In the pulpit of the Church of the early beliefs, a strange new creature wanders....
Mother Galina lounged on her perch, allowing one taloned paw to droop over the edge and hang there. Her tufted tail swished contentedly behind her. She seemed completely immune to the aura of terror her companion was creating.
He was sitting on the floor beneath her, watching the congregation through eyes narrowed in suspicion. The church was completely silent in his presence. The assembly had never seen such an ugly and horrid creature.
He was roughly six feet tall, with dull nails and a sickly white pallor. Limp black fur dangled to his shoulders, which were soft and rounded. He seemed capable of balancing on his hind legs, aided by his oddly malformed back paws. His front limbs dangled to his waist when he did so, and their proportions were askew. His fingers were skinny and long, attached to a too-small palm. His face ran long instead of wide. The eyes implanted in them were placed horribly, allowing for only a limited range of vision, and his nose protruded too far from his face.
The congregation sat back in horror of this beast, mouths or beaks gaping wide. Mother Galina chose the perfect moment to descend from her perch, stepping down just as the last murmurings and gasps were being uttered. She padded majestically to the wide, low altar, surveying the church through large golden eyes. The beast followed her, managing to do so on its back paws. When she stopped behind the altar, it crouched in an awkward position that caused many of the congregation members to wince. Mother Galina blinked peacefully and stood quietly behind the altar until the noises died entirely.
“Greetings once more, to the Church of the Early Beliefs. As always, all manners of creatures are welcome, from lowly nymphs to High Gryphons such as myself. But today we are accepting a new creature into our ranks. The beast now crouching by the altar is to be the newest addition to our Church. Everyone, meet Bryn.” Bryn raised one gawky limb and gave a shaky wave. The stunned congregation just stared back at him, so he quickly stopped.
The feathers at the corners of Mother Galina’s beak turned sharply downward at the congregation’s reaction. The congregation looked apprehensive, but made no move to greet the misshapen new member of their ranks. Mother Galina’s feathers began to swell in her anger.
“Well!” she screeched. “I can see now that my teachings have gone straight through your minds! Have any of you ever listened to one of my sermons? Ever? The Church of the Early Beliefs, in which everyone present spends a portion of your day, is based on equality for all! Yet you still judge on appearances alone. If you have not learned a single thing form my sermons, leave my church NOW!”
Nobody dared move. Mother Galina’s fierce eyes pierced through the congregation, seeming to target each individual being and drill a sickening feeling of guilty fear into them. Finally, one trembling nymph rose and gave a small smile.
“Um,” she said quietly, her voice echoing nonetheless around the still room, “I would lie to be the first to say hello to Bryn. So, hello and, um, welcome, Bryn.” The nymph gave a slight wave and sat. Mother Galina’s expression softened and she gave a nod of respect to the nymph. Then she sat back on her heels and waited for the welcome that the nymph’s small gesture would bring. Several more rose, and with them many others found the courage to do so. The all welcomed Bryn, their shouts of welcome eventually swelling in volume as they tried to have their personal welcome heard. One young sylph found the courage to run up and give Bryn’s surprised frame a quick hug.
Mother Galina let this continue for a few minutes before striding across the front of the church to a small sliver gong and rapping it sharply with one carefully extended talon. A melodic, crystalline tone reverberated through the air, instantly commanding silence. Mother Galina addressed the congregation as she went back to the altar.
“Much better. That is a true welcome from the C.E.B.! And now, let us begin. Bryn shall be staying up here today; he will be sitting with you tomorrow. Today, we will be discussing the Book of Morals as recorded by Szhu, a founder of C.E.B….”
Mother Galina reclined on her perch, the dim glittering of the few candles speckled about her home throwing eerie shadows about. She was still in the draping red ceremonial robes of a High Priestess, though Mass had ended three hours earlier. Bryn was reclining on the floor beneath her. She opened one lazy eye and tilted her head to look down at him.
“So, where you come from, do they all look like you?” she asked. Bryn nodded.
“Yeah. In fact, everything here, the nymphs, the sylphs, the gargoyles, and gryphons such as yerself, they don’t exist. Yer all just this thing called fantasy.” Mother Galina pondered this.
“So, this fantasy, is it… not real? Or is it writings of how other places are?” Bryn shook his head and scoffed, bemused.
“Nope. ‘S just fiction. People, we call ‘em authors, they jest sit ‘round all day and write. Well I guess they have lives, too, but they write so we all can have summat to read when we’re bored. And in these books, y’all exist, but otherwise ya don’t.” Mother Galina looked shocked.
“Y-you mean there are no gryphons? No magic? But—how do you get around? You can’t fly!” Bryn nodded.
“Yep, we can’t. But we build these big hulkin’ machines called airplanes, and we can sit in them, an’ they fly.” Mother Galina shook her head in amazement.
“Is that how you got here? In an—‘airplane’?” Bryn shook his head.
“Naw. We got these other things, called space ships. They can go real high, out of the planet. I was in one with my buddies when something went wrong. Our connections to the planet were lost, so we just spiraled through the space. All my buddies died. I was practic’lly dead when I hit this place. Then ya found me, and, yeah.”
Mother Galina was paying rapt attention. Her eyes were wide, and her tufted ears were cocked forward to catch every syllable. She almost fell off of her perch.
“Your shuttle. That was the big metal thing you were in?” Bryn nodded His expression became a questioning one, and it sat like that for a few moments, his mouth slightly open, before he finally spoke. When he did, his oddly round head tilted to one side and his oily hank of black fur swayed.
“One more thing confuses me,” he said. “Yer congregation’s reaction to me. I mean, ‘s like they’ve never seen a human before.”