Thursday, April 25, 2013

Castles 48

48. Near Castle Inter Lucus

            Marty thought the priest would be sick.  The old man lurched onto his hands and knees and gagged.  Then he crawled from the roadside into the shade of the pine and fir forest and curled up in a ball of misery.  Marty and Isen knelt beside him there, not knowing what to say or do to comfort him.  Eadmar continued to moan: “Oh, no.  Oh, no.”
            Marty realized he had never heard anyone on Two Moons say “Jesus,” and it was this word that had caused the priest’s distress.  He leapt to a conclusion.  “Eadmar, listen.”  He laid his hand softly on the man’s arm.  “Eadmar, no one on Two Moons has ever spoken the name to me.  No one.”
            Eadmar convulsed and gasped, but he turned his head.  The blue eyes swam with tears and an obvious question.
            Marty spoke gently.  “I learned the name on my world, Eadmar.  I have the book of the old God.  I will show you, if you like.”
            The moaning ceased, replaced by long shuddering breaths.  Eadmar rolled onto his back and his eyes locked onto Marty’s, looking for something: reassurance? Hope?
            “I am a man, truly, not a demon.  I do not worship or serve those who built the castles.  I know the name because I, too, am a servant of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”
            Soundlessly, the priest’s lips formed words: “In Nomine Patris et . . .
            Marty whispered: “Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti.
            Eadmar passed out.

            Caelin arrived with a mesh sack full of food—crisp carrots, day old bread, cheese, hot French fries in a covered pot—and a skin of watery wine.  They used a small squeeze of the latter to revive the priest.  They seated him gently by a fallen pine log and induced him to nibble on some bread.
            Marty thought he would try to reassure Eadmar by interviewing Isen.  “Isen, do you remember when you first saw my book?”
            The young glassblower’s eyes flashed from Marty to Eadmar and back.  “Aye.”
            “You pointed to the sign of the old God, didn’t you?”
            Eadmar was obviously following the conversation with interest.  Marty continued: “Do you remember I also asked you about the words of the priest when he buried Sunniva, your sister?”
            “Aye.  Nomin Pater Fee Lee.”  Isen looked to the priest.  “Did I betray a secret?”
            The priest shook his head.  “No.  You did nothing wrong, Isen.  But you did not hear me correctly.  The words . . .” Eadmar turned to Marty.  “They are words of the holy language, but not the secret name.  A man in the service of a castle lord could have learned them if he attended a marriage, a burial, or some other service of prayer.”
            “But I have never witnessed a marriage or burial on Two Moons,” said Marty. 
            The color was returning to Eadmar’s cheeks.  “So you say.  If this is true, how do you know words of the holy language?”
            “I learned them on my world, on Earth.”  Marty motioned with a finger.  “Don’t get the wrong idea.  I know only a few phrases in Latin.  If I were fluent, maybe I could understand my castle better.”
            “What is ‘Latin’?”
            Marty frowned.  My God, they don’t know the name of their holy language.  How much of it can they know?  “It is the name of the holy language, the language of the castles.”  He realized immediately his mistake, but the words were already spoken.
            “The language of the castles?”  Eadmar’s eyes bulged.  He forced himself to his feet, dropping the bit of bread in his hand.  “The holy language is not the tongue of demons!”
            Jesus!  I’ve blown it now.  Marty sat still, though Caelin leapt to his feet.  Eadmar means me no harm; he’s only angry.  He thinks I’ve insulted God.  Marty motioned for Caelin to sit.
            “Eadmar, you are more correct than you know.  In Inter Lucus there is clear proof that the language of the strangers is not the holy language.  I have seen the writings of the strangers, and it is nothing like any human language.  I cannot read the strangers’ writings at all.”
            The priest began to reply, but Marty cut him off with a raised hand.  “Please, Eadmar!  If you will sit down, I will show you the book of God.”
            “You have it here?”  The priest’s face showed bewilderment.  Marty nodded, and Eadmar lowered himself unsteadily to the forest floor.  Marty leaned to one side so he could pull the pocket testament from his trouser pocket.  Leaning forward, he reached out to place the book in trembling, weathered hands.
            Eadmar held the testament in his left hand and traced the gold leaf cross on the cover.  Marty thought: I should have shown him the book from the start.  Personal assurances won’t overturn hundreds of years of suspicion.
            The priest turned the cover and looked long at the title page.  Again he traced the large print letters with his finger.  He turned more pages.  Holding the testament close, Eadmar tried to make words. “Fir . . .ss. . . First.”  He shook his head.  “Lett. . .er.”  His blue eyes looked at Marty.  “What language are these words?  They are not the holy language.  How can you claim this is God’s book?”
            Letter means epistol in the common tongue,” Marty answered.
            “Aye!  The common tongue has many words like the holy language.  This is the book of God, translated from the holy language to the language of my people.  Epistola, epistol, and letter all mean the same thing: epistol.”
            Eadmar’s white eyebrows bunched.  He reopened the testament: “Gos . . .”
            Even with the page upside down to him, Marty could read it.  Gospel,” he said, “means Godspell in the common tongue.”  He silently blessed the quirk of memory that brought that word to mind.  “In the holy language it means evangelium.”
            Eadmar studied the page for a minute, as if willing the strange words to make sense.  Then he rifled through the testament, stopping at another place.  He pointed to the word at the top of the page.  Corin . . .”
            “Corinthians,” Marty said. 
            Corinthios?  The priest’s eyes locked onto Marty with a new intensity.
            “Aye.”  Marty leaned to look at the word.  “That is the letter—epistol—of First Corinthians—Corinthios.
            Eadmar handed the book to Marty.  “Read to me.  Read Corinthios.”
            Now it was Marty’s turn to be surprised.  “You want me to read First Corinthians?  The whole book?”
            “Aye.  Please.”  Eadmar motioned a request to Caelin, who passed the mesh lunch sack to him.  Eadmar pulled out a carrot and took a small bite.  “Please read.”
            “I must translate from English to the common tongue,” Marty said.  “So this will go slowly.”
            Eadmar nibbled on his carrot and nodded.
            Marty began: “Paul, called to be an apostle of . . . the name is here.  Do you want me to say the name?”
            The priest frowned.  “No.  It is forbidden.  If the book says the name, you may say ‘the holy name’ in its place.”
            “Very well.  Paul, called to be an apostle of the holy name by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, to the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified. . .

            Caelin, Isen and Eadmar lunched while Marty read—or struggled to read.  Three weeks immersion in the common language, in what Marty assumed was some form of Old English, was hardly sufficient preparation to translate First Corinthians.  Repeatedly he had to stop and ask his listeners for help, describing biblical concepts as well as he could.  What was the word for “sanctified”?  For “grace”?  For “divisions”?  For “fellowship”?  In two laborious hours, Marty worked his way through 40 verses of text.  Finally Eadmar signaled a pause.
            “How much more of Corinthios is there?”
            Marty flipped through the pages.  “It will take all day, going as slowly as I am reading.”
            “Aye.  Or longer.”  Eadmar rubbed his nose.  “I hoped to hear some proof of your claims.  But it seems I may listen all day and all night and not hear it.  And since the language of your book is strange to me, I cannot read it to find proof.”
            “What is the proof you wanted to hear?”
            The priest shook his head.  “If I were to tell, would not a clever servant of the demons tell me that he has it?  If I tell you the words, will you not ‘find’ them in your book?”
            “Do you believe I serve demons, Eadmar?”
            The old man sighed.  “I must be sure.  Guthlaf Godcild commanded it.  Often have the castle lords deceived us.  They share the fruit of demon magic with their close servants, thus buying the loyalty of thousands of people.  They clothe their knights with armor and send them to destroy the houses of prayer.  So we servants of God have learned to guard ourselves against castle lords.  Old tales say the lords of Inter Lucus were particularly cruel.  Silent for a hundred years, we still hesitate to go near it.
            “But now there are rumors of a new lord.  This has never happened, that a dead castle should return to life.  Is it a sign of some new deception, some new persecution?  And then!  My young friend, Isen, tells me he has met the new lord, and he claims to worship God.  How can this be?  I tell you truly: I want to believe it.  When I heard the word Corinthios I hoped to hear a proof.  If it is there, I have not heard it.
            “You invite me to your castle.  Until I am sure, I cannot come.  Not yet.  What can be done?”
            Caelin spoke.  “My lord?  If I may?  We should invite Priest Eadmar to stay in the village.  My friend, Harry Entwine, lives on a farm on the near side of Inter Lucus. Eadmar could stay in Harry’s father’s barn and you could meet him here every day, if you like.  We can bring him meals from our kitchen.”
            Marty started to put his testament in his pocket, but a thought came to him.  “What say you, Eadmar?  Would you come and meet with me here again tomorrow?”
            The priest made a face.  “My bishop would tell me to find a safer place.  We are too close to the castle here.”
            “All right.  How’s this?  Caelin will take you to the Entwine farm, and tomorrow I will come there.  As proof that I will come, you may have this in your keeping until then.”  Marty held out the testament.
            “You would let me keep the book?”
            “Only for a night.  It is proof that I trust you.”
            Eadmar received the book and stood up.  When Marty had stood, the priest bowed to him.  “I want to trust you as well, Martin Cedarborne.  Perhaps that day will come.”

Copyright © 2013 by Philip D. Smith.
All rights reserved.  International copyright secured.


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