The Lavalite World by Philip Jose Farmer. Chapter 13, 14, 15, 16

She pointed to a small blue bird which had landed by the channel.

The chiefs eye got even larger. “Ah, you came from the place where our ancestors lived. The place from which the Lord drove our forefathers countless light-periods ago because they had sinned. Tell me, why did the Lord drive you here, too? What did you do to anger him?”

While she was trying to think how to answer this, the chief bellowed for the shaman, Shakann, to join them. The little gray-bearded man, holding the gourd at the end of a stick to which feathers were tied, came running. Trenn spoke too rapidly for Anana to understand any but a few words. Shakann squatted down by the chief.

Anana considered telling them that they’d entered this world accidentally. But she didn’t know their word for accident. In fact, she doubted there was such. From what she’d learned from Nurgo, these people believed that nothing happened accidentally. Events were caused by the Lord or by witchcraft.

She got an inspiration. At least, she hoped it was. Lying might get her into even worse trouble. Ignorant of the tribe’s theology, she might offend some article of belief, break some tabu, say something contrary to dogma.

“The Lord was angry with us. He sent us here so that we might lead some deserving tribe, yours, for instance, out of this place. Back to the place where your ancestors lived before they were cast out.”

There was a long silence. The chief looked as if he were entertaining joyful thoughts. The shaman was frowning.

Finally, the chief said, “And just how are we to do this? If the Lord wants us to return to sembart …”

“What is sembart?”

The chief tried to define it. Anana got the idea that sembart could be translated as paradise or the garden of Eden. In any event, a place much preferable to this world.

Well, Earth was no paradise, but, given her choice, she wouldn’t hesitate a second in making it.

“If the Lord wants us to return to sembart, then why didn’t he come here and take us to there?”

“Because,” Anana said, “he wanted me to test you. If you were worthy, then I would lead you from this world.”

Trenn spoke so rapidly to Shakann that she could comprehend only half of his speech. The gist, however, was that the tribe had made a bad mistake in not treating the captives as honored guests. Everybody had better jump to straighten out matters.

Shakann, however, cautioned him not to act so swiftly. First, he would ask some questions.

“If you are indeed the Lord’s representative, why didn’t you come to us in his shelbett?”

A shelbett, it turned out, was a thing that flew. In the old days, according to legend, the Lord had traveled through the air in this.

Anana, thinking fast, said, “I only obey the Lord. I dare not ask him why he does or doesn’t do this or that. No doubt, he had his reasons for not giving us a shelbett. One might be that if you had seen us in one, you would have known we were from him. And so you would have treated us well. But the Lord wants to know who is good and who isn’t.”

“But it is not bad to take captives and then kill them or adopt them into the tribe. So how could we know that we were doing a bad thing? All tribes would have treated you the same.”

Anana said, “It’s not how you treated us at first. How you treated us when you found out that we came from the Lord will determine whether you are found good or bad in his eyes.”

Shakann said, “But any tribe that believed your story would honor you and take care of you as if you were a baby. How would you know whether a tribe was doing this because it is good or because it is pretending to be good from fear of you?”

Anana sighed. The shaman was an ignorant savage. But he was intelligent.

“The Lord has given me some powers. One of them is the ability to look into the …”

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