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- Hello. Today, our meeting is a little bit unusual, because I am not authorized to tell you where I am. The person who is coming was only willing to meet with me anonymously, because she wanted to talk about her guild, the Guild of Elias.
Interviewer: Who are you?
Hiaoi: Call me Hiaoi. As a member of the guild, I unfortunately cannot reveal my real name, because of the ban on the guild in Zoraï country.
Interviewer: What do you do in life?
Hiaoi: I am a peddler. My business takes me on the road all the time, from one region to another, to find new goods and sell my merchandise. Because of my constant travels, I take on a parallel function as a "seeker of Elias" for my guild.
Interviewer: What is a "seeker of Elias"?
Hiaoi: Seekers of Elias are both messengers and informers. You see, the Guild of Elias is extremely scattered all over Atys and tries to stay as discreet as possible, ever since it was banned by the Karavan. So the guild needs homins like me, who can discreetly carry the message from one cell of the guild to another. Since I am called to travel between countries regularly, I also try to keep the guild informed about the political and religious situation in each of the major countries. So we seekers are the eyes and ears of Elias.
Interviewer: You said that the guild has to remain discreet. Yet I have the impression that there is a certain degree of tolerance.
Hiaoi: Perhaps in Tryker and Fyros lands, yes. They understand our desire to find the truth. And although they do not support us, they have also not declared a merciless war on us. But among the Matis, the prohibition of 2504 has never been lifted. And even though they have given up burning our Guild members at the stake, they continue to hunt us in the name of their sacred Karavan. As for my own country - few are aware of it, but we are not welcome there either. The problems really began under the madness of Fung-Tun. We tried to oppose the slavery, but Fung-Tun was intolerant of our ideas about the equality of different people, as well as our opposition to his regime, and he has not hesitated to massacre us in the name of Ma-Duk. Today, the sages still look at us with disdain. They do not like the idea of a united hominity that we promote, because they continue to see the Zoraï people as the elect of the Kamis.
Interviewer: A united hominity? Is that the guild's credo?
Hiaoi: In a way, yes. We believe that the homins are the genuine strength of Atys. Jena and Ma-Duk are only imposters. I hope with all my heart that I will live to see the day when all homins will realize the destiny that awaits them in the name of hominity, rather than in the name of false gods. One day, I know that Elias will return to liberate homins and show them the true path, the path of free will.
Interviewer: So you reject both Ma-Duk and Jena. Does that mean that Elias is your god?
Hiaoi: Well, it's hard to say. Some of us believe that. They see Elias as the creator of all things and consider Ma-Duk and Jena as minor gods or mere imposters. Others think that he is a homin like the rest who runs the guild from the shadows. Still others believe that he is a homin of the ancient lands who has mastered great powers and mysterious technology. Personally, I think that this debate is unimportant. I joined the Guild for Elias for his ideals. When I hear my companions get upset over vain arguments, I start to wonder whether Elias isn't a myth invented by the ancients to stir up new hope among the homins during the war with the Kitins. Which is exactly how I think the Karavan invented Jena and the Kamis invented Ma-Duk, to justify their oppression of us. But at least we don't use Elias to try to get some kind of control over homins!
Interviewer: Forgive me for asking, but certain "events" have shown that you do in fact collect a lot of information about various homins. What is this information and what is it used for?
Hiaoi: Hmm, well, this is information that is supposed to let us find individuals in the population who might be of interest to the guild. So we observe influential homins, what they do, where they live, etc.
Interviewer: But - that's spying!
Hiaoi: It would be if we misused the information! But we are only seeking to assess the forces at work in order to protect ourselves, while making it possible for those who appear worthy to join us. Now if you keep twisting my words like that, I am not sure that I should continue this interview.
- I ran after Hiaoi to hold her back. She angrily replied that she had things to do, but that if I insisted, we could resume the interview in two days.
- So we are speaking with Hiaoi again, in order to complete our interview on a calmer note. To avoid upsetting her again, I decided to continue the interview with a more neutral topic.
Interviewer: What made you decide to become a member of the Guild of Elias?
Hiaoi: I joined the guild in 2506. My sister had been a member for a long time, but she died in 2504 while trying to defend one of our Tryker members, who the Fung-Tun slave masters had come to capture. Some homins came to see us the next day to tell us that she had been punished by Ma-Duk for infringing on the laws of his representative, the great sage Fung-Tun. My sister was not the only victim; the reign of Fung-Tun made me aware of how dangerous fanatics can be. That is why, two years after my sister's death, I decided to follow in her footsteps.
Interviewer: How did you become aware of the existence of the Guild of Elias?
Hiaoi: The first person to tell me about Elias was our neighbor. He traveled a lot, but he was always sure to visit us whenever he returned home. I was still very young, but I loved to listen to him speak of his travels. And then, one day, he spoke of Elias. My mother, who was a kamist believer, didn't like him talking about Elias and always looked for a way to interrupt the conversation. I barely paid attention at the time, but this only piqued my sister's curiosity. She spent more and more time with our neighbor, to our mother's despair. When I decided to join the guild, I tried to make contact with him. I thought he must have helped my sister get into the guild. But it took me two years to find him, because he had fled from the repression that came after the guild's fight against slavery. But I have never regretted it.
Interviewer: How does one join the guild?
Hiaoi: Well, to tell you the truth, it isn't really that you join the guild, but that it comes to you. When it was first created, the guild recruited everyone on the basis of their good will, but today, with the tensions between Kamis and Karavans, the guild cannot take the risk of recruiting everyone indiscriminately. The risk of a new round of repression, at a time when homins need us more than ever, is far too great. When a homin seems suitable to us, we contact him. If he shows an interest, then we give him permission to learn the teachings of the guild. If he is still interested at the end of this learning period, we put him in the position where he can be the most useful. But even though we limit our recruiting to avoid drawing attention to ourselves, we need sympathizers now more than ever, to spread the message of Elias. I hope that this interview will give homins a chance to know us better, and make up for the risks I am taking by speaking with you.
— Excerpt from Volume 1, "In the Shadow of Tao Sian", written by Kuangi Wu Shi in the winter of 2574.