Eve smiled and sang for weeks after being kissed by an angel.
“Oh Cymen, I’m in love…”
He grunted. “Yes, you should be. Micco has never shown interest in any woman, not as long as I’ve known him.”
Damascus was walking on the other side of Eve. A big black studded collar with red jingling bells was fastened around his neck. “If her good fate gets any better I’m going to disgorge what’s been sitting in my second stomach—”
“Oh, Damascus, stoppit. Miccolangiolo even hates it when you do that.”
The animal interrupted, “–I’ve known King Miccolangiolo longer.”
“Once more, you have a selective memory, Damascus. Miccolangiolo spake with me first.”
“Yes, but I knew he was coming. I saw him soar down from the heavens.”
“With what wings? They’d all been plucked out. Damascus, I’m fairly sure Micco fell out of the sky.”
“Oh did he? That’s so amazingly sexy…”
Cymen paused them all awkwardly before the large doors to Micco’s room behind the altar.
“I believe what Cymen is too modest to refute is your estimation of what is attractive about that ridiculous and incorrect image.”
Eve hummed to herself. “Oh, I don’t know. I just see the King’s toga flying away and all, and him yelling at the top of his lungs, passionate, sweaty, and then fallen into some woman’s lap!”
Damascus blinked at Cymen for saying that.
“Mmm… I think that Micco was put on this earth to please me and no one else. Does that surprise you?”
Damascus went, “You’re obnoxious.”
When they were asked into the room, Cymen requested that Micco not kiss Eve again and she got very angry.
“Yes, I agree. I think she has had enough perfect kisses.” Though Micco blew her one more and this made Eve grasp at her cheeks and turn a happy circle.
Damascus tossed his head in annoyance and that sent his awful collar jingling. “Your Majesty, I trust this morning finds you well?”
Micco was busy winking at Eve. “Oh? No, it’s not that well, I suppose. I have a bad feeling about the Grail. It’s been cleaned and anointed by now, correct? It had better be… I need to see it, now.”
Damascus lowered his head and Cymen took the Grail, a dull gold thing with cracked rubies around its base. Cymen set it upside down upon the Unicorn’s horn, and opened fingers one-by-one from around it, carefully balancing it in place.
“Now, for this part, it’s too bad you aren’t a virgin, Eve.” Micco grinned. “Well, you’ll do, Cymen.”
“Oh, yes, I’ll go fetch one of the maids, I suppose. Or, maybe Margerethe is nearby and it’s not too early, so she’ll know of someone…”
“No, I mean you. Stay there.”
“Go on, kiss him, Cymen. Or we’ll have to scour the kingdom at this hour for a woman who isn’t a woman monk with binding vows to the Father or married off yet. And I’m very impatient with you already, after taking so long.” From gleeful to cruel and spiteful in a matter of moments.
Eve began to fan herself.
Cymen breathed out through his nose, and then took off his new re-forged gold gauntlets, as if it were a great messy job. Micco was a head taller than Cymen. He covered his mouth and then cleared his throat in a loud fashion.
“Yes, my King? What do you find so amusing.”
Eve said, “Micco, stop, you’re going to ruin it.”
King Miccolangiolo spied Eve sideways, but that conspiratorial glance turned into shoulders sagging, his taught gut—oh no, it was bulging a little—flexed beneath the silken white robe, and he went on his knees. Eve sat on the floor, far too riled up for the moment, and gave into hard laughter too.
“I demand to know. I could be tossed into this again for more years of my life and I don’t take any of this lightly.”
Damascus flattened ears, his long horn bobbed slightly. “A touch will do fine. The kiss, as King Micco well knows, is not necessary.”
“How is it possible that I missed this detail, throughout all our service together?”
Damascus headbutted Cymen then, from an angle that made the man lose his breath and his footing, before the animal shied away at the last moment to force Cymen’s arm up over his head, and so slip his hand down his neck and back. The result was a gentle and brief stroke along Damascus’ flank.
“Don’t drop my Grail now.”
“Yes, your Majesty.”
“It wouldn’t be in any danger at all, if you had just kissed him as I ordered you. Carefully, long and slow…”
Eve went, “HA!”
To which Cymen breathed through his nose again.
White power burst beneath Damascus’ hooves, and he bucked with fright. “Dragons and Damsels, Cymen! And now I see where I might have been tricked. A kiss like that would have ruined me for any other virgin. Oh, Cymen Ruecross, you had better thank the Maker you aren’t a woman.”
“Be quiet, Damascus. This is the new holy city. There is a stocked tabernacle in this palace, a very angel sleeping behind the altar… and yet not one person here seems to have any respect for keeping the Father’s sacred law.”
Micco crouched down on one knee, spying at the mouth of the Grail from underneath. “Angels have sex all the time, Cymen. Those commandments don’t apply to me.”
Eve went on her toes and Cymen made a fist at his side. “Excuse me, King Micco?”
“Do they really? Tell me, and I desperately need to know, what is it like, between angels.”
“How lucky, that the level nine Incarnate and damsel wants to know. Oh, darling creature, it’s rapture. I miss it. And here, it’s so difficult to even enjoy a…” Micco stood straight and tall. “This is not my Grail.” He took it from Damascus, set it in his mouth, and then put both hands on his hips. Micco chewed on the edge, kissing around it, and helped himself to licking the inside. “No, some other angel’s. Cymen, you wound me. And you mock me.”
“I did my very best, my King. I and my men.”
Micco wandered off a few paces and sat down hard on a bench.
Damascus stretched the sides of his long mouth into a smile. It made his goat-beard flit upward. “Poor, poor Cymen. I’m sure he’s going to take your head off this time. One hundred years of disappointment, exactly, on tomorrow.”
“It can’t be that much… Eve, I won’t always be around to nanny you. Stop gawking like that.”
“If the good king would close his legs… I wouldn’t have to.”
Micco was completely different, however. He covered his face with both white hands and said, and he ached, “Before you leave me, I would have a word with Eve.”
She came forward. Micco took her hand, covering it in blue tears. “Making love to an angel is like living rapture. Thriving among jewels. Everywhere you look is pristine beauty, and you are trapped in it and glad to be trapped inside…”
“Eve, come away with us, you are upsetting the King.”
Eve did not want to listen.
“And then, to thrust is to enter into the most tender, elusive mist of the soul. No softer pillow than between an angel’s thighs. The soul is the purest desire to love and suckle every living thing. Oh, but if not for the harsh realities of this base existence, like scars upon my most sensitive part…”
“Eve, now.” Cymen pulled her away, while Micco sat and went on and on to himself becoming more upset.
A yell, “And the orgasm, the end. Oh, how it never ends! And one withdraws from her warm and perfect thighs, so much like her flush bosom, sated, but firm again, and that is the greatest luxury, to stride on the clouds with passion pulsing between your legs ever like a heartbeat. And now for a hundred years, it has been like I have only one heart, the other part of me dead and done. Is this mortality? Is this distress and wallowing in sin at last!”
The door closed behind the three of them, and Eve kissed the inside of Cymen’s hand. “Your King Over Kings… he’s mad.”
Damascus flicked his tail. “No, King Miccolangiolo is perfect. But life is transient and absolute. Like having no place else to sleep, but on a bed of nails… so then, Eve. You will take all the sacraments regularly and bathe yourself on that same schedule, won’t you? Our King cannot be aroused or upset any further, can he?”
For the first of many times, Eve sensed and so said, “Yes, Archbishop Damascus.”
Cymen let go of Eve’s hand and bowed to her. “My Lady. I know that when my King recovers I will be sent out again. And so I take my leave to make ready. I pray that you enjoy your stay behind the White Wall.”
Cymen walked away with a dignity that Eve could not explain, until Damascus said it. “And now you know why King Miccolangiolo needs a man like Cymen Ruecross. And an ass like Damascus.”
“You’ll see. I haul all the weight around here. And you belong to me now, since Cymen did not care to make that clear. So say bye-bye little duckling, you won’t likely live to see him again.”
Eve stopped their walking. “That man promised to protect me for the rest of my life.”
“Is he going to protect you for the rest of his life too? Oh, come on now, I thought humans or hellions—whatever, were all much better at their math than that…”
Eve later comforted herself with that she felt close to King Micco, and thought herself special to him, for how he smiled at her, but all the important people of White Wall fast reassured her of her place. Micco sought to be tender with and adored by everyone, but the effort exhausted him. And when he slept, there was commotion, bad weather, sickness… Micco’s very nature was a fount of good energy, a resource to be meted out scrupulously, and guarded. A flock of woman-monks that Damascus assigned to take over Eve’s schedule prevented her from even being in the courtyard when the King bade Cymen and his band of unhappy adventurers ‘good bye and good luck, finally finding MY grail.’
She was able to stop and watch it all happen, from behind the shade of columns.
Cymen put his rough mannish hand in Micco’s which looked so large and soft in comparison. They shook like equals, that is what Micco wanted, after his prayers and all the kneeling and standing and kneeling again was done. Damascus in his horrifying, off-note, melodious jingling bells came out too. That strange creature was the only one smiling. When it came his turn to say goodbye, he took tiny steps over to Cymen, keeping his head back and the deadly horn free of course, and then reared belly flat against standing Cymen, and nuzzled into him.
“Will you stop it, Damascus!”
“I am just very sensitive to smell is all, and you’ve freshly bathed.”
Oh yes, Cymen was capable of smelling very good. Eve rested her head on the cool stone and smiled. Women in white clucked tongues over her shoulder.
“Good bye.” Cymen crossed himself.
“No, not like that, so impersonal and unkind…”
“My King, I request permission to be excused.”
“Absolutely not. Go on, kiss him.”
Cymen flushed. Eve laughed from where she was, and it caused Cymen to look all around, chasing echoes.
“I shall not. With all respect a humble mortal man is due to a fallen angel, My King, I shall not make light of my beliefs for sport.” Then he bowed and walked away.
Damascus followed a bit, then trotted and danced, before stopping himself. “Oh, King Miccolangiolo, you are so terrible to all of us.”
Sad, sad day. For Cymen to leave without even attempting a good bye to the woman he’d saved. Eve walked out into the sun and watched until Cymen and the rest were entirely gone.
She hadn’t known that she had it boiling up inside of her, “Fine then, bring back another woman! See what I care!”
A woman monk went, “He ishandsome, isn’t he? The Creator was very kind to the Ruecross line for generations, don’t you think? And honorable, kindly… a man with such a golden heart can find strength to forgive, in time.”
“Is that some lesson, like what Micco said the other day?” Eve feared to leave the sunshine again, though the monk women reached their arms out to her, beckoned.
“Micco feels strongly that man can struggle and do what an angel can with half a thought. But the road to reconciliation can be made easier when both those who have been wronged, work to make things right. And so, dear girl, we suggest that you improve yourself in his absence. Impress the Monk Mother, charm even the Unicorn Archbishop, be a saint at miracle-working… and then, perhaps, you can win your virgin.”
Yes, it had been that obvious. Though something inside of Eve raged more against not being enough as she was, than the fact that even these women with vows could see how fond she had grown of Cymen Ruecross.
“Wait a moment, Damascus, that ass—he said he was—and he also said that I would not live long enough to see Cymen again.”
When a holy woman smirked, it was truly fine. She was informed with the wisdom of all ages and the pure truth of existence, yet the present moment amused her still even more for being juxtaposed at this perspective. “Damascus is not an ass, Eve, but a Unicorn. He always has a choice whether or not to tell the truth when his master isn’t looking. And why make you happy, when you are on the side of his rival?”
“Are those two competing for me, then?”
The woman monk now looked perplexed, which was far more impressive, considering all that she fully realized regarding the human spirit. “Who are you? I was talking of friendship and camaraderie moments ago, not the sacrament of marriage. Dear, sweet, salvaged urchin, you are at best meant to be a good friend of Captain Ruecross, but not his mate and mare. Don’t upset yourself by setting such terrible high standards. Look at you, you already are…” she clucked tongue, “Come along now, you have a great deal else to learn about whose and why you are.”
Eve kept trying to go the other way, “But men are so pretty…”
There are ten commandments. There are eight beatitudes. There are seven gifts of the hallowed spirit which, once upon a time ago, Heaven would give freely to men.
For every commandment in Gafe, there was an alcove. For every beatitude, there had been made a door. For every gift, there was a guild of workers, and they set about what Gafeians, Gaffins? Or, Gafelings? …they called saving the world with such determination, Eve wondered how she ever lived unaware that it was at an end.
Mother Superior Margrethe corrected, “No, Eve. Life in this realm has already ended. After the Rapture, we are holding on to scraps, with the help of these very energies they create here.” She pointed out, as they passed each workshop.
They continued walked down the long, cobblestone aisle between the fields and alcoves.
“I remember that Damascus said the Rapture wasn’t much, though? Cymen, too.”
“That is what a powerful holy warrior thinks. The oldest servants of the King living in White Wall remember true war and conflict. And perhaps, at that time, violence and strict holy order, its counter, was all they understood. However, what King Micco understands is that monochromatic vision of the world is what enabled the Harbringer to do his work. The Harbringer was but a bell ringing the disaster already upon them, in the sickened hearts of the disenchanted, the heartbroken, the cruel and unkind. The ones who would destroy civilization because they did not like a statue.”
“Vischte. He was an artist, but he only created what he was seeing around him, like my necklace. I always thought that. But Cymen blamed him.”
“Correct. But do not speak that V-name often here. The King can hear it, wherever you are.”
Eve lowered her voice and spoke more carefully. “How different your opinions are from Cymen’s. Does everyone here disagree with him?”
“I will not say that Cymen is wrong. Just that he is old fashioned. But that difference doesn’t really matter when his observations have weight too. Now then, where shall we place you?” She began to wander the stained glass portals and stone archways from afar, with her plumping finger. Archbishop Damascus said that you were a grade five incarnate–”
“Micco said I was a nine. What happens when I get to ten? He even seems to know, but no one will tell me.”
Margarethe had been ignoring her, “…and you are also several lesser things. It’s not unusual to be skilled in more than one school of miracle-work, and at exact grades human beings keep for their entire lives, by the way. Oh, but I hesitate to train you in one guild house at the expense of your other talents.”
“If I can’t get any better at living–even as a nine and my existence has been so miserable with that, then why should I learn more?”
“Oh? So you’ve no longer the will to try? Well, in that case—Yes, you can get beyond nine. Why not? Frankcis had his theorems but then Assissi reminds that there there are still the transubsisting power of certain miracles to consider. Well, just wild-born miracles, anyways. And we do have some of those ordained creatures already on the premises…”
“Hrm? So then I can get to a grade ten? Because, as I said, Micco seems so intent that I do when I’m already a nine,”
“You just told me the opposite. Are you lying again, Eve?”
“No… it’s just so hard to disappoint him, being a king. Yes, a mad king, but still really large and shiny too.”
“Hold on, I’m just speaking aloud to myself, dear. Give me a moment…” and Mother Margarethe talked of grafting fruit trees, cutting the heads off of roses, and gelding horses. Eve was lost and then, curiously, through there being so very many representations, Eve felt comfortable discovering her own meaning.
“Mother Margarethe. I am none of those things, but a person. You should teach me to do everything that I can.”
A secret smile. “Are you sure? Damascus will have you handled like a stallion then, because with all that passion and talent you will be regarded as dangerous. And so then, someone very skilled and demanding will have to watch you.”
“Does everyone choose in this way?”
“When they are old enough, yes. And you are the eldest Miracle Worker as of yet.”
Eve nodded. “Then I shall be an… ungelded stallion. Handle me as you will.”
Mother Margarethe smiled, breathed relief and hugged her. “Oh, I was so hoping you would. Believe it or not, we do have some people who would rather be pruned rose bushes or chopped down trees re-growing themselves by an enforced design. You are fearless then, exactly aggressive as we could use around here!” Then, Mother Margarethe cautioned her though before they went in through the door. “If I were you, I would not tell Assissi what you confessed with me last night, dear.”
Eve had told so very many things. “Oh? Oh… No, oh no, never that one.”
“…And then he handed his clothes to his father and told him that he was the Lord’s humble servant alone, with nothing left to owe mankind.”
On hearing Master Assissi describe the saint Eve giggled, “Frankcis walked out of the town naked?” But, Mother Margarethe’s warning must have come to her silly little head then, “That is, I meant to say… what a noble sacrifice.”
“There is a line between chaste admiration for sexuality and indulging, Lady Eve. Incarnators tend to be very empathetic and can even achieve a fully animal consciousness in other forms, but that line should never be crossed. It would be a sin.”
“Oh no, never.” Eve clutched the collar of her dress—they wanted her to wear white now—and crossed her legs behind the work bench.
“None of that.” Went Assissi.
Eve sat plainly once more and begrudged the next set of depictions. Master Assissi turned pages in a large book, for all of them to see.
“And that was our inspiration, Frankcis. King Miccolangiolo wisely ordered us as the Incarnation guild and a many great miracles have been worked since. People are reminded of the innocence of the Father’s creation, through bonding with animals. And animals also have great strength that humans cannot achieve. Animals are the ones who remained with us after the fall of Eden and the apple, kept us connected to Heaven and its perfect intentions for creation though we ourselves were lost as humans.” A tight smile, “Archbishop Damascus will gladly re-tell the oral history of the Unicorn role in the effort to anyone who asks. But, having fulfilled my lecture obligation, I shall not go into the exact details of fairies and Unicorns and whats-its plying on the Human soul.” then Assissi snapped the book shut. A cloud of dust wafted out from it.
Eve raised her hand eagerly.
“No questions. We are meant to believe not in sacred beasts such as Unicorns, but in the Father’s power working through them, that is their point. Here, I present a lasting example of that difference, that none of you shall ever forget.”
Assissi brought a crate to the long workshop table, and lifted out of it a very strange looking creature. It had four legs, long claws, and wet eyes that kept on blinking. The poor thing never seemed to get comfortable whenever Master Assissi prompted a student to hold it–and it was heavy. Eventually, the animal gave up and reversed itself, pulling mostly into its shell.
“Oh! That’s a turtle. But those are supposed to be slow, little, covered in swamp-mess and boring. Also, how did it get so large? Ugh.”
Assissi instructed they leave the black turtle alone, on the table. “Eve, I know that this is a special experience for you, but please do not go on as if there aren’t other people here enjoying the lesson. Besides, turtles aren’t ugly.”
“Ho yes they are. With their beady little eyes, and those terrible rock-hard shells. If you’re not tripping over one, then you’re stuck trying to crack it open before eating it…”
The Master of the Incarnation Caste sighed and brought a handkerchief from his vest. He unfolded it to show them crushed lettuce leaves and bits of carrot.
“Here, who would like to feed Bonnie?”
“Is that because of the bonnet she’s always hiding under? What a simple name for a worse off creature.”
“No, Eve, be quiet, I said! Someone other than Eve.”
The turtle was tempted back out, with food. Master Assissi walked around, and guided that student in keeping his hands away from the snapping beak, to pet, just there. Back further, along the neck… But at first touch, Bonnie went right back home.
“Another brave soul wish to make first contact?”
Eve worried aloud whether or not turtles really could be petted? “They aren’t cats, you see. In fact, I have a theory about some animals–”
“If you are truly a good theorist, and have met Archbishop Damascus, then your theory about everything fur-covered and soft being loveable should have ended in that moment. Fine then, you’ll do. Watch and see, Miss Eve, how Assissi works a miracle on you too.”
Bonnie was hungry enough to return. Assissi gently took up Eve’s hand, smiling fondly at her. Woman’s grip relaxed. “Now, do you see how to gain a creature’s trust?”
Eve realized she was being worked on, and by a teacher at that!
“Behave yourself and focus instead on how to peaceably connect with an animal. Now, touch, beneath her neck.”
Eve held her breath and reached. Bonnie kept eating, she seemed to become agitated, and then her eyes bulged. Eve found she could determine the brown irises from the rest. Animal craned its neck, leaned into her. The woman smiled and scratched more eagerly. A turtle could be smooth as a baby. A turtle could be as appreciative as a child in need of cuddling. A turtle could be as enchanting to watch as a goldfish placed in a jar, or a tied sack of kittens tossed into a lake–well, not quite that far. No, that would be wrong to ever watch someone do again. Wrong to stand by and imagine that a creature could not be special, could not evoke love or be loving.
“…And if, admittedly, all they can ask for is food, then as humans, we are the ones with the duty to do so much more. Bring them love also. Show compassion. They are only themselves, and as such pure beings, remind us that we can be ourselves also. Wholly and completely, strip human conflict away, free us to indulge in sharing love.”
“Bonnie is looking at my necklace.” Eve removed the dying angel and showed it to the turtle. “Does she like jewelry?”
“I suspect it is more the play of light, at this angle. It’s not like the inside of a crate, or grass or gray water or marsh sun that she has seen. Bonnie must find your necklace curious.”
“Do you mean to say, she can be curious about an object? Can an animal think?”
“They think as much as they need to, I believe. Though, Frankcis and I argued a bit on that point.”
Bonnie came nearer and nearer to the gold pendant, her tiny nostrils flaring, her eyes peering ever more enchanted.
“She thinks that it is beautiful. I did not know an animal could be inspired, to come close to something and enjoy it.”
“And now, my student, you understand the power they have on us, and also the power we have, over them, when our hearts are brought out… and we human beings, because we have a choice, can become channels, allow a feeling or experience to come in one side of ourselves, and then travel out the other as far sweeter, like–let’s say, an instrument? How many of you here know the words, how Frankcis thought of all creation and then imagined himself capable? Let us recite.”
Father, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred let me sow love,
Where there is injury, pardon,
Where there is doubt, faith,
Where there is despair, hope,
Where there is darkness, light,
Where there is sadness, joy.
“Eve, as an Incarnator, you must not so much seek to be consoled, as to console. Nor to be understood, as you can renew your strength each day with this power, to understand others. Do not any of you seek to so much to be loved, either, when you are the one who can love still harder.”
Assissi did a turn around the room. “For, what do we get, from giving?”
They shouted, “We receive!”
“And then, when we pardon others?”
“We are pardoned!”
“And even, after every sacrifice, when on His sacred ground at last we find ourselves dying? At that moment, when we think of the animals and that pure love, that innocent nature of life, should we feel fear? What awaits us when we dedicate our very lives, to be an instrument of this peace?”
All, “We are born again, to eternal life!”
“Yes, a greater harmony that will encompass all of us and last for generations. I don’t care whether or not Heaven’s gates might be closed. This is all still worth fighting for.”
Eve had not known the words. “But that is not in Scripture, at least not the part I’ve been told. I must have misspoken the prayer about a thousand times just now, Master Assissi… have I failed the lesson? Micco wants me very much to get at grade ten–and I really want to get better, too. Bonnie also says.” she brought the turtle into her lap and kissed its shell.
He laughed, “No. You, like everyone else here, is an instrument, aware of your world. You can learn and start again, Eve. I could care less about the length of those communion lines, when an Incarnator can always tune himself–or herself, and start loving again.”
Assissi gently took Bonnie away from Eve and had his seat again at the head of the table, where he did an impressive job at engaging and eliciting petted joy from a mere turtle. “Incarnators will also begin to use their talents, along with the other Miracle Workers, to try and reverse, or else slow the effects of the human descent into demonhood. And students, this woman and your newest classmate is a fine example of what Micco means, that hellions can be retrieved, and the onset of Hell completely halted, therefore.”
Eve stood and bowed to light, delayed clapping. But then someone asked how Micco’s kissing Eve was a miracle of incarnation—in fact wasn’t it two unlike creatures indulging romance, and very close to sin, according to the lesson?
Eve crossed her arms. “Well, when the playing field’s fair, I personally don’t see why not. Why are you laughing? I’m good at what I do, so good that I’m already a grade nine, didn’t you hear? It’s exactly like being an instrument, too. I knew it all along. In fact, has anyone here heard of Axz, the dragon-king? He’s dishy, and though technically we never—”
“Eve!” the woman’s name was shouted by both Master Assissi and Mother Superior Margarethe at the same time. She had conveniently returned. “Excuse the interruption, Assissi, and any other discomfort that must have resulted from a woman torn in so many directions and grades of direction. I’m told—”
“But who could have told you?!”
And swiftly ignored it, “… that it’s time for you to see Master Arc, young woman. I hope you intend to behave yourself there as well.”
But, before Master Arc could even get the lecture started, Eve stood nose to nose with him. “I know all about her, you see. They wanted to burn her at the stake.”
“But because she spoke up and told all the world that the Father himself was speaking through her, well then, suddenly they started to listen to a woman.”
“Well, naturally, if you consider original sin—”
“She’s the only one I really know about. Or… think that I know about. Do not change my image of her, please. Jone is the only reason why I’ve managed the strength, as a woman, to keep my mouth shut about the truth, thus far in life.”
Master Arc furrowed his dark tangling eye brows. “But that’s completely opposite of what happened–Margarethe, do you recall that favor I owe you?”
“Oh my no, not in exchange for this.”
Eve didn’t even have half the chance to begin smiling indecently.
“Well then in that case, I refuse to train her.” then, shouting mightily, “Jone of the Arc was a brave and beautiful woman because her spirit expanded beyond her form and the witness she bore, like a wailing babe, was something two kingdoms could not deny. No matter how she ended, her sacrifice caused so many to believe and if you will not humble yourself that far, Eve, then I shall take the Saint and the holy wounds I made her, far away from you, so help me. Never again will I deal with another woman so cow-headed and craven…”
Margarethe gently twined a finger with Eve and led her away. “There is controversial evidence of this, but some scholars here believe there was a great deal of misinterpretation on Master Arc’s part and that perhaps Jone should have never been martyred. But Arc earned that name for himself, all the same.”
“So then, am I to just start screaming the truth all over the place, if I don’t like something, the way Jone did?”
“No, I’ll teach you myself. I was confirmed with Jone as my patron saint you see, and if there is anyone here equipped to horsewhip you for what you just said about her, and to her Miracle Worker at that, then it would be myself. Ugh, and then there is that fire miracle of yours to consider… so very over-used and inappropriately…” All this said so mysteriously sweet in tone—it should not have been possible, and Eve was smiling at her, didn’t see it coming, until finally Margarethe twisted, and Eve gasped at her finger being pinched blue.
“Oh, Mother Margarethe!”
“Yes, brave little one? I see you’re still looking me directly in the eye after what you did.”
“I… Oh my, I… love my… fingers very much… and so I hope you won’t be offended if I confess my last fears… about all this to you? If you’ll hear them… maybe I can take the proper kneeling position before you… and you’ll let go?”
Margarethe sat down on a bench at the edge of the bread workshop. Eve was, to be honest with you, still shaking, but she took her knees in front of her. She lay her head over Margarethe’s lap. “What is your confession, my child? I won’t bother asking when your last one even was.”
Eve rubbed a little at the ball of her throat, before folding her hands again. “I admit… all this somehow reminds me of the mines in Mount Brax…”
“Well that is a terrible place, a city that’s a coal mine, and the comparison to here could really be no worse—insulting me again is truly not the best way to start this sacrament off.”
“Mother Margarethe, my father told me never to work there. He forbade me.”
“This is not Brax.” Margarethe said carefully.
Eve began to wind at the skirt of her dress, and she cried into Margarethe’s own white skirt, and then, Margarethe leaned down uncomfortably, to stop Eve from grasping and mourning so hard that she was almost pulling the holy woman’s skirt up past her knees. “Just because this is work, Eve, and organized well, does not mean that there are people being taken advantage of. Everyone here eats well, and sleeps on time. They go to mass, raise children, take the sacraments… Eve, you will be very happy here also.”
“But I just can’t shake it, this other thing, though he is very handsome—I’m sort of glad I haven’t seen him in a time… I’m maybe afraid to see him again after I thought of how close it all was—I fear that what I don’t understand is… well, what does Micco do?”
“…do? He is an angel.”
Eve shook her head.
“We believe in him and he inspires us, all of this was his idea.”
“But when King Miccolangiolo isn’t… supervising? And why did he call it something so silly, a Grand And Frivolous Effort? I don’t find that very inspiring, and now I’ll have to tell people that I work at and live in a grand and frivolous effort? I’m embarrassed to be here already.”
Margarethe got up and crossed her arms. It caused Eve to slip backward, onto her butt. “When you feel the joy of having saved a life, rather than endanger it, then I suppose your tongue will be made less sharp. I’m not giving you any Hallowed Maries to pray on it… I doubt you can really commit a real crime of doubting the good here, when it’s clearly being made out of pure ignorance.”
Eve put fists to her cheeks and leaned over her knees. Margarethe left. The bells rang for vespers, and Eve began to hate Cymen all over again.
“And now that my spell with Micco’s kiss has worn off, I wonder what horrible things these people will do to my soul! Fair is so very foul, Cymen.”
1 Tie Me to the Tree :: 2 But First, a Snack of Strawberries :: 3 Five Love Stories :: 4 Robin in the Hood :: 5 Even Crispy Children :: 6 A Good GAFE :: 7 Last Chance Through the Flames :: 8 On the Rogue, Damascus :: 9 White Wall :: 10 Saint-Makers and Uniform Wearers