Thursday, January 31, 2013

Castles 36

36.  In Castle Inter Lucus

            Do not go into pagan territory or enter a Samaritan town.  Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  As you go, make this proclamation: “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
            Marty’s practice of reading a gospel passage each day gave rise to new questions as he lingered over the words.  Why did Jesus forbid his disciples to preach to pagans?  Other parts of the New Testament emphatically endorsed missionary preaching.  Was this a temporary prohibition?  Father Stephen, who had seminary training in theology and scripture study, could probably explain the matter quickly—but Father Stephen was very definitely not available for consultation.  Frighteningly, the possibility loomed in Marty’s mind that he might be the closest thing to a Christian scholar on the planet. 
            Of all the astonishments since Marty’s appearance on Two Moons, Isen Poorman’s identification of “the sign of the old god”—the gold cross embossed on the cover of Marty’s New Testament—was in some ways the most troubling.  Marty had accepted the idea that somehow he had been transported to another planet, a science fiction movie come true.  He had only wild guesses about how a machine could reach across interstellar distances to kidnap someone from Earth to Two Moons.  The fact of Inter Lucus helped; pretty clearly the aliens, or whoever had built the castle, had technology beyond the reach of early twenty-first century humans, and light-years beyond the understanding of the people of Two Moons.  And if a castle could reach out and snatch one human, maybe it could take others.  Marty had believed from the start that the inhabitants of Two Moons were human.  (Only now did he realize that he could not say explicitly why.)  And it would not be surprising if the kidnapped humans accepted the aliens as “gods,” especially if they came from a time before the rise of science.  But now it turned out that some of the humans did not worship the castle gods; instead, their god, the god of the cross, might well be Marty’s God.
            Marty had questioned Isen—and Ora and Caelin, but they knew much less—about the old god for hours, long into the summer night, after Isen pointed to the cross on the New Testament.  Isen often admitted ignorance and said it would be best to question Priest Eadmar.  Nevertheless, a few things seemed clear.  The old god had been worshiped before the castle gods.  But the people of Two Moons were expected to worship castle gods.  (Expected by whom?  By the gods, and then, after the gods left, by the lords.)  But a few people had always asserted their devotion to the old god, even before the castle gods departed.  In Down’s End, an important free city, the priests of the old god maintained a Prayer House and burial ground.
            Isen said that Priest Eadmar had said holy words at Sunniva’s burial, but he couldn’t remember them.  Marty gently encouraged him to try.  Isen looked up at the night sky above Inter Lucus, pursing his lips.  Finally he said, “Nomin Pater Fee Lee.”  He smiled.  “Yes.  I remember.  Nomin Pater Fee Lee.
            Marty said, “In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti.
            Isen frowned.  “Too many words.  I think Nomin Pater Fee Lee is right.”
            Marty asked whether priests of the old god ever visited Senerham or Inter Lucus.  Caelin and Ora agreed that they had never seen a priest, nor had they heard of one coming to the region between the lakes, not even after the castle had fallen asleep.
            “How many priests are there in Down’s End?”
            Isen replied, “Three, that I have seen.  More.  Maybe two or three more.”
            Marty asked, “Would Priest Eadmar or one of the others come to Inter Lucus to talk with me?  I have learned from Caelin that lords never go far from their castles, and I am beginning to understand why they do not.  I desire greatly to learn from a priest.”
            Isen pondered this question, delaying his answer a long time.  Caelin tried to explain: “A priest invited to a castle would suspect treachery.  There are many tales of priests hiding from the castle gods or being killed by castle lords.  They would be afraid to come.”
            Ora objected, “But Lord Martin’s book has the sign of the old god.  If he invites a priest to come, the priest should come.”
            Marty smiled ruefully.  “They might think the sign of the cross is a trick.  It sounds like the priests have hundreds of years of reasons not to trust lords.  Isen, what if you took a page from this book and showed it to a priest?  Would he come then?”
            “It could be.  Does the lord Martin wish me to do this thing—to ask Priest Eadmar to come to Inter Lucus?”
            “Let’s sleep on it,” Marty answered.  In response to their confused faces he said, “We will sleep now, and in the morning decide whether Isen should go to Down’s End.”

            And now it was morning.  After reading a portion of gospel, Marty walked the inside perimeter of Inter Lucus, his morning routine.  The walls of the castle’s east and west wings, the arms of the T, had filled in and grown taller.  Overhead, the filaments of the ceiling had become a thick mesh over most of the great hall.  Marty half expected a new staircase, reaching up to the second floor, to appear any day.  How can a building grow?  Could it really be organic?  A life form?  But the interface list suggests a supercomputer with subsystems.  What kind of technology grows walls and ceilings?  Why do blocks rise out of the floor for chairs, and kitchen appliances?  But no tables and no exterior doors?
            As was so often the case, Marty had to live without answers.  But just maybe . . . a priest of the old god might explain some things.  Isen seems to have had a limited exposure to old god worship.  Maybe he remembers the priest’s words perfectly, but more likely he remembers only a few sounds.  Not really words, since Isen doesn’t know Latin.  “Nomin Pater Fee Lee.” Do the priests know Latin?  Do they have books?  If they don’t, and if their community is very small, would they still understand Latin?  Maybe they just pass on sacred words without their sense.  Maybe the priests of the old god don’t understand the words they say any better than Isen.   
            Hash browns and fried onions for breakfast.  Marty had learned that he could “program” or “teach” the Cibum subroutine new ways to prepare the foods in their larder.  While bonding with the lord’s knob, he pictured in his mind as clearly as he could the shredding and frying of the potatoes and onions.  Caelin and Ora would deposit a few vegetables in the “pans” of the “cook-top,” and Inter Lucus did the rest.  But there were only so many ways to prepare fish, potatoes, carrots and onions.  For variety’s sake, Marty thought he would modify his prohibition on gield payments.  It would be wonderful to have some grain, fruits, or meat.
            Caelin served the breakfast to Marty and Isen in the great hall.  It was Ora’s turn to watch for visitors this morning.  When she joined them, Caelin fetched a plate of breakfast for her.
            “How many today?”  Marty spoke to Ora while handing his empty plate to Caelin.
            Ora was already digging in.  “Ee, or.”  She swallowed.  “Three so far.  More later, I think.”
            “All right.  We’ll see them in the usual way, beneath the oaks.  I think I will tell some that they can pay part of their gield now, if they bring grain, fruit, or clothes.  What do you think?”
            “Yes.  We have plenty of storage near the kitchen.  Poorer people will find it easier to bring food as it ripens.”
            Caelin returned from the kitchen with a pitcher of water.  So far, the castle had formed or grown four water outlets, all underground.  Why no faucets in the great hall?
            When asked, Caelin agreed that accepting grain or fruit would improve their diet, but again he warned that Marty ought not to let between the lakes people underpay their gield.
            “Here’s the big question of the day.”  Marty rubbed his stubbly beard.  “I want Isen to invite priest Eadmar to Inter Lucus.  How long will it take Isen to get there?  We have no money to give him, so how do we help him on his way?”
            “It will take five days walking to reach Down’s End,” said Caelin.  “There are inns along the way, but without coin . . .”
            Marty grimaced.  “Once again, a reminder of our need for money.  Is there anyone in Senerham or Inter Lucus village who has coin?  Someone who could lend?”
            Caelin frowned.  “If a lord must borrow, some would say he is no lord.”
            “That’s stupid!  Lord Martin controls a castle!” 
            Ora was about to say more, but Marty motioned her off.  “Perhaps so, Ora.  But if our neighbors believe a real lord never has need to borrow, we must take that into account.  I would much prefer not to borrow money.  Is there another way?  What would happen to a traveler who did not stay in roadhouses, who camped out in the wild?”
            “Bandits and poor people do this,” said Caelin.  “Desperate people fleeing danger.  It is risky.”
            “My Lord Martin.”  Isen took up Ora’s pattern of speech.  “There is a faster way.  Boats from Down’s End can cross West Lake twice in a day.  If we could meet a boat on the near shore, I might ride to Down’s End with them.”
            “But I suppose we would need money to pay them.”
            “Most of them, yes.  But Master Deepwater would give me passage for the privilege of meeting Lord Martin.  And he would think—that is, I think he would think—there would be what he calls ‘chances’ in such a meeting.” 
            Marty thought he could guess, but he asked.  “‘Chances’?”
            “When he advised me to come to Inter Lucus, Master Bead said if there were a lord in the castle there would be good chances for a glassmaker.”
            Marty grinned.  “I think I would like to meet Bead Deepwater.  There should indeed be ‘chances’ in it.  But how can we summon a fisherman from across the lake?”
            “By lights,” said Ora, as if this were a simple matter.  “When the foresters and woodmen want the boats to come, they hold polished bronze to the sun and signal them.”
            Marty was surprised, but then realized it made perfect sense.  Attor Woodman and his fellows between the lakes would need some way to advertise their product to the market.  “That’s wonderful,” he said.  We will signal the boats of Down’s End.  When a boat comes, we’ll ask that they take Isen across.  If they won’t do it, we’ll ask that they send a message to Bead Deepwater.”
            “My lord,” said Caelin.  “Does this mean you have taken Isen Poorman into your service?”
            “If he is willing, yes.”
            Marty, Ora and Caelin looked at Isen.  “I will be Lord Martin’s messenger—and glassmaker, when the time comes,” he said.
            “Very good,” Marty replied.  “Isen is part of Inter Lucus now, just as we all are.”           

Copyright © 2012 by Philip D. Smith.
All rights reserved.  International copyright secured.

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