You learn something new every day, Galahad thought as he climbed the steps to the small coffee-house.
Before this day, he had never understood the phrase “butterflies in one’s stomach.” It had always seemed to him the most odd of phrases, almost impossible to understand. The way in which it was deployed rarely, if ever, made sense. Or at least they didn’t make sense in conjunction with each other. Rob had complained of butterflies the night when he proposed to his now-betrothed; Leona had complained of them the day they were to take their entrance exam to Camford. The two experiences, in Galahad’s mind, bore little relation to each other. One was a happy occasion, the other … a test. He could see, if he stepped back and looked at it with a far-enough perspective, that both were potentially important events that would have a bearing on the rest of their lives, but …
But it just doesn’t make sense! If Rob thought there was a serious chance Danielle might have said no to his proposal, would he not have waited to get back into her good graces — like any rational Sim? And as for Leona, she wasn’t a genius or anything, but she was a smart Sim and a hard worker, and she had worked hard to prepare for Camford. Besides, even though she was taking the men’s test, Lamorak and Prince Thomas had both passed that test. If they could do it, surely she could!
Galahad had supposed, at the time, that both of them were wracking their hearts and minds over the unexpected, the out-of-the-blue. What if Danielle revealed that she was in love with someone else and wanted to break things off? What if the examiners put in an essay question asking for an analysis of an event Leona had never even heard of? The chances of both events were remote, but — the questions reverberated in their minds, apparently — what if?
Such as, what if the monk who was about to interview Galahad and begin to determine his fitness for the church took a sudden and hearty dislike to him? What if what the Church was looking for wasn’t brilliant theologians, but clever politicians? Or what if they were trying to recruit more commoners and less noblemen? Or what if —
Gah, now I’m doing it!
The butterflies returned full force as Galahad pushed open the door and stood, blinking, in the dim light of the coffeehouse.
“Sir Galahad, I presume?”
The one in the habit — that had to be him.
“B-brother Andy.” Was that a stutter? Galahad never stuttered. To stutter would mean one was nervous, which would mean–
Ah. Galahad was nervous. That was what the butterflies were for.
The other man gave a smile that was warm and friendly enough. “It’s a pleasure to finally meet you. How are you?”
“Fluttery?” Galahad asked.
“You’re — what?”
“Well,” Galahad answered, “my brother told me I had butterflies in my stomach, so I assumed that’s how I’m feeling. Fluttery.”
“Your … brother told you?”
“Well, I knew I was feeling something odd this morning, Will — my brother — just explained what it was.”
“… Oh.” Galahad wondered, absently, if other people heard that “oh” as often as he did. The sort of “oh” that meant, or so Galahad assumed, that whatever he had just explained, he hadn’t done it well enough. He would have to ask Will or Freddy sometime soon. “Well, would you like some coffee before we start to talk, or would you prefer to just get to it?”
“Coffee, please.” He liked coffee, not the taste of it so much, but the way it made him feel, mentally alert and capable. Not like alcohol, which made him laugh a great deal but otherwise made him feel as if his thoughts were trying to swim in mud. Or at least, alcohol in the quantities that the other guys drank — a mug of ale or a goblet of wine with a meal barely affected him at all.
“You’re a strange man, mate,” Prince Tom had said when Galahad first voiced this preference. “But here’s to it taking all types!” And then he had knocked back his fifth brandy of the evening.
As he remembered this, Brother Andy placed the order for his coffee and Galahad followed suit. The both sat on one of the sofas near the counter where other students placed their orders.
“So,” asked Brother Andy as he took the opening sip, “I’ve been in communication with Father Hugh, of course, and he has nothing but good to say of you. But I would like to hear some things from you yourself. Why do you wish to join the Order of St. Pascal?”
“Um, the Order of St. Coral won’t let me in?”
“… I beg your pardon?”
“The Order of St. Coral. It’s the only other order in Albion.”
“Oh, I see! You were making a joke!”
“… No, not really. The Mother Superior got angry with me for talking to my cousin without her permission. I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t let me in.”
Brother Andy’s eyebrow arched as he took another gulp of coffee. “Indeed … and your cousin is …?”
“Angelique,” he answered. “Angelique de Ganis. She’s a novice with the Order of St. Coral.”
“Ah, I see, I see,” Brother Andy murmured. “Why didn’t you ask the Mother Superior’s permission before speaking with one of her novices? Do you have problems with authority.”
“Well, I suppose I would have asked if I’d thought of it,” Galahad replied. He sipped his coffee and then added, “But Angelique sort of tackled me when she saw me, and I couldn’t breathe, and then she asked me to play chess, and I …” Couldn’t say no, not when she was so happy to see me.
“… Tackled you?”
“Well, not really tackled, I guess. Most of the time, when you’re tackled, you hit the ground. But she definitely grabbed me and hugged me.”
“Might I ask why?”
Galahad pondered that. “I think it’s because she doesn’t get many visitors, and she was so happy to see even me that, she, well, overreacted.” He hesitated for a moment, sipping his coffee, and added, “From what I’ve heard Leona and Clarice — sorry, my sister and Angelique’s sister — whispering about, I don’t think Angelique is very happy there. But she’s stuck because her father is an ass.”
“Er, Sir Galahad, while I’m sure your family history is all very interesting … what has this to do with your reasons for wishing to join the Church?”
“Absolutely nothing! But you asked about Angelique … or, well, you asked about the Mother Superior. So I answered.” Galahad shot him a smile that, had he but known it, was utterly disarming to those who had the potential to be disarmed by male grins. Alas, Brother Andy was not quite of that number. But he did manage a small smile back.
“So then, why do you wish to join the Church?”
“Because I like puzzles,” Galahad replied. “Not just puzzles like children’s toys or word-games or math problems, of course. But real puzzles. Things you can set your teeth into. Questions like, why did Lord Wright create the Sims? What’s His plan for us? What’s the significance of the elapsed time between St. Robert’s death and his resurrection? How many llamas can dance on the head of a pin?”
“And do you really think,” Brother Andy inquired with a faint grin as he drained his coffee, “that they would let poor young monks, the likes of you and I, decide those all-important questions?”
“Decide them? Of course not. No Sim can decide them.”
Brother Andy was in the process of handing his empty cup to one of the roaming serving maids, but his hand was arrested in mid-air. “Do you — do you mean to say that the Church has not the power to decide in these questions?”
“I just said no Sim could decide them. Why should a group of Sims be any different?”
Brother Andy’s jaw dropped. Then he swallowed. “Sir Galahad — are you quite finished with your drink?”
“Er, yes, why?”
“I think,” he muttered, “we should take this to the chess table.” The chess table was tucked into a quite corner of the café, as unlike the couch they were sitting upon and all the traffic that surrounded it as a llama was a to a cow-demon. Not waiting for Galahad to answer, Brother Tuck grabbed his arm and practically dragged him across the room.
They had barely seated themselves and set up the board when Brother Andy spoke. “I’m going to be charitable, and give you a chance to explain your remarks just there, for what you said was practically heresy — but no one who wishes to join the Church can harbor heretical thoughts. So. Do you truly believe that the Church has no power to decide on important theological questions?”
“Of course I believe that. Only the Lord Wright can decide on important theological questions. The best the Church can do is look at the evidence and prayerfully interpret it as best we might.” Galahad shrugged. “Don’t you think that saying the Church could decide these important questions is heresy? Appropriating to us what rightfully belongs to the Lord Wright?”
After Brother Andy re-affixed his jaw — which took, to Galahad’s eyes, some time — he was able to ask, “So, let us say that two diametrically opposing viewpoints emerged on an important theological question — such as, to what extent the Lord Wright intended to be taken literally when he said, through St. Robert, ‘Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.’ And let us even say that the question came before the Abbots’ Council. Do you deny that the Council would have the right to decide which was the correct answer to the question?”
Brother Andy stared. “Sir Galahad, you’re speaking heresy.”
“No, I’m not. The Church can’t decide that. Look, if I were to say, ‘I saw a chicken cross the road,’ the Church can’t decide whether, by ‘chicken,’ I mean a relatively large bird that lays eggs and can’t fly and tastes good with mashed potatoes, or if I mean a cowardly person. Only I can decide what I mean. And if the Church can’t decide what I — a regular old Sim, just like anyone else — means, where do they get off deciding what the Lord Wright means?”
Why was Brother Andy staring at him as Galahad would stare at a cloud formation, wondering how it came to be and where it would go, what it would do next? “But what if — all right, let us go back to the original question, the one about witches and the Abbot’s Council. I understand what you mean when you say that the Church cannot decide what the Lord Wright meant. But let’s assume that the Lord Wright is not going to come down from the clouds and answer this question, and somebody has to arrive at the correct interpretation in order to properly instruct the masses. Do you not think that the Abbots’ Council has the power to do that?”
“Of course the Abbots’ Council has that power. But that’s not the same thing as deciding.”
“In the minds of ninety-nine percent of the populace,” Brother Andy said, capturing Galahad’s rook and taking it away with a grin on his face, as if he’d won a huge victory and not just a rook, “it is.”
“Then ninety-nine percent of the populace needs to be better educated, because it isn’t.”
“You don’t think that the Lord Wright reveals his intentions to the abbots and abbesses on the Council?”
“Not very often,” Galahad replied. “Otherwise they’d get more done at their Council meetings.”
Brother Andy threw his head back and laughed. “Well, you shan’t find anyone in the Church who will disagree with you on that one!” he chuckled.
“I should hope not. I’d hate to think that Church members need as much re-education as everyone else.”
An eyeblink was all the time it took for Brother Andy’s expression to sober. “Sir Galahad, perhaps it is best that the general populace think what they think.”
“You probably would not have heard of this in your secular education –”
“I was educated by the nuns of Albion since I was old enough to be schooled!”
“Yes, but were you educated separately from your peers — in special classes for those bound to enter the religious life?”
“Then you were secularly educated,” Brother Andy answered. “In any case, you would not have heard of this, but it is a common belief in the Church that it is often best to keep the common people — not just the commoners as opposed to the nobles, but the normal lay people — in the dark on such fine distinctions such as you are making. Most Sims haven’t the intellect, of course, to grasp the distinction anyway. But among those who do … well, heresy can spring up among the intelligent as well as among the ignorant. More so, in fact, among the intelligently ignorant, for they are most likely to spring upon half-truths and snippets of information and put them together in ways entirely derived of context, and thus create heretical views. And of course, they’d seek followers for those views, followers too stupid to understand exactly how they are wrong. Don’t you see, then, how much safer it is to keep the main body of the people ignorant of these fine distinctions?”
“No, because that’s how they get led astray by others!” Galahad answered. “You’ve just given me an argument for more education, not less. If people know how to think for themselves, they won’t be led astray by heretics who are cherry-picking their quotations and deleting the context for their arguments.”
“If people know how to think for themselves, their own thoughts will lead them away from the safe path of orthodoxy.”
“Some people, of course, but some people will never stay on the right path. For everyone else, if you teach them to know the right by thinking about it, and not depending exclusively by relying on the authority of others, then they will find the right path.”
“… Do you think, then, that the authority of the Church is somehow faulty?”
“No,” Galahad replied, “but the Church isn’t the only authority out there.”
Brother Andy watched him for a long moment, then laughed. “Oh, you belong in the Order of St. Pascal, all right! Only a Pascalian can argue like that.”
“So — so does that mean I’m in?”
“Not necessarily, not yet. However, you certainly will go onto the next phase for the approval of your novitiate. Oh, and Sir Galahad?”
“We’ll keep your indiscretions our little secret, for now.”