Clatan 6, 1014
Well, that was a waste of time.
Well … maybe not. Angelique got a few hours away from the children, away from the school, away from Mother Julian. She got to partake in a delicious tea, far better than anything nunnery served up on the rare occasion when they had tea. She got to sit down and chat without feeling that she ought to be feeling guilty about it (which in its own way was worse than just feeling guilty). In terms of how Angelique usually spent her days and her enjoyment thereof, this was practically the highlight of the year.
But in terms of what Mother Julian had wanted her to accomplish … complete waste of time.
But, Angelique thought rebelliously, that was what Mother Julian got for sending the nun with the least enthusiasm for the “mission” to Princess Jessie. Angelique might have been able to pull one over on her sisters or her mother or, heaven knows, her father, but Jessie had a bullshit detector several degrees more sensitive than most. Angelique had only gotten halfway through her planned spiel, full of the half-said hints and the careful ellipses that Mother Julian had prescribed, when Jessie had stared at her, raised one eyebrow, put down her teacup, and asked just what the hell was going on.
So much for subtlety.
And then Angelique–
There was Galahad’s cottage …
Well, of course it was there. The du Lacs had donated the land for St. Vidcund‘s, and they had donated the plot right across the lane from the Joyous Garde. It paid to be the Duke and all that. And then Father Hugh had decided to send Galahad out to Avilion. So it only made sense to build his cottage right next to the chapel.
But the point was … Mother Julian had not given Angelique a specific time by which to be back. She hadn’t given Angelique permission to go to Galahad’s … but she hadn’t forbidden it, either. Besides, Galahad was a man of the church, and even if he was one of the Pascalians, he was hardly one of Brother Tuck’s ilk. It would only make sense for Angelique to consult with him when it came to keep the citizens of Albion safe and orthodox, right? He might even have some good ideas.
… Mother Julian would never believe that. But it was too late; Angelique’s mind was already made up. She walked across the lane with the purposeful tread of a nun on a mission, a nun to whom the idea of sin or improper thoughts was laughable. That walk was the one useful thing she had learned from the Sisters of St. Marla.
She knocked on the door. “Galahad?”
Another, harder knock. “Galahad — Brother Galahad? It’s me! An–Sister Angelique!”
Still no answer. Curious, Angelique tried the doorknob …
It was open. Of course. This was Galahad.
There was still a half-eaten piece of pie on the table. Angelique tiptoed closer. It didn’t look like it had been sitting there that long. So Galahad couldn’t be far. He could have gone over to the church …
But who was she kidding? If there was any one place Galahad was likely to be, it was the library.
She headed up the stairs and through the hall. “Galahad?” she called.
Angelique tried not to roll her eyes or laugh. The library. Of course. She opened the door. “There you are!”
Galahad looked up. He blinked at her — well, no surprise there. He had been poring over another of his close-written, barely-legible codices. It would probably take him several blinks before he could focus again properly. He was going to ruin his eyesight one of these days.
But never his smile, which bloomed as suddenly as the flowers after the spring rains. “Ang–Sister Angelique! I didn’t know you were in the shire!” He jumped up (nearly knocking over his chair) and kissed her on the cheek. “What brings you to Avilion?”
“Visiting you!” was Angelique’s automatic reply, but she couldn’t keep it like that. That was too close to a lie. “And tea with Princess Jessie. But I could hardly be here and not pay you a visit.”
Galahad laughed. “You’d think we didn’t see each other every other day at the school.”
Angelique smiled as brightly as she could, not that it worked very well. But to her mind, that barely counted as seeing each other. Angelique was busy giving music lessons to every young girl in the kingdom whose parents wanted to give her something approaching an air or a grace; Galahad was lecturing the older students on philosophical topics far too complicated for them and often being led down rabbit holes by them. When they got to see each other at luncheon, they were at the high table, staring down at the students, with Mother Julian and Sister Margery sandwiched in between them.
“Well, we never get to talk,” Angelique replied. “And …”
Should she hedge a bit? Indulge in idle chit-chat? Enjoy herself? Or just get to the point?
… She would get to the point. She could have her fun later.
“… I also wanted to ask your advice on something, Galahad.”
“Is something the matter?” he asked, frowning with concern.
You could say that. “It’s … Mother Julian.”
He sounded so disappointed. But he would, wouldn’t he? He loved being a monk. And while Galahad a great brain, other Sims was his one weak spot. He loved being a monk — ergo, everybody in the Church ought to love what they were doing as much as he did. If they didn’t, what were they doing there?
“It’s not the usual,” Angelique replied, even though, in many ways, it sort of was. Mother Julian had rules, Angelique didn’t like them, they fought, Mother Julian won, Angelique bit her tongue until the next time when she had no choice but to explore. But this was different. “It’s … she’s got some really funny ideas this time. About a month ago … she tried to convince all of us that the King’s got Albion on some sort of collision course with the Robertians.”
“And this can’t go beyond this room!” Angelique ought to have brought that up from the beginning. Oh well. It was hardly too late now. “I mean it, Galahad! Nobody else can know about what I told you!”
It was bad enough that Jessie knew — Angelique at least had been talking to Jessie under Mother Julian’s direct orders. But Galahad? Angelique would never hear the end of it.
“Ah ah!” Angelique shook her finger before him. “You can’t tell anyone else. I’ll get in a load of trouble if you do.”
That did it. Slowly, reluctantly, Galahad nodded.
Angelique took a deep breath. “All right. So, Mother Julian … she thinks that Albion … she’s connecting some very odd dots together. First the King’s law about witches and wizards –”
“That was years ago!”
“I know — but it gets worse. Then Lady Morgause.”
“That was years ago, too!”
“I know, I know. Then there was when the King annoyed the Robertians …”
Galahad snorted, but at least he didn’t protest, That was years ago!
“And lastly … there’s Brother Tuck.”
Galahad’s nose crinkled. “What’s that got to do with the King?”
“Galahad … did your brother tell you …” Angelique bit her lip. “That he was going to prosecute Brother Tuck in a secular court?”
He scowled. “Will didn’t tell me anything. Not until it was all over.”
“He–he didn’t?” That was–not what she was expecting to hear. If anybody in the Church would have known Will’s strategy and thoughts, wouldn’t it be Galahad?
… And if Galahad hadn’t known, how did Mother Julian find out?
“Oh, no. He didn’t want to put me in a position where I felt a ‘conflict of interests.'” Galahad rolled his eyes. “Can you believe that?”
“Er … well, if he had told you what was going on, you might have felt torn between Will and Brother–”
“Not you too!” Galahad interrupted. “You can’t see it either?”
Angelique opened her mouth — and cocked her head to one side. There was Galahad-logic operating here. It was the sort of thing that entirely opaque to mere mortals until Galahad chose to elucidate it. Then it was clear as day. And there was only one way to react when confronted with it. Angelique took a deep breath. “No, I’m afraid I don’t understand, Galahad. I’m sorry.”
He usually looked abashed when she apologized for not being as quick as he. Not today. “There’s no conflict of interest between right and wrong!” Galahad huffed.
Ah. Yes. Of course he would see it that way. Whenever Galahad found a trail of logic, he followed it to its very conclusion. And he once he found that conclusion, he would defend it to the death. The only question remaining — how to explain how a normal person would see the situation.
“Of course there isn’t, Galahad,” Angelique replied. “But … not everybody sees ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ as clearly as you do.”
“Will sees it pretty clearly! He did with Brother Tuck!”
Angelique wouldn’t argue with that. But she was glad Galahad said it; it made it clear which side he was on. “Of course he does. But … well, he’s used to dealing with people who are … far more comfortable being wrong than right. If you know what I mean? Criminals and such. He–”
“I’m no criminal!”
“No, you’re not. But if you deal with people like that enough, it can start to … warp your thinking.” Look what had happened to Angelique’s thinking after all her time with Mother Julian. “And …” She hesitated — but why not say this? It might sound cruel, but it would probably cheer Galahad up better than anything else she could say. “Let’s face it, Galahad, you mean well, but you sometimes have a problem keeping your mouth shut. Will might have been afraid that you would have accidentally blurted something out before he was ready to move on Brother Tuck.”
Galahad blinked. He flushed. Then he rubbed the back of his neck. “Heh. I … aye, I probably could have done that.”
“But Will’s not going to tell you that, because that would be mean.”
“You told me that!”
“I am mean.”
“Angelique!” Galahad shook his head. “You’re not mean. Why do you say such things about yourself?”
Because they were true, mostly. After all, Angelique had seen her future, and it was the lemon heart of Sister Vyn. If that was how she was going to end up, she figured she might as well give her nearest and dearest fair warning.
Still, she couldn’t tell that to Galahad. He’d protest and not understand, and it would only serve to upset him. So she shrugged, smiled, and circled back to where she had begun. “Galahad, you never answered — did you know that your brother wanted to prosecute Brother Tuck in secular court?”
“Well, he didn’t say anything about that …”
Angelique’s heart skipped a beat. What if Mother Julian was wrong? Wouldn’t it just figure that she was getting her knickers in a twist over nothing!
“But where else would Will prosecute Brother Tuck?”
… So much for that promising thought. “There’s the court ecclesiastic in Camford.”
“But Brother Tuck committed his crime in Albion. And it was a secular crime, anyway. So why shouldn’t he be tried in secular court?”
Apparently the problem was worse than Mother Julian had feared. “Because it would get the whole Church mad at us, that’s why,” Angelique replied.
Angelique bit her lip. How to put this in terms Galahad would understand? “Because the way they see it, today we’re prosecuting Brother Tuck for actual kidnapping, and tomorrow the Remans will be going after monks left and right for slave-stealing.”
“… Oh.” Galahad scratched his pate. “I guess they have a point. But … that still doesn’t make it right.”
“You won’t get any argument from me on that. But Mother Julian … she’s convinced that the only way we can get Albion off this collision course with the Church is — get this — using ‘soft power’ with the ladies of Albion.”
“She wants us to talk with all the ladies, and somehow — I don’t know — make them realize that their husbands are going to get us into a lot of trouble without actually telling them that.” Angelique hesitated. “That was why I was having tea with Jessie. To–”
“You–you tried to manipulate Jessie?” Galahad gasped.
“Very badly,” Angelique assured him, “and she saw through me in about five minutes anyway. So — I told it to her straight.”
“Oh. What’d she say?”
Very little. But Angelique would guess that she had been thinking furiously the whole time. The problem was that Angelique couldn’t be sure what she was thinking. “She said she would talk to her father.”
“Well, that’s good, isn’t it?” asked Galahad. “Now the King knows what you’re worried about, so he can do something about it! I mean … could you imagine how he would have reacted if every wife in the kingdom was just being vague about something being wrong? Could you imagine how Tom would react?”
Angelique winced. Knowing Tom, if she had gone to Lynn and spilled Mother Julian’s spiel, she would have repeated it to Tom, and Tom would have gone down to the nunnery and pounded on the door and demanded to know what the hell was going on. The Pendragons were all alike in that they only appreciated subtlety and evasiveness when they were on the dishing end of it — when they were on the receiving end, they wanted others to be direct and weren’t afraid to play the royalty card to get what they wanted.
At least now she didn’t have to beat herself up for putting off talking to Lynn. She might have saved Mother Julian’s hide there.
“The King would probably be a bit more subtle than Tom,” Angelique replied, “but … aye. It wouldn’t be good.” She bit her lip. “But what am I supposed to tell Mother Julian? You know what she’s like!” Angelique hunched her shoulders and did her best best squeaky old-lady voice. “‘We have to use soft power! We have to keep Albion on the path of orthodoxy! It’s up to us!'”
“She doesn’t sound like that!” laughed Galahad.
“You say that after you have to live with her!”
“I don’t believe it!” Galahad chuckled and shook his head. “But … well, you can just tell her that you tried, and you failed, and when Jessie asked you what was going on, you told her. She can’t be mad at you for trying and not succeeding.”
Yes, she could be. Maybe not for the failure insomuch as the lack of effort that had led to the failure. She would think that Angelique had failed because she wanted to fail. Not that she had been willing, but unable.
… She would probably be right.
“Well … I may have made it clear that I didn’t agree with her plan …”
Galahad cocked his head to one side. “But you tried.”
“Well, yes, but …”
“You didn’t agree. But you tried. Shouldn’t that count for even more?”
That would be how Galahad would see it. Effort counted all the more when it was begrudging. But Mother Julian would only see the begrudging, and she would deduce that the effort was that much less thereby. And of course, when it came to Angelique, she was very rarely wrong.
Angelique sighed. “I don’t even see that there’s a problem, Galahad. I don’t think the Church will ever get angry enough at little old Albion to try to work together against us. Look at what Gaul is doing. And you know Reme just loves the idea of no Church money leaving the country to go to Glasonland — they still think of Camford as Glasonland, you know. Even Glasonland … they always want to be the master. If we’re the ones leading the charge against the Church’s overreach –”
“You–you think the Church is overreaching?”
Shit! She shouldn’t have said that out loud! She never meant to! “Galahad –”
“Why?” asked Galahad.
“It was a stupid comment. I shouldn’t have said it.”
“I don’t want to talk about it, Galahad! Please, don’t ask me to!”
She couldn’t say this to him. There was no way Galahad would keep it secret. But how could Angelique not think that the Church was constantly overreaching? She only had to look around her. She only had to look at her own life. She wasn’t even allowed to think the thoughts she wanted, in the privacy of her own mind, without having them flayed with guilt. If that wasn’t overreach … what was?
Galahad wouldn’t see it that way. But she could see by the look on his face that he was thinking, and thinking furiously. Angelique’s stomach plummeted. Had she just created a monster?
But what he said next … “You know, Angelique,” he said shyly, “you’re — you’re quite clever most of the time. A lot cleverer than I am in a lot of things. Maybe … maybe if we put our heads together …?”
“Aww, Galahad. You’re too cute.”
“I’m not that smart, Galahad. You’re the brain. I’m just –”
Angelique blinked. No, no, that wasn’t true. Galahad had a heart easily three times the size of hers. He cared about everyone. Angelique could barely manage to care about more than herself.
But … she did understand people better than he did, most of the time … it was the one talent she had, at least in comparison to Galahad.
And she had her music, too. If that wasn’t a highway straight to the heart, what was?
“You’re too sweet, Galahad.”
“Never to you.” Galahad absently reached out and stroked her wimple with one hand — then he pulled her into a hug.
This was wrong. Galahad was open-hearted and innocent — and Angelique couldn’t help but think about what Brother Arche had said, about sin and its inevitability …
But not Galahad. He wouldn’t see if that way.
Still, there was nothing to say that Angelique couldn’t lean in, wrap her arms around Galahad, and enjoy herself …
Just for now.