Thursday, May 15, 2014

Castles 103

103. In Castle Inter Lucus

            Caelin arranged six chairs in a circle near the lord’s knob.  He and Ora sat protectively on either side of Marty.  The light strips under the balconies dimmed on their own and the great hall took on a quiet and cavernous atmosphere once everyone else had left.  A patch of light surrounded Marty, his guests, and the lord’s knob.  Seated close to the interface wall, the three visitors could hardly keep their eyes from its sleek thirty-foot vertical surface.  Marty watched them rubberneck.  Inter Lucus’s strangeness shouts “alien” to me, but “devil” to them.  This may not work.
            “Eadmar, you didn’t come to Inter Lucus just to look at it.  What has happened?”
            The priests and Godric glanced at Marty, but the blackness of the interface had a depth to it that pulled them back.  A person could get lost in that inky mystery.  Teothic’s skin above his red beard looked pasty.
            Marty stood up.  “This isn’t going to work.  Come on.”  He picked up his chair and the others followed him to a spot along the east wall, north of the east door, at least forty feet from the intimidation of the interface.  The lighting brightened automatically around them, an unnerving effect for the visitors.  Teothic, Eadmar and Godric glanced repeatedly at the light strips.
            Godric asked, “What magic makes the light?  Why does it brighten around our chairs?”
            Marty looked at the floor for a moment, considering his answer.  “Is it magic when a ship sails across West Lake?  No.  The ship maker has constructed his vessel in a way that the wind moves it where the pilot wants to go. 
            “The creatures who built Inter Lucus constructed it with many parts, and all those parts work together, like the parts of a ship, except that Inter Lucus has more parts, and far more intricately designed parts, than any ship.  Now, just as a ship is designed so that the pilot can direct it from one position, with his hand on the helm, so Inter Lucus is designed so that the whole castle can be controlled when the lord puts his hand on the lord’s knob.  There is a difference, of course: anyone can put his hand on the helm of a ship, but only the lord who has bonded with a castle can put his hands on the lord’s knob.
            “The lights in Inter Lucus come on when I need them, because the castle is closely attuned to me ever since I bonded with it.  It is as if Inter Lucus watches me constantly and tries to guess what I need.  And it seems that the castle is also aware of the people I have welcomed into my household.  The lights come on for Mildgyd or any of the children when they move around inside Inter Lucus.”
            Godric’s eyes roved over the room.  “Would it work for me?  Would light shine on me if I were alone?”
            “I don’t think so,” Marty answered.  When new children came to Inter Lucus we noticed that they had no light for a few days.  It’s as if the castle has to learn which persons live here and which are only guests.”
Enough about technology.  Marty leaned toward Teothic.  “Why have you come to Inter Lucus?”
Teothic clutched his bony knees.  “Guthlaf Godcild, our bishop, directed me to seek out brother Eadmar and ask if he still believed that Martin of Inter Lucus worshiped the true God.  If so, we have Guthlaf’s permission to enter castle Inter Lucus and to confirm for ourselves that you can command the castle.  And if that is so, Guthlaf bids Eadmar and me to ask your aid.”
“Aid with what?”
Color had come back to Teothic’s face.  “I am commanded not to name our request until I am convinced of your troth and your power over Inter Lucus.  Eadmar’s testimony and the prayers of your students speak for your good faith.  Eadmar says the castle itself, that it has recovered from its ruinous state, demonstrates your power.  Still, I would like to tell the brothers when I return to Down’s End that I asked for and witnessed proof.  Phytwin in particular doubted that any true believer could use the devils’ magic.”
Marty pursed his lips.  “Let me guess.  Suppose I demonstrate command of Inter Lucus.  Brother Phytwin would then say that it proves I am no true believer, that I play act in order to deceive you.”
Eadmar chuckled.  “That’s Phytwin.”
Teothic looked sideways at the dark interface wall and chewed his lip.  “Phytwin would no doubt remind us of brother Morton, deceived and killed by the Postels of Aurea Prati, or the four brothers of Cippenham who were tortured to death outside Altum Canyon.”  Teothic faced Marty, his blue eyes probing.  “There are many cautionary accounts of the devils’ cruelty and the treachery of the lords who serve them.  As story-keeper, I could fill the day with such tales.”
“I do not doubt your stories, Teothic.”  Marty rubbed his forehead and sighed.  “In fact, I think we should write them down.  We’ve learned to make paper here at Inter Lucus.  We will use it to make copies of the book of God; why not also record the history of Two Moons?  Caelin has collected stories told by old men on market days, but Eadmar told me once that the story-keepers among the priests can recite the story of Two Moons back to the before time.
“But you must ask yourself: Do the stories of the past determine our future?  God has allowed the lords of Two Moons to oppress his worshipers for hundreds of years.  Does that mean it must always be so?  Is it not possible that a castle lord could worship God?”
Marty stood up.  “You ask for proof that I control my castle.  Very well.  You may sit here or come closer, as you like.”  To Caelin and Ora: “I’ve been working on something new.  See if you like it.”  He walked to the lord’s knob and bonded with his right hand.  The status report appeared instantly, filling the screen with letters a foot tall.

I. Materias Transmutatio: operativa
II. Parva Arcum Praesidiis: operativa
III. Magna Arcum Praesidiis: operativa
IV. Cibum Preparatio Homines: operativa
V. Inter-Castrum Videns-Loquitur: operativa
VI. Extra Arcem Micro-Aedificator: operativa
VII. Potentia Fontes: operativa
VIII. Aquarum: operativa
IX. Intra Arcem Micro-Aedificator: operativa
X. Centralis Arbitrium Factorem: operativa

Marty heard the intake of breath behind him. The green light of the knob glowed around and between his fingers, as if the knob were a small sun with green plasma.  For the benefit of the visitors, he let the display stand for several seconds.  He closed his eyes and shifted his attention.
The Latin inscription vanished.  In its place, the panorama south of the castle appeared, as if the whole wall were a perfectly clean window.  The winter sun slanted through clouds and reflected off snow; forests edged the view left and right, and houses of the village could be seen more than a mile away.  The great hall was filled with light from the wall.
“My lord, that’s…”
Marty threw his left hand into the air to interrupt Caelin’s remark.  In his mind’s eye the scene shifted—and the interface wall displayed his thought: the same view south from Inter Lucus, but now in the colors of summer.  The brown track of the road to the village wound through grasses, with wildflowers swaying in a summer wind.  Marty was particularly pleased with the summer scene; he wasn’t sure if it was a recording of some past summer long stored in Centralis Arbitrium Factorem or if Inter Lucus had modified the current winter scene like an alien version of Photoshop.  Standing within six feet of the interface wall, the viewers could easily believe themselves transported to summer.
Then the music started.  Marty wasn’t a particularly good singer, and his musical education ended in middle school band, so he had to rely on early musical memories.  A scene from Close Encounters of the Third Kind had come alive in his performance last summer.  Marty had watched the video a dozen times when the flu kept him home from fourth grade for a week.  And now, from a deeper memory, he used “This Land is Your Land.”  In private sessions facing the wall, Marty had hummed, whistled and sung the folk tune, experimenting until Inter Lucus would reproduce it.  It was like picking out a melody on a virtual piano, using his mind rather than fingers.
The sound was like something between a bagpipe and a bassoon, growly and reedy at the same time.  But the melody was clear, and it seemed to fit the beauty of a summer landscape.  When the song had played through twice, Marty shifted his attention.  The interface returned to inky blackness, Marty lifted his hand from the knob, and the green glow disappeared. 
Eadmar, Teothic and Godric had crossed the great hall to stand immediately behind Marty, pulled by the wonder of a technology beyond their dreams.  Ora and Caelin stood just behind them.  With the interface blank, the great hall was again a cavern.
“Are you convinced?  Eadmar, what’s wrong?”  Teothic and Godric were simply staring at the wall, but Eadmar was weeping.
“O my friend Martin.  Such power and beauty!  I see how the devils presented themselves as gods.  Among the priests, our story-keepers warn us against the power of castles.  They should warn against their beauty.  There is nothing on Two Moons, not even at Dimlic Aern, that can compare with such artistry.”
Marty shook his head.  “I wouldn’t rush to award prizes.  Any film studies student who had Inter Lucus for a studio could do much better.  But I ask again.  Teothic, are you convinced?”
“Aye.”  The red-haired priest covered his face with his hands and bowed his head.  “I had never dreamed of such a thing.”  Teothic breathed heavily several times, and then looked at Marty.  “You are the lord of Inter Lucus.  We have come to ask your aid.”
“What is that your Bishop Guthlaf wants?”
Teothic looked beyond Marty to the interface wall.  “It is said that the lords of castles can speak to one another.  Is this true?  Can you speak with Aylwin Mortane, Artus Postel, or David Le Grant?”
Marty pursed his lips.  “I discovered only recently that the castles speak to each other.  I’ve not spoken with Aylwin Mortane or—who were the others you mentioned?”
“Artus Postel or David Le Grant.  Or Simon Asselin?  Rowena Silver?”
“I know none of these names.  Are they all lords?  Eadmar, shouldn’t you have told me about them?”
Eadmar shrugged.  “The truth is, Martin, that I care little about castle lords, and I couldn’t tell you most of their names.  A lord dies and his son or daughter takes his place; nothing changes, really.  Nor do I pay much attention to the rich merchants of Down’s End.  My life as priest has always concerned the poor folk.  Guthlaf was willing to deal with the mighty ones, and I left him to it.  Only when I heard of your book of God did I desire to see a castle.”
Teothic ignored Eadmar’s explanation.  He interrogated Marty: “But you have spoken with other lords?  Which?”
“Only one, a lady.  Three times I have spoken to Mariel Grandmesnil, the queen of Herminia.”
Teothic’s jaw dropped, and he fumbled for words.  “May God have mercy!  You have spoken with the queen?”
“Three times.  She’s a very proud woman, very determined, and very pregnant.  If you wish, I can try to contact her so you could see her for yourself.  But you still haven’t told me what Bishop Guthlaf wants.”
Teothic laughed.  “He wants you to make peace, of course.  Aylwin Mortane has sent an embassy to Down’s End, trying to raise an army to break the siege of Hyacintho Flumen.  He has undoubtedly used castle magic to ask other lords for their help.  Bishop Guthlaf fears that the aldermen of Down’s End might see some profit in joining such a war.  Mortane may also ask Stonebridge for help.  The lords of castles and the wealthy men of free cities will make the decisions, but it will be the peasants of the downs and the laborers of the cities who will die.”
Marty suddenly felt cold, his arms prickling.  His stomach churned.  This is why I was brought to Two Moons.  “The bishop of Down’s End wants me to be peacemaker?”
Eadmar smiled.  “You’ve read the book of God to me, Martin.  Surely you agree.  The castle lords will appeal to their gods and send their people into battle.  But any servant of the true God must be a servant of peace.”

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

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