Even when he was small there’d been a part of him that thought the temple was a silly boring place, and tried to make him laugh when he was supposed to be listening to sermons. It had grown up with him. It was the Oats that read avidly and always remembered those passages which cast doubt on the literal truth of the Book of Om—and nudged him and said, if this isn’t true, what can you believe?And the other half of him would say: there must be other kinds of truth.And he’d reply: other kinds than the kind that is actually true, you mean?And he’d say: define actually!And he’d shout: well, actually Omnians would have tortured you to death, not long ago, for even thinking like this. Remember that? Remember how many died for using the brain which, you seem to think, their god gave them? What kind of truth excuses all that pain?He’d never quite worked out how to put the answer into words. And then the headaches would start, and the sleepless nights. The Church schismed all the time these days, and this was surely the ultimate one, starting a war inside one’s head.
..... he had ridden right through the gates of the palace. Of course, people rode throughthe gates of the palace every day, but most of them needed the things to be opened first.The guards on the other side were rigid with fear, because they thought they had seen a ghost.They would have been far more frightened if they had known that a ghost was almost exactlywhat they hadn't seen.The guard outside the doors of the great hall had seen it happen too, but he had time to gather hiswits, or such that remained, and raise his spear as Binky trotted across the courtyard.'Halt,' he croaked. 'Halt. What goes where?'Mort saw him for the first time.'What?' he said, still lost in thought.The guard ran his tongue over his dry lips, and backed away. Mort slid off Binky's back andwalked forward.'I meant, what goes there?' the guard tried again, with a mixture of doggedness and suicidalstupidity that marked him for early promotion.Mort caught the spear gently and lifted it out of the way of the door. As he did so the torchlightilluminated his face.'Mort,' he said softly.It should have been enough for any normal soldier, but this guard was officer material.'I mean, friend or foe?' he stuttered, trying to avoid Mort's gaze.'Which would you prefer?' he grinned. It wasn't quite the grin of his master, but it was a prettyeffective grin and didn't have a trace of humour in it.The guard sagged with relief, and stood aside.'Pass, friend,' he said.