Which Kindles Honor (Part 1)

June 15, 2011

“I hope you have not been leading a double life, pretending to be wicked and being really good all the time. That would be hypocrisy.”

The sun rose ashamed, hiding its face behind a mourning veil. The sky shone an even and sickly gray and snatched color from the spring day, unkind in its jealousy.

Merritt strode briskly across the sodden Abbey lawn, heading for his cart where Saskia was to meet him. Instead he saw Selendra sitting squarely atop one of his crates. She had a weathered and sleepless look, like a stone pillar wet and battered but rigid.

“Fair morning, isn’t it?” Merritt asked. His back ached but he decided to be pleasant, as he felt much better than she looked.

“For somebeast. If you know who, that should be pleasant news.” She paused. “Maybe.”

“Nevertheless. Saskia was supposed to meet me–”

“Oh, and I’m meant to give you this.” She held out a cluster of drooping stems, each with a milk-white blossom turned toward the ground. He took them.

“It’s a bit late in the season for snowdrops, surely? And where is Saskia?”

“You’re worried.”

Merritt waved the comment aside. “Where–”

“She’s inside somewhere, Merritt, I never took you for a nursery mother. She’s in no more danger than you or I.”

“Somehow I find that statement, coming from you, here, entirely unreassuring.”

“Hm. The Abbot, after finding his Recorder dead last night, decreed in his paternal wisdom that we should be detained, all of us. The lockdown of the Abbey extends to yesterday’s guests as well. As though he has the right. Saskia decided to go have breakfast instead of waiting to tell you herself.”

Merritt cursed, throwing down the flowers. “The Recorder was murdered then?”

“Depends who you ask. Stupid beasts are listening to the official tale, which is natural causes.”

“But then why the lockdown?”

“Rather.” Selendra slid down from the crate and picked up the snowdrops. “You ought to keep these.”

Merritt closed his eyes as an unpleasant epiphany struck. “Raimun had the pamphlet I showed you.” He groaned. “I should never have brought the bloody thing.”

Selendra slipped the flowers into his shirt pocket. “That it was the right thing to do would not impress you, I know.” She frowned.

“Neither duty, nor honor, nor gratitude have any possible claim on me.”

Selendra chuckled raspily. “Yourself to the last, aren’t you?”

“I haven’t ever learned the trick to being anybeast else, so it will have to do.” He stared into the space over her shoulder for a few long moments. “Anyhow, why the flowers? You know I haven’t Berend’s knack for symbolizing.”

“They push through the snow to find the sun. Berend is something of an optimist.”

“Seems so, all things considered. But it doesn’t do to lose hope.” He gave her a stern look. “Nor sleep.”

She ignored him. “You might look for your first chance to get out of here, same as I will. And leaving some appropriately-directed philosophy lying around might serve us all well. If you’ve any to spare.”

He gave her a radiant grin. “I could arrange a discount on various things the Abbot mightn’t like to hear repeated. You were sitting on a crate full.”

As usurpation is the exercise of power which another has a right to, so tyranny is the exercise of power beyond right, which nobody can have a right to,” Selendra recited.

“You’d have to ask Saskia for that one. She sold Aloysius a copy.”

“Did she now?” Selendra finally gave a full smile, honest warmth overcoming bitterness and fear.

“If you intend to turn her to your cause, best of luck. I haven’t managed to convince her, well, of anything, really.”

“Nobeast ever could, even in our school days. She suffered for it.”

“Perhaps I’m not the beast to make grand speeches about righteousness. She listens to Aloysius, I think.” Merritt looked up toward the Abbey proper. “And to speak of suffering, and righteouness….” He pointed.

Isidore marched toward them.

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