A Talk of Morals

June 16, 2011

“Brother Aloysius, what brings you to Martin’s side this morning?”

“The reassurance of an old friend, an old friend, and a reminiscence for better days.”

The bat felt Abbot Carter sidle next to him as he studied the ancient threads that made up Martin the Warrior’s tapestry. The otter’s presence towered over his. Aloysius did not straighten.

“Ah, yes. Troubled times have come our way, haven’t they? And how long will they stay? Who can say for certain? Still, it is reassuring to this aging abbot that our old friend Martin is still sought out for his guidance by young and old alike. Noel was here yesterday, you know.”

“He has always shown a deep respect for our warrior mouse, warrior mouse.”

“Indeed, and you as well. I remember overseeing your first lessons here at the abbey. None could recount Martin’s days as well as you.”

Aloysius shuffled his feet. “It was he who brought me here, Father.”

“It warms my heart to hear it so.”

They stood in silence for a time. Rainbow hued light crawled across the worn sandstone blocks, drifting across the tapestry and giving life to the creatures contained within. Even now, Old Brother Hubert’s stitching had prevailed against countless centuries, and even Brother Metheselah’s repair had withstood the test of time. Aloysius’s head drooped.

“It is my understanding that Brother Raimun was closest to you, given the proximity of your work.”

The bat blinked, washing away his weariness. “Indeed, Father. We entertained ourselves well into the night with talks of the Abbey and its history, its history.”

“Would it be too much to ask that you impart our beloved fallen with his eulogy?”

Aloysius opened his mouth and hesitated. Lifting his gaze, he peered at Carter. There was a slight smile to the otter’s lips, his eyes crinkled in warmth.

“I would be honored, Father, I would be honored.”

“Rest easy, my son.” A strong paw patted the historian’s back. “There is still time to prepare, and I’m afraid you have not yet taken to bed.”

“I admit the festivities and other pressing matters have taken me away from my archives, my archives.”

“Well, I can assure you they are not going anywhere, and you will find yourself back nose-deep in parchment in due time. Have you attended to your guests?”

“I have, Father, I have.”

“Good. With Brother Raimun’s departure, and Brother Willoughby, as well, we will need a new Gatekeeper. I am entrusting you to this task, Brother Aloysius.”

“Me? As Gatekeeper? I do not know if I can accept such responsibility on top of my other tasks, other tasks,” he said, unable to hide his irritation.

Carter waved it away with his paw. “If you can keep track of thousands of books, surely you can keep track of a few hundred abbeybeasts,” the Abboy said, and there was his smile again.

Aloysius frowned.

“As for your archives, as I said before, you will get back to them in due time. I need a beast who will pay attention to the creatures in my Abbey. You are more than qualified to do the job.”

The bat deflated, his eyes going back to Martin and the fleeing hordesbeasts at his back. “Yes, Father.”

“Excellent! Good night, Brother Aloysius, or should I say good morning?” With a click of his heels, the Abbot turned to leave.

“Father, Father,” Aloysius called, turning to the departing otter. Carter stopped and pivoted in the bat’s direction. “I have heard speculation that Brother Raimun’s death may have been induced, induced.”

“Induced?” The abbot’s face changed, though at this distance, Aloysius could not discern how. “From who did you hear this?”

Aloysius rubbed his wingclaws together, casting a glance towards Martin for encouragement, then shook his head. “It was a confession, Father.”

Carter’s posture stiffened. “Do you believe it?”

He hesitated. To acknowledge the idea of murder within the abbey was reprehensible. But he knew Saskia, and she had an honest heart. Who was he to deny her?

“I cannot say, I cannot say.”

“Walk with me, Brother Aloysius.”

Before the bat could respond, the Abbot had turned and strode down the hallway. Aloysius fluttered to catch up.

“I’m afraid you may have missed the closing to my speech, tending to your guests as you were. ‘If you know a beast who has been acting suspicious, let one of the Order know. We can confront this individual, learn what motivates him, and deal with him accordingly.’ Yes, Aloysius, Brother Raimun was murdered.”

The bat faltered in his step, his winged appendages catching him from tumbling to the floor. “Lies,” Aloysius breathed. Abbot Carter did not waver in his stride.

“Lies, my son? I said that Brother Raimun died of natural causes. Wormwood is a natural herb, albeit a deadly one. No, I did not lie, but neither did I give the whole truth.”

Aloysius fluttered to his side. “But why, but why?”

“Can you imagine the pandemonium that would have ensued if I admitted murder had taken place within our very walls? And then, who would stop the murderer from taking his leave of our abbey?”

“He could already be gone.”

“He is not. Tell me, who is spreading this tale?”

The bat shook his head. “I cannot, Father, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”

“You understand the livelihood of our Abbey is at stake.”

Halting, Aloysius drew himself up. “Abbot Carter, it was a confession, a confession.”

The Abbot stopped in his tracks and peered at Aloysius. The otter’s back was straight, head forward, paws folded behind his back. “I see,” he said.

The two searched the other’s expression. Given the distance between them, Aloysius could divine nothing.

“And you expect this matter will resolve itself?”

“I believe the true nature of beasts will show themselves, show themselves.”

“Do you understand the reason for this lockdown, my son?”

His wings were trembling. “We are not a jail, not a jail.”

“Nor are we a nest of fledglings, while a cuckoo walks amongst us.”

To this, Aloysius said nothing.

“I hope you reconsider, Brother Aloysius. I would hate to think another innocent life be taken needlessly from our midst.”

Abbot Carter turned and left.

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