Thursday, June 6, 2013

Castles 54

54. In Village Inter Lucus

            The mid-day meal consisted of vegetable soup, slices of meat and cheese, and mugs of chilled tea.  Caelin apologized for the lack of bread—Marty’s party had exhausted the castle’s supply—but the guests had no complaints.  The little children, Rand and Rheda, were busy taking in the wonders of the great hall: artificial lighting, the lord’s knob and broken god’s knob, the interface wall, the high balcony on all sides of the room, and the tracery of a ceiling, much higher still, that had begun to grow in recent days.  Aethulwulf and Eacnung were absorbed in a different kind of observation.  Ora and Attor had spent a long time walking the short distance from west door to east, and father and daughter entered the great hall arm in arm, Ora wiping away tears. 
            Simple wooden chairs had been added to Inter Lucus’s seating capacity, so ten people could sit around the trestle table.  Marty pointed out that the great hall had room for a dozen more tables; he would need lots more chairs as well.  With a few questions, he soon had Ora and Attor discussing how much lumber and of what sort would be needed to outfit the great hall.  But Marty’s real interest was not in furniture; he watched father and daughter talk animatedly, and he noted the acceptance of a changed situation on Eacnung’s face.
            Marty sighed deeply, allowing himself an inward smile. 
            Leaving Inter Lucus, Attor, Eacnung, and the young children rode the wagon.  Aethulwulf walked ahead, guiding Bley by her reins.  When goodbyes were said, Marty heard even Eacnung bid “Fair afternoon” to Ora.
            Guests gone, Marty granted himself the privilege of a nap, lying on a blanket in the shade of the oaks.  He felt a warm glow of satisfaction over Attor and Ora’s reconciliation.  Unless I’m psychotic, I really am in some sort of science fiction adventure.  Psychosis or science fiction, it is joy to be an instrument of peace, even if the instrument’s role is a small one.
            “Isen, you ready?  We ought to go see Eadmar.”  Marty had risen refreshed and collected his new walking stick.  His first walnut staff had been transformed into “nickels.”
            “Aye, my lord.”  Isen bounded up the stairs from his room.  He wore a brown tunic Marty hadn’t seen.
            “New clothes, Isen?”
            “Aye.  Delivered by the farm wife, Viradecthis.  She gave me a tunic and a belt yesterday.”
            Marty rubbed his jaw.  “I suppose this is yet another early payment on hidgield.”
            “No, my lord.”  Isen grinned.  “She said that her girl, Whitney, who could not come to the party on account of needing to milk the cow, had been concerned that I had only one tunic.  Whitney’s the one as caught me in their barn.”
            “I remember.”
            “The farm wife says I should consider it a gift from Whitney.”  Isen’s grin grew wider.  “So it is a present—to me—and not hidgield.” 

            Except for the party day, Marty had kept a daily appointment with Eadmar, walking to the village to meet him.  The priest accepted meals in Inter Lucus wherever he could find them; the widow Leola Alymar, father and son Osulf and Everwin Idan, Gisa Bistan, and Fridiswid Redwine had all shared food with Eadmar.  He slept in open fields between village and castle (or on a damp night in widow Heline Entwine’s barn).  Marty and Isen (on some days, Ora or Caelin) usually found Eadmar helping with minor chores at the Entwine farm.  The priest would produce Marty’s New Testament from a pocket sewn inside his cassock and listen while Marty translated another passage from Earth’s English to the common tongue of Two Moons.  Marty had worked his way through much of 1 Corinthians, Eadmar listening for a proof that this was indeed the book of God, never hinting what that proof might be.
            “Lord Martin!  Welcome.  I thought perhaps you would not come today.”  Eadmar rose from an upturned bucket in the afternoon shade of the Entwine barn.  “I watched your castle’s display—from a safe distance, naturally.” 
            “Naturally.”  Marty and Eadmar both smiled.  The priest no longer attributed Inter Lucus’s powers to demon magic, but he still had not set foot on the castle grounds.  Marty thought: In ten days we have become friends, except he needs his proof, and I can’t find it for him.  “I would hear your true opinion, Eadmar.  Everyone who came to the party—perhaps I should say, everyone who came and stayed ’til morning to talk with me—each one praised Inter Lucus’s light show.  I begin to worry that I am hearing only the flattery of people who want something from me.  You, at least, will tell me the truth.  What did you think of my party?”
            “It’s dusty here,” said Eadmar, picking up his bucket.  “Let’s sit under the willow.” 
            An old willow tree created a shady place in a distant corner of the Entwine farm pasture, and the cow-cropped grass under it provided a pleasant place to sit.  The priest opened a gate in the fence and marched toward the tree, Marty and Isen trailing behind.  A few minutes passed before Eadmar was again on his bucket-seat.  The priest offered the Testament to Marty.  “Please read.”
            Marty took a seat on the ground and shook his head.  “Not just yet.  You haven’t answered my question.  What did you think of my party?”
            Eadmar’s eyes fixed on him; in the willow’s shade their Paul Newman-like blue was startling.  “You may come to regret it.”
            Isen was surprised.  “How so, priest Eadmar?  No one had even seen anything like the lights of the castle.  All those who saw know for a certainty that Lord Martin rules Inter Lucus.”
            “Perhaps so.  The lights were beautiful and wonderful.  Wise folk will long ponder what they might portend.  But how many wise folk were there?  How many fools were there?  I know at least one, as does Lord Martin.  Rothulf Saeric could not have stayed away.”
            “That’s so,” said Marty.  Caadde Bycwine saw him hiding in the forest.”
            “Saeric’s foolishness runs to greed, sloth, and desire for revenge,” said Eadmar.  “He resents Lord Martin for fostering young Alf.  But surely there were other foolish folk in such a large crowd.  Some will conclude that Lord Martin is so rich that he needs no more, that he only demands hidgield because he is, like other rich men, obscenely greedy.  One or two might even now be planning how they could enter Inter Lucus and steal some great treasure.  And many will think that the powers of Lord Martin’s castle make him invincible; they will defy any tax collector sent from Hyacintho Flumen.  Someday, whether in one year or ten, the people between the lakes will look to Lord Martin for protection, and some will be genuinely surprised that the lord of Inter Lucus will ask for their sons as soldiers.  Your lights can entertain a crowd.  Can they ward off enemies?”
            Marty made a wry grin and held out his hand for the Testament.  Eadmar handed it to him.  “You asked for my true opinion.”
            “I did.  And I’m glad to hear it.  I hope you will long live near Inter Lucus, so I can hear honest counsel often.”
            Eadmar’s hands rested on his bony knees.  “I am not one of your councilors, Lord Martin.”
            “Perhaps not.  But you tell the truth, and that’s worth a lot.”  Marty shifted his legs and open the New Testament.  “Where were we?  Ah!  Here.
            “For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you:” Marty paused, considered the text, and rendered the thought into the common tongue.  He had given up trying to figure out whether the language of Two Moons was Saxon or Old English or something else.  Whatever its roots, it was the tongue of his new home. 
            “The Lord—ah, the holy name is here—on the night he was betrayed, took bread.”  Marty looked briefly to Eadmar, who nodded.  Marty translated, and then continued: “and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ As Marty translated the words “This is my body” Eadmar took a sudden breath; his face lit up.
            Hoc est corpus meum.  Hoc est corpus meum!
            Marty recognized the phrase.  “Aye.  ‘This is my body.’ ‘Hoc est corpus meum.’
            Pro vobis hoc!
            Marty wasn’t sure, but he guessed.  “Aye.  ‘Which is for you.’ ‘Pro vobis hoc.’”
            Eadmar closed his eyes and recited: Ego enim accepi a Domino quod et traditi vobis quoniam Dominus . . . (he paused, omitting the name) in qua nocte tradebatur accepit panem et gratias agens fregit et dixit hoc est corpus meum pro vobis hoc facite in meam commemorationem . . .
            Eadmar’s Latin came in rhythmic phrases; Marty’s eyes followed the English text in his hands.  He thought: This is it!  The words of the Supper; they would pass them from generation to generation.
            Eadmar continued: “similiter et calicem postquam cenavit dicens hic calix novum testamentum est in meo sanguine hoc facite quotienscumque bibetis in meam commemorationem . . . Marty lost his way in the text, but meam commemorationem helped: “remembrance of me.”
            Quotienscumque enim manducabitis panem hunc et calicem bibetis mortem Domini adnuntitatis donec veniat.
            Eadmar fell silent, and Marty read the last sentence in English: “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.  He looked up from the text.  Blue eyes were boring into him.
            “It is the book of God?  Truly?”
            Marty held out the Testament to the priest.  “Truly.”
            Tears slid down the weathered face.  Deo Gratias.
            “Eadmar, how do you know these words?”
            Eadmar brushed his cheeks.  “Every priest learns the holy words kept at the hidden house, Dimlic Aern.”
            Marty’s brows came together.  “Hidden house?  Where is this place?  May I go there?”
            Isen interrupted.  “My lord, it would be dangerous to go far.”
            “Really?  How far is it?”
            Isen stammered.  “I, I, I don’t know.  But the priests say it is far.  Is that not so, Eadmar?”
            Dimlic Aern is far.”  Eadmar pursed his lips.  “And it is secret.  All God’s priests swear that they will never tell where.  And most could not tell if they wanted to, because they have never been there.”
            “But you have.”  Marty felt sure; he couldn’t say why. “You’ve been to this place.”
            “Aye.  When I was young, little older than Isen, I journeyed to Dimlic Aern; I saw the ancient writing in the holy language.  According to our teaching, it is older than the demons.”
            A Latin text from Earth!  “Eadmar, are there other writings at Dimlic Aern, besides the words you spoke?”
            The priest closed his eyes, calling up memories.  “Writings?  Nay.  There are other things, but no other writings.”
            “Other ancient things, as old as the holy writing?”
            “Maybe.  But they are not important.  The holy words are life.”
            What else do they have?  Marty nodded.  “I agree.  The apostle’s words are life.  Nevertheless, I desire to see the other ancient things.  May I go there?”
            Isen objected, “My lord!  You would be in danger.”
            Shaking his head, Marty said, “You’ve been listening to too many of Caelin’s stories of wars between castle lords.”
            Eadmar pointed a finger at Marty.  “Nay, Lord Martin.  It is you that has not been listening enough.  The castle lords usually survive in those stories.  But the people they ought to protect often suffer and die.  I will not take you to Dimlic Aern unless you convince me your people will be safe in your absence.”
            Marty tamped down the urge to argue.  Eadmar is right, old man.  There are a few thousand people who depend on you.  But he was conscious of a burning desire to see the artifacts at Dimlic Aern. 

            Eadmar accompanied Marty and Isen as far as widow Entwine’s barn.  It was late afternoon.  “The widow’s son, Harry, will come out to call me to sup soon,” said the priest.  “I hope you will read again tomorrow.” 
            “I plan on it.”
            It was their regular parting: “I hope you will read again,” and “I plan on it.”

            As Isen and Marty began the hour’s walk from village to castle, they noticed three men riding horses into Inter Lucus.  A middle-aged man with a beaked nose under a bright yellow hat rode a modest gray horse.  He wore brown and green clothing, soiled from riding, but well made.  On the horse beside him was a man whose muscles and posture reminded Marty of Russell Crowe’s Gladiator.  A boy, perhaps in his mid-teens, rode behind the men.  Marty didn’t recognize them, so he motioned for Isen to wait.  He gripped his new staff and realized, yet again, that it was not much defense.  Don’t be so suspicious, old man.  They’re probably just travelers.
Copyright © 2013 by Philip D. Smith.
All rights reserved.  International copyright secured.

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