Thursday, January 23, 2014

Castles 87

87. Between the Lakes

            Eadmar trembled at what he was about to do. 
            The holy name was not to be bandied about like a good luck charm.  The name was not a magic prop used to awe simple minds.  In ancient times, good priests had surrendered their lives rather than speak the name in the presence of demons.  For centuries castle lords had compelled believers to worship the demons, calling them gods, and laughing at the true God.  Why would any believer speak the holy name in the presence of a lord?  Why would a priest, a sworn servant of God, make the holy name known to common people?  (Eadmar could hear Phytwin’s voice in his mind, asking these and other such questions.)  The name was to be used only as a final blessing, whispered in the ear of dying believers to strengthen their faith as they passed to the after world.  Even among themselves, priests spoke the name rarely, giving it the honor it deserved.
            The appearance of Martin Cedarborne on Two Moons challenged many of these beliefs.  He was not like other lords.  Martin knew the holy name before he met any priest.  He openly confessed his allegiance to the true God.  He had built a Prayer House next to Inter Lucus.  He had brought the book of God to Two Moons.  In Martin’s book of God, the holy name was not secret.  Martin’s book explained so many things…
            In spite of all this, Eadmar’s hands shook when he lifted the board with its loaf of bread.  He reminded himself that he really did believe that Martin’s book was genuine. “The book of God says this:
            For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 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.’”
            Eadmar put down the bread and lifted a chalice of wine.
            “In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.’  For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”
            Having committed himself to his new path, Eadmar discovered calm.  His hands stopped shaking.  Lord Martin came forward first, followed by Ora, Caelin, Alf, Isen, Mildgyd, the four sheriffs, and Rothulf Saeric.  To each of them Eadmar presented a bit of the bread and said, “The body of Christ.”  Three-year-old Agyfen tagged at Mildgyd’s side; Eadmar touched the boy’s head in blessing rather than give him communion.
            Thus did priest Eadmar launch a new worship of the old God, based on the memories, instructions, and book supplied by Martin Cedarborne of Lafayette.  “May God have mercy on me,” he whispered.

            After the first service in the nearly completed Prayer House, Marty and his people returned to castle Inter Lucus.  But not Eadmar.  The priest had violated a centuries old rule when he spoke the holy name in the presence of non-priests, but at least that transgression had the excuse that everyone present in Prayer House had already heard the name from Marty.  Eadmar wasn’t going to compound his offense by disobeying a direct order from Guthlaf Godcild; he would not step on the grounds of Inter Lucus.
            With Marty’s Harvest Festival four days away, the castle grounds and the field to the south had become a hive of activity.  Together with farmer volunteers, Marty’s sheriffs had built temporary stock pens on one side.  Since animal pens would stink anyway, latrines were dug close by.  A short way up the hill toward the castle they built a musicians’ stand that could serve double duty as speaker’s platform.  Marty would announce prize winners in categories that reminded him of a county fair; pastries, breads, livestock, fruits, vegetables, dances, songs, foot-races and throwing competitions would all be judged.  Once he had mastered the use of Materias Transmutatio to cut and shape wood, Marty doubled the number of top prizes.  He made eight chairs of white pine in a ladderback style, precision fitted without nails.  In addition to “castle magic” chairs, there were also a couple dozen “Certificates of Excellence” to be awarded as Marty saw fit.  The certificates were hand lettered by Caelin on the best paper Inter Lucus had yet produced, signed by Marty, and framed in oak.  In addition to making the certificates, Caelin collaborated with Isen and Rothulf to produce more paper as fast as they could press and dry the new sheets.           
            Marty visited the west wing where his eight chairs were lined up against one wall.  He congratulated himself; the chairs were functional and strong, held together by tenon joints and dowels.  They weren’t particularly beautiful, but they would serve well in any village home and be highly valued by those who received them.  An inchoate worry about the chairs had been growing in Marty, and when he saw them arranged next to each other, every one looking almost exactly like the others, the worry became articulate.  It’s like I’ve got a little factory here.  With practice, I could churn out chairs or tables—or paper!—in bulk.  Every house between the lakes could have its own writing desk, with paper made at Inter Lucus.  But if that’s true of Inter Lucus, it should be true of other castles.  Trade between the castles should dominate the economy of Two Moons, each castle manufacturing its own specialty.  I make paper, you make furniture, and somebody else makes—what? What are the limits of Materias Transmutatio?  Could a castle make steel?  Fiber optic cable?  Computer chips?  Geez!  Why are the people of Two Moons living in the Middle Ages when they’ve got alien technology at their fingertips? 
            The answer came to him as soon as he posed the question.  To them, it’s not alien technology.  It’s magic.
            Near the opposite wall of the west wing Caelin and Isen were debating which fibrous plants to include in their next experimental pulp.  Eavesdropping for a minute, Marty digested the significance of their words.  It’s not magic to Caelin and Isen; it’s a machine.  They may not know how it works, but they’re eager to learn.

            From the west wing, Marty walked to the east wing stairs.  He still made daily inspection of the growth of Inter Lucus.  Outside the castle, the paved paths grew longer, a few inches every day.  In the building itself, ceilings and roofs had completed the great hall and the west wing.  But the east wing kept growing taller.  Already its first and second stories had their absurdly high ceilings, yet the walls continued to rise.  Marty hiked up to the third floor.  He watched, fascinated as always, as tiny filaments of ceramic material extended upward, tied across, latticed, and gradually filled the spaces between.  The pace of building or growth had not been constant.  At various times in the last five months the castle had seemed to take a breather or time out.  But today Inter Lucus’s growth was so rapid that a patient observer could see it.  Marty estimated the walls would be four or five inches taller by the end of the day.  How tall would the castle grow?  A completed third story would make the tower more than sixty feel tall; a fourth would push it over eighty.  Already, situated as it was on a hill, Marty could see over some of the surrounding forest.
            As often before, Marty wondered about the purpose of the east wing tower.  The cavernous west wing housed Materias Transmutatio.  The great hall had room for two hundred to dine at one time—and it was home to the lord’s knob and the interface wall.  Downstairs they had identified the kitchen (with its walk-in refrigerator and freezer), bedrooms, bathrooms, seemingly purposeless rooms (storage?), and a room that had shelves like a library.  But what about the east wing and its tower?  Marty was pretty sure the large first floor room with its adjacent bathroom and small rooms (closets?) was supposed to be a master suite.  But he had only guesses about the upper stories of the tower.
            Since the tower was unfinished, one would expect the warm air of the castle to rush up the stairway into the November sky.  But it didn’t.  Standing on the third floor, Marty was completely exposed to the weather, but when he descended the steps he moved into warm air.  It was as if an invisible hand lay across the opening of the stairs, holding the cold air out and warm air in.  The barrier was permeable; rain and sleet could fall through it (to be absorbed by the floors and walls below) and Marty could climb through it.  More than once he had stood on a step just below the third floor, feeling warm air around his ankles and a cold autumn wind on his face.
            Movement to the south drew his attention away from the dancing filaments.  Villagers had arrived to set up tents for the Festival; the sheriffs were helping.  In the west, clouds were blowing across West Lake.  I hope we don’t get too much rain or snow.  November might be too late in the year for a Festival.  Maybe we should put a tent over the musicians’ stand. 
            Sounds from below, from inside Inter Lucus, broke into Marty’s reverie.  “My Lord Martin!  Lord Martin!”  Ora’s voice, tinged with fear or excitement.  Marty started down the steps.  She met him on the second floor, flushed from running.
            “What is it, Ora?”
            “Alf found a new room!  You must come.  It might be seepeeyou!”
Copyright © 2014 by Philip D. Smith.
All rights reserved.  International copyright secured.

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