So. There he is.
There must have been something truly ugly in his soul, Brother Tuck realized, if the sight of another monk praying roused so much ire in him. He knew that the churning bile in his stomach was as sign of an internal flaw so much more serious than mere indigestion — but what was a man or monk to do? The truth about brothers, Tuck was beginning to suspect, is that for every moment that they had each other’s backs against all comers, they spent at least two moments scuffling in the mud.
Besides, Tuck thought he knew just why that sight made him so angry. Technically one of the foremost jobs of a monk or nun was to pray the canonical hours, to assist souls into heaven or souls on earth or wherever some soul might need assistance. St. Robert himself had always favored doing rather than praying, but he’d given his hearty approval to those who prayed only. The Brothers of St. Pascal tended to put more focus on prayers than charitable works, but that was because books and parchment and quills and other tools for the thinking mind cost money, lots of it, and praying for others’ dead relatives was an easy way to get it. However, that sort of logic tended to go out the window when there were only two monks in the kingdom and more work than they had the ability to complete.
Knowing what started the flame of his anger did not, however, serve to dampen it.
Blameless-looking little twit! And twit was putting it mildly. Brother Andy had been blessed with cherubic blonde curls, not that they curled much with the tonsure and all, and an innocent expression. That could not hide his canny eyes, that watched all and noticed most of it. That could also not hide the thick letters he sent once a month to the mother house in Glasonland without fail. He was up to something, Tuck knew it. He was watching for something. Spying on something. And if the higher-ups in Glasonland got the least idea of what was going on here, especially what had happened last year with Father Hugh, any confessions he may have made to Abbot Peter notwithstanding …
There would be hell to pay.
And Father Hugh wondered why Tuck was so eager to get the weaselly little brother out from underfoot.
Still, all of this speculation would get him nowhere. Tuck blessed himself with the holy water, made his slow way to the front of the church, genuflected and knelt next to Brother Andy.
He said nothing. He would need a few moments to further plan his strategy.
Out of the corner of his eye, however, he watched Brother Andy’s expression. Unlike many, his lips did not move while he silently prayed. The monks back in Glasonland tended to teach all of the oblates and the rare foundling orphan left on the doorstep (Tuck) to pray that way, on the grounds that if the young men had to take the time to move their lips, they wouldn’t rush through their prayers and run off to do things more interesting to an eight-year-old. Yet Brother Andy didn’t. Odd, that. Had he merely outgrown the good brothers’ teaching?
Or was he not praying at all, but thinking, just as Tuck was?
The other monk’s eye snapped to the side, and Tuck did not have time to start mouthing his own prayers before the eyebrow slowly went up. But Brother Andy did not say anything. Damn. That silence still managed to speak volumes.
Brother Andy’s fingers laced themselves together and untangled themselves twice before he spoke. “Did you need something, Brother?”
Tuck feigned surprise at being addressed. Brother Andy would not be fooled, but to not even pretend would be to grant the other brother victory. “I’m sorry?”
“You seem eager to speak of something.”
“I … well, there was something I wanted to bring up, but I do not wish to disturb –”
“You won’t be.”
Somehow, the vaulting of the church made that sentence even more clipped than it had to be. Tuck only permitted himself to nod before he rose, Brother Andy following him to his feet.
“Brother,” Tuck said in his gentlest voice, “Father Hugh told me that he asked you to take up the mantel of leadership at the new chapel in Avilion. He said that you begged to let that cup pass from you. Why?”
Brother Andy’s eyebrows only slightly rose. “I think ‘beg’ is a bit strong of a word, myself.”
“You begged as only a true Pascalian could,” Tuck started with a sly smile. “You pointed out the flaws in the other man’s logic.”
“I scarcely have time to pray the hours here and see those Sims desperately in need of medical care,” Brother Andy pointed out. “I could not run a parish all by myself. Besides, I am young yet and have much room in grow in strength and wisdom before I could take on such a heavy responsibility.”
Yes, that was rather the point — the first part of it, that was. If Brother Andy was busy with a parish and his medical practice, then he’d hardly have any time to go sticking his pointy nose where it didn’t belong.
“I always thought,” Tuck replied, “that being handed responsibility before one is quite ready for it is the most excellent way to grow in strength and wisdom.” And Tuck should know; he had practically been running the Church in Albion since he had been Brother Andy’s age and had certainly been no more ready for it than Brother Andy thought himself to be.
“I do not agree.”
Well, no, he wouldn’t, not when Tuck was arguing it. Tuck could declare that the sky was blue and Brother Andy would probably insist it was purple with orange spots.
“Perhaps,” Tuck said with the sort of smile that, frankly, women often used when what they most wanted was tear their so-called friend’s face to ribbons with their nails, “it would be wisest if we were to agree to disagree on that score. However, I must ask you — have you considered who would be most likely to take over the parish in Avilion since you have refused that cup?”
“I naturally assumed that it would be you,” replied Brother Andy, blinking with all the guile of a child trying — and failing — to appear innocent.
“Oh, no. I cannot be spared from my work here.” And more to the point, Tuck had no desire to leave the capital. He could hope to have some influence here. In Avilion, he would be doomed. Sir Lancelot was pliable enough, but Sir William was a different breed altogether. He was more than capable of smiling and nodding all through an earnest conversation and taking none of the advice or suggestions so helpfully proffered. Worse, there was little he thought about other Sims that the Crown Prince didn’t hear. Of course, the same could be said of Sir Lancelot and the King, but Sir Lancelot’s opinions generally weren’t so sharp.
“Then who would it be?”
“Brother — or Brother-to-Be — Galahad,” Tuck replied. He waited for the horror to cross Brother Andy’s face.
It didn’t. Instead, Brother Andy seemed to digest that and nodded. “That sounds reasonable.”
Reasonable? Have you MET Galahad? The boy had haunted the monastery corridors ever since he was old enough to tackle Father Hugh’s more challenging books and engage in disturbingly precocious discussions with the good Father on them. He was brilliant — and there was the trouble. Because of his brilliance, his mind was no more tethered to the earth than the seed head of a dandelion. One small breeze, and whoosh! The thoughts scattered far and wide, doubtless to bear fruit, but not in the here and now.
“I am not so sure … the young man is … not the most responsible …”
“You are not?” Brother Andy smirked. “Were you not saying just a moment that the best way to grow responsibility is to be handed too much of it at once?”
Wright bloody damn him. Pascalian to the core. “Yes,” Tuck agreed, “but only for certain types of personalities. Yours, for instance. You, my friend, are only waiting to find the right soil and sunshine to grow and thrive. Whereas Galahad … Galahad would fare best as a cloistered flower. Kept inside the monastery walls, sheltered from contrary winds and sudden blasts.”
“I am not sure I agree. It seems to me that a parish would be just the sort of thing to keep Brother Galahad out of trouble. I fear that too much time spent in cloister might cause Brother Galahad to grow … well, like a weed, really. Large and ungainly and choking off other plant life. He … how best to put this …”
Tuck didn’t care; his mind was too busy boggling. “I’m sorry,” he replied, dropping the patient, ingratiating tone, “you think he’s like a weed? If I ever met a Sim entirely uninterested in impeding the growth and nurture of other Sims, it’s him! I must ask — have you met Galahad?”
“I lived in the same house with him for a year’s time,” Brother Andy sniffed.
“Did you — forgive me, this will sound harsh — did you pay any attention to him at all? He wouldn’t hurt a fly!”
“I do not question his heart, or his intentions. Indeed, I agree with you on that. But he is … well, he is brilliant, I do not deny it. And I agree, to an extent, that he would do well as a cloistered flower. But we are not in cloister here, Brother Tuck, not really. We still have one foot in the world.”
“I fail to see how running a parish would cure Galahad of that affliction.”
“It would, for it would force him to have both feet in the world, and it would keep his mind from straying along dangerous paths.”
“Dangerous paths? Galahad?”
“He is brilliant, Brother,” Brother Andy replied, softly. “And we have not the monks to spare here to keep his brilliance to an … acceptable path. An orthodox path. Father Hugh, he is wise and good and would be able to Galahad’s feet on the right path, I know it. But he will not be here forever, unfortunately. And I doubt very much that you or I would know that he had stepped off that path until the larger church turned its eye — and probably its wrath — onto us.”
Well, Brother Andy had him there, and unfortunately Tuck couldn’t detect any hint of false modesty in the other monk’s assertion that he would not be able to follow Galahad’s arguments well enough to realize when they stepped off the straight and narrow and tried to beat a shortcut through the fields. If he could have found false modesty, he might have had more grounds for argument … but he could not, so Tuck had no choice but to try something else.
“Brother, if you think that sort of fate — Lord forbid! — is likely for Galahad, would it not be wiser to keep him here, under Father Hugh’s tutelage, for as long as possible?”
There was the second reason why Brother Tuck wanted to keep Galahad here: keeping Father Hugh company. After all these years in intellectual exile — after all that he had been through last year! — did not Father Hugh deserve the company of an intellectual equal in his twilight years? If he did not, then who did?
“I do not think that would work. You forget that I grew up in the mother house of St. Pascal, Brother–”
“So did I,” Tuck snapped.
“You only spent your formative years there, not your adolescence. I was there long enough to learn and observe how it worked, not merely to respond to it and let it shape me. Let me tell you: men like Galahad need watching — or rather, their writings need watching — all of their lives. They follow any thought, every thought, to its logical conclusion, no matter what the Abbots’ Council may have said on the matter. It takes other monks to be sure that those logical conclusions do not reach the wider world and bring trouble on us all. Truly, I think that Brother Galahad would be best off in the mother house, where he will be among his equals, but from what I understand, his family –”
“And there is another thing!” Tuck interrupted. “His family! His family are the temporal rulers of Avilion! Do you not think there could be a conflict of interests, having the Church and State of that area headed by brothers in the flesh?”
“A conflict of interest?” Brother Andy replied, mystified. “How? How can anyone’s interests ever be in conflict when Church and State are harmoniously joined?”
Was Brother Andy that stupid? How could Galahad possibly keep the temporal rulers of Avilion in check? Aside from Galahad’s problems that stemmed from, well, being Galahad, Tuck had had the opportunity to watch the du Lac brothers growing up. It was Sir William who was the leader in that relationship, no question. The idea of Galahad going against his brother, unless moved by deep spiritual conviction, was laughable. He had always been more happy to fall into step with Sir William and let Sir William do as much of the heavy lifting of social interaction. Which would mean …
“If byharmoniously joined you mean the State riding roughshod over the Church, I wonder rather whose interests aren’t in conflict — and why you cannot see the difficulty!”
Brother Andy’s eyes narrowed. “So. That is what this about, isn’t it?”
“Of course this is what it is about! I watched those boys grow up, Brother Andy! And let me tell you one thing: Galahad will dance to the tune his fleshly brother sets. And that tune will come straight from the Crown Prince, the King to be. We will hardly be able to watch and guard the faith and the morals of the people if a significant portion of our number is — forgive the expression — in bed with the state!”
“Yes, indeed,” Brother Andy murmured, “that is what it’s about.”
“Exactly! So surely you see by now –”
“Why you care so much about checking the state? Aye, Brother Tuck, I do.”
Tuck mentally jumped and stood to attention. “What … what do you mean, Brother?”
“This is about power, isn’t it?” Brother Andy asked.
“You want power!” Brother Andy accused. “Power in the state! I know what you are, Brother Tuck, you — you — Lazlian!”
“I beg your pardon?” Tuck gasped, not sure which surprised him most: that Brother Andy had understood his desires so quickly, that he had pegged him as a Lazlian, or that he wielded the word Lazlian like a man expecting his interlocutor to take it as a deadly insult.
“You don’t understand! You’ve been raised in our house, but you don’t know the first thing about being a Pascalian! Pascalians don’t care about temporal power! We don’t even care about power in the church! We don’t seek it! We don’t –”
“I think,” Tuck snarled, “that you have little idea of what you speak, Brother. It is a rare churchman who does not –”
“And we are those rare churchmen!” Brother Andy yelped. “That’s why we’re allowed to study! To think! To say what we think, within — within reason! It’s because we’re not power-seekers and the powerful need only listen to us when they have a mind to! Behaving is how we keep our freedom! And you — you and your meddling — you are going to ruin everything! You –”
“Is there a problem, brothers?” came a voice from the door.
Tuck could scarcely think for shock, and, for that matter, scarcely knew where to direct it. Father Hugh’s appearance? Brother Andy’s outlandish, and, frankly, half-mad accusations? What was the world coming to, if two monks could shout at each other in a church, and the older, wiser one could only gape like a fish when the abbot came in to investigate?
That was Tuck’s mistake — gaping like a fish. For Brother Andy turned on his heel, jerked his finger at Tuck, and snapped, “He is going to put the whole Order in jeopardy, and apparently I am the only one with sense enough to see it! And now he wants to get rid of me!”
Father Hugh blinked and began to make his slow way up the aisle. “Weighty words.”
“Weighty?That’s all you have to say? He could destroy everything we ever worked for with his foul ambition!”
“No, Brother, that is not all I have to say. I will have much to say, once I have heard both sides of the story and can –”
If Tuck had been so accused, he would have exploded into a fire of fury, he knew it. Father Hugh only blinked. “I hope I would not.”
“You are too fond of him! You two are too close! You told me you would think and pray upon my asking you not to lay the duty of the parish of Avilion on me, and the next thing I know,he,” Brother Andy pointed an accusing finger at Tuck, “is trying to get me to go!”
Father Hugh blinked. “Brother Tuck, is this true?”
“Well — yes!” Tuck admitted. Better to take shelter in the truth, after all. “But think of the alternative, Father. Do you want to put Galahad in charge of a parish so soon after his graduation?”
“It might actually be a good thing for him,” Father Hugh murmured, and Tuck could barely refrain from smacking his forehead with his hand.
“He would have his family’s unwavering support,” Father Hugh added, almost apologetically. “He would probably have to take over a small parish eventually, Tuck. As would you,” he added to Brother Andy. “And I would rather have Galahad get his feet wet someplace where the populace would be forgiving of his mistakes. Perhaps it is for the best that Brother Andy has asked for more time as a simple monk.”
Tuck knew not whose jaw fell further — his or Brother Andy’s. But before Tuck could best assemble his look of affronted betrayal, or Brother Andy his look of surprised gratitude, Father Hugh had put his hand on Brother Andy’s shoulder. “But, son, I think you are a bit too heated about this. I assure you, there is no conspiracy afoot to ‘get rid of you,’ as you put it.”
“If there is no conspiracy afoot,” Brother Andy snarled, “that is only because a conspiracy requires two or more Sims, and Brother Tuck prefers to manipulate you rather than let you in on his plans.”
“Brother Andy!” Tuck gasped, but Father Hugh did not blink.
“Brother Andy,” Father Hugh started — and sighed. Then he started again, this time with his usual smile. “Brother Andy, I am going to ask you for a great favor.”
Brother Andy blinked, but he pursed together his lips and nodded. “Of course, Father. What would you like me to do?”
“I should like you to retire to the dormitory for an hour or so. I would like to consider all of your grievances against Brother Tuck, and I should like you to write them all down. Then I should like you to put those reasons away and to not look at them again until a full three days have passed. If, after three days, you still think any reason is valid and legitimate, you will come to me, and we shall discuss it, or them, as the case may be. Is that agreeable to you?”
“Quite, Father,” Brother Andy smiled.
“Excellent. Go, my son.”
With an insufferably smug set to his shoulders, Brother Andy left the chapel.
Father Hugh was left smiling at Tuck. As soon as Brother Andy was gone, and the door shut safely behind him, Tuck took a deep breath. “Father –”
“Son, a moment of your patience. I have a request to make of you, as well.”
“Oh — oh, well, of course.”
“I want you to avoid Brother Andy for the rest of the day. And I want you to sleep in the other dormitory.”
“The children’s –”
“Yes, the children’s dormitory. And at first light, I want you to leave for Avilion. I think it would be well if the workmen on the new parish church and cottage had direct supervision for the next week or so, do you not?”
“You want me to get out of Brother Andy’s way and avoid antagonizing him, so that all of this will blow over, do you not?”
“I do think the two of you could benefit from some time away from each other, yes.”
That makes two of us!
“But it is not so that this whole thing will blow over. I think, perhaps, there may be … some justice in what Brother Andy has to say about you. You are ambitious, Tuck,” Father Hugh continued, a bit mournfully. “Please do not deny it.”
“Well, yes, but –”
“But nothing, Tuck. It is a common fault in churchmen — all too common, I fear — but all the same, we must endeavor to control it. Ambition has but a limited place in the heart of a Brother of St. Pascal.”
“But, Father –”
“I know how you are made, my son. I am not asking you to pretend to be something you are not. I may, however, have to ask you to … to apply more wisdom to your ambition. We are monks, Tuck. We are not men of the world. It is not ours to take out a whip and drive men along the path, but to blaze a trail and pray that they follow.”
Well, when put like that, how could Tuck argue? So he did not.
Instead, he bowed his head. “Yes, Father.” He tried not to sigh. “I shall endeavor to do as you say.”