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Vivenna Picks Berries
One aspect of the worldbuilding I barely get to talk about is the Idrian monks. I really liked the concept of a group of monks whose duties weren't very religious. Rather than sitting in a monastery all day, their duties are essentially to act as servants to the kingdom's poor. (Not to say that monks in our world don't do that. However, I liked the concept of it being much more formalized.)
In Idris, if a man breaks his leg and can't work the field, a monk will come and take his place on the job. The wages for that work still go to the family of the man who has been hurt. Sometimes, if a father dies and cannot support his family, a monk is assigned permanently to take his place at work duties and provide for that man's family.
They go wherever they are needed, forbidden to own or possess anything themselves, giving all they have to the people. Now, of course, not everyone who becomes a monk fits the ideal. Without the pressures of needing to feed one's self or acquire goods, some of them can be kind of lazy. But many are very diligent, like Fafen.
Is Austre Endowment by a different name?
Vivenna Talks to Jewels about Religion
I'm very conscious of the fact that all of my major viewpoint characters in this book—Lightsong included—don't believe in the Hallandren religion. That worries me because the book presents a very one-sided view of their beliefs.
Religion isn't a simple thing. In my books so far, I fear that I've presented the religions in a far too one-sided way. Hrathen with his Shu-Dereth, the Lord Ruler and his religion—these were not the types of religions that are very enticing to readers. The characters, even those viewpoint characters who followed the religions, didn't present them very well. (And, in truth, the Lord Ruler's religion—the Steel Ministry—was a pretty despicable religion.)
In this book, I wanted to present several different viable religions. There is something to be said for Austrism, with its goodly monks and teachings on humility through the Five Visions. But it's a very superstitious and xenophobic religion at the same time, and it is very biased against the magic of the world. The Hallandren religion has more going for it than the characters would like to accept.
So, even though most readers might consider this a throwaway scene between Vivenna and Jewels, is a very important one to me. It is the place where we get to see a follower of the Iridescent Tones really stand up for what she believes. Vivenna deserves to be smacked down here, I think.