Timeline: Sixth Age, Year 52, Early Spring
We’re now forced to suffer through more about Emcorae – that little bastard. These next few chapters are some of the toughest to slog through. If you like love stories, you’ll be in heaven. If not, tap your fingers, read fast, and try to get to the good stuff about me again…
While Nathily remained in Arbola Forest thinking about Emcorae, the same could not be said for him. Now back in Monthaven, the boy had his sights on another prize…
“But what do you know about her, Curk?” Emcorae asked his friend as they sat upon the Frixer’s front porch sipping lemon water and enjoying the calm weather.
Curk savored the tart beverage as he sat sat on a wooden bench next to his young wife Kymm. With a nudge to his wife, the man teased, “You just got back yesterday and already you’re trying to sow your oats, Em? What happened to the scaredy cat I last saw around here?”
Emcorae blushed at Curk’s jibe – although it wasn’t far off the mark. Yet in the six years or so that Emcorae had been gone from his village, Curk’s like had changed too. Em smiled to himself as he recalled the times that Curk had mentioned Kymm during that last summer before Emcorae had went away. He remembered how the slightly older boy would tell him furtive stories about what he and Kymm used to do together when they were alone — sometimes in the woods, sometimes in his house, or at a host of other locations. Listening to his friend recount those details back then, a naïve Emcorae, with eyes all a-goggle, more often than not had no idea what the bigger boy was really bragging to him about – yet he paid attention with an almost frightened curiosity.
In truth, Emcorae had only seen Kymm a few times before he had gone away for the better part of his adolescence. Back then he’d only recognized her as someone who took the attention of his best friend away from him, yet seeing her now, Azop had to admit Curk’s wife was a beautiful girl — about a hand shorter than Emcorae, Kymm had shoulder length, wavy brown hair, a little button nose, rosy cheeks and beautiful blue eyes, to go along with her girlish figure. As they sat upon the porch bench, Kymm had a faraway contented look in her eyes, as she laid her head upon Curk’s big shoulder – it was clear that she absolutely adored Curk and that made Emcorae happy for his friend.
She’s exactly what he needs in a woman. Emcorae smiled to himself. And then added. Someone to stroke his ego and validate his over-confidence!
As the friend’s continued to tell each other news about their lives these past size years, Emcorae never spoke about gargoyles or nightmares and Curk didn’t ask. Instead Emcorae tried to impress his always more athletic comrade with stories about his Azora training – although he could see that Curk didn’t believe much of what he was telling about his accomplishments.
He thinks he could best me at The Glade. Emcorae surmised – and Curk’s self-serving grin confirmed as much.
The would-be Azora half-considered challenging his friend to a foot race on the spot, in order to prove himself to his friend, but just as he was about to set his glass down he reconsidered and instead let the conversation drift toward the more mundane events of their lives whilst they had been apart — dialogues that any two friends would share who had been separated for a few years. Curk mentioned that he was now an apprentice under his father Rik, with plans to become a cobbler. Business was good for the Frixer’s – whose house was part workshop for Rik and Curk – and while Emcorae knew the Frixers were not rich, it was clear the family trade provided for their needs well enough. That Curk planned to become a cobbler came as no surprise to Emcorae – for his friend had told him many times that it was a trade that traced back to his great-great-grandfather.
Nonetheless, while it was nice to hear about Curk’s successes, and also good to relate some of his own triumphs, eventually Emcorae succeeded in steering the conversation back to a subject he was even more interested in. Ever since his fateful encounter at Rock Run two days ago, Emcorae had only been able to think of one thing — his vision of love. He’d tried to get his friend talking about life in Monthaven and what various people had been up to, so that when he asked about that mysterious girl from Rock Run it wouldn’t seem too obvious a ruse on his part – for he knew Curk would be ready to skewer him with jibes.
When Emcorae asked again what he might know about the girl he’d seen at Rock Run, his bigger friend laughed, “what do I know about this girl you’re talking about? From the way you’ve described her, there can only be one person who fits: Lynsy Finch.”
Kymm nodded in agreement, as Curk went on, “But, I know this too, Emcorae Azop — YOU have no business messing around with HER. She’s only the richest girl in town AND she’s engaged to be married to the heir to the Orkney throne!”
Emcorae was stunned! The possibility that his dream girl could already be spoken for hadn’t even entered into his thoughts. With his heart in his throat, he squeaked, “Orkney? Where in the world is that?”
“From what I hear it’s a good for nothing kingdom up there around the Akka mountains, way up north. Why they call themselves a ‘royal’ province is anyone’s guess, because from what my mom says none of their towns are much than bigger than Monthaven. Shoot, here in Pennal, we don’t have any kings. You don’t see us sticking our noses in the air, do ya? No way. What I think is that all that snow must go to their heads – you know, freezes their brains or something. Makes em think they’re all better than the rest of us.” And Curk waved his hand like he was swatting at a fly.
“Yeah, but what’s he—”
“Emcorae Azop! You little rascal, come here!” It was Curk’s mother Sandi, and she’d just popped her head out of the front doorway. “Give me a hug, it’s been so long since we last saw you!”
Welcoming the break in the tension with bad news concerning Lynsy, Emcorae walked over to embrace Curk’s mama. The woman had always treated him as well – even during the time when most of Monthaven thought Emcorae was cursed, Sandi had always defended him. She smiled now with that same twinkle in her eye as always as she looked approvingly at the fine young man that young Azop had grown up to be.
Emcorae was pleased to see Curk’s mother hadn’t changed much. Still as short as ever, she was a healthy, full-figured woman in the prime of middle age, with short, close-cropped black hair, a big toothy smile and a wonderful demeanor.
“Now don’t you go running off again, Em, you hear?” Sandi joked as she mussed up Emcorae’s hair. “Come inside before you go – you and I have to play a couple hands of settbakk. Oooh, I can’t wait to beat you!”
Everybody on the porch laughed, for all knew the legendary battles that Emcorae and Sandi used to get into whenever they sat at a card table. More often then naught, Sandi accused Emcorae of being just a bit too lucky, and Emcorae couldn’t resist the temptation to egg her on. Looking back now, Azop felt his face redden, as he thought about the many winks and sniffles that he and Curk had used to their silent advantage – although he snickered at the memory of those over-the-top escapades that always dared Sandi to catch them.
Smiling, Emcorae responded to Sandi, “You’d better believe it Mrs. Frixer. What, you think I came all this way just to see Curk? Heck no, I came back to beat you at cards! I sure hope you’ve gotten better since the last time we played!”
“Ooh, you haven’t changed a bit, you stinker!” Sandi poked her nemisis. “OK, I’ll go get them ready; just come in whenever you fellas are done, because I’ll be back in the kitchen fixing dinner.”
“Dinner?” Emcorae asked innocently, remembering well that Curk’s mother was also a very good cook. “Why, Mrs. Frixer, whatever are you making? I’m sure it will be most excellent indeed.”
“Oh, stop talking like some cultured gentleman from the big city. Em, you know there’s always enough for you. Heck you never used to eat much anyway; I’m surprised to see that you’ve actually grown up to be bigger than a little bird!” And with that jest, she went back into the house.
Emcorae continued to snicker along with Curk and Kymm as he went back to his seat. But as soon as he sat down, he was back to asking, “So what do you guys know about this Orkney guy?”
“Well, I don’t really know all that much, Em.” Curk admitted. “To be honest, he hasn’t come around here that often. Lynsy’s father arranged the marriage a couple years ago I think. Ain’t that right, honey?” After Kymm nodded in agreement, Curk continued, “I’ve seen him in Monthaven…once. He seemed like a bit of a jackass, if you ask me—“
Emcorae spit out a sip of lemon water as he laughed. “wha?…what do you mean?”
Curk chuckled too. “Oh you know, always walking around with his nose up, giving off airs that he’s better than the rest of us. Heck, the fella ain’t no bigger than you are, Em, so let me tell you if I he acted that way around me, I’d show him a thing or two!” Curk pounded one fist into the other. “I’d sit on his chest just like I used to do to you. Remember that, Em? Those were some fun times.”
“Yeah, yeah, how could I forget.” Emcorae mockingly rubbed his chest. “I think my ribs are still bruised from your big butt! But keep going, what else do you know – does she really like him?
“First of all, it don’t matter none whether or not she likes him. This ain’t one of your fairy tale stories here, bucco. Listen up: Lynsy Finch is the only daughter of Merrill Finch – in case you didn’t know he’s only the richest guy in town and since his wife is dead, that makes Lynsy the richest girl in town. And you know what that means, right?”
Emcorae shook his head, confused.
“It means Lynsy Finch is too good a prize for any of us poor fellas here in little Monthaven!”
“Are you hearing this guy, honey?” Curk nudged Kymm. “Use your noggin, Em. That’s the way these society types are. Merrill Finch ain’t gonna give his daughter away to some farm boy from our podunk village. This is about money and power. He wants to set her up with some other powerful family so that they can form an alliance and Finch can make his name stronger. That’s the way it works. Don’t you know that? Obviously not from the look on your face. Let me make it clear – this other guy – Diked what’s his name – he is the air to the throne of Orkney, and—“
“So that’s why she is engaged to him!” Interrupted Emcorae with a spark of hope. “Perhaps she might not want to really marry him after all?”
“Emcorae Azop!” Curk stomped his foot on the porch. “You’re NOT listening!! Do I have to pound it into your head with my fists? It is not Lynsy’s choice. There is nothing you can do about it. Heck, there is nothing SHE can do about it. Her and that guy are gonna get married. End of story.” (1)
As Emcorae sulked, Curk tried to lighten to mood. “Funny thing is, when I saw the guy I got the impression that he’s up to something, or else that he has something to hide. I don’t know which it is, but I don’t trust him one – nope, not one bit. It’s too bad for your cute little Lynsy because her future husband is a dope.” Then Curk laughed, “Plus, his breath stinks – I pity her if she has to kiss him!”
Despite his friend’s quip, Emcorae didn’t laugh. None of this was good news, and yet he forced himself to listen — his heart hammering the entire time. Thus did he learn that not only was woman of his dreams not going to be his, but worse still, he had to deal with the terrible reality that she was going to be possessed by some undeserving, unappreciative nitwit – some loser who probably had no idea what treasures his angel held locked away in her heart. Treasures that only Emcorae’s devotion could discover, and which — if Lynsy was actually forced to be with Diked — would remain untapped for eternity.
Such a tragic waste. Emcorae thought to himself sadly.
Curk saw his friend struggling. “Look, Em, don’t worry about it. I know she’s a beautiful girl, but so what? There’s thousands of other girls out there, she’s just one. So what if you can’t have Lynsy Finch? Heck, you don’t even know her – who’s to say you will like her? Partner… come on, you don’t have the money to buy her all the things she would want. Plus, Lynsy’s probably a spoiled brat anyway. That’s not for you, my friend. Trust me. Em, there will be other girls. OK, so this just happens to be the first one that has come along and knocked your brains to jelly; but that’s good! Now you know there’s more to life than just swinging around some sword chopping down trees—”
“Curk, I don’t chop down trees,” interrupted Emcorae. “That’d be practically sacrilegious to the Amorosi elves.”
“Ha!” Curk smiled victoriously. “See? I got your mind off that girl already. Anyways, all I’m saying is this: let her go. Lynsy Finch is not the girl for you. They’ll be others.” Here Curk playfully covered his wife’s ears, “And, boy oh boy, Em, if you’re really going to be traveling all over the world with those elves, whew, yes indeed there will be others! You’re gonna have lots of fun, now that you know IT’s out there!” And he winked knowingly as Kymm playfully slapped him while Emcorae blushed. At that Curk got up from the bench. “C’mon, let’s all go inside so that we can cheat my mom at settbakk.”
“Actually, Curk, I think I’m just gonna go home tonight.” Emcorae sighed. “Tell your mama I’ll be back tomorrow. I don’t really feel like any games tonight.”
“I understand, buddy. Sure you don’t want to at least stay for supper? Mom’s making ham and bean soup. You know you like that, huh?”
Emcorae paused for a moment but then shook his head, before saying his goodbyes and departing around the back of the Frixer’s house in order to cut through the woods so that he could be alone while he walked home.
In the time of Emcorae, the town of Monthaven was but a small village, and even in ages hence history would forever keep her that way. Through whatever quirk of fate the cause may have been, whilst other cities and civilizations in the world were born, grew, prospered and then died, Monthaven never grew to be more than just a secluded farming village, forgotten by most, in the backwoods of a relatively unpopulated area in northern Pennal. If not for it’s seemingly endless supply of quality lumber – a resource not fully tapped until much later in the town’s history – and the fact that the fertile soils of the surrounding hillsides were so uncommonly rich for that part of the continent, then it is a safe bet to say that there would really have never been a reason for anybody to have wanted to live there and the city may never even have existed at all.
As far as townsfolk knew, their village was founded some two to three centuries past and while there was no recorded history on the subject, local historians believed it was the beauty of the landscape and the abundant natural resources of the area that caused people to settle her.
Emcorae had heard Alfranco yarn about Monthaven’s origins many times. The way Alfranco told it “Them first settlers were like as not travelling somewhere’s else, but when they laid eyes on our rolling green hills, seen all our trees, and spied some of the biggest bucks in the world, there ain’t no doubt they stayed awhile. Maybe they camped for a bit and fished the Suskill? Maybe they took down a buck? Maybe them fellas realized the coin to be made from our trees? Who can say? Yet isn’t that how much of life is discovered for the first time? Sure it is. Ya always think you’re heading off in one direction and then good old Life goes on and ends up surprising you. Now I’ll bet that in spite of all this goodness, those first visitors most likely continued on their way – after all the world waits for no man, right? Yet I’d also wager that one or two of those from that original camping party remembered our little corner of the world and eventually returned to try his luck with our fish and game again. Like as not that guy built himself a tiny cabin, one thing led to another, and later he brought his wife and kids – soon enough he had himself a garden, then a small farm. Are you picturing this with me? Word soon spread, others arrived, a little community was born and that’s how our quaint little country town came to be!”
When Emcorae lived there Monthaven spanned about five miles end to end, and most of that was given over to farmland. The village claimed the typical sights and sounds that comprised so many of man’s settlements during that era: small farms of various sizes, a church, a blacksmith, a cobbler, a carpenter, a general store, a mill, and even a modest port for the river – the easiest route for transporting goods to the markets of Primcitta, its main trading partner.
The little town was then intersected by four unpaved, dirt-packed roads, all of which met at a large clear field in the center of town – Market Square — the site of many a weekend fair where the villagers could meet to buy, sell and trade their goods, or even just to catch up on the doings of their neighbors and the other events that helped to shape their quiet country lives.
And quiet they would remain, as long as the town elders had a say in the matter. For above all else, the lives of Monthaven’s villagers were ruled by their elders – their church elders. (2)
As far as religious options went, there was only ONE house of worship in Monthaven — but it was far more than just some tiny village chapel house. And while it may not have been as extravagant as the magnificent basilica in Primcitta, still it was easily larger than a community that size may have needed. (3)
By appearance alone, there was no doubt that the church was the very center of life in Monthaven. The rectory itself was the geographic hub overlooking Market Square and not a single function took place in the city that the church did not sponsor, organize or in some way play a part — even if only to offer its permission or blessing to allow the event to occur. (4)
Like in most other human cities of this Sixth Age of Substance, religion held a strong sway over the people in this town. To be more specific, it was the Mannah religion that ruled Monthaven and Pastor Kastelli who embodied that rule. Unlike his predecessor – the mild-mannered, slight of body Pastor Manning – Alfransis Kastelli was big, bold, and unapologetically boisterous in his leadership style. (5)
Yet from moment young Kastelli arrived in Monthaven, the big man knew he’d found a home. Despite the lip service he paid to the Prelator in Primcitta, Alfransis had no desire to play political games for the rest of his life – he was fine being a big fish in a small pond and Monthaven fit the bill – thus he was all to happy to learn the ropes under Pastor Manning for a bit.
When the good Pastor Manning passed, all Monthaven wanted to mourn his loss. Yet the new Pastor Kastelli had other ideas – advising the villagers that it was ok to remember the past, but it was a sin (6) against Yahway to dwell on something for too long. To help his new flock redirect their energies into something more productive, Kastelli commissioned the building of a new church — selling the people on the vision of magnificent wooden tabernacle that would “shine forever” in praise of Mannah and Yahway. (7)
It took the people nearly a decade to complete all the work the priest required in the new church. During that time, Kastell also took the liberty of reorganizing the monthly bazaars that took place in Market Square – requiring a tithe from all the vendors in exchange for granting them Mannah’s blessing. By promising salvation, he convinced numerous farmers to bequeath their property to the church upon their death and thereby did Kastelli expand the church’s lands holdings. (8) And perhaps most importantly, Kastelli transformed the local government – instead of leading through others like Manning, the new pastor made no bones about running the show himself and quickly began to dominate the village council.
At the time of Emcorae, the Monthaven’s Town Council was made up of five people: Hin Perballi, the local solicitor, Old Man Newberri, a farmers, Sandi Frixer, wife of the cobbler Rik Frixer, Ben Wirtz, the church healer, and of course Pastor Kastelli. Now some forty years into his ‘rule,’ Kastelli made no qualms about enforcing his will on the council and the others readily deferred. (9) Kastelli made no illusions about why he felt he should be in charge – he was after all Mannah’s chosen leader and none could dispute that fact.
The big priest also made no illusions about something else – the fact that he loved to eat. Some even speculated – out of his earshot of course! – that he lived to eat. Whatever the case, Pastor Kastelli could be found at his dinner table as often as not — a massive oak board, typically overflowing with delectable delights — eggs, pies, whole roasted chickens, assorted breads, jams, vegetables, and much more. Kastelli dared anyone to deny him the right — or the time! — to eat a hearty meal and he refused to to listen to anyone who said all that food was bad for his health. Even when Doc Wirtz tried to tell him that all the weight he carried was likely he cause of the churchman’s ever-aching back, Kastelli turned a deaf ear.
“That food is my holy sustenance.” Kastelli once told the doctor. “And I need to feed myself to keep my energy up so’s I can keep trying to turn Monthaven into a god-fearing town, worthy of serving Mannah.”
That last point often made it into his sermons and the good pastor never lacked for dinner invitations, but with so many offers, Kastelli tended to be rather choosy – gracing his presence on the families with the best cooks.
And so it was that on a beautiful spring day during the 52nd year of the Sixth Age of Substance, the pastor was again delivering a roaring sermon. He warned his parishioners about the perils their souls would face should they fail to give their time and money to their church. He used phrases like “it’s the Lord’s will” and “Mannah needs your help” and “think of the future of your children’s souls.” He spoke passionately about how it was vital for the villagers to place the church at the center of their lives. And he peppered his monologue with reminders that their church could not survive upon bread alone, but also needed their monetary support – calling upon ALL to give their fair share.
“If any of you have trouble figuring out what your fair share is,” he advised, “then see me after mass – and it wouldn’t hurt to bring a pie or two to help me think.”
The congregation laughed, but Kastelli then offered a new warning. “This modern world we live in is fraught with perils for our souls. For instance, some of you might recall those merchant traders that came up from Willem and Sylvania via the Easton Road. I myself had the chance to speak with them. Nice men, or so they seemed. But,” and here the big clergyman pounded his hands on his pulpit, “don’t none of you go repeating the heresies they spoke! If I so much as hear any of you utter the names of the false gods they praised, so help me, I’ll be at your house in a hare’s breadth to set you straight! Pan? Rhokii? Mesmer-something? Poppycock, I tell you! These false gods do not exist! Those men were deluded in their views and for that I pray to Mannah for them. I have worked hard to show YOU the way. The Mannah Faith has been very good to all of us and it promises us eternal life in the future, if we but stay on the right path. And the ONLY path to salvation is the one I am leading you on! If you choose another path, like those men we ran outta town, don’t blame me when your souls burn with Baal.”
While speaking, Kastelli noted Emcorae Azop in the crowd and he recalled that Emcorae’s grandmother Pallina had repeatedly told him the young man was returning home. Seeing an opportunity, Kastelli used Emcorae’s presence to his advantage as he advised the crowd. “You remember the demon that once almost stole away one of our own – the beast that tried to take Emcorae Azop? But did the demon get him? No. In fact, Emcorae is here with us again today!” And he pointed to Emcorae, the boy blushing at the call out. “Yes, friends, I saved him because of his faith – and it was easy to defeat the demon because Emcorae was a Believer then, just as I know he is now.” (10) Then, pointing a finger at the crowd, “If you are not a Believer, or you know someone who is not – woe to them – for I cannot help them. Nor can you. But I can tell you this: there is only one evil god — Baal. Fear him, yes. And his minions. Follow him, no. But take comfort in this: there are three good powers that are watching over us. Meree our loving mother. Mannah the son of God. And of course, Yahway Himself, our father. Belief in them will save your soul. So, please, my friends, make your sacrifice of faith. Give your time to our church. Listen to my words and pray. And show me that you believe by donating to our chapel fund so that I can put them to Mannah’s holy uses. Praised be to Yahway, and Mannah is only son.”
After finishing his sermon, Kastelli took a seat while Sandi Frixer took the pulpit and made some announcements about upcoming events. The pastor paid little attention as the woman spoke; instead his eyes sought out the Azop family. He saw Teree not paying much attention, Beckali and Alboris with their minds on other things, and Alfranco staring glassy-eyed ahead. He can’t wait for this to be over so he go past the Brandon on his way home. Then his eyes passed on to Pallina. My devoted Paulina, she always drinks in every word of my message, I love that woman! And finally Kastelli’s view came back to Emcorae, only to find the young man staring back at him. Well he’s sure grown since the last I saw him. And he gave a slight nod to acknowledge him.
As Sandi finished her announcements and the choir sang a song while the donations were collected, the overweight clergyman suddenly realized how hungry was. I’ve got to remember not to talk so long. Hmm, I wonder who can make me a nice meal today? And his eyes again searching the crowd. Sofia Mercaldo? No, her food always taste like beer, not that that’s a bad thing; Mannah knows I don’t mind a drink now and then to keep me loose, but not today. Oh, there’s Luise Pryde. Mmmm, her corn cobbler would really hit the spot. Yet she just cooked for me a couple days ago and I don’t want to neglect my other willing providers. Who else? Just then the pastor’s stomach emitted a rather loud grumble. Once more Kastelli looked in the Azop’s direction. There you go, old boy. And if I know her, Paulina has been cooking up a storm with Emcorae back. She won’t let me down. Mmmm, I wonder what she’ll make: Gulunkis? Gnokkis? Beef vegetable stew? Whew! Hold on there, old man You’ve still got to complete the rest of this service!
At that, the clergyman rose, “Let us pray.”
Needless to say, the remainder of the service was completed in double time — the priest unable to control the urges of his stomach to go any slower.
- For a country bumpkin, Curk was surprisingly right on the mark.
- As with so much of your history, religion = power.
- Read: donations!
- Read: more donations!
- This is not to say that Pastor Manning wasn’t effective. In fact, prior to Manning’s arrival, the Mannah Faith had never enjoyed a strong foothold in Monthaven. As you might imagine, this was a bit of a problem to the bureaucratic branches of the faith the oversaw this parish – for when the smaller parishes didn’t send in enough donations, it had threatened a negative trickle-up effect to the higher levels. And yet, not matter who the Council of the Pennal Prelator in Primcitta sent to Monthaven, the townsfolk never paid them much mind. It wasn’t until the exasperated Prelator of a century past sent one Pastor Petrus Manning to Monthaven that things finally changed in the church’s favor. And for six decades, Petrus Manning transformed the town and instilled the Mannah Faith. Manning was but a small man whose shock of hair had turned strikingly white at an early age and thus he always seemed to appear older than he really was, yet I’ll give him credit – the man had a knack for dealing with people! Always about around town, Manning banked a lot of human capital by visiting the villagers, caring for the elderly, consoling the sick or hurt, spreading the word of Yahway, and always, always inviting people to attend his weekly services. In short, Manning did the hard work that all the prior long-tassel wearing pastors only ever paid lip service too. Just as importantly, Pastor Manning was the first priest in Monthaven who took an active role in the town meetings – eventually being offered a leadership role by the townsfolk – he accepted on the grounds that he would be the spiritual advisor but declined to be the sole figurehead. Then, using his master motivational skills, Manning happily wielded power from behind the scenes in Monthaven – by winning friends and influencing people, the mild-mannered cleric ingeniously planted his ideas into the minds of the other town elders and shaped Monthaven’s future, all the while blessing the secular decisions with Yahway’s approval. The people loved Manning and he loved them – the town flourished, and with a bit more donations flowing off to Primcitta, even Prelator was happy. However, as always, a man’s life is never all that long, and all too soon did Pastor Manning’s too eventually began to wind down. Just before the start of the Sixth Age of Substance, when Manning was nearing his eighth decade, the Prelate Concil sent an assistant to Monthaven – Alfransis Kastelli. Young Alfransis’s time in Monthaven was only supposed to be short – his mission was to help Manning find a way to get the townsfolk to donate more coin and relieve the old cleric of some of his duties, until a more permanent replacement could be found. After a year or two the plan was for Alfransis to return to Primcitta, for the young cleric was marked as someone who was destined to advance through the ranks of the Mannah Faith and some said that one day he might even serve as a Prelator himself or perhaps, just perhaps enter into the ranks of The Illuminated Ones. However, fate had a different path for Alfrancis Kastelli.
- There’s that word again “sin” – it’s still one of my greatest inventions! If you don’t know the story, read it again here.
- Forty years later, Kastelli still looked upon the church his greatest achievement — its bell tower visible from all corners of Monthaven, a reminder to all that Mannah (and Kastelli) was always watching them.
- You’re guessing I’ll use this note to comment upon Kastelli’s trade of “Souls for Land” – but you’re wrong. Why waste my time on an obvious grift when I can talk about a more subtle one? Take the beauty of Kastelli’s land acquisition – after getting those farms, Kastelli’s church began its own farming operations and quickly grew it into a booming business – selling their produce at the local bazaars and swelling the coffers. And while Kastelli’s tomatoes weren’t as red, ripe and juicy as the ones from Old Man Newberri, and while the church corn wasn’t as sweet as that from the Pryde farm, Kastelli’s produce had a distinct advantage – for the big pastor proclaimed the crops from his fields to be blessed! Naturally then, his faithful followers tended to buy up all of the church’s fruits and veggies first at all the market days — making sure to order to appease the ever-watchful eye of their spiritual leader who constantly walked around the bazaar grounds and kept track of where every coin went. Only after every last bushel of A’H’s manna had been bought out, would the townspeople ever feel comfortable seriously turning their eyes — and now lighter pocketbooks — towards the less expensive and better quality, yet only secular, fruits and veggies that were available from the other farmers. And while the good pastor may not have really believed in the divine nature of his farm fresh produce deep down in his heart, in truth, he did not let his conscience worry over the matter much for two reasons. First of all, as previously noted, this success helped pad his monetary resources with funds that he used for building renovations or sponsoring church functions, and it also allowed him to send nice little sums to back to Primcitta’s Basilica Fund – much to the delight of the Grand Pontiff. And secondly, as far as Kastelli was concerned, it did his parishioners good to believe that they were actually eating Mannah’s blessed bounty. To Kastelli then, everybody involved in the cycle came out better – and that allowed him to validate his actions in his mind. Meanwhile, the Prelate in Primcitta was so happy with Kastelli’s results (read: donations) with the little town of Monthaven, and they were eager to see what the big priest could do with a larger canvas to work upon – transfers to bigger parishes were offered to Kastelli, but to the surprise of Primcitta’s church leaders, the big man in the small town kept turning them down. Year after year Kastelli exceeded expectations for the donations he sent to the Basicalla Fund, and year after year transfer offers came in from the Prelate Council – including one signed off by the Prelator himself – yet all were rejected by Kastelli. Eventually then, the Primcitta leadership was forced to let Kastelli “waste” his talents in that forgotten sleepy little locale he seemed to love so much – and thus ended a once-promising church career that for a time knew no limits. It’s not often when I witness someone give up prestige for happiness – sadly that’s a tradeoff few of you have ever learned – which is why so many of you people are so unhappy.
- Given his massive size, fiery attitude, and larger than life personality, none of the poor villagers were equipped to challenge Kastelli’s rule – therefore he ruled unfettered. Just his physical stature alone would have been enough to make most men heed his “suggestions,” for he stood well over six feet tall and easily weighed more than twenty stones. With a deep rumbling voice he could deliver quite a stirring sermon from his pulpit, or else dominate the scene at those council meetings. His steel gray hair and hard piercing eyes only added to his intimidating physical presence with his huge chest and midsection atop a massive pair of tree trunk legs – every bit of which were necessary to support such a top-heavy frame, a massive body that none of the other villagers wanted to raise a dispute with.
- Talk about rewriting history – if I recall correctly Kastelli was hiding out in his bedroom while Alfranco Azop saved Emcorae, but what do I know?