal lords are unswerving in their devotion to her. Those of us who still follow The Greenway here in The Fallows do so at our own peril. But we’ll not turn our backs on what’s right.”
“So, what can you tell us about The Greenway? What do you teach?”
“We teach that Oberon, King o’ the Green, and Viviane, the Lady of the Lake, are not to be found in a fancy cathedral or some rustic abbey. They are all around us all the time. There’s no need to learn a hundred rules. As long as your heart is good and you do right by kith and kin, eternal reward is yours. We are part of the world and we return to the world when our journey here is done.”
“And the other Gods? The Golden Lord and the White Lady?”
“The Red Prince and the Iron Lady, you mean. Don’t be fooled by the pretty candles, gilded cloth, and marbled halls. They make everything pretty so that them that don’t look under the surface will be taken in, but it’s all a lie and no lie is as dangerous as a pretty lie that you want to hear.
“You see, long ages ago, Oberon discovered the truth and revealed it to us that Gideon and Bethany are imposters. That their true names are Belial, the Red Tyrant and Prince of Lies, and his consort is none other than Lillith, the Iron Lady. And they’ve got a grip on the hearts and minds of so many people, particularly in the south but here in the north, too.”
“So, Oberon didn’t rebel against Gideon?”
“Oh, he rebelled alright, and it’s lucky for all of us that he did! That was Oberon looking out for us and doing whatever was necessary to keep us safe, preserving the faith. Between the Greenway and the Golden Rule, the Greenway is older, by far. Once Oberon discovered that ‘Gideon’ was a fraud committed against us all by Belial, he had no choice but to rebel, or else allow the whole world to fall victim to Belial’s lies about the new ‘Golden Rule’.”
“And Bethany is Lillith?”
“Aye, and that’s a particularly mean fraud, that. Lillith puts on her alabaster gown and cloaks herself in beauty, calls herself Bethany, draws you in, and then she has you ensnared. She is insidious and ruthless. As dangerous as Belial may be, I actually think Lillith is the more dangerous of the two. Gideon and Bethany, indeed!”
“And what of Chalandris?”
“Chalandris is the Spirit of the World, the perfect embodiment of the ideals of Oberon and Viviane. It is no coincidence that the perfect spirit of nature aligns so perfectly with the Green Path, and further proof that the ‘Golden Rule of Gideon’ is a fraud.