Radenth 11, 1013
It was St. Pascal’s Day. And part of Galahad knew he shouldn’t be spending it alone.
Tradition would dictate that he go up to Camelot, to the abbey, to celebrate the feast with the rest of the monks. He’d learned a lot about the traditions of the Pascalians at Camford, and what he had learned was that Pascalians almost never spent their founders’ day by themselves. On the off-chance that one of them was given a parish by himself, like Galahad had been — and that was rare — he usually journeyed to the nearest larger abbey of the Pascalians to share the feast with his brothers. That was what Galahad had done last year. But not this year. He couldn’t.
Not after what Brother Tuck did.
So Galahad had opted to spend the day, instead, with the people who really mattered: the ones in his parish. The ones whom Brother Tuck had tried to hurt. Maybe it was wrong of Galahad to think of it that way, but he was dangerously close to not caring. It was hard to see the situation through Brother Tuck’s eyes when one kept thinking, But that was Seona Brother Tuck was trying to take away. That was Glenna Brother Tuck was trying to hurt. And there was Marigold Thatcher to think about, too. Galahad didn’t know her very well, because she didn’t come to the church and Will had told him on several occasions that it would be a bad idea to go to the brothel, but Will had told him, too, how she had been treated. Just because she was trying to defend her baby. How could Brother Tuck think that was right?
So Galahad stayed home. And he held services at a special feast-day hour. He hadn’t expected many people to come, but he had prepared a sermon anyway.
It had even, he thought, been a good sermon. Not good for him: just good. He had thought about making the topic of the sermon forgiveness, but he had shied away from that in the end. Instead he had talked about something that ought to help reduce the need for forgiveness: the Golden Rule.
It was such a good rule, too, that Galahad didn’t understand why it wasn’t followed more often. So good and so simple: treat others as you would like to be treated. If more Sims would just follow that on a daily basis, they could probably manage to sidestep the need for forgiveness … well, not entirely, but a lot more than they did now. If Brother Tuck had thought for five minutes about the Golden Rule, he wouldn’t have acted the way he had. Galahad was sure of that.
He’d focused his sermon on what he thought was the problem people had when it came to following the Golden Rule: they just didn’t think enough about it. He decided not to talk about thieves and murderers and other rapscallions because they obviously didn’t care … and he didn’t think any of them would bother to show up for services on a day that wasn’t a Sunday, either. He focused on the good people, and how they sometimes went astray, even if they meant well, because they never asked themselves, “How would I feel if somebody did this to me?”
He’d kept it short. He’d kept it simple. He’d even cut out the long digression he’d thought about on Free Will, because he had realized that many of his parishioners might not have read Curry or Sharpe and might not understand exactly how he was building his argument. And … best of all … he might have even made an impact.
Because people had come to today’s service.
There had been his family — but Galahad was used to his family coming to his services. They had come to his St. Pascal’s Day service last year, too. They and Cherry Andavri and her grandfather had been the only ones there.
But more than that — the Ruskins came. And so did Kata Thatcher and her son. That meant a lot. It had been Kata Thatcher’s step-grandbaby who Brother Tuck tried to kidnap. To have Kata Thatcher here — when she could have been many other places, when there were plenty of women in the kingdom who might have like her to stop by for a visit and a quick check-in — that was almost like …
Part of Galahad was angry about that. He shouldn’t have to be seeking forgiveness. He hadn’t done anything wrong! But the rest of him did its best to ignore that anger. Because it understood something important: when one member of the Church sinned, all needed to seek forgiveness.
He wondered if Brother Tuck was realizing that now.
But enough about Brother Tuck. Galahad had won another triumph today. When he had ended the service, everyone hadn’t just run out the door. Instead, they stayed to chat. Some even with him!
Though … the first person to make a beeline for him was his mother …
“Galahad,” she had asked, “are you sure you don’t want to come over for supper tonight?”
“I’ll be fine, Mum.”
“I don’t like the thought of you eating all by yourself …”
“But, Mum,” Galahad protested, “I know what to do if the cooking oil catches fire now!”
Guinevere had stopped in what she was saying, eyed Galahad, and nodded very slowly. “Well. Yes, I know you do, sweetie. Although that was a close call.” She rubbed his arm and tried to smile. “But … it’s a feast day. Wouldn’t you rather spend it with … somebody? Anybody? You know Corentin and Celeste would love to see their favorite uncle …”
“They saw me yesterday, Mum.”
“They’d love to see you again,” Guinevere half-cajoled, half-teased.
But it hadn’t done her any good. Galahad would not be moved. He was pretty sure that spending St. Pascal’s Day with secular folks would be some kind of insult or faux pas. So Galahad had said no, and no, and no thank you, and finally Jessie had seen his distress and had come rescued him so he could say hello to somebody else.
Somebody like little Seona.
She was such a roly-poly little baby! And so smart, too! Galahad could see that whenever he talked to her, her eyes would follow his mouth with every word. He was pretty sure she smiled whenever she saw Galahad — but he had been sure of that since she was born, and every woman he knew, even Glenna, said it was probably just gas.
Still. She was a cutie. And her mother seemed to be doing much better. Sometimes she laughed and said that between her brothers and her sister and Galahad’s frequent visits, she barely got to hold Seona unless she was feeding her. That, Galahad thought, was a good thing. Well, not that Glenna barely got to hold Seona, if that was true, but that she was complaining about it. It meant she loved her little baby … no matter how she had come about.
That was something worth fighting for — wasn’t it?
It had to be. Sometimes, these days, after what had happened to Brother Tuck, Galahad thought he wasn’t sure of anything — but he was sure of that. If doing the best you could to make the people around you happy wasn’t a way to show your love for the Lord — well, what was? Brother Tuck had to be wrong when he thought that the best way to show love for the Lord was by making people sad, even if Galahad supposed it might have been meant to do them good. He had to be.
Galahad would reflect on that while he ate. He pulled his fish — a traditional St. Pascal’s Day meal, since St. Pascal had grown up in the Dousa Desert and had loved fish once he migrated to cooler climes — from the oven, cut himself a serving, and brought it to the table.
He wasn’t sure what he would do with the rest of it. That was the trouble with fish: you couldn’t buy just enough to feed one person. You generally had to buy a whole, well, fish. He knew he ought to give it to the poor, but he wasn’t sure how well he’d get it to keep long enough to do that. Or, frankly, which poor to give it to. What if they didn’t like fish?
Although … there were some stray cats in the neighborhood … maybe …
Just as he put the fish down, somebody knocked at the door.
Oh, no! Nobody called at the dinner hour for good things. If it was good, it could generally wait until morning. No, if somebody was calling now, it meant … oh, no …
He rushed to the door, threw it open, and —
“Good evenin’, Brother Galahad! You wouldn’t happen to have a meal for a pair of weary travelers, now, would you?”
“No, I’m just Cap’n, she’s Cherry,” said the Cap’n, jerking his thumb back at his granddaughter. “Mind the difference, now. Here: if it helps you to remember, I’ll give you a tip.” The Cap’n leaned forward and whispered in Galahad’s ear, “She’s prettier, but I’ve got better hair.”
“Cap’n,” Cherry rolled her eyes. She grinned at Galahad. “Hello, Brother Galahad.”
“But–but Cherry!” Galahad stammered. “What–what are you doing here?”
“Scroungin’ for a meal, of course! What else would we be doing here at dinnertime? Now are you going to invite us in and feed us already, or do I have to do everything?”
“Come–come in, come in!” Galahad stammered, remembering just in time that he needed to back up from the door in order to make that happen. “Oh, Cherry! It’s so good to see you! How’s Camford?”
The Cap’n, meanwhile, was sniffing the air. “Is that salmon I smell?”
“Aye–aye, it is! Help yourself!” Galahad replied. “You too, Cherry!”
“Thanks, Brother.” Cherry patted his back, and she and her grandfather made their way to where the rest of the fish was cooling on the counter. Galahad thought just far ahead to grab his own plate and made room for them at the table — not that it was hard, but with his place stuck right in the middle of the table, well, it did look a bit in hospitable.
As soon as they were seated, Galahad looked from the Cap’n to Cherry and then to the Cap’n again. “So–so what brings you here?” He glanced at Cherry. “Camford doesn’t have a break now!”
“Well, no,” Cherry admitted, “but you’ll be amazed what the professors will let you get away with if you tell them it’s for religious reasons.”
“What? Religious reasons?”
“Aye!” agreed the Cap’n. “She came to see you — and you’re religious! There’s a religious reason for you!”
“I’d have been at the service,” added Cherry, “but …”
“The old nag the Wesleyans rented us to pull their broken-down wagon threw a shoe,” grumbled the Cap’n. “For the love of all that’s good and holy! Give me a ship any day of the week. That doesn’t throw a shoe and refuse to move halfway through the ocean!”
“No, Cap’n. They just sink,” Cherry replied.
“Says you! Ever been on a sinking ship, lassie?”
“And neither have I. That’s why,” the Cap’n turned back to Galahad and winked, “I think they’re just a myth.”
“But–but they can’t be!” Galahad protested. “Ships sink all the time! Everybody–everybody knows that!”
“But have you ever met anybody who has been on a ship that sunk?” the Cap’n challenged.
“I –” Galahad pondered that. “Well … no … but …”
“But that’s not the question to ask!” Cherry leaped in. “The question is, do you know anybody who’s ever seen a ship sink?”
“Well, no, but …”
“But there are reliable eyewitnesses,” Cherry filled in. “There’s whole towns in Glasonland and Simberia, near the coasts, that watch the ships go down in storms and then rush to the beach to get the salvage.” Cherry turned to her grandfather with a triumphant smirk. “Isn’t that so, Cap’n?”
“Blast you and your logic,” replied the Cap’n, which was as good as him saying, You win!
Galahad chuckled. It had been far too long since he’d had such a good debate, even if it was half in jest. (Unfortunately Galahad sometimes had difficulties figuring out just which half was the jest, but that was half the fun.) He’d eaten far too many dinners by himself recently. Maybe his mother did have a point …
“Say,” the Cap’n asked, pointing to his empty plate, “got any more of this?”
“Of course! Help yourself!”
“Don’t mind if I do,” replied the Cap’n as he headed back to the fish with his plate.
“Better be careful!” Cherry called after him. “If you’re going to look good in those leathers of yours. Don’t want to eat too much, now!”
“Sometimes,” the Cap’n replied, mock-growling as he sat back down with a now-full plate, “I wonder why I tell you anythin’, Cherry.”
“Because I’m your favorite oldest granddaughter.”
“Hmm. Maybe that’s got somethin’ to do with it …”
Galahad wasn’t sure what “leathers” Cherry was talking about, so he changed the subject at this opportunity. “But, Cherry, you haven’t said! How is Camford? What classes are you taking? Are you enjoying them? Oh, and what professors do you have? Have you started Introductory Philosophy with Professor Baxter? The students call him Backstabber, but he’s not that bad as long as you answer his questions correctly …”
“Slow down, Brother! You’ll choke if you’re not careful — and you haven’t given Cherry a chance to answer, either.” The Cap’n clapped Galahad on the shoulder. “Now, answer the nice monk, Cherry sweetie.”
Cherry chuckled. “Camford,” she replied, “is everything I hoped for and more. And it ought to be even better once Delyth gets there in a couple of months.”
“Oh, right! The new academic year will be starting soon!” Galahad gasped. “Have you started studying for your exams yet?”
“Yet? It’s only Radenth!” protested the Cap’n.
“It’s never too early to start studying.”
“Don’t be silly, Brother! Start studyin’ too early, and all the stuff you added first to your mind will start fallin’ out to make way for the new stuff!” The Cap’n clucked his tongue and shook his head. “Besides — did you even need to study when you were a student, eh?”
“Cap’n! Of course I studied!” Galahad gasped.
“Ah, I didn’t ask whether you did or not,” the Cap’n replied. “I asked whether you needed to.”
And that, Galahad realized, was a materially different question.
“We-ell … some classes I needed to study more than others …”
The Cap’n raised his eyebrows.
“But–well–if a class was dull … I always had to work harder at it. Because I’d get … distracted.”
“Women, wine, and song?” the Cap’n asked, almost knowingly.
“Well, no,” replied Galahad. “More like another class that was more interesting.”
“You’re talking to a monk, Cap’n,” teased Cherry.
“He wasn’t always a monk — and just because he’s a monk doesn’t mean he’s dead!”
Cherry snickered and rolled her eyes. “Well, for what it’s worth, Brother Galahad,” she replied, “I’m finding my classes very interesting. And …” Her smile almost became a smirk. “So are my extracurriculars …”
“Cherry! Don’t scandalize the monk! Or your poor ol’ Cap’n!”
“Oh, you won’t be scandalized, Cap’n. And neither will Brother Galahad.” Cherry turned back to Brother Galahad with a grin. “No doubt you’ll be pleased to hear, Brother Galahad, that a few months ago I managed to get Sir Elyan to drink a frosty walrus and sing his heart out at the Lion and Llama!”
Galahad’s eyes went wide. Some of the guys had gotten into singing contests back in Camford. Galahad hadn’t, because anytime someone challenged him, one of the other guys dragged him out of the bar before he could get on the stage. Which was a pity — he thought a singing contest might be fun. And even though Mother Julian used to tell him to just move his mouth when the other children sang … and even though now Father Hugh had told him that he was under no circumstances to sing any of the refrains at services … well, he couldn’t be that bad. Could he?
But Elyan in a singing contest … “How on earth did you manage that?” Galahad asked.
“Oh, I said he’d be a knight recreant if he didn’t take me up on the challenge,” shrugged Cherry.
“Apparently they’re some kind of magic words with you southlander lot,” added the Cap’n, nodding to Galahad.
“They — knights aren’t concerned with appearing cowardly in Bledavik?” gasped Galahad.
The Cap’n laughed. “Brother Galahad! We haven’t got knights in Bledavik!”
“Too cold for them up there,” chortled Cherry. “They’ll freeze their little …” She hesitated. “Extremities off. In that armor, aye?”
“Oh …” Galahad had trained a couple of times in full plate — he hadn’t liked it. Not least because it somehow managed to be an oven in the summer and an icebox in the winter. In a place as cold as Bledavik, no, you’d never survive in plate armor. And chain maille wouldn’t be much better. “But–but who fights for you?”
“Oh,” the Cap’n chuckled, “we Bledavikians are pretty resourceful, aye? We can defend ourselves.”
“But …” But the world was divided into three estates: those who prayed, those who fought, and those who worked. That was how the world ought to be ordered; that was the system laid down in the very Book of Wright. Well–not the Book of Wright, Galahad remembered. The Book of Wright hadn’t said anything about that. St. Robert hadn’t liked fighting very much. And he had said, too, that those who dedicated themselves to the Lord couldn’t just pray, they had to work too …
It was all very confusing. When you waded into a morass like that — well, maybe a place like Bledavik, where apparently they had gotten rid of the Second Estate entirely, wasn’t that unthinkable.
“Besides, it isn’t like we have to defend ourselves against other people’s knights,” the Cap’n’ went on. “Remember the extremities, eh? No knight’s gonna come crusadin’ into Bledavik if he’d lose his … extremities doin’ so.”
“It would be awful to lose a finger,” Galahad agreed. “Imagine if it was from your writing hand! … Or your sword hand, I guess, if you were a knight.”
Cherry and the Cap’n looked at each other for a long moment. Then Cherry spoke. “Aye, Brother Galahad. It would be awful to lose a finger.”
“Although I suppose there are some things that might be worse …” Galahad mused.
Cherry and the Cap’n sat up with wholly attentive, yet carefully blank faces.
“Like your whole hand,” Galahad finished.
“Well, that would be a particular loss for a monk, all things considered–” The table suddenly shook. “Ow! Cherry!”
Cherry didn’t reply at once, instead batting her eyelashes at the Cap’n. Then she turned back to Galahad. “Why don’t you and I clear the table, Brother, and then I can tell you about my paper on the life of St. Lazlo?”
“Oh! You’re doing a paper on St. Lazlo? I can’t wait!” Galahad grinned.
So they cleared the table, cleaned off the last of the cooking implements, and put away the leavings of the fish for Galahad to have for luncheon the next day. (There was little enough left that he could manage to eat it all for lunch … well, maybe he’d save a little bit for the cats …) And then they all sat on the sofa and chair that Galahad kept next to the bookshelf.
Because now the real conversation could finally begin.