“Is this from GAFE? It’s very old, Cymen.”
Eve had been talking, Cymen now realized, in her needy whispering tone for far longer than was decent. He heard her in the hay, cuddling him and mewing at him such that he’d dreamed they were both cats. He a gold tabby, and she black. Him flattening ears and waiting for her to stop hissing and scratching, and yowling. Thank the Divine, a cat was not a man, not even a knight, and so Cymen had raised his paw, claws unsheathed, and swiped viciously down.
Cymen exhaled through his mouth and rolled his eyes awake. “GAFE isn’t old, Eve.”
“Then why come it’s got black smudge on some parts, though I do clean it—”
“You don’t even take a rag to your own skin—”
“Hush, and look!”
Cymen had to rub his eyes twice, because the large medallion was nearly lost in so much nakedness. Eve had unwound layers of scraggly scarf and unfastened a gray dress and fancy white underthing, well, once it had been something like white, that certainly did not belong to her. She thought it enticing, but really, the entire ensemble of an unwashed woman was curious. It was more like a layer of fat, flesh, and skin on a boar. Beneath was the meat, the meal. Had Eve separated the clothing from herself with the help of a carving knife?
“You’ve exposed yourself to me in order to entice me, but it makes no impression whatever because of how filthy you are. So please stop.”
Eve got angry and pulled the necklace off, and pushed it into Cymen’s hands. “You said that GAFE is a heavenly kingdom. And, look, this was given to me and it’s an angel, isn’t it? Should I keep it for you, or should I give it away?”
Cymen sat up and Eve smiled wider. She kept asking if she should keep it, again and again, he finally put a finger to her lips. “This is older than GAFE. Did Robin the Hood give this to you? Or, some other king, Eve? I’d recognize the make anywhere, but no one else should be able to… this is Vischte.”
“That is a man. The musician we danced to, when Arth played?”
Cymen lowered his eyes and set it on the haystack. The light of morning lent the gold trinket a strange glow. The metal was not warm and full of life, but chilled, dawn-blue, dead.
He took too long to answer and so Eve fell back into her wrote spiral, begging whether or not she should keep it for his sake.
“Eve, stop it. I know what you are getting at. I won’t give you a new necklace to replace this one. I’m not one of your royal lovers. I am a man, Eve. I am on a holy mission, in fact, to eradicate this very kind of thing. The angel has got her back broken, can’t you see that? The wings may be detailed, the tiny fingertips perfectly crafted and delicate, but it is all strained, a blasphemy of what an angel truly is.”
“Is it? I thought she was rather pretty, with her wings stretching from her arms down even to her toes—”
“Eve. The woman is suffering. Can’t you see that?”
Eve leaned down, crouching over the piece. Cymen feared she would sniff at it.
“And whomever gave this to you, whomever found it for him, whomever salvaged it, hoarded it for a hundred years before even a king or collector, nor did this person appreciate, that this is not art, but an affront. So then, am I to believe that no men presently alive see how disgusting this is?”
Eve scratched her head and whined. “But one of my lovers gave it to me. Whomever it was–the hell if I remember, was being nice, Cymen.”
“Well, the Harbringer, Vischte made it.”
Already, Eve was shaking her head.
“I am a gentleman. I will not lay claim to your heart. You must make up your own mind, Eve. I shall tell you what this means, and you can decide for yourself if it is something you want to bring into GAFE and have people, even the King Micco see it.”
“Oh I see, you intend to teach me some moral lesson through parable. But, really, when the others are asleep and we could be—”
The problem, Eve, with Vischte’s statue of God was not that it had a face. It was that the dolt gave it a penis.
Good, I see that I have your attention. Now, to strike against your mettle while it’s blazing hot. Eve, Vischte did not have a last name worth remembering, which should tell you something. A man with nothing to pass on, or anyone to claim him, just obsessed with things. And I do mean things, though the soul is included, and the heart. But, it is because Vischte was obsessed with how the soul appeared to other people, and how the rapture of faith or despair made him feel…Religion was never a true concern of his, but it was Vischte’s greatest artistic medium.
And so, what greater mockery than to ignore all the lessons of the Scripture, about the decency of man and woman, the virtue of chastity, the wholeness of marriage… the proper love between a husband and wife, the structure of a family…what more terrible joke could there be, to open King Ommot’s temple, call all the children and the grannies, the nobles, even their gird and clipped red fox-dogs inside, and unveil a statue of the Father that’s got a phallus reaching up to His chin, an all-knowing gaze just barely able to look up to the heavens beyond that, and he also said,
“A turgid vein to guide us all.”
Why are you laughing? It was a tragedy. To suggest that the Father in Heaven was an object of amusement, thus objectified all of religion. What more was it than a device of humanity, used to control, and if the Divine ejaculated out all the Heavens, a waste of seed, all of us… Eve, it was the beginning of the end, when the world witnessed that statue. Your little broken-backed angel and many other works were only a part of this horrid exhibition that set men’s tongues on fire, and worse, still, that Holy Emperor Ommot would not take it down. He adored Vischte and so with him, Vischte’s son, the gross statue.
“I like Vischte now too.”
Yes, you would, Eve. Because you are the progeny of his disregard for good things. People stopped believing, refused to go to Chapel… the kingdoms became polarized between the just and unjust. I was young, and witnessed the destruction that resulted because the Knights of our Harmonic Gold Order no longer held sway.
He surrounded himself with expensive harlots, fashionable young men who also enjoyed being hangers-on, nobles, their wives, a weary king desperate to touch his faith. I certainly believe—excuse me, but what else deserves such language than damnation itself? I believe that Vischte fucked and was fucked by them all. While we were made to stand guard around the statue, at King Ommot’s order, Vischte would set down his brush before a half-finished canvas, and smile at them all with one side of his mouth, stretching the straight edge muscle of his jaw, no beard, not even shaved, and no teeth either. That was his smile. No teeth for anyone else, but the inside of his mouth. And he double-talked you know, smile to us, the truth of teeth to only his own mouth. The place where he kept all his secrets.
“Well… I suppose it’s a bit grotesque.”
“Yes, of course it is. I’m glad you’re learning.”
“…for there to be such a large male organ and nothing to do with it—”
I’m not done with the story yet, so you be quiet. Eve, King Ommot was an old and troubled man. He died soon after the great Chapel in Ommotlayan, a tribute, was finished. There should have been civil war, because Ommot had bastard-sons, and strong-willed daughters, but that was all avoided because Ommot gifted the Chapel, and the castle, and everything else in our holiest city to who else but the beloved Vischte? And Vischte was crowned—I was standing nearby with my shield out, I saw this—with as calm a demeanor as if he’d planned it all. People all over the world heard and raged that Vischte was not an ordained king, and that it was as much an affront as the un-gelded god. And then there were those who adored Vischte and his disposable faith. Convenient for celebrating holidays and getting people to buy and give religious trinkets down in the trade streets… but if one wanted to take three wives, or keep freed slaves, or drink the sacrificial wine, oh well then, religion was inconvenient. And that is what Vischte did in front of them, and what they all began to do.
The Kingdom of Peritopia rose up in the North and their King, Perr, wanted the statue torn down, and order restored. When Vischte refused the first time, King Perr realized a bluff was being called, since it would have branded him evil and a hypocrite to attack the holy city of Ommotlayan. So, King Perr sent horsemen into neighboring Montrabbus and tore that whole place down, instead.
“And where was your knightly order when this occurred?”
“It suited us, to have King Montra and his supporters punished. They’d opposed us during the Crusades.”
“And so then, when King Perr came to punish you…?”
As I was saying… Vischte refused to obliterate any of his artwork, and so Perr went around to all his neighbors, and those who were both afraid of Peritopia and those who agreed with King Perr formed a united front and went to war, not with the godless Fringe this time, but with our own neighbors to punish them. But the holy city of Ommotlayan remained. The people were in a frenzy with worry, and Vischte’s own fashionable supporters at last turned against him and went at him with knives. We knights stepped aside.
“Aww, so you killed him?”
Cymen shut his eyes. Oh, not I. Not any of us. His own people who chased him from the city and came back cheering with bloody knives in their fists, those were the people who did murder. But, Eve, that was not justice. Heaven had been mocked, and mankind had destroyed his brothers, his very neighbors in a rabid fury. Is it possible to know the heart and soul of every individual? No. But Hamantra, Tarindale, Lullindrom, and countless others were sacked and burned all the same, as if it was merely a plague being purged. And they ran from those cities carrying women and gold. Eve, this was the Rapture upon us, and man had failed to address the thing with peace and justice. In fact, he brought it about. It was not something that any of us knew right away, but when the dragons came, a symbol from Hell, we knew that the golden age had finished.
A gold dragon alighted on the temple when Perr’s forces descended upon the holy city, and burned everything that might have destroyed the unholy exhibition. Then, having gorged itself, the dragon went to Peritopia and the rest of the kingdoms in that sacrilegious union which were still standing. A gray dragon followed next, and did the opposite. It destroyed the temple and lay in wait for its kin to return to the foul nest.
“And then you killed it, we all lived happily ever after, and you made your sword after it?”
No, this sword is a replica for a man and of a time far more pristine… Here is the last bit, since you are so impatient. No, the dragons killed one another. Heaven had clearly withdrawn its help long ago, for there were no prophets to warn us, or saints to champion our cause in the battlefield. There were no soldiers left to oppose these monsters, and now dragons live and walk the earth like beasts. Wolves for men that we can do nothing about, but hide from. And that you befriended one, even spoke to one… either you are lying or… Eve, I worry for you. But that is the story of the necklace. It is a trinket from a lost time and a cruel person. You come to me, concerned about whether or not I am going to claim you, when I already explained, that is not what this is. Now, what do you think, are you going to continue wearing it?
Eve had already put it back on though.
Just as angry, “Cymen… no. That was then, and this is now. Besides, I still think that she is pretty. Also, I liked my story a lot better.”
“Why are we even discussing this—more than likely—in fact, surely, yours is just that, a story, and all my lessons are going to be wasted until we get to where we’re going and the real, trained holies can untangle all those lies then properly deal with you.”
Still, “Mine’s better. Feh.” Then she stuck out her tongue, the cock crowed, she made a horrible joke about that, and they all slipped out of the barn before the farmer or his family could make their way to find the cows already milked.