Thursday, August 1, 2013

Castles 62

62. At Castle Inter Lucus

            Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.  The authorities that exist have been established by God.

            The apostle’s words echoed in Marty’s mind as he listened to Rothulf Saeric deny Hors Cnud’s accusations.  He had translated this passage in Romans for Eadmar shortly before the priest went to Down’s End, and he could recall young people passionately debating its application during his year in the Chicago Catholic Worker house.  The apostle’s words must not be generalized to all governments, one voice had said; the Bible doesn’t require obedience to tyrants like Hitler or Pol Pot.  Someone else replied: why not?  It’s not like the Roman government of the first century was fair or democratic; the government that Paul said was established by God was the very government that executed Paul a few years later.  Most of the twenty-somethings at the Catholic Worker house agreed with the first voice.  Marty didn’t know which side was right.
            The irony is that now I’m the governing authority!  Some alien wormhole snatches me from Oregon to Two Moons—and that makes me God’s established authority?  Proof positive that God has a sense of humor.
            Marty had to do something about Rothulf Saeric.  The vagabond had stayed in the Inter Lucus vicinity until Marty’s midsummer party, begging meals here and there, sleeping under the stars.  Before he disappeared from the area, Rothulf complained often and bitterly against Marty’s decision to keep Alf in Inter Lucus, calling it kidnapping and usurpation; by rights Alf should be lord of Inter Lucus, he said. 
            Marty had surprised Ora, Caelin, and Isen by listening carefully to Rothulf’s story.  He was, he said, the son of Aelred Saeric, a farmer in the Blue River valley.  Aelred’s land flooded often, and life was hard.  Aelred died of the bloody flux, leaving Golda, his wife, and a son, Rothulf.  A year later, the same disease almost claimed Rothulf, so Golda moved downriver to Hyacintho Flumen.  She might have married again, but Lord Hereward Mortane intervened.  Riding along the river road on a fine day, Mortane saw Rothulf’s mother working in a field and lusted for her.  Rothulf, a boy of eleven, was restrained by one of the soldiers who rode with the lord.  They made him watch. When she discovered she was pregnant, Golda moved back to the Blue River farm, where she lived in abject poverty with two sons.  A few years later, Golda died, and Rothulf took his half-brother to Down’s End.
            In Down’s End Rothulf learned a surprising fact about Hereward Mortane.  The lord’s grandmother was Aerlene Tirel, daughter of the last lord of Inter Lucus, Thurwold Tirel.  Since Thurwold Tirel had no living sons, Aerlene might have become lady of Inter Lucus, except she had already died giving birth to Hereward’s father.  Thus, the Mortanes of Hyacintho Flumen claimed that they were heirs to Inter Lucus and rightful lords between the lakes.  There was a story in Down’s End that Hereward’s younger brother Wimund Mortane had ridden all the way to Inter Lucus and placed his hands on the lord’s knob, hoping to become a lord in his own right.  But this happened eighty years after Thurwold Tirel’s death; the castle had already fallen into ruin.  It was also said that when the ambitious Wimund returned to Hyacintho Flumen he was murdered in his sleep.
            Hereward Mortane was descended from the Tirels and that, Rothulf concluded, made Alf a descendent of the Tirels.  If, beyond all understanding, the magic of Inter Lucus had come back to life, the castle rightly belonged to Alf, not some wizard usurper.  Rothulf defiantly insisted that it was only proper for him to distract Marty while Alf slipped into Inter Lucus to bond with the lord’s knob.
            Marty kept ten-year-old Alf in the castle, where his burned hands could be kept clean and bandaged, and he forbade Rothulf to communicate with his brother.  But otherwise Marty did not punish Rothulf.  The older brother used his freedom to tell his story to anyone from Senerham and Inter Lucus who would listen.  Alf, not Martin Cedarborne, should be lord, he said.  The villagers very sensibly pointed out that Lord Martin had bonded with the castle while Alf had not.  And after Marty’s midsummer party, Rothulf had disappeared from the area.
            With autumn, Rothulf had returned between the lakes.  Men coming to Inter Lucus to pay hidgield reported seeing him; some said they suspected him of thievery.  Now Erna Cnud had caught him trying to steal pork from the Cnuds’ salt house, and Hors Cnud was accusing him of attempted rape.
            Priest Eadmar would still not set foot on castle property, so Marty and Caelin went out to the band of men with their prisoner.  As usual, Marty took his walnut staff with him.  Caelin carried a leather pouch and a polished flat board the size of a dinner plate.  Marty took a seat on a stump across the road from Inter Lucus grounds. 
            Eadmar explained that he had brought an orphan from Down’s End, Agyfen, hoping to foster him with some family between the lakes.  Marty acknowledged the boy’s presence, but the matter of Rothulf Saeric had to be managed first.  Marty commanded Syg Alymar to take the rope from Rothulf’s neck, and everyone sat on the ground.  Agyfen sat quietly next to the priest, his tiny leg touching Eadmar’s.
            Hors Cnud rehearsed his accusations against Rothulf, and Syg Alymar confirmed that Erna Cnud said Rothulf had touched her inappropriately in the salt house.  Everwin Idan reminded Marty of neighbors who thought someone had been stealing from their henhouses and barns; no one had actually seen Rothulf thieving, but it was common knowledge that Rothulf had practiced thievery in Down’s End.  Marty noted Rothulf’s angry glare directed at Eadmar; in this case “common knowledge” rested on the priest’s testimony.
            When his turn came, Rothulf denied as much as possible.  He was not a thief; the accusations Priest Eadmar had heard against him in Down’s End were false.  He hadn’t stolen anything from anyone between the lakes.  It was true that Erna had found him in the salt house, but he had only taken refuge there because the nights were getting colder.  He had told Erna that she was pretty, and she was friendly about it until Hors suddenly turned up.
            Leaping to his feet, Hors Cnud interrupted angrily.  “You lying sneak-thief!  How dare you say that about Erna!”  But Marty stood up and stepped in front of Hors.  The red-haired man spun around and swung his fists at the air.  “Yah!”  But then he controlled himself and took his place on the ground between Everwin and Baldric.
            “Caelin.”  Marty held out his hand and received the wood tablet.  “Paper and ink.”  Caelin opened his pouch and produced two sheets of paper, a small clay jar of ink, and a goose feather quill.  Sitting, Marty positioned the writing board and paper on his legs.  Caelin unstoppered the ink jar and held it out so Marty could dip the quill.
            Marty took notes while he spoke.  Except for Caelin and Eadmar, the men present were taken aback.  Writing was a rare skill on Two Moons, reserved for castle scribes and the wealthy elite of cities like Down’s End, Cippenham and Stonebridge.  Yet here was a man who wrote easily, as a matter of course.  Syg, Baldric, and Everwin traded wondering glances and nods.
            “What do we know?”  The goose quill made scratching sounds, which could be heard between Marty’s sentences.  “Rothulf Saeric is accused of attempted theft of salted pork.”  Scratch, scratch; he dipped the quill the ink jar frequently.
            “He is also accused of attempted rape.” Scratch, scratch.
            “There are other suspicions against him.  But not accusations.”
            More ink.  “None of these things can be proved.”  Hors Cnud almost interrupted, but Marty silenced his protest with a glare.
            “He was not found with pork outside the salt house.” Scratch, scratch.
            “Rothulf denies intending rape.  No one says he actually tried to force Erna; perhaps Hors came to the salt house before he could.
            “He has been guilty of theft before.  Eadmar’s testimony settles that point.”  Now Rothulf wanted to object, but thought better of it.
            “He provoked Alf to invade Inter Lucus, exposing Alf to danger and injury.”  At this point, Marty paused for a long while.  He locked eyes with Rothulf until Saeric looked away.
            “Rothulf Saeric has put himself in great danger.”  Scratch, scratch.  Now Saeric’s black eyes were questioning Marty.
            “If people between the lakes catch Saeric thieving, they have my permission to whip him.”  Vigorous nods from Hors, more careful acquiescence from Syg and Everwin.
            More ink.  “Rothulf Saeric needs honest work to do, to keep him out of trouble.”  Scratch, scratch.
            “Therefore, I order that: Rothulf Saeric will live here, in the woods near Inter Lucus.  He will assist Priest Eadmar in building a Prayer House.  Prayer House will have extra rooms, one for the priest and one for Saeric.  Inter Lucus servants will bring him, and Priest Eadmar, meals as long as he stays here.  He will report on his activities every day to me.” 
            Marty had to dip his quill repeatedly to write out his judgment.
            “If Rothulf Saeric abandons this task before Prayer House is finished, Eadmar will report to me.  I will declare him persona non grata between the lakes.  If found he will be whipped and expelled from the area.”
            Threatening a vagabond with public whipping.  Is that the best you can think of, old man?  Marty looked at the words on the paper and chewed his lip.  What else can I do?
             “Caelin, you’ve been practicing.  Do you think you can copy this?”  Marty pointed to the judgment.  “Just the order part, from here to here.  When you’ve copied it out, give it to Rothulf.”
            “He can’t read it, my lord.”
            “He deserves a copy anyway.  Now Eadmar and I need to talk about this boy, Agyfen.”

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


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