There are three Houses that we have seen thus far.
They are the House of Dreams, that breeds scientists like mad Vladimir.
They are the House of Hunger, full of beasts like the Edmund-beast, craving human flesh.
They are the House of Saints.
What is a saint?
These are not the saints of the Roman Catholic Church, canonized after their death in reflection of their holiness.
These are simply intercessors, driven by love, called upon to shield us from our pain.
They did not choose their own sainthood. It was given unto them, as other roles were given unto those of Dreams and Hunger, by an act of aggressive taxonomy.
House of Saints is the story of a hat that dares sort men.
House of Saints
A Motley Collection of Rogues
Several days after his sorting Peter finds two other students native to his House. These are Saul and Bethany.
“I am glad that we wear red,” says Peter. “It makes us somewhat easier to find.”
“The color-coding of saints is a marvelous thing,” says Saul. “I think that it represents immunity to fire.”
“Nonsense,” says Peter.
“Well,” says Saul, “to the fires of Hell, from which our universal love will shield us.”
“And are the green hats, then, immune to trees?” Bethany asks.
“Not to the birch,” says Saul. “But to the Lethal pine1—well, I would not care to test it!”
For a week they watch other students, counting and categorizing hats, watching for the red. Then they retire to the nook beneath a staircase in the school, and there they discuss their fate.
“This trend is unsettling,” says Peter. “I count just three of us in our good and gentle House, while the numbers of the evil green hats grow.”
Bethany makes a sour face. “I do not trust this,” she says. “Is it possible that we are suffering delusion?”
“Hm?” Peter asks.
“Our minds have been altered,” says Bethany. “Could there be an insidious tainting of our perceptions, making us reject the House of Hunger just because they wear green hats and eat people?”
“Surely the sorting hat wouldn’t lie to us about moral issues,” Saul protests.
Bethany touches his hand sympathetically.
“You’re nervous,” she says.
Saul half-laughs. “The entire situation discomfits me,” he admits. “I have no idea how to be a saint. Upperclassmen keep asking me to protect them from bad eyesight, failing grades, and gout. I tell them, ‘of course!’ And none of them get gout. But I wonder how efficacious my intercession really is? I need a hot backup saint for redundancy in case of failure.”
“No,” says Peter. “You must have faith in your sainthood! I refuse to live in a world where the House of Hunger is the real thing and we aren’t—it’d imply that a hat could strip the compassion from the human soul but can’t hand out the kind of universal love that efficaciously protects people from gout. Or,” he adds, referring to his own special saintly talent, “from encountering bad weather at sea.”
“Hm,” says Bethany.
“I am still not convinced that they are evil and lack compassion,” Bethany says.
Saul laughs. It’s a brief, stuttering laughter, quickly ending.
“The House of Hunger makes the other students nervous,” Peter says. “They ask me to protect them! I say, ‘Separation of powers.’ I cannot help! But nevertheless I am moved by their pleas. I would not consider myself compassionate if I killed and ate them. Instead, I would chide myself, saying, ‘This banquet does not come from the principles of universal love!'”
“Proposition,” says Bethany. “People are born in a corrupt, uneaten state. The only way to restore their purity is to kill and eat them. Those who resist or object are inherently impure; this casts their motivations into question and injects bias into their argument. Had they been incepted into the House of Hunger, they would understand this, and would not object with such vivacity.”
This halts Peter. He pauses. He considers.
“Consent,” says Saul.
“Hm,” concedes Bethany.
“Consent,” agrees Peter. “It seems to me that the word ‘purity’ is changing the nature of the action from the outside—it isn’t changing anything about how the target experiences the action. I’d think that you’d have to be able to look at the person and see a priori how eating them would help.”
Bethany chews on her lip.
“Proposition,” Peter says. “The set of goals that one achieves through force are morally synonymous.”
“I see a concern,” says Saul, instantly.
“Hm?” Peter asks.
“Well,” says Saul. “There is a motley collection of rogues currently descending these stairs. Some of them wear the green, which, regardless of potential immunity to plants, means they might very well eat us. If strict nonviolence is a quality of sainthood, we shall have enormous trouble defending ourselves.”
Peter scowls. “Accursed hat,” he says. “I imagine it smirking smugly somewhere as it considers the havoc that its choices sow.”
“That is a reiteration of pacifism?” he says.
“Our actions towards them must flow from love,” Peter says.
Bethany is unhappy. “They are beasts,” she protests. “See, that is not the Sally we knew, but the Sally-beast; not Linus, but the Linus-beast; not Lucy, but the beast in Lucy’s flesh.”
Peter is uncompromising.
“Do you love them?”
“Yes,” Bethany admits. “Each is a nexus for choice that shines like the brilliance of stars.”
“Then we cannot harm them,” Peter says.
“God help us,” says Saul.
The Sally-beast has reached the bottom of the stairs. She looks at them. Her nostrils flare. She is sniffing.
“Hi!” says Peter, chipperly.
Sally steps forward.
“Your grades will decline if you eat other students in the halls,” Bethany observes. “This is not good academic comportment.”
“I don’t eat everyone I meet,” says Sally, airily. “In fact I shall be quite full from Fred for days.”
“She’s lying,” says the Linus-beast, softly. It ruffles Sally’s hair. “We are always hungry. But we must ration out our portions. Otherwise we shall face not simply expulsion but starvation. That is why we will not eat you now. Instead we will ask Peter to protect us from bad weather at sea.”
“Of course,” says Peter, because he’s aces at protecting people from bad weather at sea.
So Sally and Linus turn to go.
Sally mutters to Linus, “But I’m not going to sea.”
“I go to religion with the saints I have,” says Linus. “Not the saints I’d like to have.”
Lucy does not leave with the others. Instead she watches the saints for a while. Her ears are sharp, and she’d heard the closing lines of their private conversation.
“Blockheads,” she says contemptuously. “You really wouldn’t fight?”
Peter sets his jaw.
Lucy snorts. “Prey should struggle. That’s part of hunting. Prey that doesn’t struggle—that’s like eating limp noodles!”
Peter tries to keep looking firm. But he can’t. He’s too embarrassed. He hangs his head and remembers random trivia about Italy.
Fun Fact! There is a well in L’Aquila, Italy, that contains an endless supply of limp noodles. It also has shallots!
“Well,” Lucy says, “I guess it makes it easier, anyway.”
Then there is only the Lucy-beast. Then her jaw is dislocating to open her mouth wider and she is ravening towards them.
House of Saints will return on Wednesday or Thursday with “Vladimir’s Dreams”
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