“Lo, I say unto thee, that in eternity those who have delivered jolts of attraction like lightning to multiple Sims while they live, shall experience those jolts tenfold in the afterlife! For it is written in the Book of Wright, Uranium of the Apocalypse* shall mete out retribution to those who loved in sin in direct proportion to their crimes, and her vengeance shall be terrible to behold …”
Brother Tuck was going off again on his anti-whore sermons, and Galahad du Lac was hard-pressed to keep from yawning.
What was wrong with Brother Tuck, anyway, that he had nothing better than to occupy his mind — or his sermons? Galahad wasn’t an expert on the Sim psyche and he knew it, but a sense from deep within told him that it couldn’t possibly be healthy to keep obsessing about what other Sims were doing when the Church’s back was turned. What business was it of Brother Tuck’s anyway? Didn’t the Church have orphans to raise, widows to succor, cathedrals to build?
He shifted in his seat and tried not to sigh. He hadn’t been this fidgety in services since he’d been four years old and unable to sit still for more than ten minutes at a time. He was the only one of the du Lac youngsters who never misbehaved in church. Will, though he usually kept quiet and sat still, had been known to get up to mischief from time to time (usually instigated by Prince Tom). And once Will had gotten old enough that mischief wasn’t a viable option, he’d started courting Princess Jessie. What with the royal family sitting in the pew directly ahead of them and all, often Will’s impatience for the service to be over was palpable.
Leona … well, despite the fact that Leona was a girl and was, in theory, supposed to be good at sitting and listening to long, boring speeches of men with polite interest, could never be trusted to behave herself. She always wanted to be outside, running around, doing things. Church was nothing more than a waste of a good Sunday morning to her, and the whole du Lac clan knew it. She was better now, of course, but sometimes, when the sun was particularly bright or the breeze particularly scented, you could still see her eyes flickering impatiently between the sun let in by the stained-glass windows and whoever was doing the service.
Not so with Galahad, though. Never with Galahad. Once he’d been old enough to understand what was going on, he’d always sat riveted, eyes big, drinking in every word dropped from the priest’s lips. Especially if Father Hugh was preaching. He always had such interesting puzzles to present, and such intriguing explanations for the sort of theological phenomena that most people never even bothered to think about. Like the conflicting accounts of the creation of Sims. The first book of Wright made some interesting claims — that Sims were originally only adults or children, that they never aged or died, that their faces didn’t even change expression! The second, which was what most people knew and paid attention to, portrayed a more conventional account of things, but it was the first that was more interesting, and Galahad would never forget the way Father Hugh explained it. He’d even seemed about to go into the prophecies of a mystical “third generation” of Sims, but unfortunately he’d caught sight of the sundial and had to cut it short. Galahad was still disappointed about that.
Why doesn’t Father Hugh start preaching again, anyway? he wondered. They can’t think that Sims actually pay any attention to all this hell fire, do they? After all, Sims still go home and yell at each other and get into fights and steal each others’ newspapers …
Deciding that he’d given enough of his attention to this foolishness, Galahad turned his head to the window and let his mind wander. A faint pressure pressed into his side, but ignored it; in truth he hardly felt it.
It came again, a little more insistent. Galahad still ignored it.
Something hard and pointy dug into his kidney, and Galahad, barely avoiding yelping, turned to glare at his twin. “What?”
“Come back to earth, Galahad. Church is the only time I’m sure you’re on the same plane as the rest of us, anyway,” Leona chuckled. “So what do you think?” she whispered, nodding her head at Brother Tuck, who was still pontificating. He’d moved to whores now, though.
“What do you mean?” Galahad asked.
“Come on, you’ve always got an interesting opinion … help me keep awake and share it, won’t you?” Leona asked, rolling her eyes.
Sighing, Galahad cocked his head to one side and listened for a few seconds. “Sounds like the same thing he’s been saying for the past ten months,” he muttered.
“See, I never would have gotten that,” Leona said. “What’s he so down on prostitutes for, anyway? Ugh. He’s worse than Sir Bors …”
Galahad listened for a few more seconds, to make certain that Brother Tuck wasn’t taking a tactic radically different from past weeks. He wasn’t. “Not really,” he whispered back.
Leona cocked one eyebrow and waited for him to continue.
“Brother Tuck,” Galahad continued, “only cares about whores who are actually whores.” He paused, listening again. “Sir Bors is convinced all women would be whores if they could, or if men didn’t keep a sharp eye on them.”
Leona’s mouth opened wide, her eyes also wide — but it wasn’t with horror. She had to cover her mouth to keep from howling.
When she finally got her mirth under control, she whispered, “You’re so right, it’s not even funny.”
Galahad turned his head to one side. “Then why are you laughing?” he asked, genuinely puzzled.
That only made Leona start giggling again. And, unfortunately, it attracted unwelcome attention.
Galahad started and Leona paled, and both turned to face the woman on Galahad’s right.
“How old are you?” Guinevere whispered, glaring at her two youngest.
How did she forget that? “Seventeen,” Galahad answered, while Leona flushed and scooted closer to the end of the pew.
Guinevere’s glare turned to Galahad alone. “Thank you, Galahad.” Somehow, she didn’t sound all that thankful. “Now, if you’re that old, don’t you think you’re more than old enough to keep quiet?”
“Sorry, Mum,” Leona murmured. Galahad thought it best just to echo her and leave it at that.
Then he leaned back against the pew, sighed, gave Brother Tuck his full attention for thirty more seconds, then decided to let his mind wander.
And that was when he had his epiphany — or so he thought.
“The service is over, let us go in peace!” The closing words of the service brought Galahad from his reverie with a jolt. His family, he noticed, was getting ready to leave — well, at least his mother was gathering her cloak, and Leona was hanging on the edge of the pew, clearly waiting for the closing hymn to start before dashing into the aisle and out the church door. He glanced over his shoulder, where his father was clearly coming out of a doze.
He glanced at Brother Tuck and calculated the time he was likely to have. His mother, Galahad knew, wouldn’t be ready to leave for a good while; she always had a chat with the Queen after church. Sometimes one or more of the other ladies of the kingdom would join them, and the chat would go on for even longer. Leona, of course, was impatient to be out of there, but she’d be happy enough just to be out in the sun (or even the rain, as it seemed to be doing). And his father knew better than to try to drag Guinevere home when she was set on socializing … heck, half the time he was talking with his friends, too.
So really, the only difficulty he was likely to encounter would be to reach Brother Tuck before another, more importune, member of the congregation did so.
So he sat. And he waited. And the second that Brother Tuck passed their pew, giving the informal signal that it was all right to go, he was up, and following Leona down the aisle. But where Leona headed straight out the door, Galahad stepped up to the priest with a smile and his hand extended. “Good morning, Brother.”
“Good morning, my son,” Brother Tuck said with an equal smile. “Is there anything I can do for you?”
“I think I’ve figured it out,” Galahad said with no small amount of pride.
Brother Tuck cocked his head a little to one side. “Eh?”
“Why you keep giving the same sermon every week.”
The good brother paled, then reddened. “I assure you, my son, that every sermon I give is carefully crafted, and different every week–”
“Oh, they are different,” Galahad agreed, wondering why Brother Tuck was arguing this with him. “Rhetorically, I mean. But it’s sort of like substance and accidents, don’t you agree?”
“I … beg your pardon?”
“Your sermons!” Galahad replied. “The — the details — the examples you use, the Scripture you cite, the different rhetorical devices — they’re different every week. The accidents, you know? But the substance, the essence of the sermon, is always the same.”
“You think so?” Galahad didn’t think it was too hot in the church, but for some reason Brother Tuck was tugging at his collar and turning quite red. Oh, well, every Sim was different.
“Of course! You planned it that way, didn’t you?” he asked with a big smile. “I mean, they’re all about sin. And they all start out with showing what the Scripture says about different sins, and how they start small, and grow bigger, and how we’ll all go to eternal damnation if we don’t repent now, etc. And then you bring it around to prostitutes and talk about them for the rest of the sermon.”
Galahad’s grin grew wider. “It confused me, I’ll admit — why you keep going back to them — but now I think I get it.”
Why was Brother Tuck looking so uncomfortable? Was his habit especially itchy today? “Oh, yes!” Galahad said with a quick nod. “At first I thought you just had a hang-up with them, or you were obsessed with what everyone else was up to and you weren’t supposed to, but now I understand. You mean for them to be a symbol of sinners at large!”
“Is that what you think?”
“What else could it possibly be?” Galahad asked. “I mean, I’ll grant it to you, it’s awfully subtle. And I know I’m probably one of the last ones to get it, I mean, you’ve only been telling the same sermon for a year now.”
“Heh,” Brother Tuck replied, and he pulled at his collar again.
“But it’s very clear, now that I understand. We were meant to wonder why you kept bringing them up. I mean, if all you want to talk about is sin, why not mention, you know, real sinners? People like murderers, and thieves, and hypocrites. But no, you kept talking about whores. So naturally I began to wonder why.”
“It didn’t occur to you that I only mentioned prostitutes because of the gravity of their sin?”
“Not really. I mean, what prostitutes do isn’t really that grave in the grand scheme of things, is it?” Galahad asked. “I mean, for the most part, they’re not hurting anyone on purpose.”
“Ah, I would be very careful with that, my son,” Brother Tuck, waving his finger in the air. “What of the innocent wives and children abandoned when their husband and father spends all his spare time and spare coin to consort with these sinful women?”
Galahad cocked his head to one side. Is he serious? “But how is that the prostitute’s fault?” he asked. “I mean, isn’t that just the man’s fault? After all, if it wasn’t one prostitute, it would only be another, wouldn’t it?”
“I … er …”
“Anyway, like I was saying — prostitutes, not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. So why bring them up?” Galahad’s grin grew even wider. “Because we’re all prostitutes!”
Galahad’s face fell. “Isn’t that what you were trying to say?”
“Oh … but it fit so well …”
“How in Wright’s name does it do that?”
“Well, isn’t it obvious?” Galahad asked. “Don’t most prostitutes sort of — fall into their way of life? And then they can’t get out again? Kind of like how most people fall into sin?”
Brother Tuck’s jaw fell. “Er — well — when you put it like that …” He straightened his expression out, and then — smiled?
He patted Galahad’s shoulder. “You know, my son, that’s really quite a clever idea you have there. You’ve a fine mind.”
Galahad stared at Brother Tuck with the same amount of shock a normal person would give to a one who told him or her that the sky was blue and expected him or her to be surprised and flattered by the intelligence.
“But,” Brother Tuck continued, wagging his finger in the air, “you need a good lesson in orthodoxy. Sexual sin, for all that you seem to dismiss it, is very grave indeed. Very grave. It is the shortest and straightest path to eternal damnation. Why don’t you come to the monastery sometime, I’ve some books that you should read on the subject …”
Galahad frowned. Oh, he knew those sorts of books — all hectoring and moral indignation, and no substance. The one thing those books never explained was the one thing Galahad had any interest in finding out — why, out of all the things that the Lord Wright could choose to cause his anger, a bit of extra woohoo should be so bad.
“Is something wrong, my son?”
Galahad looked up with a start. “Oh … nothing. Just realizing that I was right the first time.”
“I beg your pardon?”
He shrugged. “You do have a hang-up with whores — that’s all.”
When the du Lac family finally left the church, Brother Tuck’s jaw still hadn’t properly re-affixed itself to his skull.
*Link goes to the first chapter of the Uranium Bachelorette Challenge by EphemeralToast. If you haven’t read her Apocalypso-a-Go-Go and Uranium Bachelorette Challenge stories yet, you should! I’d also love to recommend her Ugothlacy, but unfortunately it’s unfinished and she’s MIA from the community. Oh well, it’s still good for quite a few laughs if you don’t mind being disappointed in the lack of ending. 🙂