They called her Vivian, when they called her anything at all. She would seldom give out her name when she sat in at bars, content to sit and respond to calls of "Hey, Lady," with a middle finger or a sardonic smile. Maybe both.
She'd sit on a stool as close to the middle as she could get, and wait, eyes raking the crowd like she was looking for someone that didn't seem to exist. She'd stay for about an hour and then leave, driving all night to some other town and sitting in some other bar.
She was tired. She'd worked her entire adult life, garnering more and more attention until she finally gave up, weighed down by stacks and stacks of dollar bills that just kept getting heavier, even now that she wasn't working. Some asshole told her to invest and like a fool, she did, and her money was still growing day by day, a large, smoldering parasite that was putting a hunch in her back and blisters on the soles of her feet.
She could afford anything. Could buy herself a house on some exotic beachfront, buy herself a model for a husband, could probably buy two-point-five kids. She could buy herself a perfect lawn and trees and flowers, buy herself the finest meals this world has ever seen.
Instead, she went to bars, paying for gas as needed along the way, and sat with her hand over the top of her single drink and watched the crowd grow and ebb around her.
The only significant purchase she'd ever made was plastic surgery, her face now unrecognizable from the one that used to be plastered on the cover of magazines with headlines like "The Woman Who Beat Elon Musk: Five Tips She Has for Young Woman" (an article in a magazine that she'd never actually granted an interview to yet one that sold nearly a billion copies worldwide).
The bar she sat in now was particularly run down, the owners a tired couple with divorce lawyers bookmarked in their contacts and tenants that resembled fat city rats more than they resembled people. These places were Vivian's favorite, the scent of cheap booze and despair hanging over her like a blanket. They were nostalgic, almost; reminders of the nights that her father actually remembered to come home and would read, in his slurred yet kind voice, bedtime stories. Stories of dragons and scientists and inventors, big girl stories that little Vivian never quite understood but enjoyed anyway.
She let her eyes travel, blank and listless, over the crowd, still searching for someone that she was beginning to think she'd never find. A face the same age as her own, just beginning to show the telltale decay of age.
A face that represented her biggest regret, and a face who's absence represented her biggest fear.
Her hour was up, and she uncovered the top of her drink, leaving it to sit and wait, full, until someone cleaned it away.
She showed no reaction as some guy behind her asked if it hurt when she fell from heaven. Her face a wall. Behind it, all her fear and regret were boiling, invisible to everyone except her.
Her regret had a name. Bianca. Short, a little overweight but not unhealthy, only a single pimple to mar her pallid face. Beautiful in her normalcy. She was average.
Vivian realized, years too late, that every cruel word she'd said was out of jealousy. Bianca had the luxury of being normal, of not worrying about what others thought until Vivian forced her to worry. A luxury that Vivian did not have. Every grade was bullied to perfection, every feature was crushed down until it became something resembling beautiful, her mother living vicariously through every good-looking boy she brought home and threatening to disown her on the one genuine occasion that she brought home someone she loved on the basis of his appearance. He "wasn't pretty enough" to get her anywhere.
Maybe that was why Vivian had remained single. More than anything else, it was her mother's voice, telling her she needed to find a real man if she wanted to get anywhere in life.
Bianca had been hospitalized in her freshman year of high school and never returned, and on the night of Vivian's graduation she almost refused to walk the stage as the realization of what she'd done hit her like a truck. She didn't deserve to graduate. She'd nearly killed someone.
But in the end, her mother won, and she walked. Graduated salutatorian, an honor that disgraced her mother for years.
She was leaving a large tip as the door swung open. Not Bianca, this was a balding man with an indecipherable sports jersey.
She sighed at her own naivete and left, door slamming behind her. Retreated to her car, which, like her, was beginning to show its years. She didn't have the heart to replace it, even after she'd racked up nearly a hundred thousand miles. She intended to drive it until it broke down or until she finished her redemption mission, whichever came first.
She'd spent years wondering how much money she'd have to give. A million per every year of life? A billion?
At some point she realized that money was worthless. You could not reimburse an intrusive thought, could not bribe it into submission when you were the one who planted it there.
Even so, she kept searching, hoping to find a successful and happy woman rather than a headstone. She still hadn't found either one, and she'd googled Bianca's name at least two dozen times a month.
She'd scripted out her conversation. No flowery begging for apologies. Merely a statement, that she knew what she'd done and regretted it, that she hoped she'd found a way to move past it, or at least a way to cope.
No expectation for forgiveness, but a hope.
Vivian's next stop was in Cincinnati. They had some nicer bars, ones that glistened in the night, false veneers of happiness covering up a cesspool of tragedy that hung heavy inside them.
The saddest people tended to drink at the nicest bars with smiles on their faces.
It was nearing six in the morning, the threshold between night and day, between the early birds and the night owls, both suffering from the same affliction manifested in different ways.
She'd been to three bars tonight, unable to sleep, driven by some manic obsession.
This would be her fourth.
The bartender was a smiling blonde woman with short curly hair, heavy black eyeliner, and a wedding ring around a chain on her neck. She greeted Vivian with enthusiasm and Vivian decided that she liked her. That kind of radiance at six in the morning was rare to find. Either she was content and confident or she was on heavy drugs. Normally Vivian would lean to the latter, but with this particular individual, she was inclined to believe the former.
She actually took a sip of the drink before she covered it with her hand, motivated by some alien compulsion.
"How're you tonight, Hon," asked the bartender, her voice so soothing it was almost familiar.
Vivian just smiled and shrugged.
"Been a rough night?"
"I suppose. I'm looking for someone."
"Ah, ain't we all, girl."
Vivian allowed herself to laugh a little.
"I'm looking for someone I hurt. A girl I knew once."
"We've all hurt someone, Hon."
"Yeah, I suppose."
"Here's the thing. Whoever it was you hurt, she's probably moved on. Grown up, cried about it, and then moved on. Maybe she realized that you suffered just like her, in your own way. Maybe she taught herself to laugh at your insecurities, to pity the person you were. She doesn't need you to find her. Maybe she even found herself because of you."
Vivian looked up, startled by the poignancy of this stranger's words.
"I guess you have a point."
"I've seen all kinds of people here, Hon. Abusers, abused. And I'm telling you, a lotta times the abusers suffer for it even more than the abused do. Not always. There's always sickos, always exceptions. But more than once I've had a guy come in here three steps away from suicide because he hit his girlfriend once in high school. Everyone's got their issues. Their trauma. Tricky part is learning from it, excising your evil. Cause we all got evil, Hon."
Vivian's hour was up but she lingered for a moment more before getting up and smiling at the bartender.
"Thank you," she said.
As Vivian left, her hand on the door, she took one look back. the bartender had moved on to the next person, smiling at some new stranger, putting them at ease with the sheer force of her kindness.
The name tag pinned neatly to her shirt read Bianca.
Constance carefully arranged her baskets by size on the mat, her scarred hands moving nimbly among the brightly-colored wares. She warily watched the crowds beginning to form for the marketplace, anticipating the new day with about as much dread as she always did. She adored the basket-making, to be sure, but the selling of the baskets was to her equivalent to leaping into a sea full of sharks.
You're safe, she heard her mother's voice. Keep yourself covered and they won't hurt you.
Momma had been wrong. She had kept herself covered, her kerchief concealing her shoulders and neck and her headscarf hiding her unruly curls. He had come anyway, and that night—
Constance closed her eyes, breathing raggedly. Five years. Five years and you have to forget it. You can't undo what's been done to you. It's who you are now.
That night she died. She could never forget it.
And so she endured when the first customer, a burly sailor, made a lewd comment, so long as he bought a basket with money that would feed her slender frame. She endured when an irritable mother pushed her ogling son away, so long as she bought a basket. She endured when an old man propositioned her, his wrinkled hands reaching towards one of her reddish-black curls that had escaped from her scarf, so long as he bought a basket.
You're going to have a hard life ahead of you, little girl, Momma had told her with her last breaths. I wish it weren't so. You're too beautiful for this world, and it'll only bring you grief, but I know you'll be strong nonetheless, like your father was when he faced the sea monster and perished. You'll have to be strong.
Momma had been beautiful too, and it had killed her. Constance every day despised it. Beauty—beauty only brought death. Sometimes she would look at her perfect, earth-toned face and wish to take a knife to it, to slit the full lips, to slice off a piece of the symmetrical nose, to mar the high cheek-boned visage. But she never did, because she knew it wouldn't change anything.
Evening came and she had few baskets left. Others were beginning to pack up, and she thought she should too, but she wanted to get any extra penny she could. A tall man approached her stand, muscles bulging. A blacksmith, she surmised, noting his blackened hands and the burns on his arms.
"Going to stay the night, beautiful?" he asked, eyeing her with a clear intent.
"Which one would you like?" Constance replied wearily, ignoring the comment as usual and pointing to the four baskets that were left. "One is watertight, if your wife needs something to go to the well with."
"I need something to go home with," the blacksmith said, leaning closer. Constance smelled rotting fish in his breath, and she scrunched up her face. He laughed, reaching out a thumb and rubbing it against her lips.
"Beautiful. Just beautiful. Siren, you're calling me." He moved his hand downwards along her neck...down...down...
Constance felt her throat close up, her breath choking her. Just like that night. Just like...she couldn't move as he leaned in closer, his foul breath heating up her face. I was frozen last time, too. Frozen when her innocence was ripped from her broken body. Unable to fight. Why didn't I fight? Why don't I fight? Frantically she looked around the marketplace, but it was as if she was in that dark, lonely hut again, with the corpse of her mother the only witness to the violation being done against her. Nobody would help her. Nobody cared.
"Leave me alone," she cracked out, pulling away. The blacksmith only laughed further, stepping over the mat, taking her by the arm, brushing his filthy lips against her ear.
"I can't leave such a pretty girl alone."
Constance closed her eyes as his hands reached up towards her hair. A tear ran down her cheek, salty like the sea behind her in the docks. Leave me alone. Please, leave me alone.
"Leave her alone!" came a shout, snapping like the sound of a gunshot.
The blacksmith froze, releasing her. Constance slumped to the ground, reliving that night, feeling the rough touch in places where it shouldn't have been, her screams silenced by the ruthless soldier's aggressive kisses. I should have died. I should have died with Momma. Why didn't they kill me? I would rather have been killed.
"Hey! Hey," the voice continued, as a gentle, cautious hand brushed her arm. "Miss, are you all right? Please, answer me."
Constance opened her eyes a crack. The hut was gone. The smell of her dead mother was gone, as was the smell of the man.
She met the ocean when she looked up. His eyes were blue like the sea when the sun shone upon it, a blue that she loved to look at because it reminded her of being a child and playing in the sand when both of her parents still lived. For a moment she wanted to becalm herself in those blue depths, but then she remembered where she was and looked past them to the face that held them.
Scars. That was the first that she thought when her eyes moved from his. Four ragged scars, one across his forehead, one across his nose, a small one on his neck, and the worst—puckered and raised and disfiguring—stretched across his face from right cheekbone to left jaw. It should have frightened her, but it didn't. Maybe because she saw the quiet resignedness in his eyes, the resignedness of someone who has seen suffering—felt it—and has grown accustomed to questions and stares.
"Pirates," he said quickly as an explanation, brushing his fingers over the scar with a wry smile. "Had a bad run-in a few years back and they didn't like my attitude much. Don't worry, I'm not one of them. Are you all right?"
"Y-yes," Constance murmured, stare going from the scars back to the sea-blue eyes again. Men frightened her. All of them...except this one. Perhaps it was the tender way that he looked at her, or the way he held himself—as if he was the least of all and he didn't care much, or he was used to it—but he didn't frighten her. He doesn't want power. That's why. He doesn't want to hurt and kill and destroy. Only to help.
"Here," said the young man, holding out a hand. "I can take your baskets, if you want. Buy them, that is. So you don't have to carry them back. Or, if you need somebody to walk you back so you're all right, I could do that too."
Constance swallowed, eyes darting to the outstretched hand (it was strong and calloused from gripping ropes; he was a sailor). Hesitantly she took it.
"My name's Wes. Wester Channing, that is. My da named me for the wind that was blowing the day I was born aboard his ship. And yours?"
"Constance," said Constance.
The young man smiled, and for the first time in a long time Constance smiled back, something warm fluttering in her chest that for a moment made her forget the pain of the past, and have hope for the future.
Never thought I would be witnessing a full-blown war, yet - here I am, running the risk of being conscripted and thrown in Ukraine to die for an asinine cause made up by a piece of KGB shit who's only capable of terrorizing and robing its own population, raping prisoners with mop handles, and threatening the whole world with nuclear war.
When I was 18, I was exempt from service and I was given a military identitity card, and, luckily, that was it. Later that year, I was held under investigation for nine months for a bogus "hate speech" offence, which (needless to say) was completely spurious. The officer of the Russian Investigative Committee who was probing my case and who I spent hours talking to, did his best to close the case. The FSB was also reluctant to push the matter any further, and tried to write the whole case off as a joke. Yet, the regional district attorney kept sending the papers back. My parents and friends gathered the money to bribe off the district attorney, and the matter was papered over. My criminal record certificate is clear. Two years ago, when I was applying for firearm ownership permits, nothing was dredged up, and I've been legally owning a pump-action shotgun, a Saiga-12 shotgun, and a non-lethal pistol.
I don't live at the place of registration stated in my ID. For the time being, I try to avoid going out on the street, what with the rumours circulating. They stop cars, round up men on the streets, give them conscription notices right away, haul them off to military commissariats, and that's it. I am under the impression that they are going to grab whoever they can get their hands on, so desperate is the situation.
These days, many Westerners are scoffing at the Russians, sardonically asking something along the lines of "Why don't you take to the streets and overthrow the government?" Well, I must admit that the Russians have always had a habit of avoiding an oppressive government rather than directly confronting it. Such was the case with tsars, with the Purge, and what not. Besides, with the bloodiest Civil War that basically wiped out the Russian elite, and the Second World War that also put paid to the nation's pool of talent, the quality of the remaining human material, for lack of a better word, was bound to suffer.
One may say that "the Russians won freedom back in 1991 with the collapse of the USSR", but I beg to differ. The real political power was concentrated in the hands of "the Family" and the bureaucratic mafia. Abject poverty, forcing people to eke out their meager income by any means (including shuttle trade, thuggery and what not), the unprecedented level of drug abuse, the AIDS pandemic, the interweaving of the security services with organized crime (which by then was rife), the first very unpopular Chechen war (followed by the second war after Putin's ascendancy to power). The Russians didn't win anything.
This somewhat changed during the first two terms of Putin. Back then, Russia enjoyed relative economic prosperity, Putin was tremendouly popular, and Russian prospects seemed bright, what with the oil boom and soaring oil prices. The nostalgia for 2007 is not that unfounded. Then came the Georgian war; then Putin's puppet Medvedev was (what a surprise) replaced by Putin himself. I guess it is at this juncture that everything became transparent. It must have been January 2012 or something along those lines. On February 2nd, 2012, I was detained, and then my trouble began.
Two years thereafter, when the Crimean affair unfolded, I knew they would stop at nothing. The whole affair was instigated simply to resuscitate Putin's waning popularity. I'm ashamed to admit that, but it seems like the enthusiasm that some Russians shared back then was genuine. I mean, people were really happy that Putin did what he did. I never bought it. One should never trust the Cheka. Besides, isn't it admirable when your neighbours are taking to the streets and ousting their corrupt president (who happened to be Putin's puppet, who would've thought)? It is. As for the alleged repressions of the Russians in Ukraine, I never bought it either. I know some Ukrainians, and they are genuinely good people. Some of my Russian friends visited Ukraine before all this shit happened, and they told me that the Ukrainians were one of the most hospitable and kind people they'd ever met, and I have no reason to question the veracity of their accounts.
When it's all over, we're all going to pay for it. I can't completely write off the risk of civil war within Russia itself. I've been weighing up its probability ever since I became more or less politically aware at the age of 16. Well, so be it. Very seldom do empires and tyrannies make their citizens happy. Rather, they leave them impoverished and ravaged by wars and internecines struggles. Good news is that empires crumble, and this time is no exception. Granted, empires and autocracies may seem incredibly stable. On the other hand, who in their sane mind in, say, 1985, would have thought that the Soviet Union would collapse in six years? Well, wars catalyze some events.
I hope it won't happen, but I know what I'll do if they try to send me off there.
Darkwoode (Part Two)
Part Two: Draco Movens
VIII: September 12th
‘God bless them, poor souls,’ murmured the Rural Dean of Templeton. ‘I don’t suppose they have any firm idea as to the death toll yet?’
Georgios Anagnosides shook his head. ‘No, I’ve heard the figure of 5,000 bandied around, but it’s really a very rough estimate. Given the sheer number and variety of the businesses and offices housed within the World Trade Centre - more than seventy nationalities, I gather - it’s possible we may never know the exact figure.’
‘I must admit, I’d never heard of this “Al-Qaeda” until yesterday,’ said Canon Harris reflectively. ‘Or Osama bin Laden. Foreign affairs was never my strong suit.’
‘I’m afraid I knew a fair bit about them,’ observed Georgios. ‘In my curacy, I was on very good terms with our local iman. He was very much aware of bin Laden, and regarded him as a highly dangerous individual, whom the West ignored at their peril. The bombing of the US embassies in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi three years ago first brought Al-Qaeda to America’s attention. Two hundred lives were lost then, following much the same modus operandi as they employed yesterday - almost simultaneous attacks on multiple targets. Clearly, the danger bin Laden posed wasn’t taken seriously enough. Well, that’s changed now. “A day of infamy”–that’s how Roosevelt described Pearl Harbour. It’s almost sixty years later: and here we are again.’
‘You know, we had dared to think that this new millennium would be different. What happened to all the talk of a “peace dividend”, with the collapse of Communism, the Fall of the Berlin Wall, and the West victorious; even, it was said, the “end of history”?’
The younger man smiled, and said: ‘Francis Fukuyama, who coined that phrase a decade ago, may well live to regret it. I rather prefer the Chinese saying: “Better to be a dog in times of tranquillity than a human in times of chaos.” My fear is that the relative tranquillity of the last ten years is over now.’
‘Well, I fervently hope that as far as Templeton with Morrington with Llanfihangel Gilfach are concerned, the reverse is true, and the times of chaos have now passed. I must confess to being relieved now we’ve finally met. You’re not quite what I was expecting. Don’t take this the wrong way, my boy - but I’m glad my worst fears don’t appear to have been realised. More tea?’
‘No, thank you. I’m delighted to have confounded your expectations, Vernon; and I hope I won’t give you cause to re-evaluate them again. So what do you think the greatest challenge will be for me, as the newly-arrived incumbent, in these three parishes?’
‘The countryside is going through a terrible time of it right now, Georgios. This Foot and Mouth disease: I’ve never witnessed anything like it. It’s been far worse than the 1967 outbreak. Rural footpaths closed for months, millions of cattle slaughtered, livelihoods ruined. The crisis seems to be easing, at last, but you’ll still get your fair share of suicidal farmers to deal with, I’m sure. And then, of course, there’s the particular challenge of ministering to a parish that is still grieving the loss of a beloved priest.’ The Rural Dean put down his teacup, and folded his hands together, as if in an attitude of prayer, and rested his lips on them in contemplation. After a few moments, he lowered them, and said simply: ‘Know thy enemy, Georgios - that’s the simplest advice I can give, and a reminder of the greatest challenge you will face. I’m afraid you will find a veritable spider’s web of intrigue in the Templeton group. Remember, many of the individuals you’ll be dealing with belong to families that have been around in these parts for generations. We may just have passed into the 21st century - but you’re going to be ministering in a part of the world that barely feels as if it’s left the Victorian Age behind.’
‘Yes, Benedict said much the same when I saw him on Monday.’
‘Ah, you’ve already met your curate, then. What did you make of him?’
There was something about the way that Canon Harris posed that question that put Georgios on his guard. He’s clearly fishing, a bit too obviously: a fairly anodyne response is required, I think. ‘Pleasant enough. Liturgically, he’s clearly “higher up the candle” than myself: but theologically, I think we’re close enough. I’ll certainly appreciate his support. There are two Lay Readers within the ministry team I gather, yes?’
Vernon Harris nodded. ‘Jack Copeland - who I’m sure you’ll get along with - and Harry Barrington-Smythe.’ He paused. ‘You will undoubtedly find him more tricky.’
‘I’ve spoken to him on the telephone. Long enough to realise he’ll be difficult.’
‘Hmm. Well, both of the Readers are based in Morrington, though available for deployment across the group. Which is more than we can say for Fr Benedict.’
‘I’m afraid quite a number of the parishioners of Morrington and Gilfach objected to the Bishop giving a licence to Benedict Wishart, when the new parish grouping was formed last year. On account of his living arrangements. St Matthew’s especially has become a bit of an evangelical hot-bed over the past decade, thanks to that idiot Huw Davies-Jones. The chief instigator of the trouble, you probably won’t be surprised to hear, was Barrington-Smythe. He threatened to resign as a Reader, and his wife as People’s Warden. The Bishop was adamant he wasn’t going to licence Fr Benedict to only part of the group - it was all or nothing. Eventually, Edgar Dyson came up with a compromise: a kind of self-denying ordinance on Benedict’s part. He’s licenced de jure to the whole group, but he only ministers de facto at Templeton. All this despite the fact, of course, that he lives in Morrington. It’s a peculiar arrangement, but it seems to work. Edgar was good like that. Pragmatic.’ Harris sighed deeply. ‘I will never understand what possessed him to take his own life. I’ve lost a reliable colleague; and a good friend.’
‘I know I’ll certainly have some big shoes to fill. After all, he was in the parish quite a bit longer than any of his predecessors in living memory - including our Bishop. I must say,’ said Georgios, carefully, ‘I was surprised to see the name Mervyn Mortlake on the Roll of Vicars. Given he never mentioned it to me at my interview.’
If Georgios was looking for a veiled reaction from the Rural Dean, he received none. ‘That is surprising. Perhaps it slipped his mind - no, that’s nonsense. Nothing much slips Bishop Mervyn’s mind. I’ve no idea as to why he would have neglected to mention that little detail. Still, he most certainly has other things to contemplate at present.’
‘So the Sacred Synod is going ahead on Friday?’ queried Georgios.
‘Hmm, I did wonder if they might postpone it. But no: full steam ahead. And the Diocesan Conference will proceed as planned on Saturday, too. You don’t need to attend, Georgios, in case you were wondering - make the most of not yet belonging to the Diocese, officially speaking!’ The Rural Dean chuckled. ‘I think it could be a contentious gathering. I’ve heard rumours that the Bishop is going to use his presidential address to unveil a Diocesan Review. Structures, deployments, maybe even church closures - that kind of thing. The Archdeacon has denied it most vehemently: which almost certainly means it’s true.’
‘Church closures? Will that affect us in the Deanery?’
‘Given the glacial speed at which the Church of Wales moves, I doubt it. Quite a few of the smaller churches in the Deanery really are overdue for closure, mind. Llanfihangel Gilfach, with you, for example. As you’ll soon discover, a congregation of four people and a sheepdog isn’t particularly inspiring.’
‘Ah, but isn't that one of the famed Llanfihangel churches,’ countered Georgios, ‘that must be kept open at all costs?’
‘You mean the Darkwoode legend?’ Vernon Harris frowned. ‘Who’s been filling your head with that nonsense? Bernard Meeks? He loves to spin yarns, that old rascal. Oh - that reminds me - do please be aware there’s ill-feeling between Delilah Meeks, Bernard’s wife, and Belinda Buxton, the People’s Warden in Templeton. She’s a formidable woman, Belinda. Be very careful to keep on the right side of her, as best you can. She’s not very happy with me, I’m afraid, right now. Blames me, I think, for the fact your induction service will be held in Morrington, not Templeton. But that’s entirely down to the Bishop - nothing to do with me.’
There was a knock on the door, and Mrs Mary Harris - short, mousy and demure - appeared in the doorway.
‘I’m so sorry to interrupt,’ she began, ‘but I do think we need to be getting ready for the Farmers’ Club Dinner, darling.’
‘Oh, goodness me, is that the time?’ exclaimed Harris. He jumped up, agitated. ‘I’m most dreadfully sorry, Georgios - but I think we’re going to have to cut short our discussion. Is there anything else you need to know urgently?’
The reason my predecessor killed himself, thought Georgios. There’s some real, dark mystery underlying that, I’m certain of it; and that’s what I really want - no, need - to discover.
‘Nothing comes to mind,’ he lied. ‘I’ll call you if I think of anything. I hope the Conference goes well on Saturday - do let me know if the Bishop decides to make all three of my churches redundant!’ Despite Julie Johnson’s warning, Georgios had found himself warming to the slightly crusty but nevertheless well-meaning Rural Dean.
Harris chuckled. ‘Will do, my boy.’
Georgios turned to Mrs Harris, still hovering anxiously in the doorway of Vernon’s study. ‘Thank you for your hospitality, Mrs Harris. I hope you have a pleasant evening at the Farmers’ Club Dinner.’ He shook her hand.
‘Well, we’re just pleased there’s a Dinner at all, after this terrible year,’ she replied sadly. ‘The Foot and Mouth epidemic has been absolutely devastating. Those poor farmers! Still, there have only been a few outbreaks reported this month so far - and none at all in Wales. Let us hope it’s almost over.’
‘Yes, indeed,’ said Georgios gravely. He picked up his diary, and held out his hand to the Rural Dean of Templeton. ‘See you next week - Monday, didn’t we say? - to discuss the induction service. With the Archdeacon.’
‘Yes. All the best with the rest of the unpacking. It’s good to have you in our midst, my boy. Very good indeed.’
IX: September 13th (St Cyprian, Bishop, Doctor & Martyr)
Not for the first time, Councillor Donald Motte wondered if he had made a serious mistake in joining the Temple and Morrington Town Council. Yet he still optimistically believed that he had stood for election in 1999 out of an earnest desire to improve the lot and well-being of the people of Templeton. He had no tribal loyalty to a political party, and had stood as an Independent candidate - a true independent, not like most of his fellow councillors, who pusillanimously hid behind that banner of convenience rather than present themselves with honesty as the Conservatives they really were.
Motte looked around the room at the faces about him: the rogues, the chancers and the time-wasters sat there alongside the vainglorious, the self-important and the power-hungry. There were a few whom he believed to be genuinely motivated by a desire for public service - ones who had not become as jaded as he had, in a surprisingly short stretch of time. But only a few.
The current Mayor of Templeton, sat at the head of the long polished council table, was Cllr Keith Lewis. Lewis was a wily, ambitious politician; a smooth operator who was now serving his fourth stint as Mayor. He was a relative newcomer to Templeton, having moved to the town from South Wales some twenty years or so ago. A former County Councillor, he had narrowly lost that contest two years ago to one of his local rivals, Raymond Liddle. Lewis stood out from the other councillors in a number of ways. Firstly, he was a member of the Liberal Democratic Party. Liberalism wasn’t quite as strong in this part of mid-Wales as it had been half a century ago, but it still had a greater local following than the Labour Party. Secondly, Lewis was a faithful member of All Saints, Templeton, where his daughter Antonia also sang in the choir. Thirdly, he was married to a beautiful Spanish lady named Gabriela. Her exotic, dusky features were particularly notable in a remote Welsh town that was not renowned for ethnic diversity. Lastly, he was a proud Welsh language speaker: again, rather unusual for an Anglo-Welsh border settlement. All in all, Keith Lewis offered a marked contrast to his fellow councillors; and consequently was viewed with great suspicion by most of them. Motte didn’t trust him one little bit.
Immediately to Lewis’ left sat the Deputy Mayor, Cllr Terry Uckbridge. Uckbridge was one of the few unqualified ‘good guys’ on the Council, in Donald Motte’s book. Like Motte himself, he was Templeton ‘born and bred’, and his great love for the town and its people was without question. Self-effacing, with a self-deprecating sense of humour, he was a quiet but attentive man. He was also a lifelong member of the Labour Party. Strangely, whilst the local membership of the party, never great, had waned over the past two decades - failing to revive even during these recent years of good fortune for the national party, with Blair’s landslide victories in 1997 and now just a few months ago - Uckbridge’s personal popularity had seemed to flourish. He was now the third-longest serving member of the Council, but all attempts to persuade him to stand as Mayor had been in vain; he would simply shake his head, and say: ‘No, that’s not for me.’ Rather like one time Labour leader Hugh Gaitskell - often lauded as ‘one of the best Prime Ministers we never had’ - there were many in Templeton who pondered, wistfully, how things might be different with a man of such clear integrity and humanity as their Mayor. His trenchant atheism also meant that his one significant opponent on the Council was the current Mayor. Their uneasy personal relationship made for a somewhat difficult professional one.
Next to Uckbridge sat Cllr Grant Halliday, the local Funeral Director. A morose man who rarely smiled, he was certainly perfectly suited to his chosen vocation. It was a fairly open secret that he was a member of the local Masonic Lodge; less well-known was the fact that he was the Lodge’s current Master. His son Elliott was one of the boys who had found the unfortunate Sarah Dyson last Halloween besides her deceased husband in Templeton churchyard. By all accounts the boy had been badly shaken by the experience: surprisingly so, thought Motte, given the nature of his father’s profession. Still, not necessarily the case of ‘like father, like son.’
The next two seats around the table were vacant. One of them belonged to Wilfrid Sowerby, a local farmer who was barely literate, barely intelligible on the rare occasions he spoke in council meetings, and, in truth, barely ever present through the autumn months. Chances are he’ll reappear come the November meeting, once harvest-tide was finally past. Not that we’ll notice the difference. The other belonged to Cllr Byron Prothero, the town’s dentist, who was currently laid up in Templeton Hospital with a fractured pelvis, and who had already tendered his apologies. It was a great shame. Other than Terry Uckbridge, Prothero was the only one of his fellows that Motte really rated. He had only once served as Mayor - ‘never again’ was his repeated mantra. Not words one will ever hear, in that context, from the next man around the table…
This next seat was occupied by the oldest and longest-serving member of the Town Council, Cllr Joseph Jeffries, commonly known as ‘J J’ - or, less kindly, as ‘J J Magoo’, on account of his chronic shortsightedness. Cllr Jeffries had been a member of Temple and Morrington Council since its formation in 1974, and before that had been a member of its predecessor body, the Templeton Urban District Council, for twelve further years. He had served as Mayor on seven separate occasions - more than any other Councillor except his old political rival, and Templeton’s first Mayor, Kai Morgan. Kai had been Mayor a record eight times, and had died just six weeks before the end of his final year of office, back in 1994. Jeffries was determined to serve one last year as Mayor - a complete year, unlike his old opponent - all so he could claim, with some justification, to have been ‘Templeton’s longest-serving Mayor’. Nothing would please him more than to be elected Mayor one final time next spring, as he celebrated his 40th anniversary since his first election to the former Templeton Urban District Council in 1962. Unfortunately for Jeffries, he had made many enemies on the Council over the years, all of whom were determined to thwart his most fervent desire. There were plenty in the wider community who were tired of the curmudgeonly 85-year-old fossil too, and who were equally convinced that seven years of ‘Mayor Magoo’ was more than enough.
If Jefferies represented the very worst of ‘old’ Templeton, then Motte feared the naked ambition of the woman who was in the seat to his left: the Council’s newest member, Cllr Mrs Valerie Faraday. ‘Faraday from Far Away’, as she was nicknamed, had stirred up considerable controversy in the eighteen months since she had arrived as Templeton Hotel’s latest owner. The Hotel hadn’t been a going concern since the Seventies, really: but the misfortunes of one owner after another did not give Valerie Faraday any cause for concern. As she was fond of saying to any who would listen to her, she wasn’t going to be daunted by the pygmies who had preceded her: she was going to shake up this sleepy town, and its complacent Council - just you wait and see! The moment a casual vacancy had appeared back in May, she had sensed her opportunity. This was only her fourth full council meeting, and one would think that ensuring the Hotel weathered the storm after a calamitous tourist season, thanks to Foot and Mouth, would be her greatest priority. Nevertheless, it was already clear that she was eyeing the big prize. Forget J J’s fanciful pipe-dreams: come next year, it was perfectly apparent that she was the one who intended to be chairing this Council ‘of woeful inadequacy’ (her words) as Templeton’s first ever female Mayor.
Unless, of course, the individual sitting to her left had any say in the matter. Cllr Martin Bracket, like Keith Lewis, had served four times previously as Mayor, and was second only to Joseph Jeffries in terms of year given to the Council in service. For all that, he wasn’t particularly interested in chasing the records of J J or Kai Morgan - but next year was different. 2002 would be the year of Her Majesty The Queen’s Golden Jubilee. Bracket dearly wanted to be the Mayor during that special year. He had been chairing the Council’s special Jubilee Committee for the past twelve months, and as far as he was concerned, there was no other Councillor more eminently qualified to become Mayor against the backdrop of what promised to be a year of tremendous excitement and celebration. As well - he hoped - the opportunity to meet Her Majesty herself.
The next round the table, County Cllr Raymond Liddle, was an unusual individual. Motte half-admired him for his willingness to nail his colours firmly to the mast: for Liddle was a true-blue Tory, unabashed and unrepentant. And as mad as a box of frogs. In an already crowded field, he too had declared an interest in standing for the Mayorship next year - only to have his arch-rival Keith Lewis declare that it was ‘inappropriate’ for someone to be both Mayor and County Councillor at the same time. ‘You managed to do it once yourself, didn’t you?’ Liddle had retorted.
‘Ah yes,’ Lewis had replied, sadly. ‘That is why I know it to be an ill-advised venture. I know from experience it’s all too much. I would strongly oppose anyone else attempting to do the same.’
The next seat was taken by Motte himself. Then, on his left, sat Cllr Tom Giddings. With Sowerly and Pothero, Giddings was one of three Councillors from the Morrington Ward. Giddings’ father had been the leader of the old Morrington Rural District Council, which had been united with Templeton as part of the local government reorganisation of 1974. Old Zechariah Giddings had fought tooth and nail against the changes. Better to be a big fish in a small pond, son, he would often say. Motte knew that Tom held his father in contempt. ‘I made up my mind, a long time ago, that my father was wrong,’ he had told Motte on several occasions. ‘Better still to be a big fish in a big pond.’ Tom Giddings was now the largest landowner in the district, owned the petrol station in Morrington and was a three-times former Mayor. He, like Grant Halliday, was a member of the Templeton Masonic Lodge. He was clearly ambitious, yet in a far less transparent way than the likes of Faraday, Lewis or Liddle. Motte had been in the same year at Templeton High School as Tom Giddings, and knew him better than anyone else on the Council. He had once regarded him, in their youth, as a good friend. But now Motte sensed that he was the most dangerous man around that table; and, potentially, the most ruthless.
Eleven men, good and true (well, ten men and one woman, on the rare occasions they were all present). The twelfth seat, the one on the Mayor’s right hand, was occupied by the youngest person in the room: the Town Clerk, Mandy Whitaker. She was in her late twenties, and had only been clerking the Council for the past twelve months: but despite her youth, she had proved herself competent. Clearly capable of dealing with older men, thought Donald Motte approvingly.
The public gallery had just three people present that night. As usual, there was Mrs Hilary Fossington, one of those strange creatures who took a peculiar and far from benign interest in every planning application that the Council would consider. Then there was Ernie Hutton, taking notes as usual on proceedings for the Llanmadoc Wells Courier. A former Town councillor himself (until he had some big bust-up with Kai Morgan during his final year as Mayor), now Hutton was ‘poacher-turned-gamekeeper’, political reporter rather than politician. Hutton’s editor must despair of him, so detailed and abstruse are his reports, mused Motte. I can only assume Hutton is paid by the word, and has secretly amassed a considerable fortune, which he has left in his will to the Owl Preservation Society.
The final ‘visitor’ was a surprising one. Donald Motte couldn’t recall ever having seen the Rural Dean of Templeton at a Council meeting before. It was especially odd, given that Templeton wasn’t one of his parishes. No, wait - isn’t he in charge, technically, until the new priest, Ed Dyson’s replacement, is installed or confirmed, or whatever-it-is Anglicans call it? Still doesn’t explain what he’s doing here…
The Town Mayor raised his gavel and brought it down twice, with a resounding thud. Immediately, the room fell silent - well, almost silent. Jeffries was muttering away to himself, no doubt in his increasingly distracted mind reliving some historic battle of wits with the old enemy Kai Morgan. Lewis gave him a sharp stare, and looked as if he was about to say something withering, but then evidently thought better of it. Instead he cleared his throat self-importantly, before continuing:
‘Before we begin tonight’s meeting, I thought that given the appalling events in New York and Washington two days ago, we should observe a minute’s silence. We are the democratically-elected representatives of the people of Templeton and Morrington, and it’s only right we should take a moment to reflect on the terrible threat to democracy the world over that these atrocities represent. As you know, All Saints Church in Templeton - your pardon, Cllr Giddings, St Matthew’s Church in Morrington, and St Michael’s Gilfach too - those three churches are about to welcome the new Archbishop of Wales, to lead an induction service for their new Vicar.’ (Ah, thought Motte, that’s it. Vicars get induced.) ‘Canon Vernon Harris, however, has cared for the parishes very ably over the past almost twelve months, and provided considerable guidance, I must say, to our whole community - a community that was deeply shocked by the manner of the former Vicar’s death, and has additionally struggled, as all in our countryside have struggled, with the scourge of disease this year. I have invited him to be with us tonight, both as a courtesy, but also at a time of global uncertainty, asking to lead us in the act of silence, and then to end with a short prayer.’
There was surprised murmuring from several councillors; then Cllr Faraday raised her hand, and said: ‘Point of order, Mr Mayor: if I may speak, this is most irregular. The standing orders for a Council meeting are quite clear…’
‘And do not apply, Councillor,’ replied Lewis testily. ‘As the Town Council meeting has not, as yet, commenced.’
‘Hear, hear,’ said Cllr Bracket, glaring at Valarie Faraday as he did so. ‘These are extraordinary times, and I for one think the Mayor has acted quite appropriately.’
Canon Harris stood up and raised his hand, and the room fell silent. He noted Ernie Hutton, scribbling away furiously in the corner, and smiled: Doubtless the editor of the Courier will receive a particularly vivid account of this month’s Temple and Morrington Council Meeting.
‘My friends, members of Council,’ he began courteously, ‘I really wouldn’t want my presence here in any way to be a distraction, or a cause for dissension. I’m sure we all agree there is far too much of that in the world as it is. If any Councillor truly feels that the Mayor has acted inappropriately, then I will, of course, withdraw. My presence here is merely a community gesture, nothing more. In no way am I expecting the Council to take a religious stance. Isn’t that so, Keith–um, Cllr Lewis?’
You’re a cunning one, thought Motte. You’d make a good politician.
‘Quite so,’ replied the Mayor - feeling as if, somehow, the Rural Dean’s comments had slightly upstaged him. ‘Does anyone have an objection?’
Silence. Cllr Faraday sat very still, her lips pursed in disapproval, but said nothing. Cllr Uckbridge suppressed a smile, covering his mouth discreetly with his hand. Ernie Hutton stopped writing for a moment and lowered his notepad. The only noise was a sudden sharp whine from Cllr Jefferies’ hearing aid. ‘Confounded thing,’ he muttered, as he took it out and started fiddling with it.
‘Very well,’ said Lewis. He nodded at the Rural Dean. ‘Over to you Canon Harris.’
‘Thank you.’ The priest clasped his hands together, in a gesture of prayer. ‘Shall we all stand?’
X: September 14th (Holy Cross Day)
NOT SO SACRED SYNOD CONFIRMS NEW ARCHBISHOP
There was consternation and controversy today at the meeting of the Sacred Synod of the Church of Wales in the parish church of Llanmadoc Wells, mid-Wales. Ever since the disestablishment of the Church of Wales by William Gladstone in 1873, this modest-sized church - the nearest to the geographical centre-point of the Principality - has been where the House of Bishops of the Church of Wales has met whenever required to confirm the appointment of a new Archbishop.
The election itself takes place some weeks before, at a meeting of the Electoral Conclave, a representative body of lay people, clergy and bishops who take counsel together in closed session. The deliberations of the Conclave are conducted under oaths of strict secrecy, with no publicly-announced candidates for the archiepiscopacy (though from time to time rumours about the ‘runners and riders’ at a particular Conclave meeting may leak). Certainly this was the case at this year’s Electoral Conclave, which met in July following the tragic death of the last Archbishop, the Most Revd Geraint Morgan, in a car accident. It is rumoured that the eventual appointee of the Conclave, Bishop Mervyn Mortlake, the Bishop of Pengwen, was a ‘compromise candidate’ between representatives of the evangelical and traditionalist wings of the Church, Bishop Rhydian Howells, the Bishop of Llandewi, and Bishop Connor Jennings, the Bishop of Casnewydd.
Under the Constitution of the Church of Wales, the Sacred Synod serves merely to confirm the result of the Electoral Conclave, and has no power in and of itself to change the result. However, today’s meeting of the Synod was remarkable for two reasons. The first was the absence of the Right Revd Bryson Maxwell-Lewis, the Bishop of Abertawe, who is known to be suffering from cancer (Bishop Maxwell-Lewis’ retirement comes into effect at the end of September, leaving a second vacancy in the House of Bishops, additional to the late Archbishop Gerraint’s episcopal see of Segontium). The second reason was the extraordinary decision of Bishop Howells to denounce the outcome of the Electoral Conclave. In his address before the astonished Synod, Bishop Howells made veiled references to undue influence being placed on some of the electors, and suggested that the appointment of Bishop Mortlake had been ‘preordained by a poisonous cabal within the highest echelons of the Church of Wales.’ Bishop Howells then left the Church, refusing to make any further comment to the gathered media representatives. The confirmation of the Electoral Conclave’s decision was made in the customary manner, and the Most Revd Mervyn Mortlake was declared Archbishop of Wales, the 13th prelate to hold that office since disestablishment in 1873.
Shortly thereafter, the Secretary-General of the Church of Wales, Sir Donald Brodie, issued the following brief statement:
‘The Bishops of Caerdydd, Casnewydd and Wrecsam unequivocally today affirmed the decision of the Electoral Conclave of the Church of Wales, announced on July 25th of this year, the Feast of St James the Apostle, that the Right Revd Mervyn Mortlake, Bishop of Pengwen, should serve as the next Archbishop of Wales. I have spoken by telephone just a few minutes ago to the Bishop of Abertawe, who was prevented by ill-health from being at today’s Synod in person, and he has confirmed his support for the decision of the Conclave. We send him our thoughts and prayers at this challenging time for him. On behalf of the Church of Wales, as its Secretary-General, I must condemn the behaviour of Bishop Rhydian Howells in the strongest possible terms. Once the enthronement of the Archbishop has taken place, the House of Bishops will consider whether a Disciplinary Tribunal should be summoned to investigate Bishop Howells’ actions today. Archbishop Mortlake has a busy weekend, with a pre-arranged meeting of the Pengwen Diocesan Conference tomorrow, and a full schedule of services the Sunday thereafter. Consequently, he will not be giving any interviews at this time.’
It has been speculated that Bishop Howells comments today were motivated by disappointment at the outcome of the Conclave, given the reports that he himself was a strong contender for the post of Archbishop himself. We have been unable to contact him for any further comment. Thus ends an extraordinary day in the history of the Church of Wales.
BBC WALES NEWS - SPECIAL REPORT
Archbishop Mervyn Mortlake did not look like a man revelling in success. His clerical shirt was unbuttoned, and his pectoral cross had been tossed carelessly upon his desk. His face was almost as purple as his shirt, and his eyebrows stood out fiercely, as if possessing a pugnacious life of their own. There was no subtlety in the tone of his voice as he spoke into the telephone; only undisguised contempt and unbridled menace.
‘Let me make myself abundantly clear, Rhydian. Tomorrow morning, by ten o’clock at the latest, you will issue the statement - word for word - that was emailed to you earlier this evening. That statement contains a full retraction and apology for your despicable comments in Llanmadoc Wells today. It also contains your admission that you have struggled with various mental health issues, alcoholism and family problems, all of which have caused you considerable stress. It contains a declaration of your willingness to take an immediate and indefinite leave of absence from your Diocesan duties, while you seek medical help and counselling for your various afflictions. The administrative duties, at least, will be exercised in your absence by Archdeacon Denise. She will, of course, thereby offer an exemplary example of why women in senior positions of leadership should be applauded, not denigrated - a fitting testimony to my late predecessor’s views on women bishops, in preparation for our meeting of the Provincial Synod in November. We might as well try and salvage something useful from this shitshow. In return for your cooperation, I will see to it that the House of Bishops drops the threat of a Disciplinary Tribunal. So - is all that agreed?’
Mervyn paused for a moment, listening to the pleading voice from the other end. After just a few seconds, he cut the hapless Rhydian Howells short.
‘Clearly, I need to explain all this more succinctly. You will do as you’re fucking well told - I don’t care if your wife objects to the reference to ‘family problems’ - because if you don’t release that statement, exactly as written, you will soon have some pretty damned enormous family problems to contend with. The kind that I would expect to follow on, directly in consequence of certain photographs appearing in the gutter press. Photographs showing you in a variety of compromising positions with - what was her name? - ah, yes. Miss Mandy Whitaker. I commend your athleticism. Not at all bad for a man in his late fifties. But I don’t think dear Angela is likely to see it like that, is she? Dear me, no. Nor your Diocese. Nor your precious Welsh Evangelical Alliance. So think it over, Rhydian. Very carefully indeed. Oh - blessings of this Holy Cross Day to you.’
Mervyn slammed the phone down. ‘What a grade-A arsehole,’ he growled. ‘Holy Cross Day - You’ve ended up crucifying yourself today, you twat. How appropriate!’ Still - as he had intimated to his fellow-bishop - maybe some things could be retrieved from this bloody awful day.
He drained his wine glass, and almost poured himself another, but then restrained himself. He needed to remain sober whilst he reread his presidential address for tomorrow’s conference. There might be some alterations he needed to make in the light of today’s events. He’d already made several changes in the past couple of days as a result of the earth-shattering events in America that week. He rubbed his eyes and sighed. Was it all worth it?
Nonsense. This was destiny: destiny and revenge. Both writ large more than thirty years ago as a direct result of what had happened whilst he had been Vicar of Templeton.
This business with Rhydian was a minor irritation, no more. Like a fart in a wind, it would soon pass.
He looked down at his script, and read the page before him carefully once more.
The Church has traditionally seen itself as a guiding light in times of darkness, and a strong, steadying anchor when people feel themselves assailed by the storms of life. And yet - is it really true that people turn to us in times of need, in the way they once did?
This spring and summer our British countryside has faced one of the greatest calamities it has faced in decades. Foot and Mouth disease has devastated our farms, and has led to the closing down of much of our countryside, and the slaughter of millions of livestock. Yet did we see, in our country parishes, a swelling in our congregations? Did our farmers turn to God in prayer en masse? They required all those visiting them to bathe their boots in specially treated troughs of water placed at the entrance to their farms; but did they themselves feel compelled to turn to God, to ask him to wash away their sins? ‘Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.’ Thus says the psalmist. But did we witness those words in action, across our Diocese, in this time of crisis for our countryside? No, we did not. And - judging by the conversations I had with my brother bishops across Wales, and across the border in England - neither did they. Now that the pestilence has almost passed, one would imagine that all those who live and work in the countryside would turn to God with thankful hearts. Well, we wait to see - with baited breath - whether or not our harvest services in the next few weeks will be better supported this year, or not.
From the countryside, to the city. The terrible events we have witnessed in Manhattan this past week - they have shaken us to the very core of our being. How does one respond to unreasoning hate? In many places, of course, people have turned to the Church. They have come to light candles, to bring flowers, to fill books of condolence, to offer prayers. All very moving, I’m sure. But how long before these impulses have passed? How long before the customary rhythm of life returns? Will the tumultuous events in the United States this past week bring people back to the Church in any lasting, meaningful way? Be honest with yourselves, my friends. You all know that the answer is: No.
The challenges we face in the Church today will not be resolved by some unlooked for revival, in consequence of some calamity, like the Foot and Mouth crisis, or this event that already people are referring to simply as ‘9/11’. We have to be pragmatic. We need to wisely steward our resources. We cannot overextend ourselves on an ill-thought-out mission today that yields little result, when we need to be mindful of the need for us to facilitate the ‘missio Dei’ tomorrow. We cannot exhaust our resources now. And that will involve a realistic rationalisation of both our clerical deployment, and our historic plant - our church buildings.
That is why we need this Comprehensive Review that I have announced. Chaired by Archdeacon Graeham, it will leave no stone unturned. It will report back to me on October 18th - the Feast of St Luke the Evangelist - in a little less than five weeks time. Why the urgency, you ask? Because urgency is required. Like the watchman in Ezekiel, we cannot be complacent. Will some churches close? Yes. Will others be renewed? Undoubtedly so. Will we emerge from this Review leaner? Without a doubt. But stronger, too.
I hope that my brother bishops will follow my example in ordering similar reviews within their Dioceses…
Mervyn paused. He knew, already, what Rhydian would do. He had no choice. This was the point where a new paragraph would be needed, to reflect the extraordinary events at the Sacred Synod, and the statement from the Bishop of Llandewi that would follow tomorrow morning. Mervyn picked up his fountain pen, and wrote at the bottom of the page:
In particular, I am delighted that Archdeacon Denise has already agreed to implement a much-needed Review in the Diocese of Llandewi where, I regret to say, Bishop Rhydian has been very slow indeed to institute necessary reforms during his episcopacy. Of course, it goes without saying that we wish Bishop Rhydian well during his leave of absence, which he announced earlier today, and we hope he receives all the help he needs whilst he recuperates.
Mervyn put down his pen, and smiled.
There. That will leave them in no doubt whatsoever who is in charge. The only person left with sufficient respect across the Church of Wales, and with the moral stature to stand in my way, is Bryson. But his retirement is imminent; and, in any case, he’s not long for this world now. Fuck you, Rhydian Howells - you’ve well and truly shot your bolt. And when I’m quite ready - then and only then - you and Miss Mandy will still get your fifteen minutes of fame. Alas - I think the fallout from that will last for rather longer. Shame.
XI: September 15th
Georgios had spent the morning reading through the large file that Belinda Buxton had deposited on his doorstep the previous day. It contained the past five years worth of minutes of meetings of Templeton Parochial Church Council, together with statements of account, and other miscellaneous reports. It was all very depressing stuff. Even from a cursory reading it was clear that the PCC was faction-riven and quarrelsome. Edgar Dyson had clearly had his work cut getting them to agree on anything. The amalgamation of the parish with Morrington and Llanfihangel Gilfach had been especially bitterly opposed, it would seem. As for the parish’s finances: they were dire. The Diocesan Assessment had not been met during four of the five past years: the arrears had doubled in the last twelve months alone.
Georgios sighed. Brooding about the challenges facing him would achieve nothing. He looked out of the window. It was a bright sunny day, and the distant hills looked inviting. A walk would lift his spirits, and he knew that the public footpaths, closed for much of the year due to Foot and Mouth, were open once more. At least he had completed his unpacking, more or less. There was one box he hadn’t opened yet. It contained a miscellany of items associated with Caroline; books, photographs, a few letters, and a painting of him that she had presented on his last birthday. He had been deeply moved at the time: she wasn’t a bad amateur artist. But right now, he couldn’t bear to think about it, or any of the other objects within the box. He would put it into the attic, later. But first: that walk…
With the help of an OS map, Georgios had found the quickest route to the footpath that ran alongside the local remains of Offa’s Dyke. Although not as well-preserved as some of the sections of the Dyke to the north and south, the stretch near Templeton was impressive enough. He had been walking for about an hour when he came to a viewpoint that offered a spectacular prospect of the town below, nestled between three hills in the valley of the river Lud. Situated on one of the two high points of the town - the other occupied by the sparse remains of the 12th century Norman motte and bailey castle - the church of All Saints stood out, tall and proud compared to all around it. Its Decorated Gothic style - only minimally altered by the Victorians, thankfully - made it a jewel of the county. Even the great architectural historian Pevsner was impressed by it (even if he was a little sniffy about the Douglas frescoes).
There was a helpfully placed bench at the viewpoint, and Georgios sat down, pulling a Thermos flask of coffee from his rucksack. As he took in the panorama, he quite forgot the quiet despair of the morning.
‘It’s a breathtaking s-sight, isn't it?’
Georgios turned his head, and looked towards where the voice had come from. A dumpy man, wrapped up with a heavy overcoat, mittens and a long scarf wound several times around his neck, was standing about twenty feet away, on the rise. It wasn’t an especially cold day, and the man looked ridiculously overdressed.
‘Yes, it is,’ said the priest. ‘It makes me really appreciate that this will be a spectacular part of the world in which to live.’
The other man ambled down the slope towards him, grinning as he came. ‘Too right. Though behind the b-beauty, there’s plenty of devilry afoot. Like Christian divined in Pilgrim’s Progress: Then I saw that there was a way to hell, even from the gates of heaven. You’re newly arrived here, then?’ He held out his hand. ‘The name’s Bennett. Alexander B-Bennett.’
How unfortunate to have a stammer that prevents you from saying your own name without difficulty, thought Georgios. He shook the newcomer’s hand. ‘My name is Georgios Anagnosides.’
Bennett’s eyes widened with recognition. ‘The new m-minister at Templeton Church? Praise God!’
‘That’s right. And for Morrington and Llanfihangel Gilfach too.’
‘I’m the pastor at Overhill Baptist Chapel. It’s just a small place, Overhill - halfway between Templeton and Cwmpentre.’
Ah, a pastor: that explains the Bunyan quote. Georgios had noticed the chapel as he had driven through Overhill the previous Sunday on his way to St David’s. He nodded.
‘Yes, I passed that way recently. It’s good to meet you.’
‘We need a m-man of faith and courage, at All Saints, let me tell you. How I’ve prayed for it,’ said the pastor fervently. ‘Fifteen years I’ve laboured here, amongst the godless. This is where the Darkwoode lies, close by: here in the hills of the Marches. And you and I b-both know that the high places were where the false gods were worshipped in Biblical days. By the likes of the apostate King Ahaz. And he sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places, and on the hills, and under every green tree: 2 Kings chapter 16, verse 4.’
Georgios smiled politely, but said nothing.
‘These are the Last Days, d-don’t you agree?’ persisted Pastor Bennett. ‘The events this week in America confirm it.’
Georgios shook his head. He didn’t really want to offend the pastor or get into an argument, but–
‘No,’ he said quietly but firmly. ‘I don’t believe that at all. I’m sorry, Pastor Bennett, but I have to disagree with you most decidedly on that matter.’
‘But the Book of Revelation says–’
‘Many things that had been misunderstood, misinterpreted and misapplied,’ interrupted Georgios: ‘Indeed, so much so that I sometimes think it would have been better if it had never been accepted in the canon of Scripture in the first place. Which it very nearly wasn’t.’
Alexander Bennett looked shocked. After a moment’s silence, he said: ‘I see my faith is being s-sorely tested once again. Get behind me, Satan!’ With a curt nod, he turned his back on the priest and hurried away at surprising speed. In a trice he had disappeared from view.
The sky had darkened, and there was a rumble of thunder from afar.
Doubtless, he would think that a sign, thought Georgios ruefully. Poor deluded fool: but I really should have handled that better. Blast, this coat isn’t very waterproof. I wonder if I can make it back home before I get drenched?
XII: September 16th (Battle of Britain Sunday)
Keith Lewis adjusted his Mayoral chain of office in the mirror, and called out to his wife: ‘Qué hora es?’
A few moments later, she appeared in the mirror behind him. Resting her head on his shoulder, she placed her arms around his waist, and said: ‘Quarter past ten, darling. Has Harrisons not mended your watch yet?’
He frowned. ‘No. They say they’ve hard difficulty getting the parts. It is an antique piece, admitted. Perhaps I should have taken it into Llanmadoc, but honestly, I’ve had no time this past week! Clive has assured me that he’ll have parts in on–’
‘Let me guess. On Monday?’
Lewis groaned, and rolled his eyes. It was a local joke that whenever Clive Harrison, who ran the town’s ironmongers and general supplies store, had difficulty getting hold of something, his standard response would be: I’ll have it in for you next Monday.
‘You really should have a spare watch,’ chided Gabriela. ‘Would you like to borrow mine?’
‘No, no, thank you,’ Lewis replied, as he combed his hair. ‘It would look a bit too gaudy on my wrist.’
‘Gaudy? What is “gaudy”?’
‘Hmm.’ Even after thirty-three years of living in Britain, Gabriela’s English still had some surprising gaps. ‘Showy, flamboyant, too bright and sparkly.’
‘Llamativo. Bah.’ She turned him round, and kissed him on the forehead. ‘You are so grosero. Remind me again why I married you.’
Before he could reply, their daughter Antonia appeared in the doorway. The Church Choir would have to manage without her morning. Instead, she was wearing her Band uniform, and holding her trumpet case. ‘Shouldn’t you have left by now, dad?’ she said.
And shouldn’t you have moved out of home by now? thought Lewis. He looked at Antonia crossly, but decided to ignore her comment. ‘Your jacket looks a bit creased,’ he noted. ‘Do you want a lift? It’ll be heavy carrying that trumpet all the way to the Hall.’
She shook her head. ‘No, it’s fine. I’ll make my own way there.’ She opened the front door, then turned back, looked down at her father, and said: ‘Never mind my jacket. Your fly’s undone. Bye, mum.’
Harry Barrington-Smythe stood impatiently by the war memorial, opposite the Templeton Hotel, as the various parties milled around. This was the first time he’d been asked to lead the Battle of Britain Service, and he didn’t want to make any mistakes. He himself had only been called up in 1946, after the main conflicts in Europe and East Asia had ended, but he was still nevertheless a proud bearer of the General Service Medal awarded for his service in Palestine. He had pinned it very carefully to his Lay Reader’s preaching scarf earlier that morning. Now he was watching the young (and, to his mind, insufficiently well-disciplined) Air Cadets lining up, next to the members of the local branch of the Royal Air Force Association. As he did so, he remembered the telephone conversation he had had with the Rural Dean three weeks before…
‘I’m trying to finalise the rota for September, Harry. As usual, there have been a few difficulties. The main one is with regard to All Saints, on September 16th. It’s Battle of Britain Sunday, and I gather they make a big thing of it in Templeton: almost as much as Remembrance Sunday. They have a local RAFA branch, apparently; then there’s the Air Cadets; the British Legion turns out too, as does the Town Silver Band, the Town Council, the Town Cryer: the whole works. Anyway, I can’t take the service myself - I have commitments in my own parishes that day. Meanwhile, Jack Copeland is already down to lead both the Morrington and Gilfach services. Would you be free?’
‘What about Reverend Wishart?’ said Barrington-Smythe tartly.
‘I’m afraid Fr Benedict refuses to conduct any service with - as he calls it - “militaristic overstones.”’ Barrington-Smythe could practically feel Canon Harris squirming with embarrassment at the other end of the phone.
Of course, Barrington-Smythe had said: Yes. Anything that made him look cooperative and amenable - unlike that abomination Wishart - had to be a good thing.
But now, he was almost having second thoughts. Timing was everything with services like this: and Barrington-Smythe hated lack of organisation and unpunctuality at the best of times. He glanced at his watch again. It was fifteen minutes to eleven, the time the service was meant to start: all so as to enable the two minutes silence to be observed precisely at eleven o’clock, before the ensembled parade marched up the High Street to the Clock Tower, then down Church Street and on to All Saints for the principal service. Major Matlock, his own chest positively gleaming with medals, was now tapping his own watch impatiently, and glaring at him, as if it was his fault that they were running late. Why, the sheer nerve of it. What was the hold-up?
Flight lieutenant Dewi Wyn Hopkins (Retired) was Templeton’s Marshal of the Parade for both Battle of Britain Sunday and Remembrance Sunday. He’d only taken on responsibility for organising the Acts of Commemoration and the Parades themselves two years previously. His predecessor had organised proceedings for twenty-five years, and consequently Dewi still felt a little unsure of himself. He had liked Vicar Ed, and his relaxed yet measured manner in leading worship; but the scowling curmudgeon who was the Church’s representative at today’s proceedings was another kettle of fish altogether. He hurried over to Barrington-Smythe.
‘Sorry, sir, I think we’re ready. The Town Silver Band were still waiting for a few members to make their way down from the Hall - including the bugler who is going to play the Last Post and Reveille. But everybody’s here now.’
We won’t invite you back to the RAFA Club for drinks after the service, thought Dewi darkly.
‘Samuel Wentworth,’ called his mother from downstairs, ‘it’s almost eleven o’clock. Are you actually getting up today - or have you forgotten what day it is?’
Sam groaned, and turned over. Of course I haven’t forgotten, he thought. But if a guy can't lie in on his birthday, when can he?
‘Okay, mum,’ he yelled. ‘I’ll be down in a minute.’
Heather Wentworth shook her head in exasperation. She turned away from the bottom of the stairs, and headed back into the kitchen, where Simon Howley was finishing a cup of tea. ‘Sorry, Simon,’ she said. ‘I thought he’d be up by now - he was always up early on his birthday in past years, anxious to find out what presents he’d had.’ She looked at the crudely wrapped parcel that Simon had brought around. ‘You really don’t have a clue about wrapping things up properly, do you?’
Simon shrugged his shoulders. ‘You try packaging up a skateboard, and making it look like it’s not a skateboard. Anyway, let Sam have his lie in. He’s almost a teenager, after all. Mornings will be a thing of the past for the next few years, at least at weekends. At least they were for my sons.’ And now they’re grown up, and far far away.
‘If you say so. I never did understand boys. No brothers, my father in the grave by the time I was three, and then Sam’s father walking out before he was even one. And now he’s twelve - what hope do I have?’
‘Don’t be maudlin, lass. You have me now, after all.’
‘I know, Simon. You’ve been really good to us, truly you have. Oh, but look at the time. You’ll be late for church.’
He shook his head. ‘I’m not going this morning. It’s a later start today, but I still couldn’t get a band together. Belinda will be spitting feathers.’
Heather said: ‘But isn’t it Battle of Britain Sunday?’
‘Aye: the third Sunday of September, the Sunday on or after September 15th, marking the climax of the Battle of Britain in 1940. It was a big celebration last year, for the sixtieth anniversary. My father was one of The Few, you know. He abandoned the family farm, told my grandfather that fighting Hitler was more important. What’s the point of farming if the Nazis invade? he said. Grandad practically disowned him. He only came back after the war ended because his brother had drowned in a slurry pit accident. The younger son, the prodigal returned: only this time, no fatted calf was slaughtered for his homecoming, given that his elder brother had just died. He was the most reluctant farmer, my father.’
‘Not as reluctant as you, at least according to your brother Matt,’ laughed Heather. ‘But why aren’t you going today? The Air Force - for you father, then you - it’s been the best part of both your lives.’
Simon took her in his arms, and kissed her. ‘No, this is the best part of my life. After Felicity cleared out, taking the boys with her - I never thought I’d find happiness again. But if you want to know the real reason I’m not in All Saint’s this morning - or at the war memorial - well, I can’t face the thought of looking at all those young faces today. All those Air Cadets. Not after what happened in America on Tuesday.’
She hugged him closely, and realised to both her surprise and distress that he was trembling. ‘I know, darling,’ she said, ‘I know. You’re thinking - aren’t you - whether some of them are going to be serving in the Air Force in just a few years. Going into battle, goodness knows where.’
‘Aye,’ he said. ‘Flying sorties and combat missions somewhere in the Middle East. Who knows how this is going to play out? You heard what Bush said after the attacks: that America would make “No distinction between those who planned these acts and those who harbour them.” He’ll be gunning for the Taliban in Afghanistan, unless they hand over bin Laden: which they won’t. And what does that mean? Blood, and more blood, I should think. War without end. But that’s nothing new. And where America leads - we shall follow. Do you know how many years since 1914 there have been without the British armed forces fighting somewhere on the planet?’
‘You’ve told me that before. None.’
He nodded. ‘Not one damned year of peace, in almost a hundred years. I lost too many comrades - sailors, soldiers, airmen - in the Falklands. And for what? So that Maggie Thatcher could win two more elections, close down the pits, sell off half the country to asset strippers.’
‘England, that was wont to conquer others, hath made a shameful conquest of itself,’ Heather said bitterly. ‘That’s how Will Shakespeare put it, four hundred years ago.’
‘Spoken just like an English teacher,’ said Simon.
‘I am an English teacher.’ She glanced at the clock on the kitchen wall. ‘Look - it’s eleven o’clock.’ As she spoke, in the distance the town’s clock tower began chiming the hour.
Simon released her, and stood ramrod still. The silence was observed by him as respectfully in the Wentworth kitchen as it was by the assembled multitude gathered before the memorial in the centre of town. Only when the two minutes had passed did he look at her, and smile. ‘I will go up to the RAFA Club later, mind, for a drink: drink a toast to my Pa, and all those other magnificent men in their flying machines. Do you want to come?’
She shook her head. ‘No, best not. Not on Sam’s birthday. Oh, talking of which–’
‘Hi mum, hi Simon,’ came a sleepy voice from the doorway. ‘Isn’t someone meant to be bringing the birthday boy breakfast in bed this morning?’
Sam’s sort-of cousin, Gordon Howley, had been up for hours, ploughing in Clary Field. The winter wheat would need to be sowed soon. His father was busy checking over the gimmers and ewes in advance of Thurday’s inspection by the men from the Ministry. He wouldn’t have time to join Gordon today.
Gordon’s bright green Massey-Fergusson came to the rise at the top end of the field, near where Gospel Oak had once stood - until it had fallen during the Great Storm of 1987. Gordon lent forward and turned off the ignition, and with a judder the tractor came to a halt. It was a glorious sight, looking down across the fields of Withy Farm. From this vantage point, it was possible to see them all. Angelica Field, Five Shilling Wood, The Rough, Long Itching, Upper Tansy, Lower Tansy, Pease Close, Foxhole, Seven Pines. He remembered when his father had brought him up here, when he was just seven years old, and pointed them all out to him, naming each and every one of them, that wonderful litany of names. It had been a glorious summer’s day, he recalled, and the sun was setting, casting a regal glow across the fields as it did so. Matt Howley had placed his broad arms across his young son’s shoulders, and with great solemnity had ended his speech by saying:
‘All this will be yours one day, son. This will be my legacy to you. The greatest gift a man could bequeath to his offspring. Treasure it, Gordon. Treasure it well. And one day, you’ll stand on this spot with your son. And you’ll speak to him, much as I’ve spoken to you today. Just as my grandfather once stood here and spoke these words to me. Remember the words. Remember what it is to be a Howley, and to be a son of the soil here, in Morrington, working God’s good earth.’
Many times over the ten years since then, Gordon had come to this spot, and recollected his father’s words that day, with satisfaction and with pride. Only a few months ago, he had brought Cindy Giddings up here. The hay bails had been cut; and leaning up against one of them, with her sprawled at his feet, he had reached down and kissed her, and asked her if she would marry him.
‘We’re too young for all that, Gordie Howley,’ she had replied.
He had blushed, he remembered. ‘I don’t mean yet, Cindy. I’m off to agricultural college in a year’s time, hopefully. But we can still get engaged, can’t we? Or don’t you think your dad will approve?’
She giggled at that. ‘It’s your father who’s more likely to disapprove. You, a Howley - marrying the daughter of Tom Giddings. They’re not exactly friends, are they?’
‘It would treble the size of my family’s estate, though, wouldn’t it? Eventually, I mean.’
‘Is that why you want me?’ she chided. She pulled him down, protesting. ‘My father’s lands? And there was me thinking you were more interested in the contents of my knickers. Tell you what - ask me again, on my birthday.’
‘That’s not till next February!’
‘All good things come to those who wait,’ she teased. ‘That was true about my knickers too, after all, wasn’t it?’ And with that she had reached over, and started to unbutton his shirt…
All that seems so long ago. The happiest of interludes. But I didn’t know then what I know now.
Hadn’t the Father of Lies once stood on the pinnacle of a great mountain and shown Jesus all the kingdoms of the earth, and offered them to him - in exchange for his fealty?
Gordon looked across Clary Field, and for a moment it felt as if his heart had stopped.
There it is - again.
Pecking away, at twenty yards distance, at some delicacy that had come to the surface of the soil (having been churned up by the plough that his Massey-Fergusson had been trailing) was a solitary magpie.
‘One for sorrow,’ muttered Gordon, despairingly. He looked around, anxiously seeking for any sign of the magpie’s companion. There was none.
Not so many months ago, Gordon Howley would have scoffed at such rank country superstition. But for the seventh day running, that was what Gordon had seen. One magpie - no more, no less. Every morning since Monday. Since the day after he had made the fateful decision that now, he feared, would cost him his life.
His life: but, he prayed not–
He crossed himself fervently, and repeatedly…
XIII: September 17th
The knock on the door came whilst Georgios was deeply engrossed with the third movement of Rachmaninov’s Second Piano concerto. He jumped up, lifted the stylus-arm from the vinyl LP record, and shouted: ‘Hang on!’
A few moments later, he opened the front door, breathless. Canon Vernon Harris smiled at him quizzically, but said nothing.
‘Rachmaninov,’ said Georgios, as if that was the only explanation required. ‘I’m sorry, I was somewhat carried away for a moment. Were you knocking long? The bell doesn’t work.’
The Rural Dean shook his head. ‘No, only twice. Don’t worry, it’s quite alright, my boy. May I come in?’
Georgios bit his lip, embarrassed. ‘Of course. Shall we go to my study? The Archdeacon hasn’t arrived yet.’ He ushered his visitor into the hallway. ‘Can I take your overcoat? Oh dear - I see it’s been raining.’
‘Only a little,’ reassured Canon Harris. ‘But yes, thank you.’ He passed his coat over to Georgios. ‘I’m afraid Archdeacon Graeham won’t be joining us.’
‘Oh, that’s unfortunate. Do take a seat.’
‘Thank you. And yes: it is. But I think he’s busy firefighting. The Archbishop didn’t exactly get the warmest of receptions to his Diocesan Review proposals on Saturday.’
‘Ah. Rather like turkeys baulking at the idea of voting for Christmas, I imagine. Can I offer you some coffee?’
‘Thank you, perhaps a little later. But I’d like to chat about the induction service for a bit first, if I may. I understand from Belinda Buxton that you’re not expecting many personal guests?’
‘That’s correct. To be honest, there aren’t many from Exeter I’d like to invite; and Leicester is a fair distance away. A couple of old friends from Oxford and Cambridge days are coming, but that’s pretty much it.’
‘None of your family?’
Georgios shook his head. ‘My grandmother isn’t in the best of health, and my father and I aren’t particularly close any more. There’s no one else - apart from some relatives in Cephalonia, that is.’
The Rural Dean frowned. ‘Well, we’re going to be looking a bit light as far as ministers are concerned too. We’ve invited the local Catholic priest, Fr Liam O’Higgins, and the Methodist minister, Revd Nathaniel Gyde, to attend and offer “fraternal greetings” as part of the service. I’m not sure if either will be in evidence. We haven’t bothered with the minister of Overhill, Pastor Bennett. He’s a bit of a nutcase to be honest.’
Georgios nodded his head. There seemed little point in relaying the story of his encounter with Pastor Bennett on Saturday.
‘Then there’s the Deanery Clergy,’ continued Canon Harris. ‘They have all been invited, and should make it a priority to be present; but I’m afraid you won’t get PG there.’
’Oh, apologies. You haven’t met him yet, of course. Revd Fr Peter Geoffrey Auldcourt: ‘PG’ as he’s generally known. He’s been the Rector of the Caer-yr-adfa group for twenty-two years now, the longest serving cleric of the Deanery. He’s vehemently opposed to female priests, and he’s refused to attend any Deanery events since Julie Johnson’s appointment to Cwmpentre. Very much ‘old school’, is PG. Widowed not long after arriving in the Deanery; there were no children. He’s highly eccentric: a vegan, an anti-hunt campaigner, and a poet. 68 years old, and absolutely determined not to retire until he’s 70. He’d carry on past that point if the Church of Wales allowed it, which of course it doesn’t. I think he’s somewhat homophobic too. At least, I get the impression he doesn’t approve of Fr Wishart.’
‘He probably wouldn’t approve of me either, theologically.’
‘Very true,’ sighed Harris. ‘He’s our only fluent Welsh speaker in the Deanery Chapter. A lot of his poetry is written in Welsh. Think of him as being like RS Thomas - but with even more attitude - and you won’t be far wrong.’
‘I prefer the other poetic Thomas - Dylan - myself,’ countered Georgios. ‘Who else is in the Deanery?’
‘Well, myself. And you’ve met Fr Wishart already. The only other cleric is PG Auldcourt’s bête noire, the Revd Julie Johnson–’
‘Whom I’ve also met.’
‘Oh, really?’ Harris raised an eyebrow and smiled, a mischievous twinkle in his eye. ‘Our clerical firebrand. Smokes cigars, swears like a navvy, is more left-wing than Tony Benn. A single parent too - I don’t believe she was ever married.’ The hint of disapproval in his voice was unmistakable, and Georgios had to restrain himself from rising to the clear bait. I see your game, Vernon: and I can’t say I care for it.
But instead Georgios said: ‘What about Lay Readers in the Deanery?’
Well, there are only two - both of them in the Templeton group. We’ve already spoken about them briefly. Jack Copeland and Harry Barrington-Smythe. You’ll need to ask one or other of them to act as Archbishop’s Chaplain for the service. Of course, whichever one you don’t ask is likely to be somewhat upset - but it can’t be helped.’
‘The Archbishop’s Chaplain? Can’t that be a cleric, rather than a Reader?’
Harris grunted, and folded his arms. ‘Well, it could be - but I wouldn’t advise you to ask Benedict Wishart. That really would put the cat amongst the pigeons with the Barrington-Smythes and their allies.’
Georgios looked at the Rural Dean squarely face to face, and said coolly. ‘That’s not what I had in mind, Vernon. I’d like Julie Johnson to act as Chaplain to the Archbishop at my induction service.’
Vernon Harris stopped smiling. His eyes narrowed, and there was a definite glint of menace behind his spectacles. For a long moment he paused, as if carefully considering how to respond. ‘Well,’ he said eventually, ‘it is your choice, my boy; and there’s nothing that forbids it, strictly speaking. But I’m not at all convinced it’s a good idea.’
‘Why not? You’ve as much as said that Auldcourt is likely to boycott the induction in any case. And if I’m going to offend one Lay Reader, I might as well give them equal cause for offence.’
‘I see. Very well, I’ll let Belinda Buxton know.’
‘I’m sorry, but what concern is it to Belinda? Granted, she’s Peoples Warden at All Saints - but isn’t St Matthew’s hosting the induction? Shouldn’t you be liaising, primarily, with the Churchwardens there?’
Georgios' sudden assertiveness had clearly taken the Rural Dean by surprise. Nevertheless, he slowly nodded his head. ‘You are quite correct. I’ll make sure all parties are informed, and due weight will naturally be given to St Matthew’s as the host church. Perhaps we should have that coffee now, before we look at the order of service in detail.’
‘Of course,’ said Georgios, standing up. But Canon Harris hadn’t quite finished.
‘The late Romanticism of Rachmaninov gives its own pleasures, of course; but personally I prefer the heavier cut and thrust of Wagner myself. His operas are so full of vivid storytelling, of lust and betrayal, of love gone awry, of madness and hubris, aren’t they? Yet for all that, it’s a great pity when real life comes to resemble a Wagnerian opera.’ He smiled, but there was no mirth hidden behind eyes this time. ‘Best avoided, I think. Milk, no sugar.’
XIV: September 18th
Matt Howley looked up, and saw his wife hovering in the doorway of his office. Oh Christ, he thought. I told her I’d only be another half hour.
‘Sorry, love, I know I promised to come and watch that James Bond film on the television; but I just have to get this paperwork in order before the inspectors arrive on Thursday. These new regulations that they’ve introduced across the board, for all livestock, since the Foot and Mouth outbreak - it’s been a nightmare.’
Susan crossed the room and evicted their black cat, Mintie, from her favourite armchair. She lowered herself into it, as Matt continued his complaint. ‘You know, it’s at times like this I really wish Simon was still here on the farm. It’s far too much for one man to handle.’
‘One man?’ said Susan. ‘What about Gordon?’
‘He’s still a boy. And anyways, we’re going to lose him for a while next year if he goes off to agricultural college.’
‘Actually, Matt, it’s Gordon I want to talk to you about.’ She sat forward in her armchair, and clasped her hands nervously together. ‘I’m worried about him. Really worried.’
‘Sue, we’ve gone through this before - it’s just a phase. Life’s full of worries when you’re his age.’
‘Matt, stop it! You know there’s more going on with him than the usual teenage angst. He’s not eating properly, he hides away in his room when he’s not out doing his farm chores, he won’t talk to us properly–’
‘You’ve just described any teenage boy - not just our son.’
She shook her head vigorously. ‘Does a normal teenage son put up crosses in his bedroom, and does he stick photographs and paintings of Jesus, Mary and the saints that he’s cut out of books and magazines onto the walls? Does he lug the great big Family Bible upstairs? Does he get all jittery and jumpy in the evening, and refuse to go to bed without a light on - despite having never been bothered by the dark since he was an infant? Does any of that sound like normal behaviour to you?’
‘No,’ said Matt quietly. ‘I guess not.’
‘I think you should ring the new Vicar, and ask him to call round, urgently.’
Matt was astonished by her suggestion. ‘I can’t do that! The Rural Dean has drummed it into all the churchwardens that we are to leave Revd Anagnosides well alone until after the induction. He’s not our Vicar yet. Canon Harris has already had words with a number of people that he knows have bothered him - like Belinda Buxton and Harry Barrington-Smythe.’ He hesitated, then said: ‘All the churchwardens are supposed to be meeting with Canon Harris on Thursday evening down at St Matthew’s, for one final run through. Belinda will try to dominate proceedings, as usual. But I could always have a quiet word with him after we’ve finished our business.’
‘No, I don’t like that man, and neither does Gordon. You know our son will never confide in him. It’s got to be the new priest.’
What makes you so sure Gordon will talk to him? thought Matt. ‘Then we’ll have to wait until at least the weekend - more likely next week.’
‘I’m afraid, Matt.’ She looked down at her feet. ‘I’m afraid that if we don’t act quickly - we might lose him. That he might - do something.’
‘Don’t be stupid, woman. My son would never…’ his voice trailed off, as he contemplated the implication of her words.
‘If you don’t telephone Georgios Anagnosides tonight, then I will.’
He couldn’t remember the last time he had seen her looking so determined. ‘Okay,’ he assented. ‘I’ll call him. I’ll see if he can come tomorrow morning.’
‘No,’ he shook his head firmly. ‘It’s already dark. Meeting him can wait until the morning - if he’s free, and willing to meet, which he may not be. But I’ll ring him. Will that satisfy you?’
She jumped up from her armchair, and embraced him. ‘Yes, darling. But please do press upon him how urgent it is. And that I’m not just some neurotic mother.’
‘I will,’ he promised. ‘And then after I’ve phoned him, give me just another fifteen minutes. I’ll need to check over this final spreadsheet. Then - I’ll come through and we’ll watch some television together.’
‘The Bond movie has almost finished.’
‘Doesn’t matter. We’ve seen it before. To Morrington With Love, wasn’t it?’ It was a feeble joke, he knew - but at least it brought a smile to her face.
‘I’ll make us some cocoa. Shaken, not stirred. But first, I’ll just pop upstairs to check on him. I do love you, Matthew Howley.’
‘And I you, honeybun. It’ll all be okay - just you wait and see.’
XIV: September 19th
‘Thank you for coming around, Vicar. Ooh - I suppose I shouldn’t call you that yet.’
Georgios smiled at the anxious woman sitting opposite him in the large farmhouse kitchen. Her Rubenesque features were not unattractive; but she would look better, he thought, with her flaming red tresses hanging loose rather than being tied back as they were. She reminded him of Caroline, just a little.
‘Please, just call me Georgios. It’s quite alright.’
She carried on, almost as if she hadn’t heard him. ‘And I know we shouldn’t have called you over, just yet - it’s not the done thing, we do understand - but we just had to speak to someone. I’ve been so worried this past week.’
‘But you say your son’s not quite been himself for a few months?’
She shook her head. ‘No. Not since we found out he’d been seeing Tom Giddings’ daughter. I think that must have been July, when he told us. He’d been seeing her secretly for about six months before that, it seems. Anyway, there was the most terrible row between Gordon and Matt when we found out. There’s been bad blood between the Giddings and the Howley families, going back generations.’
Ah, from the balconies of Verona to the fields of Morrington: some stories don’t change, do they? ‘Maybe that’s why he’s been depressed. If he was close to his father, and now that relationship’s been damaged because of his choice of girlfriend…’
‘No, it’s much more serious than that. You’re right of course - he and Matt have always been close. But Cindy Giddings–’ (There was real feeling in the way she enunciated the name). She paused, and looked down at her hands, clasped together on the battered oak kitchen table. Georgios could see they were trembling slightly.
She looked up at the priest. ‘She was more than his girlfriend, Georgios. I think she was his mentor. She had a hold over him. I think she was introducing him to...’ she gulped. ‘To dark stuff. The kind of things we don’t like to speak of in this part of the world. Because it’s not just a silly superstition. It’s real.’
Georgios thought for a moment. This was unexpected: and yet, somehow, he didn’t feel surprised. ‘What signs have you seen that make you suspect that there’s an unwholesome spiritual dimension to all this?’
‘Gordon’s been reading a lot the past couple of months. Unusually so, because he’s never been a particularly studious boy. The kind of books he’s been borrowing from Templeton Library: they’re all about witchcraft, supernatural stuff. Alistair Crowley, Dennis Wheatley, even some American author, Stephen - somebody or other.’
‘Stephen King. What else?’
‘The last week or so it’s definitely become more disturbing. He’s been putting up crosses in his bedroom. Refusing to turn out the light at night. And last night, when I went up to see him, just before bedtime, he asked me…’ Her voice trembled, and she dabbed at her eye with a handkerchief. Then she looked intently at Georgios. ‘He asked me if I thought he was a bad person and if I thought he was going to go to hell.’ She turned away, and started sobbing uncontrollably.
The latch of the kitchen door was lifted, and the heavy door swung open. In the doorway stood the tall imposing figure of Matt Howley. Shit, thought Georgios. Talk about timing.
‘Vicar,’ he rumbled. ‘What have you said to her?’ He strode over to the table and put a comforting arm upon his wife’s shoulders. ‘There, there, my love,’ he said softly.
She shook her head, wiping the tears from her cheeks. ‘It’s not Georgios–Revd Anagnosides’–fault. He’s been very kind. Where’s Gordon?’
‘He went out early this morning - up to Clary Field, he said.’
‘But he only finished ploughing that the other day. Why would he have gone back there?’ She started trembling. ‘Go and fetch him, Matt. Go now!’
Gordon had left the engine of the tractor running, fascinated as he watched the magpies gathering. This time, he was relieved to see that there was more than the single solitary bird that had apparently been haunting him over the previous nine mornings. He counted them, and as he did so, he chanted the old familiar rhyme to himself:
One for sorrow,
Two for joy,
Three for a girl,
Four for a boy…
He remembered, he’d counted four magpies straight after the first time he had made love to Cindy. That had been a shock, and he had blurted out:
‘Fuck. What if the condom’s split?’
She’d giggled at that. ‘It’s okay, Casanova. I’m on the pill. Double insurance. There’ll be no boy - or girl - for you to worry your pretty head about yet.’
But there were more than four today. He continued counting.
Five for silver,
Six for gold.
He’d never ever seen more than six at one time before. He gulped.
Seven for a secret never to be told.
I’ll never tell. Never! How could I tell what I know? Who would ever believe me?
As he watched, his heart thumping, an eighth bird alighted next to the others.
Eight for heaven.
Please God, he moaned. Please, no more.
Nine for hell.
Gordon leapt up into the cab of the tractor, and swung at the wheel. He needed to get away, right now. He grinded at the gears, and with a reproachful cry of protest, the Massy Furgusson - that dependable vehicle that his dad had bought for him on his fourteenth birthday - began to turn to the left. Out of the corner of his right eye, he saw the flock of magpies had taken to the wing and were flying directly at him. Some intuition made him count them - quickly - again.
Ten for the Devil, his own self.
They were going to hit. He took his hands off the wheel, instinctively throwing them up to protect his face. His eyes. From the beating wings, sharp beaks and vicious claws; and the mocking chac-chac-chac. The tractor hit the tree stump: the last remains of the old Gospel Oak that had once stood proud at the apex of the field. It teetered for a moment, unbalanced, and then came crashing down on its side. The last piercing scream of the boy, and the last protesting whine of the tractor, cut out together.
The magpies flew off. All was silent on the pinnacle of Withy Farm.
Despite the close ties between Melvor Idle and RuneScape
Despite the close ties between Melvor Idle and RS Gold, and the involvement direct of Jagex in the writing process, the author chose to keep the game an unique IP rather than making it an professionally-run RuneScape spin-off. In component, this turned into the acclaim of the fact that Malcolm succeeded where Jagex itself failed.
"We were actually studying the possibility of creating an idle RuneScape sport some of years back with RuneScape: Idle Adventures," Pfeiffer shares. "In Alpha, we stopped the improvement of our efforts to raise awareness towards the core of RuneScape gaming video.
We have always believed in RuneScape's potential within the idle zone and Melvor Idle more than confirms that RuneScape can help to encourage an amazing idle sport. But Melvor Idle stands up on its own merits equally, and we desired to remain true to the creative and innovative vision of the sport that Brendan experienced when he first started expanding the game."
Pfeiffer is also a factor in the satisfaction of Melvor Idle and demonstrates that knowledge can be derived from the network of any game, which is a fact that Jagex has seen before. "We've been observing the RuneScape network to be a very good supply of expertise for Jagex that is not only in the realm of game builders however all the many jobs in a studio," he says. "RuneScape has had close to 300 million loans accumulated over more than two decades. The amount of highly skilled people that have been involved in the sport is massive."
Following the a hit partnership in partnership with Games By Malcs, Pfeiffer believes he's ready to collaborate with independent developers around the world if they may be operating on projects that "align with the layout philosophy of RuneScape and Jagex's core values" In addition, he is hopeful that Melvor Idle's success will encourage more indie developers towards contacting Jagex Studios.
With model 1.zero of Melvor Idle, which is now available availible, Games By Malcs and Jagex collaborate in the development of future content, in addition to greater ability titles set withinside the Melvor universe. Malcolm remains grateful to Jagex for their ongoing support particularly in the OSRS Gold For Sale of attaining new gamers.
They are also fantastic at making sure that Melvor Idle has reached many more players than I've ever been capable of via way through myself, both players in the RuneScape network as well as beyond," he says. "With the whole release out today, I'm looking forward to working with Jagex in making Melvor Idle a great bigger achievement, and also on the future initiatives."
Echoes of Yore is the call of the brand new MMORPG by independent producer Gellyberry Studios. It is aimed at looking back to the classics of the past like RuneScape or Tibia and is played out in iso perspective. The focus is on finding, crafting, constructing your own home, and taking an risk in dungeons.
What type of game is this? Ethyrial: Echoes of Yore desires to resurrect the vintage classics using a modern day engine. You design a character that isn't tied to a particular category, but is defined by means of talents and gadget. In this way, you can enter the arena of Irumesa.
The spotlight is now on an international wherein there may be many things to find and find out.
Similar to RuneScape The game has numerous and particular opportunities for personal development. However, you can only create a single character in line with the server. Crafting and collecting play a important role and should be one of the main reasons returning to low-stage zones is profitable in the future. Additionally, you must be able of making endgame fabric with stage 1, however the threat of a hit series must be close to zero.
The better your talent and the more powerful your tools more likely you are of fulfillment.Another reason to gamble in novice regions is to have hidden challenges or quests to find. There's also a journal that requires you to hunt down all types of monsters in the world of open. There's housing inside the open world that's accessible to everyone. Guilds are also required to be able to construct homes collectively on massive websites for building.
Instances and boss arenas are designed to allow PvE.
There could also be PvP with no limit in the endgame using a karma device to keep players from being able to attack other players. The game was first of all known as "Blocky Ages". When will the MMORPG seem? The game is expected to launch to Steam at Early Access in 2023. It's a long way to go. have handiest been closed beta assessments and "in some months" there might be an open beta launch on Steam (through Steam).
This trailer gives you a primary glimpse of Ethyrial: Echoes of Yore The game has a high probability of obtaining higher loot, however there are also penalties. What's unique about this MMORPG? The designers emphasize that their game is built on the basis of "chance as opposed to praise". The more chance you have more likely is the possibility of a good loot. But, death is also very dangerous.
In PvE the dungeons and boss arenas need to be equipped with specific degree of difficulty, so that everyone is able find an task that is appropriate for the requirements. The better the extent of issue, the greater potential for losing In the case of popular, every piece of tools has the possibility of being dropped on loss of life. This is true both in PvP and PvE. But this is not the case with Mages Guild Mages Guild must be capable of save you it from being lost by enchantments. It is doubtful whether or it's applicable in totality or just to be in accordance with enchantment.
If you die on one of the highest issue degree you will lose your enjoyment factors. This is especially true for institutions. the institution's contributors lose enjoyment factors if one of the birthday birthday celebration dies. Therefore, there is a possibility of a collective punishment.
A monthly subscription for a store with Pay2Win and pay2Progress. What does the charge version look like? The MMORPG is primarily built on a subscription-based model, meaning that you must pay monthly for the game. There's no real charge for this service, however.
However, the developers have already found out that they'll add a store. However, it's not Pay2Win and it shouldn't contain XP boosts, or other stock slots. The awareness is solely on beauty objects. It is also essential to locate these cosmetics in the shop but they are no longer available in the game. The builders need to save those items that are considered to be status in the game can be offered at the shop.
Can you already check the game? You can follow for the continued alpha and, with a good chance, be decided on for this game (through Ethyria). In the event that it is not, open beta testing will start in the beginning of 2022. How lengthy has the sport been in improvement?RuneScape opens its biggest and Most Flexible Yak Track. OSRS Announces Tombs of Amascut Reward Reworks. RuneScape is officially launching an updated Yak Track, whilst the Old School RuneScape group is speaking the redone Tombs of Amascut rewards and participant comments on every.
This Yak Track: Path of the Creators II is the tenth ever and the longest they've ever had in RuneScape and has a range of 50 degrees. It will take months to complete. Should you be capable of getting ahead and complete this track, you'll be able to get yourself a few Elder Gods themed rewards, including Bik or Ful.
There's also a flexible trade this time around, since each of the 50 degrees includes a "talent as well as kill" option as the first task for the stage, so that you can parent out the way you'll need to grow to complete these assignments. The option for kill and talent could be slower however you'll still be able to complete them in a certain is required in the way that you prefer.
There are a few more changes inside the RuneScape patch today, with the addition of a brand-new, transient instanced model of the Senntisten Asylum. This is likely to be available in the coming month. The Asylum is able to hold six players, which means that you'll be put into an instance in the event you're the 7th person to input. The rest of the arrangements will continue to be similar to what you would expect, but the example could be to be utilized to facilitate flow.
In the meantime, the Old School RuneScape group has an opportunity to replace the to be Tombs of Amascut rewards. They unveiled the rewards listing but after the demise of Nex, were given the idea that their original loot strategies needed an overhaul. The group then took a stand with the fresh thoughts and that's what the network is now offering. Some of the innovative designs survived often intact However, others had changed.
In the replace this week the group will go over every of the objects and what they have got modified to transfer these objects of praise into the realm of the gods. You also can see the reaction of the network in general to the proposal turned into what, and also the OSRS group's reaction to every of the proposals.
How to boost your fight scene in Runescape
Runescape has a variety of frightful battle parties and terrifying monsters that you must defeat so your fight stage is important for survival. If you're looking to increase the size of your stage of battle we've made it much easier to get your competitors to be a lot more dominant.
Runescape offers a wide range of skills to develop in the core companies consisting of battle, gathering artisan, artisan, and aid. If you're interested in getting involved in some amazing battles, then operating to your battle stage is the manner to become a great warrior. If you've tried trying to defeat your rivals This is the entire information you require to know about advancing your fight stage.
Growing your battle stage in Runescape with fairness and a clean first but it is important to keep a few minutes apart to gain extreme power. To get began out to your quest to increase your level you need to follow these few guidelines: Lastly go straight to defeating Hill Giants at Edgeville Dungeon (reachable via the ruins to and to the South Edgeville). Edgeville)
It's important to note that as you stage up and become more powerful as you progress, you'll need to continue buying or crafting enough weapons and armor to protect yourself. If you're using a weapon it is important to keep your desire to learn about the specific skills that may boom your ordinary fighting stage.
What are the skills that are part of the fight in Runescape?
Skills are important to improve the fight scene and can offer you with a direction that you must follow, subject on your favorite weapon types. The combat stage abilities are classified into three categories parts: Strength, Attack, Magic, Ranged Defence, Constitution, summoning.
For those who enjoy melee combat, keeping your focus to Attack and Strength can be useful with slashing, stabbing, and crushing your enemies. You can use these sorts of attacks regularly to observe your stats increase dramatically through the years. Magic, Ranged and Prayer can be enhanced by repetition, too. Prayer, however, can be elevated quite quickly over several days through means of burying bones or scattering the ashes.
Defense can be improved more quickly by getting rid of questions that praise protection as a result of your efforts. Constitution will increase over the years as you level up your fight and Summoning will want you to complete Slayer objectives and quests in order to earn Charms , which provide an explosion in go back.
What is the max stage of fight in Runescape?
All gamers in Runescape begin by fighting a stage that is three times in Runescape as well as OSRS (Old School Runescape). As long as you're still staging your fight, you'll eventually meet the max stage of 138. For OSRS gamers, the highest combat stage has stage 126.
NPC's will forestall attacking you even if your fight stage is twice their own +. However, monsters that may be at stage sixty nine or over will constantly attack the participant.
Old School RuneScape The complete list of pets and how to obtain them into OSRS
Pets are an integral element of Old School RuneScape and acquiring a number of them may be incredibly difficult. Learn the whole thing you want to understand approximately Pets in OSRS. Despite not being NPCs fighting in OSRS pets can be a laugh in relation to watching your sportsperson around the globe. However, finding pets and securing them could be a bit challenging unless that you understand what you need to do.
Possessing pets in the game is greater a signal of your status that you've successfully defeated bosses. Because specific pets are taken away from bosses and placed them as your follower is a clever method of revealing the most recent boss you beat. Let's dive in and test the entire thing could be to know more about animals in OSRS.
How do I get pets to OSRS
There are three possible methods of incorporating pets into the sport. However, every precise approach is a risk of supplying you and a particular pet. It's crucial so one can understand which pets may be received by which strategy. The 3 techniques to be discovered for purchasing pets in OSRS are.
Runescape will take you on an high-quality adventure, irrespective the style of play you choose. However, you'll want higher armor when you're facing tough enemies. Here's all you should know about non-degradable armor.
All over the realms of Gielinor, Runescape gamers will encounter knights, sorcerers and incredible beasts in their quest for excellence. In most cases, you'll find yourself in fighting in your armor to provide vital protection. However, maximum armors and guns in Runescape are prone to fading after repeated usage.
Thankfully, gamers can get an armor that is non-degradable that will not suffer the same horrific fate. This is the most effective non-degradable armour in Runescape.
The most durable, non-degradable armor you can get for Runescape melee players
If you're one who likes to get in the air and walk around non-publically with your adversaries, then you definitely're on the lookout for. We recommend purchasing The Anima Core of Zaros armor. To keep it, there are several alternatives to comply with when you go into the Heart of Gielinor (frequently known as the God Wars Dungeon Two) You can increase the level of your security to at least stage eighty, You can create it through the means of combining your Dormant Anima Core with the Crest of Zaros.
The Anima Core of Zaros armor may be subtle too, through the use in combination with Serenic, Sliskean, Zamorakian as well as Zarosian essences. It's possible to achieve that once you have earned 2000 Zarosian popularity.
Best non-degradable armor for Runescape ranged gamers. Sometimes fighting from afar is the maximum possibility, and in the case that you're playing as a ranged player, the usage of an armor like the Anima Core of Zamorak armor is essential. If you're interested in purchasing it for your self then here's what you want to do: Go back to the Heart of Gielinor (aka God Wars Dungeon Two), In addition, you'll require level eighty protection to put on this. Create it by means of methods of Combining two items: the Dormant Anima Core with the Crest of Zamorak.
Refinement of the armor set is identical to Zaros's armor set, however is really important to remember that you'll need one essence for the helm, for the physique, as well as three of the legs. 2000 Zamorakian popularity is also needed earlier than you could refine it.
Using the strength of magic is always exciting within Runescape If you've been given the Anima Core of Seren armor and you're invincible. You want to put it on by yourself? Here's what you could do for getting it:
Travel to your destination in Heart of Gielinor. You must put a little time in until you reach the stage eighty protection. Combining an Dormant Anima Core with the Crest of Seren to craft it. The parameters for smithing are similar to the alternative armor units, however you'll need at least 2,000 Seren popularity in the faction to begin making the armor more refined.
While the armor units mentioned previously are extremely useful If you're looking for a specific type of armor more options, there are many to are seeking for out. These again follow melee and ranged weapons, as well as magic. It is suggested to look for Bandos, Armadyl, and Subjugation armour from the main God Wars Dungeon. In the case of Bandos armor, that's the way to go:
Destroy General Graardor as well as his guards at the God Wars Dungeon. Pick it up when they drop it upon loss of life. You can reach the stage of sixty five of protection. Armadyl armor is a great choice for gamers with range. It could be received in a similar fashion: Defeat General Kree'arra and his 3 minions. Pick the armor up upon their loss of life. Upgrade ranges to stage 70. Increase protection up to stage 70.
Additionally, the Subjugation Armor is a popular set for magic (prayer) gaming. It's a battle with another boss in order to acquire it, however in case you've slayed on the God Wars Dungeon already, it's going to be a piece of cake: Defeat K'ril Tsutsaroth and his bodyguards in of the God Wars Dungeon. Pick up the armor set after they've been killed. Upgrade your protection to stage 70.
How a great deal does a RuneScape Membership price? Subscription & advantages defined
If you're hoping to put in some time in Runescape It's possible you'll be the desire to join one of the clubs. Here's everything that you must know about Runescape's club pricing. Runescape has evolved into an impressive MMOPRG because of the fact that it has Miniclip beginnings, increasing its gameplay and lore exponentially. While the well-loved Jagex-advanced version can be played without cost, there's a lot of sweets available for choosing a club.
It's difficult to make a decision when you consider everything is weighed against the advantages offered by each grade, however we've made it simpler so you can choose. Jagex's MMOPRG has been continuously a loose-to-play element, however players can earn various Rewards and Member Credits in the pay-to-play model of the sport. The cost of a club has been progressively increased through the years as inflation has impacted it in a constant manner, but there's an alternative for every player.
If you're looking to get began out to your adventure in a club after determining what club is proper to you, there's not too difficult to installation. It's possible to start a subscription through using the following steps instructions: Login to the sport's web website online together along with your username and password. Click on the 'begin A Club' choice, positioned at the web site's sidebar. Choose your home country. Choose your chosen charge approach (this can range relying to your vicinity)
There are many benefits being a member also, and they're not something you'll find in the game's loose-to-play version. Jagex's description boasts "Over 184 more quests of high-quality as well as eleven new abilities, 38 amazing minigames" however , it's not what's available.
Members could be able of discover a international this is 3 times larger, as well as "make it your house and port" features that can be incorporated into the loyalty program for the sport.
Jagex has launched a brand new replace into RuneScape this week as gamers must be aware of the brand new Abyssal Slayer creatures. The shorthand to the brand new content material is this is it right here to give you a variety of systems and routes to help you learn your Slayer talent to one hundred and twenty, incomes objects such as talents, as well as a few of the rewards you earn within the process.
For those who want to be clear about this to be clear, it's the member's most valuable content material a good way to introduce 3 brand new Abyssal Slayer Creatures that have the primary intention of it to assignment those who have the highest level of combat, as you may be needed to have Slayer skill of ninety-five or above to be able to test it. We've got more details about the newest event below, along with the trailer displaying off the potential benefits you can expect from it.Melvor Idle snatches away the graphics and 3-D environments of RuneScape as well as other MMOs and reduces it all the way down to a menu-primarily based totally non-skilled sport in which players are in control of their skills inventory, quests and skills. Engaging in fights and winning gets you XP and loot. These could be put to use in any tree of talents or enhancements gamers decide to use, and repeating sports inclusive of crafting or woodcutting can bring their own benefits.
Far too complicated for midnight
It's just past nightfall, in one of the most secluded settlements in the kingdom Ingegerdith. We were in the local tavern -the only one this small town had- and it was full of drunk patrons, tavern girls, children, and weary travelers. Everyone seems to be in a joyous mood as they celebrate this year's fall harvest.
There is food and drinks being passed around, and many people are crowding the bars and tables. The most crowded area is in the middle of the tavern, where I sit on an old chair atop a table. My green hood and cloak swishing around as I tell the crowd stories from lands far away and the tales of my friend's and i’s adventures. We were the guests of honor at this little celebration, for we were partially responsible for the success of this year's harvest.
I sat back down on my chair, reaching out to grab a drink that was offered to me. I don't partake in ales often but since it was a celebration I might as well take what is given to me and drink it gladly. As I'm sitting and taking a short break from my usual telling of stories and singing of songs I look around, trying to find the one friend of mine who was actually on time today. After a bit of searching, I see her bright yellow dress and sunny orange hair, her head swaying and her hands moving around as she speaks with the bartender. I'm fairly sure she's arranging for cookies to be made. After a moment she turns around to look at me and waves. I wave back and she breaks out into her usual happy expression.
I once again stand up and begin to tell yet another tale of adventure, this one happening to be a town favorite. As the story continues I hear cheers and loud greetings. Looking up towards the door I can see that the other three have arrived. The stone-faced green and black Dragonborn immediately slinking over to an empty corner that was saved just for them, while the other two headed towards the bar.
I smile and shout greetings at them “Celosia! Delmar! Tatsuya! Join the fun, there are cookies and drinks!”
The Dragonborn, Tatsuya, immediately looks up at me and then towards the Bar where the dark-haired siren, Delmar, is speaking to the bar keep and Helian, the one who had ordered cookies earlier. Moments pass and Delmar grabs two plates of cookies and brings them over to a less grumpy-looking Tatsuya. Laughing joyously I open my book again and continue to tell the tale I had started.
“Come on Bard! Sing us a song!”
“One of the ones you sang at the harvest!”
“Something good for our celebration!”
Having finished the fifteenth or sixteenth story of the night the shouts for music and songs became louder and louder. Smiling, I hop down, quickly agreeing to their requests.
“Of course of course! But wouldn't you all rather hear a duet, me and the lovely Celosia!!” I happily rushed over to the redheaded Nereid, who stood up, fixing her deep red dress that nearly looked like constantly crashing waves of flowing fire.
There were many cheers as she grabbed my hand and we both rushed back to my table. As we hopped up on top of it there were many cheers for Celosia, some cheers for me were also thrown in.
“Well, I suppose if you all want to hear me sing, I couldn't just deny you all of such a thing.” Celosia smiled and feigned to be pretentious over the crowd, who just laughed and cheered in response to her jokes.
“Come on Celosia, we all know you've been practicing all month for this!” Delmar shouts happily, taking off his glasses and cleaning them afterwards.
“Come on Celosia! We want to hear you sing!! Helian smiled, clapping and cheering the redhead on.
I motioned to the tavern boy who was holding a lute “John! Play us something, you know the one don't you?”
Immediately the blonde boy's face lit up with a smile as he grabbed the lute and began to play the tune of celebration. Celosia and I started to dance atop the table, with the rest of the crowd following the dance on the floor or atop other tables.
The lute tune became louder and smoothed out into the song that Riordan and Celosia were to sing.
Celosia began the song out, singing beautifully.
“Er komt een soldaat Die een machtig zwaard draagt Hij zal je stad afbreken Oh lei, oh lai, oh, heer Oh lei, oh lai, oh lei, oh, heer Hij zal je stad afbreken Oh lei, oh lai, oh lei, oh, heer”
Riordan and Celosia danced atop the table, dancing to the song and the cheers of the crowd. Riordan was smiling and full of energy and began to sing the second verse.
“Er zal een dichter komen Wiens wapen zijn woord is Hij zal je verslaan met zijn tong Oh lei, oh lai, oh, heer Oh lei, oh lai, oh lei, oh, heer Hij zal je verslaan met zijn tong Oh lei, oh lai, oh, heer”
Celosia and Riordan, still dancing and cheering along with the crowd, began to sing the last verse together.
“Er zal een heerser komen Wiens wenkbrauw in doorn wordt gelegd Gesmeerd met olie zoals David's jongen Oh lei, oh lai, oh, heer Oh lei, oh lai, oh lei, oh, heer Gesmeerd met olie zoals David's jongen Oh lei, oh lai, oh, heer Oh lei, oh lai, oh lei, oh, heer Hij zal je stad afbreken, oh lei, oh lai Ohh”
Riordan and Celosia, laughing and smiling, hopped down off of the table and into the crowd, letting the tavern full of people finish their singing.
“Oh lei, oh lai, oh lei, oh lai, oh
Oh lei, oh lai, oh lei, oh lai, oh
Oh lei, oh lai, oh lei, oh lai
Oh lei, oh lai, oh lei, oh lai, oh”
“Oh, that was lovely Riordan!” Helian ran forward and grabbed onto Riordan, smiling and still swaying.
“Thank you!” Riordan smiled and cheered happily “I rather enjoyed it! How about you Celiosa?”
The redhead smiled and flipped her hair over her shoulders. “It was fabulous! I think I was on tune the whole time too!”
“You both sang beautifully.” Delmar approached the group of three, pulling along Tatsuya who was stuffing their face with cookies from a platter in their hands.
“Tatsuya!” Helianthus, or Helian, went towards the Dragonborn, pulling them into a tight hug.
“Hmmp.” The green and black scaled Dragonborn huffed and stared at Helian with their heterochromatic eyes.
“I was wondering where you got off to!” orange hair bangs bouncing as she releases the Dragonborn.
“Hmmp.” Tatsuya smiled a bit, stuffing another cookie into their mouth before reaching out towards Helianthus to tuck a loose strand of hair behind their golden bandana.
“I'm glad you all made it! Even if it took you guys a while.” Smiling, I quickly nabbed my favorite type of cookie, an oatmeal raisin one, off Tatsuya’s plate. Their green and gray eyes glared at me for a second before they huffed again and went back to chomping on the cookie in their hand.
“We would have made it on time if it wasn't for a certain someone taking forever.” Celosia giggled, crossing her arms and shooting a playful glare at Delmar.
“You all know that these coats don't get perfectly white and crisp on their own.” Delmar smiled, returning the Nereid's glare.
We began laughing and taking turns ‘stealing’ cookies off a certain Dragon’s plate. The partying and celebration continued deep into the night, all of us were having an amazing time - as we usually do at these gatherings -.
*Song: Soldier Poet King, by the Oh Hellos in Dutch*
Ms. Mary neatly stacked her pile of papers and placed them on the corner of her desk.
"Well, it seems as though nothing's out of the ordinary," Principal Brown said.
Ms. Mary smiled. "Of course! Those mothers, so sensitive you know?"
Principal Brown smiled back. "Yes, but a bunch of moms bombarding the office with calls is a bit concerning, don't you think?"
Ms. Mary's eye twitched just a bit. "Probably just bad grades."
Principal Brown shook his head. "Actually, every one of your students comes home crying, but we just can't figure out why."
"Oh, it must be the bullying." Ms. Mary replied with a sigh. "Just the other day I saw a kid beating one of my students up."
Principal Brown scratched his head. "Well...the kids have been saying...er..." He hesitated before continuing, "...they've been saying that it's...you."
Ms. Mary's pleasant smile turned into a look of sadness. "Oh...is that so?"
"Yes, but we have no idea why," Principal Brown replied. "You seem as though a great teacher."
"Why thank you!" And just like that, Ms. Mary's smile returned.
"Alright well, I'll be on my way then."
Just as Principal Brown closed the door, Ms. Mary's smile turned into an unpleasant look. She sat down at her desk and folded her hands in her lap. Then she proceeded to stare at the clock, counting down the minutes till class would start.
At exactly 8:00 and the students marched towards their desks in a line. Each one of the students did not show any emotion but the fear could be seen in their eyes. As they all sat down, Ms. Mary reached for her pen and started taking attendance.
One by one she listed out the names and the students responded just as quickly.
There was no response.
Just then a boy ran into the classroom.
"No running inside the classroom, George."
George just nodded, his eyes looking at the ground, not wanting to stare back at Ms. Mary's piercing eyes.
"You are late."
George finally looked up. "M-Ms. Mary, I'm only late by a few minutes-"
Ms. Mary walked to her cabinet and opened the very top drawer. She pulled out an object and made her way back to George, who was trembling in fear.
"P-Please, n-no. I-I brought a l-late pass."
Ms. Mary just chuckled and said, "It's too late, George."
She then she turned to the class. "Let this be a lesson for all of you."
The next day there was no George. No one but Ms. Mary and the students knew who he was. His desk and cubby were gone from the classroom. The only thing that remained of him was his late pass, which was on the ground in the very same spot where he stood the day before.
The potent smell of unbathed bodies filled the rowdy tavern, covering the sweet scent of mead that lingered in Dennis's empty mug. Once more, the persistent nudge urged him to look over his shoulder, and once more he ignored it. They wouldn't come looking for him in a place like this.
Drunks at the surrounding tables whistled as barmaids refilled their drinks. The sound was mildly distracting, but more distracting was their constant laughter and crude jesting.
Rubbing the pad of his thumb in small, deliberate circles over one of his worn cards, Dennis eyed the five other players calmly. Maybe even slightly arrogantly. With a smooth smirk, he tossed in a couple denarii. A round of slight gasps came from their onlookers, and the other players eyed him with disdain.
"There's more where that came from, gents." Dennis's delicate accent contradicted his sly, and slightly, wicked smirk.
More denarii tinkled as a large man with a red beard tossed in more denarii. "We know," he growled. His dark eyes pierced Dennis, and his thick fingers seemed to tighten around his cards. Hands like those could squeeze the life out of someone. Someone like Dennis.
As the game wore on, Dennis had earned himself several more glowers, and the urge to flee rose within him. But he was no coward. If he was going to win the game, he would. If he was going to get pummeled for it afterward, he would do that too.
*Outside the Tavern after the Game was Won*
"Fair and square!" Dennis insisted for the tenth time. "I won, fair and square!"
Without warning, the red-haired brute from the game slammed Dennis against the grimy wall and punched him in the gut. Several other losers snickered in delight, taking pleasure in the wheeze the punch pulled from Dennis.
"Come on," Dennis moaned. "It was a fair game." Sweat caused from the blistering, afternoon sun burned his eyes and soaked his finely woven tunic. It would have to be washed. Or completely replaced depending on how the next few minutes went. "There is no need for this. I won fairly."
Another punch to the gut. It took all of Dennis's self-control not to vomit. The last thing he needed to do was humiliate himself further. If it hadn't been for the hand pinning him to the wall, he'd have collapsed.
The brute's lip twitched with despise and his eyes bore deeply into Dennis's with cold bitterness. "You don't belong here, boy."
Dennis's heart hardened. He'd never hated his surname more in that moment. "I'm not like them. I belong here."
The man didn't look believing. "If you fall into debt, you call on your petty father to come to your rescue. Likely, the money you used tonight wasn't even yours. When none of what I said is true, then tell me you aren't like your family, rich boy." With a harsh shove, he backed away.
Dennis gave the man a dull look. "I'm not like my family," he stated blandly. "Besides, it's not the money used in the game, it's the player, pal. And you're just a really bad player."
Getting pummeled wasn't fun unless one deserved it. Insulting this idiot seemed to be the only way to make things more enjoyable.
Before the predicted fist could come flying for his face, someone cleared their throat. "What goes on here?"
Not him. Dennis cringed. Anyone but him.
"Ah, another rich boy," the brute sneered. "Here to rescue your pathetic brother, are you?"
Pathetic? Not charming or very likeable? Crud. Arrogant would've also worked.
Dennis turned slightly, getting a glimpse of his exalted eldest brother. "What are you doing here, Sam?"
Samuel ignored Dennis and leaned his muscled shoulder against the crumbling wall. His serious face rarely smiled, but a faint smile pulled at his mouth. "Go ahead and finish here, I'll carry him home when you're done."
Dennis turned back to the brute with a nervous chuckle. "He's jesting."
Popping his knuckles, the red-haired nightmare grinned. "We'll be done momentarily."
Wonderful. This would be quick, and his dashing features would likely be marred.
An ugly fist came flying for his nose and Dennis braced for impact. Why did it always have to be the nose?
"You didn't have to do that," Dennis muttered. Wincing, he pinched a towel to his nose.
Samuel was lounging on the sofa in the common room, while Dennis limped before the furnace in an attempt at pacing. "I didn't lie to him, Dennis. You were in the city testifying what you believe." He was gazing into the flickering flames and their shadowless fingers danced light across his stern features.
"Testifying what I believe?" The words were muttered as he tossed them around in his head, but he wasn't focusing on them. What the bearded man had said sparked something inside Dennis. He didn't want to be lumped with his father everywhere he went. He wanted more than what was offered here. The pleasures of the world called to him. What would it be like to gamble without worrying he was doing wrong? He supposed it was freedom he wanted.
The thick, wooden doors opened silently, and five young men bombarded the room like a pack of hyenas.
"Good, you're alive."
"Dennis! What happened?"
"What did you do to yourself?"
"Goodness me! You've got to know to use your words, kid!"
"Tell me you didn't start another fight."
Dennis waited patiently for his elder brothers to all get a word in. He tossed the towel down and faced them. Each one visibly winced as they got a look at the blackened eye and crooked nose.
"You started another fight," Remus, the second eldest, said dully. His weathered hands were placed on his hips, and he stood as though he thought himself in charge.
Anger spiked through Dennis at his brother's quick assumptions, and he glared, then winced as the motion shifted the bruised muscles. "I didn't start that blasted fight!" he roared. "I won that-" His clamped his lips and cringed. It wasn't the first time he'd slipped, but he knew he wouldn't be able to cover this one with a lie. Not one that was believable, that is.
Silence overtook the room as it dawned on each of the room's occupants.
"You were gambling," they said in sync. Their faces were crestfallen. Horror, sorrow and something else shone in their eyes.
As usual, Samuel said nothing to confirm even though he knew exactly what Dennis had been doing for the past few months. Letting Dennis sort out his own problems seemed to be a hobby of his. Even if it meant letting the baby of the family get his nose broken and his eye blackened.
Dennis could take it no more. His glare turned hateful, and he wanted to smack the looks of shame off their faces. "Like you all are so perfect! I just want a life! A normal life. This place does nothing but drag me down! You all do nothing but drag me down." His last words came out in a near snarl. His bitterness stunned him slightly. It stunned his brothers too, from the looks on their faces. They stood in shock, as if Dennis had slapped them in the face. Even Sam looked hurt.
Remus swallowed, opened his mouth. "Dennis," he said softly, as if approaching an injured fawn.
But he wasn't an injured fawn. He was a young man yearning for a freedom outside of his father's walls and rules.
Before Remus could say another word, Dennis stalked out of the room. It was time he started living his life. When he reached his chambers, he started packing his bags. He didn't take much. Just denarii, a bar of soap and a change of clothes.
He was out the window before anyone knew to look for him.
As he tore down the road to the city and away from his father's land, Dennis didn't look back.
*Two Days Later*
The high sun beat against the city like an angry overseer. But the heat didn't bother Dennis, because he no longer had to work in it.
A beautiful servant girl came to him and refilled his wine goblet. Most men in the quiet tavern let their eyes linger on her. The first day Dennis had done the very thing, had maybe even been looking forward to playing with the dame's hair. Now, the very thought made him so sick he thought he'd vomit up his wine. Though he was away from his father's home, everything he'd learned from a young age still clung to him like a briar.
The tavern door swung open, and Dennis squirmed in his seat. Oh dear. The brute who'd given him the lashing stepped in.
Brutish scanned the room and his hard eyes instantly landed on Dennis. His lip lifted in a sneer. Dennis contemplated on running for his life, but he refused. He wasn't a coward. If the man wanted to give him another lashing, he'd take it like a man. A man who was terrible at defending himself.
The brute moved toward Dennis in sturdy steps. No swagger, no intimidating saunter, just solid footfalls that managed to scare the living daylights out of Dennis.
"What are you doing here, boy?" the man asked gruffly. "You aren't looking for another fight, are you?" He took a seat without asking.
Dennis took a sip from his goblet. "Only if you're looking for another game to lose."
Faint amusement flashed through the man's eyes. "I've never seen you here before."
"That's because I've never been here before now." Dennis picked at the smooth table, trying terribly hard to find a splinter that would wake him from this nightmare.
"Do you think this is somewhere you belong?" His tone was demeaning, and implied he knew exactly the kind of standards Dennis grew up with.
"I figured this place is better than the streets." He winced as he found the splinter. Unfortunately, he didn't wake up.
In confusion, the man's eyes narrowed. "Streets?" In shocked Dennis to hear the slight concern lining the man's voice.
Dennis gulped the last of his wine down. "I left home, ruffian. I told you, I don't belong there." He nearly slammed the goblet down in his attempt at setting it down gently.
A short chuckle escaped the man. "It's actually Ren. But you were close, both start with R." He rubbed his jaw in thought. "Didn't think you had it in you, honestly, rich boy. Seeing as how you had the guts to do it, how 'bout I show you a bit of the city someone like yourself has never been."
A smile curled at Dennis's mouth. "You'd be willing to help someone like me?" He waved the barmaid away as she attempted to refill his goblet.
Ren smirked. "You mean someone homeless? Of course." His eyes twinkled. "Come on. We've a lot of places to see."
Dennis didn't move at first. His stomach tightened to think of the places he wasn't about to enter. But this is what he wanted. This is the freedom he'd been seeking. He pushed out of his seat, watching the ground sway beneath his feet. "Lead the way, Ren."
Ren let out a burly laugh. "How much wine did you drink?"
Dennis rubbed his temples. "I've been here two days, and wine is the only thing they serve. What do you think?"
Ren stood and came around, looping his arm under Dennis's arms. "Let's find you some food, then. The only places you know how to find are taverns."
*The Following Night*
After meeting several people Ren knew, Dennis felt he'd made the right decision coming to the city. Surprising enough, it hadn't been his money or his statis that had caused people to dislike him. It had been his cockiness and his unwillingness to take responsibility. Now that they knew he was trying to fend for himself without his father's money, they readily took him in.
Low snores filled the room Dennis was staying in. He wasn't accustomed to sleeping with so much noise surrounding him. But he didn't mind. It was... exhilarating. Living life on the edge was so much more than he could've imagined. There were no rules. Though, his bag of denarii was noticeably lighter than when he first began. He was sure it would all work out. He could find a job. Probably.
A low creak came from the door as it opened. A dark form slipped into the room and the door shut just as quickly. Nimbly, the form stepped over the sleeping lumps scattered across the floor. Dennis squinted his eyes to try to see better, but the room was too dark. Before he could move out of the way, the form stepped on him. With a surprised gasp, they jumped back.
"Hey!" she snapped. "You're in my spot." Her voice was husky and rough. Never before had Dennis encountered a woman who trampled over a man's authority. But from the tone she was using he guessed it was something this one did quite often. He couldn't bring himself to dislike it.
"My apologies," Dennis said smoothly, watching as her form went rigid, likely because she noticed his accent. "There is plenty of room, allow me to find someplace else to lie." He gathered his mat and slid it across the floor near a snoring man with a large belly.
The woman said nothing as she reclaimed her spot. Dennis could feel her eyes digging into him. With hate or curiosity, he couldn't tell.
*The Following Day*
"You sleep a lot."
Dennis slowly opened his eyes, wincing as light seared painfully across his vision. "I'm also awake a lot. I don't like having one without the other." His voice was groggy. He rolled over and sat up, surprised to see the room empty save for a woman standing at his feet. "Who are you?" he asked.
Her hazel eyes scanned him curiously, and he noticed the feint hint of amusement. "Ren's sister. He won't be back until the full moon. I'm to be your guide and protector."
Dennis's eyebrows slowly rose. "Protector?"
She smirked. "Ren said you have the tendency to run your mouth in the wrong areas. Your bruised skin is a testament to that." Again, that amusement filled her eyes. "Let's break our fast and get on with our day. Ren wants me to take you to the heart of our city."
Dennis was on his feet in an instant. "The heart of the city! That sounds exciting." He grinned. Her mouth turned up in a sly manner and suddenly, Dennis grew slightly concerned. "That sounds exciting, right?"
*In The Heart Of The City*
The heart of the city wasn't what Dennis was expecting. It was loud and full of exotic colors. Bright banners hung from every wall, piles of spices filled bins, dried herbs were bound in thick bundles, and laughter bubbled from everyone's lips. But the most exciting part was the two wrestling men in a small dust pit. Those cheering and taking bets surrounded them.
"What..." Dennis's eyes were wide. "What is that they're doing?"
The woman's arms hung loosely like the scarf around her neck. "It's a less bloody version of the Gladiator Games." Her grin was broad. "Ren thinks you'd be good at it."
Dennis's stomach dropped. "He what?"
She chuckled, gazing at the two sweaty men pounding each other's faces. "He says you don't run. And besides, you need a way to make a living if you aren't going to rely on your father."
Dennis suddenly didn't like the heart of the city. "I don't run because I'm a really bad runner," he hissed. "Fighting isn't my forte. Ask Ren."
She laughed. "He didn't say you should do it, Dennis! Goodness no. You'd be dead before the fight was over. He just thought you could eventually be good at it." She winked. "We're here for that." Dennis followed her gaze to a quieter area where several men sat under a canopy around a table.
His stomach churned with greed. That was something he was good at. "I do know how to play a good game," he mused.
The woman nodded. "Ren said as much. If you can watch your mouth, he thinks you could be good at it. I'm here to make sure you do. And if you don't, smooth things out with diplomacy."
Dennis made a face. "Diplomacy is overrated."
"Come on," she said. "We can get in in on the next game."
Dennis grinned. This would be too easy. It wouldn't even be working. No sweat, no muscle aches, but lots of money.
Once the game was over, the next one began, and Dennis was able to get in. He placed his money down and he was given his cards. His fingers tingled as he scanned his cards. He won, of course. And he won every other game after that. His name was spread through the city because of his skill. Dennis liked that.
The more known he became, the more he was invited to certain places that made his stomach churn. Each time he turned down the invitations. People thought it was because he was scared, and that he was still a boy, but it wasn't that. Gambling was one thing, but he couldn't defile himself. The more invitations he turned down, the less games he managed to get into. They didn't want a nonchalant player who didn't "play". Maybe his father had rubbed off on him too much. And for once, he wasn't entirely ashamed of that.
*A Month Later*
Dirty and unfed, Dennis sat in the streets of the city tempted to eat the leather of his sandles. He hadn't eaten but what little scraps people tossed to him. When Ren had returned to find Dennis's reputation "dirtied", he was forced to keep away from him. As was Ren's sister. Which was quite a shame. Dennis happened to like her a lot.
A low growl from his stomach reminded Dennis just how hungry he was. Maybe he'd made a mistake leaving home. What was so bad about having high morals and hard work? Living on his father's land had never been a bad thing. Now surely his father never wanted to see him again. He could imagine how ashamed the man was of his youngest son. Dennis himself was ashamed of how he'd acted. He'd been so ungrateful. His father had given so much, and Dennis had done nothing but throw it all away. He'd practically spat in the man's face.
Such an idiot, Dennis. Stupid, arrogant idiot.
An ache dug into his heart, and it amused Dennis. After all those years thinking he despised them, he missed his brothers. Likely they'd forgotten about him long ago. Probably happy to be rid of him.
"Look mommy, a beggar." A little girl pointed in passing at Dennis. The mother didn't give Dennis a passing glance.
Humiliation burned in Dennis's chest, and he looked away. If his father could see him now. Nothing more than a beggar in a prosperous city.
A pair of leather boots stopped by Dennis. Fancy, well-tailored. The man's garment was expensive.
"It took me awhile to find you."
Dennis froze. That wasn't a snobby noble.
Slowly, as if fearing it was a dream, he looked up. A dream or a nightmare, he wasn't sure. "Father?" Dennis squinted to keep the sun out of his eyes. "What... What are you... What are you doing here?"
His father's kind eyes gazed down on him. "What do you mean by that, son?"
Dennis tried to swallow, but his mouth was too dry to swallow anything. "I've..." He cleared his throat and ended up coughing.
His father bent and offered a canteen of water. "Here, son. Have some water."
Dennis hesitated, feeling so guilty for what he'd done that he let the canteen hang in the air between them. The canteen pressed into his palm and his father uncorked it as well.
"Drink, son." Gentle, full of love and compassion, was his father's voice.
Dennis drank deeply, greedily, until he remembered whose water it was.
"Why did you come here?" Dennis asked, wiping his mouth with his dirty sleeve.
His father's eyes only twinkled, as if he thought it a silly question. "Why wouldn't I?"
Dennis shook his head. "I... I've been so ungrateful. I left home without a word. I've lost all of my savings. And I..." He let his head drop. "Father, I was so ashamed to be associated with you and what you stand for. I just wanted... freedom."
"Hmm. And did you find your freedom, son?"
Dennis looked up. "I could've. But I couldn't..." He clenched his jaw, unable to finish his sentence.
His father nodded in thought. "I understand. And what do you want now?"
Dennis's throat tightened. "Father, would you let me come on as a servant hand? Not even for denarii or a place to sleep, just for food and water."
His father smiled. "A servant hand?" He scoffed with a gentle shake of his head. "Why on earth would I do that?"
Dennis hung his head. He deserved worse. A slap in the face and scorn filled words. "I understand."
"I would never allow my son to work as a servant. You are my son, and though you have your tasks to complete, you won't ever be my servant. You are my heir same as your brothers."
Dennis was confused. "But aren't you ashamed of me? For what I've done?" He dared to look his father in the eye, to search them for truth.
There was no scorn there. Just gentle warmth that radiated his love. "Dennis, even though you ran, you're still my son. You'll always be my son. And though I can't support the life you've chosen for yourself, if you should choice to come home, I'll welcome you with open arms."
Tears pricked Dennis's eyes. "Oh, father. I've been so ungrateful. Can you ever forgive me?"
His father's eyes twinkled. "You were forgiven before you asked." He stood and lent Dennis his hand. "Come, let us go home and feast. Your brothers will be glad to see you again. They've all been worried."
Dennis arched his brow in surprise. "Them, worried?" He scoffed. "I doubt it. I'm sure they're all ready to clobber me."
"True that," his father said. "But they understand you more than you realize."
"How do you mean?" He took his father's hand and stood. Instantly, his father helped support him with his strong arms.
He looked down at Dennis with a strange smile. "They were like you once. Wanting a life outside of the one they were given." He chuckled and led Dennis to two waiting horses. "Why do you think Sam always knew to go to the taverns to find you?"
Dennis's jaw hung open. "You don't mean..."
His father nodded. "I do. I never loved him less because of it. I was just waiting for him to see where he truly belonged." He glanced at Dennis. "Like you, son."
Dennis clasped his father's arm and hugged him tightly. "I don't deserve a father like you. I don't." He sobbed.
Despite the filth that must've been on Dennis, his father hugged him back firmly. "Let's go home, Dennis."
(Author: Hope Robens)
Entry #1 - 3/15
No. That's cringy.
That's worse. I'm humanizing and object. Do you have feelings? Can you hear me? Whatever, I'll just write. Why am I explaining this to you?
Hi, I'm Gina. Don't call me GiGi. I'm not a child, contrary to popular belief. There shouldn't be anyone reading this, unless my psychologist breaks her contract. Or my mother once again decides I'm having intercourse and doing drugs and goes through my room again. My town has practically nobody in it, who would I be having sex with anyway? I could give somebody a whole tour of this shithole in ten minutes. We have a school, a food store, couple random run-down shops here and there, and the pride and joy of our town: the football field. It probably sounds cliche, and honestly it is. It's like Friday Night Lights but with murder. Oh, forgot to mention, we have a serial killer. Nobody can catch them, can't even identify them. They're known as Killer Banksy, because they always make an art piece out of the crime scene. Absolutely gorgeous pieces may I say. I still don't understand why Dr. Karrie is making me do this. All I'm doing is talking to an inanimate object in the form of writing. At least it's not those stupid ink blots. She's all like:
"What do you see?" And I go:
"Ink on paper."
"I mean, what do you really see?"
"I don't know, a face?"
"OH MY GOSH! You have cancer!"
Stupidest shit on the planet. I guess through this she wants me to get out my feelings through writing. I have feelings. I just don't need to cry all the time. I'm entirely and completely fine, yet I still required to write in a book. Now I'm all worked up, and as Dr. Karrie says:
"Just put everything down and breathe. In and out. Like this!" Then she'll proceed to let out the most obnoxious breaths you've ever heard. Stupid, but it works. I'll see you tomorrow. No, I won't. You're a book. You're not real. Fuck this shit.
First, a few alternative title options to consider:
1) Wacky Mental Constructs In The Age Of Feckless Metaphor Junkies.
2) Letter-Littering Literacy Lets Literal Letter-Lickers get Lit
3) The Wealthiest Woman In The World Has To Have A CAT
4) MONEY: what is it good for? Absolutely nothing to do.
5) There's No Place Like Oz
As a trifling side-note for the sidenote-patience-inclined: Don't you just love that a brood of cute little furry kittens is called a "litter"? ...(AND that that is the exact same name we give to the gritty stuff we subsequently buy for them to litter in???) There's a touch of perfection in that one somewhere. But then, truth can be found in any fabrication, 'long as one has ears to see and mine's to think and 'earts to hear.
_____And now for something completely related:_____
They weren't hers;
The ideas she kicked around.
She'd simply collected the remnants of things which caught her eye...
Quotes and quips and nips and notes.
The scraps of brilliance that no one wanted to buy anymore.
(Except environmentalists offering 10 cents a thought in the better receptacles - Not worth the bother really.)
They weren't her bits of metal and/or-papery-plastic ideas by rights,
They were public waste; old cans to kick,
And she was definitely a waste depository.
'Decided that from starts:
News ain't near as nice as Olds.
Birth-marked on her curiosity-peeking soul.
And she beheld them as so beautiful;
The un-hers bits and bobs of wits and whatnot-to-dos.
She couldn't have recreated them if she tried.
Not in a million years. Not with a million immaculate examples.
She got the tummyrotting feeling that no-one could these days.
Not even geniuses.
She'd seen the outside of the factory that produced ideas once. What a great big ominous thing that structure'd been. One that would require knowledge instead of mere ideas to build.
Knowledge... what a gargantuanly powerful thing it seemed to be. (But how easy to trick people with. What damage it could cause in the wrong hands or paws.)
No, it wasn't for her; knowledge. She'd stick to ideas. (Just as ideas would stick to her.)
And she wouldn't dare taste what they once contained:
These paltry vestigial vestibules of commercially bold-colored hopes and dreams (and p'rhaps a smidge' or two of propaganda sprinkled in to-taste) spawned from the smoke-belching belly of the Knowledge-Juggling-Beast.
For she'd gathered the notion somewhere (ingrained as a genetic survival mechanism maybe, like goosebumps at the sight of spiders) that a sip of that kind of fizzy-sweets'll make your brain swell up overgrown and pompous for a lifetime.
So instead she just enjoyed sniffing the empty bottles and guessing the flavors.
And she played with them; the catchy ones.
Those ideas that weren't hers by any right other than abject admiration...
She kicked them around with either glee or dejection depending- usually against brick walls.
Once a cat joined in her can kickery, swatting with untamed enthusiasm in frantic flicks of soft-clawed jubilation with far more dexterity than she ever could. She smiled. What a brilliant cat. But the cat soon got bored with it. Stood back and licked his paw aloofly - suddenly disgusted with himself for his own kittenish instinct.
She reached out to pet him and he hissed and scampered off.
Then it was back to the brick walls.
Most days she'd kick idea-cans at walls real genteelly so as not to ding them up; the precious, sacred, and mighty-collectable idealings that is, not the walls. The walls could crumble for all she cared... They were useless walls anyway. Garden walls. Eden walls... Alright, if she stopped to stare a minute she'd admit secretly that a certain prettiness pervaded them too... A structure. A meaning... But not near so much as it did the ideas.
Once in a bold blue moon she'd get maddened enough to punch a futile hole in the spacetime continuum, and she'd kick her beloved thoughts so hard that they'd crunkle up; buckle against the stupid ignorant ugly brick wall she was trying to persuade to play,
and one of the wall's bricks would chip
ever so slightly
on the edge near the age-weakened mortar,
and it was so elating - so darn satisfying for a split second
But then the remorse:
Such remorse as she'd never felt before.
What in the hell was she thinking? Not even the environmentalists would take crushed up things like those ideas anymore. Not that they ever really wanted them anyway. They just wanted to be the ones who got rid of them; the ones to pay to see them off the streets and everything neat and tidy so they don't have to feel quite as guilty about being a living organism who's alive by the mysterious graces of the Knowledge-Juggling-Beast and hating themselves for it...
Well. Toss 'em. She'd take the guilt, she'd take the guilt for everyone. Dash it all - she'd make the guilt worse for the sake of those beautiful bold ideas. The mindlessly niggly naggy environmentalists didn't deserve the ideas if they were just going to destroy them. She was suddenly sure of that. They didn't give a snot. No: worse: They Hated ideas. What had the ideas ever done to deserve that kind of animosity? She'd keep the ideas for herself. Ideas were still beautiful, even when crunkled. Maybe even more beautiful she imagined in a half-baked spurt of spontaneous megalomania; an abstract useless beauty; the ideas. The best kind! Yeah. Art. That's what. She started cackling to herself maniacally...
Woke up the next morning; Brain all damp and wiggly. Damn. Had she tasted knowledge on accident?
It was some time after that, in the merciful shade of a manufactured palm frond, that she started feeling lonely. Not just "started feeling" actually, more like got heatstruck by it in the dead of winter. Melty for it. Plum oozy over it.
Not for home. She'd never needed home, not really. She'd take helter skelter over shelter any day. Or so she'd say... Really shelter was pretty undeniably convenient for the preservation of life and sanity, no matter how anarchic your birth-soul wanted to make you out to be. The manufactured palm frond for instance was paid-for by her gorgeous brilliant masterful pet- Master cat. (Yes, that selfsame playful maniac who'd turned frigid and scarpered on her idea-kickery. It'd take too much filler to make it make sense right now, just sit-tight-shut-up-and-roll with the skeptically chosen metaphors- if you will. Chekhov shall likely approve in the end) But she digresses egregiously.
The oozy melty heatstruckey lonely feeling sunk her mud-puddled belly into a nice cool pit of beauteous despair. A stew-cooking morsel of time of wallowing in that kind of irksomely blue-spangled nightscape would turn even the coldest-hearted feminist into a hypocritical cock-craving dildo-diddling lunatic, and our girl was anything but a feminist. Never a silicon-phallus made which could satisfy her lust for meaning. Not even the mechanically purring vibrating ones could quell her life-loving urges.
No, if anything she was a bit of masculinist maybe - instantly adored anything with a shred of patriarchy left in it.
Not leastly 'coz anything that did have that shred approved of her beloved idea-collection enough to give her a second once-over...
But mostly because those paragons of kindred inkling-lovers also had idea collections of their own. Fascinating gorgeous collections. Objectively more impressive collections than hers (though in sentimental moments she still preferred her crushed and crumpled artsy ones for nostalgic feel-wellers.)
Maybe some of these patriarchal-genius-shred-exemplifiers had even worked for the Knowledge Juggling Beast factory earlier in life? Maybe some of them even, the rascally ones, had imbibed sips from the idea's sparkling fresh-content vat? Gosh was she ever curious.
She'd sniff in for a look, cautiously crashing their dashingly daunting abodes, and they'd give her gifts in return for unsolicited flashes of smiles-and/or-tits.
Magnificently antique and retro gifts the likes of which she'd never clapped eyes on before. And she worshiped and she treasured. She added them to hers.
She forgets sometimes, even now, that it's not hers; the collection. She needs to remember that; Be properly humbled and humiliated by the shocking remembrance of the thats:
That loving something doesn't make it yours.
That she can't recreate ideas near as pretty as those in her collection.
That none of the ideas stemmed from her.
That she's not a knower, never was, just a gatherer. At best an adder.
That that's all anyone is anymore. (Even the likely-vat-sippers she deigns to worship; those callous-handed humorists she had the audacity to bow to and/or tip hats with.)
Then it hit her that maybe that's all anyone ever was:
And she woke up with a cruelly-sober jolt and throbbing brain at a light too harsh for human eyelids to block out.
Drat she'd done it again;
Dammit. No! No knowledge for her. Ideas. Ideas alone for her.
Please, dear Knowledge Juggling Beast,
please, dear mystery, dear doubt, dear God,
Don't force her to see those precious ideas as others see them; As a scourge. As a sin. As a bore. As junk. As waste in a wasteland. No, not to her. To her they'll be treasures. Treasures to her. Always. What a wealth she'd accrued of them. What a sparkling beautiful trove she had. What a vast accumulation she'd morphed from them. Existence can't exist in a void. Don't let it be for nothing. Please. It was hers, wasn't it? The collection? It was unique to her wasn't it? Doesn't this one gem of obscurity in her collection prove that? Surely no-one else in the world has that idea in their collection anymore?
Why can't it be the case that every single thing on the planet, material and immaterial alike, goes to the one person who loves it the most? Why can't thoughts be owned, and loved, and kept? ...Is it because they grow too big?
The cat sidled in to her thought-pit then and purred. She loves it when he purrs at her. So comforting. He had knowledge alright. Knowledge enough for both of them. Knowledge enough to shun and ban and shame her idea collection to smithereens. Knowledge enough to be bored with everything.
But cats are never truly past being kittenish (or literary) on occasion.
He pawed at one of the ideas he'd let her keep to stave off madness; a super nostalgic one. Nostalgic to anyone who'd ever read and/or seen it. One of her first ever ideas which weren't hers but still were. A wizard of an idea if ever a wiz there was. She grinned at the cat's suddenly rekindled interest. They flicked and kicked the common idea back and forth to each other until it wasn't pointlessly haphazard nor crumply-aluminium-can shaped anymore. Until it was round and bouncy shaped. Until it was sloppily sophisticated; specialized; a game.
Then, when they'd finished, the cat curled up on her belly and slept and purred some more. And her precious ideas seemed at last to take on a whole new meaning; to become something better than treasure; better than collectible nick-nacs and doodads; better than matter; better than wealth, far better than tricksy false knowledge. The ideas turned into more ideas.
And she sobbed happily,
Clutching her thoughts and rubbing the hairy belly of her aloofly knowledgeable cold-comfort cat...
The wealthiest woman in the world wept heartily
For she became aware that she was pregnant with her own litter.
And it would be the literariest litter there ever was. Oh she loved, oh how she'd love that litter; that brooding brood of literal-thinkers and illiterate litter-kickers alike. It would be her litter, hers, if ever a lit there was. For she loved it more than anyone had ever loved anything in the history of the world.
The warm putrefaction of time-honored profundity (and p'rhaps a rogue hormone or two) trickled down her blushing cheeks, watering the well-littered seeds of life.