The news of their return had spread across the city. From the King and his knights to the last servant, men and women were all animated by the announcement. The priests alone frowned and called for God’s Word to validate their distrust. But nobody paid any attention to them. The same question and the same hope, the same fear and relief, the same laughter and the same tears tormented the souls of swineherd and king alike.
The years had gone by with endless wars, with famine and plagues, with frosts and dry seasons, years that looked like the end of the world - such read the chronicles.
The hermits sighed and the whole city prayed for the redemption that the two chosen men could bring.For the Magus and the Errant Knight had been sent, as foretold by the wise men of yore, to seek and fetch the Effigy and the Epitaph, which alone could provide the key to any living soul’s redemption. For in the face of Death, as everyone knew, we all stand equal.
In vain had the priests tried to prophecy, ‘...it is as it should be, your sins made God turn His face from you...’, for they too had dishonored the Scriptures. The people, from swineherd to king, knew only too well that the priests had lied, cursed, ended the lives of their own brethren. They knew only too well that the Lord has His own ways and that the chosen ones are but few. Nevertheless they had all been praying, though it seemed it was too late. So that, finally, driven mad by the terror, they had decided. They sent the Magus and the Errant Knight to seek out their redemption - the Effigy and the Epitaph.
It was snowing tiny flakes that swirled with the frail breath of the wind and it was sunny and the next day was Christmas. A good omen, they said and laughed at their luck. They had all gathered outside the city gates: the king and knights were all dressed in marten and ermine fur, purple velvet, diamonds and sapphires, the people had washed their hands, face and necks, had combed their hair that still swarmed with lice, and were wearing their awkward best for the occasion, and there was fretting and restlessness outside the city gates. By order of his majesty the king, the innkeepers offered wine and sausages, the jesters tumbled in the snow, and all, all yearned for redemption.
Pigs and chickens sneaked through the legs of the crowd. Legs that kicked. The sudden squeals and various cries merged with the peals of laughter in a strange humming mirth that floated all around with the snowflakes in the sunlight. Suddenly there was silence, except for the scarce cockcrow, dog snarl, or the soft neighing. Then the field of undisturbed white and the dark deep forest nearby froze.
The two reached the magnificent gray stone arch of the gates. They dismounted in front of the king. A short simple bow. The Magus: tall and thin, worn tunic and ragged cloak. The magic stick alone looked the same. The Errant Knight: strong, rough looks and aging face, yet quiet and proud in his scratched armor. The sword alone seemed to throb in his closed fist. The king returned their greeting and ordered them to speak. They took turns to tell their quiet tale, each showing in strikingly simple words, so masterly chosen, how they had traveled the whole wide world and how they had managed, together, to return safely from their quest, for the Effigy and the Epitaph had unimaginably powerful protectors and keepers.
Clear and resounding, their words stirred the souls, like bowstrings ready to snap.
Finally, the king demanded the unequivocal result. And everything went deaf, for such was the depth of the silence.
The glowing eyes of the Magus and the clear eyes of the Errant Knight met. No one saw their faint smile like a snowflake melting on feverish lips.
‘Speak!’ the royal summons was heard once again, and the crowd took an eager step towards the two men.
‘Wait!’ came their tired advice.
Instantly, the Magus raised his magic stick and the Errant Knight drew a circle with his sword.
What were they going to do - kill each other now, in the hour of their redemption?!
Now that the found Effigy and Epitaph had bestowed angelic powers on them? They all gasped, from king to swineherd. But the Magus turned on his heels unexpectedly and pointed his stick at his side of the crowd. And the sword whisked to the side of the Errant Knight.
‘Wait!’ the two men’s voices lashed the air.
A few women yielded subdued cries, a few knights pulled at the reigns and their steeds rose on their hind legs and neighed.
‘Wait!’ and the two took a quick charging step, then another.
The crowd shrunk back, hundreds of throbbing hearts, eyes rolling like those of terrified cattle, all the same, all at once.
The Magus straightened up and brought down his magic stick. The Errant Knight subdued his sword and quietly turned his back on them.
‘We have spoken’, their rocky whisper reached the crowd.
The two men mounted.
The sound of the flying hoofs. For a while, there was nothing but the flying hoofs, dying away.
Eventually, came a late curse. Then another, - then the others. And the whizzing of the flying stones. And the soldiers spurring their horses. The Knights balancing their lances. The priests rushing in front of the crowd, raising the Cross. And may God and may the sins...
The Magus and the Errant Knight melted in the distance like two ghosts, estranged by the fury of blind terror. Yet protected by the play of the snowflakes, by the undisturbed silence of the field and the forest, by the Effigy and the Epitaph. By the Christmas Eve. Amen.
( from TRILOGY of THEOPHIL MAGUS – The TruthCopyright © 2008 by Leonard Oprea.Library of Congress Control Number: 2008901520ISBN: Hardcover 978-1-4363-2366-6Softcover 978-1-4363-2365-9All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrievalsystem, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying,recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author. )
A TALE OF CHRISTMAS
- Categorie: Leonard Oprea