Chapter 63 - Church
The ride down to the church was quiet. All except for the rocking of the truck on the cracked pavement. First passing Nha-Stop and then The Caitsi Inn and Lounge—which still seemed to have quite the amount of people there from the night before. The church was finally coming into view after a ride that felt like an eternity.
“I’ve actually never seen this before,” Saraiya said, leaning over Grant trying to get a better view out of the window. “Isn’t that an old Nimalism church?”
“Yep, although we don’t use it for proper Nimalism. We do follow some of the teachings, but not a lot. Don’t worry though, we aren’t going to get all preachy on you guys just because it is in a church,” Lars said as he turned the steering wheel into the direction of the building.
“Really? How could you tell, Saraiya?” Rhett asked.
“I’ve seen that symbol on the front of the church, at the museum in Montria.”
Rhett reached in his pocket and pulled out his wallet. “Oh yeah, I got a ticket for free admission to some kind of Nhajan History Museum… Maybe I should check it out sometime. I didn’t realize Nimalism had different practices in Nhaja compared to Kandorr, I’ve never seen that symbol before.”
The closer they got to the church, the worse in shape it appeared. Who in their right mind would hold an event here? It looked like it hadn’t been used in fifty years.
Lars pulled over beside the building and they all got out. Tall grass swayed around the field and around the building, and the grass hugged at its cracked sides, infiltrating the old wooden frame. The only place to comfortably walk was the gravel that was spread in a precise pattern over the land, forming a parking lot and walkway.
Grant and the others approached the building as Lars guided them. Two concrete statues resembling cats rested on each side of the door, as if guarding the entrance. Wild flowers of purples and blues tangled around the decorative cats’ legs and tails.
“Cats here too?” Grant said.
“It would make sense that Lyros loves cats now…” Saraiya said.
“What do you mean?” Grant asked.
“In Nimalism, each sect is given an animal to worship, so to speak. It’s why we in Kandorr all have tortoises. Obviously, the religion isn’t very common anymore… I thought we were the only country who still regularly practiced it up until a few minutes ago, to be honest,” Rhett spoke.
That would explain why The Buffalo Boys were obsessed with buffalos. They were the only group of kids that Grant knew who practiced Nimalism, although he never cared enough to learn any of the details.
“Oh…” Grant said. “What is the reason behind worshipping the animals though?”
“It’s to become closer with nature. If everyone did their part by preserving certain species of animals, people from long ago believed the gods would be appreciative and grant humans eternal happiness. According to the Nimalzan—Nimalism’s holy book—humans are created in the image of the gods and they promised if humans cared for the planet while the gods were away, that when they returned, those sects that did their part would have a lifetime of pleasure and when their time expired, be reborn as gods as well,” Rhett said. “On top of that it was believed that the gods would get angry when too much of one animal was hunted, especially if it bordered on the point of extinction. It was believed the gods would curse them for eliminating one of their creations.”
Lars smiled. “Yeah, and since then, the belief has kind of just stuck. It’s become tradition to some, although, most stopped practicing it as humanity became more civil and technologically advanced. Plus, we have laws based around overhunting and overfishing now.”
“Why cats though? It’s not like cats were hunted, right? Wait, did people eat cats?” Grant looked shocked.
“Back then people ate whatever they could. And some sects of Nimalism were granted an animal to protect just because they liked it, not even if they were hunted. What started out as a cause to protect species of animals from going extinct turned into creating a multitude of cultures that became obsessed over a single species, which I guess you could use to explain our cat problem.” Lars scratched his head, laughing. “Some of these people from back then took it a bit too extreme, however. For example, Nimalists who were given the honor of protecting squirrels, would sometimes get into fights with Nimalists who protected cows, believing it was unfair they had a large amount of food always available, yet the only meat they had the pleasure of feasting on was squirrel meat.”
“I thought they were tasked with protecting them though?” Saraiya asked.
“Yeah, but an over abundance of cows would cause a problem, so people were allowed to do what they needed for survival,” Rhett added. “In Kandorr, we don’t follow all the old time traditions of Nimalism though, it’s fairly laid back. A lot of beliefs have been thrown away since then.”
“Oh, so is that how the Nimalstic War started?” Grant asked. “Jealousy of animals? I don’t remember much of the details from school.”
Lars laughed. “ More or less, I suppose. They don’t really tell you what really happened during the Nimalstic War in school for a reason. The whole world likes to sugarcoat it and pretend it never happened. Anyway, shall we get inside?” He opened the door and it made a loud creak.
A musty smell greeted them as they took their first steps inside. The view straight ahead was a worship room with three steps leading up to an altar with a large cat statue resting atop.
Light shone through the door as they entered. Candles set alight stood on wooden stools on both sides of the entrance hall. Smaller cat statues rested behind the candles on the stool. Even on the floor, more cat decor scattered against the wall. The waving wick spread warmth over the old decorations.
They ventured in further and the smell of moldy books tickled their noises as they passed many shelves. The group stepped into a wide room, the main worship room. Rows of pews lined the space. Stained glass windows depicting images of cats let sunlight shine through on both walls. Not just housecats, lions and tigers in mighty stances were illuminated as well.
Grant couldn’t help but wonder about the lions around Lyros, if they were also part of Lyros’s doing.
“Hey… Lars, didn’t you say each sect was given just one species?” Grant asked.
Lars, who was leading the group down the middle aisle, turned around and faced the three. “Yeah, but there were many exceptions. See, these are all technically cats so it falls in line. Just like I’m sure Rhett could have had turtles also. At one time it was customary to only stick to one species, but the gods wouldn’t mind too much if you protected more than one animal, right? Atleast that’s what everyone started to believe once the amount of people practicing Nimalism died down.”
Grant nodded and Lars continued walking them down towards the front pew. The altar came into view, and a man walked in from the side, dressed all in black, a solid black veil over his face. He stared out into the room.