A Man Of Reason
by Levinia in Dark Ages
The old man stared into the blackness. He wasn't sure if his eyes were open or closed. He had no way to find out, and he was beyond caring about something so menial. He listened to the silence, if such a thing were possible. The bed, if the wooden plank he lay upon really could be considered as such, was uncomfortable. Almost as if the people who made it had had his discomfort in mind, he thought ruefully. Though wide-awake, he was barley conscious, deprived of sight and sound.
He had discovered religion in his early age, and wielded it like a crutch. His was a God of reason, and truth, and law. And so he reasoned. If it was Gramail's will to have him imprisoned, then so be it. The word "unjust" floated through his mind, which he batted away with fanatical precision. Gramail stood for justice. Gramail was Justice. Perhaps Gramail was testing him in some way, examining his faith and devotion. The man was old, and too entrenched in his ways to hold such thoughts that questioned his faith. "And faith is all I have left," he would have said, if he had remembered how. He closed his eyes, or perhaps opened them, and mouthed a prayer, the motions familiar and comforting.
A short time later, anywhere from minutes to a double moon, a sound came. His ears wrapped around the echoing footsteps hungrily. Footsteps was the most common sound he heard, but it was a sensation. It took him a few heartbeats to realize something was... wrong. Out of place. This wasn't the measured tread of the guard's metal boots upon stone as she came to throw moldy scraps through the bars of his cell. The sound was lighter, irregular, almost as if the one making it was attempting to be furtive, yet didn't quite know how. He wondered, briefly, who would be trying to sneak through the Loures jail at this time of night (or perhaps day, he amended silently.) Then he settled back to wait with a stoic patience that only Deochs of wisdom and experience can bring.
The sound came closer, as sounds often do. Soon, he was able to pick up a sound other than footsteps. The rustling of fabric accompanied the walker. Relishing such sounds, he tried to imagine what would be making such noises. But he was a man of reason, not imagination. He decided that the fabric was thick, perhaps wool. And the garment was loose, or baggy. He was at once pleased and confused at the deductions. But he had no time to brood, for indeed the walker had stopped, beside his cell, no less. This definitely was not the guard. She carried a torch, because the cells were cast in pitch-blackness. But there was no light, only a quiet, heavy breathing coming from outside the confines of his cell. Whoever was out there had been taxed heavily in making their journey. He opened and closed his eyes several times, longing to see who had come to see him, if that was their purpose. He heard a strange word whispered in a light, young, yet familiar voice. For a moment, he thought of a young girl he believed he had once known. Then the world was consumed by light.
He threw his hands over his face, opening his mouth to cry out. But the sound caught in his throat, only letting a dry choke out. He sensed, somehow, that the light had dimmed. He squinted at a bleak, stone wall, letting his eyes adjust before he turned to see who had made the light.
He was again pleased to see his conclusions had been correct. The figure standing outside his cell was indeed a young girl, wearing a thick woolen gorgot gown. In fact, he was almost sure that he knew the girl with a mystic light bobbing wisp-like around her head. He somehow managed to stand up, and hobble over to the dark iron bars. "Falcha." He muttered, unable to find the voice to speak louder.
His young novice curtsied quickly, the small bead of light wavering with her. No, he could no longer call Falcha his novice. She had been, at one time, her devotion to Gramail outweighing even her impulsive and excitable youth. Then she had received the greatest gift any Mundane could wish for: the Spark of Aisling. He was very proud of Falcha, and, secretly, more than a little jealous. She had remained faithful to Gramail, her amazing talents and miracles beyond value. But there was no way he could think of an Aisling as his novice. "Abbot."
The abbot regarded his ex-pupil with a concerned, critical eye. Judging from her nervous manner (the her long, unkempt hair, and the darting eyes. Yes, the eyes definitely gave it away), it was quite obvious that she wasn't supposed to be here. That would explain her earlier attempts at stealth. "It has been a long time, my daughter." His voice sounded like a raw croak. How long had it been since he had spoken?
"Aye, Abbot. But I have come here to end that." Falcha smiled up at him.
The old man had never had children, except for the spiritual sons and daughters any man of the Gods would have. Though he was almost sure it was a fatherly instinct that made him want to reach down and affectionately rub the girl's head. He blinked, dismissing such an absurd thought. Have I begun to dote already? he wondered, to think of an Aisling as some pet animal. She's come here to rescue me, and I want to pet her like some dog or cat. He abandoned that line of thought, bringing his mind to bear on the problem at hand.
"You are here to remove me from this cell?" He asked rhetorically, more of a way to give himself time to marshal his thoughts. She might even say how and why she was going to 'break him out.'
Falcha nodded eagerly, but said nothing.
"But my child, have you not stopped to think? How will you get me out? These bars are solid as any, and you are no rogue, to open the lock with no key." Perhaps his wit was dulled by captivity, but the abbot did not know how Falcha would save him. He was also troubled by something within himself, buried almost too deep to see. But it was as much a part of him as any prayer or ritual.
"I have a plan." Falcha looked slightly offended. "It is simple really. It is within my power to bend space, as Gramail is wont to do. 'Tis a simple extension of the power which He has granted to us. The space around you will turn from within the cell, to outside the cell, next to me."
The abbot nodded. As an Aisling, her power would be considerable. But he worried about the head that ruled that power. "And then what? You got in because you're an Aisling, and no one has suspected you of this. But I will hardly be able to leave the castle unnoticed, and you will be seen with me. And, no offense, my daughter, I do not believe you can fight the guards to win our freedom."
Falcha nodded, she had considered this possibility. "I - we, rather - will repeat what I did to get you out of the cell. It is a great distance for two, and we must work together on this. But I think we can step through space into Gramail's Temple, if we be true."
The nagging disturbance bubbled to the surface. "'If we be true' you say." He said, shaking his head sadly. "I am afraid you have not considered this fully. Soon my absence will be noted. A search will be mounted. Where is the first place they will look? Gramail's Temple, of course. Right on their front doorstep. I am too old, too tired, to play the fugitive."
Falcha's shoulders sagged in despair. "I had not thought that far. Forgive me, Abbot, but I had to do something. I could not stand to have you unjustly held thus."
The abbot felt his eyes brimming over with tears that should have been shed long ago. An Aisling, aye, but still so young, so impulsive, so naive. She had a plan, and thought she could fight the Law. She thought she could win. She had a cause she believed in, and the courage to obtain it. He almost didn't have the heart to continue his line of reasoning. But he was a man of reason, not heart.
"You now speak of 'unjustly' and being true to Gramail. Gramail is Law. All Law, not only yours, not the King's, nor His. Do you do him service by breaking laws in this manner? Or is this something you do for yourself?" He wiped away the partially shed tears with the tattered sleeve of his robe.
Falcha looked up fiercely, a fanatical light burning in her dark eyes. The abbot frowned. That was her gift, that was her Spark. "Do I do Him service by letting his devout languish in captivity? Do I not do Him service by giving you your freedom, to pray and serve in your rightful place? You belong behind a pulpit, not behind a cage of iron."
"You now dictate to me what my 'rightful place' is?" He hated himself for doing this. But he was what he was. And so he debated, using his would-be rescuer's own words against her, defeating her arguments with his reason. He was a man of reason. And, deep down inside, he felt a small glow beginning within himself. She was an Aisling, she had all the chances, the possibilities that he could only dream of, and he was winning. "And that I am devout. But if I am so devout, then why must I be imprisoned? Would not Gramail come to my aid if I belonged behind a pulpit?"
"And what better tool to send than one of his own, blessed by the Spark? There is power within me. Please, let me use it to your aid, and Gramail's will." She had turned from telling to pleading. She was no longer the one in control. The abbot felt a sense of power that he was unaccustomed to. He was the one in control. But that didn't keep him from admitting that she had a point. However, he didn't vocalize that. That could be interpreted as a sign of weakness. And her reference to the Spark irked him too.
"What if I am here by Gramail's will? I was charged with heresy and treason, speaking against the King's word on a matter of law. Perhaps I am here to learn humility, and obedience. These are lessons you yourself must learn." He shifted into the role of a father abbot chiding a novice, feeling a glow of triumph. Aisling or not, he was still the elder, in age as well as church office. And she was devout.
True uncertainty wormed its way over Falcha's face. Her eyes shifted down. "If it His will to make you suffer like this..." She faltered. "I... I mean - just... well, look at you!" She spoke loudly and passionately. So, she had forsaken control over herself as well as him. Another idea wormed its way into his aged, diseased head. "You barely have enough food to keep you alive. Pretty soon you won't be able to fend the rats away from your scraps. You need help. If your God cannot, then let me."
This gave him the perfect opening. He drove the last nail into her coffin with relish. "'My God,'" he quoted quietly, with mock gravity. "Will you forsake all you believe in, question your own faith? Will you leave all that behind, and go running to shelter in Glioca's love and mercy? You show little of what you have been taught, of Law, and Justice. So easily you betray your own better judgement. If you will not learn by the lessons I have given you, then perhaps it's time for something more severe." He shook his head sadly, restraining the wry smile he felt within him.
"Abbot?" Falcha was scared. Even Aislings can feel fear, he thought ruefully. Perfect.
After so long, the abbot found his voice, and gave it full reign. "Guard! Help! Treason! Murder! Guards!"
The girl's jaw dropped, and she slowly backed away, shaking her head in disbelief. Had she been in full possession of herself, she could have easily escaped. But she was young, and impulsive. A look of pure terror crept across her face as several heavily armed and armored figures ran towards her. "Help!" He cried, barely keeping the jubilation he felt from leaking into his voice. "This woman is trying to kill me! Help! Murder! Guards!"
She looked at him then, straight into his eyes. All at once, she understood. She saw the joy, the victory. But she didn't know why. She could not understand that. Because you're an Aisling, he thought viscously. Because you were chosen, you were able to obtain what to me is but a dream. Because you have everything, and I have nothing.
She fell to her knees, looking up the shaft of a long halberd. The man holding it sneered back at her weakness. "Tryin' ta kill our prisoners, eh? Well, if ye think ye kin git away wit' that, then ye'll hafta try agin, from yer own cell."
"But - I -" She began to plead, but looked again at the abbot. Looked back again into his eyes, and past that, into his soul. Her face folded up in grief, and she raised no more objections. She understood betrayal. She'd never know why. But, above all, he was an abbot, and she was devout.
"Look closer." The other guard, the woman he was accustomed to doing the feeding rounds, said. "She is an Aisling."
The man looked closely, squinting past his polearm. "So she is. 'Tis in 'er eyes. But that don't make 'er above th' law, now does 't?"
"No. We must take her to the King, regardless. Come on, lass. Up we go." The guard reached down, pulling Falcha to her feet. The Aisling gave no resistance, fully accepting her fate. There was no hint of the courage, the Spark that had brought her into the jail. She had been defeated, completely and utterly. Soon, the light and sound faded into the distance.
Once again wrapped in dark and silence, the old man lay back down on his wooden bed. He felt a little bit of pride at his empty victory. She'd finally accepted her fate, the impulse within her ground out by his betrayal and deceit. If she lived, she'd make an excellent priestess to Gramail. We all have to learn through our own hard lessons, he thought ruefully. He felt no guilt. He was what he was. He was only a man, a Mundane. And that was so deeply ingrained within him, he could do nothing else. He was a man of reason.