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The Unworthy Priest (Dragon Tails)

You may find the names in the following Dragon Tail a bit hard to pronounce, as this tale takes place in a land foreign to the protagonists of the Dragon-Called series. The tale provides background on an important character, as well as a better understanding for a conflict that runs throughout the series.


The sun beat down and he scooted further back on the rock under the hanging limbs of the lone Whisper Glen tree that grew behind the rock. Like the outlandish tree, Gened-Jin was a curiosity in the southern lands of Avanis. He rested against the twisted trunk and enjoyed the feel of its rough surface. It felt real, not like recent events.

“Gened.” A voice called out from below.

He knew it was his mentor, Poojan-Uul. He was the only one that would be informal enough not to use his title.

“Gened.” The voice called again.

He leaned forward and crawled out to the edge of the rock. The gentle Poojan-Uul stood in the middle of the sandy ravine his head turned up to Gened-Jin, a hand held up to shade his eyes.

“It is time my son.” Poojan-Uul’s smile had not changed since Gened had been a child. He remembered little of the day he lost his parents and had been delivered to the temple, but he did remember the old Uul’s smile. It still made him feel safe.

“I am not worthy.” Gened knew it was the truth. He had been a Jin Priest for only five years, it was too soon and he knew too little.

“It is not for us to decide that,” The voice from below was infallible. But in sharing the truth, it did not lose any of the cheerful tone Gened had come to love, making his departure even more difficult.

It took a few moments for Gened to move back to the other side of the rock and scale down the sides of the ravine to join the man—though not of the same blood or even the same peoples—that had raised him.

He unconsciously hunched over, but still towered over the Uul, as he did most people in the Kingdom of Avanis. He wiped the dust off his black robes and bowed his head to look at the ground.

“Gened.” The old man cupped the young Jin’s chin in his hand and lifted younger man’s face so they stared into each other’s eyes. “Stand up straight.” His smile widened, contrasting with the cinnamon color of his skin.

Gened took every opportunity to expose his body to the sun, but he still paled next to his mentor.

“Today we will be equals.” He turned and indicated the temple beyond the ravine. “It is Koke Tengri’s Will.”

“I thought the Master called a new Uul,” Gened tried to argue.

“The Master may announce the name, but only the God of everything can make a man a Uul.” Poojan-Uul reached up and patted his student on the shoulder. “Come, you don’t want to be late for your own ceremony.” He walked ahead up the ravine, his feet kicking up dust as he went.


The large double doors were pulled back by Initiates and Gened entered. The boys closed the doors from the outside. The ceremony was only for the vested priests of the Shin-il Way.

Gened wanted to turn and run as quickly as his feet would take him. But he knew he couldn’t. He could leave the others, but not his mentor, Poojan-Uul. Gened was not ready for this. Only twenty-three he would be the youngest to be lifted to such a station. He knew it was because he didn’t look like his Brothers. The differences he had tried hard to hide since his youth when he first noticed he was not like the other Initiates. He told himself it was only because he looked like the Tarans that he was being raised above others more worthy. But he knew in his Spirit that he was unworthy for other reasons. The differences weren’t just on the outside.

Gened stood inside the door and scanned ahead. The chamber was dark except for the hint of light that filtered in around the edges of one of the shuttered windows to his right. In front of him he could make out dozens of black robed Jin priests who sat to either side, creating a narrow aisle. A path that led into the dark toward the dais he couldn’t see, but knew waited at the other end. As he knelt in his regular spot, along the aisle several rows from the back, he could see that the priests near him each had their fingers intertwined and held an unlit candle. The Jin priests knelt and touched their head to the floor, then raised back on their heels, repeating the ritual several times. They began to chant, their voices rose together, the repetition creating a song Gened had sung many times since childhood. The lesser priests joined in and the voice of over a hundred men filled the chamber.

The chanting stopped.

“In the darkness, we wander lost and alone, the truth hidden, and fear is our constant companion.” Gened could hear Poojan-Uul’s voice ahead, but he couldn’t see his mentor.

“In the darkness, we wander lost and alone, the truth hidden, and fear is our constant companion,” A hundred voices repeated in unison.

From a door to the side, two Jin priests stepped forward. They were his closest friends. At least as close as anyone could be considering the differences between him and the others in the chamber. They each held a short pole with wicks already lit.

“Light pushes back the dark, making our path clear.” Poojan-Uul called out and it was also repeated by the men in the room.

The two priests walked up the aisle to the front. They were barely visible, silhouettes in the flickering light on their poles. When they reached the front they turned the poles down, to the side—one to the right, the other to the left—the flame of the wicks revealed more priests sitting in front. His two friends lit the candle of the priests closest to them, then they turned around and walked back toward him, lighting the candles of the priests sitting next to the aisle. Each sitting priest in turn lit the candle of the man next to them.

“The light pushes back the dark, exposing the truth.” The senior priest, head of their temple, led the men in the next line.

With each newly lit candle the room grew brighter, the illumination spread out from the front and flowed back toward Gened. It reminded him of the blossoming of a flower.

When Gened’s two friends reached him, they stopped and turned to face him.

“The light pushes back the dark, fear dies in the fire.” Poojan-Uul’s voice was followed by the others.

With over a hundred candles flaring to life, Gened could now see the other end of the room. Poojan-Uul stood facing the assembly. He was adorned in blood-red robes, the vestments worn only by the elite Uul priests, the few that sat at the pinnacle of their order.

“When light fills our life we see Koke Tengri and know His Will.”

This time the men in the room did not repeat the entire line, but instead just said, “Koke Tengri be praised.”

In response, panels slid back in the arched ceiling letting sunlight shine down on the men, exposing the entire chamber. Gened knew Initiates had used a pulley system to slide the panels aside, but the effect was no less breathtaking. His heart swelled, the perception being that their God blessed their conclave and the events taking place.

Gened kept his face directed to the front at Poojan-Uul, but his eyes shifted from side to side as he saw all the tapestries that covered the normally bare walls. They recounted the history of the Shin-il Way from its beginnings over a thousand years before. From the first Master, their portal to Koke Tengri, to the current Master, the voice of God. His wandering eyes were just another reason he knew it was not his time. Even the most novice of Jin priests could stay focused for hours at a time.

He sighed inwardly, but tried to hide his disappointment.

Poojan-Uul stepped forward to the edge of the dais. “You have been called by Koke Tengri.”

Last year Poojan-Uul had traveled to the capital of Avanis for a convocation of the Uul priests. Gened had been permitted to join him. During the assemblage, a priest was invested with the red robe. Gened could not forget the day and one thing he remembered clearly was the line ‘You have been called by the Master.’ He couldn’t understand why Poojan-Uul had changed the ritual.

Gened walked between the two lines of priests until he stood at the foot of the dais.

Poojan-Uul held out a hand and Gened stepped up onto the dais. His mentor moved back as Gened turned to face the gathered priests. His two friends came up to stand on either side of him. With a great deal of formality they carefully removed the white strips of material, made of the same as the black robe, that wrapped around Gened’s waist several times. Each one performed the ritual of taking the white material and rolling it slowly and passing from one to the other as they unwound it from around Gened. Then taking turns they untied the knots that held Gened’s black robe in place. With each knot the entire room said a prayer for Gened led by Poojan-Uul. One was for health, one for courage, one for patience, one for endurance, and the last for wisdom and guidance. When the knots were untied each of his friends took a shoulder of the robe and stepped back pulling the robe off, leaving Gened naked in the warm air.

With his arms at his side, he could feel the silk of the new robe being pulled up over his hands and up his arms to his shoulders.

He tried to keep his eyes focused out at the chamber, but he couldn’t help but glance down to see the blood-red material covering his arms.

Poojan-Uul stepped in front of him and began to tie the strips of red material that ran down the front from his right shoulder to his left. With each knot Poojan-Uul said the canon of those devoted to the Shin-il Way.

“The Body does not destroy itself.” Two knots tied.

As before the men in the chamber repeated each line.

“Conflict is brought about by differences.” Two more knots tied.

“Eliminate differences and conflict is eliminated.”

Gened repeated the words as well. More knots finished.

“When all are as one Body, peace and harmony shall ensue.”

With the last knot tied, Poojan-Uul turned to stand next to Gened and faced the chamber of priests as he finished the canon.

“Peace and harmony are a choice each must make on their own.”

All the priests stood and bunched together in a half-circle facing the dais.

Poojan-Uul wrapped a gold and black strip of material twice around Gened’s waist. “My Brothers.” Out the corner of Gened’s eyes he could see a saddened look on his mentor’s face and he shifted his eyes forward again to see the same on those in front of him. “Today we mourn the passing of our Brother Gened-Jin.”

“All things exist in Koke Tengri, and Koke Tengri exist in all things. Death is only a passing of essence from one form of Koke Tengri to another form. My Brothers, we mourn that which was known as Gened-Jin, but we rejoice in the birth of the our Brother Bat-Uul.”

“Praise be to Koke Tengri.” Every man in the room responded and then they stepped forward, in order of seniority, and knelt in front of the new Uul offering their congratulations and wishing him well on his travel to his new station.

I, Gened, do not deserve such an honor? No, he admonished himself, Gened-Jin is gone. I am now Bat-Uul. Nevertheless, he would have time to get use to the new name and title as he traveled to the far shores of Kieran and then across the Wailing Straits to the island country of Taran.

When the last of the priests had stood and left, Bat-Uul’s friends stepped up and both knelt in front of him. “We wish you safe travels and success in your mission,” they both said together.

“My friends.” Bat-Uul put a hand on their shoulders. “I will never forget you and will remember our times with great fondness.”

“We are honored by the Uul’s words.” The one to the left said with the same familiarity Bat-Uul would have used that morning to a superior, though the hint of a smile bled through the ritualistic response. Then both bowed, stood and left the chamber.

“It will be hard by son, but who you were as Gened-Jin is no more.” He pointed as the door closed after the last of Bat-Uul’s old friends. “They know it. You must accept it yourself.”

Poojan-Uul guided Bat-Uul through a different door to the temple leader’s private chambers. Gened had been there many times as the Uul’s aide, but now he was presumably an equal and that made Bat-Uul more uncomfortable than when he had ever been here as a lower ranking priest.

“You leave in the morning.” Poojan-Uul sat in a cushioned chair and indicated the chair across from him.

He had never sat on one of the few chairs in the room. As Gened his place had been on a short stool, with a small writing table next to him to take notes and record the temple leader’s orders. He sat, though couldn’t relax. It was as if the action was sacrilegious.

“Do you understand your name?” Poojan-Uul leaned forward, his hands clasped together.

The new name held no special meaning for Bat-Uul. He knew it was a name from far to the east, almost to the lands of the Master himself. It meant firm, strong. But none of this helped him to understand why Poojan-Uul had given him the name. Who was he to be strong for?

“The beliefs I held as a child are being tested and I am not sure if I will survive.” Poojan-Uul’s words were cloaked in wariness, “You saw the tapestries?”

Bat-Uul was a bit surprised by the other Uul’s tone, but tried to focus on the content of the man’s words and not interpret any hidden meaning. He nodded as he knew Poojan-Uul meant the ones hanging in the great chamber.

“Koke Tengri came to the first Master and endowed him with the compassion, awareness, and wisdom to spread the Shin-il Way.”

Bat-Uul had heard this many times from his lessons with the old Uul and some of the senior Jin priests.

“The Shin-il Way spread from the first Master, across eastern Kieran, and even into a few kingdoms of the west.” Poojan-Uul leaned a little further. “Sometimes accepted quickly, other times it has taken generations before a kingdom comes to know the truth.” He leaned back his hands clasped hands resting on his stomach. “We can not judge progress in terms of our time, but Koke Tengri’s.”

“I understand my Uul.” It was proper to listen, but Bat-Uul knew all this and was already anxious about his mission. Another reminder that he was unfit for his new role.

“Forty years ago this changed,” Bat-Uul thought he detected a sadness creep into Poojan-Uul’s voice.

Bat-Uul was confused. The Shin-il Way had been spread the same way since the first Master created the first Uuls.

“The Master, at the time of my birth had died, suddenly.”

He hadn’t noticed it before, but Poojan-Uul was staring intently at him as if looking for some type of reaction.

“I met him once. He was a good man. I had never met his successor.” He paused and lifted his hands, still interwoven, and put them on his chin. “But there are stories.”

“Stories?” The mixed feelings of the recent celebration forgotten as whatever the old Uul planned to say seemed more important.

“It does not surprise me you have not heard.”

Another reminder that in spite of his position, and the friendly tone of everyone around him, he was not really part of his community.

“I gave you the name Bat-Uul because I believe you will have the strength and the faith to stay true to the Shin-il Way. The teachings of Koke Tengri.” He stood and Bat-Uul followed quickly. “I do not have insight into the future, but believe your mission will be more important than any can imagine. Not even the Master.”

This shocked Bat-Uul. The Master’s wisdom came from Koke Tengri and Bat-Uul couldn’t imagine anything the Master did not know.

“You must rest now.” Poojan-Uul guided Bat-Uul to the door. “I will see you in the morning. An escort has been prepared. Supplies and money will be provided for your journey.”

He would have to travel with a caravan, enduring the merchants many stops. It could take Bat-Uul nearly a year to reach the island of Taran—the number of side excursions depended on how well the merchants did early in the journey. Excitement and dread equally filled him.

After the door closed, Bat-Uul went back to his room. His baggage had already been packed. More red robes were folded and placed reverently in one bag. His old black robes still hung on the wall. He secretly changed back into one and slipped out of the temple back to the Whisper Glen tree in the ravine behind the building.

He sat on the rock and stared out into the night. The air had cooled, but he did not feel it as he focused on connecting to the Spirit world. He reached across and found one of the gossamer creatures that inhabited the Spirit world. It transformed into the figure of what he thought was a woman, the one he had met many times since he had been trained in the use of magic, the il fennore. He had been amazed the first time she had manifested. All the other Spirits were little more than blurred images, like a cluster of spider webs woven together. He knew they were Spirits, but he could not tell one from another.

She floated closer to him, her body a veil of silky threads.

‘I am leaving tomorrow for the west.’ He thought and knew she would understand.

‘This is true.’ She continued to float a few steps from him.

‘Poojan-Uul believes my mission will be of importance.’ He was confused and knew not what to make of his mentor’s words.

‘This is also true.’ She shimmered then faded away like she was pulling back from him, but he knew it was he who was withdrawing from the Spirit world.

He opened his eyes and leaned back against the coarse and twisted bark—the lights of the temple, and the city beyond, burnt like a thousand fireflies. A thought—the same one he had had a thousand times over—filled his mind, I wonder who she is and why she comes to me.

To see more of Bat-Uul, and some of the other characters from other Episodes, pick up the first book in the Dragon-Called series, Fire of the Covenant.

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