111. In Dimlic Aern
Table talk continued for two hours. Basil questioned Eadmar, Teothic, and Elfric as much as he did Marty. The bishop of Dimlic Aern showed interest in, and seemed knowledgeable about, a wide variety of things, including the Prayer House Marty had built, the children enrolled in Collegium Inter Lucus, the wool and leather industries of Down’s End, news about the siege of Hyacintho Flumen, the visit to Inter Lucus by the knight from Hyacintho Flumen, and Guthlaf Godcild’s concern about war.
The last matter was particularly troubling to Basil. “Why would the aldermen and guild masters of Down’s End take up arms in defense of Aylwin Mortane? Are memories so short in the free cities?”
Teothic answered, “Bishop Guthlaf thinks it unlikely that Down’s End will try to rescue Mortane. The city leaders are divided and avaricious. They would rather make profits from a war fought by others. If aid comes to Hyacintho Flumen, Guthlaf thinks it will come from Stonebridge, not Down’s End.”
“Hm. Guthlaf is closer to these affairs than I am. Why Stonebridge?”
“Milo Mortane, the brother of the lord of Hyacintho Flumen, has gone to Stonebridge.”
“Ambassador for his brother?”
Teothic smoothed his red beard. “We don’t think so. We suspect the brothers parted as enemies; it’s a familiar tale for the sons of a lord. What we know for certain is that Milo Mortane visited Down’s End as a partner to Derian Chapman of Stonebridge.”
Basil thought for a moment. “I’m not familiar with that name. Is Master Chapman important?”
“He is nephew to Ody Dans.”
“I see.” Basil rested his face on his hands, elbows on the table, eyes closed. He sat that way for several seconds, and then took a deep breath and straightened. “Well, we shall pray for our brothers in Down’s End, and we shall pray that Martin of Inter Lucus uses his castle’s powers to broker peace. For tonight, though, we have treasures to show. Martin, we are eager to see the book of God.”
“With your permission, Bishop Basil.” Marty bowed as he rose from table. He went to his pack by the wall and dug out his New Testament. The faux-leather binding was greatly worn by this time, and some of the pages had been torn. But it was still an otherworldly object to the minds of Seaver, Treddian, Nyle, Desmond, and Basil. They passed it gently from hand to hand. They could not help but notice the gold leaf cross on the cover. When they saw the uniform letters and touched the high quality paper they were wide-eyed.
When the book came back to Basil, he pushed aside his plate and laid the open Testament on the table between him and Marty. “What language is this?”
“English. It is a language somewhat like the common tongue. That is yet another mystery I would like answered. Why is the common tongue of Two Moons both like and unlike one of the languages of Earth? My world has many languages, and they differ greatly. Why should the language of Two Moons have similarities to my native tongue?”
Basil laughed quietly. “You are eager with questions, Martin. First, read and translate for us.”
The request was not a surprise, not after so many reading sessions with Eadmar. Marty had decided where he should begin, if and when Basil asked.
The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God:
It is written in Isaiah the prophet: “I will send my messenger ahead of you,
Who will prepare your way”—“a voice of one calling in the desert,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’”
Marty read and translated the beginning passages of Mark about John the Baptist, Jesus’ baptism, and Jesus’ temptation. The brothers of Dimlic Aern listened in wonder.
Marty closed the Testament. “At Inter Lucus we have learned to make paper, using castle technology. The children of Collegium Inter Lucus are learning to write. They will practice writing by copying the words of this book in the common tongue. We intend to make many copies of the book of God. In time, the brothers of Dimlic Aern shall have one. More than one, if you like.”
“That would be a gift indeed,” said Basil. “We will treasure and study any copy you can give us.”
“By your leave. The book must go back to Inter Lucus.” Marty stood from the table and returned the Testament to his travel pack. The brothers of Dimlic Aern watched him stow the book like hungry children watching a grain wagon.
Basil rose from table, a signal for the others to do so as well. “I will show you the treasures of Dimlic Aern. I do not know if they will answer your questions. Follow me.”
Marty trailed the bishop into a passageway, obviously artificial, carved by much labor in the stone of the mountain. Oil lamps in wall sconces lighted the way. Eadmar, Teothic and Elfric followed close behind, with the brothers from Dimlic Aern after. The passage came to a T, lit to the right and dark on the left. From somewhere in his cassock Basil brought out a candle, which he lit at the nearest wall lamp. Then he led them left, in the dark passage. After five paces, the stone floor began to reflect the light of the candle.
A wet floor. Another natural cavern. The place is a network of tunnels connecting the caverns old Aldigart found when he came here.
Basil lit wall lamps with his candle, and the contours of the new room appeared. It was smaller than Marty’s bedroom in Inter Lucus, and the uneven ceiling required Teothic and Marty to watch their heads. Mineral deposits in the stone shone red and green.
A low table, about ten feet long and only knee high, was the room’s only furniture. A mat woven from some rough fiber covered the table. Marty guessed it might be cedar bark; the room had a faint aroma.
“These are our relics of the before time.” Basil indicated three objects displayed on the table. “From the beginning, the priest Bede and his servant Ingram, who became priest after Bede, hid these things from the devils. When the devils proclaimed themselves to be gods, Bede and Ingram fled to the wilderness. Sometime later, Aldigart brought the relics to Dimlic Aern.”
The first of the relics was a small silver cup. Marty bent down to examine it, resting his hands on the table. Eadmar, Teothic, and Elfric gathered close, squatting on their haunches. No one needed to say, “Don’t touch!”
The cup was completely unadorned: no inscription, no sign, no indication of a particular use. Nevertheless, Marty squatted before it for a long while, trying to imagine its significance to the humans who first came to Two Moons. It might be a communion cup. A communion cup from Earth would be a relic for people brought to Two Moons. But anything from the before time would be a relic; it might be just a silver cup.
The interpretation of the second object was easy, and it confirmed Marty’s guess about the cup. It looked like a small wooden stepstool or table. A thin sheet of molded silver covered the top of the table and the upper parts of the four legs. Four groups of letters were engraved in the silver:
“This is my body.” A communion table for sure—small and portable. Probably a useful thing in the middle ages. The cup almost certainly goes with it. The local priest—Bede, apparently—might have served more than one local parish.
Marty pondered the communion table a long time. Confirmation of my guesses, but not much more. The aliens brought people from Earth to Two Moons. Twelve or thirteen hundred years ago, according to Teothic’s stories. They were Europeans, Christians. The aliens demanded obedience and worship. Some of the people quickly complied; after all, the aliens obviously had “divine” power. Those who rebelled had to hide, and it seems they had a whole planet to hide on.
The third relic was a bronze bell, coated with greenish corrosion. It bore two inscriptions, one in large letters and the second, much smaller, on the back of the bell.
EX DONO REGIS
CHERWELL IN PAROECIALI
Marty rubbed his eyes and examined the inscriptions repeatedly. This is what I came for. Marty guessed that “Offa Bretwalda” was a name, and “rex anglorum” had to mean “king of the Angles” or “king of the English” or something like that. He had no inkling as to the meaning of “in paroeciali.” The most important clue—the reward that justified the winter journey to Dimlic Aern, no matter what Eadmar or Basil might say—was “Cherwell.”
Marty remembered Grandma Edith’s face crinkling in a smile. “‘A Leicester could no more leave Charwelton than a Mortain or a Grandmesnil. We all drink deep from River Cherwell.’ That’s what my granddad told me. But I did leave. Yes, I did.”
Grandma Edith died about a year before Alyssa became pregnant, a year before Alyssa’s death changed the direction of Marty’s life. Her funeral was in Detroit. Marty didn’t attend; he had business at the time in Seattle. Now, on a different world, untold lightyears from home, Marty remembered the old woman and wept.
Copyright © 2014 by Philip D. Smith.
All rights reserved. International copyright secured.