Of course he knew the Empire was built on airy, at times vulgar, symbolism. He was, after all, an educated man. He knew how to interpret the Laws of the Elders. Could equally well listen to the speech of the stars as kiss one of his concubines below. He believed neither in ghosts, nor in symbols as anything other than representations.
Still, a part of him; one might say the child, believed firmly in the virtues:
- Fidelity to the large and the small family. Even when the decisions of the concubines or the Emperor seemed enigmatic.
- Friendliness and good will towards strangers.
- Ritualized blasphemy by the altars along the roads, at night.
- That you will reap as you sow.
Now he was standing by one of the altars, on the road to the Imperial City. The sunset painted the sky in shades of gold, pink, violet and orange. But not red, that had been forbidden by the Emperor.
Soon the star-song would begin.
The altar was a scrawny, ancient spike of stone. The little roof that was supposed to protect the sacrificial gifts; fire, incense, beautiful stones, blood, flowers and perfume, against wind and weather would probably break down completely in a few hundred years.
He left a small die for the enjoyment of the altar-eaters. Said a silent prayer to The Guardian of the Road that the ghosts he didn’t believe in would leave him alone this night.
On the long way home.