“Wait, so you don’t believe that you’re the Aul?” Mercer said.

“Frankly, no,” said Pyfer. “Why does that surprise you?”

The skiff was silent for a moment, with just the quiet lapping of water about the sodden planks.

“Well, you let them feed you, for one,” said Mercer. “You let them bow before you, I definitely saw that.”

“Let me ask you something,” said Pyfer. “Have you ever known anyone with absolute power, over anyone else?”

“Plenty of folks,” Mercer said. “Cullis, my old master, comes to mind. His power was absolute in his own tailor shop.”

Pyfer nodded. “And what did your master Cullis do with that absolute power, if only in his shop?”

“He terrorized his apprentices. Beat us. Forced us to get by on crumbs while we emptied his chamber pots.”

“And what would a man do if he believed himself master not only of a tailor shop, but of the entire world? With a bevy of worshipers to do as he pleased?”

Mercer shuddered at the thought. “He’d be a tyrant. A petty, evil, malicious, tyrant.”

“One must be the Aul, so that the others may have something to look to,” said Pyfer. “But even then, the Aul is no more than a conduit. The food was given as a token of appreciation by those who had hardly anything to give. How could I refuse, knowing what they had sacrificed?”

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