The 7th Day - Book One

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The 7th Day - Book One
« on: August 14, 2017, 06:16:18 AM »

     She walked along the river, feeling the wet mud under her soles. Occasionally, she would slow down long enough to dig her toes into the moist soil order to take in the texture. The weeds tickled her shins as she passed through them and she made it a point to meander into them as often as possible. Her thick raven hair swayed in the breeze, and she ran her fingers over her smooth brow to remove a strand that found its way across her olive cheek. She made it to the shore of the river and stepped carefully onto the brown rocks piled up at the bank, making sure to step on the flatter and less jagged sandstone. They were rough and wet, but sturdy, easily holding her light weight. She knelt down with her animal skin tucked between her knees so she could dip her fingertips in the water as it lazily flowed between them.

     She sat silently and felt the water's movements.  It took some time before she noticed it.  It was wedged between two narrow stones and was partially sticking out of the water. It was caked in a strange primordial sludge, which had hardened over it, forming a slender, gray cocoon; it blend in with its earthly surroundings unless one got close enough to discover the grotesque crust wasn't rock. Some of it had broken, no doubt after being washed ashore and thrust between the rocks. With the top end broken and chipped off, she noticed a piece of wood inside. She curiously reached out and touched the surface of the cocoon, which was brittle, allowing her to easily break it after applying pressure. As it crumbled away, she saw the piece of wood in the sunlight and could see that it was smooth as if cut and sanded by stone. She was aware of wood carving but not to this extent. She brought the side of her hand against the cocoon again, forcing more chunks off it, revealing more of this strange, carved stick which now seemed to have thin strips of pale skin or leaves wrapped around it and enough times to create a sort of covering, much like the animal skins covering her and her people. She held the middle of the cocoon with both hands and pulled it out of the water and there, she could see that it was the length of a small log but much thinner like an oddly straight tree branch. Once it was dropped on the river bed, most of the cocoon broke away, revealing more of this log, which was almost entirely wrapped in the thin, pale skin and the end was rounded, just like its top. She pulled away the broken chunks along with the mud and weeds that came out of the water with it.

     It was obviously made by someone but what was its purpose? She decided to unwrap it from its skin to see what was inside. A single hand stretched out all on its own. She wondered why she was so nervous. This object terrified her, yet fascinated her, but it wasn't just because it was an object she had never seen before. Her people would sometimes find old tools and bowls buried under the sand or in the river, but this object was different somehow. It gave off an intense aura that her limited experiences could not fully process. She had to examine it more closely.

She extended her index finger and slowly, she touched it.

End of Prologue
« Last Edit: August 15, 2017, 03:35:21 AM by Toilet Bunny »

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Re: The 7th Day - Book One
« Reply #1 on: August 15, 2017, 03:34:43 AM »
Chapter One

     Robert Smythe was born to Caleb and Ellen Smythe on a rainy afternoon in Essex, England in the year 1742. He was the eldest sibling with a brother named James and a sister named Susan. Caleb was a lender, so the family was comfortable; the children grew up literate and well learned in the sciences and Christendom. They would spend their evenings playing card games after dinner and every year, they made sure to visit the fair. Robert grew tall and strong, but just lean enough that he could move swiftly in a race and was graceful on the ballroom floor. He enjoyed cricket and boxing, often being considered the best in his clubs. He once rendered an opponent unconscious with a sharp uppercut during a boxing match, to which, he apologized profusely for several minutes. Despite his tall, muscular frame, he was raised in British mannerisms and taught how to be a proper gentleman. He was no bully, nor was he arrogant. He was quiet, polite and never prone to emotional outbursts. His skin was strangely smooth without blemish or pockmarks; he wore his long brown hair tied neatly behind his ears and his clothes were usually modest yet fashionable. He was grateful for his blessings and never took advantage of his popularity with his friends or the attention he gained from the young ladies who wanted to be courted by him, especially since he had his heart set on Abigail Gibbs, the youngest daughter of a trading company manager. Abigail was likewise quiet and often considered too shy for her own good. Robert liked that about her since he dreaded conversations for the sake of conversation, a mindset that came about after one too many social gatherings. They would often take walks and play hide-and-seek in her family's garden.

   It was the spring of 1759 and Robert fumbled with his hat nervously as he stood in the parlor of Abigail’s home; fingers gripped tightly along the rim, rotating it between palms for no particular purpose other than a vain attempt to relieve tension.  It didn’t work.  A bead of sweat emerged on his brow, so he took the handkerchief from his breast pocket and dabbed his forehead before returning it.  He had been courting her for some time and both families approved of their union, so they had already made a formal engagement.  He was hoping to meet her one last time before he began his training.  During this time, the conflict that would later be known as the Seven Years' War was raging. Military enlistment was encouraged among British gentleman and since Robert was very physically fit, it was decided he should go as it was his duty as a Briton. He was fine with this.  Ever since he was a boy, he enjoyed tales of adventure and heroism.  He was particularly fond of the story of Saint George slaying the dragon.  There was something exciting about the idea of a noble knight doing battle with a larger, stronger foe.  He enlisted in the infantry in hopes of pursuing a career in the military (after all, his family was in good standing, which placed him in a position to move up the ranks).  As he stood in her parlor, trying his damndest not to appear nervous, Abigail came down the landing and instantly noticed his nervous demeanor.  She smiled and hid the fact that she could tell how nervous he was; she considered it charming and somehow, it made him seem more handsome.

     “Good afternoon, Abby,” Robert said before taking her hand in his and kissing the back.  She curtsied politely and returned a simple, yet sincere, “Good afternoon, Robert.”  Robert thought they should spend the afternoon in her garden and possibly read a book together.  In the back of his mind, he knew, however, that she had other plans.  Not that her plans were any more obvious to her.  She also considered the possibility of an afternoon in the garden, but her desires lay elsewhere.  They held hands and made small talk as they made their way out of the house, toward the garden.  The sunlight sent pillars through the trees, which touched them sporadically as they walked in the shade.  The colors of the flowers along the dirt path seemed brighter as was common after a heavy rain, which occurred that morning.  They slowly made their way to the small greenhouse nearby.  Their servants tended other sections of the garden and she knew very well that none of them would be around.  Her parents and siblings were likewise busy, so she knew they were properly alone.  Once they entered the greenhouse, she turned and kissed him lightly on the cheek.  It was something she would often do and while it was considered unladylike at the time, most women her age kissed the men who were courting them in much the same way and everyone knew this.  Customs being what they were, it was generally done in private with the unspoken agreement that it wasn’t proper behavior anyway.  He returned the kiss, but this time, on her lips, which were also not considered the actions of a gentleman and had the same attitude attributed to it.  They had kissed many times before, but they had gone no further other than Robert once bravely stroking her bosom with the back of his index finger.  He started with that, as she somehow expected.  It surprised him, however, but with her slight smile that invited him for more, he continued stroking her before gradually leaning in for another kiss that lasted much longer.  Soon, the stroking turned into awkward fumbling, his fingers trembling as he felt her soft body.  It wasn’t proper, but it wasn’t uncommon.  At the time, many men and women laid with one another in an unbiblical manner and, provided their was a pregnancy, would marry one another post haste.  The two of them were already promised to one another, and with Robert going to war and their impending wedding, they were committed before they realized it.  They removed their clothes shyly, but quickly before laying on the wooden planks in the greenhouse.  They didn’t take the moment to gaze longingly at each others’ bodies as they thought they would.  Shaky hands groped, limbs awkwardly intertwining, and when he couldn’t quite find his destination, she took him in her hand and guided him.  He went slowly, partially because it was a new sensation that took him by surprise almost instantly, but because he had heard from his classmates about the pain a woman might receive during her first time (it was the sort of talk common among his classmates, who often boasted of experiences they never had, but rather, heard from sailors or drunk uncles).  Likewise, she had also heard similar talk from her female friends who usually learned from similar sources.  She was nervous about the possible pain, yet willing. There was some discomfort for her, but no real pain; it was mostly pleasurable, yet over very quickly.  Also, despite what she had previously heard, there were no signs of blood.  His toes curled, there was a brief numbing sensation through his lower half, and he tried to hold back once he felt the force rushing through him but he released soon enough.  When he came, he tried to remove himself as quickly as possible, with a small mess on her thigh, which he wiped away with his handkerchief.  They lay on the floor of the greenhouse, finally taking the moment to examine each other.  Their skin was smooth and young but covered in sweat, their bodies curving in ways that were pleasing.  She lay against his chest with one hand on her shoulder and the other resting behind his head.  They both breathed heavily and did not speak at first.

     “Abigail,” Robert began, “I apologize.  That wasn’t proper.”  He furrowed his brow as he contemplated what took place within the past few minutes.  While he knew what he did was common, it did nothing to ease his guilt.  As an Englishman and as a Christian Man, he was meant to be chaste until marriage.  He never expected his urges to control him.  He remembered the words of his schoolmaster, his father, and his minister: a gentleman controls his urges.  He blamed himself, believing he lead her astray.  Abigail, likewise laid in his arms with the same concern as she recalled similar words,  “I guess we were both improper,” she told him with some sadness, but soon smiled as she recognized the sense of euphoria she had been experienced since she first saw him, which was only exacerbated by her first sexual encounter.  They would be married soon, so there was little reason to be too upset.  She sat up to get dressed, placing a single hand across her breasts.  “Don’t,” Robert told her as he took her wrist.  She gave him a curious look as he laid her back down and removed her hand.  She laid back with a befuddled look, “What is it?”  He smiled, but said nothing as his eyes followed the sunbeams down from the greenhouse roof to her pale, soft body.  “I just needed to look at you once more,” he told her.  They briefly discussed their marriage and what they expected of the war.  Robert promised he would return and believed it.  They got dressed quietly and left the greenhouse, making sure no one saw them.  By the end of the afternoon, Robert was smiling and holding her hand tightly as they returned to the house.  She felt the warmth of his hand and was satisfied.  He had dinner with her family in celebration of his desire to serve in the military, and they wished him well.  Her father told him that he was very proud of him and that he was performing his service for the Queen admirably.  He barely listened as he continually played the afternoon’s events in his head.  At the end of the evening, he kissed her hand and bid her farewell, a slight smile on her face as he did so, conveying a secret kept between them.  As he rode in the carriage back to his home, he replayed the afternoon’s events in his head, a slight smile emerging on his face.  He was changed.  He had just completed a milestone; it was fitting for a young man who would soon do his military duty as a Briton.

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Re: The 7th Day - Book One
« Reply #2 on: August 15, 2017, 03:36:33 AM »
     He and Abigail had a September wedding, which was held in an Anglican chapel at noon, three weeks after the banns had been read aloud during service.  Abigail wore a blue gown with an ornate horseshoe tied to her wrist and Robert wore a new suit with his hair tied back neatly.  Their parents and immediate family were in attendance along with close friends of the families, as well as esteemed members of the community.  Robert’s brother James was his best man and Abigail’s attendant was her former nanny.  As the ceremony drew to a close, they sang a hymn and a care cloth was held over the couple.  They had a luncheon afterwards, and wheat was cast over Abigail’s head as they left the church.  Their new home had been prepared beforehand and once in the threshold, Abigail took a plate of shortbread and threw it over her head where in the wedding party quickly snatched it from the ground.  It was an exhausting day, but they found the energy to drink mead and consummate their marriage; afterwards, they fell asleep in each others’ arms.  Robert hoped Abigail would be pregnant by the time he left for military service because that summer, he was to set sail for India.  They were sure of a British victory and equated that hope with the foregone conclusion he would return safely home to a wife and child.

     Robert saw very little of India.  He joined the 79th Regiment of Foot under the command of William Draper and was stationed briefly at the port of Madras and slept in the barracks.  There were rumblings they would not stay long and would likely be sent elsewhere to fight Spanish colonies. It was nearly summer, but the Indian heat did not bother him as much as it did the other recently-enlisted soldiers, so he volunteered as a day guard.   Despite the assurance he would be leaving soon, coupled with his duty as a port guard who never had the chance to do much exploring, he had the pleasure of seeing the HMS Seahorse as well as the HMS Norfolk, which were both briefly at port.  As a sixth-rate warship, the Seahorse was a smaller frigate with 24 guns on deck.  The Norfolk was much larger by comparison as it was a third-rate ship with two decks and 74 guns along the decks.  His duties mostly consisted of guarding the pier.  As he made his rounds around the docks, he would often gaze at the knotted sails and the tall masts stretching to the sky.  He imagined the British flag hoisted up, flapping in the wind as the ships sailed into the sunset, an orange haze on the horizon as the last traces of light reflected off the surface of the water.  The Seahorse was the older ship, having been launched in 1748, eleven years before the Norfolk, and her age showed in her hull.  Despite repaintings, there were divots in the stem, but Robert considered them to be proud battle scars.   The Norfolk had her nicks and scrapes as well, mostly along the plating, but she still had a few more battles before it received the wear and tear of her older sister.  Guard duty was never exciting, but he appreciated the view.  Seeing these legendary warships gave him a sense of pride and duty.

     As for Madras, it was a very large port.  There were mostly British ships at port: frigates, ships of the line, store ships, as well as battleships.  There were also ships from the East India Company,  Indian naval vessels, and the odd merchant boats of various origins that came and went.  The ship and dock crews were likewise very diverse.  Aside from the expected Englishmen, sepoys, and servants, there were also French deserters, Muslim nawabs, and Portuguese half-castes, all waiting to take part in the upcoming battle.  He would occasionally overhear the sepoys talking among themselves and was surprised to find their English flawless, although he was surprised that they would speak to one another in English.  Furthermore, he was shocked by their fluency; if he didn’t know any better, he would have sworn they were from Essex simply by their voices.  One afternoon, while making his rounds, he heard the voice of a man whom he swore was English say, “Colonel Draper is a real beau nasty.  Have you spent any time around him?”  He turned, expecting to see some unruly British sailor and was prepared to dress him down for disrespectful language toward a British officer.  Instead, he saw two sepoys making their way to their ship, apparently unaware that Robert could hear them.  “I haven’t met him,” the second sepoy explained as they passed Robert, “But he sounds like a typical British officer.  They dress well, they act like gentlemen, but sooner or later, they slip and let their ugliness show.”  Robert stood, dumbfounded as the two men apparently spoke perfect English, including slang, and didn’t seem to know or care that a British soldier could hear them insulting a high ranking and well-respected colonel.  “So then they’re typical Englishmen, really” the first sepoy said with a chuckle as they continued on their way.  He was even more baffled.  Most sepoys wouldn’t care insult the British in their mother tongue, especially out in the open.  He considered walking after them but he questioned his senses far too much to be sure of what he just heard.  It didn’t make sense to him and if he pursued any sort of action, it might only draw unwanted attention.  He retired to his quarters later that night and couldn’t help but bring the matter up to one of his bunk mates.

“The sepoys speak fluently,” he said hesitantly.

“Sure.  Most of them have been taught English,” was the response.

“Yes, of course, but they sound just like Englishmen.  They sound as if they could have been born and raised in Essex.”

“Maybe to you.  Their accents sound a bit thick to me, usually.  English is obviously not their native language.”

“Have you ever heard them speaking English amongst themselves?,” he almost regretted the question before asking it.

“What?  You’re asking if they speak English to each other in private?,” there was an equal amount of incredulousness and humor in his tone, “Certainly not.  What point would that make?”

Robert laughed a bit nervously, “I think the boredom gets the better of me at times.  My imagination runs wild, I suppose.  I must’ve been hearing things.”

“Give it time, Smythe.  Any day now, we’ll leave this wretched place.”

     Robert never brought the subject up again out of fear of seeming peculiar or unintelligent.  He even convinced himself that he misheard the sepoys; ignoring a strange situation was often easier than admitting the reality.  He had little interaction with the other groups with the exception of a few French crew mates who mostly kept to themselves.  While, Robert studied French in school and did quite well for himself, he never had the opportunity to speak French to them.  He had a sort of private joke that, if he had the opportunity to speak to them, they would respond in English anyway.  He achieved this goal of self-isolation up until it was decided that the regiment would set sail for Manila.

     The Battle of Manila started on the first day of August in 1762.  The HMS Seahorse had already been sent under the command of Captain Cathcart Grant and intercepted vessels bound for the Philippines.  A fleet under the command of Colonel Draper and Admiral Samuel Cornish soon followed with the HMS Norfolk as the flagship.  Manila’s garrison was not as heavily fortified as expected, due mostly to the fact that it wasn’t complete: the ditch hadn’t been finished and some outworks had no cannons for defense.  The battleships’ guns roared one after the other as a sequence of gunpowder explosions erupted through the air, pelting the Spanish fortifications.  It wasn’t long before a three-pronged landing was established with Draper leading nearly 300 marines on foot.  Several more seamen joined them the next day just as dark clouds began forming overhead with the certainty of harsh winds in the near future.  The Filipino and Spanish forces weren’t equipped to deal with the onslaught and the British military forced their way into Manila City where Fort San Antonio Abad was taken on September 25th.  There were few casualties and it was a rousing victory for the British just as the weather got worse.

     Robert was not involved in the initial invasion fleet, however.  He came aboard a storeship bringing entrenching tools to create fortifications for ground troops and entered Manila waters on September 30th.  The crew could see fires burning in the distance and it was soon reported that their men had taken the garrison and landed successfully.  Normally, there would be a great deal of celebration but the dark clouds, strong winds, and tumultuous waters gave them concern.  The gale force winds beat against the ship, billowing the sails violently.  It was soon apparent the ship would be driven ashore and all hands were called on deck with only a few being commanded to remain below deck and secure the cargo.  Several men held tightly on the halyard while a few moved the brace to ride the wind.  “We’ll be forced aground, gentlemen,” the captain called out over the sounds of rushing water, “Brace yourselves!”.  As the men struggled to control the sails, one of the sheets came loose after a particularly strong gust of wind, the rope flailing in the air uselessly.  A huge wave rushed up onto deck, drenching Robert and the other men on the halyard, making them lose even more control.  “Smythe!,” the captain shouted over the raging wind and water, “Tie down that sheet!”  “Yes, sir,” Robert called back.  Robert’s reputation of being strong and capable was evident, even among the soldiers.  He was often called upon for manual labor portside and on the ship.  This situation was no different, even if slightly more dangerous than most of his tasks.  Robert’s hands were wet and the ship continued to tilt listlessly, but he still managed to climb up the mast quickly and then crawled onto the yard with both knees pressed on either side and both hands gripping it firmly.  Water sprayed into his face, blurring his vision, but he could still make out the dark silhouette of the rope flapping in the wind against gray clouds.  He held the yard firmly with one hand and reached out, snatching the sheet with the other.  He sat up on the yard and held the rope tightly, balancing himself against the swaying ship and the flapping sails.  He ran his forearm across his face to restore his vision and quickly went to work, trying down the sheet.  It was slippery work, but he managed to tie it down and the men were once again in control of the sails.  The ship lurched once more and Robert placed his hands against the yard.  Wet skin slid along smooth and equally wet wood, forcing Robert to slide forward where he felt his ribs slam into the hard surface, forcing him to topple over the side as his legs could no longer hold him.  He was weightless, limbs grasping at air as he felt the sting of wind and water across his face and hands.  His vision was surprisingly clear as he saw the deck spinning and rapidly approaching him until everything went dark.  His face was numb, but he could feel his body tumbling over something narrow and hard before he once again found himself weightless.   His vision returned slightly as stars danced around, but he could scarcely make out the outer hull of the ship just before he heard splashing water and felt it flowing through his ears just before he once again lost his sight.  The water filled his lungs and he could feel the current pulling him in multiple directions as if it couldn’t make up its mind.  It was impossible to swim against it.  No one would be able to save him.  The water was too violent and the ship was at its mercy.  Everything was cold and before the darkness set in, he thought to himself, “Don’t cry, Abigail.  I’ll be alright.”

End of Chapter One
« Last Edit: August 15, 2017, 03:41:36 AM by Toilet Bunny »

Toilet Bunny

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Re: The 7th Day - Book One
« Reply #3 on: September 03, 2017, 10:03:45 AM »
Chapter Two

     Martin D'Castil was born in 1468, in the Kingdom of Castile, although the details of his birth weren’t known.  He was found abandoned at the steps of the Santa Maria del Jaen monastery and was believed to be no more than a year old at the time. The monastery was once an Islamic mosque that had been converted once the region became Christian-ruled. The nuns assumed he was from Christian birth even though there was the possibility he could have been born from Jewish or Islamic parents. As a child, he was extraordinarily handsome, leading some to believe he might have been the bastard son of a man of good standing or even royalty, so there were rumors in the monastery that a member of the Castilian upper class had an affair with a prostitute and Martin was the end result.  Similar rumors included Moorish or Jewish women in place of the prostitute. The ridicule over his appearance began in his early teens.  At that point, other boys had acne or the occasional scar from manual labor, sports, play, or fights (to say nothing of those with warts or genetic disfigurements).  Martin had none of these.  His skin was as smooth, his teeth were white, and his features were sculpted which made him appear feminine to those around him. Some of the other orphans would call him Martin la Hermosa which would prompt Martin to lash out violently in retaliation. Considering he grew up to be quite strong and healthy to an almost abnormal degree, he won his fights, even if they were against more than one boy. It got to the point that only the older, larger boys bullied him but even they soon learned not to do so. He couldn’t fight the girls, however.

     One major incident occurred as he returned from a swim.  It was late as he and some of the other boys made their way back.  Five young girls had fetched pails of water farther up the stream and met them along the road. “I think Martin is even prettier than all of us combined,” one of the girls called out, which elicited a whirlwind of giggling.  He tried his best to ignore them, but they continued to follow.  “Martin, do you think the other boys will fancy you one day?,” the alpha in the group called out again, which was followed by another roar of mad laughter.  The other boys began to snicker a bit, but tried their best to keep their voices low in fear it would provoke a fight.  At that point, he burst into a dead sprint, the sound of laughter following him as he ran.  He made his way to the boys’ dormitory, secure in the knowledge that they couldn’t follow.  With the other boys entering the dorm soon, he knew he had no privacy, so he quickly made his way outside, slipping unnoticed, as he crept along the darkened corners of the courtyard..  He hated the fact that he cried and he wanted to look like a man.  During this time he had started an apprenticeship with the carpenters at the monastery and got an idea he would later regard as completely idiotic and immature. He snuck into one of the carpenter’s workshops, silently creeping through the dark until he came to a table filled with tools. That was when he took a blade used for whittling and quickly struck himself in the cheek with no hesitation.  He wanted a scar; one much larger than the few lines found along the noses or hands of the others boys.  That way, he could look rough, as a man was supposed to look.  Surprisingly, it didn’t hurt aside from the initial sting.  As he wiped the small knife on a cloth, he could feel something wet drip down his cheek.  He raised his fingers to his face and then looked at them, the moonlight exposing the crimson droplets through the window.  The deed was done, but curiously, his cheek no longer hurt.  The cut must’ve been too thin.  He wiped the blood off his fingertips, then placed his hand firmly against his cheek and pressed down, hoping to open it up some more.  There was nothing.  He looked at his hand once again in the moonlight and saw no blood on his fingertips.  He left the workshop, rubbing his cheek as hard as possible in an attempt to make the cut bleed more, but there was nothing.  There was a horse trough nearby with water and the moonlight was bright enough that night that he could make out enough of a reflection to see if he had a gaping gash across his face, but when he looked, there was no sign of any damage.  He remained Martin la Hermosa.

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Re: The 7th Day - Book One
« Reply #4 on: September 03, 2017, 10:08:02 AM »
     Bishop Alonso Garcia was one of the few people in the monastery who respected him and in return, he respected the Bishop. Once, a priest asked Bishop Garcia how he was able to get a positive response from "the whoreson".  The priest scolded Martin for appearing bored during mass and as he scolded him, he looked distant.  The priest did not like the show of disrespect, so he asked Alonso for advice since it was no secret that Martin admired him. After the priest asked the question, the bishop responded, "Well, I believe it's at least partially because I don't refer to him as a whoreson." Martin loved Bishop Garcia, often seeing him as a surrogate father.  The Bishop was rotund, with a jolly face, little hair, and a small grey beard that only served to emphasize the size of his jowls.  He laughed after almost every sentence, regardless of whether or not it was a joke.  He had a garden that he loved to tend to and it was located in the yard where he grew tomatoes.  He would often ask Martin to help tend it since he noticed Martin often kept to himself.  As a boy, Alonso had many friends, but he always hated to see someone alone.   Martin would water the plants while the Bishop sat in the shade and conversed with the young boy.  The Bishop had grown tired of monastery politics and regularly debating the other priests and bishops (sometimes, even the Abbot himself) regarding theology and church doctrine, so it was relaxing to engage in unimportant conversations.  Normally, this sort of behavior might turn one into a pariah or, if the person was involved in the church and made statements that would be considered bold enough, be stripped of his title.  Some of what he said bordered on heresy.  He argued on the inerrancy of the Bible and often criticized Catholic church practices that favored the wealthy or reflected cultural leanings.  During these debates, he got away with most of what he said due to being a bishop who was in good standing with the church and often engaged in charitable events. In addition to that, he was considered very likeable and charming by most who met him.  He had a special knack for challenging those around him without seeming antagonistic or arrogant.  Finally, he mostly waited until later in life before making his thoughts known.  It wasn’t until he was a bishop that he began engaging in serious debates, ensuring he had the social insurance to do so. He would consider himself a coward in his twilight years.

     When Martin helped him with his garden, he often entered his chamber to collect the Bishop and they would walk there together.  Sometimes, the Bishop would be immersed in his meditations, so Martin would have to wait patiently.  This was their relationship throughout Martin’s youth.  It wasn’t long after his sixteenth birthday that he became fully aware of at least one of his abilities and it was while he was helping in the garden.  He was eighteen at the time (not that anyone was fully aware of his true age due to being an orphan) and he came to the Bishop’s chamber as usual.  When he entered, the Bishop was reading over scripture; he said nothing but the Bishop waved a hand at him, “In a moment, Martin,” he mumbled, never looking away from the text.  Martin was both curious and a little less patient than usual on that day, so he decided to come to the Bishop’s desk to peak over his shoulder to see if he could make sense of what he was looking at despite not knowing how to read.  The old man didn’t notice at first and if he had, he wouldn’t have cared.  He tried to encourage Martin’s curiosity as often as possible and Martin was aware of this, so he knew it wouldn’t be an annoyance.  Since Martin was an orphan, there was little reason to teach him to read or write as he was destined for a life of manual labor and little else.  He didn’t expect to read but as he rarely saw written words up close, it was worth a look for no other reason than to satisfy momentary curiosity.  As he peaked over the Bishop’s shoulder, the letters appeared meaningless, as expected; it was a swarm of curves and lines zipping across the pages in an elegant order, creating an aesthetic that Martin could at least appreciate. The yellowed pages were full of hidden meaning, but otherwise, as easily read as a field of grass.  The grace of the pen strokes on the page caught his eye and demanded he pay closer attention and as he focused his eyes, the words seemed to blur together like a sudden fog, but it soon rolled away, revealing a message, which somehow became clear.  His eyes darted across the page all on their own and he began processing what he was seeing, the words coming to him like someone whispering into his ear.  It was as natural as breathing.  These words held fast on his tongue, then they slowly opened his mouth without his realization, then they began speaking for him.  His voice escaped from his lips without consciousness but with purpose, “The young lions suffer want and hunger, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.”  It was a sentence purely spoken by instinct.  It was nearly an accident, but once he was fully aware of what he had done, he took a quick step back and looked at the Bishop both as an apology and as if he expected some sort of explanation.  The Bishop stopped reading and raised his head slowly.  He didn’t turn to Martin at first; he stared at the wall as if he was trying to make up his mind whether or not he was hearing things.  Martin was likewise baffled.  He couldn’t read the words on the page.  If he were asked to identify individual letters, he wouldn’t have been able to do it and in fact, would find it hard to tell where one letter ended and another began, but he was sure if he were to look again, he would be aware of every word on the page.  He was afraid he would be declared possessed or at the very least, the Bishop might think less of him somehow.  “I heard that verse during mass,” Martin quickly explained, hoping the Bishop would believe him, “I remembered it,” he entertained the idea in his own mind in hopes of convincing himself as well.  It didn’t work for either of them.  Slowly, the Bishop turned to him, locking eyes with Martin, “How did you read this passage?”  It wasn’t an accusatory question.  He was sincere in his tone, which made Martin slightly less nervous, but did not stop him from trying to formulate more excuses, “I think… I think I might’ve seen it written down somewhere,” he searched his mind for any excuse and as soon as it came to his mind, it continued that momentum and rolled out of his mouth, “And I think someone taught me what it said.”

     The Bishop furrowed his brow, which told Martin that he didn’t believe him, but was more confused than anything else.  Again, this was somewhat of a relief in that at least he didn’t feel Martin was peculiar in some way and he could stop making excuses.  The next question the Bishop asked added to the confusion, however.

     “How do you know Latin?” 

     Martin titled his head to the side.  If nothing else, Martin was sure the text he read aloud was written in his native tongue.  Certainly, when he read the verse, he spoke Castilian.  He couldn’t understand why the Bishop would ask about Latin.  “Your Grace,” he began, “No one has taught me Latin.  I spoke in Castilian,” he felt ridiculous making the distinction.  The Bishop leaned in close and motioned toward the text, “My dear boy, scripture is written in Latin.  That is what you just read.”  Martin stared at him blankly.  He had no idea how to respond or what to think.  The Bishop continued, “Not only did you read the words on this manuscript, but you were reading them in Latin.  Perfectly, I might add.”  Once again, Martin’s mind and face were blank.  The Bishop returned the blank stare and they locked eyes awkwardly for a few moments before the Bishop stood up.  The movement was so sudden, it made Martin jolt as he flew across the room to a drawer.  There, he removed a stack of envelopes tied together with string.  He ripped the string off and rummaged through them until he found the envelope he was looking for.  He pulled a letter from it and laid it on the desk, pointing a single finger at the writing, “Could you read this, please?”

     Martin leaned forward; he felt peculiar since he never expected anyone to ask him to read.  Once again, the shapes on the single piece of paper were meaningless, but the words entered his mind all the same.  “To The Most Reverend Bishop of Santa Maria del Jaen,” he began, “I hope this letter finds you in good health as I understand there has been an illness in your land.  I want you to know that I have been in prayerful meditation…”  The Bishop removed the letter from the desk and held it up in the sunlight to take a second look, then he realized what he was doing was pointless and laid the letter back down again.  “It’s a letter to you, isn’t it?,” Martin asked.

     “Yes, it’s a letter from a Bishop in the Vatican,” he placed the letter back in the envelope, “This man is Italian.”

     “The Italian knows Castilian?,” Martin knew what the most likely answer would be, yet asked it anyway as the shock of the situation still forgave questions to which he already knew the answers to.

     “No, the Italian knows Italian,” the Bishop placed the envelope back in the desk, “You don’t know that you just spoke his language, do you?”

     “I wasn’t trying to speak Italian.”

     “Do you understand me now?,” the Bishop asked, changing the inflection of his voice slightly as if testing the boy, “You know what I’m saying to you, yes?”

     “Of course, Your Grace.”

     “What language do you hear me speaking?”

     “I hear Castilian,” Martin shrugged, but knew he would be proven wrong soon enough.

     “I’m speaking Italian at the moment.”

     “You are?”

     “Yes, I’m speaking Italian right now and you understand every word, it seems.”

     “How is that possible?”

     The Bishop raised a single eyebrow and seemed shocked by Martin’s response, “Well, now that’s interesting,” he said aloud, “I didn’t expect this.  Very interesting.”

     “What’s interesting?,” at this point, Martin was growing impatient and frustrated.

     “Now that I am speaking Italian to you, I hear It as well,” the Bishop rubbed his forehead in exasperation, “It’s as if I expected Italian to come from your lips and it came true.  How in God’s name are you speaking Italian and Latin without realizing it?”

     “Can we stop this, Your Grace?,” Martin put on a brave face but he was confused and somewhat frightened.

     “I’m sorry, my son.  I’m speaking Castilian now, just so that you’re aware.” 

     “Your Grace, what is wrong with me?,” Martin finally dropped his facade and exposed his state of confusion to the Bishop. 

     He gave a comforting chuckle, “I don’t detect anything wicked in you, dear boy,” he placed an arm around him and hugged him tightly, “Obviously, this gift of yours is not a common one, but I think there is a reason why you are blessed with it.”

     “What sort of blessing would that be?”

     “Honestly, I couldn’t tell you, but that’s no reason to consider it a curse either.”

     The Bishop promised to keep the incident a secret and as the years passed, Martin began to secretly read scripture in the Bishop’s study.  During mass, when the priest would read or the choir would sing, he could understand every word once he was made aware of his gift.  He trusted the Bishop since keeping his secret meant quite a bit to him, although he wasn’t entirely sure why the Bishop decided not to say much more about it, although he did give the ability a name.  He referred to the gift as Babel, named after the story of the Tower of Babel.  This went on for about a year until he was old enough to leave the monastery.

     “The infantry is a good opportunity for men your age and stature,” the Archbishop told the small gathering of young men clustered in front of him.  When an orphan was old enough, they would be given some money and the monastery usually helped place them in a guild if one were available but, unbeknownst to Martin and the other boys, there was a royal decree from Queen Isabella for conscription and the Archbishop felt he was being gracious by sending a few of his strongest men to join the infantry and presenting to them as a choice.  After all, these boys were too old to stay in the orphanage and if they weren’t sent to the military, then they might become criminals.  Martin was fine with this for the most part as he had no other place to go.  He was meant to be taken into the town to enlist later that afternoon but he chose to say his goodbyes to the Bishop beforehand.

   “I suppose I’m off to join the infantry,” Martin told him.

   The Bishop looked up from his study and seemed sad but not because Martin was leaving, “I heard they were looking for young, strong men.  They found favor in you, did they?”
        “It seems so.”

   “And how do you feel about that?”

   “I don’t feel much of anything, Your Grace.  I’m just happy they’ll take me.”

   “Well, I think the infantry will take any man who can walk on two feet,” the Bishop grumbled slightly under his breath.

        “Well, I’ve never been much good for anything.  I’ll go where I’m accepted.”

   “You are always accepted in God’s eyes,” the Bishop embraced him.

   “Yes, I’m sure of it, but I don’t know what he would have in store for me.”

   “No one knows, my son.  If we did, it would spoil the surprise.”

End of Chapter Two