By Barbara Weitbrecht
evenings, as they sat beside a peasant's fire, or in a wayside inn,
or by a small campfire under the Spring-waking trees, he remembered
Aeltha. Her history was so short, yet so evocative. The peasant's
wife's widowed sister. Bo imagined that her delicate beauty had
attracted a man outside her station--a knight, perhaps, and in that
widened compass she had blossomed. Then the man had died. With no
where else to go, she had landed like a shipwreck on her sister's
doorstep, there to be taken in, yes, but also to be made little more
than a slave. It had not escaped Bo's notice that Fricka (wife of the
gods, indeed!) had been lounging by the fire while Aeltha wiped the
dishes and scrubbed out the cauldron.
And he wished they could have taken her with them. Not just because
her body had comforted his, so briefly, in a cow's stall. He had
liked her, and sympathized with her hard lot. She deserved to be in a
better story than this. Perhaps, he thought, as he carefully cleaned
his handgun, laying out the precious bullets, the Authors would take
pity on her and give her a happy ending. But he doubted it. The
Authors seemed fickle these days, almost as if his quest was doomed
to failure. All the world might indeed be a stage, but some plays are
tragedies and some are farces. And some are odd mixtures of both,
swinging from pratfalls to utter horror without even an intermission.
Bo was not quite sure he approved.
All around them, the land was waking into Spring. The new leaves hid
all but the merest glimpses of bright sky. Lambs gamboled on the
hills, and fox cubs tumbled before the den they discovered in the
undergrowth. Travelers were abroad now, errant knights and gypsies
and other bands of mendicant friars. Bo had had to feign
ecclesiastical knowledge on more than one occasion. Sometimes he fell
back on being simple Brother Olaf and let Rory do the talking. And
all the while they traveled northward, step by sandaled step, hoping
to reach Queen Josephine before some new disaster entered her
extreme, soap-opera-complex life. If the Authors had any gumption, Bo
thought, they would have provided an English Mail Coach to gallop us
up to Affynshire. It would not have been much worse than lutes,
cannons and glazed windows.
Still, between these thoughts, Bo was enjoying his adventure. The
long days on the road had hardened his body and built on his feet an
impenetrable layer of calluses. He was now inured to scant food and
itchy woolen garments. He could chop firewood like a farm boy. He had
learned songs and tales and poetry and monkish chanting, and was
starting to get the hang of early modern conjugation. I go, thou
goest, he goeth. Thou / thee is singular, familiar, and for those
beneath you on the Great Chain. Ye / you is plural, formal, and for
those to whom you owe respect. Include the pronoun with the
imperative. He was definitely getting the hang of it.
And then there was that fine clear evening when they found a crowd of
peasants in a field, dancing around a bonfire. Perhaps stricken by
guilt at this pagan survival, they had pressed him for a sermon. And
he had told them, "Call ye out 'Yes, Lord!' when I raise my right
hand, and 'Amen, Brother!' when I raise my left. And if ye think of
aught else to call, feel ye free to go for it!"
And then came the preaching.
"Brothers, are ye SAVED?"
"And do ye hope of HEAVEN?"
"Are ye washed, yea, WASHED to your very souls, in the sacred Blood
of the LAMB?"
"And do ye love your JESUS?"
"Then dance ye, and sing ye, and make ye a joyful noise unto the
LORD! For this is His Spring, and ye are His chillun, and nothing,
nay NOTHING that ye do in love and joy can be an offense to your
Heav'nly FATHER. Praise Hallelujah!"
"AMEN, BROTHER! HALLELUJAH!"
Next: No one can tell.
Before there was the novel, there were the stories...
by Nan Hawthorne, who also writes under Christopher Hawthorne Moss, Books and Stories b ChristopherHawthorne Moss at http://authorchristophermoss.vlogspot.com