Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Norben Fletcher 2/7

"May the Lord bring me a pack mule 'fore this day is over."  He flexed his arm above his head, trying to stretch the muscle that had the worn leather brace covering his armor's collar digging into it every other step.  His back ached under the weight of the scale plates, a necessary while traveling alone; even servants of the Lord were set upon by brigands on the country roads.  An ebony lacquered box was tied high on his traveling pack, seated immediately above his bedroll and portable tent.  Below this, a larger sack carring the majority of his personal belongings hung from the canvas straps that looped through the armor.  Off his belt, a heavy steel mace hung from a leather loop, always at the ready should bandits or agents of the Night set upon him.  He was told that wandering the back country was safer before the fracture, but with war came pockets of lawlessness, especially this close to the border.

"Mornin' preacher!" someone called from the fields lining the hard dirt road.  Norben realized his arm was still skyward.  The farmer probably mistook it for a wave.  "A blessed mornin', child.  How far to the nearest village?"  As per ritual he'd woken before sunrise, so he could shave in time to recite the Prayers of Dawn as the Lord's light crested above the horizon.  It had only taken ten minutes afterwards to break camp and repack his belongings.  Yet still, by the time he rejoined the road and had gone a quarter mile, the farmers were already deep into their daily chores.  Blessed were the men who toiled under the suns' nascent rays, but these were not his flock.  Farmers had no time or energy to spare for impurity.  "'bout two miles straight down, preacher.  Tresco's the name.  Finest bakery south of [name tbd when I have e-mail access]."  Towns like these tried hard to differentiate themselves; self-promotion was common.  Norben noticed that this particular farm grew wheat, figured they were a main supplier.

"Child...children," he corrected, noticing four farmhands popping up amongst the amber stalks, "may the tears of the Lord nourish this land."  He reached into a small pouch on his belt, tugging free a thin glass vial with a waxed cork.  He emptied the clear contents into the air, shaking the vial as he recited, "May His light give us strength.  May His warmth give us joy.  The Daylord smiles upon the shepherds of the Earth, the greensmen, keepers of his garden.  You will know his purity and be cleasned of sin.  Your aches shall dull and your harvest shall be bountiful.  Praise now the Lord's might," he intoned, casting his face and both open palms to the sky.  Each farmer dropped his tools and took the supplicant's pose, and together they prayed.  "O Lord, blinded by your light, yet I see.  Warmed by your sun, my heart knows only the sacred fire.  We walk in your hallowed path, awaiting the Reckoning.  May your illumination light the way."

A moment passed in restful silence as he pocketed the empry vial, then one of the younger boys, deeply tanned and shirtless, asked "Tears of the Lord?  Sir, I've been to the chapel, but I don't..."

Norben raised his hand, calling for silence, which swiftly came.  He suppressed an amused grin, instead adopting the airs of gravitas.  He spoke in a lower, more reverent tone than the early prayer.  "The most holy priests of the Lord, the most pious and devout, in their sunset years begin to feel the call.  They are moved to wander the land, following the path of the suns, praying through the nights without sleep.  For weeks they travel, eating only what the Lord sees fit to provide along the way, drinking only where the Lord has placed a stream.  This is a pilgrimage, boy.  Only those who have never known sin, who reject their Devils absolutely, survive.  Those that do arrive at Quen'slar, an ancient monestary, housing the holiest texts and the most sacred relics of the Lord.  There they study and pray until they come to know the Lord as they do themselves.  Some return to our lands to impart their wisdom upon the clergy, some live the remainder of their days in that monestary.  After one of these priests passes into the heavens, the next morning, there is a day rain.  The clouds are pierced by pure white light as the joyful Tears of the Lord fall upon the Earth.  Some of these tears are collected and sanctified, and distributed throughout the faith as the holiest of holy waters.  And now the Tears of the Lord nourish your fields.  You shall know his love this harvest."

Lambent smiles creased the farmers' faces, the youngest once again reaching to the sky.  "Praise the Lord.  Bless you, sir.  Please, won't you come sit for a meal.  Bess was baking early this morning.  Please, do me the honor of gracing my table."

"I'm afraid I must reach the next village before the midday services.  Perhaps I could take something small for the road..."


Finishing one sweet bun leisurely, so as to not welcome gluttony into his heart, he wrapped the remaining two in the checkered cloth Bess had refused to let him leave without.  These both were stuffed into a beltpouch before wiping at the crumbs on his lips with an armsleeve.  Sated, he strolled with a happy gait over the small wooden bridge spanning a brook that hardly seemed wide enough to require crossing.  "A blessed morn' indeed," he mumbled to himself, kneeling down at the far bank of the brook to refill his empty vial.  He refit the cork, then was back on his way to Tresco, ready to fight sin in His name.

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