Thursday, March 20, 2014

Castles 95

95. In Castle Inter Lucus

            Ora found Lord Martin in the great hall at one of the tables where the students of Collegium Inter Lucus sat for lessons.  He sat alone, leaning on the table, head bowed and shoulders slumped.  For a moment Ora thought Martin might be sick, but she quickly reached a different surmise: he was contemplating some difficulty.  Ora’s heart burned with tenderness for him.  She had every confidence that Lord Martin would solve whatever problem was bothering him; at the same time she knew that Os Oswald and the other sheriffs were worried.  The knight from Hyacintho Flumen had disdained Lord Martin.  The knight said that the lord at Hyacintho Flumen no longer asserted any claim between the lakes, but Ora had heard the sheriffs worrying that the war in the south might pull them in somehow.  Everyone at castle Inter Lucus knew that Martin’s sheriffs were not real soldiers, not like the knight from Hyacintho Flumen or the sheriffs of Down’s End.  What would happen if even a small army marched on Inter Lucus?  The villagers would flee to the castle for protection.  Could Lord Martin and four poorly trained sheriffs hold off an enemy?
            “My Lord Martin!  Are you okay?” 
            He raised his head at Ora’s greeting.  “I’m fine.  Just thinking.”
            “Alf wants you to come to see our newest paper.”
            “Alf does?  Aren’t five of you making paper?”
            “Aye, but this new kind was Alf’s idea.”
            “Very well.  Let’s go.”
            Before they reached the north door of the hall, Ora asked, “What were you thinking my lord?”
            “It will take some explaining, Ora.  After I’ve seen this new paper, I want you and Caelin to visit Priest Eadmar with me, so we can discuss it together.”
            “Dyed paper!  Did this idea come in another dream, Alf?”  The new paper was thicker and smoother than any yet produced at Inter Lucus, and it was bright red.  Dried and cut into seven-inch squares, Marty thought it could pass for construction paper in the school supply aisle of a supermarket back on Earth.
            “No, my lord.”  Alf’s eyes shone with pride.  “Went Bycwine told me how Mildgyd was teaching him how to dye wool.  So I thought: why not dye paper?  It might not work, but we could try.”
            Marty nodded.  “It worked beautifully.  Most paper we make should be white, the better for writing.  But we’ll find uses for colored paper, I’m sure.  I particularly like the strength of this paper.”  Marty bent a sheet of the red stock without folding it.  “In fact, here is an idea.  Put sheets of undyed paper between two sheets of the new paper, like this.”  The papermakers watched Marty demonstrate.  “We’ll put holes along the edge, and have Went or Tayte sew the whole together.”
            Ora made the connection immediately.  “A book!  We can copy the book of God!”
            “It would take a great many pages.”  Of all the students in Collegium Inter Lucus, Whitney Ablendan was the quickest to speak her mind.  “The letters in the book of God are very small, so every page in it has many words.”
            “Aye.”  Marty wanted to encourage independent thinking.  “Do you have a recommendation?”
            Whitney had an answer immediately.  “We should make many little books, and each one can hold a portion of the book of God.”
            “Could we make other colors?”  Dodric Night, unlike Whitney, very rarely volunteered to speak during lessons.  “If we made papers of various colors, all the red books could be portions of the book of God, and other colors used for other purposes.”
            Marty and the others looked at Dodric amazed.  Then Caelin said, “Dodric, that’s brilliant.”  Caelin thumped his temple with a finger.  “We had a yellow mash last week, but it made uselessly flimsy paper, so we discarded it.  We should try it again, but with more shredded rag.  And less water, perhaps.”
            Marty touched Caelin’s elbow.  “Whitney, Dodric, and Alf can experiment with a new mash.  I would like you and Ora to come with me.”
            “My Lord, Whitney, Dodric and Alf are all eleven or twelve.  Would you leave Materias Transmutatio in their hands?”  Caelin had recently passed his fifteenth birthday, and he regarded himself as head of the papermaking crew.
            “They can manage for an hour or two on their own.”  Marty stepped around Caelin to a chocolate colored stick leaning against the wall.  “Ah!  I wondered where I’d left this.”  He hefted his staff and waved it at Alf, Dodric and Whitney.  “Make sure I’m right, you three.  No accidents while we’re gone.  Okay?”
            Okay.”  Alf’s blue eyes looked up at Marty from beneath his fringe of white-blond hair.  “We’ll be careful, my Lord.”

            “Lord Martin, welcome.  Ora and Caelin as well.”  Eadmar pulled open the door to Prayer House, admitting them.  “You are early today.”  Normally, Marty visited the priest in the late afternoon for the daily session of reading/translating from Marty’s New Testament.  With short winter days, Marty usually returned to the castle at sundown to be present at sup.
            “Something has happened.  I need your advice.”  Marty looked around the interior of Prayer House.  “Rothulf?”
            “He is with Isen, as you commanded.”  Eadmar raised an eyebrow, even as he waved them through the frosty interior of Prayer House to the door that led to his own room, where a fire provided comfort.
            “I don’t want us to be overheard.”  Marty took off his coat and folded it over the back of a plain wooden chair.  Besides the fireplace that heated it, Eadmar’s apartment featured two chairs, a narrow cot, and a tiny table.  Eadmar motioned Ora to the second chair, and Caelin sat on the floor with his back to a small stack of firewood, leaving the bed for the priest.  With the shutter pulled tight on the glassless window, the fire and an oil lamp provided all the light.
            “I will be glad when Isen produces glass.  Sometimes I sit close to the fire with the shutters open, even in winter, just to have daylight.”  Eadmar held up a hand, preventing Ora from speaking.  “I know, young lady.  You will tell me I should visit Inter Lucus and enjoy its marvelous lights.  Even underground it is lit like the day, or so Rothulf tells me.  But until Guthlaf Godcild gives me leave, I may not set foot in Martin’s castle.”
            Ora inclined her head, acceding to Eadmar’s will.
            The priest settled on the cot.  “What is this about, Martin?”
            “Today I used Videns-Loquitur for the first time.”
            Pursed lips, raised eyebrows.  Eadmar shrugged and lifted open palms; the words meant nothing to him.  Caelin, however, reacted with a sudden inhale.  The priest looked at him.  “Do you know what it means?”
            “I think it means ‘seeing-speaking,’” said Caelin.
            “Close enough.”  Marty leaned forward, hands on his knees.  “I saw a blond woman.  Quite beautiful, obviously pregnant, standing with her hand on an interface globe.  It appeared much like mine, except that it glowed blue rather than green.”
            “The lord’s knob of another castle,” said Caelin.
            “Indeed.  She said her name was Mariel.”
            Questions tumbled out of Ora and Caelin.  “The Queen of Herminia?  Are you sure?  She’s pregnant?” 
            “She claimed to be queen, and I have no reason to doubt her.  As I say, her pregnancy was obvious.”
            Eadmar asked, “Her army surrounds Hyacintho Flumen, does it not?”
            “According to Kenelm Ash, yes.  And Mariel said as much.  After her army conquers Hyacintho Flumen, she said, it will come to Inter Lucus.  She threatened punishment if I intervened to help Lord Mortane.”
            “You have no help to give,” observed Eadmar.
            “Aye.  So her threat was superfluous.  I have no desire to fight wars in any case.”
            Ora and Caelin asked together: “Superfluous, my lord?”
            Marty thought for a moment.  Superfluous means ‘unnecessary’ or ‘a greater amount than useful.’  But I don’t want to talk about her threats.  Something else she said has got me thinking.
            “Queen Mariel said that I must be a Tirel.  More than a hundred years ago, she thinks, some Tirel second son or bastard ran away from Inter Lucus to Lafayette.  Of course, she has no idea where Lafayette really is.”
            Caelin flicked a bit of pitchy wood onto the fire.  It blazed up quickly.  “Did you tell her?”
            “I told her that Lafayette is far away, further than Sestia.  I don’t know where Sestia is, but any place on Earth is certainly further than Sestia.”
            Eadmar scratched his bald pate.  “It is probably wise that you not tell strangers like Mariel that you have come to Two Moons from another world.”
            Marty grinned at the priest.  “We don’t want her thinking I’m mad, do we?  I suspect that’s what the villagers think.”
            The priest frowned.  “They don’t know what to think.”  Since the building of Prayer House Eadmar had made it a point to visit to Inter Lucus or Senerham frequently when weather permitted.  People between the lakes had quickly come to trust him, a priest of the old god, brave enough to live next to a castle and yet stalwart enough to refuse the lord’s invitation to enter.  “Not many of them understand the notion of a planet, not as you have explained it to us.  And they are mystified that a lord of a castle would deny the castle gods.  Most of them have adopted a very practical point of view.  Whether you are mad or sane, wherever you came from, you are here now and you command castle magic.  For them, that’s the end of the matter.”
            Eadmar locked eyes with Marty.  “But the queen of Herminia may not think in such terms.  The danger is not only that she might doubt your sanity.  She may imagine you a threat.  If she knew that you are not a Tirel, that you cannot possibly be a Tirel, she might decide you are an imposter, and she might test your command of Inter Lucus, perhaps by attacking you.”
            Marty thought about his conversation with Mariel.  “She congratulated me on reviving a dead castle, and she seemed quite impressed that I can maintain a bond with only one hand on the interface globe.  I think she is convinced that I am genuine lord.”
            “My Lord, did you say that?”  Caelin was suddenly agitated.  “Did you say ‘interface globe’?  All people on Two Moons say, ‘the lord’s knob.’”
            “Does it matter which word Lord Martin uses?”  Ora was always ready to defend Marty against criticism, implied or real.
            Marty explained Caelin’s point.  “It could matter greatly, Ora.  If I use strange words, it could provoke suspicion in Mariel’s mind.  Eadmar is right, I think.  I should let Mariel continue in her belief that I am a long-lost Tirel, something she can understand and accept.  That brings me back to the thing I want to discuss.
            “Caelin, you’ve heard many tales of the castles.  Has there ever been a usurper who took over a castle?”
            “Not as you are thinking, my Lord.  Sons of lords, and sometimes daughters, fight to place their hands on the knob.  There have been murders.  In some stories a cousin or nephew poisons the rightful lord and bonds with a castle.  But always a new lord is related by blood to the old lord.”
            Marty looked at Eadmar.  “You’ve lived many more years than Caelin, my friend.  Have you ever heard of a castle ruled by a commoner?”
            “Age makes no difference.  I have paid little attention to tales of demons, except to learn never to trust the lords who worship them.”  The priest’s grin prevented any objection to his words.  “Caelin knows far more of such things.”
            “Fair enough.  But you know the people of Down’s End.  Would anyone there believe that a commoner could bond with a castle?”
            “No.  All know that castles pass from parent to child.  Only nobles bond with those the lords call gods and we call demons.”
            “Do the lords of castles marry common folk?”
            Eadmar nodded to Caelin, deferring to the youth’s better knowledge.  Caelin said, “Rarely.  Lords and ladies seek the daughters of other lords as wives for their sons.  Of course, sometimes a lord or a knight descended from a lord will sire a bastard on a common woman.”
            “Like Alf.”
            “Aye… If Rothulf speaks the truth.”  Caelin still doubted Rothulf Saeric’s story of Alf’s parentage.
            Marty looked at Caelin.  “Has the lord of one castle ever bonded with some other castle?  Has the son or daughter of any lord ever bonded with another castle?”
            “Aye.  This is why noble families intermarry.  A second son in one castle may sometimes bond with the castle of his mother’s family—if that castle has no lord or lady, or if the lord or lady dies.  This has led to cases of treachery and murder.”
            Marty leaned forward, staring at the packed earth floor of Eadmar’s apartment.  Castle control is passed from parent to child.  It has to be tied to genetics.  But the lords have bastards, some acknowledged and some not.  After twenty generations, the gene for control would have to be spread throughout the population.  There ought to be stories of successful usurpers.
            Maybe the gene is recessive.  Maybe you need to get it from both parents to control a castle.  And for all I know, it could be more complicated than that.  It might take a particular genetic combination…  My God!
            Ora read the change in Marty’s expression.  “Lord Martin, what is it?”
            Marty directed his answer to Eadmar.  “We need to go to Dimlic Aern.”

Copyright © 2014 by Philip D. Smith.
All rights reserved.  International copyright secured.


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