Kneading the bread loaf was no easy task, for a woman whose soul roiled within her gut. She fought back the urge to spew the contents of her lunch over the ceremonial loaf she was baking. The smell of the sweetened recipe was doing its own job in making her nauseous.
Why even make bread for a God who will not be there to receive it? Who answers our devotion with deafening silence?
The morality play was the second one she had ever attended in her twenty years of life on the continent of Avisgaard, in the nation of Theoronia. Somehow she had always managed to not be there for them, either finding excuses, or always out of town, finding ways and meeting in secret to give alms to the one true God. Or as the Elves liked to call Him, the God of Man.
In her life she had grown curious. Partially because it was an aspect of her day to day life she had no knowledge of. The spirits are a set of beings that were worshiped by millions of Elves, who had become the dominant race. And also because of her God, by the admission of many of the priests working in the underground, would not intercede in mortal affairs.
Kari had her own back breaking work. Every single day she would wake up, work the fields and tend to the chores of her farm. At night she’d do a shift in one of the many inns throughout Theoronia, always on the move, trying to pick up loose coins here and there to support herself.
However, she would get demeaned, talked down to and groped at. The latter was always the worst part.
And through it all God would not intervene, save her, nor give her the common courtesy of showing appreciation for being worshiped.
Even worse were the priests. People whose devotion to the almighty was so undeniable that they insisted on mimicking their deity by being aloof. Telling her more often than not, to focus on her assigned tasks rather than ask questions.
Did they not know the answers? Or did they know and were simply trying to keep that knowledge for themselves? After all, we are not even supposed to know their names! An effort to keep them safe from the Elves, no doubt.
Anger drove her hands deeper and deeper into the bread. Washing aside all symptoms of unease or discomfort, sharpening her mind on the task before her. Over and over again, deeper and deeper. The work was completed faster, yet the bread was somewhat deformed.
She moved on to the next loaf, pressing and kneading. No matter what, the priests always insist on us making more bread around said event to one up the Elves.
Kari heard the door open behind her, then close with an audible bang.
She turned ever so slightly at the rustle of feet and cloth, turning to see the new leader of her order standing there, watching her beneath his pure white hooded robe.
“Is it done?” He asked simply with barely a trace of any inflection in his voice.
She sighed, “I am on the last loaf now master.”
He continued to observe as she worked the bread. She began to feel her joints aching again. The adrenaline was gone. The fear of letting her feelings be known by the elder Priest returned. What would he do if he found out I have doubts? She wondered.
Yet he continued to watch her hands shape the bread over and over again. She could feel it. His gaze burning into the back of her head, gave her a nervous tick.
Finally she had enough.
In a respectful tone Kari turned to him, auburn hair whipping behind her. “Master, forgive me, but why must we show devotion to a God who may not hear our prayers?”
“It’s not for this life we devote ourselves, but for the next life. God will remember us child.”
“But what good is it if our God is not a part of our world? If he does not help us and does not mean to help us, then what good is he?”
“Show some proper respect, child.” The Priest snapped.
She did so, nodding her head. Kari struggled to find the right words, not wanting this situation to come to blows. Or worse, leave her out in the cold. The Order is all I have. She realized, her eyes twitching.
“I meant no disrespect,” Kari said humbly, her head held low. “I only want to know the truth. So I can understand the burdens we face in the name of God.”
The Priest sighed, surprising her after a second. Yet she dared not breathe, not utter a single world. “The tests we face, the things we do, is not so much about God but about us. Hard work purifies us. Makes us strong. In a way, the Elves can never be strong since they rely more often than not, on their magics. The harder we work, the closer we are to God, since He created the universe. It brings creation into perspective and gives us appreciation.”
She simply nodded.
It did not ring true for her. But at least it did give her something to think about. The bulk of her irritation was gone as she redoubled herself in her task, manipulating the dough again.
The priest left behind her to do whatever else he was going to do.