110. At Dimlic Aern
Where do they get the food? It doesn’t grow in the fertile fields of the narrow valley, that’s certain. Basil and the brothers of Dimlic Aern must have connections with priests elsewhere in Tarquint. Do they pack it all through the “gates”?
As so often in his experience on Two Moons, Marty’s questions went unanswered. In this case, the questions weren’t even verbalized. Basil Godcild set the conversational agenda for sup at Dimlic Aern.
“Tell your whole story, Martin. When did you come to Two Moons?”
“Eight months ago, at the beginning of summer.” Seated next to the bishop, Marty had to turn his head to look at his face. “A girl named Ora came to the ruins of Inter Lucus and asked the castle gods to bring a new lord. At just that moment I was pulled from Earth to Two Moons. Naturally, Ora thought the gods had answered her prayers. She showed me the lord’s knob and I put my hands on it. I had no idea what I was doing.”
“Yet Inter Lucus accepted your authority?”
“It did. The interface wall began displaying castle status reports almost immediately, in Latin of course. I had to guess at the meaning of some of the words. From that moment Inter Lucus began repairing itself.”
Across the table the gate guard Nyle choked and coughed. “Latin? The old language, the holy tongue? In a castle?” He looked questioningly at Basil.
The bishop of Dimlic Aern seemed unperturbed. “It’s a possibility, and I’ve heard the theory proposed before. Remember, Eadmar, when we were young? Two brothers from Cippenham showed us a scrap of hidgield parchment. Some words seemed quite similar to the old language.”
“I remember,” said Eadmar. “By God’s will, I was limited to four weeks at Dimlic Aern, but I do recall the brothers from Cippenham. One of them was named Aethelmod, which I remember because our bishop in Down’s End had the same name. But the theory is no longer a mere conjecture.” Eadmar fixed his kind brown eyes on Nyle. “With the permission of our bishop, Teothic and I have visited castle Inter Lucus. We have seen with our own eyes words of the old language displayed on what Lord Martin calls the interface wall. Lord Martin says that the old language that we treasure as the holy tongue is in fact the language of the castles.”
Disbelief and disgust fought for supremacy in Nyle’s face. “The devils use the holy tongue? How could you go there?”
Basil cleared his throat to interrupt and attract Nyle’s attention. “That was said already, brother Nyle. Teothic and Eadmar entered Inter Lucus in obedience to the command of Guthlaf Godcild. And now I command you: listen and do not speak. When we have finished this evening, you will ask me all that you wish in private—and I will ask you what you have heard. Listen well.”
Nyle inclined his head.
“Are the castle’s repairs complete?” Basil questioned Marty as if Nyle’s interruption had never happened.
Marty pursed his lips. “Inter Lucus has renewed itself to a great extent. The main systems are all operativa. The walls of the west tower are still growing taller, though I expect a roof to appear soon. The truth is, I don’t know what a fully repaired castle should look like. Until I was brought to Inter Lucus, I had never seen such a thing. On Earth, we have buildings that are called ‘castles,’ but they lack the powers Two Moons castles have. I may never know if Inter Lucus is fully restored.” Marty thought about the eleventh hexagon in Centralis Arbitrium Factorem, with its broken fiber optic connection, but he decided not to mention it.
Basil noted Marty’s hesitation. “Please tell all.”
Not much gets by you, does it? All right, then. “There is a part of the castle that has not been repaired. By my best guess, it is an important part of the castle, the Centralis Arbitrium Factorem. So far, it seems this broken part is immune to Intra Arcem Micro-Aedificator. Perhaps the castle cannot repair it.”
“But this is not why you have come to Dimlic Aern in the middle of winter, to ask an old priest how to repair your castle.”
Marty smiled, finding himself drawn inexorably by the bishop’s gentleness and good humor. Seated at Basil Godcild’s table, he wanted to tell all, to leave nothing hidden. “I came to Dimlic Aern in hope of finding some answers. Why is it possible for a man from Earth to bond with a castle on Two Moons? Why do the people of Two Moons worship the same God I worshiped on Earth?”
Treddian had been following the conversation closely. “We believe, Lord Martin, that the true God is God of all the worlds. If, on your world, you worship the God of all the worlds, you would necessarily be worshiping the same God.”
“You speak like a philosopher, Treddian.” Marty shook his head. “I grant that monotheists of one world might find common ground with monotheists of another world. But that does not explain the cross, the sign of the old God on Two Moons and the sign of the Son of God on Earth. And it does not explain the name of Jesus, which I knew long before I came to Two Moons.”
Marty’s casual use of the secret name, even in the fastness of Dimlic Aern, produced discomfort and consternation on Desmond, Treddian and Seaver’s faces. Nyle very nearly disobeyed the command of silence.
Eadmar swallowed a bit of soup. “I’ve had a few months to get used to Lord Martin’s offhand use of the name. I’ve learned that on his world, God’s people speak the name freely. Reading the book of God, it seems that we may have mishandled the name. The book of God says that the name of Jesus ought to be widely known. It ought to be proclaimed everywhere. Of course, if we were at Prayer House in Down’s End, brother Phytwin would undoubtedly say my words are merely the arguments of the devils, that I have been deceived by Lord Martin.”
Seaver spoke up for the first time. “Brother Phytwin sounds wisely cautious to me. As story keeper, I could tell…”
“I’m sure you could,” interrupted Basil. “In twelve hundred years we have gathered many tales of the perfidy of the devils and the lords. But none of those stories are relevant to this case. Martin of Inter Lucus is unlike any other lord in the long history of Two Moons. I remind you that Martin came to Two Moons from another world.”
Marty spoke up for Seaver. “Please don’t take this in the wrong way. I am glad that you believe me, Bishop Basil. But my own testimony is the only evidence you have that I came from Earth. Why have you been persuaded?”
Basil tilted his head and looked curiously at Marty. The hazel eyes seemed to be laughing at him. Then he looked around the table, as if giving a wordless quiz to everyone present. Eadmar spooned up more soup, but the others met the bishop’s gaze.
“Treddian, put on your thinking cap. Answer for all of us. What do we know about Martin of Inter Lucus?”
Apparently, Treddian had been put this sort of test before. He laced the fingers of both hands in his curly hair. His coal black eyes took on a faraway look.
“We know Martin is a man, thirty-five to forty years old. He speaks the common tongue, and some words of the old language. On the testimony of Eadmar and Teothic, he is lord of the castle Inter Lucus, which was a ruin, a thing we know from many reports. On his own report, and that of Eadmar and Teothic, he has greatly restored Inter Lucus. He claims to worship God. He knows the secret name. He claims to have a book, which on Eadmar’s account is the book of God. If possible that book should be examined. He has come to Dimlic Aern in the hope of gaining answers to certain questions. He…”
Treddian suddenly stopped his recitation and dropped out of “trance” mode. “He came to Dimlic Aern.”
“Aye.” Again Basil tilted his head to look at Marty. “You came to Dimlic Aern. No lord of Two Moons has ever done that. None of them would ever consider doing it. You have with you one sheriff, whom we have disarmed. I could easily have you thrown into the valley, yet you came anyway. That shows that you are brave or foolish. More importantly, in spite of all that Eadmar must have said to you, you came anyway. You are very unlike any lord of Two Moons. This basic fact, combined with Eadmar’s testimony of your character, makes one conclusion unavoidable. You sincerely believe you came from another world. That you actually came from that other world fits with your belief, everything you say about yourself, and everything we know about you. All this has been plain since Eadmar talked with me this afternoon.”
Marty glanced sideways at Eadmar, but the priest’s attention was on his soup.
“What do you mean, ‘in spite of what Eadmar must have said’?”
Basil sighed. “You took danger upon yourself by leaving your castle. Surely Eadmar explained this to you.”
“Actually, a boy from the village, Caelin, has often dinned my ears about the dangers of traveling abroad. But in this case I journeyed with a sheriff and two priests, in the dead of winter. Most likely no one has seen us the whole way.”
“You should pray that is so.” For the first time, Basil’s voice carried disapproval. “You are the first castle lord to ever take advice from a priest. You should have listened better. Surely Eadmar warned you of danger to your people as well as to yourself. A lord’s first duty is to his people. Without you present in Inter Lucus, your folk are sheep in a pen with no guard dog. What happens if a wolf leaps the fence?”
“We did talk about that.” Marty smiled. “I left three sheriffs, plus Caelin, Isen, and Ora to guard the castle. And there are loyal men in the village—Alfwald Redwine, Sig Alymar, Everwin Idan, and others—who would help if there were a crisis. Most importantly, it’s winter. The snow lies four feet deep on the roads. What enemy can come to Inter Lucus now?”
While he spoke, Marty watched Basil’s face. Basil had never met the people of Senerham or Inter Lucus, yet Marty saw sadness and worry. To his surprise, Marty’s words sounded hollow to his own ears. Answer your own question. What enemy might come in the winter?
“We will pray that you are right, Martin. My judgment is that you should return to Inter Lucus as soon as may be. You will depart tomorrow. Tonight I will show you the treasures of Dimlic Aern. I hope they answer your questions. In exchange, I ask that you read to me from the book of God.”
Copyright © 2014 by Philip D. Smith.
All rights reserved. International copyright secured.