The red sun rose—giving off a soft, red-tinted, gold-flecked glow, as the full Umber Moon sank, as if on cue, as if God were a carnival stage manager and the heavenly bodies merely slavish actors in his monotonous play, a play too monotonous for an avid mind to follow, but adequate to entertain the dull-witted in their ox-eyed multitude.
Beneath this glorious, red-tinted sky tolled all the bells of Christendom, the glory of God rampant in lordly hearts as they regarded their holdings at this sacred hour of Calvary, when the Savior awoke to his divine torment upon his mountain cross.
Beneath this glorious, gold-flecked sky the purses of merchants jangled as they were filled from their coffers to make ready for market, to follow the foot-beaten tracks and wheel-rutted roads across a land that knew The Peace of Christ, a land that would otherwise support no trade or prosperity should the hordes of Tartary, Araby, Jewry, Heathenry, Savagery and Heresy—and the Nords in their wicked abodes—descend from the dark and varied reaches that encircled this blessed land.
Beneath this glorious, Godly, autumn sky, the calloused hands of friars tugged at ropes in morning-streaked bell towers even as the minds of the didacts, augments, motes, priests, bishops, cardinals, and the Holy Pontiff himself, expanded to consider the Scriptures and Gospels anew—and the same—in the waning of yet another year bought from the hideous clutches of Gog and Magog, the Devil and his demons—with the very blood of their pained savior.
Beneath this glorious, ever-renewing, harvester sky, shuffled the feet, bent the backs and toiled the hands of the countless serfs of Christendom, planting the winter crop of turnips that had held off the age of darkness and hunger creeping south from Nordhome, by feeding the armored knights that shielded and smote and the mighty stallions that raked the earth with their flinty hooves through the long winter when Nord, Heathen and Tartar came raiding.
Beneath this glorious sky, across which the many-hued moons and rampant sun marched in soothing monotony, among the suffering and bent multitude, toiled David Able Saul, his good ear still ringing from the buffet to his jaw delivered by the great, gaunt turd of a man who had sired him on the loins of the first of the three women he had worked to death in dreary succession, he who had stubbornly cursed him with a saintly name, having him named for their burden rather than for the goodness of a saintly son, for which David was ever castigated by the priest at Moonday school, the one day when serf boys were lettered and schooled in figuring, perhaps to earn a bottom rung on the ladder of some merchant’s ciphering house.
Even as his ear rang from Father’s slap, for suggesting that the turnips might be sunk an inch less deeply this year, on account of the saturated soil, David smarted under the echo of Father Schyl as he scolded, “David, a king, is a suitable temporal name. Saul, given name of the father of Holy Mother Church, is a fine, Godly name. As for your saintly name—spoiled with a serf’s misplaced pride in his lot of toil—Saul, your father has cursed you cruel and I would do you untrue had I not informed you.”
The pressure in his jaw, on the side of the face opposite of which he was being punched with that big gnarled fist, felt like the time Father had choked him near to death, and he toppled over in a little ragged heap as the man who owned him—a man who was owned by all the rest of the world—bellowed, “Able, bah! You are all of twelve and still unable to stand for a good clout! I should sell your scrawny bones to the Nords to make their dragon bread, boy,” he snarled in seething disappointment.
Then, as David managed to crawl onto all fours and get back to sinking turnip spuds, Father became philosophical after his rude fashion, “By God, you scrawny sprat, I should expect no better. The midwife had to crack your narrow-flanked mother open like a chestnut to drag you out—and a lot of good it did me. You’re still not half the farmer she was. We’d a been better off scraping you out and renting her for a nurse. She had teats at least. Are you going to grow teats for me, Sprat, so I can rent you out to a merchant mother?”
“From this day on you are Sprat—nothing more—not until you can stand for a good clout. Faster, Sprat, Cropper Trent must have this cart back before the noon.”
Beneath this glorious, uncaring sky, David Able Saul, toiled on hands and knees, while, far off, at the hour of Calvary—enabled to pray for the absolution of their every sin through such drudgery as was David's lot—kneeled the Holy Pontiff, his eyes—it was said—looking through the gold-stained windows of the Chapel Maxima, the ancient, converted prison—now domed in glorious glass—where Paul, the man for him he was sanctified in name, awaited his Roman executioners once upon a time, and where now his descendent—whatever the current Pontiff was named, for such news came lately to the fields—beseeched God Above to keep the Seven Wretched Races at bay for another year.
Beneath a glorious sky, he cried.